Ask sales people what they think is wrong with marketing and they will say the biggest mistake marketers make is too much of a focus on marketing activities instead of results.
I have explained already that I think the biggest B2B marketing mistake is putting your company and not your customers first. And focusing on internal activities and fighting the latest internal fires instead of solving customer problems is the other side of the same coin.
Sometimes the solutions that best solve customer problems are not very flashy or exciting and sometimes they are really quite simple. But the best ideas are ultimately practical. They are ideas that simply work.
Take a marketing plan, for example. Nothing sexy there. But how many of us truly create and execute one? (For a slightly more academic view see “The Overachievers Paradox” by Srinivas Rao aka @skooloflife.)
And let’s face it, we all feel the pressure to answer the burning email from our boss – right away. So slowly we risk losing focus on the end goal of meeting the needs of our customers and executing sound strategy and a strong business case.
I believe the best ideas are born from first understanding the right problem to solve and then having the courage required to go against the status quo and take a different approach. In my first blog post, I explained why I am in marketing and advised people to stop worrying about their boss and to do what was right for customers first. What I really meant was to help your boss by focusing on results and not on unproductive activities.
Doing The Same Thing Over And Over Again While Expecting A Different Result
For example, many marketing organizations assume that in order to best target the needs of each buyer segment they serve, that they need to de-centralize marketing plans. Many times, this results in “least-common-denominator marketing” where strategy can get left behind and having the right people with the right skills is compromised for the sake of “targeting.” Note: I believe very strongly in targeting overall, just not at the expense of strategy and customer focus and not as an excuse for de-centralizing budget or authority.
Channel strategies can get lost, media properties might get picked based on relationships and steak dinners and not sound business plans. And content strategy. What’s that?
In a “one-off” tactical approach, each plan carries the full weight of planning and execution. This approach produces lower ROI, higher costs, duplication of efforts, and unnecessary complexity by simply not focusing on customers and instead by focusing on fighting internal fires.
And it happens over and over again. Why should anyone expect better results?
Efficiency & Effectiveness: Work Both Sides Of The Equation
By focusing on your customers and results instead of efforts, you can be more efficient by eliminating all the overhead of execution and tactical planning. By moving to a strategic and integrated marketing plan, the elimination of waste alone can remove tremendous amounts of inefficiency.
And by focusing on results, you can stop spending time executing, or planning throughout the year, and spend your efforts optimizing your marketing programs around the elements that are producing the best results.
You can adjust towards the content and channels that produce the best results at the lowest cost.
Now many of us make the common marketing mistake of assuming that we know better what will work. We assume that customers conform to internal definitions, that they use the channels we think they use. But by focusing on our customers and taking a different approach we can create and share content that our customers want. We can use the “halo effect” to our advantage so our marketing results are never wasted.
Four Steps To Focus On Results
- Create an integrated annual marketing plan – Put the customer needs at the center, building a marketing strategy to meet those needs and eliminating waste with an “always on” approach because buyers are always looking for information.
- Content Strategy– Segment your buyers, define their unique personas, understand what channels are most important, create content that meets their needs and that customers want and continuously test it in the market.
- ROI optimization – Monitor and report the results of all activities and model the best channels and content combinations that help to convert prospects to qualified buyers.
- Sales enablement– Do NOT forget to work hard to ensure your sales and telemarketing teams are trained on your marketing programs so they can best support conversion at all stages.