You might be wondering when it’s the right time to expand your marketing team. With a refined sales and marketing process, it can be pretty transparent on what you should be hiring for. Being particular about which role to fulfill isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Taking those initial steps to figure out what exactly is lacking in your marketing organization can help ensure you are hiring for the right role that will help you to achieve your overall business goals. Without this clarification, you run the risk of coming up with great strategies without the ability to execute or having an excellent team ready to work, but with no strategy in mind.
Start by breaking it down. There are four potential perspectives that your marketing team may need to zero in on:
- Strategic perspective
- Management experience
- Content creation
When that strategy is implemented, it’s all hands on deck; one aspect can’t work without the other. Now is the time to be truly honest with yourself. What does “good work” look like to you? What can or should we be doing to achieve business goals? A big part of what type of marketing person you choose to come on board will be dependent on if you have a strategy in place. It’s also important to consider where your team may need rounding out to actually execute on the strategy effectively.
We have a strategic process in place, great! Now, who will be on top of it? Managing a marketing strategy is a consistent role. Being on top of the plan and knowing where it’s going allows for your other team members to work more efficiently. Think about what the end game is. Once you have that strategy and team implemented, it is key to appoint someone to manage that strategy and team. It’s crucial to have someone that is constantly making sure deadlines are being met, details are added and processes are being completed.
Working on great content comes as a team effort. Brainstorming and going back and forth within the team is one of the best ways to explore new ideas. Getting excited about new projects is one of the fun parts when it comes to the marketing process. Content creation ideally should be done in-house, but subject matter experts may not have the time or skills to write or produce content regularly. If that’s the case, then outsourcing content creation is an option as it can allow for faster turn around and other perspectives. However, when going the outsourcing route, it’s important to remember that it can come with a hefty price tag.
Depending on what the strategy calls for your business, you will need specific skills to help achieve your goals. Outsourcing can be a great option for this depending on what your marketing strategy is. You may need graphic design help, web developers, SEO professionals or general marketing coordinators for the day to day.
In this world, nothing is for certain. Making sure your business is staffed with talented and hard working people can only lead to great things. Growing your marketing team invites new ideas to push along your company’s ambitions, but you want to make sure you are making the right hire for the needs of your company.
Every business shares similar struggles: there aren’t enough hours in the day, a limited marketing budget, maybe only a few sales team members. It’s important to filter through clients and projects to ensure that goals are being met as efficiently as possible. Therefore, it’s important that your sales and marketing teams gets focused on making sure you are bringing in your ideal clients.
In today’s discussion, we’re talking about using filtering criteria to ensure all of the focus is on our ideal client.
There are two ways to think about filtering your clients as they move through your funnel: Proactively and Reactively.
When we talk about proactiveness, we want to look at which companies that we should target. If you know your ideal clients, it makes it easier to focus your sales energy on them. One way to focus is to compile a list of local businesses. You should do some preliminary research to which companies you should be reaching out to — the types of clients that are more likely to engage in your services and foster a healthy working relationship.
When thinking “proactively”, you might want to ask yourself these questions:
- Who or what companies should we be proactively reaching out to?
- How can we focus down and work efficiently off of our prospect list?
- Are our marketing processes designed to target ideal clients?
When we talk about being reactive, it’s more than just someone picking up the phone or clicking a link. Although this interaction is the ultimate goal, it’s more about quality than quantity. We want to make sure that the people who are calling or visiting the website are a viable option to continue with sales’ and marketing’s, and ultimately operations’ efforts. Having forms to filter out the less compatible prospects can help us regain focus on what the actual mission is — to serve ideal clients. To make reactive filtering function best, it is important to be creating and promoting content that those ideal clients would want to interact with. Don’t make it exclusionary to other companies, but focus your energy trying to attract ideal prospects. You’ll make less work for your sales and operations teams if your marketing is targeted at the right people.
What’s The Bottom Line?
This prospecting step is crucial. If we’re not filtering proactively or reactively, we can very easily drain the operations team by bringing in clients that aren’t exactly right for your business. Having a clear and focused plan and process yields better results. It’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole of overworking, giving proposals and quotes to every prospect that asks for one, and bringing on any client that expresses interest. But sometimes, you have to make choices based on which clients are going to bring more to your table.
To get from Canada to the United States in eastern Ontario, you need to cross the St. Lawrence River. When you cross the Thousand Islands Bridge, it’s like you are crossing two bridges. In between each bridge is an island. If you only cross one bridge, you get stuck on the island in the middle of the river no-man’s land. This paints a picture of the crossing from strategy to execution. Many businesses get stuck in the middle of the river because they don’t have both bridges. The first bridge is between strategy and planning. The second bridge is between the plan and execution.
Bridge #1: Focus-From Strategy to Plan
Without a plan, a strategy is simply an idea. The first bridge to revenue needs to convert your strategy into an actionable sales and marketing plan to attract and cross-sell ideal clients. Rather than have one individual build the revenue growth plan, it should be created by the leadership team. When core leaders have input into the plan there is a much greater chance of buy-in. The plan should be documented. It should contain a clear picture of your goals, Ideal Client profile, the Ideal Client Experience, and the sales and marketing processes that need to be created and optimized to drive revenue.
Bridge #2: Processes-From Plan to Execution
While the first bridge is critical, without the second bridge, you get stuck in the middle of the river. Plans need to be executed. The key to execution is process. Most areas of a business like finance, HR, and production run on processes. However, when you look at sales and marketing, it’s more like the wild west. Sales people are told to, “Go make some calls!” Marketing people also tend to struggle with focus. Implementing sales and marketing processes creates a bridge from the plan to execution. It allows you to understand the resources needed (people, message, technology, and data) needed to support the processes. When new sales and marketing people come on board, you can train them on the process.
Here’s the challenge: you need bridge builders. Visionaries like to live on one side of the river with strategy. Integrators live on the other side of the river with execution. While both these roles are critical, it is important to make sure that you engage resources to build the two bridges. While bridge builders can come from inside your business, there are many benefits to engaging external resources to help you build the two bridges. At Convergo, we help teams build the first between strategy and the plan in our Revenue Growth Workshop. Then we build the second bridge between plan and execution by helping companies develop their core sales and marketing processes
When we sit down with our prospects for a first initial meeting, we often discover that they don’t have a defined sales process or experience that they are guiding prospects and clients through. This can be challenging for a couple reasons:
- It’s difficult for managers to keep their team accountable to a loose process.
- It’s impossible to accurately predict what’s coming down your pipeline.
When clients come to us with an unclear and loose process, we jump at the chance to help.
The clearest way to describe the problem (and then to solve it) is that there are no defined gates between the stages, so nobody understands what it takes to move and motivate your prospect to move from one step to the next in the client experience.
What could happen if we don’t have formal “gates”?
A few things could happen if you don’t have formal gates between your pipeline stages. All of these make for an inefficient and unproductive team. Sales reps sometimes tend to skip over vital beginning steps, like a proposal based on an assessment or qualification. Without these important foundational steps, everything in the Client Experience becomes useless. We need to start early with some tangible gates.
“If you don’t hit the gate, you don’t get points for the gate.”
In the Olympics, kayakers and canoers alike must go through their gates before scoring any points for that run.
In your sales pipeline, if you didn’t go through the clear “gates”, you might be way down the course in handing a prospect a proposal that’s based off of nothing because you didn’t have relevant or meaningful gates earlier in your client experience.
- If you didn’t hit the gate to get into the previous stage of your experience which may be doing an evaluation of the prospect’s needs. In this stage you’d be defining their business problem and asking the prospect to validate and agree on it. If you skip that gate, the proposal you crate for them won’t be relevant to them. It won’t actually be helpful in solving their problems because you never took the time to figure out what their problem is.
- You’ll get into the next stage, and it’s not going to go anywhere. Because the proposal isn’t based off a business problem you can help them solve, you haven’t given them any motivation to sign the proposal and to actually do business with you.
- Until we understand a motive to move and we’ve defined a gate to the next stage, the pipeline is meaningless.
What does a good gate look like?
Firstly, they can’t be subjective. It’s best to have gates that require some sort of commitment, whether it be verbal or written from the client. It takes out all the guesswork in evaluating your pipeline and the commitment that your prospect has to keep working with you.
Examples of good gates
Let’s look at Convergo as an example.
Early on in our Ideal Client Experience — the Attract Stage — we’re attempting to get to know new contacts and leads. To do that we leverage a referral network and inbound marketing strategies to meet new people and get them into our CRM. Before somebody can leave the Attract phase and enter into the Engage Stage, they also need to be qualified. Your lead is lined up against some critical attributes related to your ideal client and Prospect Profile.
At Convergo, for example, one of our critical attributes — our Ideal Client Profile — to qualify a contact is that we work with companies that use the entrepreneurs operating system or a similar system. So if a lead comes in and they don’t meet that criteria, guess what, that person is not hitting the gate to the next stage and they can’t move forward in our pipeline. If they have met the criteria of our Ideal Client Profile, they’ve now clearly gone through the gate to the Engage Stage.
The gate to exit the Engage Stage and move to the Explore Stage is that an Explore Meeting is scheduled with the prospect’s leadership team.
To move from the Explore Stage to the Plan Stage, the prospect needs to sign a statement of work to do either an in person or virtual workshop with your team.
To move from the Plan Stage to the Grow Stage, the client needs to again sign a statement of work for an ongoing engagement with us.
Benefits of Having a Clear Client Experience with Defined Gates
Peace of Mind
Peace of mind is a huge benefit. When the pipeline is factual with clear gates, it provides a more consistent, accurate and predictable data and pipeline. If sales managers or executives look down the pipeline without organization, it would be difficult to predict its accuracy.
We want to be able to rely on accurate metric data and information. Metrics and data don’t lie.
Ability to Automate Appropriate Messaging
This whole process also allows for clear and concise messaging. It is important to keep clients in the loop when they are going through the Client Experience, answering their questions and providing content that shows you understand what their problems are and how you can solve them. This messaging is how Convergo gets our clients through the gates as efficiently as possible.
It makes it much easier to manage a team of salespeople if you have a repeatable consistent process. If you’re measuring your pipeline and you can trust your data, then you can begin to improve on the metrics and things are going to change for the better.
It provides a basis for that sales manager to not only to have an understanding at a macro level what business is going to come in next month, in three months, in six months, but also the ability to manage each individual rep much more effectively because each individual rep will have their own metrics that will that will provide a basis for sales management and coaching.
Overall it is important to have clear gates to help your prospects move through your client experience/pipeline and so those in leadership positions can more effectively manage the business.
To hit your goals you need competitive advantage. How can you create strategic advantage in your competitive marketplace where imitating competitors seem to frustrate your efforts to differentiate?
The answer for strategic advantage comes through customer experience.
As entrepreneurial companies that focus on operational excellence, the tendency is to think about driving new operational efficiencies to lower costs. We might also think about launching new products. While these are essential, they can be easily imitated.
The reality is that competitive advantage can be created based on how you deliver your products and services—your customer experience.
In his famous Harvard Business Review article, “What is Strategy”, Michael Porter defines strategic positioning as “the creation of a unique and valuable position involving a different set of activities.”
The way your company delivers products and services creates your strategic position. This means that you can create strategic advantage as you transform your buyer experience and customer experience.
Consider Uber. For people wanting to get from point A to point B, taxi cabs were the only option. Through the eyes of a customer, Uber looked at every stage of the buyer experience (finding and waiting for a driver) and the customer experience (riding in the cab and paying). This led them to improve every stage of the experience.
Yes, Uber created an app which drover operational efficiencies, but the app was primarily an enabling technology to make the experience better for the buyer. As a result of strategically positioning their company by improving customer experience, Uber generates almost $1 BILLION in revenue each month!
What do your buyers want? What could you do differently than your rivals at every stage of the buyer experience to create a more strategic position versus your rivals?
In their groundbreaking work, The Experience Economy, Joseph Pine and James Gilmore say, “Even the most mundane transactions can be transformed into memorable experiences.”
What could you do to improve your customer experience? What if you applied creativity to each stage of your customer journey from the time a prospect first encounters your company through their entire lifecycle with you?
Michael Porter says, “The essence of strategic positioning is to choose activities that are different from rivals.” What could you do differently to create strategic advantage in your market?
I look forward to visits to the Apple Store. As a fan of the brand and a tech nerd, visiting any Apple facility is a joy to me. (I even went out of my way to see the visitor center at Apple’s corporate headquarters last time I was in Silicon Valley.)
So, last week when my wife said that she wanted to go to the local Apple store to get a new iPad, I gladly offered to go with her.
When I arrived at the store, there was a security guard watching the door. In the tent, another security person interrogated us, asking us why we were there. After explaining that we wanted to buy an Apple product, she then told us to wait our turn.
Understanding that accommodations need to be made, we waited patiently for our opportunity to go in the store. Surely the in-store experience would be better. After all, Apple is the gold standard for customer experience.
In the store, we found a makeshift wall of white plywood with booths kind of like a ticket booth at the train station. Behind the glass, the employee barely welcomed us or thanked us for coming in. Instead, they asked for our order number. We explained that we hadn’t placed an order. Instead, we decided to drive 30 miles to the store so we could see the various models of shiny new iPads. The store employee apologized and said they were out of stock on the model we wanted. “Is there anything else I can help you with?” Nope.
I left the store dazed and confused. One of my favorite brands had confronted me with a dystopian experience.
Look, I’m not going to sell my Apple gear. The brand has 14 years of positive equity built up with me. But it got me thinking, “How does a store like Apple not get this better after a year of social distancing and updating processes for customer and employee safety?”
And, if my experience with Apple was like this, how are our clients experiencing our company?
I realize that we have all needed to make accommodations for the pandemic. I understand that going virtual is a challenge. I appreciate the reality that we need to protect our employees. I get that life in Zoom meetings or behind a sheet of plexiglass is not fun. All of this is true. However, it’s time for us to ask the question, “How can we make our experience better inside this virtual reality in which we must conduct business?”
Client Experience (CX) is critical to business success. Great experiences drive cross-sell revenue and loyalty. Poor experiences do the opposite.
Right now, it’s critical that we work as teams to improve customer experience. This applies to us for the remainder of the pandemic. It also applies as we chart our path forward beyond the pandemic.
Map Your Experience
The first step is to identify the stages of your experience. Look at it through the lenses of a prospect and client. What happens from the time they first encounter your company all the way through their time as a customer? Break it into stages. Then look at each stage and begin to ask, “How could we make this better?”
When we are leading a Revenue Growth Workshop for a company, I enjoy seeing teams of marketing, sales, and operations leaders work together to map their customer experience. Lightbulb moments happen as they put themselves in the place of their buyer or customer.
“This is the way we’ve always done it” simply doesn’t cut it in this dynamic market. As a result, we must be intentional to ensure that our experience is as remarkable as possible. Plus, with so many companies delivering a poor experience right now, creating a remarkable experience is a beautiful way to shine and create a competitive advantage.
Smart companies are intentional about every single experience. In Revenue Growth Engine I use my wife’s newborn photography business as an example. She has inspired me to pay attention to the details. Even as her business was able to open up with the right safety precautions in place, she has continued to look at the details of the experience she provides to new moms. The amount of goodwill and loyalty this creates is powerful, especially in the midst of so many bad client experiences that people have.
Consider New Options to Communicate
In his book, Never Lose a Customer Again, Joey Coleman outlines six options for communication that can be used during the stages of the client experience: in person, email, mail, phone, video, and presents. Your business may have relied on in-person interactions. During the pandemic, maybe you leaned heavily on email. What could it look like if you tried some other ways to communicate. Here are some ideas to get the ball rolling:
- Send a thank you card in the mail after someone makes a purchase or meets with you
- Send a creative mailer after the first meeting. (Interesting ideas in this podcast: Nick Runyon-Tactile Marketing Automation)
- Pick up the phone and call them (Tip of the hat to Jeb Blount!)
- Send a video in place of an email to re-humanize your interactions
- Find a gift to send that aligns with your values and supports the stage of the process
What can you do to improve your client experience? Take bold steps in this area and you will build competitive advantage that will drive revenue growth!