Google+ The Marketing Survivalist: September 2009

Don’t Give Me a Tour of Your Company. Give Me a Tour of Your Marketing!

Did you ever go on one of those interviews that ended with a tour of the company’s facilities? You pass by rows and rows of cubicles… “This is marketing.” This is support.” “And this is our finance department.” You’re still so wound up from the interview that you couldn’t remember anybody’s name or department any more than you could remember the way back to the conference room you came out of.

The whole process seems at best anti-climactic. But more than that, it doesn't really tell me what I need to know.

Don’t get me wrong. Your people are important. After all, they are your biggest asset. (It says so right on your website.) I can already tell from our discussions that I am a cultural fit for your organization and I’m sure I will love working with the team.

What I can’t tell yet, and I am dying to know, is how much value I can really add. I’m sure I can fulfill the functions on the job description or I wouldn’t be wasting your time and mine. But you want someone who adds real value and not someone who just fills a slot on a chart. And, to fully understand my value-add, I need to get my hands on your marketing.

Just once, I’d like to be able to conduct the interview instead of the other way around. Here are a few questions I would ask:

1. What are your marketing KPIs?
2. Show me your website stats. I want to see what kind of traffic you are getting and where it’s coming from.
3. Tell me about your lead management process. Do you think it’s working well? (Please be upfront with me. I will keep everything confidential.)
4. Tell me about the relationship between marketing and sales. What opportunities do they have to collaborate?
5. What sales tools has marketing created for the team? How well are they being used? (I’d love to speak to a sales person)
6. What is your value proposition?
7. How are you generating the majority of your leads?
8. Do you have a lead nurturing program?
9. How does the organization feel about social media tactics like Twitter and blogging? (I need to know how forward thinking you are or if you are going to expect me to do the same things you’ve always done.)
10. What is your annual marketing budget? (Always good to know what you have to work with.)
11. Tell me about the marketing team. Who are the stars? Who needs coaching or mentoring?

There’s more, but this should give me enough details to know where I can make the greatest impact, or if I am better off looking for someone else who really needs me.

I know that many of the executives and HR managers who conduct the interviews may not be able to answer those questions. After all, one of the reasons they need someone like me is because they don’t have time for the details and they need someone who can steer the ship toward their vision. That’s why I’d prefer a round of interviews with several members of the team.

It goes without saying that I’d share my ideas and give my thoughts on the kind of impact I could have on your organization. In the end, you’d gain valuable insights even if we decided that I wasn’t the right fit. And, if I was, we’d both feel a lot more comfortable with the decision.

The other nice thing about the reverse-interview is that it’s a lot easier on the interviewer. No more sitting through a lot of rambling answers from people who aren’t qualified, can’t get to the point or just aren’t giving you enough info to get a feel for their fit.

What do you think? As a hiring manager or an interviewee, would this work for you?

All the best!
Melissa Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

To Get the Right People, You Have to Ask the Right Questions

The business software and services industry is filled with start-ups and smaller companies led by very smart people with a vision. (I’m sure that describes a lot of industries.)

To put these visions into practice these firms need marketing staff. They usually start out by hiring some energetic and smart marketing professionals with a few years of marketing experience under their belt. If they hire well, they find marketing professionals that are great at execution.

After a couple of years, they realize that they have a problem. While they have the vision and their marketing staff has the ability to execute, neither have the marketing experience needed to bridge the vision and the tactics. They need someone to manage marketing who can help make sure that the company is doing the right things right. (To paraphrase Tom Peters)

It's still a small(ish) company so this “someone” needs to be a player/manager. In other words, they need to be able to manage the team as well as roll up their sleeves and do some of the work. You don’t need CMO level talent, maybe not even VP level, but you do need someone who can be strategic as well as tactical.

Marketing budgets are tight and you can’t afford to make the wrong decision. There’s lots of talent on the market right now (a.k.a. marketing professionals looking for work), but how can you be sure that you are choosing the right professional if you aren’t a marketing professional yourself?

To get you started, here are a few questions that you may want to insert between the “Tell me about yourself” and “When can you start?” I’ve added my two cents on what you should be looking for.

How were you measured in your last role? Was it appropriate?

You want someone who is comfortable being measured. One of the key benefits of a manager at this level is to take you from just doing more marketing to doing the things that count. A manager at this level should be able to tell you exactly which metrics make sense for the role.

However, just because someone was measured via a certain metric, doesn’t mean that it was appropriate. For example, if they were measured on click-throughs, give them the opening to tell you why that measurement was irrelevant.

How did you collaborate with sales? Are there other ways that sales and marketing can work together to improve business performance?

The closer the role is to closing business e.g. demand creation or collateral development, the more collaboration the team needs to have with sales. You want a leader that sees the sales team as a partner in driving business.

How do you keep your skills fresh?

Marketing is a constantly changing profession. You want a leader who understands how to leverage all of the great educational opportunities, many of them free, on the web in order to keep their skills fresh. This will be especially important if the marketing leader needs to mentor other, less experienced professionals.

What new ideas have you tried lately?

You want marketers who aren’t afraid to try new things. If they are doing marketing the same way this year as they did last year, they’ve gone stale.

Have you experimented with any web-based techniques? What are you favorites?

For those of you with limited marketing budgets, you want someone who is capable of leveraging the web. Chances are social media techniques will play a part in their answer, but I’d give a marketer extra points for talking about what makes a good web website. You can take away a few points if all they talk about is SEO.

What tactics have you stopped using?

This is just as important as the new tactics that they’ve tried. If they keep doing the same things the same way chances are they are great at wasting money.

Tell me about your lead nurturing program that you ran in your last company.

Even if they didn’t have a good lead nurturing program at their last company, they ought to turn this into an opportunity to expound on how important it is and how they should have had one. Any marketer who gives you a blank look or tells you that they put their leads on a call back schedule is not a strategic thinker that you are looking for.

For those of you who are marketing managers or have hired at this level, please add to this list. Let’s see if we can’t help put the right people in the right places.

All the best!

Melissa Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

With Social Media Everyone IS in Marketing

It’s often said that everyone thinks they are a marketer. Marketers receive unsolicited opinions from colleagues on everything from the color of the logo to the target markets that the company should expand into.

I think one of the reasons why everyone has an opinion on marketing is because intuitively they know that marketing is fun and they want to be part of it. Yes, it’s not always as glamorous as it looks from the outside. As those of us who are professional marketers know, it’s a lot of hard work. However, you have to admit it can be one of the coolest jobs there is.

A recent post on the Left The Box marketing blog called 8 Ways Social Media Should Change Your Marketing got me thinking. One of the points made was that you should involve everyone – customer service, product development, and even public relations.

These days, everyone from the Director of First Impressions (formerly receptionist) to that slightly strange developer (the one that only works nights and seems to live off of pizza and M&Ms) can set up a Twitter account, a facebook page, their own blog, as well as comment on other blogs. And, if you are in the technology industry as I am, chances are they will.

Each of these online impressions, especially those that are clearly tied to your company, can have an impact on your online brand perception. You no longer have the choice but to involve everyone in marketing because you can no longer control it.

Since the choice is taken out of your hands, why not look on this as an opportunity to leverage these creative juices? Here are some ideas to get started:

Set clear social media guidelines. For example, everyone should understand what types of information is confidential. And, black and white rules such as “never disparage a customer or business partner” can really help keep everyone inbounds.

Provide training to those who are interested. Provide training sessions for those who are new to social media to show them how to use it. If you have some great enthusiasts from outside marketing, leverage their expertise by having them do the training. You'll increase your buy-in if marketing isn't always in charge. “Lunch n’ learns” are a great format for this.

Create an idea board. Pull together your best social media enthusiasts to form a group that meets to discuss ideas for leveraging social media. It doesn’t matter what department these team members come from, but don’t call this an “advisory board.” This implies that they are advising you on what to do. The ideas generated from this group may very well not be marketing’s responsibility to execute.

Monitor. You don’t want to turn your back on what is happening. Your role isn’t to be the social media police, but you do want to be sure that you spot practices that could cause a problem for your organization. You can incorporate the course corrections into your company guidelines, training sessions, and idea boards as a way to subtly set things on the right path.

All the best! (and have fun!)

Melissa Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Where Will You Put Your Money in 2010?

A question was recently asked on the LinkedIn Business Development forum, “…what key marketing initiatives are you planning for 2010?”

The question is timed perfectly as it’s already late September and I’m sure many of you are getting ready to start planning for next year. You might even be getting a jump on planning for 2010 as you're eager to leave this year behind and start next year off right. The challenge is that you know your budgets won’t be the same next year. The odds of having an increase in marketing funds is not nearly as likely as the odds that you’ll have to find a way to do more with less.

In some ways, the question should be, “What aren’t you planning to do in 2010?” The programs and activities that you cut out of your marketing plans can make as much of a difference as any new initiative that you add to your plan. It’s well past time to stop wasting money on old programs, executed in old ways, that have long since stopped generating business.

Once you cut out the waste, however, what do you spend your money on? It would be comforting to say here’s a sure-fire way to generate qualified opportunities and all you have to do is invest roughly X dollars per opportunity that you want to generate. If marketing planning were that black and white, we’d be able to eliminate the yearly budget battles. Unfortunately, it never is.

The good news is that the improvements that most B2B marketers need to make don’t necessarily cost a lot of money. You can invest in these areas, but vast improvements can still be made in companies with very little marketing funding.

Below are the three areas that most of the marketing teams I work with need to focus on to see business improve in 2010. My comments on costs are to illustrate that money need not be the obstacle that keeps you from executing. You can invest heavily in each of these areas, but you can also make do with what you have and still see results.

Sales and marketing alignment
There are a number of actions that can bring your sales and marketing teams into alignment:

• Defining what a qualified lead looks like.
• Agreeing on the process for follow up. For example, if marketing generates a qualified lead, the expectation is that sales follows up within 24 hours.
• Tieing marketing’s qualified lead goals to sales goals.
• Establishing a regular cycle of meetings between sales and marketing to gather feedback. What obstacles is sales facing? How are the current sales tools working? What sales tools did they need to create? Have the leads that sales was given all met the qualified lead threshold? Etc.

Cost: Zero. However, if your sales and marketing teams are so far out of whack that they are at each other’s throat, it might be a good idea to bring in an outside facilitator. The right facilitator can overcome the conflicts between the teams and get everyone working together.

Lead nurturing
With sales cycles lengthening, and projects being back-burnered, lead nurturing is becoming more important than ever.

Cost: Variable. Building an opt-in list takes time, but since you can build your list as part of your established marketing programs, there isn’t an extra cost involved.

Lead management and marketing automation is extremely helpful in managing a lead nurturing program. You may already have these tools in-house, but you may not be using them to their fullest. If not, even those of you with modest budgets can find solutions that will work. And, the great thing about shopping around for a tool to manage your nurturing programs is that you’ll learn a lot about nurturing best-practices in the process.

Finally, you may need to expand your content library if all you have are a few brochures. Remember, brochures don’t count as content. You can cut costs by repurposing what you have, repurposing articles and other content written by objective experts, creating on-demand webinars and by blogging for quick and easy content. That leaves the occasional white paper or e-book to be outsourced. (if necessary)

Website improvements
Enough with the static websites that haven’t changed in years. Although I believe in SEO, too many lose sight of Target Audience Optimization while they seek to improve their click-throughs from the search engines. It doesn’t do you any good to get them there if you lose them right away.

You should study SEO techniques and determine what you can do in-house and what you might need to hire an outside expert to do. I think it’s a good idea to hire a trust-worthy outside expert so you can learn from them, but don’t blow your budget on this one line item. There’s a lot you can do to get found by using vendors like HubSpot and your own online marketing efforts.

Be sure you have a partnership with your webmaster and that you work with them to test variations of your site. The smallest changes can make the world of difference in conversions.

Cost: Minimal 2010 is the year to make your website the lead generation machine (and opt-in list building machine) that it was meant to be. It takes effort and time, but not a lot of money.

Good luck with the rest of this year and here’s to a prosperous 2010 for all of us!

Melissa Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Tell Me About Yourself

One of the most common mistakes I see from new (and sometimes experienced) Twitter users is the lack of a bio. As those of you who are fellow-Tweeps know, Twitter allows you to have a short bio in your profile. This shows up on your home page when someone clicks on it.

Here’s an example of what you’d see if you clicked on my ID:

I know it’s hard to come up with a quick, pithy summary of yourself. It’s tempting to decide to get back to it when the inspiration hits. But from what I can tell, a lot of you aren’t getting back to it.

I get followers all the time who don’t have a bio that tells me who they are. I can usually tell whether I want to follow them based on their Tweets. But, it helps to know who they are so I know where they are coming from.

If you really can’t think of a one-line bio, at the very least you can put a link to your LinkedIn profile. After all, Twitter is an online social network, and it’s hard to network with people you don’t know anything about. (Plus it feels a bit creepy!)

All the best!

Melissa Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Your Value Proposition Stinks!

I hate to say this, but the value proposition statements of most technology companies are pretty weak. I hate to say it because it’s marketing professionals like me who write them. So many of us write silly sounding (to everybody but us) little statements about how we’re the leader in some such technology or industry. Where’s the value in that?

Even those of you who have a statement that talks about the value you provide to your customers still bury it under your industry leadership statements. Some companies make their prospects dig through paragraphs of verbiage about how great the company is just to try to figure out how this greatness helps them.

Truthfully, I don’t think I ever wrote a good value prop until I started reading Jill Konrath’s books and blog. Now, I like to think I can take a weak value prop and turn it into something pithy and powerful with very little effort.

I highly recommend Jill’s book, Selling to Big Companies, but if you need value prop assistance in a hurry she’s also doing a free value prop webinar on Wednesday. It should be time well spent.

All the best!

Melissa Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Is Twitter a Better Test Than Myers-Briggs?

It occurred to me this morning that you can probably tell more about a person’s personality, approach to their profession and general outlook on life from looking at a picture of their tweets overtime than you can from the traditional standardized personality tests.

How many times do you get results back from one of these tests only to think “Are you sure this is me?” My very first Myers-Brigg’s test came back showing I was an introvert. I must have been having a bad day.

Here’s how to use Twitter to assess someone’s personality and approach to their profession:

If you click on an individual’s Twitter ID you can see a page full of their tweets. You can keep going back if you click the more button on the bottom. If the individual tweets several times a day, you may want to keep going back just so you don’t judge them based on their mood on one particular day.

Here are some of the conclusions that you might draw from a look at someone’s tweets. (By the way, these only apply to marketers. Those of you in other professions may draw your own conclusions.)

Not on Twitter – If they are in marketing and not on Twitter, I would be skeptical about any claims of social media expertise. At the very least, if they make that claim they better have a good reason for not having a Twitter account.

On Twitter, but no tweets – If they opened the account a long time ago is this a sign that they start projects but don’t finish them?

Doesn’t tweet very often – This could be a sign that they are new to Twitter but a laggard when it comes to adopting new ideas and technology. (Again, remember I am talking about marketers.) Or, it could be a sign that they are very busy and focused on their projects with no time to tweet. More investigation is called for.

Tweets all the time – I follow a couple individuals who tweet constantly. One is a personal branding specialist so I understand why he does it. The other individuals hold “real” jobs. I don’t know how they have enough time to Tweets 30-40 times a day and still get their work done. Enough said.

Tweets a lot, but usually all at the same time – This individual is a Twitter enthusiast (good) but still doesn’t get it. Tweeting ten times in a row at the end of every day is like doing a “drip” mailing and sending all mailers out the same week.

Tweets a lot of personal things – First, this individual still doesn’t understand the power of Twitter for personal branding or as a tool for marketing. Second, certain personal questions are illegal in interviews, but who needs to ask them when some people broadcast their life for the world to see. Be very careful with the personal tweets and think about what they say to those who may see the world differently than you.

Only tweets motivational quotes – These are the spice of life, but like vanilla, a little goes a long way. This individual is either convinced they are the world’s motivator or they are trying to motivate themselves. I like to think that the rest of the world isn’t wallowing in general apathy and ennui and that they don’t need the constant cheerleading. If they are trying to motivate themselves, and it works, then go for it. The rest of us will draw from your well when and if we need it.

Tweets their causes mixed with the professional – I think it’s great that people have things that they think are worth standing up for. However, if you are looking at someone who Tweets as much about their cause as they do about their profession, it’s probably reflective of their water cooler chatter too. Just be prepared is all I am saying.

Never tweets anything personal – This is the opposite of those who do too many personal tweets. The individual who never tweets anything personal, their own blog posts, simple comments, or direct replies, could be living their life vicariously through others. They need to get gain some self-confidence and let their voice be heard.

Topical blog tweets and retweets – Finally, you can tell a lot about the topics an individual is enthusiastic about by their tweets and retweets. If they tend to retweet blog posts about personal branding, social media, and content development then it’s a sure sign that those are three topics they follow and stay current on.

Just like with Myers Briggs, I think you should take my theories with a grain of salt. In fact, they’re probably wrong as often as they are right. But, maybe that’s the point. Perception is reality.

You should think about your tweeting style and consider what it says about you when someone clicks on your Twitter ID and “meets” you for the first time. Perhaps it never really matters what your personality is since others will always judge you by what they see.

OK, now you can tell me why my theories are all wrong.

All the best!

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Can You Avoid Making a Bad Hire?

There’s no doubt about it. It’s a buyer’s market for marketing talent. Meeting 80% of requirements is no longer good enough. Hiring managers are holding out for candidates that meet 100% and have a track record to boot.

Yet, hiring a marketing leader who can do all that they say they can is still a gamble. You can only tell so much from a series of one hour interviews. I’ve seem many “consensus” decisions turn out badly.

The resume is a personal brochure. Marketers, being the wordsmiths that they are, ought to be able to create resumes that sell. But, how do you know that the results they achieve were actually achieved through their efforts? Or, what if they were a fluke?

Reference calls are necessary, but who gives a reference that’s going to give them a bad review? You can go to HR, but they are trained to only verify that the candidate worked there at the time and in the role specified. No real help there.

Some have tried to get a better feel for their marketing candidates by asking for a presentation. I think this approach ought to be used more often, especially since most marketing roles require top-notch presentation skills. Still, you shouldn’t expect much from the presentation itself as the candidates, despite hours of research, will only have seen your good points. They won’t know your challenges until they get a good peek under the covers.

Here’s a novel idea presented by the master of all novel ideas – Seth Godin.

Seth suggests that you work with someone for several months before actually giving them a job. His downside is that you lose the bragging rights of the “great find.” On the other hand, I think you lose the embarrassment of talking up a new hire only to have them fall flat or be mediocre at best.

I agree that your pool of candidates would be smaller since not everyone would be comfortable with the arrangement. However, I don’t agree that you will be limited to people like freelancers and interns. I think there are many marketers looking for opportunities right now that would consider a contract opportunity. To me, the potential downside is that they turn out to be a great hire but you lose them to someone else before you have a chance to make the offer.

Here’s a few more ideas for how to make this work:

Pay the candidate for their time or by the project. This is not the same thing as an internship where someone is looking for experience. You should expect real value from these people.

Be clear on the deliverables. For example, if you are looking to hire a marketing executive, you might ask them to review your programs, processes and people and create recommendations for how your marketing can be improved. If you need a social media expert, you might ask them to put together a workshop on how companies are using social media to drive opportunities. A webmaster could be paid to make recommendations for how to improve your website performance.

By making these paid engagements, you are paying the candidate to dig into your unique situation and propose opportunities applicable to your organization and your goals. Even if you decide not to hire the candidate, you will learn something from their recommendations.

Put it in writing. Put the deliverable and your payment terms in writing. You don’t want to find yourself paying for a candidate’s time only for them to lose interest or take another position before they deliver the final report.

Give them enough time. This will vary by role. A Marketing Executive might need a couple months to do a thorough assessment. A Product Marketer might only need a couple of weeks to review your messaging, collateral and sales tools.

Remember that you are paying for the deliverable and not their time. If the candidate needs to perform the work on site, remember that they are still a contractor. You shouldn’t expect to hold them to the same sort of work schedule that you might a full time employee. Many of these candidates will want to continue their search.

Give them access. Don’t limit their access only to those on the “interview circle.” Give them access to the people they would need to collaborate with if they had the job. This way you’ll get a 360-degree view on their fit in the organization.

Consider remote candidates. No one wants to go to the extra expense of relocating a candidate unless they are absolutely sure they can perform spectacularly. This option can allow you to consider some candidates that you might not have considered had you needed to relocate them first. For example, if you pay a potential marketing executive to perform an assessment of your programs, processes and people, much of this work can be done remotely.

What do you think? If you are a hiring manager, does this sound like a strategy that would work? Have you tried it? If you are a job-seeker, would you be willing to take a role on a trial basis?

All the best!

Melissa Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Yes, sales can write blog posts!

Earlier this week I wrote Step 5 for Dumping your Marketing Department – Leverage Blogging. (Those of you who think I might actually be proposing getting rid of marketing might want to read the post before jumping to any conclusions.)

In that post I suggested that blogging is another way that sales can reach out to their market and generate their own opportunities as well as nurture those that they are already working. However, I recognized that many companies are loathe to let their sales reps anywhere near a blog.

Yesterday I found proof that sales can write their own posts and that allowing those who are closest to the customer is one way to keep your blog real and relevant.

Tyler Buskard is Sales Director for HighJump Software. He doesn’t own the company blog but he is a frequent contributor to it. His posts are entertaining, tight and right on the money. (They may not resonate with you if you haven’t spent time marketing to operations people like I have. You’ll just have to trust me that the message is spot on.)

HighJump’s blog Raising the Bar is also a good example of a blog written by multiple authors – a technique you may want to try if frequency of posts is an issue. The posts have the same style and tone. So much so, in fact, that I checked with Tyler before posting this to be sure that those with the bylines were the ones that wrote the posts. (They were.)

Although the team obviously has a format of sorts that they adhere to, there is enough individual personality in the posts that you feel like you know the bloggers. Chris Goldsmith’s post where he manages to tie the Viking’s acquisition of Brett Favre to a product launch is a great example.

All the posts promote HighJump Software without being excessively promotional. I think the length plays a big part in that. When Chris talks about the product launch he starts with a fun paragraph about Brett Favre and the Vikings. It is short enough not to irritate those who aren't football fans (or have developed a passionate dislike of Favre). Then he covers the product launch in another short paragraph. As a product strategist I’m sure he could have gone on for pages with details, but even while interjecting some of his own personality, he kept his audience in mind.

If you are looking for a good B2B blog to emulate, I encourage you to check this one out.

Happy Blogging!

Melissa Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

12 Steps to Dumping Your Marketing Department - Step 5 Leverage Blogging

As a marketer, I don’t really believe that you could or should dump your marketing department. Of course, as a former sales person, I can also understand the frustration you feel when your marketing department fails to consistently deliver enough qualified opportunities to keep your pipeline full.

This is Step 5 in a 12 step series showing sales people how they can reduce their reliance on their marketing team. Marketers should also pay close attention as this series can give you tips that you can share with your sales team to help make them more successful and take a bit of the pressure off of you.

It’s been awhile since Step 4 and I’ll bet some of you thought I had given up on this series. Not so, but you have had over a month to implement Steps 1-4 and should be ready for Step 5. For those of you just joining us, Steps 1 – 4 are:

Step 1 - Target your market

Step 2 – Build your online presence

Step 3 – Hang out with your market

Step 4 – Nurture your leads

Step 5 is to leverage blogging in order to expand your credibility and continue to expand your online presence.

There are two ways to leverage blogging – write your own or take advantage of blogs from experts in your field. I highly recommend writing your own blog. For those of you with an opinion (and what sales person doesn’t have one?) and a small bit of writing talent it’s surprisingly easy to do. For ideas on blog topics read Save time (and make more sales) by blogging.

Another cool benefit of blogging is that, when done well, it gives you a fast and easy way to create content for your lead nurturing program. This can be very useful if your marketing team isn't doing well with keeping you stocked with fresh and compelling content.

However, some of you are probably working for employers who are a little uncomfortable letting you author your own blog or contribute to the company blog. That’s unfortunate, but if that’s the case, you can still leverage blogs from experts in your field. Here’s how:

Find blogs written by experts in your field. You can read all the sales blogs you want, but I am referring to blogs written about the product and services you sell. You are looking for blogs read by your target audience.

You can find these kinds of blogs by looking on association sites, trade magazine sites, blog directories like Technorati, or just by Googling a few key words and the word “blog.” You can even find them by checking out your competitors’ websites. Of course, look for links to external experts’ blogs as you don’t want to start promoting a competitor's blog.

Another great way to find blogs that occasionally talk about your area of expertise is to set up your Google alerts for keywords related to your field. You’ll churn up all kinds of interesting sites.

Read the blogs. Reading these blogs does two things. First, even if you are already an expert in your field you’ll broaden your own understanding and getter a better finger on the pulse of your market.

Second, you’ll get a feel for the personality of the blog author, the target reader, and what sort of comments would be appropriate. This will lead you to the next step.

Start Commenting. While comments aren’t the only metrics for blogs, nor even the most important, blog authors still love comments as long as they the comments are appropriate. Self promotion is ok as long as you aren’t honing in on someone else’s territory and the self-promotion is secondary to the value you add to the discussion.

If you find yourself commenting frequently on an experts’ blog, or engaging in a discussion after you post a comment, check to see if the author of the blog is on LinkedIn or Twitter. I have had tremendous success expanding my own network by reaching out to those whose blogs I read and comment on.

One quick caution. Blog comments are public and will show up if a prospect Googles your name or your company name so you want to spend as much time crafting them with care as you would any sales correspondence.

Tweet It! The final suggestion for leveraging expert blogs in your industry is to Tweet them. However, I’ll leave a full discussion of leveraging Twitter for Step 6.

Happy Selling!

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Your First 90 Days as a Marketing Executive or Manager – The Checklist

Earlier this week I wrote a post about accepting unsolicited marketing advice. You can and should listen to the advice of your new colleagues to get the most complete picture possible. On the flip side, you were hired for your expertise in marketing and not simply to make everyone happy by implementing their suggestions. It’s up to you to take a professional look at the people, processes and programs.

Here’s a checklist of some of the things that should be assessed within your first couple of months in your new role.

90 Day Checklist

Target market defined? – Does the company have a general consensus on who the target market is? The consensus in this case is important. If you have differing opinions of what the ideal customer looks like you’ll waste a lot of time and money selling and marketing to the wrong targets.

Value prop – Does your company have one? Is it pithy and focused on customer value? Is it used in your materials and on your website to help explain what you do? Even if you aren’t selling to big companies all the time, Jill Konrath’s book Selling to Big Companies is an excellent resource for honing your value proposition, even if you aren’t selling to big companies.

Universal lead definition/lead scoring – Is there an agreement between sales and marketing on what constitutes a qualified lead?

Marketing metrics – Are there marketing goals that are linked directly to sales goals? Are they based on some reasonable assumptions of close ratios? How is marketing performing against these goals and are they held accountable?

Sales SLA in place and agreed to by sales execs? – Just as marketing should be held accountable for generating a prescribed number of qualified leads, sales needs to be held accountable for follow up. For example, there should be set expectations for the amount of time that passes between the hand-off to sales and the first contact with the prospect.

Feedback loop – Is there a feedback mechanism where sales can provide input to marketing on the quality of the leads? For example, if sales didn’t accept them as “qualified” why not and how does marketing need to change their qualification procedures to ensure that only qualified leads are sent to sales?

Ideally, this feedback mechanism involves a human:human exchange and is not simply a requirement that sales complete a form in your CRM system. It’s in the conversations that happen between sales and marketing where real understanding occurs. Reading a CRM report just doesn't have the same impact.

Lead nurturing – How are leads being nurtured? This paragraph is far too short for the importance of this piece, but I’ve written a significant amount about lead nurturing. It is imperative that you have the processes in place.

Content assessment – Is the content fresh, relevant and customer focused? You may have the lead nurturing processes set up well, but if you are sending out garbage you won’t be effective. Take a complete inventory and be objective about the real value of the available content.

Website – You should understand what your company has done to optimize for the search engines, but in the first 90 days, I would be more concerned with the target audience optimization. Is the site customer centric or too focused on the company? Are there plenty of calls to action that inspire your visitor to sign up for your mailing program? What are the bounce rates for your various pages? (Where are you losing visitors?)

A solid website is the foundation for a nurturing program as it should be your best tool for creating an effective opt-in list.

Sales Tools – Which sales tools are the sales team using and how are they being used? Which sales tools did they create themselves? Notice, I didn’t suggest that you assess what sales tools are available. I find that many companies think they have great sales tools, but the majority of them are never used.

Campaign metrics/processes – What are the metrics used to measure campaigns? What is the process for reviewing these metrics? Are they ever looked at? Are debriefs done to assess what worked and didn’t work with your campaigns?

As you go through this one you should get a good idea of which campaigns are working and which ones aren’t. Tread lightly in your first 90 days though. This is one of those areas that can be filled with political landmines. You may not want to blurt out that you are going to cut your EVP of Sales’ favorite tradeshow – at least until you understand the ramifications.

Customer satisfaction – What does the company really know about their perception in the marketplace and their customer satisfaction. When were the studies last done and how were they performed.

Although new business is typically a priority for new marketing leaders, existing customer business increases in importance during a recession. You may find it a priority, but that the company has no real understanding of their customers’ satisfaction levels, how to improve them, nor how to capitalize on them.

Each of these areas could spin off into other areas that you need to investigate, but these are the major ones that you can’t overlook. Some areas are likely to be “major disasters” whereas others might need some work, but can function for awhile without your intervention. Others may be working just fine even if the methods set up are a little different from what you’re used to. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Or at least focus your energies on the more important issues first.

From your assessment, and the opinions of others as mentioned yesterday, you’ll be able to create a plan of action that is prioritized and effective and you’ll be off to a great start.

Have fun!

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Social Media Guidelines

I’ve written recently about setting Twitter guidelines for companies as well as shared my own personal Twitter guidelines. However, Twitter is just one small piece of the larger social media picture.

Kent Huffman in the Social2B blog wrote an excellent post about setting social medial policies and communicating these policies to your employees. He provides links to social media policy examples for several well-known as well as general concerns to consider.

The purpose of these guidelines isn’t to keep your employees off of social media. It’s to give them a framework to work within. Kent’s post should give everyone ample fodder for creating workable guidelines that make sense for their own company culture and industry.

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Leveraging Your First 90 Days as a Marketing Leader

Everyone knows that the first 90 days in the role of marketing executive or manager can make a break your future within an organization.

On the upside, it’s a time when the company is inclined to cut you a little slack. You can and should take the time to perform a solid assessment of marketing programs, processes and people before jumping in with your ideas. Imposing your own ideas before you adequately understand the inner workings of an organization can cause you to burn bridges you never intended to burn, make mistakes that are hard to unravel, and waste valuable time.

On the downside, in your first few months in your new role everyone will have an opinion of what’s wrong and what you should do about it – and they’ll be more than happy to share.

Actually, that’s not as much of a downside as it may seem when they have you cornered in a conference room with their list of “suggestions” in hand. These opinions from all levels within the company can give you excellent insights into how things work and the human element (a.k.a. politics) of an organization. If you combine this information with your own assessment of how things are working you’ll get a more complete picture.

Instead of pushing away these ideas, why not court them? Listen to the ideas, try to understand what problem the individual is trying to solve, and ask questions about how they came to their conclusions. Done right and you’ll have plenty of allies that will stand behind your programs. Best of all, you never know where the next great suggestion is going to come from.

All the best!

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