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Marketing Tips from Rowing

Marketing Tips from Rowing, Part 2 – Cadence

Well, they did it! And it was sure fun to watch! As I mentioned in Part 1 of Marketing Tips from Rowing, last weekend was the Head of the Charles Regatta here in the Boston area. Sure enough, the Cambridge Boat Club not only defended their title and won the Men’s Senior Master Fours, but finished only .3 seconds off the course record they set in 2013! Riding my bike on the closed streets along the Charles River, I could see them gradually opening up a lead on the other boats.  Although I wasn’t quite close enough to hear their coxswain call the cadence, I’m sure that, at some point, she called for “Ten Big Ones” of extra effort, as they stroked to victory.

Power Last Week, Cadence This Week

In my first Marketing Tips from Rowing post,  I equated rowing with B2B marketing by focusing on power and cadence as the key drivers of effectiveness for both. A boat’s speed depends on how powerfully the rowers pull the oars, and the rate at which they do so.

Similarly, power and cadence can also be considered the two major drivers of an effective B2B marketing strategy.  Last week I covered power – how the power of a marketing program depends on how precisely the messaging and selling efforts engage the target buyer. This week’s Marketing Tips from Rowing post will cover cadence – the frequency of activities relating to awareness, demand generation, and sales enablement.

Marketing Cadence: 5 Tips to Finish Off “10 Big Ones”

Boys in the BoatLast week I also mentioned the powerful impact of Daniel James Brown’s “The Boys in the Boat,” the story of the background of the members of the American rowers who won the gold in the Mens Eights in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

When extra effort was needed, the coxswain would call out, “Give me 10 big ones!” The rowers would respond with extra effort over ten strokes.  Here, then, are five tips that relate to cadence that will drive your B2B marketing effort forward.

1. Blogging Cadence

B2B marketers realize the importance of blogging as part of an inbound marketing strategy. Reaching your intended audience with compelling, useful information is a key way to drive them into, and through the inbound buying cycle.  The question is around cadence. How often should a company blog in order to maximize the impact on inbound traffic?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHubspot has published some great data on exactly this question. Check out the charts in the Hubspot post covering the impact of blogging frequency on website traffic.  The key data point is that companies that blog 15 times or month get 5 times as much website traffic as those that don’t blog at all. So, the answer, like in rowing, is that higher cadence drives better results.  But, also like rowing, the caveat is that cadence must not come at the expense of power. Just like fast sloppy strokes won’t make a fast boat, content must be of high quality in order to be effective.

Of course, the follow up question is how does a B2B marketer build a team to help develop that volume of blogs?  I covered that topic in a recent post called “Content Generation is a Team Sport.”

2. Refresh Customer Data to Validate Your Value Proposition

A key sales enablement initiative for any B2B marketer is to arm his or her sales colleagues with messaging and supporting data that will help drive buyers through the buying cycle.

Challenger Sale book coverIn past posts, I’ve written about my experience implementing the Challenger Sale  sales methodology.  One key to this approach is to identify and leverage a commercial insight. The commercial insight is the content, based on your product’s unique advantages, that sales uses to uncover a previously unknown problem in the current way the customer does business.   The commercial insight disrupts how the customer thinks about her business,  and ultimately leads to your product as the unique solution to the problem.

Whether you use Challenger Sale methodology or not, value propositions must be supported with actual customer data. Real results that customers have achieved using your product, that validate your unique advantages. Marketing messages are just words. Numbers add compelling context. Like Quality Guru W. Edwards Deming once said, “In God we trust. All others bring data.”

Ideally, you’ll gather supporting data for all of the key vertical markets you sell to, and in all of the geographic regions in which you sell.  You’ll have numbers that support each of the key use cases your product addresses.  You’ll put this into a searchable database that your marketing and sales team can access. And most importantly, you must continually add to the data set. I’ve found that the right cadence is quarterly updates for new case studies.

3. Reboot the Mission – Monthly

Along with your company’s moral, or core beliefs, your company’s mission statement is key to articulating your company’s business goals and differentiation. Your mission is  directly connected to your value proposition and competitive advantages.  Revisit these high level points with your marketing and sales teams frequently, at least monthly, so they remain top of mind.

4. Frequency of Touches – More is Better

There’s healthy debate as to whether or not it’s still relevant to discuss the number of touches required to convert a prospect into a qualified lead. In the world of inbound marketing, when most buyers are well educated about how to solve their problem even before sales engages, some inbound marketers believe that focusing on the number of touches no longer applies.  Others suggest that marketers should plan on between 7 and 13 touches to deliver a sales qualified lead. No matter what you believe, it’s important to keep up the cadence of interaction with your target buyers by providing them compelling content that educates them on the problems your solution addresses.

5. Check Your Splits – Weekly

stop-watch-396862_1280As the Cambridge Boat Club Men’s Senior Master Four pulled along-side the boat house after their win, I noticed their coxswain pull a packet of information out of her jacket  pocket. I learned that she carrier along with her the boat’s splits from the previous year’s race, so that she could compare their performance this year to their record-setting pace from last year.

Similarly, B2B marketers should compare metrics for actual attainment vs. plan, at least weekly, to track progress toward monthly, quarterly, and annual goals.  This allows for early course correction if the trends aren’t going in the right direction. Or identification of particularly effective tactics that can be repeated for additional success.

What Are Your “10 Big Ones?”

So, there you have it.  Marketing tips from rowing, brought to you by the Head of the Charles Regatta. 5 tips for marketing cadence here. And 5 tips for marketing power in the last post.  Tell me what you think regarding either one. Do you have other best practices for getting more power, cadence, or overall speed?


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Content creation is team effort

Marketing Tips from Rowing: “Give Me 10 Big Ones!” Part I

I have rowing on my mind these days. October brings the Head of the Charles Regatta to the Boston area.  My good friend and training buddy, Greg, rows for the Cambridge Boat Club Senior Master Fours, who are defending champions and course record holders.  Boys in the BoatI’ve also been riveted by “The Boys in the Boat,” Daniel James Brown’s story of the American rowers who competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The book not only covers the backgrounds of the University of Washington rowers as they struggle through their ruthless training regimen, but it also provides the historical context of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and, of course, the rise of Hitler.

What does rowing have to do with B2B marketing? You’re right to be skeptical, but it turns out that the factors that drive a fast boat also drive an effective B2B marketing program.

Power and Cadence:  Keys to a Fast Boat, and Effective Marketing

Moving an eight-oared boat through the water requires a complex choreography of physical effort and coordination. But the simple fact is that a boat’s speed depends on two factors: how powerfully the rowers pull the oars in the drive phase of the stroke, and the rate at which they do so.  A rower’s power depends on how accurately he sets his oar blade in the water at the “catch,” and how precisely he engages his legs, back, and arms to pull it through during the “drive.” Cadence is driven by the number of strokes per minute. Stronger pulls and more strokes per minute mean more speed.

The coxswain sets the power and cadence of the boat
The coxswain sets the power and cadence of the boat

It is the coxswain’s job to watch the competition and set the race strategy by dictating the power and cadence for the rowers.

Power and cadence can also be considered the two major drivers of an effective B2B marketing strategy. Just as the power of the stroke is driven by the accuracy and strength of the oar blade’s engagement with the water, the power of a marketing program depends on how precisely the messaging and selling efforts engage the target buyer. Cadence of a marketing program is set not by strokes per minute, but the frequency of activities relating to awareness, demand generation, and enablement. Just like a winning boat, a successful marketing program must have the right combination of power and cadence.

Driving Forward:  “Give Me Ten Big Ones!”

The 1936 US Olympic eight achieved its success by waiting until the last possible moment in races to drive up the stroke rate. Because of their conditioning, the team could maintain contact with their competition at a high power and moderate stroke rate, then raise the cadence in the final moments of a race and break away to the finish line.

Occasionally, the coxswain called for the rowers to increase their power for a fixed number of strokes in order to stay within striking range of their competition. Hearing “Give me ten big ones,” the rowers applied extra strength for ten strokes while maintaining a set cadence, thus vaulting the boat forward.  Here are the “Ten Big Ones” that relate B2B marketing to rowing, under the headings of power and cadence.

Marketing Power: Engaging the Buyer

shutterstock_38366425Just like a rower applies power through the rowing cycle, from catch, to drive, to recovery, the power of a marketing program is driven by the engagement with the target buyer through the buying cycle.  Many factors impact marketing program power, but here are the five with which I’ve had the most success.

1. Identify Your Moral, then Leverage It

My company has been lucky enough to work with Small Army, self-described story-tellers masquerading as an advertising agency. The Small Army team has helped us articulate our moral, or core beliefs, and leverage them in our awareness, demand generation, and enablement materials. Since so much marketing language sounds the same, core beliefs can often be a company’s key differentiation.

2. Focus Relentlessly on Target Buyer Personas

Buyer Personas help you get the most out of your marketing programs by focusing on the demographics, behavior patterns, motivations and goals of your key prospects. Your marketing program will deliver more power by crisply articulating the problems your prospects have, their objectives in solving the problem, where they go and the experience they want in seeking solutions, and their common objections.

3. Develop a Compelling Commercial Insight

In a previous post on the Challenger Sale Methodology, I discussed the importance of developing a compelling  Challenger Sale commercial insight. “A compelling, defensible perspective from a supplier that materially impacts  a customer’s performance and directly leads back to their unique capabilities.”  The commercial insight is the content, based on your product’s unique advantages,  that sales uses to uncover a previously unknown problem in the current way the customer does business.   The commercial insight disrupts how the customer thinks about her business,  and ultimately leads to your product as the unique solution to the problem.

Identifying the Commercial Insight truly takes a team, as I discussed in the earlier post. Engage your colleagues in sales, pre-sales, product management, and support to be sure you have it nailed.

4. Quantify the Business Benefit

In addition to having a laser focus on your target buyer and a compelling, unique value proposition, you need to have numbers. Words can be confusing, generic, and nuanced, but numbers don’t lie. On a rowing erg, average wattage shows exactly what the output of a rower is. Similarly, prospects want to know what business benefits can be achieved using your solution. Increased revenue. Better customer satisfaction. Faster customer service time. Lower operational cost. Fewer problems. Like average wattage, these are the metrics that matter.

Marketers need these metrics for all of the vertical markets they serve, and for all of their key solution areas. Maintain a database that can be searched by geography, vertical market, and problem area, and maintain it over time, so it continually grows. Nothing is more compelling to a prospect than a story of how someone just like them, in the same industry, addressing a similar problem, achieved a significant, quantifiable business benefit.

5. Move Forward Faster with Effective CTAs

Just before a rower’s oar blade exits the water to begin the recovery and set-up for the next stroke, she applies a strong “finish” to get every last bit of propulsion out of her effort. A strong finish is needed to deliver the maximum benefit of the preceding stroke.

Similarly, a strong Call to Action is needed to maximize the benefit of a web page, or call campaign, or sales presentation. Delivering compelling CTAs will enable marketers to successfully drive their prospects through to the next stage in the buying cycle.

Next Up:  Marketing Cadence

This post covers the first category of marketing tips from rowing – power. The next post will cover cadence. I’ll wait for the completion of the Head of the Charles Regatta for that. I may just finish “The Boys in the Boat” by then too. In the mean time, please tell me what you think.



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Triathlon bike positioning

Spring Training Fundamentals: 5 Benefits of a Positioning Statement

The calendar says that spring has arrived.  You wouldn’t know it from the frigid temperatures and mounds of crusty snow outside.  But if the calendar says so, then it must be time for spring training.

Baseball players aren’t the only ones preparing for the upcoming season by focusing on fundamentals.  We triathletes do too.  For us, it means getting the bike tuned up and ready to ride outside.  It’s not only a question of getting in the miles.  We also need to work on riding position.  Perfecting that tight, aerodynamic body position that delivers maximum power with minimal wind resistance.

Marketers getting ready for an upcoming product launch need to devote the same level of effort into positioning.   Building a  positioning statement is no trivial exercise.   Like in triathlon, getting the positioning statement right is the key to success, and it requires discipline.

Key Elements of a Positioning Statement

Positioning Template (Trew Marketing)
Positioning Template (Trew Marketing)

There are a variety of templates for a positioning statement.  I’ve used a template similar to the one shown here.  Although it is short, each area requires close examination and continual refinement,  just like finding that optimal riding position.  Nail the positioning statement, and you can expect at least five benefits.

1.  Identify Your Buyer(s)

A positioning statement begins with the buyer.  It therefore demands that you focus on the buyer persona.  For B2B software companies, it’s especially important to focus on the job title, company size, and target verticals of your buyer.  If you sell to multiple types of buyers, you may need to develop a positioning statement for each one.  You’ll be able to decide once you know whether there are differences in needs, benefits, and competitive advantages.

2.  Do You Need to Cross the Chasm?

Chossing-the-chasm-coverOnce you have identified your buyers,  the positioning statement has you move onto their needs.  Knowing where your buyers are on the technology adoption life cycle will help you understand their needs.   Geoffrey Moore’s “Crossing the Chasm” discusses the psychographic differences between groups along the life cycle.

Visionaries appreciate technology for its own sake.  They often identify uses of technology not even considered by marketers.  Early adopters expect to use a new technology to get a jump on others in their industry.  They’re not looking for an improvement.  They are looking for a fundamental breakthrough.  Buyers in the early majority want to realize a gain in productivity for their current operations.    The positioning statement should reflect these instincts.

3.  Your Market – Clarify the Field You Are Playing On

seattle-277120_640This section of the positioning statement calls for another area that seems trivial.  But defining your market does require some thought.   Using a well understood existing market category has advantages, especially for buyers on the right hand side of the chasm.  But doing so will reqiure you to differentiate yourself from other vendors also in the market.  Creating a new market segment which you can own may help with differentiation, but it will require effort and time to educate the market.

4.  Leverage Your Commercial Insight for Competitive Advantage

I’ve written in previous blogs about my experience with Challenger Sale methodology.   The commercial insight is the content, based on your product’s unique advantages,  that sales uses to uncover a previously unknown problem in the current way the customer does business.   The commercial insight disrupts how the customer thinks about her business,  and ultimately leads to your product as the unique solution to the problem.    The commercial insight therefore shows up in two places in the positioning statement – the benefit and the unique differentiator.

5.  Crafting the Positioning Statement Gets Your Team on Board

The last benefit of building the positioning statement is that it helps to get all of the functional areas in your company on board with a consistent message.  Sales, product development, support, and marketing all see your company, customers, and product from a different perspective.  Distilling the relevant information onto a positioning statement helps get everyone pulling in the same direction in how they discuss your competitive advantages for your buyers.

Content creation is team effort

I’m not saying that getting everyone to agree on the positioning statement will be easy.  It won’t.  But having the various functional groups involved in creating it, or at least reviewing it and providing feedback, will provide benefits.

What about you?  What’s your experience in building positioning statements?  Do you have a favorite template, or different approach?  Let me know.  I’m interested in feedback.

Triathlon photo credit:  Rena Shild/Shutterstock

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Marketing and Sales Alignment – It’s not Ironman, Start Drafting!

Ironman, triathlonWatching the TV replay of the 2013 Ironman World Championships this weekend got me thinking about marketing and sales alignment.   Don’t worry, that wasn’t my first thought, or even my second one.   First, I realized that I have so much more training to do if I am ever to take on the 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike, and marathon run of an Ironman distance triathlon.  Then, I appreciated the efforts of the pro competitors’ race, and  those of amateur, “normal” athletes like Chef Gordon Ramsay, former Pittsburgh Steeler Hines Ward, and others less famous.   But THEN, I thought about marketing and sales alignment.

What does Marketing and Sales Alignment have to do with Ironman?

If you’ve seen a triathlon, you know that drafting is not allowed on the bike leg.  Competitive cycling events, like the Tour de France, allow riders to conserve energy by bunching up in a tightly packed pace line in the slip stream of the front riders.  Triathlon does not.   In order to ensure that all of the effort is individual, triathlon bike rules specify an imaginary 7 meter line behind a rider.  Faster riders have 20 seconds to cross this line and overtake a slower rider, who must then drop back beyond 7 meters.   This “no drafting” rule ensures that riders do not work together.

When it comes to marketing and sales alignment, it sometimes seems like there must be an unwritten, no drafting rule that prevents them from effectively working together.   How else to explain the wall between the two teams, the finger-pointing, and the negative attitudes?  Much has been written about how to bridge the gap between marketing and sales silos.   Having a crisply defined marketing and sales service level agreement (SLA) certainly helps.   And marketing automation software and CRM systems can add efficiency and throughput to the demand generation pipeline.

Walk a Mile in their Shoes – Five Suggestions for Marketing

In my experience, though, the best approach for marketers to understand what sales needs is to get out into the field and walk a mile in their shoes.    Once you do so, it won’t be so easy to refer to sales people as cavemen.    Here are five things every marketer should do to better understand their sales colleagues.

  1. Make some cold calls.  Spend half a day calling the names on your lead list.  Leave an effective voice mail.  Get someone on the phone, uncover their pain points, summarize your commercial insight, and ask for a meeting.   Discover for yourself the real qualifying questions and objections, so you can build a better battle card.
  2. Give your pitch.   Deliver your Challenger Sale commercial teaching presentation, or whatever approach your team uses.  Identify where your slides don’t flow, your animation bogs down, or your slide notes need improvement.   Modify your deck based on what you learn first-hand.
  3. Get Social.  Check the Twitter and LinkedIn profiles of your sales colleagues and see if they can be improved.   Conduct a 40 minute webcast on how best to leverage social media tools.  The small investment on your part will yield big results in both amplification of your product line, and in sales’ ability to sell socially.
  4. Be Proactive.  Reach out to your sales colleagues proactively.  Don’t wait in your cube for them to call you.   You’re the domain expert, so act like one.  Call them up and let them know you can help them, even if it’s just on the phone.   They’ll welcome the help.  It’s one less presentation for them to give, and if you do well, you’ll build trust and a reputation as a useful resource.
  5. Keep moving forward.  Just like at Ironman, you have to keep moving.  The surest way to fail is to stand still.  There are always updates to make in product capabilities, competitive analysis, market trends.

What’s your experience?  Are your marketing and sales teams working together, or are they observing a “no drafting” rule?  Have you walked a mile in your colleagues’ shoes?

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Challenger Sale Commercial Insight is a team pursuit

Challenger Sale Commercial Insight: A Team Pursuit

Over the past year, my organization has implemented the Challenger Sale  in our business.   As the solo marketer on the team, it has been my job to create the sales enablement content for our target use cases.   Building the Challenger Sale commercial insight has been the hardest part, and we’ve learned that it takes a team to do it.   Just like cycling teams competing in a team time trial, our success depended on the coordinated efforts of specialists within our group.  Here’s how we finally crossed the line.

At first blush, the definition of a Challenger Sale commercial insight seems pretty easy:  “A compelling, defensible perspective from a supplier that materially impacts  a customer’s performance and directly leads back to their unique capabilities.”  The commercial insight is the key to the “Reframe” point in the Challenger Sale choreography.   It’s the content, based on your product’s unique advantages,  that sales uses to uncover a previously unknown problem in the current way the customer does business.   The commercial insight disrupts how the customer thinks about her business,  and ultimately leads to your product as the unique solution to the problem.

At first, building the Challenger Sale commercial teaching presentation seemed simple.  Our product, CA AppLogic Cloud Platform, has unique advantages, and we have dozens of customers using it to launch profitable new services.   But we struggled with articulating the commercial insight, as if we were playing a game of hot potato.  Sales looked to me to deliver it, but I needed them for their understanding of how customers were solving problems.  The sales guys didn’t have a detailed understanding of the specific ways customers were using the product, so we turned to our technical sales staff.   Technical sales teams understood that, but they didn’t know how to quantify the business benefits the product delivered.   For that, we needed the customer.  No one group by itself could deliver the Challenger Sale commercial insight.  It took a team.

This cooperation is like that of a cycling team’s in a team time trial.  For a team of nine riders, the time trial finishing time is determined when the fifth rider crosses the line.  Therefore, the individual riders work together.   Each rider takes a turn riding hard at the front of a pace line, while their teammates follow inches behind, taking advantage of the slipstream.  After a turn of twenty seconds or so, the front rider steers off to the side and joins the back of the group to recover and prepare for the next pull at the front.  Teams succeed by synchronizing the efforts of the individual riders.

Challenger Sale Commercial Insight: Team Roles

Here’s how the riders in our pace line synchronized efforts to build our commercial insight.

Product Management:   We knew our commercial insight would be based on the unique way our cloud platform helps customers reduce costs and launch cloud services quickly.  Capital expenditures are lowered by virtualizing not just servers, but also networking and storage.  Operational expenditures are lowered by tightly coupling applications to the underlying infrastructure necessary to run them, and treating them as a single entity.   There’s less complexity, so it takes less effort, skill, and time to build, launch, and run services in the cloud.

Marketing:  Since our target customer was the revenue owner at a service provider charged with delivering profitable cloud services, we needed a Challenger Sale commercial insight that would reframe the problem in terms of revenue, profit, and fast time to market.   By studying the market, we knew that service providers measure the health of their business in terms of revenue and profit per data center square foot.   We needed to translate the unique product capabilities into a financial benefit in these terms, which the customer could then modify based on her own launch plan.

Sales:  In order to help the customer quantify the top line revenue projection, we needed examples of pricing, packaging, and take-up rate from other service providers in the market.  Luckily, many service providers publish this information publicly.  Our sales team provided public information from existing customers that was useful in building these projections.

Technical sales:  Our Challenger Sale commercial insight depended on the quantification of the capital expense, labor, power consumption, and other expenses necessary to run cloud service on our platform.  Our technical sales team had the experience to provide this information based on the product functionality and real-world implementations.

The customer:   Our customers showed us the the business model format that they used to make investment decisions in their company.  We built a model which aligned to their desired format, but helped the business owner tailor it to their particular plans.  The result was a quantified commercial insight that the customer “owned,” and presented as their justification for the investment in our product.

Here’s a snapshot of the overall P&L that results from this work.  P and L Summary Picture

As Forbes has written, implementing a Challenger Sale approach requires new marketing skills.   Through this team experience we got a good start, but there’s more to learn.  Please let me know about your experience.

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