I am always curious about how brands market to younger generations, so I decided to check out VidCon. I read about VidCon and thought it was such a genius idea to create an event that brings YouTube Celebrities to their fans. A quick note: John Green, one of the co-founders, is also the author of a book I love, the Fault in Our Stars, a New York Times bestseller and a popular movie. The VidCon attendees are mostly kids, teens, and young adults. Therefore, it’s a great event for checking out:
Aspiring Video content creators (YouTubers)
Understanding younger demographics
Brands’ approaches to reach out to the next generation of millennials.
I attended multiple sessions, walked around the Expo Hall, and talked to young attendees during breaks. Here are some of my personal observations of the event as a B2B marketer.
Different creative approaches to reach attendees
Nike, Facebook, Instagram, Nickelodeon, NBC Universal, Mountain Dew (Game Fuel), Mattel (Barbie), Nerf, AXE deodorant, and Canon camera had big exhibit spaces. It’s challenging to win young audiences’ mind shares on-site. Every brand tried to make sure their booths stood out.
Several brands did a great job of connecting fun and interaction with their products.
Try our products and have FUN!Nerf:
Who doesn’t like Nerf guns? I have several at home. They created a big arena to let everyone try different Nerf guns. When you heard the shooting, screaming and laughing inside the arena, it made you want to play, too. Although they didn’t sell any products on-site, they also had a wall to display their complete product lines. By creating the big play zone, they let attendees experience their products real-time. And have FUN.
Mountain Dew’s Game Fuel followed a similar approach. The best way to showcase the drink was in the gaming environment. So, they set up several playing stations. People could play games and enjoy the drink at the same time.
This deodorant brand took a similar approach with a different twist. They brought in a big RV. It made a big presence! Inside the RV was a barbershop which gave boys and men haircuts. Yes, you heard me right, a haircut. I know AXE as a deodorant brand, but I didn’t know that they also sell hair and body wash products.
They offered people haircuts on-site and used the opportunity to showcase products such as shampoos, gels, and color styling pastes. That was a subtle way to educate young adults on how to look stylish. Outside the RV, AXE set up game zones which allowed boys to play games and chill. That was not it. They were proactively giving away free samples. If you didn’t get a haircut, well, you could try free samples at home.
Nerf, Game Fuel, and AXE not only showcased their products but also created an interactive and fun environment for attendees to experience their products. With AXE, free-samples were a big plus to extend usage after the event.
Connecting marketing to salesCanon:
Its exhibit space was small (30×40) compared to other major brands. They used a “Glamping” theme by bringing in an Airstream (RV) to the venue. They set up interactive areas inside and outside the Airstream to allow attendees to pose and take pictures using Canon cameras.
In addition, they set up a table to showcase a wide array of digital cameras. A full staff stood by to talk to anyone who was interested in learning about cameras’ features. In addition to existing product lines, they also showcased their proof-of-concept products such as Ivy Cliq, an instant mobile camera printer, and Ivy REC, a Clippable, Go Anywhere Camera.
Their approach was no different than Nerf, Game Fuel, and AXE, BUT they made products available on-site. If you were interested in buying products on-the-spot, you could!!
They didn’t have a big exhibit space, but they certainly knew their audiences well. In their little space, they made sure that they created 3 obstacles for their young audiences to play through. The 1st obstacle was a Robot Bop Bag: You could punch Robot Boppin Bag and it would bounce back. The 2nd one was called ‘Slime Toss’, in which balls were tossed into a bucket. The 3rd obstacle was a Disc Shooter in which you used a wrist launcher, like a handgun that tied to your wrist, to shoot discs into targets. Once you played the 3 games, you could get a free T-shirt with your choice of Hobby Kids Adventure designs.
These games were designed to engage with their young audiences and were strategically tied to their merchandise. If you are a fan of HobbyKidsTV, you could also buy those toys on-the-spot.
As a B2B marketer who works closely with sales, being able to sell products anywhere is music to my ears. That’s the best way to demonstrate marketing value: not just build brand awareness and drive demand, but also help the sales team close sales. Canon and HobbyKidsTV exhibit spaces covered the purchase funnel from awareness to purchase. I love it.
For some, It’s all about sales
Some exhibitors such as Crownmade, Creator Ink, etc. are merchandising companies or fulfillment houses that partner with YouTubers to sell branded merchandise. They featured products prominently, most of them were T-shirts. They set up their booths like a retail outlet counter. It was all about sales.
Attendees were excited to be there. The event also provided several meet-and-greets to allow fans to get up close and personal with their stars. Vidcon offered an opportunity to allow young content creators to network and share ideas. It was amazing to hear them talking about which technology tools to create better videos, how to better tell stories and break through the clutter.
They are way more sophisticated than I was at their age. Reaching out to younger generations is very different than communicating with typical B2B marketing professionals. I am glad that I had an opportunity to talk to many young content creators and get a pulse on the next generation of marketers.
I have huge respect for salespeople. I do! Personally, I don’t think that I am cut out to be a sales rep. The reason is that I don’t take rejection well, I take it personally as if it’s my fault. So being told “no, thanks” 20-30 times every day is going to crush me. Needless to say, I haven’t been doing cold calls.
My leads tend to come from referrals, workshops and organic outreach from my website. It has worked well for me for several years, but the growth is not going as fast as I’d like. I’ve come to realize that sales is a numbers game. If I want to have more deals won, I need to have more opportunities. If I want to have more opportunities, I need to have more SQLs. If I need more SQLs, I need to have more MQLs. If I need more MQLs, I need to increase my targeted outreach.
As I said, it’s a numbers game. If I want to increase my batting average, I need to have more hits. That’s all there is to it. There are many ways to go about it. Everyone does it differently. My friend, Carter Hostelley, took one approach to build his pipeline. I shared his approach on this podcast: How to Build Your Own Sales Prospect Pipeline. For me, I decided to use LinkedIn Sales Navigator and InMail, since many of my B2B prospects are on LinkedIn.
Find an expert to assist me
I couldn’t do this alone. I knew that I needed someone to help me out. Sean Anthony found me via virtual cold call (InMail) on LinkedIn. I didn’t respond to his email right away, but I liked the content he shared. He is salesy, but not too salesy. He is the founder of GrowthResponse.io and specializes in lead generation and customer acquisition using LinkedIn.
Here is our approach:
Clearly articulate my Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)
Explain ICP’s pain points and challenges thoroughly
Comprehend my own services and offerings
Map ICP’s pain points and challenges to my services and offerings
Re-evaluate LinkedIn Headlines and Profile and rewrite them if necessary
Use Sales Navigator to find prospects that match my ICP
Orchestrate a sequence of emails to reach out to prospects
Create a dashboard to track responses
Monitor the progress and optimize ICP selection criteria in Sales Navigator
Identify and map Ideal Customer Profile, their pain points and challenges to my offerings
Sean said that it usually takes clients some time to identify ICP. Well, that’s not an issue for me. I know my peeps well. They are B2B enterprise marketers in the manufacturing, healthcare, and financial services segments. They need help in strategy, martech stack, content planning, working with sales and account-based marketing. I know their challenges well. At the same time, I also know what I can do for them. What Sean doesn’t know is that I did all that homework, when I redid my website back last year. I wrote about the experience of creating my own value proposition in this blog post. It’s amazing how everything comes back to your value proposition.
Change my new headline, tagline, LinkedIn profile
I told Sean that my value proposition is “accelerating marketer’s contribution to sales with content, sales enablement, and account-based marketing.” Based on my offerings and my ICP’s pain points and challenges, we worked together to rewrite my headline and profile summary on LinkedIn. We wanted to make those very clear so that people can easily understand what I do and offer.
My original headline:
“Fortune 100 Senior Marketer, Speaker, and Author of Global Content Marketing/Effective Sales Enablement”. I emphasized my corporate experience, author and speakership, but it didn’t explain what I do for my clients. So, we changed that.
Here is my new headline:
“Accelerating B2B marketers’ contribution to sales with content, sales enablement, and account-based marketing using proven methodology”. I emphasize the keywords of content, sales enablement, and account-based marketing. I also explain that I have a process to do that.
Using different words to say the same thing, we also created a tagline that I can place below my signature on LinkedIn:
This is my tagline:
“Helping B2B marketing teams increase sales velocity through content, sales enablement, and account-based marketing”. That tagline is part of the InMail, so people can immediately understand what I do without going to my profile.
The next thing we tackled was the profile summary. My original profile explained what I offer, but I didn’t tie it to ICP’s pain points and challenges. So, we re-wrote that as well. I started by sharing my passion for creating alignment between sales and marketing. I followed that with the 3 main challenges that marketers encounter, then moved on to explain how I address these 3 challenges.
Here is the profile summary:
A passionate digital marketer who loves to bring alignment between sales & marketing. Marketing has so much to offer to accelerate sales conversions. The key is to identify what marketing can do to increase sales velocity and what sales needs from marketing to close deals. By working with me – you’ll get a proven plan and framework that will give you the tools you need to get your team on the same page and increase sales velocity for your company.
So, ask yourself these 3 questions:
❓Do you feel overwhelmed and confused about how to incorporate content, digital marketing, and account-based marketing into your overall strategy?
❓Are you tired of missing growth targets due to misalignment between sales and marketing?
❓Do you wish you were able to show marketing’s impact and enablement on sales and marketing content mapping, lead generation, and sales conversions, but don’t know where to start?
If you answer ‘Yes!’ to any of these questions.
Then keep on reading 👇🏽
I’ve made it my mission to help bridge the gap between sales and marketing teams so they can and focus on growth together.
As a seasoned B2B marketer, I can:
Increase the effectiveness of sales and marketing through ABM, content marketing, and marketing outreach
Setup an efficient collaboration process between teams to grow the business together
Develop and incorporate a comprehensive integrated digital marketing strategy with sales in mind
Craft powerful messaging and map content between the sales process and customer journeys
Understand the technology’s impact on sales and marketing such as AI, Machine Learning, Big Data, Cloud and more
If you’re looking to connect your sales and marketing to accelerate growth for your company, get in contact with me here:
I still want people to know that I speak at conferences, marketing events, and private team meetings. Therefore, I moved the blurbs about authorship and speakership to the experience section, so people searching for speakers on specific marketing topics can still find me.
On a side note…
I’ve changed my LinkedIn headline and profile at least 20 times in the past 5 years. The reason is that my expertise and experience continue to grow. Therefore, I need to constantly update my value propositions to reflect that. Plus, the secret of writing is rewriting. It’s amazing that I can constantly find better ways to explain who I am and what I do. A value proposition is not something you do and then just check off. You need to constantly evaluate what you do and what you can offer to be competitive.
Once we were done with ICP, LinkedIn headline, profile, and tagline, we were ready to approach virtual cold calling. For this, we carefully crafted a sequence of 5 emails.
Carefully orchestrate the sequence of email for cold calls
The first email is very simple and short. Let prospects know that I am reaching out because we share some mutual connections. Something simple like this actually enticed people to accept my invitation to connect.
The 2nd email is a “Thank you for connecting” email and asks the prospects whether I can be a resource to them. It finishes by letting them know they can reach out anytime if they want to explore opportunities to work together.
The 3rd email is a Value-Add email. I created a relevant blog post for my ICP, share the link with them and ask for their feedback.
The 4th email is a meeting ask. I follow-up and check if they read my content. I also ask if they are open to a phone chat.
The 5th email is the final email. In it, I remind them what I do and ask them to contact me if they ever need any help in the areas of content marketing, sales enablement or account-based marketing. I also share a free chapter from my latest book, Effective Sales Enablement.
I use Sales Navigator to find prospects and reach out to a small number of prospects every day. It requires that I stay on top of it and follow through with prospects consistently.
Here are some of my findings after 8 weeks of virtual outreach:
35% accept my initial invitation
Out of that 35%, 80% failed to respond to further emails and 19% said “no, thanks” after the 3rd or 4th
Only 1% request a meeting
Out of that 1%, 50% actually attend a meeting.
The first 90 days are typically an experimentation period where we try to achieve a message to market match. Here is the biggest finding for me:
We’ve noticed that manufacturing companies with 51-1000 employees have the best response rate, while larger enterprises, companies with 5001-10,000+ employees, have a poor response rate. That was counter-intuitive to me initially, since my experience is enterprise, therefore, I tried to align my enterprise experience with enterprise customers. But that’s not the case. Granted my experience is enterprise, but prospects that need my expertise are the companies that are growing into being a big enterprise. They are going through growing pains and have so much to do that they need strategy help… That’s really my sweet spot.
As a result, our focus for the next month will be on companies with 51-1000 employees.
One more thing to share…
For people who said no, some of them appreciate the useful content I shared. But some people are pretty nasty, saying things like ‘I don’t appreciate you looking for work on LinkedIn.’ Well, that’s what LinkedIn is for. People are on LinkedIn to find work or jobs. That’s the way it is. But I understand their frustration with getting cold calls. I get it.
Since the purchase cycle for prospects to engage with me is about 8-12 months, I am planning to run this outreach for several months and see how it goes. More updates to come.
So, do you do any virtual cold calls? How does that go? Love to hear your lesson learned.
A client I haven’t talked to for 2 years texted me on Monday. Harriet reached out and asked me if I could help her to articulate her marketing team’s value and contributions to her boss. I was puzzled by her request. The marketing team with that product group is not a new team and her boss knows the ins and outs of sales and marketing. Why does she need my help? It turns out that her boss of 5 years, Jeff, left the company for a new opportunity. Her NEW boss, Tom, is a product and operations guy with no sales and marketing experience. She needs help to articulate marketing’s value-add and so that the new general manager understands her team’s impact on sales and customers.
So, some background…
Although Harriet has no marketing background, she got promoted from an operations manager to the director of marketing. The original plan was that Jeff would take Harriet under his wing and train her, teaching her the ins and outs of marketing, especially product marketing. Harriet is a fast learner. With proper coaching, she should be fine. Sadly, Jeff took on a different job right after he promoted her. Since Tom has no sales and marketing experience, he relies on Harriet to help him understand the product marketing landscape which Harriet is ramping up herself.
What does the new general manager want to know?
When I met with Harriet, she was a bit stressed. She told me that she explained to Tom what marketing does, but he didn’t seem to get it. Every time she explains, Tom ends up with more questions that Harriet has no answer for. I told Harriet to sit back and think about what Tom cares to know at this time.
We know that Tom is a product, finance, and operations guy. We also know that he has a revenue target that he needs to hit and a list of customers that he needs to either appeal to or acquire. He wants to make sure that his customers are happy and that he hits the revenue targets. It’s not about telling him what marketing does.
Let’s answer three important questions:
How does Harriet’s marketing team help build the customer base?
How does the team support the sales force?
How does the team help current customers, especially on cross-sell and up-sell?
By answering these questions, she can help Tom understand the marketing team’s impact on things that Tom cares about: revenue and customers.
Based on these 3 questions, I helped her build a presentation deck to educate Tom on the marketing team’s contribution.
A high-level flow to help the manager understand marketing’s value-add
Given that Tom is new to the role and has no marketing experience, I told her to explain:
How do customers buy from the company? What is the purchase journey? It’s important for Tom to get a sense of the customer purchase journey.
Then, let’s explain how the company, as a whole, markets to Tom’s customers? Harriet needs to explain how corporate marketing works with product marketing and country marketing etc. This is a global company with many marketing functions. It’s important to help Tom understand which team does what marketing functions.
Next, Harriet needs to explain how her own marketing team fits into the overall marketing machine. It gives Tom a sense of how his marketing team is working closely with other marketing functions, and not in silos.
Once we paint the high-level picture, then Harriet can proceed to explain what other functions her team does, such as supporting direct sales, finding new prospects, and working with existing customers.
After that, Harriet can move on to 1H’2019 highlights and 2H’2019 plans.
In addition, she should not be shy about talking about her challenges but make it very clear what they are and what she is doing to tackle them.
It ends with initiatives in progress and next steps
Explain marketing’s impact from management’s perspective
I kept emphasizing that she needs to talk about marketing from Tom’s perspective. Tom cares about sales and customers. Well, what can she do to make sure that sales and customers are taken care of? For sales, it’s about sales training and pass-through content. For customers, it’s about solving customers’ issues, and possibly working closely with customer support. In addition, she needs to think about how to work with subject matter experts to create content that sales and customers need.
We spent one whole hour talking. After the meeting, I offered to put together a deck template so that she can fill in the blanks to clearly articulate her team’s value-add and contributions. I shared my proposed flow with her the next day. When we met again, we moved some slides around and she was able to take the skeleton I built and add relevant information to tell her own story.
Harriet very much wants to make the transition from an operations manager to a marketer. I told her that we can spend several sessions together. I am more than happy to help her make that transition. After all, I made that transition 12 years ago. I love to share what I learned.
If you have challenges articulating your team’s value-add and contributions, reach out. Let’s talk about it.
By working with various manufacturing marketers, I have experienced the challenges of supporting sales as a marketer with limited resources and budget. Although sales and marketing support the same business objectives, the priorities and approaches are different. It’s similar to when a family decides to meet at a vacation destination, but members living in different cities take different routes to get there.
So, here are the fundamental differences between sales and marketing that a manufacturing marketer should be aware of:
Marketing focuses on the top of the funnel, while sales hones-in on the bottom of the funnel. For sales, it’s all about closing deals.
Marketing focuses on awareness building and nurturing which takes several quarters, while sales have quarterly quotas to meet.
Marketing is at the forefront of the digital era while manufacturing sales teams still prefer email, phone calls, and face-to-face meetings. Personal relationships still matter.
While there are massive differences between sales and marketing, I tell my clients to focus on the commonalities between them.
One of the biggest commonalities that marketers can use to support sales is content. Marketers use content to build awareness and educate their buyers. Sales use content to validate their points and substantiate product promises and claims. Content is leveraged on websites, emails, events, phone conversations, customer meetings, digital marketing outreach and more. Content is also as critical to marketing effectiveness as it is to sales’ success.
Take Control of Your Content First
As a manufacturing marketer, if you feel that you don’t have total control of your content, you are not alone. Don’t feel bad, that is every marketer’s issue. If you have a solid overview of your company’s content landscape, congratulations, you are one step ahead of everyone else. Well-done!!
In general, content is a hot mess. It’s fragmented and decentralized. The reason: everyone who has a budget can create content. Therefore, content can come from anywhere or anyone, such as subject matter experts in product groups, sales training in sales enablement, and content managers in marketing. In order to put some order around the chaos, there needs to be an intentional and established collaboration process that rallies key content creators so they get together to discuss the progress of their deliverables and estimated completion dates.
Better yet, the team, led by someone from marketing, should collectively use a platform that manages the workflow of content creation, using tools like DivvyHQ, Kapost, and marketing cloud applications from Oracle, Adobe, Salesforce, Microsoft and more.
Map Marketing Content to Sales Stages
Once you have a solid view of your content, the next thing is to identify content that sales may need. There are many approaches to do that. You can create a top content list with the salespeople and work together to map it to their needs.
Let me use this customer journey created by Jacco Van Der Kooij as an example.
As you can see on the slide below, customers tend to spend a lot of time during the ‘Education’ stage, once they become aware of their pain points or issues. As a marketer, you likely have a list of educational content materials that you use for inbound traffic and outbound promotions. In addition, you probably have a list of content to nurture your leads and help prospects make decisions in the ‘Select’ and ‘Uses/Expands’ stages.
Since you may have a variety of content for each stage, let’s select 10-15 pieces based on specific selection criteria such as most viewed, latest, product-specific, buyers’ personas, etc. List them under each stage, see the slide below.
Now, look at the sales stages that the sales teams follow. As you may know, the typical sales stage starts with sales contacts and qualifies prospects. If a prospect shows high interest, sales will proceed with a demo. After several conversations, meetings, or even proof-of-concept (POC) demos, the prospect asks for a proposal. Lastly, sales bring deals to closure. Check out the typical sales journey below.
Now, let’s map the customer journey to the sales journey. In general, the initial sales stage starts when prospects express interest in knowing more about your products, which is already part of the education phase of the customer journey. The image below illustrates the mapping of the sales journey to the customer journey:
Given that you identified key content pieces for the Education, Selection, and Expansion stages, you can now select appropriate content from these stages for the sales stages. Now that you have that initial mapping, you can use it to have productive conversations with your sales team.
A quick note: some marketing content may need to be re-written or re-designed for sales needs. It requires another level of discussion with sales and content creators to repurpose some of the marketing content. Bear in mind that it’s not necessarily a one-to-one mapping.
Make content easy to find for Sales with a sales-centric content library
Once you have identified content which can be used by sales, the next task is to make sure that salespeople can find them. One of the most common pain points for sales is finding the right content at the right time. I talked about several options to help sales find content in my podcast, 7 Min. Marketing With Pam, Help Sales Find Content They Need.
One main option is to create a sales-centric content library for salespeople to use. Upload relevant content to the library. Tag them in products, geos, keywords, technologies, content formats, and other categories that salespeople use to search content. Nowadays, some platforms offer auto-tagging which makes marketers’ job easy.
When you source your tools, you should check if they offer that feature. Typical content management library platforms (they may call themselves sales enablement platforms) are Highspot, Showpad, Seismic, Attach.
By the way, a sales content library is not the same as a marketing content library.
A sales content library may contain confidential sales-centric information such as product roadmaps, pricing sheets, and sales-specific training (not marketing-facing) content. Marketing content libraries tend to have design and creative assets that sales don’t care about. You can link certain marketing content to the sales content library, but I highly recommend that sales have its own content management library.
A sales content library houses content to serve both the direct and indirect sales forces. Train your salespeople to go to the sales content management library to find content before they contact you. Making it easy for sales to find content is the first step for content marketing to help sales.
Also, one major benefit of using a sales content management library (sales enablement platform) is the ability to measure the content pieces that are most consumed, the users who consume them, the length of time spent on the content, and even keyword searches. The data can provide a feedback loop about the formats of content they use and the keywords they search for. Together with verbal feedback and surveys from the sales team, content creators and marketing can tweak and refine the future content roadmap to better fit to sales’ needs.
Personalize content through account-based marketing
Many manufacturing marketers probably have done ABM with their sales team without knowing it’s ABM. It’s leveraging your existing marketing elements to help your salespeople close the deals. However, the approach to ABM is different than the traditional purchase funnel from the content’s perspective.
In general, marketers create marketing campaigns by following the purchase funnel of awareness, consideration, and purchase. For ABM, it’s exactly the opposite. First, you need to identify the key accounts, then you work with the sales team to expand and engage with a group of individuals in the accounts through strategic and planned outreach.
If you leverage content marketing for ABM, you need to select relevant content and tailor it for specific accounts and targeted individuals in these accounts.
Here are the steps you can consider to personalize content for your ABM strategy:
Have a sense of your company’s content landscape and know the content pieces for each customer journey stage
Map content to the account-specific purchase journey based on account insights such as firmographics, technographics, sales tribal knowledge, and account-specific research
Create, source and customize a mix of original and curated content. This selection can be done manually or using tools like Terminus, DemandBase, PathFactory, or Uberflip
Incorporate select content based on your account-specific marketing outreach campaigns
Monitor and measure key success metrics. Optimize and refine as you see fit
Even though the process seems like common sense, it does require work to put the necessary tools and processes in place to launch effective ABM efforts.
The devil is in the details…
Here is the reality: everything I mentioned in this blog post may seem simple, but I can assure you it’s not easy to implement. It requires a great deal of thinking, discussion, mapping, and even technology tool sourcing and implementation. I’ve come to realize that anything involving ‘technology and digital’ takes time and budget to execute well.
Helping marketers figure out creative ways to support sales is my passion. Each manufacturing marketing department supports sales slightly differently. Each sales group has their own expectations of what marketing should do for them. Although the sales and marketing functions are the same from company to company, the challenges, collaboration processes, or even the business priorities are vastly different.
Being a consultant with proven methodologies, I still need to adjust my framework and recommendations based on specific needs. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all.’ That’s why it’s so much fun working with manufacturing marketers and salespeople. There is never a dull moment.
Sales and marketing ask different questions which leads to different data needs.
What can we do to solve the fundamental differences between sales and marketing?
Explain why sales and marketing are different
Show how ABM can tie sales and marketing together
Illustrate why marketers working on ABM need to go beyond who, what and when
I had an epiphany talking to Rob Clarke, co-founder of Strala, at Martech West in early April. His company created a turnkey platform that allows you to standardize UTM parameters to track all your online and offline marketing outreach. His tool was conceived based on the 3 key questions that marketers often ask: who, what and when.
Marketing focuses on Who, What, and When
Who are they?
What did they do throughout the buyer journey?
When did they do? What action did they take? What content did they consume?
If you have a standard tracking system with integration to your marketing automation, CRM, POS (point of sales), eCommerce and other platforms, you can see a series of actions that prospects go through their journeys. With all the information in one place, hopefully, you get some insights to determine the next steps to nurture and drive better conversions. If you tie that information to your budget, you can see which marketing channels perform better and adjust your marketing budget accordingly.
My conversation with Rob prompted me to think about what salespeople would like to know when they talk to prospects.
Sales focus on Why, How Much, in addition to Who, What, and When
Salespeople also like to know who, what, and when, but theirs what and when, are different from marketers’. Most importantly, salespeople want to know why and how much.
Who are they?
Why are they interested in our products? Why did they contact us?
How much budget do they have?
When do they want to buy? What is their budget cycle?
What challenges do they have?
Which of our offerings can solve their challenges?
What else can I do to help them?
Even if sales and marketing are talking to the same prospects, the way they communicate and the information they gather are fundamentally different. Obviously, one focuses on top of the purchase funnel, while the other focuses on the bottom of the funnel. One focuses on awareness-building, while the other focuses on how to move prospects to different sales stages to close deals.
Understanding the Questions Sales Asks is the Key for Account-Based Marketing (ABM)
I don’t think that the fundamental differences will ever go away. However, with the rise of digital marketing, email, website, and social media are becoming powerful tools for sales and not just marketing. Therefore, it’s sensible for sales and marketing to work together to tackle key strategic accounts through a comprehensive sales game plan with targeted marketing campaigns. That’s where account-based marketing (ABM) comes in.
For marketers working with sales on ABM, you need to go beyond marketer’s questions of who, what and when and dive deeper into sales’ perspective on who, why, how much, what, and when. The information you gather should be account-specific, which is also different than general buyer personas.
ABM, in a way, is a customized marketing outreach to a specific group of individuals in a company or industry segment. By understanding the questions that sales ask and the current engagement status, you can understand the barriers that hinder deal closures. Then, you can determine appropriate marketing tactics with relevant content to mitigate those hurdles.
Qlik’s sales and marketing team identified 220 existing accounts that had not fully engaged with Qlik’s offerings. The marketing team ran a paid retargeting campaigns by creating 100 customized banner ads in 5 industry verticals. They had to customize creative, messaging, and calls-to-action. In addition, they needed to track engagement and KPIs. It’s impossible to manage the whole process manually, therefore, they needed to determine a martech workflow to run the campaign.
As you can see in the slide below, Melissa Alonso, Director of Global Strategic Account Marketing at Qlik, used a plethora of tools and platforms to manage the effort, from account selection, creative customization, dynamic content selection, media buy, and customized landing pages to measurement.
Source: Qlik and PathfactoryCreate menu-like ABM Options
ABM is challenging, because of its lack of ability to scale. Different accounts may need different ABM tactics. You need to create menu-like ABM marketing campaign options and use these options to drive conversations with the sales team. For each menu item, you need to establish a process with martech tools so that you can create a campaign easily. A paid media campaign with banner ads is one option. An invitation-only customer event for hyper-targeted accounts can be another option. Sending customized packages with customized content and personalized gifts can be another option. For each option, you need to have a process in place, who is doing what and when so that the campaigns or outreach can be done quickly and efficiently.
It’s amazing that a short conversation with Rob Clarke really gave perspective to the different questions asked by sales and marketing. I am able to explain the fundamental differences between sales and marketing and better help my clients with their sales and marketing alignment and ABM implementation.
AI is everywhere from Google Search to Waze, from Chatbots to intelligent automatic email responses. As a B2B marketer, this is just another technology that we need to consider as part of the martech stack.
So how do we evaluate how AI can help or optimize our marketing?
AI is just another form of technology
Many marketers feel intimidated by AI because they don’t know what it is and how to take advantage of it in the context of marketing. In my previous blog post, I explained AI, Machine Learning and Deep Learning in relationship to Marketing. I also provided examples of how AI can address some marketing and sales challenges. This should help marketers understand what AI is and how to treat AI as another category of technology.
Now, let’s go back to basics to answer one fundamental question: why do we use technology to start with?
Reasons to use technology:
Automate the existing process
Enable us to do something we could never do before
With that in mind, here are 3 ways to start thinking about how AI can help you in your marketing efforts.
Start by asking a list of questions
Sometimes, the easiest way to approach AI is to come up with questions that we may need AI to solve for us.
What if you had some automation that is intelligent enough to read prospects’ mail and automatically follow-up?
What if we could feed a large amount of transactional data to an AI platform and help us identify some unseen patterns of our customers? E.g. people buying these types of products may unexpectedly be interested in these other products.
Could we teach a machine to identify and categorize different images to automatically place them in the correct area of our eCommerce site or catalog?
The questions that AI can help address are endless. Once you start asking questions, talking to your colleagues and vendors, conducting research, and pulling data, you’ll start learning what you need to do and what tools or platforms to use to address your questions.
Don’t expect that you’ll find an answer right away, it’s usually a journey. Even if you start the analysis, you may need to experiment with different approaches.
Start with evaluating and learning the existing Martech stack
Another way to start is to look at your existing Martech stack. Many Martech platforms have built-in-intelligence features and you may not be using these features to the fullest. For example, The Salesforce CRM suite has AI features included in your licenses, but not everyone knows how to use them or even that they exist. If you are using its marketing cloud, sales cloud or commerce cloud, maybe you can check out the AI Features and learn how to use them to answer some of your own questions.
For some martech platforms, you can even call up the vendors and ask them to teach you how to use their AI features. Most of the time, they are happy to show you.
Start with the division of labor between people and software (or machines)
The other way is to start evaluating the roles and responsibilities of people and software. What tasks do you want to do? What tasks can an AI virtual assistant take on or automate? This requires you to have a decent knowledge of your current martech stack and its product features. It may also require you to know if your company has an insight and analytics team. Can they help to make recommendations about tasks that can be automated? In a way, you are looking at your marketing and sales processes like manufacturers evaluating their assembly flow and identifying what areas should be managed by humans and what should be done by machines. Marketing and sales organizations would benefit greatly by working like manufacturers who are constantly looking for ways to improve.
AI is just another technology to help marketers automate and be more productive. The key is for us to understand what it is, what it can do, identify where AI can help us and find ways to bring AI into our processes and workflows.
Here is the irony of AI. It’s not here to replace marketers, but it helps us be more efficient and productive so that we can deliver a highly personalized and more humane experience for our customers.
Artificial Intelligence has been a buzz word in martech. Many martech vendors position their products as AI-based platforms. What does that mean? As a marketer, what do you need to know about AI to evaluate vendors’ platforms to have a productive conversation with them?
Take a look at the background and ideas to get you started…
What is Artificial Intelligence?
In a simple term, machines demonstrate intelligence by mimicking human behavior. But humans exhibit “intelligence” in many different ways, such as thinking, learning, reasoning, perfecting a task, contextual decision-marketing and more. Given that humans are complex and sophisticated, it’s almost impossible to use a set of technology to build a fully functional robot or intelligent being like C3PO in the Star Wars or a Terminator at this time.
What human behaviors are emulated by AI so far?
Today, scientist tackle artificial intelligence by mimicking different aspects of human behaviors.
One approach is communications:
Can we teach computers to translate from English to Chinese? Or can we teach computers to respond to questions like a human? This focuses on verbal interactions with humans using Natural Language Processing (NLP). Google Home and Alexa are perfect examples of teaching computers to verbally respond to human inquiries and needs.
Another approach is task completion or situational decision-making:
Can we teach computers to perform complex tasks repeatedly and make decisions based on syntax, perceptions, and reasoning in the context of specific situations? The best examples are playing complex games such as Go or Chess, driving a car or delivering a parcel. Rather than building rules into computers, scientists take the approach of building algorithms to help computers learn how to perform and improve at tasks. This ‘machine learning’ doesn’t equate to AI, it’s a subset of AI. A further subset of machine learning which has entered the mainstream, ‘deep learning,’ involves building a layered structure of algorithms called an artificial neural network (ANN).
This is modeled on the biological neural network of the human brain. Then, users can feed a massive amount of data into the neural network to help a computer learn. By doing so for many rounds of learning cycles, like humans, computers get better and better at recognizing patterns, understanding how to respond to different situations. Hopefully, they can make the right decisions on their own based on context.
Here is the tricky part: The deep learning approach is largely based on opaque algorithms that make decisions even their own designers may be unable to explain. What if machines do something unexpected or initiative a series of ‘wrong’ behaviors which may harm humans? That’s one of the reasons that many scientists, including late Stephen Hawking, are concerned about the future of AI development.
The other approach is to use AI to make recommendations:
What about using AI to anticipate users’ needs or improve predictive and prescribe analytics? Google uses machine learning techniques to crawl millions of data points to accurately respond to the user’s questions. Spotify and iTunes are constantly learning our music listening preferences and recommending what we may want to listen to next. Based on our buying patterns, Amazon’s system learns and suggests what we may want to buy next.
With all the examples I mentioned, AI is already here as part of our lives, yet there is so much more we can do with AI.
Before you can answer that question, you need to understand what you want from AI. Here are some ways that AI can help sales and marketing. I am sure that you can think of so much more.
Automate existing sales or marketing tasks
Customize and personalize copywriting, content creation, and distribution
Reveal why deals are won or lost through analyzing sales calls
Discover warm leads by correlating unstructured existing data
Replace specific human interactions or conversational activities
Here are some examples:
Automate existing sales or marketing tasks
Conversica, an AI-powered sales assistant, can send out emails and interpret the responses to determine if potential leads are hot. The sales assistant, powered by AI through machine learning, can understand most of the emails she receives; the email that she can’t understand is sent to her human manager. Then she routes the right leads to the right reps. She’ll even set appointments for the appropriate salesperson and seamlessly hands-off those leads.
Customize and personalize copywriting, content creation, and distribution
CoSchedule, a suite of social media scheduling tools, allows you to add your social messages to ReQueue (with built-in intelligence). It will take into account your entire social schedule, uses Best Time Scheduling to promote your messages at the most optimal times and finds gaps in your schedule (so you don’t have to).
Reveal why deals are won or lost by analyzing sales calls
Chorus uses AI to record, transcribe and break down a 1-hour sales call into a 5-minute highlight by providing actionable feedback to help move a deal forward. Sales teams can further optimize their communications and ramp new hires faster.
Discover new leads by correlating various existing data
Most companies have email databases. It may be useful to discover any relationships between email database contacts and CRM contacts or if there are unexpected connections or relationships among different contacts in these lists. This can help discern the different players and roles of prospects to help sales and marketing customize their outreach and enhance conversions. In addition to using AI platforms such as Tensorflow to find patterns unrecognized by humans, companies can also build a model using Alteryx, Knime, or Rapidminer to discover new leads or uncover relationships among different prospects.
Replace specific human interaction or conversational activities
The perfect example of this is a chatbot such as Drift, HelpCrunch, Flow XO. Some chatbots have machine-learning algorithms built in to further refine their replies to prospects’ questions.
How do you determine if you want to use AI for your sales and marketing efforts?
To determine how AI can help you, it’s best that you have a list of questions that you want to answer. Then, you need to know where to pull relevant data which may address these questions. The next step is to find the tools or platforms that can assist you. You’ll need to do some research and talk to different vendors to understand their capabilities. For example, if you are looking for a chatbot that resides on your website, Drift is a great option. If you are looking to build customized chatbots across a wide range of different sites, applications, and social media platforms, FlowXO is likely to be a better bet. Therefore, it’s important to know what you want to resolve or address. That understanding will guide your discussions with vendors.
In addition, it’s also essential to understand how the question you want to address fits into the overall sales and marketing processes. Ultimately, you need to be able to quantify the productivity, cost savings, or the impact on revenue.
Although no one is building a robot marketer (yet), AI, as a form of virtual marketing assistant or sales agent, will continue to grow. The possibilities of using AI are endless, therefore, more and more companies will build platforms and services to automate existing tactics and innovate new ways to optimize sales and marketing efforts.
The party is really just starting.
For further readings, you can also check out some of my previous posts and podcast episodes.
In my previous blog post, I shared how Alteryx successfully integrated specific sales training elements into their corporate-wide new employee orientation. By doing so, they ensure new employees not just acclimate into corporate culture, but can also fully comprehend the awesomeness of the products. In the digital era, marketing and PR need all the help they can get from all employees to spread the goodness of their products organically. After all, the best marketing is still referrals and word-of-mouth.
So here are the 3 lessons I learned from Alteryx Sales Academy, which I was fortunate to attend.The Sales Academy as Part of New Employee Orientation
Alteryx merges their 3.5-day new employee orientation and a 1 day Sales Academy into a 4.5-day long training week.
Since only one day is assigned to sales training, many sales elements such as product messaging, competitive landscape, buyers’ personas, and product demos are seamlessly incorporated into the overall employee orientation so that both sales and non-quota carrying employees are properly trained. As part of the new employee orientation, all employees are required to explain product messaging without presentations and scripts, discuss Alteryx’s product position as part of Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, conduct a product demo using real data, and give a presentation with key takeaways. It’s a dry-run for real-life customer interactions.
Focus on key elements that Sales Needs to Know at the Orientation
With multiple sales elements as part of an overall employee onboarding, the team is able to shorten the sales academy training down to one day. Nick Magee, Sales Enablement Generalist, carefully prioritizes what should be included in that day. Nick focuses on the key elements that the salespeople need to know when they go back to work after the Sales Academy. He kicks off sales training with a Q & A with VPs of Sales. Rather than going lengthy slides, the VPs share their expectations, some challenges they encounter in selling, while also giving an opportunity for salespeople to ask questions. According to Nick, it’s always very engaging and interactive.
Then, Nick arranges for experienced sales managers to go through sales stages and processes and discuss a list of questions to ask customers during each stage. These seasoned managers also share do’s and don’ts, tips and tricks on what to do in difficult situations or with challenging customers. Again, the whole session focuses on discussion, with few slides and several cheat sheets.
Next, they have Legal come in to talk about the various licensing agreements and differences between the Deal Desk and Legal. When salespeople are able to get to the agreement stage, it’s usually the last stage before the PO placement or monetary transaction is completed. Unfortunately, it does take time for Legal to review the agreements. The last mile to close the deal can sometimes take longer than expected. Nick invites Legal to come in and talk about the process to shorten the cycle. Ultimately, Legal also wants sales to close deals faster, but they need Sales to understand the process.
‘Competitive Landscape 101’ is presented as part of employee orientation and Nick makes sure that salespeople have an in-depth understanding of competitors by asking the Competitive Intel team to come back and talk more about key competitors in a follow-up portion of Sales Academy that he calls ‘Competitive Landscape 201.’ It gives salespeople more ammunition when their prospects inquire about competitors’ features and benefits.
Module-centric training to keep momentum as follow-ups
After 4 days of training, everyone is tired. Rather than expanding the Sales Academy to more days and keeping salespeople at the Headquarters, Nick decided to modularize other sales topics. Salespeople can access these via on-demand formats on SalesHood, their internal sales enablement platform and library, after the orientation. Topics such as cases studies, compensation, and sales tools are all modularized and can be accessed by salespeople anytime and anywhere.
I asked Nick for his vision for the Sales Academy. In his vision, the sales academy should get sales ready for their first day. During Sales Academy, salespeople are trained to use different sales tools, set up their cadence, learn how to do account reviews and more. The approach really goes in-depth. However, he can’t do that alone. This approach is a departmentalized methodology in which the sales team takes more ownership through a train-the-trainer method. It will help new salespeople ramp faster.
In addition, he would like to see the Sales Academy offer role-based training as Alteryx continues to grow its sales team and functionality. The inside sales’ skillset and knowledge are different from the field sales team. The commercial salespeople focus more on transactional sales, while the enterprise sales cycle is much longer when expanding Alteryx adoption in an account. The sales approach on the enterprise is certainly different than that of the commercial side. Providing more customized and personalized training is essential.
Like he said: “too much to do, too little time.” As Nick continues to revamp and optimize sales training, I can’t wait to see the next generation of the Alteryx Sales Academy.
The primary purpose of sales onboarding and training is to get salespeople ready to sell. This is done by educating them to:
Tell a relevant and personalized story to prospects
Explain the company’s products and benefits
Address prospects challenges and pain points
In the current digital era, everyone employee has access to various social media platforms that can be used to tell a story about the company’s products and to show their passion for the brands. So, wouldn’t it be great to give every employee sales training, so they know enough about their company’s products and benefits to be able to effectively evangelize for the company’s products and services anytime and anywhere an opportunity arises?
That’s exactly what Amy Pence, Director of Global Enablement in Alteryx, did after an organizational change that moved her sales training team from sales operations to HR two years ago. She took certain elements of sales onboarding and training, scaled it and refined the company-wide employee orientation to ensure that each employee understands Alteryx’s products and messaging.
Obviously, the primary goal of new employee orientation is to acclimate new employees to the company environment and culture.
While new employees are excited about getting started on their new jobs, the onboarding might as well to take that opportunity to get them excited about the company’s products too. This is especially hard to do when the products or platforms are complicated and technology-centric.
Alteryx is a self-service data-analytics platform. Their tool takes structured and unstructured data and builds a workflow to do further analysis. This video explains its features and functions nicely. However, it’s important for new employees to fully comprehend the product and its benefits. During the 3.5 days of new employee orientation, Amy and her team incorporated several sales training topics into the overall employee onboarding experience:
Help Employees Understand the Competitive Landscape
Amy’s team divided the competitive landscape into “Competitive Corner 101” and “Competitive Corner 201.” 101 offers a high-level glance at Alteryx’s competitors, broken down into different segments based on target audiences’ various needs. In addition, they also talk about the competitor landscape in the context of Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Data Science and Machine Learning and how competitive information is used by sales and senior management. The competitive landscape helps employees comprehend the long-term and short-term business objectives and future product roadmap.
Prepare Employees to Tell A Customer Story
One thing that made an impression on me is the easy-to-understand product benefit framework illustrated from the data scientist’s point of view. Alteryx is a self-service data analytics platform with which users can mix and blend different types of data and then use Alteryx’s workflow to build their own analytics. Rebekah Shouse, Enablement Training Generalist, illustrates with a very simple sequence:
Data analytics starts with a question. Understand the question you want to address.
Then, source and find your data. Pull your data into one place.
The next step is to answer the question by analyzing, sharing and collaborating with others to get the answers
Lastly, take action based on the answers and deliver business value for your company
The Stages of Data Analytics:
Rebekah is able to illustrate 3-4 key benefits that Alteryx can provide for their users at each stage. It’s a framework that both sales and new employees can use and showcase anytime and anywhere.
I asked Rebekah if she encourages employees to take the sequence of a framework and change it to add their own personal touches. She told me that she discourages that. She uses McDonald’s french fries recipe as an example. McDonald’s localizes and customizes its menu, but the french fries recipe stays the same no matter which McDonald’s you go on the earth. This resonates with me well: messaging framework and keywords/phrases stay consistent, but how the story is told can be different from person to person. In fact, I wrote a blog post about why it’s important to keep messaging consistent.
Understand Alteryx’s Buyers’ Personas
Every employee should understand that it’s not the company who pays their salary, it’s the customers. Therefore, it’s important to understand who buys Alteryx products. Again, the enablement team made it very simple by classifying buyers into 3 categories:
The Line of Business (LOB): analysts in various functions such as Finance, HR, Marketing, Sales, Research and Development can benefit from using the self-service analytics platform.
Citizen data scientist and data scientist: data scientists, including consultants, who crank up data full-time. Individuals who create predictive or prescriptive analytics outside their primary job functions.
IT Managers: IT departments who provide data analytics to their internal stakeholders.
Again, employees don’t need to know these personas in-depth, but they need to be aware of who use the products, why they use it, and the benefit they receive as a result.
Product Demo and Hands-on Product Exercise
Amy’s team asks sales engineers to come to orientation to do a product demo so that employees can see the product in action real-time. However, it doesn’t stop there. As part of the exercise, groups of 4 to 5 employees need to devise a question to answer, then find data on the Internet (Amy’s team provided websites that they can use to find publicly available data), then work as a team and use Alteryx to find the answer and recommend actions to take…or in some cases, share additional questions that arose as a result of analyzing the dataset. The hands-on product exercise offers employees first-hand experience with how their buyers use the products. If the products are great, employees learn to love and appreciate the products just like their users.
The big finale of the new employee orientation is that every team needs to do a demo like a salesperson. They need to be able to explain how data analytics is important using the simple messaging framework, discuss Alteryx’s position in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Data Science and Machine Learning, conduct a real-life product demo to showcase Alteryx addressing a specific question and close the presentation with key takeaways. It gives employees an opportunity to be a salesperson and a user at the same time. I love it.
Katie Peterson, the Enablement Coordinator, told me that a lot of thought goes into agenda development and logistical planning for the new employee training. In addition to product training, they don’t miss the beat on other typical training elements, such as sharing the founders’ story, IT training, Travel/Expense, CEO/VP Q & A, cybersecurity and branding/social media training. In the packed 3.5 days orientation, they even incorporated a 3-hour community volunteer experience as well.
They were gracious enough to allow me to view their entire onboarding orientation recently, during which I even participated in the volunteer activity. For my session, we helped the Ecology Center’s in San Juan Capistrano by picking oranges in their farm and paving their parking lot with gravel. It gave everyone an opportunity to get out and enjoy the California sun. It was amazing to see what 30 people can accomplish in less than 3 hours when working together as a team with one goal. In no time, the parking lot was covered suitably with gravel and the oranges for that day were picked, sorted and washed nicely. It also created a nice sense of bonding and community for all employees.
In the digital era, employees can easily use social media platforms to amplify their voice and points of view.
Every employee can be a brand ambassador or company advocate if they choose to be. Why not help them understand the products and benefits and get them excited, not only about their new jobs but also about the company, products, culture and people, all at the same time.
Amy told me that they are progressive. Actually, I see their team as reformists by modernizing employee training with a sales flair. The team manages to create a shared responsibility for customer engagement regardless of their roles.
New job, new employee orientation, new excitement, a new beginning.
Since the publication of my 2nd Book, Effective Sales Enablement, several marketers approached me and were interested in enabling their sales teams but unsure of how to get started. Since every marketer’s relationship with their sales team is different, your support effort will be different. Therefore, it’s best to approach sales enablement based on 3 common marketing roles that exist in most companies.
How to start supporting sales:
an individual contributor
as a marketing director with a small team
as a VP of marketing
As an individual contributor:
The best way to start is to clearly understand your own roles and responsibilities. Are you doing email marketing? Are you managing social media channels? Are you a content creator? Or, if you are wearing multiple hats, what marketing tactics do you do? What marketing channels are you responsible?
Next, talk to the sales team to understand their challenges and needs. When you ask sales what you can do to better support them, it’s going to be like opening Pandora’s box, they will tell you many, many things that they need your support on.
You need to categorize and prioritize their requests, then identify the items that you can help within the context of your roles and responsibilities. That’s why you need to know your own roles and responsibilities. This is especially true in a big company where roles and responsibilities are narrowly defined. That’s one way to start: a bottom-up, informal approach.
Another way is to create a formal request with solid recommendations on what you plan to do after your discovery and research. Present it to your management and sales, seek their support and get approval and funding before you start. That’s a more formal way to go about it.
As a marketing director:
As a marketing director, you likely have a team and a budget already. You probably have a plan in place to leverage your team and budget to achieve your marketing objectives. Start having conversations with your sales counterparts and understand their challenges to see if you can address some of them with your current plan.
Sometimes, there is low-hanging fruit, such as revising select marketing content for sales needs or sharing a messaging framework or even helping with on-boarding training. Again, the key is to incorporate what you can do as part of your plan deliverables. The best time to do that is during the company’s annual planning cycle. Get a fresh start and have a discussion as part of the fiscal year planning.
As a VP of marketing:
The most ideal way to start sales enablement is top-down. As a VP of marketing, you have the authority and power to initiate collaboration with the VP of sales.
Obviously, you have your marketing plan and initiatives for the year, as does the sales team.
Understand the sales plan and key imperatives for the year. Identify the areas where marketing can add value. Get the VP of sales’ buy-in and identify team members from both sides to form a task force or a virtual team, since many small projects start with some forms of a task force. This is a good way to start if you can’t add headcount immediately. To keep the momentum going, it’s essential to request timely updates from the team.
There is a consistent theme when embarking on the effort to enable sales, whether you’re an individual contributor, director, or VP of marketing:
Know what you are doing first –> Know yourself.
Seek to understand sales’ challenges and pain points. –> Know your sales team
Identify the challenges that you can address –> Know what you will do.
Map it into your overall plan deliverables –> Create a plan to execute.
Getting started is easy with a can-do attitude and scrappy implementation. We all need to start somewhere. The challenge is how to keep the effort strong and on-going. The only way to sustain that is the top-down approach with a strong commitment from senior management of sales and marketing.