Tony Compton, Managing Director
It’s time for a marketing ego check.
It’s time for a marketing ego check because audiences can, and will, bring arrogant marketing back down to Earth in an instant.
It’s a great time for marketing to be humbled. And deservedly so.
An Overflowing Industry Cup
So, which marketer hasn’t miraculously solved the problems of maintaining an impeccable customer database? Of implementing an octopus-like marketing automation solution that seamlessly ties all CRM, web, and social media tools together in an easy-to-understand, cost-effective, and low-maintenance fashion? Of creating and disseminating content that cuts through clutter and positions a team as expert storytellers capable of generating countless qualified leads and opportunities? (Even though few actually work with their colleagues on the personal communication skills needed to be effective storytellers…) Of designing and executing truly unique event experiences? Of filling the sales pipeline with more revenue-generating opportunities than any one team can handle?
The list of proclaimed marketing accomplishments is endless. And it matches the bravado audiences endure every single day by far-too-many self-centered marketing departments.
Your Audience Is Keeping Everything In Check
I know you’re doing a great job in marketing. All I have to do is watch and listen to your self-promotion. But I’ve leaned that as soon as you start drinking your own Kool-Aid, becoming too full of yourself, and becoming too big for your britches, the audience universe places a much needed wake-up call.
A nod to the audiences. All of them. Thankfully, they’re keeping overhyped marketing bravado in check.
So I’m writing this to give you a heads up. A warning. Let your marketing ego run wild, and you, too, will soon discover how an audience can snap anybody back to reality in an instant.
Sometimes, it’s when you least expect it. Usually, marketing is the last to know.
The Seven Audiences Itching to KO Marketing
This audience includes all those in inside sales and external business development.
It’s appropriate that we’re nearing March 31, because it’s usually near the end of a quarter when the separation between sales and marketing is most pronounced. Salespeople are fighting for deals. For revenue. For their jobs and livelihood. Marketing is notorious for being oblivious during this time, even absent. Nevertheless, marketing is infamous for claiming numerous accomplishments throughout any given quarter. But while marketing is reporting an abundance of qualified leads, opportunities, and meetings driven from content and social media campaigns that were supposed to be helpful, sales may not see the world the same way. While marketing was playing online, sales wanted partners to interact with prospects in-person. Sales didn’t want an avalanche of 1000 names on a spreadsheet, they wanted a highly-qualified group of targeted accounts. They wanted customized content, case studies, and personal communication skills they can immediately use. They didn’t want to be hung out to dry, directed to an internal portal or an overblown and outdated company website to rummage through years-old material. Sales wants to spend their time closing new business, not wasting it on the dissection of incomprehensible marketing programs.
But they’ll never tell marketing how they feel until it’s too late.
It’s not easy for marketing to keep sales happy.
Experience will teach you that one.
2. Customers and Prospects
Rarely do I inject politics into my posts, but there’s something I want to share in this one. This past week, I watched Dennis Miller on The O’Reilly Factor on the Fox News Channel. Dennis compared the anti-establishment voting pattern in the Republican Party’s U.S. presidential primaries to the recent challenges faced by the fast-food chain Chipotle. Each was making their own customers sick. I understood the point, and laughed.
While marketing shouldn’t make their customers or prospects sick, it frequently does the very opposite of maintaining healthy business relationships. Spamming customers, neglecting prospects, and allowing data to spoil have become pandemic. Ever receive a nonsensical and poorly formatted email? With another name at the top? How about a snail mail box filled with postal junk?
Ever unsubscribe to KO a company’s ability to market to you?
You bet you did, and so have I.
3. Executives, Investors, and Board Members
Some in this group just don’t understand marketing, so instead of trying to knock it out, many executives, investors, and board members simply try to keep marketing in a box and at arm’s length. This audience usually just wants the facts: leads, opportunities, marketing-sourced revenue, expenditures, etc. There’s little room for creativity, and it’s generally a waste of time to try to explain it to those who have no interest. For some, marketing will never have a seat in the boardroom. Many in this audience don’t view marketing’s wonderful achievements the same way those in the department do. But two problems immediately arise in this scenario. The first is this executive audience’s pre-disposition that marketing isn’t strategic, while the second is that anything marketing is the first to be put on the chopping block when times are tough.
Both perspectives are grossly short-sighted.
For those executive teams that believe that marketing is purely a robotic, social, and online tactical cost center, they couldn’t be more out of touch. The marketing function has become the most strategic function under the corporate umbrella. Marketing strategy should provide a quantitative and qualitative foundation with business rationale for all corporate initiatives, including product development, business development, human capital, partner communities, global alliances, economic investments, and marketing program execution.
Marketing has, in fact, taken the internal lead at many forward-thinking companies. Unfortunately, for those stuck under the jurisdiction of laggards, marketing will continue to be undervalued and ignored until it’s knocked out in the financial cross-hairs.
4. Analysts and The Media
I’ve enjoyed meeting every analyst I’ve ever encountered. And I’ve developed great relationships with many in the media. But let’s be honest. Analysts have their own personalities, and especially their own opinions. So do many within the media. Contested debates and heated discussions with these audiences are common. Keep in mind that we’re not all wired the same way. Even though you may love your product, and everybody is friends with everybody else, analysts will never automatically see things the way you do. They will (and should) professionally challenge you about your product, customer base, and revenue accomplishments. Same thing for reporters. They’ll ask any one of a number of questions about your company and its products, services, and performance. And each member in this audience will definitely see through any of your spin.
For those dealing with any analyst or member of the media, if you turn up weak, unprepared, or arrogant, do so at your own risk. Your marketing efforts will be knocked down and you’ll be out in the first round.
How many of your partner companies are exclusively your partner? That’s right.
I haven’t run across a company yet that didn’t have multiple partners, if they had any at all. Each partner in that utopian alliance ecosystem of yours is competing for the same things: a greater attention of sales team mindshare, that five-six-or-seven-figure piece of business, and a seat at the table when the multi-pronged solution is built by the contract-winning vendors.
All partners will want in on any new deal. Many want control. Don’t kid yourself. If two or more competing partners are working on the same pursuit, the competition will ramp up. Your friends, er, partners will become your competitors and attempt to knock you out. Your marketing, sales enablement, and positioning within partner communities will come under heavy fire.
And there are few answers to this problem to be found in heads buried in online and social media channels, disconnected from the challenges of marketing into complex channels.
Sometimes it’s behind the scenes. Sometimes it’s out in the open.
Your competitors are looking for the knockout punch every chance they get. Your approach to the market will be scrutinized by multiple competitors. Some will pick apart your content. Some will discredit your people. Some will steal from you. Some will team up against you.
All competitors are trying to put you out of business. (Or at least they should be.)
Whether it’s behind the scenes or in public, always remember that there are those who are trying to take your customers, your market share, and your revenue.
The competition is out there, waiting, and itching to exploit any opening to KO your marketing.
7. Event Attendees
(This audience is a blend of all of the above, but astute marketers would never allow competitors to attend their owned and operated corporate events.)
Today, every event must be about the attendee experience. And while far too many event producers – and their companies – embrace worn-out formats of past trade shows, conferences, and meetings, a different type of event attendee awaits. This new breed of event attendee demands more. More than classroom-style seating in cavernous convention centers. More than panel discussions with ill-prepared speakers in oversized, energy-sapping lounge chairs. And more than what was once an acceptable investment of time, energy, travel, and resources that’s turned into another event filled with mediocre demos and presentations, thinly veiled sales pitches, and pedestrian content of little practical use.
There’s an ample supply of event marketers who point to the diminished tangibles of their now run-of-the-mill events. Unfortunately for them, event audiences are looking for more. More meaning. Better content. Upgraded learning opportunities. And an event experience unlike anything they’ve ever witnessed.
Arrogant Marketing Should Expect to Be Humbled, or Even KO’d
If you think you know your audiences, check again. If you think you know your buyer persona, check again. If you think you know your buyer’s journey, check that again, too.
Don’t ever assume anything your audiences. Work hard to address all of them, and do so ruthlessly. But don’t ever think or act as if you know it all.
Because when you least expect it, an audience will KO your marketing efforts for any one of a number of reasons.
Unless you professionally hit ‘em so hard first with valued, innovative marketing, that they’ll always think twice about ever throwing that counterpunch.