Category Archives for "Strategic Planning"

Six Ways To Improve Your Work-From-Home Videos

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Working from home has become much more acceptable in the age of digital communication, and has become a necessity for many as we are in a period of social distancing. But if you are somebody whose job typically involves putting in face time with clients, customers, or employees, working from home can feel extremely restrictive. Creating videos can be a great way to provide important messaging and strategy updates while still offering the familiar face-to-face feel youare used to. 

Here are a few tips to ensure your videos will communicate your message clearly and effectively with a level of quality that will inspire confidence during these uncertain times.

1. Framing

Framing is a vital aspect of making any video. Fortunately, whether using your cellphone or a DSLR camera, most recording devices today already have a grid feature to help you get started.

Video Blog Framing 1

First, if you plan on recording with a mobile device, you'll need to decide if you want to shoot in portrait or landscape mode. Portrait mode is great for videos that will be watched exclusively on mobile devices, but landscape is ideal for TV and desktop monitors. DSLR cameras work a little differently since the default mode is landscape for shooting video. Consider which platform your audience is most likely to use, and then be consistent in each subsequent video you produce from home.

Next, you will want to think about your background. It should be distraction-free and not overly busy, so your audience stays focused on you and your message. A simple, unadorned wall, empty room, or a bookshelf behind you will do the trick!

Finally, make sure you are  centered on the screen, which is where the grid feature comes in handy. Activating the grid setting on your recording device divides your screen into six boxes. All you need to do is position yourself in the centre grid. If your camera doesn't have this feature, try to position yourself in the centre of the frame with the camera at or slightly below eye-level, and align your eyes one-third of the way down from the top of the frame.

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Make sure you don't have too much (left) or too little (middle) headroom when framing your video. The image on the right has the perfect amount of headroom.

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The Rule of Thirds can help you frame your video if your camera offers a grid setting.

2. Stability

Shaky handheld videos are the biggest giveaway of an amateur production. Whether filming with a mobile phone, tablet, webcam, or DSLR camera, try to ensure that your camera is steady.

To steady your camera, you can invest in a small tripod designed for your recording device. These are inexpensive, but if you are pressed for time - you can also place your device on a solid location such as a table, countertop, or windowsill. When using a phone to record, you can even use a piece of furniture, or lean it against a coffee mug if need be. Just about anything is better than having a shaky video when trying to make a good impression.

To help with consistency for future videos you might film, a good tip is to mark the spot where you placed your recording device or tripod.

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Video Blog Stability 2

3. Lighting

Lighting is everything! Your lighting can make or break your video, which is why you need to be conscious of your background and lighting conditions before you begin filming.

Placing your camera in front of a window is a great way to leverage the beautiful, natural, and 100% free light source we all have available called the sun. If you don’t have access to natural light in your home or in the room where you are filming, placing a table lamp or reading lamp behind your camera can also do the trick.

In a pinch, you can also use your computer monitor as a light source by simply opening a blank white page and turning your brightness up. While you don't want your background to be too dark, make sure that the brightest source of light in the room is in front of you, so you don’t get lost in a blinding glow.

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Don't get lost in a blinding glow! Avoid having your background too bright.

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The brightest source of light in the room should always be in front of you.

4. Audio

Having good audio is just as important as capturing good video. If you are going the extra mile and recording using an external microphone - always test your sound before you record! The last thing you want is to have recorded an entire video you love, only to find out your audio wasn’t working or was too low.

Before you start recording, you need to be conscious of any background noise that may obscure your spoken sound, such as whining fans, humming refrigerators, pets, nearby traffic, construction, etc. Take whatever steps you can to remove or reduce these sources of ambient noise.

Try to position your recording device or microphone no more than 3-4 feet away, and be sure to speak loudly and clearly, projecting your voice towards your recording device. By following these steps, you’ll be sure to sound just as good as you look!

5. Post-Production & Filters

While it can be tempting to use your camera’s built-in or app-based filters to soften up your features or add some creativity to your video, it's easy to go overboard. Remember, the goal is to make this look professional, so the best approach is to avoid filters, keeping the bells and whistles to a minimum, and focusing more on crafting a concise and effective message. 

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Avoid filters if you are going for a professional look.

That said, a simple “auto adjustment” filter within your phone’s photo setting is probably adequate to balance out the colours and brightness. If you’re using a DSLR camera, you can set your focus, ISO, and white balance to “auto,” which should provide the same effect. If you are comfortable using iMovie or other external editing software, adding a lower-third title or additional text to emphasize specific points in the video can be a nice touch.

Also, consider adding subtitles to your video. These are a great idea if you are worried about your audio, and especially beneficial if you are planning to post your video on social media sites where viewers tend to scroll past if they can’t understand the message without sound. Adding subtitles can sometimes be a time-consuming task, but there are a few convenient online tools such as Rev.com, Camtasia, Filmora, and others that can do a good chunk of the work for you!

6. Makeup

Spending even a few minutes in front of a camera causes major stress for most people and may cause you to sweat. That, coupled with naturally occurring skin oils and possibly a light source (such as a lamp) pointing at you, will make your face appear shiny on camera. This makes things uncomfortable for the person making the video and can be distracting for those watching it.

The best way to control this is by using makeup - particularly, translucent powder. Translucent powder is a colorless, sheer facial powder that is usually used to set makeup. However, even if you do not wear makeup, applying a bit of translucent powder on your face can go a long way in helping you control shine, reduce glare and give your complexion a matte finish. Aparichi TV and Pull My Focus have uploaded some very helpful tutorials of how you can incorporate makeup in your video-making process.

Conclusion

Videos are playing an increasingly important role in helping us weather the storms of social distancing and stay-at-home work in our business lives. Hopefully, these tips will help you hone your DIY video production skills and provide more professional, engaging, and persuasive results . For more tips and recommendations, like and follow Think2Grow on any of our social media platforms. 

Please share any ideas or thoughts you may have on this topic and contact us if we can assist in any way. To get notified when new articles are published, please hit the button! Until then, stay safe and happy video making!

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Travis Pulchinski, Creative Director, Think2Grow Marketing
A lifelong love of film and video has drawn Travis towards the production of digital multimedia, where he can engage with both the practical and theoretical aspects that contribute to the creation of unique and engaging audiovisual content.

Market Segmentation: A Critical Ingredient of B2B Marketing

Market Segmentation
Market Segmentation

When it comes to factors that accelerate growth in a B2B business, one of the most powerful is having well-defined market segmentation.

Big consumer brands have known this for decades and have the process down to a science. They know their target audiences inside and out, and how to position their products for optimal success in any given market. By combining precise geographic, demographic, behavioral, and psychographic data, they understand who will buy their products, where, how, and why. With some focus and energy, you can too!

Many B2B companies don’t pay enough attention to this critical aspect of marketing. Some rely on intuition or "gut feel," which leads to missed opportunities and inefficiency.

Everything in sales and marketing revolves around increasing the probability of closing more deals in less time. Accurate segmentation has a dramatic impact because the more relevant you are to prospects – the better your chances of engaging with them.

What is Market Segmentation?

Investopia defines market segmentation as “the aggregating of prospective buyers into groups (segments) that have common needs and will respond similarly to a marketing action. Market segmentation enables companies to target different categories of prospects who perceive the value of your products and services differently from one another.

Generally, three criteria can be used to identify different market segments: 1) Homogeneity – common needs within a segment; 2) Distinction – unique from other groups; and 3) Reaction – similar responses to your marketing.”

It’s all about clearly defining your target audiences and then communicating in ways that will persuade them to consider your products or services.

Why is Market Segmentation Critical?

You may have heard the adage that people like to buy, but they hate being sold to. This is slightly paraphrased, but the idea is one we can all relate to. We become bitterly annoyed with marketing when what’s being pushed is not relevant.

Market segmentation is crucial because it helps make sure the people you contact can actually benefit from what you’re selling. Put another way – market segmentation ensures you are talking to the right people about the right things.

The Basic Building Blocks

When doing the research to build your segmentation strategy, the following essential ingredients should be included in your framework. Answering as many of these questions as possible will get you off to a great start.

  • The “Sandbox”
    What markets do you want to serve geographically? This can be local only, specific cities, provinces/states, regions, or countries. You need to make sure that if you plan to expand rapidly, you can provide the levels of sales coverage, delivery, and support required.
  • Addressable Market
    Often one of the toughest questions to answer is, "what is your overall market size by segment?" Fortunately, online government data and other industry research (free or paid) are often available online. Ultimately, you want to know if there is enough potential business accessible to support your sales goals.
  • Account Characteristics
    What industries are they in, and what clients do they serve? What type of organization aligns best with your offering – SMB, Enterprise, Government, Not-For-Profit?  What do these companies look like in terms of annual revenues, employee counts, etc.? How do they operate? 
  • Market Adjacencies
    Are there sub-segments within your target markets? How do you define them? Are there closely related industries in their ecosystems worth pursuing? Are there partners you work with that have access to customers you want to pursue?
  • Buyer Profiles
    Who are the buyers and influencers in the companies you are trying to sell to? What are their roles and titles? What problems could you solve for them? Where do they connect with peers? Where do they get sources of information related to your offerings? More sophisticated marketers will build “personas” as a way of describing the people in target audiences. Always remember - you may be trying to break into new accounts, but you are still selling to human beings!
  • Buying Behaviours
    What processes do they typically use to buy – formal procurement, informal? When do they buy – is it seasonal, based on specific events, or random? This will not be the same for every company you approach, but often there are discernable patterns in specific industries. Government procurement is an excellent example because it's typically rigid and based on a Request-for-Proposal (RFP) purchasing process.

Precise marketing segmentation helps build the foundation needed to develop your market positioning, messaging, and most everything else that follows. It’s also important to think about market segmentation in the context of your product capabilities and the competitive landscape.

Conclusion

Virtually everything in B2B marketing revolves around precisely defining your target audience and their sub-segments. Taking a shotgun approach to the market simply won’t work in the long-run. Investing in market segmentation upfront is guaranteed to improve results, save time, and reduce costs! Like most things, how you define your target market will evolve over time. It's a good idea to review and refresh your segmentation definitions during your strategic marketing planning cycles.

Please share any ideas or thoughts you may have on this topic and contact us if we can assist in any way. To get notified when new articles are published, please hit the button!

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Randy Fougere, President, Think2Grow Marketing
With a passion for building brand awareness and lead generation, I started Think2Grow for B2B clients looking to accelerate growth through better marketing strategy and execution - something I have been doing for more than 30 years now.

A Strategic Marketing Plan Needs 6 Essential Inputs

Strategic Marketing Plan
Strategic Marketing Plan

Creating a marketing plan is not easy. But, building an effective strategic marketing plan is even harder. It’s common for many marketers to think of their quarterly or yearly plan as a mere collection of activities, most of which carry over from previous periods. Many fail to consider the important context needed and only focus on tactics - this is not a strategic approach and seldom leads to great results.

In a recent post called "Marketing Plans – 5 Steps to Better Planning and Execution," we suggested a strategic planning framework to help organize your thoughts. Here we will focus on mapping out some key essential inputs to use when developing a strategic marketing plan. Ideally, this background information forms the underlying guideposts that shape your strategy and directly link to selecting an optimal mix of activities and messaging.

What are Essential Inputs?

At a high level, the essential inputs are a collection of your historical marketing results, what you do, what makes you different, your market segmentation, the competition, and how you are positioned in the marketplace. Regardless of industry, these inputs are quite universal and will be broken down in more detail below. This is not an all-inclusive list, but covers the most important elements.

If you have been in business a while, you likely have most of the essential inputs figured out. However, it’s surprising how many companies don’t have them documented, readily available, and current. If creating a marketing plan for the first time, you really can’t begin without them. It’s a good idea to create a “Marketing Playbook” document, so the information is all in one place. Also, be sure to review and validate them before starting any plan in the future.

#1 Historical Results

  • This first essential input is actually more of a process, and a critical one that is often ignored. Take time to analyze your previous marketing results and metrics to understand what they mean and how you can improve.
  • The help point out gaps in your marketing program, weak messaging, or ineffective call-to-actions. The data may suggest you stop doing things that aren’t working and start doing more of the activities that are having an impact.
  • Having a good handle on where you have been, should also help you think more creatively about marketing ideas you haven't tried that might work well.

#2 Product Definitions

  • To build a strategic marketing plan, you should start with a fresh look at what you sell, which of course is why you’re in business in the first place. Revisit the products and services you want to focus on – are they clearly defined? Have they changed, or improved since your last plan?
  • Make sure the product documents, collateral, and digital content you will use in your campaigns and selling efforts are up-to-date and clearly articulated.
  • Ensure that anything describing your offering promotes positive outcomes and value – not just features. Keep it customer-focused.

#3 Value Proposition

  • ​If you don’t have a formal Value Proposition or Unique Selling Proposition (USP) for your company, create one! If you have one already, pull it out and make sure it’s still relevant.
  • A Value Proposition is basically a definition of what your company does, for whom, and how it’s different - preferably better than alternatives available in your respective markets.
  • Your Value Proposition should always be on your mind when building the key themes and messaging you will use to communicate with your prospects and customers.

#4 Market Segmentation

  • One of the most crucial and fundamental elements of any strategic marketing plan is having a clear understanding of your market as a whole and the well-defined sub-segments within it.
  • Segmentation will vary depending on your industry but for most B2B companies, it makes sense to group target accounts by attributes such as industry, geographic location, company size, key buyers, the buying process, and the problems you help them solve. See our article "Market Segmentation: Starting Point of Effective B2B Marketing."
  • With B2C and Direct-to-Consumer marketing, segmentation is more personal and typically based on geographic, demographic (i.e. age, gender, occupation) psychographic (i.e lifestyle, values, personality) and behavioral factors.
  • When you tightly define your segments, the messages you create will be more relevant, which greatly increases your chances of getting noticed and generating leads.

#5 Competitive Landscape

  • Besides macro factors such as the economy, regulatory constraints, or market saturation, the strongest external force working against you is the competition.
  • You need to know who they are at all times within your segments. You also need to understand their strengths, weaknesses, and how to position against them to win.
  • Make a point of regularly conducting win-loss analyses to learn how you can compete more effectively.

#6 Themes and Messaging

  • With the information gathered and analyzed during the first four inputs, you are now ready to build the distinct themes and messages for the segments you want to pursue.
  • Take time to be creative and get outside help if you need it. Your messaging needs to break through the clutter and be compelling enough to create interest and opportunities.
  • If your company has core values that form important points of your differentiation, be sure to weave those in as well.
  • Use your messaging clearly and consistently throughout your marketing communications.

A Strategic Marketing Plan is Worth the Effort!

If you think this exercise is a lot of work – you are absolutely right. But building a strategic marketing plan and executing it takes, time and energy and comes at a price. When you do your “homework” upfront and have a strong foundation to draw upon, you significantly improve your probability of success!

Please share any ideas or thoughts you may have on this topic and contact us if we can assist in any way. To get notified when new articles are published, please hit the button!

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Randy Fougere, President, Think2Grow Marketing
With a passion for building brand awareness and lead generation, I started Think2Grow for B2B clients looking to accelerate growth through better marketing strategy and execution - something I have been doing for more than 30 years now.

Marketing Plans – 5 Steps to Better Planning and Execution

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Marketing Plans

In the famous words of Benjamin Franklin, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Most people understand that proper planning is a crucial ingredient of success, but creating and executing successful marketing plans is a real challenge for most companies. This principle also impacts sales, human resources, operations, and all other major business functions. Although few would argue against the merits of preparation, many companies don't step back and carve out the time needed to do it properly.

Numerous studies show a massive disconnect between their strategic marketing and business plans and the intended results. The statistics range from a dismal 3% to a paltry 33% success rate. Although there are many other specific factors, the following are key reasons why things usually go wrong from the planning perspective:

  • Lack of planning experience or a solid planning process.
  • Not enough research and data used in the decision-making.
  • Not enough detail put into the plan.
  • Unrealistic goals relative to the available resources.
  • Lack of buy-in from those who will execute the plan.
  • A weak or non-existent governance process.

5-Step Marketing Management Framework

To help make your planning more structured and effective – you might benefit from the following framework. The basic premise is that you start at the most strategic level of thinking. Then you continually break things down into more tactical activities. Everything should align closely with your key inputs and business goals. 

Marketing Plans

Building better marketing plans requires some Essential Inputs that form the foundation when selecting your activities and mapping out how you will achieve them. If you don't have these inputs or haven't revisited them lately, some homework should be done first.

Arguably, this is a one-time event, but things often change over a year and sometimes during a quarter. At the very least, it’s wise to re-validate your data and assumptions before the real planning begins

Basic Guidelines for Marketing Plans

#1 Business Goals

These are the goals you are planning to reach during an upcoming period. Marketing examples could include things like the number of leads created, website and social media engagement targets, or brand building metrics. There can also be important large-scale strategic goals, such as deploying a marketing automation tool or hiring for several key roles during a quarter.

During this phase, you also need to estimate the time, cost, and energy it will take to achieve your plan. Make sure the budget and resources are abundant enough to get the work done. Being unrealistic about your goals is a recipe for failure.


#2 Focus Areas

This step defines the major Focus Areas that need attention during the execution period. What are the most important “big buckets” of your plan, and how do they align with your Business Goals? If you look at the examples in the framework, you would be right in assuming that these stay relatively consistent. However, there will be varying degrees of effort put into these Focus Areas at any given time since you can’t do everything at once. Usually, there are 4-6 of these in total.


#3 Major Initiatives

Major Initiatives feed into and support your Focus Areas. For example, if you need to create more brand awareness this year, your Major Initiatives may include things such as SEO and content marketing, social media, digital advertising, public relations, or events.

These can also be more programmatic. Let’s say client retention is an issue for your company and a Focus Area this quarter. In this example, Major Initiatives might include creating programs to improve communications with your customers, such as a newsletter, or a rewards program to help increase loyalty.


#4 Project Plans

Specific project planning is the area where many fall short. There is often a good high-level plan with the right mix of Major Initiatives, but a lack of detailed thinking at the activity and resource levels. By not working through this concisely, it’s easy to underestimate the work needed to execute effectively and on schedule.

When you hear “it took longer than we thought,” – it typically means a lack of detail in the planning phase. Whether it’s MS-Excel, MS-Project, or an online tool such as Teamwork (a personal favorite), the marketing team needs to map out the many moving parts of each Major Initiative to clearly understand who will do what, and when. Contingencies also need to be considered since priorities can change over time.


#5 Execution

To keep your Project Plans on track and running smoothly, you need a good project management process and strong governance. As mentioned earlier, you should employ a tracking tool to measure progress.

You also need regularly scheduled checkpoint meetings. Weekly usually works best while executing a quarterly plan, plus a monthly touchpoint and a longer 1 to 2-day yearly session. I can hear the groaning, but investing in this process is where the rubber meets the road. A steady cadence helps you identify and resolve issues before they side-swipe your projects and allows for mid-stream adjustments.

The final and critical aspect of execution involves measuring results and outcomes, analyzing the data, and making improvements for the upcoming period. This step may also lead you to "stop, do more, or try something different" decisions.

Conclusion

When you use a disciplined approach to create and execute achievable marketing plans that align with your goals, you will get better results! Putting in the time and effort upfront reduces frustration and provides better clarity, resource management, predictability, and desired outcomes. 

Please share any ideas or thoughts you may have on this topic and contact us if we can assist in any way. To get notified when new articles are published, please hit the button!

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Randy Fougere, President, Think2Grow Marketing
With a passion for building brand awareness and lead generation, I started Think2Grow for B2B clients looking to accelerate growth through better marketing strategy and execution - something I have been doing for more than 30 years now.

Time Management: 8 Proven Tips to Help Take Control of the Clock!

Time Management
Time Management

Does time management seem to be a constant battle? Do you oscillate between feeling organized one day, but in a state of total disarray the next? If you are like many – including yours truly – I suspect most of the time, the answer to both questions is “yes.”

I found the quest for effective time management even more daunting after starting my own business. I was suddenly managing every aspect of a company while trying to build sales and deliver at the same time. For the first few years, life was a chaotic juggling act until I ironed out some process and started bringing people on board.

Time Management Reality

For years, I searched for the perfect solution to plan and manage my time better and was always on the hunt for new ways to improve productivity. I’ve read dozens of books by leading experts, and they all offered great advice that seems simple and obvious. But knowing something and doing it are two different things. Just look at how many gym memberships gather dust a month or two after New Year's day!

The simple conclusion I’ve reached is that there is no “silver bullet” when it comes to time management.  It takes different thinking, behaviors, and tools, all working together to achieve and sustain results. What works for me is a melting pot of smart ideas from others and lots of experimenting. Although it's always a work-in-progress, the tips below have significantly helped me improve.

#1 - Find or Create a Process

Develop a planning process or framework that helps structure the way you think and work. This could be simple daily to-do lists, or something more advanced. The goal is finding a method that helps you organize your short and long-term activities most efficiently. There are hundreds of time management systems readily available on the web, but it might help to think about what has worked well for you in the past. Trying to conform to a system that makes you grit your teeth every time you use it just won’t work. 

#2 - Use a Tool to Manage the Process

Once you have a process that “feels” right, you need a management tool for the day-to-day execution. Whether it’s sticky notes on a wall, calendars, MS Project, or an online offering like Teamwork (my personal choice), find a tool that works best for you in prioritizing, scheduling, and managing your activities. Having visuals, everything in one place, and automated reminders are important features to consider.

#3 - Prioritize and Break Down Activities

An essential building block of any time management system is identifying the critical activities that: 1) need to be done first, and 2) are most relevant and impactful. I still like Stephen Covey's “First Things First” way of thinking about this. Another resource that may help is my simple 5-Step Planning Model.

#4 - Be Realistic About Time

Learn from your past and get precise about how long your activities take to complete. The more accurate you are, the better the process becomes. Don’t forget to include time allocations for personal time, family, learning, travel, exercise, and other activities that will impact your work schedule. These are essential parts of life, and they don't simply go away because you have a lot going on at the office.

#5 - Expect the Unexpected

When planning my day, I like to include a 30% “buffer” for the unexpected. This unscheduled time is useful for new tasks that take longer than anticipated. It also accounts for interruptions that happen during an average day (urgent emails or calls that need a response, for example.) Let’s face it; the world doesn’t operate around your calendar. Cutting your planning too thin each day will end up being discouraging since you will seldom achieve your daily goals.

#6 - Offload, Delegate, and Outsource

After breaking down your activities in Tip #3 – look at all the “non-core” activities that are repetitive. Determine what parts of these tasks can be done by someone else – either on your team or within your organization. If you don’t have the staff, assess what tasks can realistically and cost-effectively be outsourced and do it! When analyzing your workload, always ask the question, “who can do this instead of me?”

#7 – Be Disciplined and Persistent

Whatever methods and tools you end up using, you need to focus on time management every day. It must become an automatic behavior at some point. As soon as you let it go, even for a short period, you will quickly become disorganized again. When overwhelmed, try to keep doing something - even if it’s a lower priority. Once you have some momentum back, it’s easier to shift into high gear again. The alternative is to sit immobilized in front of your monitor, helplessly wasting time. 

Another aspect of staying disciplined is keeping a positive outlook. To help with this, focus on your accomplishments. “I didn’t get everything done today” is better framed as “I tackled the three most important things I needed to get done today.” This subtle change in thinking helps you feel good about your progress. If you find yourself constantly falling short of your daily goals, you should revisit some of the previous six tips.

#8 – Continually Learn and Improve

Getting better at time management has been a long journey for me, and it continues to be a learning process. I believe it’s one of the most important and actionable ways to improve your life. It's also one of those things that few people ever perfect, so it's best to keep learning new ways to improve. Read, research, and ask successful friends what works for them.

Conclusion

I am certainly not a time management expert, but I hope some of these ideas can help you regain more control over your clock. Although the tips above need to be continually worked at, I find they help me produce more, in less time, and with less stress. If you have best-practices that help keep you organized and productive, please share. To get notified when new articles are published, please hit the button!

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Randy Fougere, President, Think2Grow Marketing
With a passion for building brand awareness and lead generation, I started Think2Grow for B2B clients looking to accelerate growth through better marketing strategy and execution - something I have been doing for more than 30 years now.

Marketing Plan Detail – Knowing How Much is Enough

Marketing Plan Detail
Marketing Plan Detail

When it comes to marketing plan detail, it makes sense to document tasks and milestones to manage your initiatives effectively. But, knowing how much detail is enough can be a tough question to answer.

Also, it’s not specific to marketing as it applies to any complex plan. Finding the right balance can make the difference between completing your work on time, the way you want to – or not!

Too little detail will lead to critical steps being left out, and this often results in bad execution, quality issues, do-overs and delays. Are you a master of logic with an incredible memory? If not, you can’t possibly keep track of every step of the process. As the adage goes “fail to plan, plan to fail.” On the flip side, when the plan is so granular that you get bogged down in the minutia, your time will spiral out of control, and things become overwhelming.

Whether the level of marketing plan detail is too vast or too vague, the outcome is usually the same. A cycle develops of repeatedly pushing out due dates. The management of your plan becomes a frustrating exercise that can undermine the confidence of you, your team, and your manager.

Find Your Marketing Plan Detail Balance

Given the importance of finding the right balance of marketing plan detail, it seems worth an investment of time and thought up front. Here are some ideas that may help:

Learning from the Past:
Analyze similar projects and campaigns you have run in the past. In marketing, we tend to do many of the same things quarter after quarter. Think about the key steps and the level of detail you outlined previously. Was it too much, or not enough? Learn from this and use what you uncover moving forward. You can save time if you have already created project plans in the past. The goal here is balance. You want to execute your plan well, with the least amount of detail needed.

Think Milestones:
Think about the “big buckets” in your plan and use them as starting points. You can always break things down into finer bits if you need to. Let’s use the example of creating a new piece of content. There is likely a milestone for “final approval” near the end. If there is only one sign-off, a task called “gain final approval” is just fine. However, if there are multiple stakeholders – you may want a separate task for each person involved. By starting at the top and then breaking the detail down, you will be aware of the key things that must get done.

Define the Line:
It’s helpful to identify what types of tasks need more detail. Everyone on the team should understand what a task “is” and “is not.” You can use a time-based characteristic such as “tasks take longer than 30 minutes to complete.” Not a hard rule, but usually activities taking 15 or 20 minutes don’t require a lot of thought.

You might have a criterion to ignore logically implied tasks. For example, “share the results of our latest campaign” doesn’t require sub-tasks such as “open PowerPoint, create a slide deck, post it to our Intranet, and send a link to everyone.” Most of these steps are intuitive.

Whether it’s time, the number of sub-tasks, or logical implication, think about your past experiences and try to come up with definitions that make sense.

Adapt and Adjust:
Finding the right balance of detail is tough, especially when managing a team because everyone thinks differently about the planning process. You need to account for personal differences. I would err on the side of too much detail rather than too little. You can always condense later, and you don’t get a second chance to remember something important after the fact. As long as your level of detail works well for you, stick with it. If not, refine along the way. Planning is an iterative process that takes time, so be patient.

Why it Matters

By using these guidelines when thinking about marketing plan detail, you should improve execution and reduce some anxiety. If you don’t, chances are you will spend more time later revising your project lists and eventually running out of time.

In a role where one of your primary functions is planning and executing, your reputation depends on your ability to deliver. Having the right mix of marketing plan detail can help you achieve your goals with greater ease and consistency.

Align Marketing Goals with Your Business Strategy

ALign Marketing Goals
ALign Marketing Goals

This is the third article in a series that outlines a proven and detailed process to help create and execute better business plans.

Here we’ll focus specifically on marketing. The first section provided an overview of the model. The second described the essential key inputs to use as contextual guideposts. This section will focus on making sure the marketing plan is created in alignment with the overall business strategy. This helps ensure that marketing activities scheduled for a particular period will impact the “big picture” as much as possible.

Why Alignment Matters

Making sure marketing activities align with business goals seems obvious enough. But, overarching strategy and departmental plans for many companies end up getting made independently. A bit of a flaw in the planning process it seems. If your CEO asks the question “so what’s marketing doing this coming quarter?” then this likely describes your situation.

There is an excellent strategic planning and governance program I’ve used in the past called Gazelles. It’s basic premises focus on simplified, top-down strategic planning and corporate alignment. Companies perform best when all the cogs in the machine fit precisely together and operate in concert with each other.

It is critical marketers are involved in the business planning process from the beginning. How can they impact the right things if not? The simple fact is, operating in a vacuum is inefficient and will inhibit growth.

The Timing and Impact

With virtually all companies, an on-going target is to achieve a revenue number in a given period. Along with sales, marketing clearly owns a share of this. But, the reality is that campaigns and initiatives executed this quarter, will likely not create engagement, leads, or opportunities until next quarter, or even later. This “time lag” depends on your “pipeline build” time and sales cycle velocities and it can be quite long in some industries – particularly in B2B segments. Marketing is a cumulative process and dependent on many factors including the prospect’s timing. Therefore, when you align your activity to revenue recognition, you better be sure to explain and account for a reasonably accurate timeline.

A good option here is to make sure a corporate objective is “building a healthy funnel” now to impact revenue later. This is a more rational approach – it better reflects what marketing truly does, and it will help grow revenue in time. Hopefully, you have enough history and analytics to predict when. The second challenge marketers always face is clearly understanding and proving the fruit of its labor. It’s easy to see how many people buy online if you set up a fantastic promotion that’s been well-packaged. But what about longer cycle B2B sales?

Obviously, the sales team plays a direct and easily measured role. But how do you assess and acknowledge marketing’s contribution? Was it an initial impression from a website visit, a slick webinar, a great direct mail piece, valuable social media content, or a brilliant resource developed for sale people to use? It’s often complex, but you need to try and get a handle on how marketing-generated activities impact revenue and how your work creates ROI.

Properly Aligning Marketing Goals

To align marketing goals closer to your company’s high-level business strategy, consider the following tips.

  • Make sure marketing is involved in the operational planning process from the beginning. The first reason is a no-brainer – you can’t align with anything if you’re not in the loop. Also, marketing tends to get involved in communication and other programs across other departments, so you need to know how all these pieces fit together.
  • Put substantial thought into the activities you choose and continually challenge yourself. If they don’t tie into the overarching strategy, should you be doing them at all? Sure, a certain amount of foundational work needs to get done that may not immediately appear to be aligned – but if implementing a new CRM is a must, make sure you can explain how it’s going to help improve marketing effectiveness and bring in new business in the future.
  • Pick meaningful metrics and continually track progress. A CEO ultimately thinks about marketing in terms of how much revenue it helps influence. Make sure your metrics are simple, relevant, and can show results through the evolution of awareness, engagement, qualified opportunities and eventually closed deals. Another important exercise involves “back-tracking.” If you know you have the lag time to deal with (and most marketers do), you better be able to show the ways yours actions influenced buyers when they do sign. This means you must have robust systems and processes in place to look back in time and do the analysis.
  • Account for the time lag. As pointed out earlier, depending on your industry and type of sale, there is a rolling horizon when it comes to marketing impact. The results are not immediate unless they are project-based and achievable in a specific timeframe. So, you need to make it clear to everyone that your impact on sales this quarter started in the past and what you have planned now will take time for the results you project to materialize.
  • Be realistic about what you can deliver. One of the common mistakes made when building a marketing plan is not accounting for the actual capacity available on the team to complete it. If you are being too optimistic about doing the impossible, you set yourself up for failure. It’s important to understand and map out your capacities based on the work required before finalizing your priorities. You need a clear view of the people, budget, time and resources needed to execute and achieve your goals.

Alignment isn’t always a perfect science, and it poses some unique challenges for B2B marketers with long sales cycles. That said, the closer you can align marketing goals to the overall business strategy – the better it will be for you, your department and the company!

Execution Time – At Least 30% is Already Taken

Execution Time
Execution Time

Whether you manage a team in a project-driven environment, or you’re a lone wolf with a big plan, time management is a continual challenge for us all.

As important as it is, many people are oblivious to the hidden time constraints that are part of their average work weeks. It’s easy to do if you don’t give it some thought. If you break out and calculate the time spent on other activities, you may be amazed by how much execution time is simply not there.

Capability, engagement and time capacity are major factors that impact productivity. Let’s say you are about to enter a new quarter and you’ve just finished a marketing plan. How will you succeed in achieving your goals? Obviously, you must have the requisite skills and abilities across your team. You also need enough budget and resources allocated for the plan to work. Let’s assume that you and your people are in a situation where you feel adequately motivated. If not, this is another issue to contend with. That leaves time – perhaps the most important variable of them all. If you haven’t thought enough about how much of time is actually available, chances are, you will not meet your commitments. You also run the risk of sub-par quality as you madly scramble near the end of the quarter. (have you ever been there?)

So how much actual time do you have to work with when executing your plan? The chart below highlights some areas you probably don’t think much about during your initial planning. If you have a role where a prescribed number of deliverables must be completed in a fixed timeframe, those activities represent the pure execution part of your plan. However, as seen below, there are many “foundational” activities that still need doing as part of your day-to-day job.

Execution Time

These added demands on your time are for the most part important. The point is really about making sure you know they exist and have built your plan accordingly. For example, if you have a team reporting into you, you need to spend time with your people, and administrative tasks such as performance appraisals still have to get done. Let’s say the weekly plan updates, status meetings (with your team and boss), revisions and follow-ups take an average of 4 hours a week, that works out to over a full weeks’ worth of time during a quarter. A calculation I’ve done based on experience and typical corporate environments puts the “non-execution time” at a conservative 30%. That’s a big number to ignore!

Execution Time Tips

There are a number of reasons why expectations are misaligned when it comes to planning time. Below are some things to consider when trying to right-size your capacity:

1. Think About It: The math is very simple – how much time you need relative to how much you have. Put some focus on determining how much time is required for the activities you are scheduling. Be as detailed as you can and learn from past experience. Estimate more precisely the actual time you will have available using some of the ideas shown above. Going through an exercise like this will undoubtedly surprise you when it’s all added up.

2. Don’t Underestimate: Even if people do a good job at estimating how much time is available, there can still be a disconnect because they underestimate how long the work will take. This can be a strong inclination for people who are naturally positive and optimistic. While those traits are great ones to have, the rose-colored glasses can cause anxiety when tasks take much longer to complete than planned.

3. Build In Contingencies: It’s impossible to account for everything that can side-swipe you along the way, but try and anticipate obstacles and think through “what if” scenarios. Also, be aware of key dependencies in your plan and make sure they get the attention and priority they deserve.

4. Don’t Get Distracted: As tempting as it can be, don’t go off course chasing “shiny objects.” If your plan is the right one, stick with it. Put ideas in a parking lot for later and push things and people off whenever you can if it takes time away from your execution.

So the next time you start a new planning cycle, think about the hours and days of productive time that are really at your disposal. We’re not even considering the degree of true productivity, because nobody works 100% of every hour they have available. But if you use at least some type of calculation to get a close estimate, it will help you better manage your capacity, which will lead to better execution.

Increasing Sales – The Marketing Metric That Matters!

Increasing Sales
Increasing Sales

​For years, I have heard the debates about where the line should be drawn between sales and marketing. In fairness, marketing is often misunderstood.

Ask 5 senior people in a company what marketing means to them and you’ll likely get 5 different answers. Sure, there are the 5-7 “Ps” of Marketing (depending on when you learned them). Yes, it’s about building segmentation, awareness, engagement and many other core activities. But, these are all a means to an end. That “end” ultimately is abut increasing sales!

We marketers love numbers. With the digital era in full swing, we have become mesmerized by an array of website, SEO, and social media statistics. Of course, the analytics are critical. But, let’s not lose sight of what counts most at the end of the day – leads, opportunities, and closed business. These metrics matter most to your executive. They dictate your budget, how many people you can hire and how your personal performance will be viewed.

​In simple terms, marketing is responsible for all activities that eventually create well-qualified opportunities. Of course, sales then needs to step in to get those deals nurtured and closed. Marketing is usually not tasked to find 100% of all new leads. There is also sales prospecting and account management, but marketing often helps impact these as well. When marketing works, the funnel increases. When you have a good sales team and processes, the win rate increases.

Increasing Sales Comic

​Showing Marketing’s Impact on Increasing Sales

​The Internet has drastically changed the dynamics of traditional sales and marketing functions. Marketing leaders are becoming even more accountable for revenue impact so they must keep their “eyes on the prize” in driving and showing better financial results. Here are a few suggestions that can help:

  • ​Make sure your strategy doesn’t fall into the trap of “activity for activity’s sake.” Think about each part of your plan and keep asking “how will this help build new business and when?” Look at all you do through a lens of results rather than tactics. It doesn’t matter if you lean more towards social media, email marketing, events, or telesales – as long as you stay focused on the end-game. This includes programs that stimulate existing customer growth as well.
  • As part of your planning, make sure you have a handle on the sales pipeline requirements. Also, get to know your conversion rates intimately. Be definitive about the contribution expected from marketing. Define and agree on how many leads and opportunities are realistic based on your resources and historical data. Once you know that, plan using these numbers as guideposts. 
  • Learn the timing of when your initiatives and campaigns will turn into leads. This will depend on many factors including your industry, buying patterns and the average length of your sales cycle. What you plan this quarter, may not impact sales for many quarters to come. Taking this lag-time into account is crucial when presenting your forecasts and results.
  • Be diligent about showing marketing’s impact on revenue. For every new deal your company lands, make sure you figure out how the client found you, how your brand was reinforced and what convinced them to buy. You should know where prospects are coming from, and the role marketing played to attract them. Train sales to get these insights early and document them in CRM. If you have a marketing automation tool, it can do much of the tracking for you, The more information you can have to show your team’s impact on the top-line, the better!
  • Think “Customer Lifetime Value” or CLV. If you don’t know your average CLV – figure it out. There‘s a huge difference between counting a $5,000. initial order compared to $300,000. over the next 2 years. Some would say Marketing’s role ended with the original order because sales and operations carried the ball from there. But I would argue marketing continues to contribute through brand reinforcement, sales enablement, and customer communications, and more importantly, that $300.000 client wouldn’t exist if not for Marketing bringing them in the door.
  • Finally, if you are a marketing leader, re-build your team’s culture to become more concerned about sales results rather than just Twitter impressions or Facebook likes. If your people are on a bonus plan, you may want to consider tying some of the variable compensation to the number of new leads and opportunities created in a given period. This helps sharpen the focus and promotes a tighter alignment with sales.

​Business owners and CEOs I talk with are naturally obsessed with growth, and they have a hard time connecting the dots between that and their marketing investments. With B2B, the sales cycles tend to be longer and more involved, making this even more challenging. Marketers need to realize that increasing sales should always be the prime objective. When they can show how their efforts link to this overarching goal, their value in any organization will take a sharp turn for the better.

Turn Marketing Process into Your Competitive Advantage

Marketing Process
Marketing Process

I’m sure some people saw the words marketing process in the title and quickly hit the back button. But if you’re still here, it probably means you’re at least neutral on the subject, or better yet, a fan.

For many, process has gained the reputation of being boring, time-consuming, and overly administrative. If it’s not properly planned or managed, a process can indeed become those things. It can start to work against you instead of helping.

But when it’s done well, process can be brilliant, elegant and creative. When exceptional, process can differentiate companies in powerful ways. How businesses consistently do things can actually become as important as the products or services they sell. So why not take what many of your peers view as a “necessary evil”, and transform marketing process into your strategic advantage?

​“If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.”
W. Edwards Deming

What is Process and Why Does it Matter?

​Most dictionaries will loosely define a process as “a series of actions that you take in order to achieve a result.” Imagine governments, hospitals, sports teams, or software developers without it. A sound process is the only way to get things done when managing high levels of complexity. So what value does reliable process bring to the table?

  • It’s predictable, repeatable and scalable
  • It defines how people work together
  • It provides a documented roadmap of how tasks should be executed
  • It helps you plan for contingencies and adapt
  • It can be continually refined and improved

Why Marketing Needs Reliable Processes

Every department in an organization relies on good process to operate efficiently. Like other areas of business, marketing has a unique set of characteristics that makes process particularly important. Marketing is complex, very subjective and the stakes are high.

It may seem simple on the surface to some, but there are many moving parts in a well-run program. Dozens if not hundreds of small details for any given project or campaign need to be well-planned and tightly managed. Your reputation is very public, and it’s on the line every time you communicate. Also, marketing tends to be more of a discretionary spend for most companies, so if it’s not showing ROI in reasonable timeframes, the outcome is usually not positive.

Why Marketing Needs Reliable Processes

Two distinct sets of advantages develop from improved marketing process. First, you end up producing higher quality work that has more impact. Secondly, you gain efficiencies that increase productivity. When combined, these benefits ultimately lead to better results for less cost and with less time invested. Here are just a few of the many reasons why you should consider embracing marketing process as a way to achieve more:

  • ​Important details don’t get overlooked – this improves quality and saves valuable time usually needed for re-work or fixing problems
  • You create consistency in the execution because you start doing things the same way every time meaning fewer mistakes – also, on-going projects become simpler to manage and they finish sooner
  • Everyone on the team knows what to do and how to do it – this alignment saves time and effort
  • When process is running smoothly, you free up more time for research and creative thinking – this always leads to better marketing
  • You learn to leverage previous work and ideas by staying organized – this frees up more time for learning and creativity
  • Contingencies will have been considered while planning your processes – if you need to re-adjust, there are backup plans

​Some people are highly structured by nature. I tend to naturally be more free-wheeling which means I absolutely need process to function. Over the years I have come to appreciate, respect and even admire process. The fact Moneyball is one of my “Top 5” movies of all time may be an indication of how far I’ve come.

I firmly hold to the notion that well-conceived marketing process is a key factor in making a good marketing team great. Further, in a function that is constantly struggling to break through the clutter externally while proving its worth internally, strong marketing process can make all the difference.

Marketing Process