Metrics. Measurement. ROI
Three little things responsible for marketers across the world waking up in cold sweats at night.
The thing is being a b2b marketer is not easy at the moment.
Your customers’ buying behaviours are changing, industry experts are shoving social and digital myths down your neck and worst of all your CEO is losing patience with woolly results from marketing campaigns.
Then came along big data. The measurement super hero. Ready and waiting with his team of insight tools, analytics experts and reams of spread sheets to give the answers marketers have been yearning after for so long.
Issue one: The baffling complexity of the systems
There is a plethora of systems that can help marketers gain insight into their customers, and their campaigns. The likes of Eloqua, Silverpop and Hubspot shine a light on what prospects are doing and how they are interacting with your business. Who is visiting your site? What are they looking at? Where are they in the buying cycle? Unfortunately, to effectively use these systems your business needs highly trained and skilled specialists. The truth of the matter is the skills gap is huge and until this problem is fixed and marketers are fully educated and trained to use them, useful data insights will remain locked away.
Issue two: The sales marketing divide
During the debate it was clear one old issue remained a sticking point for businesses – the sales/marketing divide. The entrenched frustrations that exist between the two departments ring true as ever when it comes to big data. The crux of the issue is that sales don’t think they are getting the right insight and information about the prospects (and whether they are in fact a warm, qualified lead) and marketing often doesn’t get feedback, information and insight into what is ticking the right boxes for prospects to shape future communications. Until we begin to see unity between the old foes, businesses realistically will never see the true value of big data.
Issue three: Technology is not the answer to all marketing woes
There was a clear theme that came through in the heated discussion. Marketers, struggling to connect with an ever changing customer, believe that big data is the answer to all their woes. And sadly it is not. The data can shine a light on your customers, their issues and how they interact and respond to your campaigns – but without the right messaging, creative and strategy in place from the start activity is ultimately set to fail. Sadly big data is not the medicine for bad marketing.
Issue four: Balancing insight with intuition
While big data is relatively new to the world of b2b marketing, comprehensive data and analytics have been used to make big decisions in sport for years. Particularly in Formula 1, managers are forced to make split second decisions based on hard data that sits at odds with their gut feeling. The question is; are b2b marketers ready to question their current tactics if the data says do the opposite? Are they willing to target a whole new audience if insight says their purchaser is changing? The data can throw up some challenging questions – but who is willing to face up to them?
It’s clear the future is bright for marketers, and the reams of data and insight will only help maximise the effectiveness of marketing activity. But until these barriers are conquered, big data will remain the baffling beast it is today.
Sitting in a meeting a couple of weeks ago a jovial sales chap began to rib the marketing director about the extent of his role.
‘You marketing lot just stick a few pictures in PowerPoints and brochures don’t you?’
How we giggled.
While these views are clearly archaic, it does highlight an on-going issue that we marketers face – ‘how do we show the real value we add to the business?’
For the majority of other departments this job is easy.
Sales guys can show directly where they are adding to the bottom line. Tech guys can launch new products on a yearly basis with a big bang. But marketing? It’s all slightly less tangible.
But, there is no doubt that things are beginning to change.
CMOs are increasingly respected by the board (on which many now sit). Innovative campaigns, branding and marketing programmes have helped companies across the world pull themselves through the ‘sticky patch’ some refer to as a global recession.
Despite this, there is still work to do for marketers to get the respect and love they indeed deserve.
And there’s good news. There’s still a big gap in most organisations. It’s a marketing shaped hole that desperately needs filling.
What is it? The educator within the business.
Why? Well the clue is in the name. Marketing’s primary role is too know the market better than anyone else in the company, and to have to use this insight to help drive the business strategy.
As buyer habits develop and prospects spend increasing amount of time researching products, the market and their business issues– the insatiable thirst for knowledge and insight needs to be fed.
They are looking for more information online, asking more demanding questions from sales and being far more testing when it comes to finding out if their potential supplier really knows their onions.
So how does marketing successfully fulfil this role as the educator within the business?
First up – start to build your own knowledge base.
The internal education process rests on the marketing team putting their ears to the ground to know what’s going on out there.
Make use of all the brilliant blogs, tweets, articles and discussions relevant to your industry that are out there and take to soak up the reams of content that’s available (and free!).
Where to start? Set up your Hootsuite account, sign up to relevant RSS feeds, follow key words through Google alerts and get reading.
Turn your knowledge into educational content
There is nothing quite as frustrating (or wasteful) as tacit knowledge. While getting your head around your industry and customer issues is great, if it isn’t effectively passed on to the rest of the business the task is largely useless.
Develop content that clearly and easily explains what you believe is fundamental for everyone in the business to understand. Whether it’s customer pain points, upcoming legislation or changing marketing trends – this stuff is important, and valuable to every person in the organisation.
One of Earnest’s favourite examples of this is the 8 minute expert – a short guide for the sales team to get into the head of the customer while over a quick coffee or while they are waiting in reception before a meeting.
Simple. Yet effective.
Get your face out there
It’s about time marketing started getting their face out into the business. The reason for the pig headed quips from the cynic in the corner is because they simply aren’t shouting about what they are doing and how they can help.
Time for this to change.
Our advice? Set up a series of internal briefings on different topics (one a week if you can), invite everyone along and turn it into a bit of a discussion session (or knowledge share for our more corporate audience)
Most importantly have a real open door policy. Marketing should be flooded with visits from every department hunting for the answer to the question that means they can understand the business a little bit better and do their job a lot better.
Develop your internal social network
To encourage a culture of learning within the organisation – marketing should be owning the show in developing a platform the foster this.
Whether it’s a simple intranet system or the more socially focused yammer site – online is the ideal way for individuals across the business to share what they have learned, what’s on their customers minds at the moment and hot topics to look out for.
Stay in it for the long term – keep blogging and enjoying the quick wins
A lot can be said for keeping your own networks flowing with content relevant for your business peers. The simple wins are often the best when it comes to educating internally.
Create a personal blog and write every week, tweet about what interests you and share interesting content with your peers through LinkedIn.
All you have to make sure to do everyone internally is listening. Simple.
And there is no time like the present. It’s time to read the next blog. Do a bit of delving into what’s going on out there. And tweet about this one. And share it with your colleagues of course.
You are now the educator. Don’t take the role lightly.
Here’s the rub.
As a marketer, you’re now under more pressure than ever to prove your worth – and demonstrate ROI.
Your budget is under scrutiny – and no doubt, you need to put forward a strong case to justify your spend.
So what do you do?
Be bullish about the potential return – ever optimistic about your ability to deliver the goods, but knowing it’s the only way you’ll get go-ahead.
Or take a more bearish approach – assuming a more grounded, perhaps pessimistic view (clearly with the aim of exceeding expectations) - but at the same time, risking the powers that be pulling the plug on your grand plans.
Well, at a guess, we’d probably say you’re predisposed to be more bull than bear.
It’s something psychologist Daniel Kahneham in his fine and highly recommended book ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ describes as the ‘Planning Fallacy’.
When it comes to forecasting, he argues misplaced optimism pervades.
One of the examples he cites is a study examining rail projects undertaken worldwide over a 30 year period: In more than 90% of the cases, the number of passengers projected to use the system was over-estimated. And despite these shortfalls being widely publicised – forecasts simply did not improve. In fact, planners over-estimated passenger numbers by 106%.
The Planning Fallacy is about making plans and forecasts that are based on the information we have in front of us (at best) – and failing to allow for the ‘unknown unknowns’. It’s about us tending to unrealistically base our forecasts on the best-case scenario.
So what’s the cure?
While we can’t foresee the unknowns, Kahneham argues that to overcome the Planning Fallacy and improve our forecasts, we need to consult the statistics of similar cases – where possible referring to distributional information. He calls this the outside view.
In simple terms:
i) Identify your reference class (Earnest view: business-to-business reference classes will clearly provide a better reference point than B2C if you’re in the B2B game)
ii) Obtain the statistics of the reference class to provide a base line prediction (Earnest view: okay, can be tricky to come by but there are more and more B2B benchmarking studies available)
iii) Use specific information about your project to adjust your baseline prediction (Earnest view: look at the variables you’re playing with, what you’ve learned from previous campaigns and in particular what you don’t know – for instance, if you’re using a new unproven data set – then err on the side of caution and adjust your predictions downwards).
Adopt this approach and chances are your forecasts will be more accurate and less risky, but ultimately it’s over to you to determine how you set the expectations of your stakeholders.
However, continuing to over-promise and under-deliver can only prove more damaging for your reputation within the organisation.
We’d argue the case for realism.
Some campaigns will no doubt deliver way above forecast, some less so. But by demonstrating more rigour in your planning – and building the confidence of stakeholders by delivering on your promises – the more marketing will show its worth and gain the respect it truly deserves.
‘I have read and agree to the terms and conditions’. This is a very common little white lie told on a daily basis by people around the world.
When you next download an app to your phone, however, think twice before ticking that little box before you have read the small print.
This week Juniper released its research into the security of mobile apps and the findings were quite shocking.
As reported in the London Evening Standard, 7% of mobile apps can access the address book on your phone and send them back to the app owner.
And watch out which snaps you take on holiday – 5.5% of free apps can access your mobile phone’s camera.
But when you get further into the report things look more sinister
2.5% of apps downloaded for free can send text messages or make phone calls on your behalf and most worryingly some apps can even listen to ambient conversations in a room using your mobile phone.
Don’t go wiping your phone just yet though – most of these capabilities have been accidently programmed into the app and most are not used for the owners gain.
And if you are on Apple’s iOS things are looking pretty safe, the majority of these apps come through the other app stores.
Still, next time you are confronted by the 30 pages and 15,000 words of T and Cs take a bit of a closer look.