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Ask MarketingSherpa: Getting approval for your marketing ideas from your company’s business leadership or from clients

July 7th, 2021
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We frequently receive questions from our email subscribers asking marketing advice. Instead of hiding those answers in a one-to-one email communication, we occasionally publish edited excerpts of some of these conversations here on the MarketingSherpa blog so they can help other readers as well. If you have any questions, let us know.

Dear MarketingSherpa: Daniel, I’m wondering if I can share a thought from a conversation with a digital marketing “expert” I had today….

Theory:

If almost all ads/campaigns/approaches are likely to have weak VPs (value propositions) and non-compelling CTAs (calls to action), would an alternate approach to marketing knowledge delivery be to identify the most-likely-to-produce mediocre-result approaches. Would that have more affect on marketing performance than to rely on the main perception that MECLABS tries to get across based on fundamentals?

My thought is that no matter how hard a real marketer tries to use fundamentals, ultimately the decision makers, who will never understand the basics, will oppose the approach in favor of a futile effort that’s proven over and over not to work?

Here is how you do it properly

Vs

Based on your lousy approach you seem to want to defend with all your heart, it would be best to waste less by tackling your goal this way.

Thoughts?

Dear Reader: I sense some frustration with getting a client on board? Or working with business decision makers to prioritize your marketing spend?

Ultimately, whoever writes the check makes the decision. And the best we can do is hope to influence it in as positive a direction as possible. I assume this is very similar to other industries, like government for example.

So yes, unless we are the final decision maker, the marketing we produce will never be flawless and perfect. But our job is to take something that is say, 20% good, and shift it to 50% good. That’s not 100%, but it is better than 0.

As Confucius said: “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.”

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying to just let it slide. The typical brainstorming technique of pretending there are no bad ideas actually isn’t helpful. (It’s called regression to the mean, says Harvard Business Review).

As a marketer, you must be the voice of the customer and an advocate for the audience. Without quality internal marketing, the world gets ideas like Zippo perfume. And no, I’m not making that idea up. You can read about it this New York Times article: Brands Expand Into New Niches With Care, but Not Without Risk.

Here are five tactics to help you win the yes for your next marketing strategy…

This requires a value proposition

It is internal marketing essentially. Don’t overlook the importance of this task. Like anything worth doing, it requires an investment of your time and attention. I was talking to a channel marketing manager at a Fortune 500 tech company, when something she said really stuck out to me. She was working on a major lead nurturing campaign, and about half her time spent on this project was spent on selling the project internally (from Internal Marketing: The 3 people you must sell to in your own office).

You need a prospect-level value proposition for each type of decision maker involved, as well as a process-level value proposition for the action itself.

We built this tool to help our readers – Free Template to Help You Win Approval for Proposed Projects, Campaigns and Ideas.

And this free template as well – How to Sell Your Marketing and Advertising Ideas to Your Boss and Clients (with free template)

Testing can help

Sometimes you need straight-up data to prove the mettle of your idea. A/B testing is one way to get that data.

You could say something along the lines of, “OK, let’s try it your way, try it my way, and let the customer decide.”

We actually had a great example of this happen internally in our own organization – Headline Writing: How a junior marketer beat the CEO’s headline by 92%

Educate about new technology

Sometimes the pushback you’re getting is because the decision maker just doesn’t understand the technology involved.

Educate execs on the latest technology and why their pushback to your ideas might not make sense. Let them see the flaws in their logic for themselves. For example, MECLABS (parent organization of MarketingSherpa) created a free mobile optimization course to help marketers understand what considerations they should take for conversion optimization and messaging specifically in a mobile environment.

Collaborate

Never look at it as a Me vs. You battle.

Give the decision makers you work with the benefit of the doubt – they probably want the same thing you do. Business results. And happy customers.

They just may not have spent as much time focused on the project or objective as you. They have other concerns.

Try to get some of their time for a value proposition workshop to build the fundamentals of your marketing together. Or at least get a meeting to present a competitive analysis.

Good intentioned, capable people may still come up with different conclusions. But after taking the journey together, you will better be able to understand their reasoning and they are more likely to understand why you are suggesting the approach you have chosen.

Help them feel the customer experience

“Wouldn’t GM executives learn more about the problems that customers face, [exec William Hoglund] was asked, if they had to drive used cars and deal with repair problems like everyone else,” James Risen wrote in the LA Times.

You may have a disconnect with a decision maker because they are too far removed from the customer experience.

In that case, before even presenting your ideas, share some form of the customer experience with them.

I was encouraged to see this line from Gabriel T. Rubin in The Wall Street Journal recently, “GOP Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan and Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota swap footwear on Capitol steps to ‘walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.’”

A bit tongue-in-cheek of course. But if national leaders are willing to try it out, our business decision makers can as well.

If you can’t literally put them in your customer’s shoes, at least start your pitch meeting with a few slides that clearly illustrate how customers’ experience the brand’s product or services. Direct feedback from customers – say, from customer reviews or ratings – can really illuminate executives. Just make sure the reviews accurately represent a major set of customers and are not an outlier.

Reader, you are far from the only one with this struggle. I find we marketers are often better marketing externally than internally. Best of luck in getting approval for your ideas.

Dear MarketingSherpa: Thanks so much for this. Everything you say resonates and validates.

I find your mention of this very interesting: “But our job is to take something that is say, 20% good, and shift it to 50% good. That’s not 100%, but it is better than 0.”

It may support my original thought that the problem I’ve been trying to solve is not actually an accurate understanding of the true problem.

“Marketing underperformance” may actually be a symptom of a problem, and this may be where my frustration comes from.

I feel I’ve been trying to solve underperformance by insisting that a fundamental principle approach is the only way (Man with a Hammer Syndrome).

I think if I adjusted my perception in a way that’s more aligned with the decision maker’s rationale, then I think I’ll find my way back to enjoying solving marketing problems without expectation that the engine has to be perfect from the foundation. This is a fool’s errand when working within an imperfect business landscape.

It may be a good approach for a building that has a problem, even though the logical choice is not to tear the building down…but instead shore it up in the areas that make the most sense according to the unique variables for that particular issue – building, budget, timeline, outcome, etc.

I really appreciate being able to dialog this stuff with someone who gets it.

Thanks again,

You can follow Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute, on Twitter @DanielBurstein.

Related Resources

Five Tips From a Personal Care Industry CEO for Setting (and Getting Approval for) Your Marketing Budget

What are the most valuable marketing skills? (with free resources to improve those skills)

1,681 (and counting) free business and marketing case studies – Another great way to make your case for a marketing idea is by sharing a case study with decision makers

Content Marketing: Interviewing internal resources

February 25th, 2014
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Marketers, particularly B2B marketers, for the last couple of years have been hammered with the message that content is the key that unlocks all other marketing channels. Sharing quality content makes email messages more likely to be opened and clicked through, makes social media more engaging, and when done correctly, promotes both thought leadership and brand awareness.

Of course, to share great content, you need to have great content.

Here are three of the areas where marketers are commonly instructed to mine for content:

  • White papers, blog posts, videos and podcasts created by the marketing team
  • Third-party experts providing written, audio or visual information
  • Internal expert resources within the company, such as engineers or developers, providing that information

The first is obvious, and creating this sort of content is most likely part of the job description for a marketing position. The second involves some legwork in tracking down those external experts in a particular business space or marketplace, but achieving that third-party validation as part of the content marketing strategy is powerful.

That third area – utilizing the knowledge of internal expert resources – is a resource that is often touted, but actually taking advantage of that resource can be easier said than done.

We’ve reached out to a wide range of content marketing sources who do just that and are sharing their tips for taking advantage of internal experts for content marketing with you in a series of MarketingSherpa Blog posts.

Although the tips cover a number of different tactics, for this post, the focus is on one of the most popular methods of turning that internal knowledge into sharable content – the interview process.

Maureen Jann, Senior Manager, Marketing, Intrepid Learning, offered several tips (you’ll find more in later blog posts), including one covering the interview process:

The “You’re an Expert Now” Method – We have a ghostwriter interview someone based on their expertise and we write the content and send back to the “author” for approval.

 

Erin Cushing, Social Media/Content Manager, inSegment, a Boston-based digital marketing and advertising agency, had this advice:

The vast majority of our clients are in the B2B space, and while they understand the importance of blogging and content marketing, they feel that they are “unqualified” to create content.

One of my main jobs is to identify potential brand ambassadors and formulate strategies to involve them in the content marketing process.

For example, one of my software clients was addressing a severe gap in original content. I worked with the lead support specialist for the company and in a journalist manner “interviewed” him, asking him about the most frequent questions he fielded from clients, what features of his software product were his favorites, and what the clients he spoke with were most interested in when it comes to the type of software they sell.

This gold mine of information made for a wealth of blog posts, white papers and data sheets. This is just one example of helping internal resources zero in on essential information and craft useful content.

Read more…

Content Marketing: Your questions on B2B online lead gen, metrics, content from SMEs and more

June 21st, 2013
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In a recent MarketingSherpa webinar, I interviewed Eric Webb, Senior Marketing Director, Corporate Marketing & Brand, McGladrey, about his impressive work with the accounting firm’s content marketing.

You can now watch the video replay of that webinar – “Content Marketing: A discussion about McGladrey’s 300% increase in content production.

But most of the questions I asked him weren’t my own, they were from you. In fact, we got tons of your questions about content marketing, and Eric has been kind enough to answer some of them here today on the MarketingSherpa blog.

Even better, Eric also provided you a tool his team used to help with its 300% increase in content production. Click below to download the template …

Submission form – with example

 

And now, your questions…

B2B online lead gen as a topic. Mor, online marketing manager

Eric Webb: We use content to generate leads 70% of the time. Via Demand Generation, and social media, we promote specific content that resides behind a form. We may ask qualifying questions as well to help discern where they are in the buy cycle.

To do this, you need to repackage the topic to leave a breadcrumb of content that helps you accelerate the sales process. You may have a white paper which shows they are in discovery of the issue, then a podcast with a client and a case study. If they download these, they are likely more interested and are considering or feel they can benefit in some way from the solution.

Finally, a self assessment or an offer for a free 30-minute talk with the expert tells you they are truly interested and deserve a call.

 

Creating content for niche industries and clientsMaddie, marketing analyst

EW: I recommend looking to industry publication editorial calendars for ideas, clients and outside speakers.

 

Specific metrics and related incentives for the content creation team, please.Marshall, CEO

EW: For content, the metrics we most watch are clicks and downloads, or form conversions if behind a form. We don’t necessarily offer an incentive except recognition for the SMEs (subject matter experts) on how the content they create is performing. But, you clearly could offer an incentive based on form-conversion leading to an opportunity.

 

How much content is necessary?Christian, director of marketing

EW: Depends on your objectives – if you are just trying to build awareness, then you may measure retweets, likes or +. You could also look at a benchmark of current visits to a section and just say 10% above that. But ultimately, you have to determine what your objective is.

 

How do you re-purpose other’s content?Christian, director of marketing

EW: We do curate content to help fill out a section and drive more time on site or to attract more people. But only the first paragraph and then we link out to their site. Otherwise, we look to vendors or partners to provide some of their content in totality.

 

Besides social, blogs and email – any other outlets?Christian, director of marketing

EW: Networking sites like LinkedIn updates and groups. Partner sites, publications and association sites; some of our most clicks come on the heels of someone commenting in a news article and providing a link to our content. Slideshare. Reddit. Digg.

 

I love the idea of creating energy around content for SMEs and am looking forward to learning more about this.Dee, founder

EW: Basically it comes down to being able to provide a breakdown of specific metrics by each content piece (clicks, downloads, form fills and opportunities). Develop a monthly report to show the value that the content is creating and highlight the author. Also, if you have a PR group, get them to promote the author as an expert, showcasing their content to reporters.

 

How quickly do you plan from idea generation for content to getting it up and available?Nick, manager

EW: It depends on the topic. A blog post is usually a few days, depending on approvals required, but a white paper can be weeks and months, especially if it’s a regulated industry. We try to get teams to use content calendars and think at least three to six months out by assigning topics to SMEs.

 

How to develop a thought leadership culture in the workplace?Kim, senior email marketing manager

EW: I noticed a change when you could report the metrics. And, with our marketing automation system, we now are close to showing a measure of influence of total revenue and direct attribution of particular campaigns and content offered to opportunities.

Explaining how your audience buys – their buy cycle – and then being able to show how they read through content to ultimately filling a form and wanting to engage helps as well. Consistency is key.

Read more…