Can an outside analysis of its effectiveness help?
In spite of all the available data, and the analytics tools we have to analyze that data, a lot of marketing is difficult to measure for effectiveness. Operational mindsets often depend on ROI calculations to make decisions, yet ROI for marketing is not always easily definable. Yet, if you stop marketing, you can effectively become invisible to buyers. I have worked for companies, usually at the early revenue and growth stage, whose marketing was entirely based on word of mouth and the efforts of the founders. And for founders, marketing is just one hat they wear. Running without organized marketing is simply not scalable. But how do you measure the success of your marketing efforts?
Marketing has become much more fluid and responsive
For years marketing was as simple as putting up a sign, doing some advertising, or making a ton of unsolicited sales calls. When an inquiry came in, a salesperson took over. Today, with a bewildering degree of access to information, and the ability to instantly reach out to anyone, anywhere, marketing has become a much more fluid and responsive process. Fluid, because we have to constantly adapt to emerging communication and information distribution options. Responsive, because it is often marketing’s responsibility to anticipate questions and needs, and generate information needed to address those needs.
Don’t disconnect marketing from customer support
The other major change in marketing and revenue-generation is the declining importance of sales, and the emergence of the customer success model, that blends initial onboarding with continued support. A recent experience I had with a (now) former bank I was using demonstrated how critical this is. I was constantly being exposed to pitches or new banking products by this bank and its people. Tellers were trained to always offer these products while processing your transaction. I assume they were commissioned for sales, as they should be. A fairly slick marketing operation overall. But then I had an issue that required me to interact with the customer support function of the bank. I was stonewalled at every turn and it was apparent that the reps were actually trained to avoid giving information out. One exhausted rep I spoke with actually told me that the previous person I talked to, a bank manager, had referred me to him because ‘she doesn’t want to deal with it’. He then told me everyone who I talked to knew what was going on, but were not authorized to tell me. When I finally reached a human with common sense, the explanation was simple and logical. However, I was furious by that point and closed the account.
It only took one poorly handled customer support issue to unravel years of a relationship and all the marketing efforts over those years. When I reached out to the highest management I could find they seemed totally unaware of this disconnect. Nor did they seem to care. So how do you know if this kind of thing is taking place in your business?
A lesser emphasis on sales: moving to the customer success model
The scenario I just described was caused by a business model that separated marketing and sales from customer support, with not unusual consequences. In this chain of creating awareness, selling the customer, onboarding them, and then taking care of them for the life of the relationship, sales is waning in importance. It is being replaced by a model that started in enterprise software: Customer success management (CSM). CSM should step in at the moment when a prospect contacts the company. Their responsibility is to shepherd the new customer through the process of getting up to speed with the product or service. And the customer success manager should be assigned a portfolio of customers that they have helped since day one, rather than randomly assigning customer service to whomever is available.
This relationship approach is particularly important in larger ticket, B2B transactions. Its two primary goals are customer satisfaction, and mining that relationship for future business, either through referrals or upsells. It is a hybrid role that should, in my opinion, work closely with marketing or under the marketing umbrella. It is especially important that marketing and CSM regularly share information about buyers and their behavior.
An outside assessment can make a big difference
As a hired gun, I am often brought in because there is a sense that something isn’t working or that the company’s marketing needs updating. Sometimes, as I’ve written about recently, the owner is simply seeking some mythological ‘secret sauce’ that will fire up their marketing. This secret sauce is the value proposition of far too many marketing and digital agency pitches. I recently surveyed the web sites of 50 top digital marketing firms to compare their offerings. It was exhausting and over the top, but almost none of them told me anything about what they actually do.
I recommend having a non-critical assessment of your overall marketing and customer success model by someone who is doing marketing using current tools. I say non-critical, because the goal is not to show the incompetence of the current team. It is to get a more objective view of the basic value proposition of the company and the way it is being communicated to its prospective customers. This can become very difficult to assess when you are in the trenches doing it on a daily basis.
Make sure the assessment is done by an expert in business similar to yours
B2B or B2C? Service or Product? SaaS or Brick and Mortar? Digital or Analog? I am a B2B technology marketer with extensive experience in SaaS- distributed products and their related services. I would be a bad match for assessing a retail or eCommerce consumer business. The problem with the agency model is that they often don’t specialize and have a hard time turning down business. This can result in a bad match for both parties. It’s no different in working with an outside marketing consultant. If you do work with a consultant it’s a good idea to get their help assessing an agency, if you decide you need one.
Should we work with an agency?
The reason I don’t recommend an agency for an assessment is that this is a management assessment. How is the company, as a whole, managing the entire customer engagement, for the life of the customer? Is the process holistic or siloed? Are the customers being shunted from one department to the next? Are these departments in sync and sharing information? Agencies can be very strong in bringing an outside strategic marketing view and implementing complex marketing tactics. However, in my specialization, the product service mix and markets are often so complex and specialized that many agencies are simply not qualified to do strategy without a serious amount of homework, homework that the client pays for.
Whatever road you choose, considering an outside perspective should bring value to the table, if internal forces don’t reject the feedback out of hand. Be wary of consultants or agencies that promise to ‘take over’ these processes. Instead look for someone who will give perspective and make recommendations for your team to implement with their guidance but not under their orders. This stuff is core to your business and you need to own it.