If there is one truth in marketing it is that it all starts with data. If the quality of the data you hold is poor then it is an uphill battle to drive successful outreach programs or target prospects with any precision. Building a clean database with relevant job titles and enough data fields to allow the right type of communication to be carried out, is a major undertaking. Buying names from brokers is inexact and expensive and you soon realize that data cleansing is a step that the brokers seem to have skimped on. It is like painting the Forth Bridge, no sooner do you think you’re done, than you have to start over. Data is very volatile – prospects and customers move jobs, offices, roles and emails with alarming regularity. Data gets stale and inaccurate pretty quickly. Add in the need to comply with various data privacy regulations and observe opt-in/opt-out requirements, and you can see why if you do not take data quality seriously, the chances of being able to derive value out of the marketing dollars you spend are being seriously jeopardized. Where does data quality sit in your marketing department’s thinking? If it isn’t seen as critical, then I would question whether you are working in a smart, forward-looking function. If you have a defined data quality strategy and are executing against it – then things are looking up.
2. You have champagne tastes on a beer budget but that doesn’t hold you back.
You have grand ideas on how to reach your prospects and how to help expand the footprint in your current customers. Unfortunately it all takes money – and lots of it. B2B marketing is very rarely funded like in B2C. There is never enough budget. However in my experience of over 20 years in this game, well researched and impactful programs will nearly always find funding. Sources usually exist across the business, you just have to find them and sell-in your ideas well. And there are always ways to source investment via partners and other organizations with congruent objectives. So whilst you may not be drinking Krug on your beer budget, you may be stretching to a very decent Prosecco. Don’t let a lack of budget paralyze you. Be a mini-entrepreneur – few highly successful tech companies began without a least some struggle to raise money.
3. You hear your function referred to as the ‘coloring-in department ‘ – but you take it with good grace and prove otherwise.
Baseball caps? Logo’d pens? Mouse mats? Is that what marketing means to the sales force? I hope not in your company, but it is not unusual. Being the “keeper of the key to the swag cupboard” really is not a badge of honor. Of course there is a need for some of that stuff, depending on the type of prospects and customers you have, and where your company sits on the brand awareness and brand familiarity continuum, but if the perceived value of marketing in your company is limited to quality events, pretty PowerPoints and great wearables, then you have probably failed to demonstrate the strategic value that marketing can play in the go-to-market of your organization. If the marketing function is seen as a critical element in the company’s go-to-market strategy and recognized as such by sales leadership, then you are in great shape.
4. Your external-facing copy is full of business value messaging, not technical facts and figures.
The more product-driven your company, the more likely you’ll see product-centric external copy (spec sheets, white papers, web site copy are examples). Speeds-and feeds and technical specifications do at some point need to be made available but too often they become the lead value proposition. Usually this is because not enough precision has been achieved in differentiating benefits from features. It’s basic of course but an inability to answer the “so what” questions still permeates a lot of tech marketing blurb. In today’s world though, even if the benefits of a particular solution are extolled quite well, it often isn’t enough. Tying technology to business outcomes is essential if the investment you wish your prospect to make is to be prioritized and you are to be selected. You must focus on the bottom line or the top line or preferably both. Business value selling is the new black, and it needs to be supported with business-value marketing.
5. The pace of change in marketing automation is a godsend to you.
Years ago the barrier to entry for investment in marketing automation systems was pretty high. They were clunky, required a lot of technical competence and were costly. Software-as-a-service changed all that. If your marketing department isn’t deeply into using cloud-based nurturing systems, social-media monitoring systems or sales force automation systems, you are probably in a very average tech marketing function. If however you have not only invested in those technologies but have integrated them so that you can track pretty much anything, then you probably working at the cutting edge.
6. You learn from your sales colleagues and have a sense of urgency.
Your sales colleagues are a different breed. That is true. They are wired differently and their personal motivations are not the same. They are compensated to put something of themselves at risk and if successful to be rewarded for it. Marketers generally are a more conservative breed, have longer-term thinking and are less quarterly driven. This does not mean though that the marketer cannot learn a lot from his sales counterpart. Sales people generally work with a sense of urgency – they are time-bound and concentrate on how to extract money from their prospects. Our job is to help them be precise about the value that their propositions can deliver. The more marketers remember who is paying the bills – the customer – and who is getting that transaction facilitated – the salesman – the better. If we can help expedite the whole process more efficiently and with more efficacy, then the value-add of marketing will be all the more appreciated.
7. You measure your ROI in terms of contribution to convertible pipeline rather than attendees to events.
Measuring the actual ROI on marketing investment used to be an art, and still is for many B2B tech functions. Organizations are spending millions of dollars but relying on qualitative assessment of its efficacy rather than any quantative measurement. Fortunately today it has moved along the art-to-science continuum and for most part it has probably achieved the sobriquet of an ‘imprecise science’. The goal is clearly to have it become a perfect science – “put one dollar in and get x dollars back in return”. That would of course be wonderful. In B2B tech marketing it will probably never be possible to get to that position, especially if your marketing mix contains a significant proportion of sponsorships, above-the-line advertising or has a heavy PR component. However, today with the advent of marketing information systems linked to sales force automation systems, it is possible to become far more data driven than in the past. Precision in metrics is leading to far more effective conversations with the sales function. Being able to tie a customer transaction to a number of marketing interactions can help inform the decisions about what to invest further in, or what to cut. If you are unable to put metrics-driven dashboards in front of your sales leadership then I would question whether you are serving your cause as well as you could and the ROI conversations will continue to be painful.
8. You talk a lot about targeting CIOs and actually go and meet some.
Marketers are a core constituent in the go-to-market strategy for the company and yet far too often they remain inside their ivory towers creating tech specs, marketing copy or designing campaigns and never get to really understand the issues that concern their prospects. There is no substitute in going into the wild and meeting with the buyers. It isn’t only the preserve of the sales function. How are you going to sharpen your aim without examining the target more closely? Go out of your way to interact face-to-face with customers in their own environment – they are far more likely to open up to what they are looking for, what their pain points are and what they would be looking for from you. Leading tech marketers ensure they meet with customers regularly. They don’t just organize events for them – they interview them and hone their craft in light of the output.
9. You don’t confuse quantity of followers with quality, and claim victory when your company blogs get over 1K hits
It is very tempting to judge the efficacy of your social media efforts in terms of number of follows. Sure all marketers would like their bloggers to be very widely read and do their best to promote them through the plethora of social media channels. Getting more than a thousand views for a post is all very satisfying (it has happened to me a few times, believe it or not), but it is no occasion to declare victory. Far more important is understanding who is reading your posts. Are they influencers? Are they individuals with clout? Perhaps even more importantly, are they your prospects or customers? Not all readers are equal. There are many sophisticated social media monitoring applications available on the market that really get into the detail of who is reading your content, what level of influence they have and how to continue to engage with them. Sentiment is important and trackable. The quality of engagement is as important as frequency.
10. You realize that hiring Coldplay to perform at your user conference is not the pinnacle of marketing achievement.
This final one might be a bit tongue-in-cheek as I am sure most marketers would love to have the purchasing power for a big name to entertain their clients at their annual user conference. I am privy to the sort of fees that a world renowned rock band charge for a 90 minute set, and believe me, it’s a lot of telemarketing and out bound campaign money. Is it hard to justify and is it good use of marketing budget? I guess that depends – but to me it is one of things to contemplate once you are comfortable that you’ve covered all the bases outlined above.