Rising through the ranks from Manufacturing to Engineering to Operations and then through a battlefield promotion to division president, I never stopped along that path to learn anything about Sales or Marketing. I've always been a process, tech, time-management and metrics guy, and back-in-the-day, the world of Sales seemed to revolve around travel, food, and golf, none of which I do very well. Marketing to me back then was even more confusing since it was simply expensive black magic.
In fact, the day after I became president, the head of marketing rushed into my office to let me know that I needed to sign a requisition for the travel and equipment shipping costs for the big annual trade show the next week. "Typical" Marketing guy, I said to myself since the equipment had been shipped the week before, and the travel costs had already been spent, and I knew that he just needed a signature to cover himself, but then what did I know about marketing? I asked as I was signing the large expense requisition, not knowing if I even had the authority from my corporate bosses to do so...
My question was: "How do you plan to measure the success of this trade show?"
The response was: "You don't understand, you can't measure marketing"
The next question was: "Then how do you know what works?"
The answer was: "Marketing is like spaghetti. You throw it against the wall and see what sticks"
Needless to say, one of my first tasks as the new president was to find a new head of marketing.
At the time, I was doing a lot of volunteer work at the MIT Enterprise Forum, where I became chair, and had the opportunity through our events to meet the philosopher-king of marketing, Regis McKenna, who, in essence, created the folklore which became Silicon Valley entrepreneurship. A couple of years later, Regis wrote the iconic HBR article Marketing is Everything, which for me, still today, provides the perfect foundation for all one needs to know to begin their journey into this fascinating and now very rapidly evolving world of marketing.
I look back at those transitional years now with amazement that I survived given the number of mistakes I made not having had hands-on experience selling or marketing. What I did bring from the manufacturing floor and engineering labs is a very strong appreciation for the critical importance of formal processes, specific tools and metrics. Years later, when one cuts through all of the clutter surrounding the word, "marketing", there are three basic truths. There are actually lots more, but I like "The Rule of 3"...and, it's Friday!
3 Basic marketing Truths for this Friday:
- Marketing's job is to deliver qualified leads to Sales. Blunt, simple, direct and to the point!
Every business runs on revenue, revenue comes from closing sales, and "good" leads are the fuel flowing through the pipeline from "awareness" to "closed deals". Lots of nuances, volumes of complex and conflicting terms and now gigabytes of analytics from literally thousands of helpful (?) software solutions, but at the end of the day, there's always a math equation based on time and costs that works for every company between the number of leads produced and done deals.
The importance of this particular basic truth is simply not to overthink it and get caught up in our underwear trying to create the most elegant solutions and the perfect set of analytics. Marketing is simply a timed experiment...possibly in a series of short minutes. Figure out what works most probably and turn the dial a little more.
- Everything will change, but the basics will remain.
Two years ago, not many of us could spell TicTok. I remember receiving a call a year ago from one of my gifted alums then six years into a meteoric rise in his job at Facebook, asking me what I thought about him going to a startup in the U.S. by the name of TicTok. After we debated risk and opportunities, he made the change and is now riding a management rocket ship while billions of vides have been created including my favorite brand revival.
Even though, the media elements will multiply 20x in the next two years, there will still be snail mail, billboards, trade shows, $5m Super Bowl ads, and thousands of other existing choices plus the thousands of new TikToks yet to be created, successful marketing always comes down to the cost of the delivery of a qualified lead over time from viewing to buying. Always experiment and keep on top of what's working...or could work...in your markets, but most importantly remember that the monthly sales engine needs to be fed with cost effective leads. The alternative is very expensive sales people creating their own leads through their own marketing attempts, and we already know that that never works. Research giant Forrester shows that salespeople waste 5 hours a week trying to do just this, and the results are both wasted time and most importantly mixed and confusing messages
- Gotta stay on the competitive edge. I'm reasonably "good/fair/ok" at Marketing. I love the nuances, the math, the science and the experiments, plus I have the privilege of teaching the stuff at MIT and Tufts. This week, I signed up for an online semester-long advanced marketing analytics course at Stamford since I know I can be better. I'm not totally sure of the results, and, yes, my schedule is already wacko, but what I do know is that what I know today will be changed tomorrow...except for the basics, of course. I encourage all of us as sales and marketing professionals to think about doing the same. Maybe it's a degree, maybe it's an online course or a week-long certificate program offered at every one of the top 20 universities where marketing as a major is taught. Now is a perfect time to think about this!
I'm here this morning in VT still with two feet of snow on the ground, and the very good news is that it's 50 degrees and climbing rapidly. Not a lot of sleep last night since the security lights out by the barn kept tripping, so was not too surprised to discover new bear tracks up and down the driveway as I drove out early to get breakfast at the Winhall General Store.
Have a great day selling today and a superb weekend!
A CONFIDENTIAL SOUNDING BOARD
If at any time, you have a need for a confidential sounding board for Sales or Marketing, just connect with me at any time. www.derbymanagement.com
Text or email me, and I'll quickly set up a call. I'm a pretty good listener, and we can get deep into tactics if you want.
Obviously, no cost for a call or two; just an opportunity to listen intently and make a few recommendations based on decades of experience.