It’s been 7 years since the Fournaise Group published a survey stating that “80% of CEOS admit they do not really trust, and are not very impressed by the work done by Marketers.” It’s an old article that I find immensely insightful in my everyday work and life. In my career, it focused me on the right priorities, making sure that every marketing activity was aligned to the priorities of the CEO.  I had no idea that this simple change would one day lead to the formation of my owner marketing agency and consulting company.

However, just saying “marketing should be aligned to the business objectives” is stupid obvious and very unhelpful.  I’ve never met a marketer who said: “I don’t care about the business I just want to make pretty pictures.” In fact, every marketer I’ve worked with throughout my career has been extraordinarily passionate about their work, the results of their work, and the positive impact it has on the business.

As I take a moment to reflect, I think about some key influencers on my path. Great marketers like who not only taught me skills, they challenged me to be better and think differently. They were passionate about their work, committed to the business, and celebrated by the Sales team. Until the company missed a sales number – then it was their fault. As silly as this is, every marketer has been there; we all know that marketing can sometimes be a frustrating, disheartening, and thankless job. If marketing was easy, there wouldn’t be an entire industry dedicated to it.

It’s my experience that the biggest reason marketers “miss” is because they didn’t know what they were aiming at.  They are told to find leads, and they do, but they aren’t the right people. They are told to find the right people, and they do, but they aren’t converting. They are told to create better-qualified leads, and they do, but it is taking too long.  On and on it goes, such is the nature of poorly defined goals that are not part of a well thought out plan.

So how do we take the statement “Marketing should be aligned to the business objectives” and make this more practical? How do we turn a platitude into a plan? 

1) Executives Set Data Driven Goals

Every successful marketing organization has clear, actionable marketing objectives and it is the role and responsibility of a company executive to set these goals. You don’t have to know how to make it happen.  It will be the job of the marketers to figure out how to do “it”, but it is the executive’s job to define what “it” is.

We have invested a considerable amount of time unpacking this concept substantially in our new whitepaper – Aligning Marketing to Your Business.  The feedback has been excellent and we trust you will also appreciate the insight. DOWNLOAD WHITEPAPER

2) Form a Sales and Marketing Covenant

Neither of these organizations can function without the other.  It is a symbiotic relationship consisting of two partner organizations working together to accomplish the same goal. With the executive goals set, the leaders of these organizations should agree to a strategic marketing plan, a tactical marketing plan, and a specific timeline of execution.  If either party deviates from the plan, they should be proactive and provide this information to the other the way we would in any other healthy relationship.

3) Apply the Science of Marketing

Marketing is to Psychology as Engineering is to Physics.  Humans in a given culture behave predictably, and great marketers know how to use this. Great marketers always define their target audience, always define their buyer’s journey, and always develop tactical marketing plans to target each stage of this journey with relevant content to keep them moving.  When done right, marketing is predictable. Lead generation, opportunity conversion, and customer retention become statistical norms that can be counted on and invested in.

Write it down.  

Formalize the expectations, the strategic plan, the tactical execution plan, the timeline, and the signoff.  These formalities create accountability and unity among companies. If I have helped you, I’m happy, if I have engaged your mind, I’m glad, and as always, if you’d like to entertain hiring Tactical Marketing Automation as your agency, I welcome the call.

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The Problem with Marketing Agencies

I have spent the last 5 years in the marketing automation space because I feel that it is a must-have for any company in this day and age. Learn how and what people look at when they visit websites and use the analytics generated from these behaviors to see how your marketing efforts are succeeding.

Recently, I made a career change to a digital marketing agency because I feel that with all of the different technologies out there, marketers really need guidance and coaching. They need to understand not only how to create an email or post on social media, but more importantly, they need to have a strategy and an understanding of what to do with the data they collect.

In the many conversations I have had with my customers I was stunned to hear that after working with marketing agencies for months, they were still struggling with sales not getting enough leads, they didn’t have a strategy in place, and that they had no reporting to measure the success and quality of their efforts. As a marketing software vendor, I knew these were not challenges they should still have.

I realized that agencies are incentivized to keep you ignorant. If you don’t know how to do what they do, it prevents you from holding them accountable. For this reason, many agencies are opaque; they treat strategy like a black box of hidden secrets and they try to automate as little as possible. These dishonest practices ensure you will pay their retainer for years to come.

Many marketers are looking for help with improving their skills with one main goal, revenue impact, this is where the right marketing agency can be a big help.

So what are the tells that your agency might be dishonest? I’m happy you asked. 

What are the tells that your agency might be dishonest? I’m happy you asked.

1. Excessive Hours

Agencies support many types of customers, and some projects take longer than others. Having said this, a good agency can support a full-time marketing effort with a part-time hourly retainer. Why? They should be better at this. When you think about a full-time staff member, they have to attend 1 on 1’s, company meetings, team events, and build relationships with people in the office. SFGate states that employees admit to wasting about 40% of their time at work, this means that replacing the function of one whole team member should, at the max, cost you 100 retainer hours a month (And that’s assuming the agency isn’t able to be more efficient due to expertise and experience, which they definitely should). At Tactical, we aren’t even allowed to sell retainers over 30 hours per month without our CEO’s approval because they are so rare.

2. Vanity Metrics

Agencies are supposed to be the best of the best. Agencies know this, they know when your campaign isn’t working, and often, they know whether it will work or not before it even launches. A great agency doesn’t just execute tasks, they help you define goals, prioritize work that contributes to those goals, and measure their success with predefined metrics. If an agency is distracting you with extensive reporting on opens and clicks or website traffic and dodging the question of return on investment, then you’re seeing the sign of neglect, incompetence, or dishonesty.

3. No Results

Not all projects are measured in dollars. Sometimes there is a specific project focus like inbox placement, deliverability, or sales inquiries. A good agency will always have transparent reporting the demonstrates the objective they were hired to reach is being met, and if not – why not. A good agency knows that not all plans work, there are literally millions of variables that can impact the success of a marketing effort. They also know how to overcome these obstacles and actually deliver results. If your agency is better at delivering excuses than results, it’s probably time to start looking for a better partner.

Tactical MA: A Different Kind of Agency

At Tactical Marketing Automation, we work in partnership with marketing teams to increase revenue,  more importantly, we take every opportunity to help them understand the logic behind the solutions. Our approach is quite simple, we build trust with regularly scheduled meetings, get to know who we are working with so we can be on the same page as our clients, and we always have the marketers back. Trust, respect, expertise, and communication are the critical ingredients in working with a digital marketing agency. At Tactical, this is how we run our business every day.

Stuart Nessel I VP, Sales and Client Relations
Tactical Marketing Automation
Phone: 847.224.9759
[email protected]

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From time to time I like to geek out on tactical marketing topics, and this is an uber-nerd topic relating to my favorite Marketing Automation Platform, Act-On Software.

Also, for some reason, I use caps like an old person. It’s late. I’m old. Leave me alone and let me pontificate.

Real Marketing Automation

When most people say “Marketing Automation” they are typically referring to its simplest form of “Email Automation” which is essentially a trigger for a set of scheduled messages. While this has some amount of utilitarian value, if that is all you get from your Act-On Marketing Automation efforts, the idea and potential value in marketing automation will soon lose their luster.

As most of my readers know, I had the privilege of working at Act-On for just shy of 5 years and was honored to serve as the Lead Marketing Automation Strategist for much of that time. In this capacity, I was afforded substantial amounts of time to research trends in Act-On and identify opportunities for Act-On customers to enhance their use of marketing automation. It’s no surprise that a significant amount of this time and energy was invested into researching and developing Automated Programs.

Having worked directly with more than 2,000 Act-On accounts and nearly 10,000 Act-On users, I often found myself explain “Marketing Automation isn’t just scheduling email, it is automating your marketing processes so you have time to do more valuable things.”
You see, Act-On isn’t just for scheduling emails. It manages your marketing lists, improves your data, facilitates reporting, and interacts with your human resources.

How? Allow me to share…

Form to Master List Management

Act-On Forms write to selected Form Submission lists. We very often want to track how many people registered for our Spring Event, so they must go to their own submission list.  But I ALSO want them to go to my Non-CRM Master List.

I could configure a new List Maintenance Program (LMP) every time I build a form, but that is tedious and painful.  Also, the LMP will keep overwriting the original submission data to my Master List every time it runs (e.g. they submit “PHILIP” as their First Name. You scrub the data and change this to the proper case “Philip”.  The LMP will keep overwriting the bad data.)

This one is easy. Use an Automated Program! All you have to do is add your Form Submission List to a single Act-On Automated Program.

May have mentioned this… any time an event should occur one time, you should always use an Automated Program. In this case, the logic is simple:

Automated Program Source List:
Each new Form Submission List

AP Workflow:
Copy to Non-CRM Master List

Marketing Stage or Sales Stage Management

Many people use List Maintenance Programs (LMP) for this, and that’s just inviting disaster. For example, imagine a lead hits a target Marketing Qualified Lead Score of 40 points. They enter a segment and an LMP sets their Sales Stage to MQL. Job done, right?

Except sales takes the lead and sets the Sales Stage to “SQL” because they are pursuing the opportunity. That night, your LMP changes the Sales Stage BACK TO MQL!

Anytime an event should occur one time, you should always use an Automated Program. Again, simple logic

Automated Program Source List:
Segment: MQL (Lead Score = 40+)

AP Workflow:
Change Field Sales Stage to MQL

Reporting Augmentation

This one is similar to Stage Management but serves an entirely different purpose.  At Tactical Marketing Automation, we believe “Everything is a funnel.” Call us old school.

Marketing = Funnel

Sales = Funnel

Prospecting = Funnel

Going to lunch? FUNNEL.

In our workflows, when someone enters a funnel stage they start a stream of emails designed to move them through that stage and advance them towards qualification. We typically have 3 stages before MQL.

Here’s the problem, I like reports. I use them to make better decisions. Act-On doesn’t do that.

(Before someone comments about the native “Funnel Reports” – it’s an abomination.  You don’t know what you’re talking about.)

So the fix is easy.

When someone enters one of my email workflows, I set their current stage in a field.  I also note this as their “Previous Stage” immediately before they leave. Now I’m tracking what stage are they in, and what stage did they come from. To get even slicker, I create counters that increment by 1 each day which gives me the ability to track exactly how long they were in that stage.

Then I create reports like this… Well, I don’t, Mike does.  He’s cool like that.

I believe that most things are possible in Act-On. I regularly solve “impossible problems” in free consulting calls. I can admit it, I’m better at marketing automation than I am at sales (that’s why I have Stu).

Act-On is not perfect but damn, it’s powerful, and I love it.

 

About Phil Bosley

Philip, CEO, has nearly 20 years of marketing experience and has served as a consultant, advisor, and resource for thousands of companies like yours.

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