10 things you can do TODAY to improve Marketing-Sales alignment

Want some bad Martech jokes? Just Google “Marketing from Venus Sales from Mars”. (If you want to get seriously depressed- particularly about gender bias- just check out the image search results.) It shouldn’t be surprising that a podcast of the same name from marketing automation software provider Marketo is one of the first results to pop up. Just like the self-help industry thrives on convincing couples of their fundamental differences, the lead scoring industry thrives on convincing Sales and Marketing that we’re fundamentally at odds and in need of external support to effectively communicate. Particularly in B2B.

As I speak to Enterprise marketers one thing comes up again and again: there’s a fundamental disconnect between how Sales and Marketing operate leading to two general models.

  1. Marketing operates independent of Sales ROI, focusing in big sweeping visions (example: Etsy circa 2016)
  2. Marketing is dominated by Sales priorities and the Brand’s focus on the present, misses the forrest for the trees (example: Oracle and the Cloud Wars)

Both are short-sighted. The fact is that both organizations contain answers that the other is craving: Sales contains the budget- justifying attribution that Marketing needs while Marketing contains the long-term strategy & consumer insights that Sales needs. 

While ultimately it’s on the executive leadership to foster a genuine Marketing-Sales alliance, there are tactics that you can use as a marketer to begin to collaborate with your partners in Sales. Like any relationship- it takes work but it’s absolutely work it. Some of my most creative campaigns have come out of  joint brainstorms with my partners in Sales.

Here are 10 things you can do to jump-start your relationship with sales:

1. ASK: “What are you measured on at the end of the day?”

As marketers we get wrapped up in Vision and Strategy. We love a good digital transformation in the next 5 years hour-long conversation. That won’t fly with your sales partners. To begin to translate this for you sales partners you first need to see what the world looks like from their organization .

2. ASK: “What marketing activities best support your goals?”

This is a tough yet essential question to ask. The answer may surprise you. In one case, I found that demo requests on our website was the best source of marketing qualified leads. Considering all the effort exerted on other activities that was a painful pill to swallow. But also incredibly important to understanding the next steps we needed to take to align towards actual business value.

3. ASK: “Do you tend to see the value from activities like [fill in marketing activity you work on]?”

The key is to stay in listen and learn mode. Avoid “What happened to all the leads we gave you after last month’s webinar?” Instead try: “Do you tend to see value from activities like webinars?” Then follow up asking what could be done to make them more effective. In one case I found out that the lead delivery was too slow for effective follow – up. In that case the solve had to occur in marketing operations rather the at the content team level.

4. ASK: “What collaboration opportunities do you see between our departments?”

This is another critical question. Be sure to ask for their ideas before you jump in with your own- very difficult for marketers! How they answer this question will give you just as much information as the actual answer.

  • If they don’t have any ideas and/or sound skeptical of marketing-sales collaboration, then you know you have some TLC work to do with this particular partner. It will take some actual evidence to show them that marketing can benefit sales.
  • If they have given it thought then you will get a vital perspective and first step to building your partnership. As soon as you can work on a shared goal you will see significant progress in marketing sales collaboration.

5. ASK: “How can we work together?”

Sales organizations have very specific existing processes, with typically much more stratification than marketing. You will find your collaboration chances are best when you work with departments that already are set up to act on marketing information. Those teams will also already know how to give marketing attribution so the answer to your question may well be ” You work with me by working with x team. ”

6. OFFER: Audience/ Account Research

Find out how your sales partners gather information about their prospects. It ‘s been my experience then there’s a lot of crossover with Marketing Strategy research. This can be an opportunity to provide value to sales by providing them with work you’ve already done. Often all it takes is a little reformatting to make your research actionable. Be sure to follow up with your partners to find out if the research was useful and how it contributed to efficiency.

7. OFFER:  Trends and Insights

Is your sales team targeting marketers? Make yourself available to help them identify trends and various angles to reach people similar to yourself. You can also surface trends based on what you are seeing on social media that allow Sales teams to connect with the personas they’re targeting. Again- chances are, your team is already identifying these trends so it takes little additional effort to ship them over to your sales partners and add more value to your relationship.

8. OFFER: Social Media Best Practices

Marketers often voice frustration when they see sales teams awkwardly prospecting on social media. But how often do we actually offer to help them get better? Sales leadership knows that they need to train their teams on social selling. Often they’re struggling as non-digital leaders to understand these networks themselves. You don’t have to set up a training program. Simply offering your services as a subject matter expert- perhaps on a monthly sales call- can be massively useful.

9. OFFER: Content Curation

As part of social selling, Sales people know that they need to share thought-leadership focused content. Identifying this content takes up precious time during their day. There’s a good chance that at least part of this task can be picked up by your content curation team as part of their brand management. While there are various advocacy tools that can help automate this task, you can test it out as a proof of concept using a simple shared doc.

10. OFFER: Advocacy

Sales is more susceptible to negativity around your brands image than you probably realize. Particularly in a B2B company, Sales turnover each year tends to be quite high so they need to maintain a strong recruitment pipeline. Moreover, rival sellers increasingly are using poor brand reviews on Glassdoor and other sites to secure wins with prospects. By ensuring a constant stream of advocacy posts from both customers and employees, allows sales to push back against those attacks and ensures they can recruit the best talent.

A few last tips: Remember – sales always feels pressure to perform. The best way to work with them is to create genuine efficiencies for their teams. Be sure to check in to make sure that what you’re sending over is actually useful. Also make sure to keep any meetings you have very focused and as short as possible. Time is quite literally money for Sales. The more you demonstrate that you get that and respect their time, the more they’ll respect you and support you in the return.

Dear Snapchat, It didn’t have to go down like this

Things are not good in Snapchat land. On Thursday, Snap announced that it had gained a mere 7M daily active users in the past 3 months- up from 166M in May. “So?”, you might say, “that’s still growth- at least they aren’t loosing users”. Well…. The problem is that during the previous 3 month period, they had gained 8M daily active users. Healthy social networks mean exponential user growth and that’s what investors expect to see.

But that’s really been the problem all along for Snapchat- it never invested in the user experience to become a social network. For me, that’s really the unforgivable part of this whole saga. It could have been great. But they decided not to listen to the voices along the way who have been clamoring for features such as robust native analytics (still MIA), links (added July 2017), group chat (added December 2016) long before Facebook ever got into their turf. The lack of those key features kept many individuals and, importantly, brand strategists from adopting Snapchap as a core network. Instead we used it for the tech, not for the relationship outcomes. That’s why Facebook was able to swoop in and undermine it so quickly with Instagram.

Successful social networks have technology and community. That’s why Facebook was able to survive Google+ but Snapchat is becoming entirely undermined by Facebook.

Google+ went after Facebook HARD. People, including myself, loved the Google+ interface. Recall that this was around the time that Facebook was facing uproar from their original users about privacy, the algorithm and ad-creep. We were looking for an alternative to the social network whose founder said that privacy was no longer a social norm.  The hope was that Google, with their motto at the time of “Don’t be evil” could provide that. Moreover, Google+ had better tech as well- from higher resolution photos to native video integration with YouTube and Hangouts (light years before Facebook would introduce video)- they outpaced them. And yet they could not, for the life of them, build a user base.

Fast forward to the present where Snapchat is in the battle of its life because, wait for it, Facebook is copying features. Yes it’s true that Snapchat can still hold onto the “cool” factor amount teens. But that same 2016 report spelled doom for monetization-showing that teens hate ads or, even worse, simply ignore them. Also let’s be honest once those teens mature out of their anti-establishment phase, there is a very strong chance that they will migrate over to the platforms that their sorority sisters, frat brothers, universities, and yes (gasp) even parents are on (college kids get homesick).

In his article “Why I’m leaving Snapchat and so are all of your friends” Owen Williams summed it up well:

I think, after years of being an active Snapchat user and fan, I’ve decided to move on. The service was fun, but I’ve realized recently that it doesn’t offer anything unique, and even if Facebook was copying the company in the first place, it’s done a better job than Snapchat ever could.

The majority of my friends have moved across, and those who initially relented seem to have started getting their feet wet with Instagram too. Facebook, be it accidentally or on purpose, has created an Instagram renaissance that has us more addicted than ever before because we get to see beautiful photos in the feed, then the raw, real life stuff in stories.

Google+ was pretty much doomed from the start but Snapchat didn’t have to be. They had several years of unsullied market share that Facebook tried and failed to land grab. But instead of thinking through ways to strategically strengthen their signal, build out platform stickiness and monetization opportunities, their boy kings decided that they were too good for such things. They were Snapchat.

Well. Good luck with that is all I can say.

 

Why Community Strategy Matters

Organic reach on social media is an incredibly competitive space, leading some marketers to pronounce it to be basically dead. Those who are more optimistic spend time talking about tactics that brands should be leveraging- from influencer marketing to employee advocacy.

But I’d like to suggest something a bit different. Organic reach in its original free-for all form is indeed mostly dead. Yet this does not necessitate the turn to a paid-centric approach. Rather, the introduction of the algorithm signaled a new era in Organic reach rewarding community-centered content and social strategies.

In this space, platforms filter posts according to a complex algorithm which takes into account the reception of a post by a user’s network to decide whether to serve it to the user. The 2016 US presidential election brought these filtered out “bubbles” into sharp relief. People went onto Facebook believing they were getting an accurate sample of their network’s views when, instead, they were receiving pre-filtered views through the algorithm. (This led KIND snacks to create a “Pop Your Bubble” App  which connects you to 10 people on Facebook with different opinions than your own.) Regardless of the pushback, however, Facebook knows that it’s doing something right. It just hit the 2B user mark and Instagram which also debuted an algorithm last year, is now at 700M users. Most significantly, this past July Google entered the personalized algorithm fray with the introduction of personalized search results based on your interaction with various Alphabet properties.

Social Influencers represent another key group of actors in the organic Community-focused approach. Influencers derive their power from cultivating a strong follower-base and building a unique community. They are driven by the desire to set themselves apart for personal branding purposes and building power niche audiences- such as black vegan bloggers– that brands can appeal to. Influencers work to get their communities to engage with them, which in turn sends a powerful signal to the platform algorithm to continue to deliver the same type of content to those users. Influencers + Algorithm means that suddenly, there could be a whole dedicated group of social media users engaged with the #BlackVeganBlogger hashtags.

Brands embarking on an organic community strategy should assess all of the niche communities that relate to their messaging/product. Every piece of content, and corresponding social posts, should be created with the goal of generating interaction with one of those communities. For example, a brand selling Kale Chips could market to: Black Vegan Bloggers, Mom Vegan Bloggers, Urban Vegan Bloggers, LGBT Vegan Bloggers, Parent Vegan Bloggers, College Student Vegan Bloggers, you get the point- right? Content highlighting these niche communities tends to get shared more simply because it’s less common. This tactic is first and foremost about making sure that your content is geared to speak to target communities with the aim of getting picked up and re-shared.

According to this model, tactics such as influencer marketing and employee advocacy are part of a larger overall community-strategy geared towards increasing social media organic reach. It follows therefore, that the smallest unit of social media marketing is not the influencer or the individual. Rather it’s the niche community through which social media marketing derives relevance.

 

 

 

Social Media and the Small Business

Social media can make all the difference for a small business and yet for the majority of small business owners I’ve spoken to it is simply another frustrating stressor.

As a business owner you need to be focused on what you know will get you that a return on investment. You barely have time to eat lunch let alone to figure out how to optimize (whatever that means) your LinkedIn Page or whether you should be on Instagram.

You keep telling yourself that you’ll figure out social media once you grow a bit bigger. But let’s be honest, we both know that once you grow bigger you’ll have a whole new set of concerns around ROI and once again, social media marketing will not make the cut.

It’s the small business owner’s dilemma: you know you need to invest in social media but every minute you invest in trying to set up your unproven social media strategy, is time away from tried and true activities that you know will net a given ROI.

Moreover, getting that ROI from social media is much more difficult than it was a few years ago. In the age of the algorithm and content saturation it’s no longer enough for you to simply have a LinkedIn Page, Facebook Profile or Twitter handle. To really see ROI you need to be in the right place at the right time serving up the right content for the right audience.

This typically leads to a business owner hitting a total breaking point and making one of the following very un-strategic decisions:

  1. Delegation: ask your most millennial-looking employee to get your company on social media then get irritated 6 months later when they leave and you realize you don’t know any of the passwords.
  2. Throw money at it: Invest in a service that the sales person swears will fix all of your problems by means of an intricate proprietary algorithm powered by flying blue monkeys (you have a suspicion that you got that last part wrong but it was only $29.99 a month and surely it must do something helpful)
  3. Avoidance: Forget social media. Just forget it. There’s no time. It’s all too much. We’ll figure it out later.

What these 3 points have in common is a desire on the part of the small business owner to solve what they feel is a problem without educating themselves as to the actual nature of the problem. But I get why this occurs. Social media feels overwhelming and when you already have a full plate as a business owner it seems impossible.

The problem is that for social media to actually benefit your business, you need to be directly involved in the strategy at least in the beginning. Social media allows you to communicate to your customers and potential customers. It’s a way for your build up a community that you can tap into throughout your sales cycle. The right social strategy can provide a much needed cushion when you experience dips in sales. But that can only occur if you set up your strategy to do that ahead of time. And that takes your commitment to work with a trained professional who can provide the following solutions for you:

  • Education as to how your business goals could benefit from social media investment. Every business is different and you need to know what’s attainable and what’s not.
  • Realistic assessment of needed investment based on the goals you want to set (some industries are harder than others!)
  • Setting clear performance indicators pegged to your ROI goals that you can monitor to know how you’re doing at any given time.
  • Creation of social media plug and play process that you and your employees understand and can follow.

As the daughter of a small business owner I know all too well the sheer enormity of this task. So here’s the thing, if you’re not in a place where you can invest some upfront resources (your time and money) in a strategy then make the ROI- motivated decision to stay off of social media. BUT, so that you’re not going back into avoidance, create a calendar reminder with a link to this blog post for next quarter when you’re going to do a ROI-motivated reassessment of that decision.

With the right strategy social media CAN be a game changer for your small business. 

The Danger of Creating Content Without Strategy

Every 60 seconds on the internet, 1,440 WordPress posts go live, 500 hours of video get uploaded onto YouTube, 65,972 Instagram photos are posted, 448,800 tweets are tweeted and a whopping 3.3Million posts generated on Facebook.

Sounds like a lot right? But here’s the problem- content is not consumed evenly. Rather it’s consumed in viral clusters as trends and algorithms push views of particular stories. So even while we find out that consumers view 1 Billion hours on YouTube each day (8.4 minutes per person!), there’s a good chance that much of those hours are focused on the same piece of content. And you can bet that it’s much more likely to be a video of a cat running from a cucumber, than it is to be your brand’s latest product launch. 

To the content marketer this cycle can feel like a giant hamster wheel. This is particularly clear when you know deep down that the content your creating just isn’t going to get consumed. No matter how much we chant: “right content, right time, right place” we still find ourselves in the content creation/consumption vicious cycle. Podcasts to create, live videos to shoot, blog posts to write, because the content monster never quits. In this scenario, content becomes something that is created because you need content. It’s content for content’s sake. 

The_Marketing_Echo_Chamber_Marketoonist_6_7_16

As always, Tom Fisburne nails it perfectly.

As long as we stay in the content-for-content’s-sake creating area we can churn out professional-looking videos, well-edited podcast series and blog posts demanding disruption. We can call ourselves successful thought-leaders and behold, we are. “Look at the content!” we say, “With so much of it clearly our business is successful”. This is the approach taken by many brands (both corporate and personal!) and it’s leading to a massive race to the bottom where we will all loose out.

Social media transformed the marketing industry by created mediums where brands could interact directly with consumers in a nearly-human way. Unfortunately over the past few years, the practice has become polluted in a race to the bottom click-bait, fake news, bot-filled, world. Consumers are bombarded with far too much content created with no reason other to create content. Just as poor quality ads led to the rise of ad-blockers, the over creation of badly done content marketing risks leading to a  mass desensitization of consumers and the introduction of algorithms and newsletters to act as third party mediators to weed out the signal from the noise. 

Your audience should want to visit your website, social media page, etc. to get the latest content from you. A healthy social media marketing mix should not have to rely purely on paid media for ROI. For these to be true, your content marketing efforts must align with the consumption habits of your target audience. 

Here’s my challenge to all of you: Take a look at the type of content you create, ask yourself why you’re doing it, and whether you’re really seeing ROI from it. If you are- great! But if you aren’t, then it’s time to press pause and reevaluate. Don’t keep pushing out noise with no signal. 

What We Can Learn From the Failure of Blab

The social media community is reeling and in an uproar from the sudden closure of Blab. There’s considerable shock that the platform would be shut down within it’s die-hard community. My Facebook newsfeed has been full of the outrage. Yet take a step outside of our little world and it’s easy to see why Blab failed. Only the niche tech publications felt it worth covering.

Screenshot 2016-08-16 11.14.07

This is  REALLY IMPORTANT LESSON!

As I’ve said many times, it’s essential to keep the audience of a platform in mind before putting together a social strategy around it. Blab ended up being an echo-chamber for the same faces (only 10% of people who signed up returned according to the founder) and as such was unable to monetize. This is the same issue with many live-streaming options because many people simply don’t have the time during the workday to stop and tune-in.

Moreover, as Blab also noted, most live streaming content just isn’t that interesting to draw people in. This absolutely makes sense if you think about how people tend to consume live-media. It’s no surprise that the main success stories for livestream revolve around sports and entertainment events. It’s important to understand that these are not indicative of the success of livestreaming but rather of the specific times when livestreaming is a viable social strategy. 

In addition to content another issue with platforms like Blab is that they require an additional step in one’s routine. You can’t stumble upon a Blab on a platform that you’re used to accessing. You had to establish a different account and use a different app. There has to be a massively high incentive to do this for the average consumer which once again is why the content has to be very compelling. This is why out of all of the livestreaming options I’m betting on FacebookLive as the breakout option.

As social strategists it is essential to think about the way in which our target audience consumes content. As I’ve written elsewhere, experimentation is great but it’s not a social strategy and livestreaming is a great example. Where it succeeds is where there’s a diehard base eager to consume realtime additional content. But just because it works there doesn’t mean it will automatically translate to other areas.

Of course this is true for all platforms and why some have succeeded while others have failed.

The saga of Blab is a great learning experience for the social media marketing world. Let’s make sure to take it to heart.

Here’s Why Your Mobile App Isn’t Taking Off

I’m writing this post because I’m tired of startups touting their apps as the next big thing and then being utterly shocked when they fail to takeoff. I’ll only say this once: It doesn’t matter how new and shiny your technology is and how excited it makes your VCs- the public has to decide that they want to use it for you to ACTUALLY get traction. So stop investing in big blow-out bashes and start investing in the basics of a social strategy and, in particular, community managers.

As we all know, the mobile application field is incredibly competitive and consumers do not mess around. The average consumer has 26 apps on their phone but mainly only uses 5. Also there’s zero tolerance for tech issues. In 2013, Compuware, found that 79 percent of users will discard an app if it fails to launch after 1 or 2 times. For an app start-up that can be absolutely disastrous. Sure your app may top the iTunes download list and get major publicity for that but if hardly anyone ever opens it after that that’s just a hollow number.

This happens over and over again. One recent example is Peach. It got massive buzz at CES 2016 with the typical “will this replace Twitter, Instagram, Facebook” headlines but within just a few days it was old news for the general populace. This is a great lesson-you can attract a few early adopter types but they tend to be very fickle and unless you harness them as influencers or knowledge sources they will likely be off to the next app to tout as the “next big thing”. Even if you do harness them you’ll still be left with a ghost town of a network which isn’t ultimately going to generate that coveted ad revenue you promised your VC’s you would be able to collect.

So what’s the secret? Clearly it’s not just in the build. There are a bunch of cool apps out there that just don’t get traction. For a non-app example think about Google+. It had users built in thanks to gmail accounts and people still didn’t utilize it. App adoption- social network or not- requires the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) to solidify into actual use.

To get people to repeatedly use an app you need to have some type of offline trigger. The best way to do this is to get an entire community to become hooked. Facebook nailed this by activating entire universities and Twitter did it as well (albeit much more accidentally).

Here’s one idea- I call this the water-cooler effect and it goes like this:

  1. App developers do a soft-launch for a few early adopter-type people who, critically, are part of offline networks. They need to be active on several social networks, have a physical office that they go to and, ideally, a circle of friends outside of work. (Social strategists are basically stalkers and this info is easy to get) This is also a time to get feedback on usability- pay attention to this as it is critical. Remember, users will only try to open an app 1-2 times. Make sure that these people are majorly pumped about the app AND have a reason to want others to use it as well.
  2. When the app is ready for prime time let the beta testers know and make it a big online event. Get them super excited- even perhaps think of a way to gamify growing their circle of friends on the app. Because here’s the key- THEY are your offline ambassadors and gateway to adoption and retention of app use. It just takes one very simple question asked casually: “Have you downloaded this app yet?”followed up by “Here let me show you how it works” It’s that simple. Imagine what that would do say in NYC. I’m not going to go through the math here but even if you only got 10% of the people to spread the word you would get exponential growth.
  3. Community Management is critical to keep the momentum going. There WILL be rollout issues and features that people really want to see. Your Community Management team needs to be always on for those first few weeks to answer every question promptly and keep excitement growing in using the app. Invite users to give feedback, work with the internal team to adopt some of the ideas. Maybe there are 3 easy feature ideas you could put together in a week- why not put them up for a vote to see which ones the users want. This developers community and keeps users coming back for more.

Do you see the theme? It’s Community that makes your app succeed. This is a lesson that has been proven time and time again so please stop ignoring it. This is where your money needs to go. It’s a people campaign. Putting your logos everywhere doesn’t translate to retention! It’s the community that brings in the value and that’s what will make people continue to use your app. That’s what will get you that coveted revenue and make you more than a few day blip on TechCrunch.