Tag Archives: goal setting

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Strategic Alliances and Marketing: Like Doubles Luge

Give me a minute to explain how doubles luge relates to strategic alliances and marketing. Take a look at the recent results in doubles luge from the Sanki Sliding Center.   Do you see any interesting patterns in the medal winners?  

If  you follow the sport, you know that this doubles win gives Germany its third luge gold medal of the Sochi games.  (Actually, by now they have all four!)  Coached by five time Olympian Georg Hackl, Germany has now added doubles and the relay to its golds in men’s and women’s singles.

While that is true, I’m talking about the names of the competitors in the top three slots.

Brothers in Arms, and Legs

3 brothersAlthough the German sliders are both named Tobias, it is even more interesting that siblings have won both silver and bronze medals.  Andreas and Wolfgang Linger from Austria were trying for their third straight gold, but had to settle for silver.  And Latvia’s Andris and Juris Sics dropped down a notch from their Vancouver silver medal for the bronze.

It’s no surprise that brothers would do well in a competition that requires such close coordination.  Even more than the Bryan brothers in tennis, or ice dancers Alex and Maia Shibutani, siblings competing in doubles luge are literally joined at the hip.  Kind of like strategic alliances and marketing.

What Strategic Alliances and Marketing Share with Doubles Luge

Like the competitors in doubles luge, strategic alliances and marketing share many common attributes.   Here are just a few:

Close working relationship.  Goals, objectives, and tactics are common across strategic alliances and marketing.

Aligned efforts.  Strategic alliances and marketing make almost every move together.

Tightly coupled.  The measures of success for strategic alliances and marketing are often shared.  Just like the lugers getting to the bottom of the hill.

High levels of trust.  To achieve their goals, strategic alliances and marketing staff must implicitly trust one another to make and fulfill appropriate partner commitments.

Marketing Skills are Fundamental to Determining Strategic Alliances

The relationship between strategic alliances and marketing goes beyond common attributes.  Marketing plays a key role in each of the five factors in determining a strategic alliance, as discussed by the Ivey Business Journal.

Critical to success of a core business goal.   Many strategic alliances are formed to generate revenue through joint go to market efforts.  In order to do so, the marketing teams from both partners must align on target customers, pain points, joint value proposition, demand generation, and awareness programs.

Critical to a core competency or competitive advantage.  These are the domains of product marketing, who owns product differentiation, messaging, and positioning.

The potential to block a competitive threat.  Similar to the previous area, product marketers often own the competitive analysis, and help drive future road map and partnership strategies.

Creates or maintains strategic choices for the business.  The decision to buy, build, or partner drives the need for alliances.   Product marketing is a key contributor to building the landscape of potential targets for merger, acquisition, and technology partnerships.

Mitigates a significant risk for the business.  Whether this applies to product or market risks, marketing plays a key role in this area.

Building Strategic Alliances Requires Strong Marketing

Strategic alliances and marketing are often combined in the early days of a small company, and for good reason.    Many of the critical steps required to form and grow a strategic alliance require strong marketing skills.  According to Bain & Company, to form a strategic alliance, companies should:

Define the business vision and strategy, to determine how the alliance helps meet objectives.   As I wrote in a previous post, marketing can often improve the strategic planning approach, by reversing the traditional SWOT analysis.SWOT, TOWS

Choose partners based on synergy and ability to work together.  For revenue generating partnerships, synergy relates to common markets, buyers, and go to market tactics.  Coordination of sales teams and marketing campaigns are some of the trickiest areas of alliances.

Recognize mutual opportunities between the business and the partner.  These mutual opportunities often relate to road map alignment, go to market strategies, competitive threats or market opportunities.   Areas that fall right into marketing’s purview.

Implement a formal agreement including systems to monitor performance of mutual goals.  For revenue generating relationships,  marketing’s experience in goal setting plays a key role.  The systems to share information on demand generation, pipeline, and closed business are the same systems that marketing uses to report progress within the company.

Your Team’s Strategic Alliances and Marketing:  Smooth Sliding, or Bumps on the Track?

Are strategic alliances and marketing closely aligned within your organization?  How do you ensure you’re tightly coupled and moving fast down the track?  When you hit the big curves, are you facing the g forces together, or are you risking a nasty spill?

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Marketing Goal Setting: Six Time Tested Triathlon Tactics

As 2013 comes to a close, many of us are in the midst of marketing goal setting for 2014.   At this time of year, I also set my athletic goals for the upcoming year.  I’ve found many parallels between the two endeavors, so would like to share six time-tested tactics from triathlon goal setting that apply equally well to marketing goal setting.

1. Wear a Number on your Shirt

It will focus your actions and get your team on board.

The great thing about racing goals is that they can be captured so crisply.  Much has been written about setting goals that are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, reasonable, and time-based).  Break five hours in a half Ironman.  With racing, it doesn’t get any more specific and measurable.

Marketers can take a similar SMART approach to marketing goal setting.   Marketing’s purpose is to drive closed business, so set a goal based on revenue contribution.   Signing up for a number gives you two benefits.  First, it directly ties marketing activities to the company’s goals.  Second, it helps marketing communicate with the rest of the company.   Let’s be honest – there’s plenty of skepticism from our colleagues in sales, finance, and development about marketing’s purpose.  Obscure terms like “marketing qualified leads” or “amplification”  don’t help our colleagues understand our activities.  But everyone understands revenue.

2. Break it Down into Sections

Consider your targets and past performance.

I know my targets for a five hour half Ironman.  I need to swim 1.2 miles in under 30 minutes, bike 56 miles faster than 20 mph, and run 13.2 miles at under 8 minute per mile pace.   A life long swimmer, I know that my race will be made or lost on the bike and run.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy results at the Patriot Half show that I still am in search of the perfect plan.  In the 2010 race, I finished in 5:06, slightly off pace on the run.  My results from 2011 were better.  I finished in 5:02, with a run that was four minutes faster.  My results from 2012 show that I was right on track after the swim and the bike, but I crashed and burned on the run.  I finished in 5:21, my worst time ever.  Back to the drawing board for this year’s plan!

Like my targets for the swim, bike, and run,  marketers set objectives for demand generation, awareness, loyalty, and sales enablement.  Look at last year, analyze results, and plan accordingly.

For demand generation, consider your average sales price, sales cycle, and pipeline conversation ratios to determine how many qualified leads you need in the pipe, by quarter.  For awareness, identify the sources of traffic to your website, track the mentions of your company, and determine this year’s targets.  Get together with your sales colleagues and determine which elements of your sales kit need to be refreshed or thrown out all together.

3.  Build Your Plan

 Hold yourself accountable to a set of actions.

My weekly training plan has specific targets for the number and length of workouts for each discipline.   Each swim is two miles.  During the winter, the run and bike workouts are 1.5-2 hours.  As spring arrives, I build up to 50-60 miles per ride.   I’ll add a weekly “brick” workout, in which I run immediately after finishing a bike ride, and a weekly track workout to build speed. The plan has actions and metrics for each week, to which I can hold myself accountable.

For marketing goal setting, the approach is the same.  Specify the actions, deliverables, and metrics for each marketing objective.  Identify inbound and outbound marketing activities to drive demand and build awareness.   Determine tactics based on what worked (and what didn’t) last year.   Identify the costs, content, timing, and the expected number of attendees.  Use your whole team!  Remember that content creation is a team sport.

4. Track your Metrics

It’s all about the numbers!

file301266529142Whether it’s triathlon or marketing, the only way to determine whether you are on track is to monitor Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).  Compare actual vs expected performance of tactics throughout the customer buying cycle.  Communicate progress within the marketing team, externally to other functional groups and to the execs.  For more on B2B marketing metrics see HubSpot, Inc, and StoryMETRIX, among others.

5. Adjust, Based on Real Time Conditions

Flexibility and speed are key to adjusting based on actual conditions.

It’s reality.  Despite our best planning, we don’t control everything.  The conditions, on race day or in the actual market, will vary from what we expect.  A heat wave, flat tire, or a bout of stomach flu can throw a wrench into our plans.   Competitors launch new products or get acquired.   An irate Twitter user buys a promoted tweet to launch a complaint.  Whether it is racing or marketing, by monitoring KPIs and remaining agile, we can adjust to real time conditions and take advantage of the opportunities.

6. Tie Achievement to the Performance Management System

Make bonuses dependent on the metrics.

For racing, this is trivial.  Individual performance and goal achievement are the same thing.  In marketing, it can be different.  Just like with sales, bonuses for marketing staff should depend on hitting the numbers.  Marketing leaders should directly tie achievement of metrics to their team members’ individual goals in the performance management system.   There is no better way to ensure the team is focused.

Each of these steps becomes more granular, from the overall big goal to the real time adjustment based on actual daily or weekly metrics.  A systematic approach to marketing goal setting will set you up right for a winning season.   I’m interested in your comments on this approach.  Please let me know what you think.

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