Improvement and Change

I learned something from my last few posts: The people who read this blog like to respond by e-mail. OK, maybe I’m generalizing based on just a few events (e-mails in response to posts), but I do get e-mail, and I don’t get many comments.

I didn’t intend to experiment to find out how my “market” likes to engage. But what I did was, on a small scale, the kind of experiment in which marketers engage every day: Put something out into a market or segment and see how people respond. Do the same thing (at the same time) to comparable but different versions of the same “thing” (offer, message, whatever) in different but comparable markets or segments and you’ll end up with a good idea of what works and what doesn’t.

Marketers do this all the time. And, I hope, as a result they improve how they talk to their market.

Marketers (and, I’ve noticed, many companies) are not as good at the kind of experimentation that creates change. It’s really not that different. Experiment with things you have not yet tried. Try a new medium for communication – outbound, inbound or (preferably) two-way. Try a few all at once. See if any work. Maybe try a structure to a program, or create something in your market that’s never been created before. It might not work, but it might, and even if it doesn’t, you’ve learned something about having the conversation with your market that your current structure would never have allowed you to learn.

Using simple methods, like piloting, controlled experiments, and allowing the emergence of what works and what doesn’t, this type of experimentation can be successful in almost every organization. And when you learn what works, and then work to improve it, you create the kind of marketing innovation that puts you ahead of your competition.

Why does this matter? I will refrain from beating the now-tired drum of “the market is changing” (which really means your buyer is changing) – we all know it’s true, and will continue to be. If you’re trying the same things over and over again (even if you are improving them every time), you will become irrelevant.

Why does it matter now? In the past year, I’ve seen several companies start to see their marketing effectiveness eroding, only because they won’t (or don’t know how to) try something new. And I don’t know if I believe the doom-and-gloom economic forecasts, but I do believe that the market will become more challenging in 2008 than it was in 2007.

So the question is: are you going to keep doing what made you successful last year, and let someone else find a new way to beat you? or are you going to experiment with new ideas and find the new way to beat them?

5 thoughts on “Improvement and Change

  1. Just a thought but people may not be posting after an article because of your layout. It’s not intuitive. The post a “comment link” is at the top, not the bottom of an article. When a user reaches the bottom he/she does not get a clear CTA telling them to engage.

  2. A good observation that could likely lead to improvement – thank you!

    I’ve been using the theme as designed with little modification. I’ll try moving the comment link and see what effect that has.

  3. What a great way to bring home the essential nature of marketers — responding to their audience and to changes in that audience!… The fact that a blog might stimulate a response — even if it’s not on the blog — shows that the blog had impact. I disagree with the prior comment on navigation. Your format is very user friendly, and that’s why I’m leaving my comment here.

    Rather than expanding on email vs. blog comments, I’d like to refocus on the issue you raised in your earlier post: How do we measure and monitor and tweak our programs, so that we achieve the level of performance now expected of other professions (lean manufacturing, for example)? It’s no longer possible to say we can’t connect the dots, as “big-brother Internet” is able to track every key stroke. Tools like http://www.Leadlander.com, http://www.Vocus.com, http://www.MeltwaterNews.com, Google, and Alexa.com, help us all see the activity that’s generated as we embark on various marketing efforts. To ensure that our clients (and their management teams) understand the impact of their programs on revenue, Tech Image is implementing client dashboards that paint a visual picture of the results, including such things as Web traffic vs. article pladements, coverage vs. competitors, coverage by industry, positive vs. negative coverage.

    Dashboards like the one described above can deliver the facts that management needs to understand PR or Marketing’s value. It’s not possible for marketing to close a sale, but marketers should definitely be acknowledged (and compensated) for their ability to fuel the pipeline and accelerate the sales process. Marketing typically has responsibility for the message, value proposition, education (via user groups, white papers, published articles, etc. ) lead generation (via advertising, PR, events), credibility/closing (via awards, product reviews, analyst and success stories).

    By coming together at the sales planning table, marketing and sales can clarify their complementary roles in the sales process, and how they will each be rewarded.

    Thanks for fueling the discussion, Jeff!

  4. Mary:

    Thank you so much for that thoghtful, kind and provocative comment!! I can’t even begin to address all the issues you raise here – and in fact that’s what I’m thinking for my next few posts 😉

    I agree that sales and marketing need to work together – in fact the basis of what I think is that sales and marketing really are one thing, just different faces – it really comes down to how companies relate to their markets and communities, and sales and marketing are just different aspects of that relationship.

    I think the key for marketers is to understand the whole community – not just those on a buying trajectory (leads, in common parlance), but the trend and direction of the participants in the market (buyers, not competitors in this context) – and ALL the participants.

    Understanding that leads to influence (toward buying behavior) which leads to relationship (buying) is the goal. The metrics and dashboard you describe answer the all-important question: How do I know I’m getting there?

    I did change my format slightly…I left the comments link (slightly reworded) at the top and added one at the end of the post. I think it accommodates without intrusion. We’ll see.

    And we’ll see as I write, and hopefully others respond, where this conversation goes…

  5. Jeff,

    This is a great post. Hopefully you will some more . . .

    My first reaction to what you are describing is that corporate America is very stiff for the most part. Looking at recent job descriptions for marketing positions on Craigslist for instance, I was struck by the lack of imagination and the rigidity in the recruiting criteria. Traditional marketers tend to forget that they are dealing with a fluid entity, human nature. Marketing analysis, although essential, can only go so far. Creativity, play, experimentation, intuition, psychology, need to have a part also.

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