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Marketing Career: 7 Habits of Highly Effective Marketing Job Seekers – Part 2

December 9th, 2011 1 comment

Last week’s marketing career post explored how marketers should implement Steven Covey’s first habit, “Be Proactive,” into their job hunt. Scott Howard, Executive Director of Operations, MECLABS, helped to draw out applicable and helpful tips from the bestselling book. This week, we’ll hear from him again on the next two habits: “Begin with the End in Mind” and “Put First Things First.”

 

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

I find this to be one of the most important habits for job hunters. Why? Because it is the foundation on which all following habits build. Without an end vision, you won’t know how to best direct all the energy you put into the other habits.

So how do you create this vision? Covey instructs you to create an image, picture or paradigm of the end of your life just as you want it to be. In a job seeker’s case, picture the job you want to have not just now, but also the one you want in the future. Using this reference, you will then determine your behavior and actions now and in the future. It also works on the principle that all things are created twice, once being mental, followed by the physical. Beginning with an end in mind focuses on the mental construction. (The physical will start to take shape in the next habit, “Put First Things First.”)

Scott says, “You need a destination. You can’t know how to get somewhere without first knowing where you want to go.”

Envision your ideal career path. Where do you want to be in five, 10, 20 years? Know the general direction you want to go, and focus your job search on positions that support this vision. In essence, you will create your own personal mission statement.

As a job seeker, I know how tempting it can be to apply to anything and everything. Having a job is better than not having one, right? Well, not necessarily. A résumé riddled with short employments or unrelated job positions does not look good to potential employers. Don’t continually apply to jobs you know you will leave in six months, or that have nothing to do with your end vision.

In The New York Times’ blog, Room for Debate, Katherine S. Newman, professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University, explains it further, “…if [your] biography doesn’t match [your] aspirations, it can be a tough sell when newer, less ‘scarred’ job seekers flood the pool from which the boss is choosing.” In other words, taking that unrelated job could hurt your chances of following your ideal career path.

This habit helps to narrows down your job search. Focus on what you what to be and do, then determine the steps, values and principles that will get you there.

Try writing this statement for yourself, and fill in the blanks to it is applicable to you …

“I want to be a (digital marketer, B2B marketer, community manager, etc) so that I can (list your contributions and achievement here). To get to that destination, I will (take an internship, apply for specific job descriptions, further my training or education, build my network, etc).”

 

Key Takeaway:

  • Envision your idea career path. Once you determine your career destination, hone your job search to focus on this ideal direction. If you’re not quite sure where you want your career to go, try reading through MarketingSherpa case studies to get a deeper understanding of certain roles and organizations.

  Read more…

Marketing Wisdom: Your peers share the surprising foundation that shaped their marketing efforts for 2011

December 6th, 2011 No comments

Please forgive me for opening this post with a trite statement, but I simply cannot believe we’re already approaching the end of 2011.

(That was for my dad, who spent most of his 50s lamenting the speed in which 365 days can pass.)

Platitudes aside, the end of a calendar year marks a time of reflection, where marketers look back at the year, and use this knowledge to better plan for the one ahead.

This also means that it’s time for you to send us your wisdom for the MarketingSherpa 2012 Marketing Wisdom Report (sponsored by HubSpot). Our 10th annual collection of anecdotes, ideas, test results and inspiration from marketers like you, will be distributed for free in January to all MarketingSherpa and HubSpot readers and customers.

As I prepare to digest a slew of submissions for this year’s go-round, I felt it was only right to take one last look at the 2011 edition, to see where we were a year ago, and what we’ve learned along the way. While combing through the pages, I was reminded of some notable pieces of advice, as well as a prominent common thread that ran throughout:

Communicate.

You’d think with all the exciting new technologies that have come about, 2.0 would have dominated the marketing landscape in recent years. But that’s not what marketers told us in our last wisdom report. No, it was the basics — the most fundamental marketing practices — that helped marketers achieve success in a questionable economy.

In 2010, you sowed the seeds of “back-to-basics” efforts, all centered on communication, and built forward-thinking campaigns around them. From stories of elaborate, innovative social media outreach, to the most basic expressions of thanks, it was clear that communication – both internal and external – was a foundation of your 2010 marketing efforts.

Below are some of the memorable entries from last year’s report. Read on to see if last year’s wisdom still proves valuable as you prepare for 2012.

Read more…

B2B Marketing: Focused top-of-the-funnel campaign fills day-long workshop in target market

October 25th, 2011 1 comment

Marketing and Sales alignment is always a hot topic. When the two business functions are working together marketing efforts are more effective and Sales’ job becomes easier.

At the MarketingSherpa B2B Summit 2011 in San Francisco this week, Michelle Mogelsen Levy, Associate Vice President Marketing Programs, ECI Telecom, presented a case study on a successful quick-hit, top-of-the-funnel effort that had the side benefit of getting already close Marketing and Sales teams into even closer alignment.

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Sales’ challenge for Marketing

Sales at ECI Telecom came to the marketing team and asked for support to penetrate a brand new geographic market in a very limited time frame – under 30 days – and fill the top of the funnel with high-quality leads.

The resulting effort was a proprietary workshop in Sweden, a new market Sales was targeting. Marketing’s challenge was finding a way to get relevant prospects to the event with an eye on being cost-conscious. And the goal was to register 20 participants for the eight-hour workshop.

The strategy was an inbound effort combining Sales leveraging its connections through email and social media with Facebook posts and other outreach, and Marketing taking advantage of the existing database along with reaching out to anonymous web visitors from Sweden. Turning unknown website visitors into known visitors was a key goal in the effort.

ECI Telecom went out and found a vendor that was able to provide a tool that allowed for segmenting Web traffic and delivering relevant messages to those visitors, and allowed for real-time intelligence on site visitors and behavior. Read more…

Marketing Metrics: Is the emphasis on ROI actually hurting Marketing?

October 21st, 2011 3 comments

In speaking with many, many marketers over the past year, two words — well, actually one word and one acronym — stand out in my mental word cloud when thinking about marketing in 2011: revenue and ROI (return on investment).

The first is a term more commonly seen in financial reports and tossed around the conference table during company meetings. The second is another financial term.

And I’m not just dreaming that these words have infiltrated marketing. Research from the 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report found that 54% of surveyed marketers think “achieving or increasing measurable ROI from lead generation programs” is a top strategic priority for 2012.

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Click to enlarge

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I know I’ve written about Marketing proving its worth within the company in terms of revenue generation or measuring ROI more than once over the last year.

Menno Lijkendijk, Director Milestone Marketing, a Netherlands-based B2B marketing company, says the emphasis on ROI in marketing should be reexamined.

Menno’s main point is unimpeachable — return on investment is a financial term with a specific definition that has a very specific meaning to the C-suite in general, and particularly to the CFO. His concern is, not only is the actual ROI of some marketing activities overemphasized, the term itself is gathering too much marketing “buzz.”

He provided an example of a comment left on an online video of his that referenced “intangible ROI,” something he (rightly) says does not exist.

“There is no such thing as intangible ROI. The whole definition of ROI is that it should be tangible,” Menno says.

He continues, “This term — ROI — is now starting to lead a life of its own, and is being used by email service providers to explain to their potential customers that doing business with them will give them great ROI on their marketing investment.” Menno also mentions email providers are not alone in using this sales pitch and cited search marketers, social media markers and other agencies.

“There is more than just ROI, and the real value of marketing may require a different metric, or a different scorecard, than just the financial one,” he states.

- Read more…

Crisis Communication: The first 48 hours of 9/11 from inside American Airlines headquarters

September 9th, 2011 1 comment

Tony Wright, founder and CEO, WrightIMC, had a very unique view of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. — he worked for Weber Shandwick on the American Airlines account, helping with corporation communications and interactive marketing. One of his key responsibilities was optimizing AA.com for search.

“When 9/11 happened, it was an all-hands-on-deck type of thing at Weber Shandwick. [American Airlines] called us because they needed help and support,” explained Tony.

He immediately drove over to the Fort Worth, Texas, airline headquarters and began tracking news about the event and his client.

- Read more…

Marketing Psychology: The behavioral triggers behind success at Amazon, Groupon and FarmVille

September 8th, 2011 1 comment

I like to think of myself as a savvy consumer. I research purchases. I ask friends for suggestions. I look for deals. This has undoubtedly spared me headaches and wasted money — but it has not freed me from clever marketing.

This fact is made clear in a recent Wired article by Dan Ariely, Professor of Behavioral Economics, Duke University. In the piece, Ariely explains the psychological factors that help build Amazon, Facebook, Groupon and other successful companies.

We interviewed Ariely last year about his book, Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, and published his advice. Here are three marketing insights from his recent article in Wired:

Read more…

Marketing Career: If you’re so good, why don’t they do what you say?

July 21st, 2011 No comments

You’re in a meeting. The CEO asks the CFO what he thinks about something. The CFO tells the CEO what he thinks, and the CEO nods. He accepts the CFO’s answer.

The CEO then asks the head of product development about something, and the same thing happens. Acceptance. Respect.

Then, the CEO asks you something. You answer. The CEO starts questioning you, listens half-heartedly to your answer, then turns to others in the room and asks their opinion – about a marketing issue!

Why does this happen? Why don’t you just “get the nod?”

Because you are making a fundamental mistake. You are basing your advice – and staking your reputation – on what you know about marketing, rather than how well you know your customer.

Who is your customer? How did that customer find you, and why did he buy from you? What does that customer tell others about you? Even more important, what does the customer wish your company would do for him? That knowledge is your only true source of power. You may think you know these things, but in my experience, you’re probably missing the mark. Everyone else does.

I’m going to teach you how to change this “no nod” dynamic for good, in my keynotes at the B2B Summit in Boston and San Francisco. I’m going to teach you how to get the information you need from customers, present it to management so they “get it,” and make the kinds of decisions – strategic and tactical – that will not only give you the nod, but give you the kinds of results that every marketer wishes they could deliver.

But before I put these presentations together, I am going to “eat my own dog food” as we used to say in Silicon Valley. I practice what I preach.

I want to interview you

If you’re coming to a B2B Summit, I want to talk to you to make sure that what I present will address your very specific concerns, and will give you practical, take-it-back-to-the-office-and-make-it-work advice.

As I interview you, you will have the chance to experience a proven, customer-intelligence-gathering interviewing process first-hand, as the customer. This will help you when you start to put those new, “get the nod” practices into action in your own company – and in your career.

I will only need to talk to about ten of you, so if you want to be part of this process, let MarketingSherpa know now. I only need your name and email address; I’ll contact you to set up a phone appointment.

Thanks, and I am looking forward to our conversation.

Related Resources

Marketing Career: How to become an indispensable asset to your company (even in a bad economy)

The Indefensible Blog Post: Forget Charlie Sheen, here are 5 marketing lessons from marketers

The Data Vs Creativity Debate: Is successful marketing driven by analytics or art?

Guided by Buyers: Four tactics to create a customer-centric sales and marketing strategy (Members-Only Library)

Categories: Marketing Tags: , ,

Email Marketing: Three lessons learned at the MarketingSherpa Email Marketing LEAPS Advanced Practices Workshop

June 16th, 2011 No comments

I recently attended the MarketingSherpa Email Marketing LEAPS Advanced Practices Workshop in Boston (my supervisors let me out for fresh air once per season), and though these events are always good for new tips, tactics and ideas, I never expected to experience one emotion:

Surprise.

But, after sharing an enjoyable lunch with a handful of attendees, I felt just that. We were in downtown Boston, just a few miles from the regular site of Sherpa’s annual B2B Summits, where the world’s most tactical marketers come to polish their skills, network with similarly experienced professionals and share their stories of success. To boot, we were at an advanced practices workshop – a title that implied this was no introductory, 101-level path into the “deep end” of email marketing.

But, one bowl of chowder later, I learned that a good percentage of the day’s attendees were either new to email marketing, or – in one case – new to marketing altogether. At first, I was taken aback by the fact that these relative newbies were putting themselves in a position to be overwhelmed. And, while the table waited for me to stop making that confused puppy look, they explained how not only was the workshop giving them actionable items to bring back to the office, they were also gaining a stronger understanding of email marketing in general.

Then I went through the event presentations again, and soon realized they had a point. In email marketing (actually, all marketing), no matter how advanced a tactic or idea may seem, it always comes back to the basics. And I don’t just mean marketing basics, but rather the very cornerstones of communication and interaction.

Here are just a few of the things I learned in the LEAPS workshop that support this point:

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1. Relevance is paramount

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Chart: Most significant challenges to email marketing effectiveness,
by primary channel
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According to the MarketingSherpa 2011 Email Marketing Benchmark Report, providing relevant content remains both a top priority and the most significant challenge facing email marketers today. No matter how much time or resources you invest in your email campaigns, it’s all for naught if these messages don’t find their way into a recipient’s inbox.

Relevancy can be defined as sending the right message to the right person at the right time. In order to improve deliverability, you must engage your audience with relevant content. If I sign up for email alerts after shopping for cycling gear, please don’t bombard me with emails about all-natural fruit juice. Maybe I’ll care, maybe I won’t, but this isn’t why I came to you in the first place. Email content needs to be targeted and appropriate, justifying a user’s opt-in and continued opens and clicks.-

Remember – it’s good to eat a little humble pie before creating an email program. As marketers, sometimes our egos lead us to become out of touch with the reality of a situation. We start thinking we know what the customer “really” wants before they tell us their needs. There isn’t anything more important than keeping the promise to deliver exactly what the subscriber requested and nothing more.

At the core of relevant communications is value exchange. The majority of email messages should contain valuable information in the form of reports, entertaining videos and insightful stories — not endless self-promotion.

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2. Respect your audience

I had no idea that my mother and Aretha Franklin were email marketers, but just as they instilled all those years ago, respect is paramount in this discipline.

I like choices. We all do. When attempting to retain subscribers, it’s imperative to give customers a chance to “opt down” rather than opt-out. Options for this include reducing frequency, changing offer types as well as subject matter topics. Also, it’s good to include links to “follow” and “like” options, as your customers may prefer communicating on social media sites. The goal is to let the user control the conversation, not vice versa.

And for the love of everything we hold dear, let people decide when they receive from you. For the last 40 years, the US Postal Service has allowed people to stop mail delivery for a set period of time, so overflowing mailboxes don’t invite the local burglars over for a buffet of your finer things. Yet, this option is rarely mentioned for email.

Remember – while it might seem enticing to send every possible offer and announcement to all of your subscribes, if you over-send to an unresponsive subscriber, you may harm your deliverability reputation and success metrics.

In short, if someone on your list leaves, let them go. If they don’t come back, they were never yours to begin with.

(Speaking of which…)

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3. Email marketing is based on relationships

In email marketing, a relationship begins the moment the user opts-in. Once this happens, you are responsible for ensuring that your recipients feel welcome, informed and satiated with relevant content. This all starts with the welcome message.

The importance of the welcome email message cannot be understated. For some consumers, this will be the first conversation they have with the brand. Hopefully, it will be the first step toward that person becoming a regular customer, if not an out-and-out brand evangelist. Remember to give them more than they may expect, in hopes that they will be looking forward to your next send.

You want your email to set the tone for the ongoing relationship, which is why it’s always good to start with a sincere “thank you.” Yes, just like your mother told you – manners are important. The words selected must support your brand’s voice, and successive messages must meet subscriber expectations.

Remember – like  high school romance, not all relationships last forever. Try not to take it personally when you realize how many subscribers go inactive. Subscribers don’t always give an official good-bye. Sometimes their interests change, they prefer a different communication channel, or simply change jobs.

Stay positive and believe they have just been too busy to interact with your brand. You can send a simple “we missed you” note to reengage the subscriber, but keep in mind that the special offer should not be over the top so as to sound needy or even desperate.

No 75%, “buy-one-get-five” discounts, folks.

To draw a parallel, if my wife and I have an argument, I may apologize (yes, let’s work under the assumption that I’m wrong in this scenario) by offering a gift as a show of remorse. If I come presenting extravagant diamonds, she may accept my apology, but the extreme, over the top gift may indicate that the argument was more serious than it was, not to mention entirely my fault.

Approaching a re-engagement email this way might just chase them away permanently, even if there’s a significant offer on the table. An over-the-top offer might even make users question your product’s overall value.

However if I give my wife a small bouquet of flowers to apologize I will show sincerity for possibly hurting her feelings, but the focus will remain on the apology and not the gift. This also applies to an email relationship; you do not want an idle subscriber to reengage solely for the prize, otherwise you will be in the same situation again, and will have started (or continued) a bad communication cycle.

Looking back at that lunch conversation, I shouldn’t have been so surprised that beginners were taking so much from an advanced practices workshop. Because, as we see in the LEAPS methodology, email marketing only serves to reinforce basic, evergreen marketing tactics.

If only I knew this stuff during my first heart-wrenching break-up.

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[Be sure to catch Jeff Rice and Adam Sutton on the next leg of the Email Marketing LEAPS Advanced Practices Workshop, coming soon to Seattle, WA and Washington, DC.]

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Related resources

Risky Email Marketing Paid Off

Email Marketing: LEAPS methodology for improving performance

MarketingSherpa 2011 Email Marketing Benchmark Report

Members Library — Marketing Research  Chart: Top tactics organizations use to improve email relevancy

Loyalty Marketing: How to get customers to stick around (and keep buying)

May 12th, 2011 1 comment

Quick quiz, savvy marketers.

What is going on in this picture?

A.      Their flights were canceled and all the hotels are booked up, so they’re camping out on the street for the night.

B.      They are pioneers of the latest fad – urban camping.

C.      They represent a new demographic – homeless yuppies. They bought a McMansion that was foreclosed on, yet took all the nice gear they bought at REI and now are forced to use it merely to survive.

D.      They are the natural consequence of some very impressive loyalty marketing.

The answer, of course, is D. They are camping out, on line at the Fifth Avenue Apple Store to be one of the first few people to buy an iPhone.

Polish toilet paper and well-designed telephones

“I remember once, a relative in France sent us three rolls of toilet paper. We couldn’t believe how soft it was. We were in heaven,” my colleague, MECLABS Research Manager Zuzia Soldenhoff-Thorpe told me recently. She grew up in Communist Poland, and her parents would wait in line for six hours in the Polish winter just to buy toilet paper. Scratchy, rough toilet paper. Not the fancy French stuff.

And that is understandable. Toilet paper is a necessity. Communist Poland rationed it.

But what would drive otherwise rational people in the world’s richest nation to wait in line for a telephone? Well, loyalty. In their view, they have solidarity with the brand.

So, what are the benefits of creating solidarity forever with your customers?

The value of a loyal customer

“A loyal customer is less price-sensitive and nearly immune to competitive entreaties. A loyal customer is often open to trying line extensions. Finally, a loyal customer is much more willing to forgive your inevitable small fumbles. (Does anyone seriously think Apple is going to lose core customers because iPad production delays due to the Japanese situation? Not likely.),” said Micah Solomon, author of “Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit.”

On the other hand, sometimes customer acquisition costs are so high that you need loyal customers just to break even. “It is estimated today that a large credit card portfolio has an 18-24 month window to repay the initial acquisition cost of that customer. Without loyalty and engagement you are losing money on every acquired customer,” said Mark Johnson, CEO, Loyalty 360 (the Loyalty Marketing Association).

A few data points to consider:

Of course, to benefit from that, first you must get the referral, and then you must keep them as customers for that long…

How to win and keep loyal customers

So, how do you instill loyalty? If your target audience is a dog, the answer is easy (Tummy Yummies). If, however, your audience is the jaded, savvy, demanding, rapidly evolving, skeptical, fickle, streetwise, cynical modern consumer, what then?

That’s no easy question to answer. So, I passed it around to a few industry leaders to see what advice they could give you to help you foster loyalty in your customers…

  • Be transparent – As Dr. Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS says “Tell me what you can’t do, and I might believe you when you tell me what you can do.
  • Be accessible – “Make your company extremely easy to reach via your marketing materials and correspondence,” Micah Solomon said. “Don’t – if you can avoid it – send out mass emails from a ‘do not reply!’ address; either have the address accept replies or have it extremely clear how to easily reply through an alternative mechanism.”
  • Deliver a rewarding experience, not just “rewards” – “Loyalty is MUCH bigger than just points, it is expanding to the process, techniques, software, ideas, communication mediums and interactions that create and engender engagement and loyalty. It is NOT ABOUT POINTS anymore,” Mark Johnson said.
  • Step out of your shoes – “You cannot treat others as you would like to be treated. Instead, you must identify what they want and treat them as they want to be treated,” Bob Lucas, Managing Partner, Global Performance Strategies advised. “Talk to your customers and solicit their opinions and expectations, then build marketing initiatives around them. This individualized approach to communicating with others is more likely to result in greater customer satisfaction, retention and loyalty.”
  • Less can be more – “Every day, we are bombarded with messaging from brands trying to hold our attention, and the ability to communicate a relevant, personalized message that appeals to your audience plays a crucial role in engagement and loyalty,” according to Rod Hirsh, Global Director, Brand and Content, Thunderhead. “Establish a baseline of what good communication practices are and make it a policy to exceed expectations. Aim to streamline and cut excessive communication while at the same time creating a better customer experience.”
  • Build a relationship, don’t just sell – “Relationships trump product. Anyone will tell you that,” said Andreas Ryuta Stenzel, Marketing Director, TRUSTe. “Sales and Marketing build and own relationships at scale more than almost any customer service organizations, especially these days with the more personal touches that automated nurturing and social media bring to the table.”

Here are a few thoughts of my own as well. And I’d love to hear what you’ve learned as well.

  • Be the customers’ advocate – Always ensure your company is delivering true value to your customers, not just a value proposition. You are the one making a promise to your customer with your innovative, creative, out-of-the-box marketing campaigns, so you also better be the one making sure your company comes through on that promise. Of course, that is no small task and likely involves Sales, Product Development, Manufacturing, Customer Service, and many more parts of your organization. But just because you cannot perfectly complete that challenge, doesn’t mean you’re exempt from trying. Or as Rabbi Tarfon said, “You are not required to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it.”
  • Don’t be shady – As marketers, we are always trying to be persuasive. But, c’mon, there are limits. Dishonest marketing breeds disloyal customers.
  • Radiate passion – You can’t expect passion from your customers unless you live it and breathe it yourself. Yes, we’ve all got bills to pay. Yes, we all need a job. But when and if possible, market things you are truly passionate about. Or spend enough time with your customers to understand why they really care about your products. Sure, it’s easy to do this if you’re a Harley enthusiast. But even a VP of Sales and Marketing for an industrial hose company can find a passionate way to communicate with the audience.

Related Resources

The Last Blog Post: How to succeed in an era of Transparent Marketing

The Last Blog Post: Marketers must embrace change

PPC Ad Optimization: Testing, unique landing pages, and honesty

Good Marketing: How your peers brought joy to the world (and their boss)

Photo attribution: mikemariano

Marketing Strategies: Is performance-based vendor pricing the best value?

April 12th, 2011 No comments

Every advertising agency, SEO specialist, and PR firm likes to be seen as a partner, not a vendor. And that may well define your relationship. But, go down to accounting and explain that relationship, and they’ll laugh in your face.

And for good reason. While, hopefully, you do have that close knit partner relationship, at the end of the day, this is a financial arrangement and you must maximize the value of that arrangement.

On the face of it, performanced-based pricing seems like a no-brainer. You get a guaranteed result, or you don’t pay.

Is this a great country, or what?

Like many things, the devil is in the details. First of all, you have to keep in mind that the vendor knows the metrics far better than most prospective clients do. That means, in many cases, the vendor is selling the illusion of risk.  Second, and more importantly, you have to be sure the result you are paying for is the result you really want.

Let me show you what I mean. I’ll use a teleprospecting vendor as an example, and highlight the lesson you can get out of each example for the type of vendors you work with every day.

What intermediate metrics truly contribute to your success?

In B2B lead generation, a common result is defined as an appointment for sales people. The cost per appointment generally runs from about $400 to $800, depending typically on volume, your brand and the target.  If you can provide the vendor with the people your sales team absolutely, positively wants appointments with, you’re in business.

In my case, I would gladly take appointments with CMOs of B2B companies with $500 million or more in revenue. At least, that would probably be my immediate response. Of course, there might be a few CMOs in that target that oversee pure e-commerce plays, or highly commoditized, low-end products that do not require lead generation, my area of expertise (or, so I would like to think). Therefore, I might pay for some appointments that I don’t really want. So, the real cost for a qualified appointment might be a bit higher than I originally agreed to.

Then there is the hidden cost: sales productivity. The purpose of such services is to increase sales productivity. For these kinds of top executive-level appointments, the representative might very well expect to meet face-to-face with the CMO. So, you have to add to the equation the cost of the commuting time and meeting time. Loaded field sales costs for complex solutions often start at about $100 an hour and can be $500 an hour or more, for elite, high-end key account sales people.

Very quickly, a $500 appointment can become an $800 or even $1,500 appointment, especially if any serious commuting takes place. If the conversion-to-deal is high or the revenue-per-deal is high, then who cares? In many cases, however, buyers find out that 20 to 30 percent of the appointments are not a fit. Now the cost of the qualified appointment goes way up, and the soft cost of sales expense goes to the moon, not to mention the hit on sales productivity.

Unless you are absolutely certain that your sales team wants appointments with a particular set of individuals, then you really need to focus more on qualified leads, not just appointments.

LESSON LEARNED: Make sure you pick the correct intermediate metrics when paying for performance.

Are you helping  your vendors be successful?

OK, now you have learned your lesson, the hard way. You won’t do that again, right? So you negotiate a cost per lead fee structure. Before you do, you wisely work with sales to define BANT (Budget, Authority, Need and Timeline) lead criteria and structure the deal accordingly. Again, the devil is in the details. What if sales discovered, after further review, that what they really wanted was to get in to larger accounts before the prospect had finalized a budget? In those cases, maybe the deal takes longer but the win rate is higher and the deal size is higher. Happens all the time. Now you have to try to change the deal. At least for some accounts.

With leads, there is also often subjective information, open to interpretation. Is the prospect really acting with authority? Do they really have a budget? Even seasoned sales people can be mistaken about such things. In short, lead qualification is almost always nuanced, complex and evolving, as the teleprospecting operation figures out how to qualify leads precisely and the sales organization figures out what it really wants and needs. This reality often creates conflict with the vendor initially, because the fee structure negotiated is not really the right fee structure and so one side or the other loses.

Finally, if the vendor is taking all the risk, many people understandably put vendor support on the back burner. It’s human nature. In reality, teleprospecting operations fail, including those that are in-house, without proper support from marketing and sales. For example, from marketing, this operation needs lists, assets and tools, and an appropriate supply of reasonably qualified responders. From sales, the team needs training and mentoring on qualification and precise, rapid feedback on leads..

After all, the fee is fixed and the operation should run on auto-pilot. You also might not bother investing in effective demand generation that feeds the vendor or even list development, instead allowing the vendor to get by on cold-calling decaying lists.

Your program then becomes the dumping ground for new hires. The vendor might also park underperformers there before giving them their walking papers. In other words, both you and the vendor try to extract some value out of the effort. But, some of what matters isn’t getting measured, like the cost in the market place to your brand because of the quality of the calling.

LESSON LEARNED: A business relationship is a two-way street. Your vendor can’t help you be successful, if you don’t help it be successful. As Jerry Maguire said, “Help me help you!”

Is there transparency in your relationship?

So, what’s the right approach? It really depends on what you need and how clear you are about your needs. If you have a reasonably well-oiled, well-documented process and approach to teleprospecting, then asking the vendor to share in the risk and the upside can serve your mutual long-term interests.

If things are not going so well and you need to figure out the right approach, then pay-for-performance is going to create unnecessary conflict. You might be better served in that case to put your focus on determining the right model or strategy for teleprospecting and the parameters of a pilot. Insist on a level of transparency during the pilot and then use the pilot to optimize the approach. Then, after the production level has begun to plateau, start working on a shared risk model.

The right shared risk fee structures ensure that both the vendor and the client win if the program is working and lose if the program is failing. To arrive at such an arrangement, there must be clarity on both sides about mutual obligations and the consquences for non-compliance. Mutual trust and respect are also necessary, including a win-win approach to the fee structure.

To those who might argue that every dollar of profit a vendor makes is a dollar of margin that is lost to its clients, I would point to the free enterprise system. Everywhere in free markets, the quest for profits drives higher levels of efficiency (and losing money drives companies out of markets and out of business). If the vendor makes above average profits for driving above average efficiency, then its clients are the beneficiaries. And the profits that the vendor makes must always be tempered by what its competitors offer or what its clients believe they can achieve in-house.

LESSON LEARNED: A rising tide lifts all boats…as long as everyone is clear on how “tide” and “boat” are defined in the process. So, before you dive in, dip your toe in and start with a pilot that has flexibility to evolve over time. Once the proper success metrics have been discovered, and a working relationship is established, you can create a more successful payment model that truly shares risk and reward.

But don’t stop there. Look at this as an evolving fee model. Continue to optimize as you learn more about what creates a mutually successful relationship.

Related Resources

B2B Marketing: The 7 most important stages in the teleprospecting funnel

B2B Lead Generation: Why teleprospecting is a bridge between sales and marketing

B2B Marketing: The FUEL methodology outlined

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