Building Momentum Part II: Focus on Where the Business Gets Done: Build from the Field, Back

November 11, 2009 Leave a comment

There is a great deal of interest these days in pursuing both strategic consistency and potential savings in marketing by centralizing many activities.  Done wisely and carefully, I have seen a number of these efforts realize real quantifiable improvements on both the cost and the effectiveness sides of the equation. Building on the theme introduced in the first entry of this series (Read the Chart from Right to Left), here I want to move from discussing the interconnection of marketing and sales in general to the specific case of the headquarters/region connection. If we support the idea that as companies improve their strategic focus, specialization and eventually centralization makes sense for certain activities, we must also recognize that there are limits and there are certainly pitfalls to be avoided.  Since the theme of this entire series is “Momentum”, let’s open the discussion there.



When Isaac Newton recognized that “an object in motion tends to stay in motion and an object at rest tends to stay at rest” he could easily have been describing how hard it is to get things done within complex distributed organizations. Not only is it hard to get a new idea started, it can be difficult to keep it going.  This is why innovative marketing pros must have in their toolkit a real focus on creating momentum and reducing barriers of many kinds. Most of us do not have the empowerment of Steve Jobs or Larry Ellison to get things — that we know are right — done. Could it be that at our level, “right” as we see it may be part of the problem?


In the vast majority of b-to-b companies, the bulk of business happens in the field.  Revenue, the fuel of company health, comes from the field. From a pure quarter-on-quarter business perspective, that’s where the action is.  It’s where the business is “in motion”.  It wants to stay in motion.  As much as possible, it will avoid things that could slow that motion.  And it will not wait for others to catch up.


So if the company’s momentum is most tangible and relentless in its field sales activities, marketers looking to gain momentum have to understand the field.  If you want your marketing ideas to take root in the fabric of the company, if you want to gain traction, you need to find ways to leverage the field’s momentum and avoid things that interfere with it. Thus you must orient your work with reference to the needs of the field. If you don’t, no matter how good your ideas, at best you may be viewed as irrelevant, at worst you will face outright opposition. Maybe it seems obvious to you, but there’s a lot countervailing forces that can blind you along the way.


Create Once, Replicate Many

Part of the “centralization” solution involves creating standardized marketing solutions.  There are a lot of similarities here with manufacturing approaches.  And like manufacturing, there is certain logic at looking first at your most successful businesses and building your standard solutions to map to their needs.  The classic case is “design it for North America and let the other regions adopt it”.


There are many problems with this – at least three big categories.


Process Sophistication:  The first is that the success of your strongest markets usually means that their practices are more mature and sophisticated than your other markets can support.  As a result, a marketing solution built for North America often cannot be executed — certainly in full and often even in part — anywhere else.


Strategic and Tactical Requirements:  Next is the problem that your most successful markets are also more mature with reference to your products and the category. It follows that their marketing needs are substantially different than those of less developed markets.  The “right” strategies and tactics are not the same for these opposite poles on the maturity scale.


Need:  Finally, because your best markets are more mature as businesses, they probably are used to a large measure of independence and empowerment.  While they want budget, they don’t believe they need help from anyone. In contrast, less developed markets often welcome any help they can get.


Therefore:  If you are attempting to build once and replicate many times with a type of marketing strategy or program, it makes sense to take a page out of GE’s latest playbook update.  Instead of creating things for your most developed markets and looking to others to adopt them (Glocalization) look instead to where future opportunity lies.  Understand the needs of markets with real potential. And use the clout of headquarters to design programs that these places will eagerly adopt. These programs you will have no problem replicating across many markets in need.  These programs will create immediate momentum.


Don’t Design (too) Big Solutions:  Another pitfall that’s easy to fall into, a real barrier to adoption and use and therefore momentum, is trying to build it all at once.  No matter how clearly you have documented the field’s needs and desires, what they tell you they “need” is usually really a huge wish list, an ideal.  When they tell you what they want or would like if you built it, this does not equate directly with what they will immediately use.  Plus, the more complex your plans, the more things can go wrong that delay the whole project. 


Complexity is the enemy of adoption. Adoption is the catalyst for momentum.  Therefore, no matter how complex your program vision will eventually become, to drive adoption (and that must be your paramount goal for nothing happens in-market without it) you must make initial introduction simple and immediately adoptable.  You want it in market right away.  That’s the only way to get the results it was designed to deliver.


Don’t Be Late

Similar to the complexity issue, no matter what you plan to do for the field, if you don’t deliver what you said you would when it was expected, it’s as if you delivered nothing at all.  When you make a deal to support the field and take their input, they are putting their trust in you.  They’re giving you your chance. If you disappoint them with late delivery, soon you will find they have contingency plans of their own that you knew nothing about.  And duplication has now crept into your marketing budget once again.


Design In Flexibility

“Build it once” is a theoretical ideal. Remember that there is no law that says the “it” in each market needs to be exactly alike. If you design your programs with interchangeable building blocks, design elements, formats, media and so on, the execution can vary quite a bit tactically while staying true to the unified whole.  If you make it easy to adopt your work tactically, your field colleagues will adopt it more eagerly.  You will enjoy the benefits of having ensured that all the elements fit together in a coherent whole.


Using the INE to get Closer to the Field

INE outputs make it very easy for headquarters marketers and their field colleagues to agree on a single view of the truth.  This is the beginning of getting close to each other and it is the raw material of momentum.  The INE can be used to support the logic for prioritizing certain elements of a program to deliver before others.  If you are involved in a ‘build once, replicate many’ process evolution, INE helps you find the commonalities between markets, between targets and even between solution categories.  You can use it to collaborate with the field on developing the marketing solutions that are right for them and right for the company as a whole.  You can agree on what will be built by one group and leveraged by others and what will need to be done by a field group on its own.  If you approach it this way, your plans at headquarters and in the field will align and become complementary instead of duplicative.  Your strategies will be followed and your tactics will be adopted.  You will build the momentum you need to sustain the direction in which you seek to move.  And your programs will be adopted and have a chance to work.


Building Momentum — Part I — You’re on the same team! Get focused, Collaborate, Read the Chart Right to Left

November 10, 2009 Leave a comment

There may have been a time when marketing strategies and sales strategies could be very different and still make perfect sense for your company. These days, if it doesn’t resonate with the sales organization, it’s going to be really, really hard to sustain in the budget. So why even try? Why not simply focus on creating the outputs from your marketing organization that are clearly necessary to drive sales? Why not agree that the plans are clearly and transparently aligned?

Because that is easier said than done. Because it requires a certain humility on the marketing side and a set of new behaviors that involve marketing’s reaching out to learn about the issues sales grapples with every day. For an “outbound” marketing team, I think it is really helpful to start by “reading the chart from right to left”. By this I mean looking at a classic funnel or pipeline diagram turned on its side — and then, concentrating on where marketing and sales naturally come together.

Sideways funnel

Focusing on the outputs marketing must deliver to sales is absolutely critical to marshaling as much of marketing’s energy as possible to help drive near-term business results. And if all it took to accomplish this was to shift marketing focus from top-of-funnel “air-cover” activities to lower funnel lead qualification activities, with the right incentives in place, marketing could accomplish this on its own.
In reality, the alignment that is required to optimize marketing and sales collaboration and effectiveness requires more than just aligning at the interface of the two organizations. There are two other key points where the teams must agree; where they must function as one:
Results reporting and analysis
For alignment to be possible at all, the results of the business effort overall must be indisputable. There must be a single view of the truth. Marketing and Sales must look at the same results and come to a shared conclusion. Without a shared conclusion, the teams’ priorities will immediately diverge. And there will be sub-optimal investment results, recriminations or worse.

Many companies find themselves with very heterogeneous reporting capabilities: the reporting that marketing may get could well bear very little direct relation to the reporting that sales looks at. There may be very little reporting at all at the interface between marketing and sales – and there may be no “owner” responsible for solving this challenge.
In the event of a fragmented reporting system, a capabilities gap that can only serve to prolong and exacerbate any disconnects between marketing and sales, the INE can serve effectively as a very powerful baseline and proxy such that both roles – marketing and sales – can come to collaborative agreement. The INE can tell you what actions to take and what targets to take them against. It is built on real data from companies like yours. Rather than continuing to be out of alignment, the INE can give you a place to begin real collaboration.

Planning and Action
With an agreed understanding of results or at least the best practices from the INE in place, business planning can proceed from an aligned point of view.

To drive towards optimal results, Marketing and Sales should begin planning their efforts from the same place: Who are we targeting – What companies and what roles? What are the Go-To-Markets we are taking into the field – what are the solutions we need to win and what interim objectives must we fulfill in order to truly bring the strategy to life?

Now the two plans become different, because the roles of Marketing and Sales are different. Sales must be very, very clear on where it is dependent upon marketing support and where it is dependent on marketing outputs. The two situations couldn’t be more different. In the former – marketing support – Sales is simply looking to marketing to support sales activities. Assuming that these are the correct activities (and the INE can provide an excellent best practices reference guide), marketing, in its service role, simply needs to build its plan such that it is able to fulfill. So whether it is event support, collateral builds and so on, Marketing plays a supporting role.

And then there is the area where Sales is dependent on the outputs of Marketing as a source of the demand it requires in order to meet the business’ goals. As a general rule, between 20 and 30 percent of all sales opportunities will be sourced from marketing. That’s as much as 1/3 of total pipeline at any given time. If these opportunities are to have any hope of closing at a rate equal to those that sales sources itself, they must map directly to the agreed business strategy and they must be qualified to exactly the same degree that a sales team expects of its own-sourced ones.

The INE can tell both marketing and sales what is required to turn leads into opportunities as well as how best to accomplish it. Marketing and Sales can collaborate to establish which part of the organization will execute which element of the process and which specific tactics, eliminating duplication of effort. Together they can ensure that the outputs that Sales works on are essentially the same – whether sourced from Sales or Marketing. Together they can ensure that pipeline health is a truly shared objective, as it must be to create optimal return on investment in the near term

The Benefits of Reading Right to Left
By reading the chart right to left, Marketing can take the first step crucial step to becoming truly focused on the business results so critical to survival today. By initiating this process and presenting the INE as a collaborative tool, Marketing can meld with Sales in a common understanding of results and necessary actions – what works and what doesn’t – and together the two teams can create a better, more integrated and focused plan that they can work and evolve together.

Building the Momentum You Need to Succeed in Your Marketing Programs and Campaigns (A 4-Part Series)

November 10, 2009 Leave a comment

Momentum or the lack of it can kill any good marketing program before it has a chance to work.   Momentum that kills is the momentum of existing ways of doing things at your company.  In this 4-part series, I talk about ways to make sure you structure your approach to make sure you gain the momentum you need to succeed.