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.

 

 

 

Facebook is not your Friend

Here’s a scenario- stop me when it sounds familiar. An employee sets up a business Instagram handle then they leave without giving you the email or password information. A year later you decide that maybe you want to give Instagram a go after all and want to retrieve that account. Yep. There’s no way to do that. Go to the platform and you’ll eventually land on this “helpful” article advising you to  contact your ISP. Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are little better. Run afoul of them and you quickly find yourself in an automated no-mans land.

“How can they get away with this?” I’ve heard business owners exclaim in frustration when for the umpteenth time I try to explain that I can’t retrieve their original account. “I’m a customer!” But that’s the thing- you’re not a customer in the eyes of social media networks. They don’t have to make you happy because you hold very little power when it comes to their unique bottomline. Successful platforms balance user acquisition with the onus of monetization expected by their investors. To put it into context: Facebook just hit 2 Billion users, Instagram is at 700 Million. You.Don’t.Matter.

This is a harsh reality particularly given just how much of our marketing is invested around these platforms. In the first few years of social media marketing brands operated in the wonderful world of FREE. The idea of brands as humans was absolutely the case. Brand posts and pages were treated just the same as any other post. Remember the “Like Our Facebook Page and Win a Free iPad” contests of 2010 and 2011? That all came crashing down in 2012 when Page managers found out that on average only 16% of their audience was seeing a post. In 2014, Oglivy posted “Facebook Zero” finding that for pages with over 500,000 likes, organic reach was only at 2%Organic reach took another hit in 2016, when Facebook said publicly that the algorithm would prioritize friends and family posts first for organic reach. 

Of course this has all been a boon to paid social practitioners who are reaping the reward of operating in a space of murky attribution reporting where brands are desperate to continue their pre-algorithm reach. But for small to medium businesses paid social remains a slippery slope. Let’s be honest, a business owner who is still coming to grips with the value of social media is not suddenly going to open the purse strings for a paid social campaign.

Facebook’s success with the algorithm combined with total content overload led Instagram, Twitter and now LinkedIn to adopt increasingly stringent algorithms aimed at getting brands to pony up to participate.

If you want to market on social there’s one mantra that needs to be your guiding principle: Social media platforms are not your friends particularly if you’re a brand. At every step you should expect to be foiled and penalized.

The losers in this will always be the small business owner for whom an ad-buy is too pricey and yet by being categorized as a “brand” they suffer algorithm penalties. Yes you should have a paid strategy, but a small business social strategy must be agile and look to milk every opportunity for getting an organic ROI.

 

 

 

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. 

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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 I learned when I created an Instagram profile for my cats

Yes I’m now one of THOSE people. I have an Instagram for my three cats where I post their latest exploits and, yes, pretend at times to speak in their voice. Many think I’m crazy- and I’m really fine with that because this account has helped me remember how fun social media can be. My cat account is my outlet. It’s where my feed is full of other cute cats doing silly things like riding roombas, sticking their heads in bags and looking aloof. It’s also a place of interacting with a passionate community.

For example:

All three of my kitties are rescues and two of them were rescued off of the “kill list” from an NYC shelter by an amazing foster mom in Brooklyn. Both are black cats which decreased their chance of adoption and one was misidentified as vicious- most likely because she had survived the streets for 3 months and the shelter had no time to work with her to calm down. August 17th was National Black Cat Appreciation Day and it was awesome to see my feed fill up with Black Cat love. We shared stories and photos as well as raised awareness of the low black cat adoption rates. It was awesome to see the community come together in support of each other and our cats.

And guess what? On my cat Instagram there’s no mention of politics. You’d have no idea that this is a vicious election year. I have no idea how many Drumpf or Hillary supporters I may be interacting with because it doesn’t matter. My cat Instagram account is a sanctuary- a place where I can go to remind myself that there are still shared interests around which I can interact with others.

This isn’t escapism. It’s part of being human. We all have many identifying markers and it’s never been more important to embrace those. In terms of career many in my field preach that it’s futile to try to have a personal life and preach the glories of “hustling”. You are your work, all other is secondary. Most “thought leader” social media accounts reflect this.

But here’s the thing-we choose to make our accounts work and career-focused. We choose to blur that line through personal branding. We choose to submerge certain aspects of our personal identity. As I’ve written about in prior posts (here and here) this can be absolutely fitting. But we need to keep in mind that by choosing to build communities with a very specific work-centric identity, we risk loosing other aspects of ourselves.

I’m not talking about the whole “I’m totally transparent” thing because are you, really? Humans are weird. All of us have hobbies or pasts that are secret. So as much as you say “I’m transparent” on your feed, you’re not. You have an internal censor that thinks carefully through what you post and curates a balanced feed. Your offline self knows all about treading carefully through appropriate conversation topics (Thanksgiving anyone?)so don’t try to pretend that your online self is suddenly free to discuss anything you want.

That’s why it’s been so freeing for me to create an entirely niche account on Instagram where I’m only focused on one aspect of my identity- my love of cats. Many people take a break from social media to get back to their identity, if, like me, that’s not for you then I’d strongly suggest making a completely niche social media account. I’d also suggest that you check out Instagram to do so because it reach lends itself to the niche community- for examples-check out Urban GardeningFoodies or Fitness.

Bottomline: Social Media can be freeing and let you explore different aspects of yourself. So do it! Make your social media experience fun again. 

And  of course if you want to see the antics of three kitties named after Harry Potter characters come on over to @3kittiesinthecity 

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Featured blog image via xkcd.