Tony Compton, Managing Director
It may run counterintuitive to some marketers, but there are times when the department, and its personnel, will do more for themselves, their colleagues,
and their employers by remaining silent in key business situations.
Here’s my list of 10 such situations:
1. When Sales is Working a Specific Opportunity
There are times when sales is in possession of a hot opportunity, and they don’t want any interference from marketing during the pursuit. None whatsoever. No emails, no phone calls, and nothing communicated to the prospect independent of the sales process. It may be a net new customer, or the deal could be an additional opportunity at a current customer. It doesn’t matter. If the order from sales to marketing is to stand down on all fronts with respect to a target customer, it’s hands off until further notice. Marketing should check its people, data, systems, and upcoming activities to ensure that nothing jeopardizes the pursuit.
2. When Data and Facts Tell A Different Story
You enjoy exhibiting at that annual “must-do” industry event, and it feels great to see your peers once a year. The team travels to a nice location, spends a few days on the road, and enjoys a few corporate dinners. Upon your arrival back in the office, you proclaim that the show was a resounding success. But then two more things also arrive: the event bill, and the event report. In the cold light of the forthcoming executive review, those is charge of overseeing departmental expenditures will want
to know what was gained in return for spending five or six figures on that “must-do” event. Don’t be quick to defend, don’t interrupt, and don’t try to spin an answer with anecdotal evidence, what you thought happened at the show, or how you feel about your predictable annual participation. Listen to observations and feedback first,
and respond to inquiries with concrete quantitative and qualitative evidence at the appropriate time.
3. When Customers, Prospects, Partners, Competitors, and Analysts Speak
People love to talk, so let them. When one of the above is talking, it’s even better. Marketers should learn to listen, take notes, report, and act in concert with corporate objectives. Whether it’s in a one-on-one conversation, or in a keynote speech to thousands, simply listen to what is being said by the person of interest. Astute listeners will pick up on business challenges, meaningful intel, and revenue-generating opportunities. Above all else, don’t argue with any external party and don’t, under any circumstances, air your company’s dirty laundry. They speak, you listen.
4. In The Aftermath of Overblown Reports
Marketers have a tendency to elaborate in periodic reports, but it’s really not necessary to do so. Those departmental reports are being received by people with full email boxes and numerous other activities which tax their limited time. Executives and department heads skim periodic reports, and will dig deeper as needed. And for those presenting marketing reports, it’s preferred that you keep the conversation clear, concise and quantitatively to the point. Lastly, once a marketing report has been delivered, leave it at that. If follow-up is requested, address it. Otherwise, move on to more productive activities.
5. During Event Debriefs
All marketing events should include at least one live, internal, post-event debrief. That’s when time is specifically scheduled shortly after the conclusion of an event to allow all internal (and occasionally partner) staff to openly discuss event feedback, leads, opportunities, and results. I’ve held immediate debriefs in conference rooms
at the conclusion of events, and I’ve held them several days later in the office with in-person and dialed-in participants. Marketing should ask all to be ready for an event debrief, and be prepared to handle that conversation, but equally prepared to listen carefully to participants deliver candid feedback.
6. When Vendors Provide Feedback
You’re working with an agency to launch a new advertising campaign, and you’ve contracted them to provide three creative ideas. Problem is, you’ve already asked for three additional alternatives. You may be working with a designer on your new website, and your agreement allows for three wireframe revisions. But now you’re on the seventh. When marketing engages a vendor in a project, it should remain engaged, provide leadership, and work within the terms and conditions of the agreement.
And when a vendor does provide feedback, it’s incumbent upon marketing to pay attention, receive that feedback, and play its part in co-managing a successful business relationship.
7. When Respecting Union Labor Rules
Experienced event producers with upcoming shows at venues such as the McCormick Place in Chicago, the Javits Center in New York, and the Los Angeles Convention Center will know that these locations require exhibitors to adhere to on-site union labor rules and regulations. (There are more venues in additional cities that are also union shops.) It’s marketing’s job to understand the ins and outs of complying with a venue’s union rules. So, no, you can’t (and shouldn’t) ask your college interns to construct your
50’ x 50’ booth for class credit. And asking your non-union handyman next-door neighbor to bring his power tools and join you on the show floor at 6:00 pm the night before an event isn’t a good idea, either. Most event kits will provide an exhibitor with information about a venue’s union rules, and marketers should always listen intently to those who take the time to explain union labor rules. If you need help with working within union environments, ask event producers for guidance, or consult an experienced exhibit services provider used to designing and constructing trade show booths. The latter will be fluent in how to work with labor unions at most any venue.
8. At the End of the Quarter (or Year)
It’s the end of the business day, on the last day of the quarter or fiscal year. Time’s up. Pencils down. Marketing has done all it was going to do in the previous 90 days or 12 months. It’s time to observe the office atmosphere and the remote employee chatter. Did the expected Q4 deals arrive by the deadline? Did sales make its numbers?
And what role did marketing play? If revenue expectations were met, marketing will know it. If not, marketing will also know that, though the silence could be deafening.
Either way, the numbers are in. Let them do the talking.
9. When You Win Deals and When You Lose Them
This is where the rubber meets the road for marketing. Somebody signed on the dotted line, decided to spend money, and do business with your company for a reason. Conversely, they may have chosen to work with somebody else, or may have chosen to cancel an entire project. No matter the outcome, It’s marketing’s job to discover the source of qualified opportunities, and why the work was won, lost, or abandoned. Moreover, marketing should triangulate the reasons for success or failure. Perspectives on winning or losing opportunities can differ from marketing, to sales, to a customer’s point of view. Marketing should ask for insight, listen to all those involved in the pursuit, and incorporate that feedback into strategy, content development, sales enablement, and execution.
10. When Your Gut Has Something to Say
Here are a few examples:
Example #1: You’re about the publish new marketing content, but feel uneasy about
a portion of the material. Maybe a segment of your story will be unintentionally perceived by your audience in ways you could have never imagined. Rule of thumb: when it doubt, leave it out! At least until you can ask for help with reviewing content before publishing.
Example #2: You’re being wired up with a microphone for an interview or presentation. You’re sharing the stage with a competitor or an analyst who has written a not so nice review about your latest software release. Emotions are running high, and you may be itching to say something inappropriate, even if it’s under your breath. Rule of thumb: the microphone is always on! Keep your comments to yourself and remain silent.
Example #3: The emotionally-charged and overly critical email that you’ve just written is staring back at you and just waiting to be sent. Loss of content control is just a click away. Fact: once you hit ’send’ you lose control of that email and its content, forever!
In any given situation, you have an internal compass that will tap you on the shoulder and let you know if further consideration is needed before you speak up or take action in the midst of questionable circumstances. If your gut is speaking to you, you should stop, breathe, think, and be quiet – even if it’s for a moment. And always ask for help.