Entrepreneur Best Practices: #13 Hire Strategic Partners… Not “Marketing Tools”

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As an entrepreneur you will have a number of people approach you to “help you grow” your company. Far too often these local “experts” are really “marketing tools” who are like the terrible boy friends on the popular show Tool Academy focused on themselves and not aligning to your objectives and are not trying to solve your problems. So how do you know if you are dealing with a strategic partner or a tool? In this post I will share how to discern the “marketing tools” from strategic partners.

I was sitting in my favorite coffee shop reading before my first appointment and off to my left, …the pitch was on. First of all the meeting I was listening to should have occurred in private and not in a public place, this young entrepreneur needs to learn to… police his rounds.

It was painful for me to listen and not walk over to the table and tell this young entrepreneur to quickly dismiss this person posing as a thought leader and strategic partner but who was obviously a marketing tool. Some of the lessons we must learn in the bootstrapping phase build our future leadership muscles, so I hoped this experience would not be a too expensive lesson.

How did I quickly know this guy pitching was a marketing tool and not a key strategic partner? Maybe it’s from personally being taken advantage of by fast talking marketing tools early in my career, or maybe it’s a by product of what my daughter used to call “ sparkly’s” in my hair now. Maybe it’s from knowing what I know as well as what I do not know?

As an entrepreneur cash management should be your top priority. Investments must accelerate the achievement of your objectives and align with your flight plan. They should be tied closely to a measurable goal that is in alignment with one of your key initiatives.

Back to the conversation…the pitch was on. From what I gathered the entrepreneur’s sales were down over 30% and felt his problem was marketing or the lack there of. The person pitching worked for a marketing firm, and from what I could gather the only tool they had any real experience with was print ads and direct mail. Therefore the solution to this entrepreneur’s problem was direct mail and print ads. I have lived this “marketing play “many times over the past 25 years with various actors (vendors) pitching me and the companies I was serving. Sometimes it’s a new website, search engine optimization, PR, social media, media buys, email marketing,  new brochures…and the list goes on.

 

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How do I discern the “marketing tools” from strategic outsource partners?

 

 

Below are the things I look for to quickly dismiss tools

 

 

Tools talk more than they listen

 

Tools talk about their solution as a “cure all” for all my needs

 

Tools can not produce a list of past customer referrals as they often only have one transaction with clients and move on

 

Tools argue with you and keep coming back to their solution as if it were the only way to solve your problem

 

Tools lack an understanding for integrated marketing and dismiss other strategies they do not understand ( but as proposed thought leaders, marketing experts,… they should)

 

Tools cloud the discussion with industry terminology they do not explain (they try to baffle you with BS)

 

 

Tools do not listen to your goals; they are focused on their goal: getting your money

 

Tools do not ask a lot of questions

 

Tools do not share the downside, the risk, or the expected return on investing in their tool(s)

 

Tools take cell phone calls and text messages when they are supposed to be focused on your needs during your meeting

 

Tools avoid ROI discussions, and when you bring it up, they change the subject

 

Tools do not ask about how your buyers buy, nor have an intimate understanding of this process themselves

 

When (if) Tools follow up, they will be connected to getting your money and not in alignment with your goals ( they can’t because they were not listening)

 

 

 

It was pretty easy to make the above list as I sit here listening to the pitch as within 20 minutes this marketing tool violated most of them. I hear the tool discussing; the need to “merge, purge and perform list hygiene” as well as the need for a 12 month commitment for various ads they will test, and how the 12 month commitment will help the entrepreneur with the media buy… What is the problem the entrepreneur has? Shouldn’t you know this prior to pitching your solution?

 

It makes me want to scream: RUN AWAY!

 

 

 

As an entrepreneur your main focus is now on building your business and not working in it.

 

 

 

A proven strategy to grow your business is to align yourself with market leading strategic partners who are thought leaders in their space.

 

 

Too often entrepreneurs try to become experts in areas that are far from their core competency and instead of growing their business they dilute their effectiveness.

 

 

I am a big advocate of strategically aligning yourself with outsourced partners that provide solutions that align with your objectives. I am not an advocate of hiring marketing tools with one tool that fixes everything they feel is broken.

 

 

When you look for a strategic partner with knowledge and skills to compliment your core competencies, you must quickly dismiss the marketing tools as their work will only deplete your cash and not produce your desired ROI.

 

 

How about your organization….

 

 

 

 

Do you want to share any experiences you have had with tools?

 

 

 

 

Has your organization ever hired a tool? How did that work for you?

 

 

 

 

What are some other ways to quickly discern tools from strategic partners who can help you achieve your objectives?

 

 

It’s an Epidemic! …Poorly executed Email Marketing Campaigns

 

Executing a poor Email Marketing campaign can not only black list you as a spammer, but send your targeted customers running to your competitor.

Your actions speak much louder than your message!

When I posted; Is your Email Marketing sending business to your Competitors? I was concerned how this salesperson, at this particular company that provides email marketing lists for business development did a number of things wrong. Not picking on this particular person, but my desire was to illustrate what not to do in email marketing, and then I received this;

 

 

Hi Steve, [my name is Mark! I am already not impressed!]

Are you looking to acquire a fresh-targeted email contact list? [Actually yes, I am]  Would you like to update missing data to your old database? [Yes that sounds good too, bugs me you did not use your own product to find my right name, but I will read on]

Set1[what’s a set?]: List Acquisition:  We assist Companies to acquire business list specific to their target audience with contact name, business name, job title, mailing address, telephone number, fax number, website URL, SIC codes, employee size, revenue size, Industry type and contact person deliverable email address. Companies can choose from the following selects: [again, sounds good, but if you are as good as you say why you got my name wrong?]

· Vertical Market (SIC) 

· Company Size by Employee 

· Company Size by Sales Revenue 

· Fortune 1000 Companies 

· Job Function, Title & Seniority Level 

· Geographic Location

Set 2[ there’s that word again; set, it may be something your developers use, but as a buyer this is not may language]: Appending: We can work with your existing in-house database which includes de-duping and providing only unique records. Following are the services includes in first set of solution. This solution is related to working with your existing in-house database.[ok, but what problem are you solving for me, and again, call me crazy but how can I trust you with my data when you can’t even get my name right? I feel working with you may be risky, I don’t know….]

  • Email appending – Appending missing emails for existing contact [sounds good]
  • Multiple contacts appending – appending multiple contacts irrelevant for list of companies [huh?]
  • Decision makers appending – Appending C-level, V-level and Director level decision makers for existing list of companies
  • Target title appending – Appending [appending? This is not how I talk, I can figure out what it means but you really do not know me do you?] contacts based on your job title specifications
  • Data appending – Appending any missing information other than emails

We would like to offer you free append test [really? Why are we talking price? How did you know I wasn’t ready to buy?]for 25/50 business records/consumer records to just test our quality of services.[ do I need to test your quality, yah, after you got my name wrong I do not feel all that warm and fuzzy]

Please let me know your thoughts. If there is someone else in your organization that I need to speak with please let me know or forward this email.[ oh, so again you don’t know me, you are not sure what I do, my title, and I should send you to someone else to do your job for you? Maybe you should buy a list of executives with their title, email, NAME,…oh that’s right that’s what you do?]

Regards,

[Name removed]

Business Development [how’s that working for you?]

800-708-xxxx [good, you gave me your phone number, what about email? I guess if I am interested I could hit reply…but if you used one of those mass email services so I can’t black list you, you will never receive it…]

 

[Shame on you! You work in the space of email marketing and no opt out? Your company must not do much business,… I think I’ll pass]

 

 

How about your company, are you sending email marketing out like the above? You sure?

 

What could this guy have done better? ( I need experts in the space of email marketing to chime in, I know this feels wrong, but I am no expert, I am just a buyer, who has unresolved problems and I look forward to giving money to those that solve them.

 

Are you blindly sending out emails to your targeted accounts…hoping they will stick like the guy above?

 

Can your targeted key new business accounts hear your message over your actions?

Is your Email Marketing sending business to your Competitors?

 

If you feel a poorly executed email marketing campaign is better than no email marketing at all; you are wrong!

Email marketing if properly executed helps buyers buy and can reinforce your message with prospective buyers for future purchases. If poorly executed you will also make an impression, a negative one that will not only last, but spread.

I can tell when the end of the month is approaching by the amount of email spam I receive. Below is an email I received today that illustrates a number of mistakes you must avoid in email marketing.

Dear Customer,

We are dominant player in the Business List Industry with over 40 Million B2B contacts and 200 Million B2C contacts. We have all varieties of business records that come with complete contact details including working business email addresses.

We can assist you in reaching out to your target audience in multiple ways. We can provide you with updated information such as contact name, email address, phone number, fax number, mailing address, job title, etc…

Job Title Scope: Reach top-level executives like CEOs, CFOs, CTOs, COOs, CIOs, Presidents, Chairman’s, GMs, Mid level Managers, Sales and Marketing Managers, HR, Managers, Finance Managers. 

Our products and services are:
Email Appending, Email List Acquisition, Email Blast, Email Lead Generation, Data Appending etc.

If the in-house database that you has information that has gone bad or is incomplete, we can update it with the above mentioned fields. Let us know the criteria for your target audience and a sample file will be mailed. Can you give me some specifics regarding your target audience? 

Example: In business, are you interested in only a certain type of business?  Are the gross revenues of the company important? Do you prefer to target companies with a particular employee size? Do you need the contact name and title of someone at the business you wish to target?  If consumers, do you want to target people with a certain income level, occupation, children at home, etc.

If you would prefer to advise me of your requirements via email, my email address is XXXXXX

Please let me know of a convenient time for a quick call, looking to talking to you soon.

Regards,

[I removed the name]

Business Development Manager

We respect your privacy. If you want to stop receiving emails from us, please send a reply with the email subject line as “Leave out”.

 

My thoughts;

· First, I am not your “customer”, I do not know you and to use a generic “Dear Customer” quite frankly is insulting. What it means is you have no clue who I am and you have already lost me. You do not know me, care about me or my needs.

· Next, as I read through your message you provide, sell; email contact information, and you go on to say you have a core competency in reaching top executives…Really? If your product is so good, why didn’t you use it when trying to engage with me?

· “Email Appending, Email List Acquisition, Email Blast, Email Lead Generation, Data Appending etc.” …OK you have explained “what” you do, but what problem do you solve for me? Oh I get it; I am supposed to figure that out on my own…

· “Are you interested in only a certain type of business? “ OK, yes, I am interested in certain types of businesses, again if you have a competency in this area why didn’t you demonstrate your knowledge in my type of business?

· “Are the gross revenues of the company important?” Are you kidding me? Now you are insulting me again. I also reflect; what if I asked the CEO of one of the companies I would like to help this question, it would be a disqualifier.

· You did provide your email that I X’d out in case the CEO of your company is reading this post, but you failed to provide your phone number?

· Good job you did do one thing right that I will use; “We respect your privacy. If you want to stop receiving emails from us, please send a reply with the email subject line as “Leave out”.´

· And to add insult to injury when I try to close this message I am prompted that you want to know if I read this? NO! Shame on you!

After receiving this message I will never buy from this company, never! Not only will I not buy, I am so shocked by this poorly executed message I will tell a number of those in my network this story and I am sure they too will not want to partner with you.

If you are using email marketing, learn from the mistakes in the above and;

· If you do not know a contact name, title, do not send

· “eat your own dog food”, in this example, if you sell contact names for email marketing you had best demonstrate a competency in the space you play

· Give me an opportunity to opt out

· Know something about your customer, their industry, and more importantly know your market and it’s most pervasive problems.

· Once you know those problems, share how your product or service solves them

· Don’t ask questions that insult my intelligence

· Provide your phone number, what if I did want to call you?

 

How about your company?

Are you participating in email marketing? If so share best practices.

Would you buy from this vendor?

The Expression of Joy Ad campaign by BMW; May be an Expression of Big Money Wasted

 

Companies spend millions and often billions to advertise their products in their marketplace however the effort to be creative often results in a dilution of their message. When your message lacks clarity, it requires an interpreter…and the variability of the individual interpreters’ ability (your salespeople) to articulate your value is not something market leading companies leave to chance today.

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When its 114 degrees in Scottsdale Arizona there is not much to do on weekends unless you head for the higher elevations to escape the heat. As I said when I wrote: Are interruptions “transforming “your customers into shoppers again? I like to go to movies. Now that we are into the hottest part of our summer I am seeing a number of movies.

Is it me or are the ads prior to the movies getting longer? Do they really need to advertise TV series in movie theaters? Recently, I observed something interesting, the “Expression of Joy ad” by BMW. The ad starts out with a Z4 driving through paint and painting the surface like it were a huge canvas, with just one problem…when the ad came on the audience in the theater verbally groaned. So I’m not the only one who has seen this ad and hates it? Is it the music or is it because the ad feels like “the never ending ad?”

Personally I think BMW’s make amazing vehicles, and I get what they were trying to do with this ad; however the audience I shared the theater with not only failed to appreciate this ad’s artistic expression, but verbally groaned when the ad started.

I hear comments in front of me sharing their disdain for this ad. Now mind you, there were a number of other ads from an air conditioned indoor storage facility to a counter top manufacturer who supplies four different surfaces based on your needs, budget, and overall design objectives. None of the other ads caused a group audience response like the BMW ad, again…interesting.

Did BMW test this ad prior to its release? I am curious what the total cost of this ad was and is it driving the desired sales revenues, or just another Addy award for the creative team that developed and produced this masterpiece?

To me this ad says: our cars have so much margin in them we can afford to produce ads like this… 

The reason for this post is not to bash BMW, as I said they engineer amazing driving machines, their fit and finish is best in class, but more so to challenge everyone reading this to listen to the responses your market is making to your advertising. Are you listening? Is your advertising about driving revenue, adding value to your bottom line, or helping your ad firm win another award to dust on a shelf before their next new account pitch? As I discussed in my post: 88% of Those Surveyed Said Advertising Services Have Become Commoditized? Ad Firms Heal Thy Self! I discuss how ad firms must fight the perception their services have become commoditized. Perhaps the firm that created the BMW Z4 ad swung the pendulum too far in the creative direction? At the end of the day, my single opinion does not mean much, but an audience of consumers in north Scottsdale Arizona, groaning when your ad comes on should get BMW’s attention.

Are you listening to the response or lack of response to your advertising?

Have you tested your soon to be released creative in your market?

When you developed the creative, did you do so with a specific buyer persona in mind?

Or do you think I am just a ROI Neanderthal who lacks an appreciation for artistic expression?

 

Market leading companies create messages that resonate not repulse their market.

Are you creating a symphony for your market?…or just noise?

 

To create a symphony you need multiple instruments playing at strategic times to create something the audience enjoys. It require planning, practice, and integration. Each note played either adds to the total experience or takes away from it.

Marketing is lsymike creating a symphony in that you use instruments like the web, direct, blogs, PR, creative, social media,copy, media, and so on at just the right time , based on the needs of the market and its buying process. The only way you can insure what is pleasurable and more importantly useful to your audience is to thoroughly understand the markets needs and wants while understanding what each instrument does. You do not make those decisions in a board room or a weekly staff meeting. Your team does not make them by guessing, assuming, or relying on: “when I was in the market we …” You make them in the market speaking with customers and noncustomers alike. You gather data through open ended questions and your personal observations.

Buyers have patterns, processes,personas, and accompanying emotions connected to pain points. People buy with emotion then validate their decision with facts. One big emotion is trust;” can I trust you will do what you said you will do? That your product or service will solve my unresolved problem like you said it will?” Your integrated marketing therefore needs to build trust.

 

So what are the rules for integrated marketing that sounds like a symphony and not just noise?

 

1. Know your market and its problems

2. Know your buyers buying process and buyer personas

3. Identify where your buyers go to solve their problems

4. Create content that explains how your product or service solves your buyers problems

5. When they find you, “serve” them don’t “sell” them

6. Build trust

7. Be authentic, transparent

8. People buy from people

9. Attach the value of solving their problem

10. Speak with a unique voice for each of your buyer personas

11. Create learning’s -Measure and track everything you do

12. Feed the market in spoonfuls and not a fire hose

 

Are your buyers hearing beautiful music when they view your integrated marketing campaigns? Or are they inundated with noise? I don’t know about you, but when I hear a noise that annoys me I tune it out, I switch the channel until I find music that resonates with me.

Are your marketing instruments creating noise and your buyers and those who could be buyers are tuning you out? Chances are you are not connecting to the market problems and you are using instruments that may have worked fine 15 years ago but need fine tuning.

What are some other ways that marketing becomes noise, and worst an annoyance to the market?

What are some recent examples of marketing noise?