Expertise Marketplace BlogTM
Silos between marketing and sales continue to be a challenge for professional service and B2B companies. Marketers find it hard to make the case that integration will bring more than reputational advantages. And because a short-term mindset prevails in many firms, it’s a significant challenge to track an integrated pull-push initiative through the sales funnel to actual booked revenues. Too much work! Too many moving parts!
But marketers can make the case that integration will improve internal productivity. Using actual or modeled salary and/or time expenditures for discreet marketing campaigns, marketers can show how a “before” effort takes longer time and more effort than an integrated campaign. This kind of demonstration might be compelling for senior managers who are looking for measurement tools that have real meaning for their companies.
Too many professional service and B2B marketers are either less than savvy on financial measurements or are actually not exposed to finance inside their companies. But measuring internal productivity offers a way for marketers to build the kind of financial acumen that demonstrates an understanding of their companies’ business. This activity would also enable marketers to integrate with their HR or finance colleagues, internally, using either real data or representative data. (“A non-integrated email campaign took our managers and marketing staff ‘x’ hours to produce. A similar integrated email campaign took 25% fewer hours!”)
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Professional service marketers too often fall into a trap if they pursue the wrong types of ROI measurement. One ROI trap is measuring the wrong things like non-client “events” such as click-throughs on an email campaign, web site hits, or media mentions. These activities are nice to know but not necessarily indicative of future sales.
Another ROI trap is measuring the wrong timing such as a near-term increase in revenues soon after a marketing campaign or event. Professional service clients are not quick buyers. Their sales cycle is too long to try to measure one-off responses like that.
The most effective ROI measurements always focus on the client. The simple act of asking questions about a prospect’s or client’s consideration of your firm inevitably leads to that person’s perception of greater value. This is especially true if your firm tweaks its marketing outreach based on the feedback it receives. Qualitative interviews – just asking about a person’s value perception — is the most powerful type of client engagement I’ve ever seen.
Qualitative interview questions should include questions like, “What about our recent thought leadership materials did you find to be valuable? What would make them more valuable?” From that point on, a client’s consideration will increase, because s/he is engaged with your firm.
Engage the client like this at regular intervals, and the revenues will follow.
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Suzanne Lowe advises professional service marketers to use classic segmentation methods when introducing new initiatives to internal client-facing practitioners and/or business developers. Let’s say Marketing wants to implement a new initiative that's never been tried by the firm before: an email campaign that uses new thought leadership content.
She suggests segmenting the internal colleagues into three categories.
First, “lead users” or “early adopters.” These are people who would be most likely to welcome a partnership with Marketing on testing a new initiative or improving a marketing approach currently in use. This “early adopter” group is more likely to be interested in evaluating the pilots, tolerating “failure” and working in partnership with marketing to make improvements for the next time.
The second group, the “responder” category, represents those internal colleagues who might say “yes” to trying a new approach once they’ve seen it tested successfully by others in the organization.
The third group, the “decliners,” may never say yes to working with Marketing to try new approaches to build relationships with prospects or clients.
Using this segmentation approach, Marketers can be more strategic in rolling out new initiatives. It’s also a smart way to pilot test and tweak the campaigns before broader introduction to other client-facing practitioners.
In this video, I describe my view that marketing departmental structures in professional service firms can be categorized along a continuum.
On one end of the structural continuum is the never-changing, very hierarchical organizational model. In this framework, marketers are stove-piped into narrow functional responsibilities. They become stuck in roles that don’t afford new opportunities for learning or avenues for leadership advancement. These marketers will have to leave their firms in order to grow. The professional service firm using this model risks the possibility of falling behind more nimble competitors.
On the other end of the continuum is the highly fluid, shared leadership model. Here, marketers change roles every few years, as leaders pursue the potential benefits of collaboration and decentralization. Also in this model, marketers are typically reassigned to new reporting relationships as the firm selects new leaders. These reorganizations can feel to marketers like unnecessary churn. In these cases, professional service firms also risk taking their eye off the marketplace.
A better model is the one in the middle. Give marketers several years to gain a solid competency in a well-framed area of expertise. Marketers, staring from their base of knowledge, can be asked to shadow other functional areas to capture insights and build creative new solutions. The firm might also offer outside professional development avenues where marketers can gain new skills through exposure to other professional firms’ — and other sectors’ — best practices. @SmithSchool.
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In my video this week, I describe the study findings about workplace gender bias cited in a December 6, 2014 New York Times article by Adam Grant and Sheryl Sandberg (“When talking about bias backfires”). The article offers fascinating insights for professional services marketing.
“. . . new research suggests that, if we’re not careful, making people aware of bias can backfire, leading them to discriminate more rather than less.” Sandberg and Grant write, “When we communicate that a vast majority of people hold some biases, we need to make sure we are not legitimizing prejudice . . . Instead, we need to communicate that these biases are undesirable and unacceptable.”
These points offer critical lessons for the function of professional services marketing. Professional services marketers in some cases legitimize a number of outmoded stereotypes when they talk about the biases held about the function. (I’m not even going to write them down. If you’re reading this post, you know what they are!)
But the old stereotypes are actually no longer even true. They are certainly no longer desirable.
I call on professional service marketers to be explicit about their disapproval of the old biases about professional services marketing. Instead, you must talk about the organizational benefits of overcoming outmoded perceptions.
“We want to see this
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