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Marketing is DEAD. Here are 5 Steps to revive it.

Posted on October 20, 2011 , by Steve Bernstein
CATEGORIES: Lessons Learned

I used to be a proud VP Marketing.  These days ‘marketing’ seems to be all about spamming people with as much noise as possible. Many Marketing organizations plod along with open rates, conversion rates, and little-to-no ability to report the real business value (results) they bring to the company.  And then they complain that Sales doesn’t take action on the great leads they throw over the wall.
In other words, times have changed yet most Marketing organizations haven’t.

So when I write “Marketing is Dead” I’m not saying that the marketing discipline is no longer needed.

Don’t be a zombie — a 3% conversion rate is a 97% miss-rate.

Marketing is more important than ever exactly because of all that noise and the need to get noticed.  Marketing needs to evolve.  How?
Ask yourself 2 questions:

  1. Where do the best actionable leads come from?
  2. What is my own process when I buy something?

For most business, the answer to both these questions is essentially the same:  The best “leads” come from personal referrals and references.  Likewise, when I buy I talk to colleagues that I trust.
So the obvious key is to create an army of Promoters.  Get people (customers and partners) talking positively about your business.  I was fortunate to participate in a Net Promoter program in which the client executives wanted to understand how their Customer “Insights-to-Action” program was helping the field.  Here’s the summary from 800 sales people after just 3 months:

Enhanced Customer Relationship
(Converted Detractors and created Promoters):


Met New Contacts:


Identified New Late-Stage Sales Opportunities:


I’m not aware of any other marketing campaign that resulted in a 29% direct-success rate.  And that doesn’t even count the “soft” side whereby Sales was able to increase their wallet-share in key accounts and generate more references and referrals.
Marketing needs to take the lead in creating, developing, and engaging Promoters – people that love the company and speak to their friends and colleagues about their experiences.  How?

  1. First, prepare mentally.  Recognize that unless you personally are paying the bills your own voice and opinions don’t matter.  Don’t be a Hippo (HIghest Paid Person’s Opinion).  Your customers matter more.  Then, before you start, commit to action and not just measurement.
  2. Now begin by identifying customers that are “with” you and those that aren’t.  Whether you use the Net Promoter model or not, segmenting customers into those that are “with” you and those that aren’t can only lead to good things… if Marketing is prepared to act.
  3. Engage those customer contacts that are “with” you.  Find out what they like and why, what they’d like to see improved and why, and what they know about their industry (and who they know) that can help your firm.
  4. Open dialogs with the folks that aren’t “with” you.  Find out Why?  You’ll discover that the problem here generally isn’t with Sales or Support or Services or Product – it’s most often the interplay with all of them: gaps in customer experience that are a result of missing customer expectations.  Marketing, Sales, and Competition (industry dynamics) set expectations.  Know how the company delivers on those expectations and understand where and why
    expectations are missed.
  5. Act.  Use customer quotes and hard evidence to amplify the voice of the customer so everyone can hear exactly what you are hearing.  Quantify the benefit of addressing those gaps, and work collaboratively within the company to create more Promoters.

You can swing for the fences, trying for that 3% conversion rate by sending 10,000 emails that lead to 3 new deals one year later.  Or you can face facts that you win customers over one at a time, and can be a part of the team that wins 15 new deals in 3 to 6 months.
Which metric would you like to report:
1. I sent 1000 emails to prospects, which led to 30 new names that we can contact.
2. I identified 30 Promoters that will help us with references and referrals.
3. I helped engage 30 Promoters that enabled the company close 15 new deals worth $3.2 million.
I hope someone can help me to understand why Marketing doesn’t get more involved in creating and engaging Promoters.  Why isn’t it part of Marketing’s job to help with that?

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