Decision Making

Elephants and Data: The Missing Link to Making Sales & Marketing 2.0 Work

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This week I had the privilege of attending the Sales and Marketing 2.0 Conference in San Francisco (thank you to the conference team for the invitation!).

While this edition focused on social selling and marketing (as expected), it also focused heavily on what leaders need to manage a social selling or marketing team.

But this is not a summary of the conference. If you would like to see the very useful and interesting learnings from these two days, my friend Matt Heinz has an excellent post you should read.

This is my view of the most important lesson learned this week, and what I think is the missing link to making all of these new ideas in sales and marketing work. First the data.


For the past five years or more, I have been hearing conference presenters, pundits and all sorts of others talk about the new way to market and sell in a social world. While some of it is just hype (isn’t it always?), when you sort through all of the information out there, you reach a few simple conclusions:

  • Technology has and will continue to disrupt how products and services are marketed and sold
  • Social technology has shifted the balance of power to the buyer, so that sellers now have to work not to sell, but to help buyers buy
  • Most corporate organizations and the systems by which they measure their people have not adapted to this new reality at all, meaning we are all essentially doing what we used to do, just with new technology (yep, I wrote that five years ago!)

The focus of the conference for the past two days offers some hope for addressing this last point. Much of the focus was on managing in what they call a “sales and marketing 2.0” or “social” world.

Speakers showed us how they are helping their people do certain things differently – or do entirely different things. They showed how they are figuring out what those things should be. And – since we know what gets measured gets managed – they showed how they are measuring success in the social selling and social marketing process, and how they are rewarding people for that success.

These management practices are all based in what we have come to call big data. For example, you have to merge and interpret data from your company’s traditional systems (e.g. CRM), your other internal data (e.g. email communications, chat and other interactions), customer data, social network data and other public data to gain a deeper understanding of how a Facebook campaign or a sales rep’s blog helped generate revenue and specific deals. And yes, this can be measured. But no, it’s not easy.

We saw examples of how every aspect of management from governance to measurement to evaluation, to hiring to leadership and coaching (yes, coaching) can be improved when driven by the effective use of data.


Here’s what I think was the elephant in the room: In order for individuals to succeed at anything at all in a corporate organization, they have to know what success looks like.

Your sales leadership can be the best at understanding and directing a social selling organization. but does your newly hired rep know what to do when she is on the phone (excuse me, web conference) with a hot prospect? Do they know how to use the social tools at their disposal to make that a more successful call?

Your marketing leadership can put in place all of the social tools and programs, and even hire people to manage the various social channels. But when your demand gen manager executes a new campaign, do they know how and when to incorporate those channels?

Do your people know it when they see it?

What leadership needs is a way to institutionalize the knowledge, learning and assumptions needed to become a social sales and marketing organization. We need not only a way to not just communicate to our people what this is all about, but also a way to make sure that when our people do their work, they know – intuitively – how to do it in this new way.

Do you give your people the knowledge and skills to be able to do their jobs in whatever new way your organization is adopting? Does it work?

Add your story to the comments below. And I’ll see you at the next Sales and Marketing 2.0 Conference.


Change of Control

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It’s often the simplest things that make all the difference.

This article by Gary Hamel describes the seemingly incredible effects of allowing local and front-line employees to make decisions on how best to serve the customers with whom they interacted every day, rather than listening to a standard coming from the central corporate office, which had the effect of not quite serving any customer particularly well.

It has a very powerful story which illustrates three important points:

One: It’s an excellent lesson in experimentation, focusing on what the customer really needs and wants and, what I think was Professor Hamel’s point, how to run a better business by changing the way you treat your people.

Two:It reinforces the fact that your brand is not what you define it to be, but rather it exists in the mind of those who know you and are your customers. In this case, looking at the definition of “reliability” from the perspective of the customer completely changed the practices that helped support the reputation.

Here’s what intrigued me:

Three: It’s the second underlying theme in the story that makes it so compelling: The changes, the innovation, the tremendous increase in customer service and profitability all happened because someone (according to this, a few people at a time) made the decision to give up centralized control and trust employees to use their judgement and do what is best for the business on their own volition – and most importantly to use their own intelligence and motivation to improve the business at every opportunity.

This was a shift for this particular company, and might well be for yours, in the relationship between the company (and its management) and its employees.

What would happen if we made the same shift in our relationship with the people in our market (customers and everyone else)?

What might happen if we stopped telling our market what to think about our companies and how they should relate to us?

As marketers, we are trained to do market research, find market positions with large opportunity, and spend time, money and resources making sure everyone think of us what we want them to.

One side effect of this is that we may not serve any of our customers particularly well (to reference a common example, I’d prefer a car that is safe, forward-thinking and “hot” but brand-reputation at least, I get to pick one).

This story is one from which we can learn.

Please read it.

Then think about what you are doing that is stopping your people from having the freedom to build a new customer relationship.And what you need to do to make that job easier for them. (can you provide templates to print opening hours instead of dictating them?)

Then go one step further: how can you enable your customers to build the relationship they want with you and get the service from you that suits them best?

I am fairly certain that even simple steps will dramatically improve your customer relationships and put you miles ahead of your competition in your relationship with the rest of the market.

Take a step now.

Discuss it here. I’d love to hear what you’ve tried and how it worked.


Dropping the 80

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Earlier this week, my friend @morganm pointed me to this post from TechCrunch that talked about a hypothetical future for the New York Times. Essentially, they propose that the top 20% of the New York Times reporters should walk out and form their own journalism outlet.

I agree – we’d all subscribe (though we’d have to wonder if it would be free), No offense to the other 80% likely-very-competent people, but these 20% are the ones who give the Times that edge that makes it different, better and to many the gold standard of American journalism. The Times might well be just another local paper without them.

So? The same is true of most companies, organizations, or any other entity. And just to be clear, I mean the top 20% of contributors, creators, innovators, performers, not the 20% with the highest ranks.

I felt compelled to ask: What would happen if you (and your fellow “top 20%” colleagues) did just that – walked out and made a more nimble, leaner, focused organization to compete with your now-former organization?

My guess is you’d run circles around your now-former organization and all of its other competitors. You’d be small, fast and expert. You’d have none of the weight of the organization to hold you back. You’d be creative, drive innovation and help your customers – by whatever definition you have them – succeed.

This begs some really difficult organizational questions, like do the top 20% of performers rely on the day-to-day work of the other 80% to allow them to do the things that make them top 20%? The more that’s true, the less likely this idea is to succeed.

Morgan asked me if I thought this applied as well to manufacturing companies as to media. I don’t know, but I suspect not. I suspect this small nimble entity might be really good at sales, marketing and design, but probably needs to other 80% to actually build something (you could outsource to them, but you still need them).

I subscribe to the theory that companies and work units are getting smaller and more nimble and must do so just to continue to survive in the developing new economy.

So I spent the past few days thinking about what it would look like if I took my favorite 20% of people from my organization and went and created something really cool centered around a new kind of relationship with our customers. And I realized we’d do some amazing things.

Then I thought, why can’t I just do that now? Take those same people, recruit them into a project team (this would look very different in a different size or type of organization) and make the same really cool things happen. (I’m proud to say I’ve actually done this more than a few times).

The answer: I can. More importantly, so can you.

I believe that if this becomes the norm, it is part of what will create the new, sustainable economy.

So now I’ll ask: What if you were to take your best 20% of the people you know, work with, etc. What could you do? And how can you make that happen right now?


Stop Circling the Wagons

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This past week I had the privilege of attending The Economist’s 2009 Marketing Forum. As you might expect, the topics this year were focused on managing through challenging economic times, how to prepare for what we all hope will be better times in the near future and how we might know when better times are coming.

The audience was smaller than in past years, which was not at all surprising, but still represented the marketing leadership of a diverse set of companies and organizations – enough so that it was not hard to see how different sectors and industries are faring, and how the thinking differs – or doesn’t – across these businesses. (you can read more on the twitter stream, some commentary on it from day one and day two and read another perspective on the conference)

I heard discussion of the expected topics, such as measurement, marketing mix and spending and investment allocation, plus branding, promotion, channels and the long list of things marketers think about. But after a day and one-half listening to and talking with this group of marketing leaders, there were two things that were notably missing.

I’m pretty sure that if you’re bothering to read this, you don’t need to be convinced that an economic downturn, regardless of how severe or prolonged, is the time when it is imperative that great companies (read: the ones that want to survive) innovate – not just creating a few new, related products, but re-think the way they relate to their customers and the rest of their market, they way they develop and roll-out product (I am intentionally avoiding the word “launch” here) and how they manage the marketing investment for their companies.

I won’t suggest that there were no interesting ideas offered. There were a few. But out of 12 panels and presentations, not one was focused on innovation in marketing or how companies can create the kind of significant differentiation that will allow them to succeed in bad times and dominate when the market turns up again.

I would hate to suggest that, among this group, not one person was thinking about how to do this for their company (or clients for the branding firms in attendance), but there was little to no talk of this, either on stage or in the hallway between sessions. The thing that struck me also, is how much of the conversation still assumes that marketers own and define their brand themselves (hint: your market owns your brand) and how much the style of thinking is still command-and-control-driven in most marketing organizations.

So what was missing? Let me start with these perspectives:

  • The CMO as the portfolio manager of a range of marketing investments (some of this was hinted at by Ward Hanson of SIEPR)
  • The CMO as the steward (not controller, or owner) of the brand in the minds of the members of the market
  • The CMO as the facilitator of the conversation around the company and the brand
  • The CMO as the steward of the relationship with the market(s)
  • The CMO as the driver of a sustainable business model (no, I don’t mean green products)

This is the opportunity that faces us in this challenging market. William Pearce of Del Monte Foods suggested that one of the key responsibilities of the CMO is to be the “driver of growth” – and with that comes the challenge of how to put your company in position to lead the market (and gain market share) in challenging times and to accelerate out of this downturn, leave your competition in the dust and become dominant in your market.

Your market is thinking differently about its relationship with you – and your competitors. Are you willing to do what it takes to enter into a new relationship, start to think differently about how your company operates and markets, and become the organization that everyone else wishes they were?

I hope so – and I’d like to hear how you are getting started.


October 10, 2008

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It’s a new year, and that probably means that you’ve made a bunch of resolutions and now you’re thinking about how you’re going to make all of those resolutions happen. There’s no shortage of resolutions to be made, and I’ve made more than a few of my own (breaking a long tradition of refusing to focus on the new year as a useful time to incite change).

But over the past year, I’ve begun to see something of a disconnect between the resolutions we’ve made in our work as marketers and the challenges we face as marketers.

In my conversations with marketing leaders, mostly in the business-to-business world, I’ve heard lists of resolutions that include: getting better at measuring campaign results, using the latest technology to run campaigns or to reach prospects, doing a better job of generating quality leads for the sales team, building award-winning branding and advertising, quantifying the results of our new-media efforts, and creating a “green” effort for our brand. There are many more, but the ones that fell into these categories were the most popular.

But then I look at the same conversations and I read the marketing press (and lots of other well-respected blogs that are too numerous to link here) and I conclude that marketing leaders, executives in particular are facing some key challenges: short marketing executive tenure (particularly CMOs), marketing needs more of a seat at the leadership/strategy table, the value of marketing is not well-recognized or accepted (with some even calling for the elimination of the marketing executive role completely).

Does better measurement mean that the value of marketing can be demonstrated better. Well, yes and no. I’d argue that it can demonstrate the value of marketing programs and campaigns. But does measuring lead quantity, lead quality, relationship value, conversational metrics, and all the other traditional and new media metrics we put in place show how the CMO contributes to the overall strategy of the organization?

I’ve seen only one measurement in an organization that demonstrates that anyone (or everyone) is making a valuable contribution: revenue. But I am left asking this question: does measuring the revenue result of marketing programs place a value on the CMO’s contribution?

I don’t know the answer to that question. Yet. But I look at another key executive, the CFO as a point of comparison. Why? Like the CMO, the CFO has measurement responsibility, fiduciary responsibility (for financial position as opposed to brand and market position), and no direct responsibility for revenue creation. What can we learn from the fact that the CFO has such a strong strategic role in nearly every company?

And here’s where we get back to that new year’s resolution thing. My one resolution for this year, as it relates to improving my effectiveness as a marketing leader, is to be able to make new year’s resolutions next year that are consistent with the challenges I face and help me move my effectiveness and my contribution to my company forward.

This means I have to understand the key question I’ve raised here: What underlies the apparent disconnect between marketing leadership and the expectations of corporate leadership? It seems that whatever this disconnect is, is the underlying cause of short CMO tenure, perceived lack of a strategic role “at the table” for marketing, and so many of the other issues I’ve seen raised in the past year (or two, or three, or ten).

And as with so much of what we learn, this will be a conversation. I know I’ll be having this conversation with many people in this field, and I’ll issue my usual and truly sincere invitation to you to participate. I still believe the larger the crowd the better the wisdom.

And as with any resolution, if I want to accomplish it this year, I have to be well on my way by the time we’re three-quarters of the way through the year. So I’ve picked a date that’s meaningful to me (no, it’s not my birthday) by which I hope to have moved much closer to some conclusions and answers.

Care to engage in the conversation?