by Andrew Stanten

4 truths about marketing expectations that tech execs need to hear

Oct 26, 2016
AnalyticsIT LeadershipIT Strategy

There's no silver bullet for driving leads. Heed these four marketing myths when developing your sales strategy to set your organization up for success.

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Credit: Thinkstock

Maybe it’s because companies like Google won’t share the algorithm ranking our search results. Or maybe it’s because those crocodile loafers we looked at three weeks ago keep magically appearing in our internet browsers.

Whatever the reason, there seems to be a certain allure when it comes to today’s marketing tools, and it has had an effect on consumers and marketers alike. Marketing has become the new business mojo. It’s true that drip campaigns, re-targeting capabilities and social media have lent a new level of sophistication to contemporary marketing campaigns.

But I’m here to tell you: there is no silver bullet for generating new business — and don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise.

Before purchasing a new marketing software or launching a big marketing initiative for your tech company, it is critical to define realistic expectations for your success. When you do, there are four important things to keep in mind:

1. Marketing can’t replace sales (and visa-versa).

I’ve worked with a handful of tech execs who seemed to think today’s marketing can replace sales. Unless you are offering a “buy now” solution, not only is this untrue, but operating as if it is can have a detrimental effect on your sales and marketing organization. Your team can sense when you are prioritizing one effort over another. It can demotivate employees and create an environment of finger-pointing and antagonism.

For a marketing campaign to truly meets its potential, collaboration is key. When you’re launching a new business initiative, involve both sales and marketing from the very beginning. Lay out each department’s role and acknowledge what it is each brings to the table, but hold them to the same metric of success: not top-of-the-funnel leads, not outbound phone calls, but bottom-line revenue growth.

And for most tech organizations, you can’t only rely on internet-generated (web, social) leads. Sales people still need to network, hunt, cross-sell, in-sell and make opportunities for themselves. Marketing’s role in these cases is to support those efforts.

2. It’s not all about leads.

When you’re launching a new marketing program, it’s important to agree on your key performance indicators (KPIs), or the metrics you’ll use to measure the effectiveness of your campaign as it progresses. Often, the first thing we hear is “We need more leads.”

But as a tech company, you sell a specific product to a very specific customer. Therefore, success can’t be equated to how many names you add to your database. You’re trying to attract the interest of a particular customer type: the type that will convert. What sounds better to you: 1,000 leads at a 1 percent conversion rate or 50 leads at a 50 percent conversion rate?

When defining your KPIs, instead of focusing on site traffic alone, look at how many web visitors downloaded your content or requested a demo. Don’t count up your leads; look at how many actually turned into business. And remember, numbers don’t tell the whole story. If the metrics were not what you were expecting, ask yourself why. Is it the pricing, the feature set, the messaging? Go back and look at the last three years’ numbers. Are your projections realistic given previous metrics? Do you notice any annual dips or seasonal spikes? Every number has a context and only by looking at both internal and external factors can you begin to understand how to shift them in the right direction.

I was in a conversation a few months back with a CEO who was disappointed with his marketing efforts. He kept harping on how his website had slipped to page two and three on Google searches for a handful of keywords. That said, quality of leads were up, conversions were up and average deal size was up. Don’t be fooled by the smoke and mirrors and don’t be duped into looking at the wrong metric. What would you rather have — good keyword ranking for a term or a deposit into the company bank account?

3. There is no substitute for humans.

There’s no question that marketing automation programs and customer relationship management systems have empowered marketers and salespeople with valuable tools and insights. But they come at a price.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan of what programs like Hubspot, Marketo, ActOn and Pardot can do. But remember — these are technology platforms. And these companies are brilliant at marketing.

“Marketing automation” makes it sound like you don’t need to do anything. Truth be told it’s “marketing semi-automation.” It still takes a ton of human IP and time to make these systems worth it.

If you plan to invest thousands of dollars every month for one of these programs, ask yourself if you also have the personnel, time and resources to use it to its fullest capacity.

Invest in technology, but also invest in knowledge. Teach your team to write compelling content, to target the right audiences, to leverage customer data in a way that will further your business. These skills are critical. Without a knowledgeable, collaborative and success-driven sales and marketing organization, that new “turnkey” CRM is just a Porsche sitting in the driveway of someone who doesn’t know how to drive stick.

4. Don’t try to connect every dot.

The abundance of marketing data and performance metrics available is both a blessing and a curse. Never before have we been able to so easily test, measure and track. And this is a great thing so we can scale up what’s working, refine what could be doing better and kill what should be killed. But with all this data comes a lot of noise — and a dangerous pitfall. Don’t try to track every last action and measure its ROI. You’ll waste more time and leave opportunities on the table.

Marketing today requires you take an integrated approach that combines social, public relations, digital advertising, re-targeting, sponsored posts, email marketing and more.

I had a CEO the other day questioning his entire social strategy because he didn’t have visibility into whether or not a single tweet produced enough leads to make it worth it. A. Single. Tweet. Like I said, don’t try to connect every dot.