The Cost Marketing Pays When Sales Misuses the CRM

Bad things happen when sales reps ignore all of the insights their organization’s marketers place in the CRM system. From management not being able to discern how pipeline strength correlates to sales activity to them simply focusing on closed deals, erasing CRM’s impact on the sales cycle has consequences.

Bad things happen when sales reps ignore all of the insights their organization’s marketers place in the CRM system. From management not being able to discern how pipeline strength correlates to sales activity to them simply focusing on closed deals, erasing CRM’s impact on the sales cycle has consequences. In this post, we will explore why CRM misuse occurs, what the consequences are and what marketers can do about this issue.

First, a CRM Tale of Woe

Many years ago, I worked for a firm with more than $100 million in annual revenue. There, the worldwide sales VP refused to review the pipeline and sales forecast from the CRM system in the weekly sales call with his regional management. Instead, he had Excel spreadsheets his staff maintained for him. I urged him to use the beautiful reports and graphs in the CRM system, to no avail.

He didn’t believe the data. It’s a catch-22.

The problem with leaders not using the system and positioning the data as the single source of truth is that it forgives the teams from having to enter data into the system, and so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. The result is sales reps don’t add opportunities until the leads were much more advanced, at Stage 5 or 6, and thus avoided any management scrutiny over their nascent deals. Sales management gave them kudos for bringing in bluebirds (unanticipated deals), and the reps got the data in the system just in time to ensure they get their commissions.

Consequences of Underutilizing the CRM

The outcomes for marketers and organizations of management allowing sales reps to largely operate outside the CRM are:

  1. No visibility into the early sales pipeline.
  2. Management focuses entirely on the incipient closed deals.
  3. Marketing cannot differentiate between contacts who are in a purchase cycle from those who are window-shopping.
  4. Sales management cannot connect sales activity to pipeline strength.
  5. Marketing operations does not get feedback on successful campaigns until late in the buyer journey.
  6. Sales reps use the system largely to ensure they get commissions
  7. Sales reps might put activity (calls, meetings, tasks) in the CRM to ensure they drive a perception that they are busy, but might still not add opportunities until the last moment, and otherwise don’t use the system.
  8. Sales reps fail to take advantage of all of the recorded digital interactions prospects have had and are dutifully reporting the lead/contact record.

Running a business effectively requires the earliest visibility possible into the sales pipeline. It enables sales management to quickly see if new reps are working out, marketing analytics can pinpoint which programs are sourcing the best leads, what campaigns are moving leads along the funnel, which products are hot, which regions are soft, which reps need more training, etc. So, allowing the reps to not use the CRM until opportunities are well-advanced has many downsides.

The CRM system is the basis for tracking and enabling sales workflows in the same way a marketing automation platform enables marketing workflows. Prospects have workflows, too, as part of their buyer journey.

These three workflows are interconnected. Prospects interact with marketing content and online properties. Sales interacts with prospects via email and telephone calls. And marketing can interact with the sales workflow by providing visibility to the prospects’ digital interactions and helping move prospects along their buyer journey. Marketing does this by varying how they market to prospects based on their opportunity stage, for instance.

If CRM is lightly used by sales reps, they break the connection of these three workflows, and run the risk of marketing and sales looking uncoordinated in their communications to prospects and lowering productivity of both organizations, resulting in poor customer experiences.

Steps to get Sales Reps Fully Utilizing CRM

  1. Ensure they understand the value to them (WIIFM)
  2. Add more value to the CRM system. For example:
    • Enrich the contact/account data
    • Add plugins, like LinkedIn
    • Route new leads only through CRM
    • Enable sales reps to opt “not-ready” prospects into specific nurturing campaigns
    • Enable salespeople to send trackable emails through the CRM
    • Provide beautiful HTML trackable email templates for specific content
  3. Get sales management to agree that ALL pipeline reviews at all levels of sales management will be conducted using CRM reports, not Excel or another tool.
  4. Create reports that highlight the biggest users and the biggest non-users of the system
  5. Create reports on most recent and least recent contact/account updates by owner

Conclusion

When marketing and sales coordinate on communications with prospects and customers, magic can happen. When sales breaks that chain of communication by failing to fully utilize the CRM system, they isolate marketing from pipeline generation success metrics and ignore the digital body language of the people they are most hoping to impress — prospective customers.

Nostalgic for the Future: Data That is ‘Close to You’

Last week, I had a dream — and in it, Karen Carpenter and I were friends. The following night, I had a similar dream — and this time it was Carly Simon. I literally went to bed the next night hoping for a Roberta Flack visitation.

Last week, I had a dream and in it, Karen Carpenter and I were friends. The following night, I had a similar dream and this time it was Carly Simon. I literally went to bed the next night hoping for a Roberta Flack visitation. As a result of these slumbering vocalists and songwriters, I’ve spent a good part of my leisure time over the New Year holiday listening to all their songs on my iPod. It’s yesterday, once more.

Who knows why we dream what we dream?

Sometimes, it just happens that when we’ve experienced enough in life, in play, in work some situations are bound to come around again, next week or decades later. I mean, I owned all that vinyl way back then and now I can stream it all again.

Greatest Hits: Lifecycles of Data-Inspired Marketing

So when Marc Pritchard of Procter & Gamble last week at the Consumer Electronics Show talked about “a world without ads,” I said to myself “oh, I’ve heard this song before.” And he’s right to say it.

In the world of data and direct marketing, a quest for wholly efficient advertising and a mythical 100-percent response rate actually is a 100-year science. Thank you, visionaries, such as Claude Hopkins.

• The 19th Century shopkeeper knew each customer, and conversed regularly. Ideally, each customer’s wants and desires were noted and needs anticipated to the extent that the customer was fulfilled accordingly. (Aaron Montgomery Ward and Richard Warren Sears.)
• Direct marketing originally through print, catalogs and mail, and then broadcast sought to replicate this model remotely. Measurement, attribution and response were put to science. Creativity served the science, or science served the creativity in either direction. Segmentation, analytics and differentiated communication flowed. (David Ogilvy, Stan Rapp and Alvin Eicoff, among others).
• In digital, social and mobile, direct marketing is rejuvenated this time “data-driven marketing.” Some have described this as data-inspired storytelling, or direct marketing on steroids. How responsible data collection can be used to identify prospect needs and wants, and funnel tailored communication through to sale, service and repeat purchase. (Jeff Bezos, among others.)
• And now the product itself can be designed to communicate to the customer smart appliances, smart cars, and the parts and products inside, with sensors and Internet connections and mobile app interfaces all being able to let the user know, it’s time for consideration or some other product lifecycle action.

Post-Advertising: A Reverence for Data

In all these examples, the constant is “I want to know you, so I can serve you the customer” and the facilitator is data. We exist to create and serve a customer. Period. Anything less is not sustainable. Data, in these models, is sought, analyzed and revered. It is also transparent, and its use and application has consumer buy-in. That premise is as true now in the Internet age, as it was in the direct response era before it. We all need to excel in data reverence, first, and then data analysis and application.

Advertising does have a role here, of course. Not every product sells itself and not every product meets customer satisfaction fully. The best advertising, and even the best data behind it, cannot save a bad product. There is always a need for advertising and marketing to inform the consumer, and a brand promise that serves to attract and retain beyond the product.

Every generation has its pop heroes. Tonight, I may just dream of Adele.

Update Your LinkedIn Sales Navigator Best Practices

LinkedIn Sales Navigator can be a great tool. But you may be sabotaging the chance to start conversations with prospects. Misconceptions about Sales Navigator best practices are causing many to sabotage their diligent efforts — resulting in fewer conversations started with prospects.

LinkedIn Sales NavigatorLinkedIn Sales Navigator can be a great tool. But you may be sabotaging the chance to start conversations with prospects. And it’s not your fault.

Misconceptions about best practices are causing many sellers to sabotage their diligent efforts — resulting in fewer conversations started with prospects. A “best practice” depends on many factors. Mainly this one:

By time it’s considered “best” it is no longer best. Because everyone is doing it results are weaker!

How are sellers using LinkedIn Sales Navigator to set more and better meetings? Here are a few emerging best practices you need to know about.

Building a Target List

The most effective sellers use Sales Navigator as:

  • their only research tool to target & identify companies & target contacts … to develop a list from scratch
  • a primary tool — adding profile data from various other sources (e.g., purchased lists with email and direct-dial phone information)
  • a secondary research tool — using purchased data or proprietary “house” lists as primary… supplementing with LinkedIn profile data (to qualify leads)

Beware: The days of using LinkedIn for sales prospecting, at no cost, are gone. You no longer have choice. Since acquiring LinkedIn, Microsoft has clamped-down on free users … hard. I’m not a fanboy, so here’s why purchasing LinkedIn Sales Navigator is required:

  • Search filters. You need them. Sure you’ll get a few using the free version of LinkedIn. But you’ll be hard-pressed to make LinkedIn’s database search filters spit back quality leads for you. For example, need to search for companies based on their size? Yup. You’ll need to invest.
  • Access. LinkedIn Sales Navigator is required if you need unfettered access to LinkedIn’s database of prospects. Truth is, if you want to search for prospects and view profiles, for more than a few hours, you must pay to play.

LinkedIn restricts free users ability to search for and view profiles. It’s called a “commercial search limit” and believe me you’ll hit it … quickly. You’ll be stopped and asked to invest.

In pre-Microsoft years it took a while to get cut-off from searching companies and viewing contacts’ profiles. Today, LinkedIn demands you slap down a charge card in short time.

Want to search the database? Want to view profiles of your targets? Do so using the free LinkedIn. But believe me … take your credit card out of your wallet. Set it on your desk. You’ll be reaching for it.

Investing in Sales Navigator is no longer a decision-point for sellers using LinkedIn. It’s mandatory. Sorry! Of course, there are other very good data sources to consider investing in too.

The Truth About InMail

Decision makers are less-and-less receptive to receiving messages on LinkedIn.

Still, most sellers use InMail and connection requests as a primary communications tool. However, this is no longer a best practice, not recommended in most B2B sales environments. InMail is best applied as part of a multi-pronged approach. (email, phone/voicemail, InMail, direct mail, etc.)

Thus, InMail is not a big value-add, nor why sellers invest in LinkedIn Sales Navigator. Nor is it a secret weapon to get more and better conversations started with prospects. InMail can be used productively but it has serious disadvantages to consider.

Overall, Linkedin is weakening as a communications platform — all while the company builds an image as the premier “social” sales tool.

This weakening isn’t my opinion — it’s the accumulated experience of our customers. People like you.

My sales team (and our clients’ teams) report decision-makers becoming less-and-less responsive. In all B2B industry sectors? No. In most? Yes.

Increasingly.

Some blame the “Facebook-ization” of LinkedIn.

Bottom line: Decision-makers are increasingly less receptive to receiving messages on LinkedIn. Quick analysis of LinkedIn’s public discussions about user base stats and you’ll see it too.

Access to the LinkedIn database (and use of targeting filters) is the primary reason to invest.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator and Your CRM

Most organizations (large or small) use their CRM to track “Navigator sourced leads.” This helps you understand how many deals flow from contacts leaning (fully or partially) on data found on LinkedIn and Company profiles.

Beyond this simplistic level of tracking most organizations do not track a hard ROI on Sales Navigator; instead treating it as a cost of doing business. (a line item expense)

Buying Navigator is like buying any other kind of list to call from. (except this is on a subscription basis) However, many organizations do wish to understand how many leads are being pulled from LinkedIn’s database — and how many of those leads actually close.

This helps one understand quality of leads from LinkedIn overall … assuming a level of sales rep proficiency, of course.

The most effective sellers also do not use Sales Navigator as a CRM itself beyond temporary storage of leads. Most sellers choose to move contact and company profile data sourced within LinkedIn into their CRM or sales automation tool of choice — then pursue the lead.

Other Worthwhile Research Tools

Research is truly LinkedIn’s most valuable deliverable to you. That said, data on LinkedIn is supplied by users. Thus, it’s accuracy is only as good as the user provides.

Navigator’s “Business Insights” feature is a popular way to monitor useful news & info about target contacts & companies. Thus, this best practice remains. While Google Alerts and other services offers similar monitoring LinkedIn’s Business Insights feature brings this into a centralized stream within Navigator.

“Headcount growth by function” and “Total job openings by department” are two very useful Sales Navigator data sets. These allows sellers to see where within an organization current investment (budget growth) activity is taking place—and is planned to take place in immediate term—from a personnel perspective.

Research is LinkedIn’s strongest value to sellers.

What do you see changing lately? What best practices do you experience as being ineffective these days? And which are emerging as a better practice?

 

GDPR Leads Brands to Better CX

A year ago, most companies had no clue where all of their customer data resided, let alone whether or not it was secure. With the implementation of GDPR, and California’s digital privacy law scheduled to take effect in January 2020, companies have started taking their customer and prospect data, and its security, much more seriously.

A year ago, most companies had no clue where all of their customer data resided, let alone whether or not it was secure. With the implementation of GDPR, and California’s digital privacy law scheduled to take effect in January 2020, companies have started taking their customer and prospect data, and its security, much more seriously.

Most organizations keep their customer data in a customer relationship management (CRM) database. However, prior to GDPR, the information was incomplete, the accuracy of the data was not taken seriously, and the data was not secure due to a lack of business process management and master data management policies.

Based on the interviews I have conducted with IT executives involved in databases, big data, AI/ML and security, there has been a significant change in the past year; whereby, companies are now implementing and enforcing data management best practices and creating data Centers of Excellence. Employees are learning the importance of data and its security.

Given that a well-maintained CRM is necessary to deliver a great customer experience (CX), we can expect to see companies begin taking CX seriously, because they are getting their data in order and their competitors will begin using that data to deliver improved CX. We’re now in a race to see who can use data first and best to improve the CX.

Updated privacy policies and security protocols will increase the opportunity to deliver personalized and relevant information of value. In addition to getting consumers’ explicit permission to communicate with their customers and prospects, organizations will want to enact progressive profiling; whereby, they learn more about each customer or prospect every time they interact with your website or organization. The more you know about a customer, the more relevant you should be able to be to them by providing information of value while anticipating needs and wants.

Organizations need to learn what customers and prospects need and want to make their lives easier. This is key to building a disruptive business and earning a customer for life. Lyft has done this for me. Every time I need to travel to or from an airport, I no longer need taxis, rental cars or parking at the airport. Lyft has made my life traveling much simpler and easier. Lyft has earned a customer for life — or at least until its business model is disrupted.

A good CRM with proper data management processes is beneficial to organizations on several fronts:

1. The CRM serves as the repository for all customer data and enables customer-facing employees to have a 360-degree view of the customer so they understand the customer’s relationship with the company — interactions, products/services bought, considered, feedback. All customer-facing employees are able to see the actions that have taken place and know what actions need to take place in the future based on sales and CX processes.
2. Organizations are able to provide more relevant help and information; thereby, making customers’ lives simpler and easier. Some organizations, e.g. financial institutions, are already using predictive analytics to recommend the “next best action” for the customer to the employee.
3. The CRM can be integrated with calendars and marketing automation software for appropriate follow-up before and after a sale, for nurturing marketing qualified leads (MQLs) to sales qualified leads (SQLs) or to market to “lookalike” prospects.
4. The CRM provides real-time metrics enabling team members to see where prospects and customers are in the sales, post-sales, follow-up or problem/resolution cycle.
5. A sound CRM enables the organization to scale in a thoughtful way with proper data management, security and updates. Leveraging even more data to improve the CX.

How has GDPR affected your organization and its data management practices?

6 CX Best Practices That Aid in Customer Retention

Kudos to American Airlines for delivering a small, but very meaningful American Advantage upgrade — a great customer experience (CX). CX best practices like this aid in customer retention.

Kudos to American Airlines for delivering a small, but very meaningful American Advantage upgrade — a great customer experience (CX). CX best practices like this aid in customer retention.

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to take a number of flights to user conferences that I write about. I always request American, because it’s the primary airline at my airport and I have a lifetime membership in its Admiral’s Club, based on my travel a couple of lifetimes ago.

After months of boarding with Group Six or Seven and playing roulette with whether or not I’d be able to get my carry-on in an overhead bin, I just got bumped to the gold level. That lets me board with Group Four — assuring me I will not have to check my carry-on. Little things mean a lot.

American never asked me about how important this is to me, but it’s huge — to me. Every customer will want something different with regard to a great CX. For customer retention, it’s important to “listen intensely” to learn how you can deliver a better CX.

Here are six CX best practices that come to mind for B2C and B2B organizations:

Document Your CX Best Practices

What are you doing for different customers, different personas? How are customers responding when you go above and beyond? Are you getting the customer feedback you expect?

Start With Your CRM Database

Start with your CRM database, your master data management practices and your business process management. A great CRM is necessary for a great CX. Your customer-facing employees need to know what has taken place with this customer previously, so they can provide more personalized service.

By the way, poor CRM data quality, poor master data management and documentation of business process are consistent pain points for companies attempting to make the digital transformation that will be necessary to provide a great CX.

Emotionally Connect With Your Customers

Understand what it takes to make an emotional connection with your customers — empathy. How do you get it? By having a conversation with your customers and learning what you and your competition are doing to help make your customers’ lives simpler and easier and what else you could be doing. Management hasn’t spoken with customers? Make sure your customer-facing employees are involved in this discussion.

Create a Customer-Centric Culture

David Ogilvy used to put an empty chair in the meeting, so participants would think about how receptive the customer would be to what was being discussed. In order for this to work, there needs to be a sufficiently diverse group of people creating the culture to accurately represent the customer’s point of view.

Engage Customers Via Social Media

Listen to them, respond to them, let them know you care about what they have to say by listening and responding in a timely manner. The faster you respond, the more your customers know you care about what they have to say. After eating 3,200 burrito bowls, Chipotle responds to my tweets in less than 30 minutes — I know they’re listening and appreciate me.

Check in After You’ve Made the Sale

Did the product or service your customers spent money on solve their problem or meet their expectations? If you don’t get a response, you have an engagement issue — especially if you’re a software-as-a-service provider. Learn what’s good and what you can do to improve. CX is a never-ending process.

What other CX best practices are you following or seeing others implement?

How Well Do You Know Your Customer Data?

Some marketers seem to keep their distance from customer data. When I ask what kind of customer information they are working with, I hear things like, “Oh, Mary is in charge of our data. I leave it to her.” This is unfortunate.

Some marketers seem to keep their distance from customer data. When I ask what kind of customer information they are working with, I hear things like, “Oh, Mary is in charge of our data. I leave it to her.” This is unfortunate. I realize that the marketing profession may attract people who prefer to focus on “softer” functions like research, competitive strategy, and value propositions. But these days, it’s a real disadvantage, professionally and personally, to shun data. So, let me offer some painless steps to up your comfort level.

In this context, I am thinking about customer data at its most basic level: the customer or prospect record, which is usually found in a marketing database or a CRM system. This record contains the contact information, and descriptive and behavioral data elements we know about the customer. For B2B marketers, it will describe the account as well as the individual contacts. This subject arose in my mind recently as I read Steven Hayes’s interesting article called “Do Marketers Really Want to be Data Scientists?” in Oracle’s Modern Marketing blog. Hayes correctly concluded that marketers don’t need to do the science — build the models, run the experiments — but they do need to be familiar with the variables that drive customer behavior, in order to apply the science to marketing decision-making.

So, it behooves marketers to be deeply familiar with the customer record, which is where these variables are housed. This information serves as what I like to call “the recorded memory of the customer relationship,” and it reveals all sorts of insights into the nature of the customers and competitors, what they value, and how to communicate with them effectively.

So, how do you get familiar with your customer records, and make them your friends? Here are three steps to consider.

1. Take Mary — or whoever manages your customer data — out to lunch. Demonstrate your interest in understanding her world, her challenges and her interests. This puts a personal face to the data, and also makes Mary an ally and mentor in your quest.

2. Examine a handful of customer records. You’ll find all kinds of interesting things: What do we know about this person? Any ideas on how better to communicate and sell to him/her? How complete and accurate is the record? What additional data would help you develop even better ideas on how to treat the customer? Set an hour on your calendar every quarter or so, to repeat the process, becoming familiar with records from various types of customers and prospects.

3. Launch an initiative to develop a data strategy for your department or your company as a whole. This means a written policy that identifies the data elements you should collect on each customer, where each element will come from, and how you will use it to drive business value.

I guarantee, if you dive into the data records, your comfort level will rise dramatically. And so will your insight, and your skill as a marketer.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

The Mutual Dependency of Marketing, Customer Service and ROI

You’ve conducted research, developed your strategy, identified the right audiences, shaped messaging and value proposition based on the audience’s motivations, and done a fine job of targeting. So what could go wrong? Answer: Your fulfillment mechanism was awful.

You’ve conducted research, developed your strategy, identified the right audiences, shaped messaging and value proposition based on the audience’s motivations, and done a fine job of targeting. So what could go wrong? Answer: Your fulfillment mechanism was awful.

Too often there is a gap between outbound marketing and how inbound inquiries are handled. This gap swallows up inquiries and undermines your credibility when the large numbers associated with online activities don’t translate to real life appointments. CRM-based approaches help with follow-up, but implementation and messaging can feel a little too commercial for the space. That’s one reason why marketing and customer service workflows need to integrated into your planning and, preferably, in your org chart.

This is not revolutionary stuff, but I fear we may be losing sight of its importance as we rush to update our marcom technology stacks with the latest and greatest. We live in a now-based society. Unless you can empower consumers with the ability to self-schedule for all service lines, the most important technology for conversion is a prompt, helpful, human response and ownership of an inquiry beyond the initial response stage. New school, meet old school.

Here are common break-downs in the pipeline from marketing to customer service and ultimately, real-world ROI:

Inquiries Are Routed to an Inbox That Only One Person can access

Single-person access can happen in small organizations or in large, decentralized organizations where responsibilities for responding vary based on site of care or geography. Ensure that more than one person has access to each inbox create a recurring scheduled reminder to ensure it is checked and responded to multiple times per day. If you can collaborate with a customer service team, work with them to route online inquiries to an electronic queue that agents integrate into their schedules. Remember, consumers expect an informed response to an email or contact form within an hour or two.

The Task of Responding to Inquiries Is Delegated to the Most Junior Person in the Department

No one likes sorting through junk mail, but legitimate inquiries are buried in there. Although delegating this task to a junior member may feel like a good decision for time management purposes, does that person have the customer interfacing skills necessary for success? Pick the response team based on their knowledge of how to navigate your system, their judgement in responding with courtesy, and their awareness of HIPAA-compliant communications.

Inquiries Are Passed Along to Other Departments for Handling, or the Response to the Consumer, Simply Gives Them yet Another Phone Number or Name to Contact.

A prospect is interested and fills out a contact form. You pass the inquiry along to another department or reply to the prospect they should call a specific phone number. Both scenarios decrease the likelihood of conversion. A better approach is to request the customer’s phone number as part of the submission form, respond by email to acknowledge receipt and that a live person will call within a certain time frame. The team designated to respond should be able to view and book appointments immediately or take the ownership of that request offline, work the issue across multiple sites of care, and recontact the prospect with options. This offline handling can be a time-intensive but necessary human layer to bridge legacy systems.

Inquiries Lack Ownership Once the Initial Response has Been Provided

Let’s say a prospect has asked about doctors who fit certain criteria. You provide that information and hear nothing back. You’ve fulfilled the request, but is the task complete? In many settings, this ‘ticket’ would be closed. However, following up with that person a few days letter to confirm receipt of the information, and offering assistance in scheduling can go a long way in making a positive brand impression and lift conversions.

These are a few of the common breakdowns that suppress conversions and ultimately ROI. The best way to assess your situation is to test response mechanisms for each service line, geographic area or operating unit. The results may surprise you.

Marketing AI Is Overhyped, and That’s Good

Today, marketing AI is a know-it-all with a short resume. Just like Big Data and personalization, it is also a catch-all phrase that is becoming harder to define. As a result, it is no surprise that most marketers are rolling their eyes at the topic. Nevertheless, this is also the time to take the topic seriously, unless you plan to retire into seclusion in the next few years.

AI
“artificial-intelligence-2228610_1920,” Creative Common license. | Credit: Flickr by Many Wonderful Artists

Today, marketing AI is a know-it-all with a short resume. Just like Big Data and personalization, it is also a catch-all phrase that is becoming harder to define. As a result, it is no surprise that most marketers are rolling their eyes at the topic. Nevertheless, this is also the time to take the topic seriously, unless you plan to retire into seclusion in the next few years.

New research by marketing automation provider Resulticks shows that 73 percent of marketers are either skeptical, neutral or simply exhausted by the hype around marketing AI. In addition, large numbers of marketers think that vendors using industry buzzwords are full of it. This is not surprising, considering how most vendors are probably over-selling their AI solution. In the same Resulticks study, only 18 percent of marketers claim that AI vendors are delivering the goods as promised and 43 percent felt they were over-promised.

However, for those of us who have lived through (and even reveled in) industry catchphrases, from “marketing analytics” to Big Data to “MarTech,” these statistics indicate that “Marketing AI” is on a strong growth trajectory. This is because the combination of huge industry-level investments and a few success stories is generally a recipe for a new frontier of innovation. Some time ago, I wrote an article on the VC investments being made in data-driven marketing technology and many of the technology solutions were still evolving innovations, like marketing automation. Today, the phrase “Marketing AI is also heading toward becoming broad and meaningless, with heavy investments in the sector. In a few years, underneath that generic umbrella will evolve smart, pragmatic solutions which will become part of the standard tool kit. For example, under the Big Data and MarTech labels, we now have well-adopted solutions, such as CRM, programmatic buying and marketing automation. While there are still bugs and varying degrees of success, there is also a large body of fruitful use-cases which demonstrate how these tools can be very effective.

So, what is a marketer to do in this environment where marketing AI has yet to evolve to a stage where it is a stable and valued marketing tool? The most important step is to set low expectations and begin to dip your feet in the water. Experimenting now is critical, as new skills sets and operating frameworks will be required to fully take advantage of the coming AI-driven innovations, and building those individual and institutional capabilities will take time.

How Marketing Operations Chooses Wisely Between Bright, Shiny Objects

This month we make a right turn on the journey and finally discuss marketing operations and technology. This is the 15th blog in the Revenue Marketing journey series, and we finally get to a discussion on technology. Hopefully that tells you something about how important people, process, data and content are, in that they all preceded this post.

Last month on our Revenue Marketing journey, we discussed how to formulate your 2018 content marketing strategy. This month we make a right turn on the journey and finally discuss marketing operations and technology. This is the 15th blog in the Revenue Marketing journey series, and we finally get to a discussion on technology. Hopefully that tells you something about how important people, process, data and content are, in that they all preceded this post.

Gartner recently released their CMO Spend Survey 2017 to 2018. In 2018 the survey suggests that marketing spending on technology will drop to 22 percent of the total budget. In addition, the technology landscape as plotted by Scott Brinker and team at Chiefmartec.com exceeded 5000 logos in 2017. So great, marketing operations has all this budget to spend on technology and more choices than we can possibly evaluate. What are we to do? Let’s start with the end in mind.

What Outcomes Do You Expect From the Technology?

We deploy technology largely because it fulfills one or more of the following criteria:

  1. To gather, analyze and disseminate information to make better business decisions
  2. To automate some previously labor-intensive processes to gain efficiencies and increase profits
  3. To enable innovation in the products and services we provide to win market share

So, the question becomes, where in 2018 will you get the highest ROI from technology investments? If you are early in your Revenue Marketing journey, you may opt to invest in a customer relationship management (CRM), a content management system (CMS) and a marketing automation platform (MAP) as these tend to be technology hubs at the center of a typical martech stack as shown below:

Revenue Marketing Architecture for Marketing Operations
Revenue Marketing Architecture

As an example, a MAP enables you to gather and analyze behavior data about your prospects and customers so you can make better decisions about how to engage with them to optimize the customer experience. A MAP can also automate responses to prospects when they perform certain actions, thereby reducing the need for human intervention. And a MAP can be configured to move individuals from one campaign to another depending on where they are in their customer journey, adapting the nature of the outreach to match the circumstances of the prospect. An example might be opting new customers into welcome campaigns automatically. So the MAP could meet all three of the criteria listed above for justifying a new technology acquisition.

125 Blog Posts and I’m Done

On April 6, 2012, I wrote my first blog for Target Marketing, and on Aug. 10, 2017, I’m writing my last one; from my math, that’s about 125 posts considering I wrote two a month. These past five years have been a wild ride to say the least, but I’ve learned a lot along the way.

On April 6, 2012, I wrote my first blog for Target Marketing, and on Aug. 10, 2017, I’m writing my last one; from my math, that’s about 125 posts considering I wrote two a month.

After a long-standing career on the agency-side of the business, I’ve been given the opportunity to expand the CRM program for a luxury brand while working on the inside of this prestigious organization, and I couldn’t be more excited! It’s a demanding position that will require 150 percent of my attention, and thus, I’ve decided to hang up my blog.

These past five years have been a wild ride to say the least, but I’ve learned a lot along the way.

  • Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously: My blog was written as a marketer for marketers, so I was able to have a little fun with my perspective — and I had a great editor at Target Marketing supporting my ideas.
  • Topical Issues Are Most Engaging: Two of my most popular posts (if you’re using the number of comments as a metric) were about current marketing news: the addition of LinkedIn endorsements and The Most Interesting Man in the World. Both garnered great feedback and discussion on timely topics.
  • The Haters Gonna Hate: My posts weren’t always controversial, but when I touched on a nerve, boy, did readers let me know — and fast. Sometimes it was a headline that folks found offensive (my favorite one, “Here’s a Recommendation, You Cheap Bastard,” attracted a lovely supportive note from direct marketing guru Drayton Bird, so I felt redeemed). But my Feb. 23, 2017 post on “The KellyAnne Conway School of Customer Service” got some very nasty responses — including ugly emails in my personal inbox. That post taught me that people don’t read an entire post before they jump to conclusions and start name-calling. Luckily I have thick skin!
  • It’s Easy to Be Negative When Using a Fake Name: Many comments to my posts came from anonymous users — marketers who hid behind a user name so it was difficult to know exactly who they were. Personally, I think that’s a cowardly way to engage in a discussion on a topic — especially when you have something unsavory to say — but over the years, I learned who was a consistent supporter and who was looking to put me in my place. So be it.
  • If Blogging Was Easy, Everyone Would Do It: Some weeks I would stare at a blank screen and think “what can I write about that everyone doesn’t already know?” It took a while to find my blogging “voice” but once I did, I wasn’t afraid to share my experiences and interactions with brands — both good and bad — and try to offer ideas on how things could work better or how to steal that idea and make it work for another brand. While there are thousands of nuances in marketing strategies and tactics, I’m always thrilled when I learn about something new, or how someone else found success, so I’ll continue to be a consumer of smart marketing tips.

I hope all my followers will continue to read, engage and share their POV’s on the sites of other Target Marketing bloggers. I’ve always been a fan of this publication and know that, at the end of the day, we all believe in the power of targeted marketing.