Even the most successful, fast-growing B2B companies are often babes in the woods when it comes to marketing. Good as they may be at product development and enterprise sales, they lack the processes, scorecards, benchmarks and shared expectations to run marketing campaigns—and to tell if they’re working.
In a decade of working with small and mid-sized B2B companies, I’ve encountered every marketing stumbling block a firm can face. Here are three simple, practical things you can do to make your marketing more effective and less painful.
1. Give your marketer an hour a week
If a firm is new to marketing, there’s likely to be little in the way of resources or systems in place for a newly hired marketer to work with. That means the marketer has to educate their colleagues on the process and outcomes of marketing, corral the necessary stakeholders to develop content and campaigns, and coordinate the vendors and specialists needed to build websites, write case studies and so on.
To aid in these efforts, establish a weekly, hour-long meeting between the marketer and the senior executive to whom the marketing function reports. The marketer should be responsible for preparing the agenda and identifying what they need from their supervisor. The senior executive, in turn, should provide feedback, make final decisions, and supply any input the marketer needs. They should also help clear roadblocks put up by other team members, and ensure that marketing projects are completed and then evaluated. Without such help, marketing efforts are quickly derailed and marketers become demoralized.
2. Tell your marketer how to get in touch
One early client taught me an important lesson about communication. I would send him long emails outlining the decisions I needed his input on, then wait days—sometimes weeks—for a response. Without his input I couldn’t complete the projects he’d commissioned me for.
One day, the company’s CFO pulled me aside and told me that if I wanted the CEO’s input, I should call him early in the morning. What a difference it made. The CEO was a morning person, usually arriving at the office by 7 am each day, and he loved talking on the phone. If I called him around 7.15 am, I got everything I needed from him. He was much happier, because I wasn’t slowing him down, and I was much happier, because things were getting done.
It was a simple but powerful realization: Communicate with people the way they want to, not the way you want to. As the boss, you’ve got a lot going on, and a marketer who doesn’t understand how to talk to you is unlikely to be high on your priority list. To prevent communication issues from scuttling your marketing efforts, tell your marketer how and when you want to be contacted, and then give them your full attention when they get in touch.
3. Empower your marketer to hold you accountable
The number one barrier to successful marketing is the input of ‘the boss’. Whether it’s edits for the website copy, or the name for an upcoming event, or the stats cited in a whitepaper, the best way to derail the progress of a marketing project is to force every decision to go through the CEO.
One way to solve this problem is to remove the bottleneck, by not requiring the boss’s sign off before marketing initiatives go out into the world. This works for companies where the marketer knows both the business and the boss, and the boss is comfortable with the decisions the marketer makes.
But when a marketer is new to the business and still building trust with their boss, cutting out the approval stage isn’t an option. Instead, the boss must be held accountable for sticking to agreed-upon marketing timelines. If you’ve told your marketer you’ll make time to sign off on some collateral or approve a campaign, make sure to fulfill your commitment.
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These proven rules work in any business function, not just marketing. Stick to these processes, keep things simple, and you’ll be on your way to success.
Lisa Shepherd is author of the book The Radical Sales Shift: 20 Lessons from 20 Leaders on How to Use Marketing to Grow Sales in B2B Companies and founder of The Mezzanine Group, a B2B strategic marketing company based in Toronto