In 2020, many marketers battled with (and lost to) Gmail’s spam filter. As a consultant, I had the experience of fighting with Gmail’s algorithm in about 15 different company architectures and cultures. The results could not have been more different. Some of my clients ended the year with ~40% open rates in Gmail. Others suffered banishment with below 1% rates. The difference? The choice between using a marketing automation strategy or clinging to the old ways of “batch and blast.” Those that effectively segmented, metered, and targeted their messages were wildly successful at high volume. Those that clung to old ideas of “email as direct mail” suffered severely.To understand this, we have to first recognize that “email” doesn’t have a universal set of rules. Well – ok, it does have a universal set of rules (like DKIM, SPF, etc.) BUT not all email providers use ALL of the same rules. What Yahoo mail finds acceptable, Microsoft Exchange might block, and what Microsoft Exchange might accept, Gmail will block, and so on and so forth. Of all of these players, Gmail consistently stands out as the most dynamic and most aggressive player in email filtering. It’s no surprise; just consider their model. Gmail is one of Google’s core free services they use to attract users to their platform. In attracting billions (with a B) of users to their free service, they can collect deep personal data on all of these people to sell to advertisers. It is therefore in their financial interest to keep their free users very happy and satisfied.

Man Vs. Machine

What pisses people off the most when they check their email? SPAM. Of course, the email you send is not SPAM. It’s a valuable information update about the products and services the buyer needs to solve urgent problems. However, your competitor is definitely sending unsolicited commercial emails that should be blocked from the inbox. The marketer needs to get product information relevant to the buyers’ need into the target inbox. As a service provider, Gmail wants to prevent this in order to protect the user experience, so they have developed an algorithm that scans message headers and content, and tracks user opens or clicks to determine what types of emails their users want. This pits the marketer against the algorithm, and the marketer usually loses. Why? Because Gmail HATES you. You represent literally everything it is trying to combat. You’re facing off with one of the most powerful machine learning engines in the world, and it was built to stop you from doing your job. To make matters worse, Gmail colossally goofed last summer, and a glitch allowed significant amounts of NSFW Spam into the user inbox. By July 4, they had resolved the issue. In the understatement of the year, they commented saying, “We have identified and since fixed the issue of a small number of promotional emails and spam being incorrectly sent to users’ primary inboxes.” I suspect they upgraded the robot brain significantly because Gmail messaging shifted from “a little tricky” to “go F yourself” around that time.

How Does Marketing Automation Help?

To start with, let’s define “marketing automation.” Marketing automation is not an email application that lets you schedule message send times. It isn’t an email application that lets you schedule a bunch of messages in sequence. Those things are “email automation,” and they are not what we’re talking about. Marketing Automation is an advanced technology that facilitates automating marketing processes. With good software, I can easily sync to CRM, query data based on field information, previous engagement, website visits, form responses, lead scoring, etc. Using these queries, I can create a target audience based on indicated funnel stage and dynamically send an email, SMS, or ads to these persons based on a strategic content marketing approach. (For example, I use Act-On.) Email tools are cute, and I love that MailChimp has automated sends, but that’s not what we’re talking about.

Control Your Volume

Volume will kill you with Gmail. They are proactively monitoring for bulk email; therefore, a large number of messages from a sender at any given time will immediately flag your message for review. Tuesday at 8 AM is a great time to send email unless it’s Gmail. With Gmail, you have to use marketing automation features like “send overtime” or automated workflows to trigger specific messages based on user behavior in real-time. This will break the volume into manageable “chunks.” The lower your volume with any send, and the lower your volume on any day, the more success you will have finding the inbox. Inversely, if you are spiking high volumes at gmail.com addresses, you will almost immediately find your messages sitting in the SPAM folder.

Follow the Signals

I’m a big advocate of email marketing. I have no problem taking a cold lead list, cleaning it, and sending content marketing prospect emails to it. However, I’m also not stupid, so I know that 50% of that purchased data will never engage with me, no matter how clever my marketing is. With Gmail especially, you have to take a hint. If you have been sending “[email protected]” emails for the last year and they have never opened it, there is less than a 1 in 100,000 chance they ever will. Just stop. You have to proactively target, monitor, adjust volume, change frequency, and suppress email to Gmail address. It’s a good idea for any domain, but you must do it for Gmail. If you don’t, then you are sending signals to the robot brain to terminate your emails on receipt. With marketing automation, these controls can be designed into your workflows. You can query and segment audiences based on response conditions so that you are automatically making these adjustments. Gmail built a computer to stop you; you need a computer to beat Gmail.

Choose Wisely

With Gmail, you have to pick your battles. Gmail addresses make up about 83% of all B2C addresses, and 25% of companies use Gsuite (their domain over Google servers). Like it or not, Gmail is your adversary. You have to accept that you just can’t “spray and pray” to these inboxes. You have to get strategic, which means you need content. You can’t send product catalogs or a “Do you have 15 minutes?” email. You have to develop a content strategy that is heavily focused on email opens. This sends signals to the algorithm that users want to see your messages, which makes Gmail more likely to put you in the inbox. Marketing Automation makes this easier because it takes the guess work out. I use Act-On to create segments of buyers based on personas, their indicated level of interest, and then I target people who have opened in the past. This sends a bunch of signals to Gmail that users want my content, then I push messaging to unengaged recipients over time. With this strategy, I’m always adding to my core of engaged readers, allowing me increased volume with every send. But if you choose to ignore this advice, please understand – Gmail will know. Gmail will know and put you in the penalty box. Once you’re there – good luck. You’ll spend a year doing all these things anyway just for a chance to get out of the box, a chance that may never come because Gmail already hates you.

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I read an article this week titled “Why 67 Percent of Strategic Plans Fail, Strategic planning is great, in theory, but more often than not, it fails. Here’s why.” It outlined that 74% of executives report not having faith in their company strategies, and 67% of strategic plans fail. The author then continued to outline three steps to resolve this:
  • Think from the outcome realized and work your way back
  • Master enrollment conversations
  • Ensure quality is present
The article read like fluff. As a business owner, I hate this kind of advice. Many consulting firms live in this world of gray advice that could just as easily have been generated by fortunecookiemessage.com. It’s not that the advice is necessarily wrong; it’s just not practical. What I read is, “Is your strategic plan failing? Try developing a strategic plan about it.” There is a stark difference between “strategic plans” and “tactical plans.” A strategic plan focuses on macro initiatives and objectives; a tactical plan gets things done.

Strategic plans are easy. Tactical plans are hard.

In marketing, we see this problem in our everyday lives. It’s easy to construct a marketing strategy for most organizations. It always sounds clever and goes like this: Personas, lifecycle stages, targeted advertising, retarget nurture, sales stage, onboarding.

And now I’m a marketing genius.

This is very much like a general who orders an army to “take the hill.”

General: “Take the hill.”

Captain: “Fantastic. Great. Neat idea, General. Sergeant, take the hill!”

Sergeant: “The enemy has machine guns, tanks, and razor wire fortifying their position. How exactly do you think we should take the hill.”

Captain: “That’s your problem. Follow your orders, sergeant.”

The hard part about marketing isn’t about knowing what to do; it’s knowing how to do it. Let’s break down “Targeted advertising.”

This is “lead generation” and often the area most focused on by our customers. Some campaigns work, others don’t, and most often, people have no idea why. The truth is, there is a world of specialization in this one step that requires numerous nuanced tactical plans. Some of the many components include:

How many different ads should we have? What marketing channel? What marketing source? What is the theme or topic of the ad? What is the incentive for the buyer? What is the frequency of the ad? What is the expected metric of the ad? What is the rate of delivery of the ad? What is the cost of the ad? What is the evaluation period of the ad? How will we know if the ad is working?

And so on and so forth.

Once you’ve answered any individual question, it spawns new questions. When this process is unfocused, everyone is trusting their gut instead of making informed decisions, and bad things happen. Copywriting gets overwhelmed, Design can’t keep up, Sales isn’t getting fed, and everyone starts blaming each other. Suddenly, instead of “throw it against the wall and see if it sticks,” you’re throwing everything against the wall and hoping anything will stick. At some point, the CEO asks for an ROI calculation, and it’s chaos as everyone tries to put together a cohesive story, knowing the real answer is “Aaaaaghhhh! We’re on fire!” Then people get fired, and we start all over again. Fun times.

Strategic plans fail without tactical plans to support them.

Tactical plans use mind maps and flow charts to think through every scenario before we even start. They don’t always work out the way we expect them to, but each step informs the next. Each roadblock has a defined alternative, and companies are able to pivot at each stage. Most importantly, you can see trouble coming and avoid it.

Tactical plans are long, boring, and incredibly effective.

Here’s my 6 step process for developing a tactical marketing plan:

1. Create a mind map

2. Create a flow chart

3. Create a dashboard

4. Write it all down

5. Execute

6. Adjust

 

Create A Mind Map

Define your stage objective, break it down into all of its components, then break those components down into sub-components. Nothing can be considered done until it has at least three layers.

Think through everything, especially the pieces that don’t feel important. As I was writing this article, I decided to draw a quick mind map for lead gen — an exercise I have done a million times — only to realize I was running out of whiteboard space for everything I needed. As each bubble became its own budget and department, I remembered: our job is hard and complicated. But oh, so worth it.

(Disclaimer, I stopped before I finished. It was just supposed to be an example.)

Create a Flow Chart

Flow charts identify each step that needs to be implemented for the action to be complete. In flow charts, there are three key symbols that are important to remember: Decision. This step identifies where a true/false, yes/no decision can be made. The most common error: “What happens if false?” When we document existing processes for our customers, the most significant gap is that false conditions have been overlooked. Example. If the person engages with the email campaign, send them to sales. What do you do if they don’t engage? Process/Step. Break your process down into each granular, linear step. This will very commonly identify any gaps. Certain things must happen for the next step to occur. When combined with Decision symbols, they will also expose redundant or recursive inefficiencies that can be streamlined out of the process. Predefined Process. Sometimes a series of steps occur that are represented as one “step” in your diagram. These need to be represented differently than single steps because it assumes that the “other” process is optimized and efficient. Example: Using a software application to segment an audience into lead gen, nurture, sales, and customer groups can be represented as “Segmentation” because it has its own set of rules and logic flows to govern it. When we see these together, the contrast between a poorly thought out flow chart and a correctly built flow chart becomes very obvious.

Create a Dashboard

Anything worth doing is worth doing right. If you are planning to run social media ads, invest in PPC, or send email, you need to research and define expectations. Once you have defined your expectations, you should clearly articulate how these components will be measured and assemble the pieces to track, measure, and improve performance. For example, you are using social media to promote your service or products. Post performance metrics are great, but the native reporting doesn’t tell you much beyond vanity metrics. Ideally, social media results in website visits, which lead to form submission, follow-up email, sales opportunity, and/or new customers. Correlating this data for reporting requires defining how it will be tracked and measured in advance. This will help you define what tracking pixels need to be placed, what UTM or other parameters need to be appended, and what hidden fields need to be in your forms to collect and measure performance accurately.

Write It All Down

In 20 years, I have yet to meet someone who actually had all the pieces in their head. Brilliant marketers cannot possibly have simultaneous mastery over the 87 specialized disciplines that make up our field. Even a one-person marketing team will need to communicate with executives, salespeople, and contractors. Most importantly, if you are building a tactical marketing plan correctly, you will need to communicate with your future self because you will forget.

The shortest pen is better than the longest memory

Execute

You’ve planned the work: now work the plan. It’s tempting to chase shiny, new things. If people like me are doing our job right, we will distract you with our marketing for some shiny new software, some great new tool, some “low hanging fruit” that you are missing. Once you have written your plan, it is imperative that you stick to your plan. Anything new can go into the next one.

Adjust

If your dashboard is working, you will see progression to your goals on the timeline you have established. If you’re lagging, then something isn’t working, and it’s essential that you follow your flowchart to find the broken step. To quote Ben Horowitz, “There is no silver bullet that’s going to fix that. No, we are going to have to use a lot of lead bullets.” Average marketing is easy. Good marketing is hard — it takes a lot of planning, a lot of work, and a lot of optimization. At the end of the day, it is all just math and flow charts that lead to your outcome. This diagnostic approach requires that we monitor and adjust to keep the leads coming and deals closing.

Teddy Roosevelt said, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.”

Tactics are the mechanics by which we implement a strategy. Tactics are messy, gritty, sometimes boring, and the difference between finding success or failure. I waste no time listening to the fools who give generic strategic feedback. “Make it more scalable,” “use micro-targeting,” and “really drive to the CTA” are at best objectives, not plans. At worst, it’s bullshit masking ignorance. It’s an attempt at plans that rely on the magic of positive intentions. The reality is, if your plan requires magic, it’s a bad plan. I live in a world built on empathy for other marketers. Often the expectation is to accomplish the impossible with limited resources. I chose this life because it is hard and because I like solving impossible problems. I see my strategic plans work (most of the time) by making very good, very granular tactical plans that don’t have silver bullets or magical outcomes.

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“This is amazing. It’s so obvious now that you’ve pointed it out. We’ve been struggling with this for months, and now it just makes sense.” These words are incredibly validating and also commonplace in our customer conversations. This year alone, Tactical MA has provided nearly 600 hours of process development consultation to our customers. At the end of the day, process development is no different from any other troubleshooting effort.

 

This is not a different camera angle; it’s the same picture side by side. The brain simply doesn’t accept this truth.

Consider This Troubleshooting Story:

We were recently integrating Gravity Forms on a WordPress site with Act-On Software through a standard JavaScript method. However, a very talented developer had become stuck when he did not get the expected results from the script deployment. He called me into his office as a sanity check and explained the situation,

“I pushed the data to Act-On successfully. I added one parameter to the query string. It failed, so I removed the parameter to the previous successful test, and it also failed.”

Stuck.

It’s important to understand that I have absolute confidence in this developers’ WordPress and JavaScript skills and regard them as one of the world’s top ten Act-On experts. This wasn’t a training issue.

So I had him walk through the process with me. Show me the code, push the code, load the form, submit the form, validate the result.

It became quickly evident the JavaScript wasn’t actually running on the page, which I pointed out, to his frustration. He responded, “I know, but there is nothing in the code that would break the script. It is built exactly right; you just watched me do it.”

So I asked him to show me the page source code. He glowered at me, explaining why he was certain everything was correct as he navigated to the page source code.

And there it was (or wasn’t) plain as day. The script he had written was not on the page. He refreshed the page, still no script. He quickly returned to WordPress and republished the GravityForm and WordPress page – still no script.

He explained that we must be looking in the wrong spot; the code had to be there. I smiled and had him change and push the copy of the Gravity Form response page.

And it was confirmed. The saved and published changes were not showing up on the public page.

Experienced WordPress developers and users can already see exactly what the problem here was. The CDN was caching the page, and the version we were seeing wasn’t updated. His mistake was believing his own brain. He had pushed the button to update the page and made the assumption the page had been updated.

I couldn’t have told you why it wasn’t working at the start, but I followed the golden rule of troubleshooting.

Don’t trust your brain; test every assumption.

Applying These Lessons

The way we apply this lesson to process development is direct and parallel.

  1. Define All Objectives
  2. Collect All Facts
  3. Document
  4. Review and Brainstorm

1. Define All Objectives

The first step is to collect and define all objectives. Suppose we are developing processes that impact the sales and marketing teams. We should interview the sales and marketing stakeholders to understand what, specifically, they are trying to accomplish. If we’re told, “IT always makes things difficult,” then we also interview IT. By understanding the objectives of all stakeholders in the process, we can establish clear rules and boundaries for our solution.

The process must accomplish X and cannot impact Y.

2. Collect All Facts

This is where refusing to trust the brain is critical. We interview stakeholders and participants, but we also review the technology. For example, clients will often tell us how lead assignment rules work in CRM, but this only tells us how this person thinks they work. When you explain a technical process to us, we will absolutely open that process in your website, marketing, or CRM to verify it for ourselves. Once we look at the technology, we find that approximately 60% of processes are explained to us inaccurately.

It is imperative that every fact be conclusively tested before being accepted.

3. Document

The third step of effective process development is to document everything in its current state. I’m not talking about taking notes in a notebook, I mean formal process documentation; flow charts with a granular step by step workflow. Take everything we will touch and articulate exactly how it works right now before any changes are made. (See Below) There can be no assumptions in this process. While documenting processes, we commonly encounter gaps in our discovery process, places where steps must occur, but we do not know how they occur. This documentation is extensively marked up and will serve as the data source for all additional discussion and development.

If it’s not documented, it doesn’t exist.

4. Review and Brainstorm

The final step of effective process development is to review the existing workflows and imagine something better. It’s the magical piece. As one of my team members often says,

Instead of doing the dumb thing, do the smart thing instead.

This is why I likened the practice to troubleshooting. Once you have identified the problem, it’s usually plenty easy to define a solution. The hardest part (solving the problem) becomes the easiest part.

Because we have already mapped out the process end to end and defined every single gap, contradiction, or redundant step in the process, producing an optimized process is very simple. Plug the gaps, resolve the contradictions, and eliminate redundancy. The remaining process is seemingly a work of genius.

Really, it’s just a strict adherence to fundamental troubleshooting.

Impact

We know that this type of thinking is not common, nor is it easy. We spend our lives trusting our perception, and learning to think radically different doesn’t happen overnight. That is where the impact of a third party comes in. We can facilitate change within an organization, and we become a powerful force for soliciting buy-in to new ideas.

By following this process, we have solved hundreds of “impossible” problems.

We have integrated systems that cannot be integrated, developed workflows that could not be made, and, most importantly, generated many thousands of leads and many millions in revenue for our customers.

The ability to look at the same data and reach different conclusions is the advantage of an outside consultant. We don’t have the same bias, pressure, or experience with your company, affording us objectivity in our evaluation. Because we get an incredibly detailed view of your process with zero context, our questions are detailed, often redundant, and frankly, we can ask the stupid questions that would be political suicide for an employee of the company. We don’t risk our jobs by challenging the CEO. We don’t make enemies by critiquing the status quo.

The way we stay impartial is by following simple guidelines, like the steps we’ve discussed here. The commitment to honest and analytical thinking often makes us invaluable to our customers.

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A marketing process is an essential tool for marketers in any sector.

You’ll see many terms on the internet, identifying and examining parts of the marketing process. Funnel, cycle, journey. What do these words mean? 

Even once refined, the definitive marketing process is somewhat extensive, so the impulse to simplify it is understandable. Before learning the meanings of these other terms, it’s essential first to understand the process as a whole. This example will use a simplified process designed for a small- to medium-sized company with minimal digital marketing and at least one dedicated salesperson.

 

This article sets out to provide a full understanding of the marketing process. Defining the stages, discussing the importance of this concept, and walking you through an example of the process in action. As with any marketing framework, this concept is not formally defined, and the community upholds no standardization. Every organization and thought leader in the industry is left to reimagine and trademark their version. The article below outlines and discusses this process in broad, simple terms so that you can understand not only this process but any variations you come across.

So, What is the Marketing Process?

A marketing process is defined as the stages of awareness and decision-making specific to making a purchase.

Buying is a process, from need to acquisition, and a buyer goes through several stages before making a purchase. A marketer’s job is to influence and engage with the buyer along the way.

The process is as follows:

  • Demand Generation
  • Lead Generation
  • Lead Nurture
  • Marketing Qualification
  • Sales Acceptance
  • Sales Qualification
  • Customer/Purchase

 

The 7-Stage Process

Demand Generation

First thing, people need to know that you and your product exist. Demand generation is the stage where a potential client becomes aware of your business, products, or services, and begins to learn the basics.

Lead Generation

In marketing circles there is a lot of talk about lead generation, or “lead gen” as it’s often shortened to, but what does it really mean? Lead generation is commonly used in the context of promotion and advertising, but it specifically refers to taking someone from generally aware of your product to explicitly expressing interest. Here, the goal of a marketer is to gather information about a person, often through gated content. Collection of information such as name, email or phone number, workplace, or position, is called capturing a lead. Once captured, marketing automation software creates a record for this person, and begins to measure their readiness to buy.

Lead Nurture

This is where a lead receives targeted emails and advertising to expand their awareness of your services. Here Tactical, this stage is often referred to as “Education”, as the primary goal is to educate your lead about your company and services. Leads can spend months, or even years, in this stage, depending on how prepared they are to buy. Automation software continues to measure readiness to purchase and grants them a lead score based on factors like filling out a contact form and visiting a webpage multiple times.

Marketing Qualification

Once a lead score reaches the set threshold, an alert can be sent out to the sales team. A lead has indicated through their actions that they are ready for a sales call, and the sales team delivers. A lead in this stage is called a “Marketing Qualified Lead” or MQL.

Sales Acceptance

Once a salesperson has determined that the lead meets any other qualifying criteria and is ready for personalized attention, they’ll reach out. After marketing qualification, but before the sales team has qualified them, a lead is called a “Sales Accepted Lead” or SAL.

Sales Qualification

Once contacted, your sales team makes a decision. If they think your lead is prepared to buy, they will take steps to secure a sale. Until the purchase is made, this lead is called a “Sales Qualified Lead” or SQL.

Customer

Once your lead is converted to a customer, they reset to Demand or Lead Generation, where they can continue to be nurtured and educated, keeping your product top of mind and encouraging upsells and relationship management.

Reasons You Should Know It

The marketing process (whichever variant you choose) is the most foundational marketing principle you can learn. From it, you can learn what your lead needs to move closer to becoming a customer. Unfortunately, 35% of marketers aren’t organized with their strategies and processes, even though marketers who document their processes are 313% more likely to report success in their campaigns. (CoSchedule, Marketing Management + Strategy 2019)

Knowing how your marketing fits into the greater process is more than theory. It affects how well you put your ideas into practice. Here are just a few of the ways that working within a marketing process framework impacts your work:

  • Understanding where your client has come from and where they’re going.
  • Create value through meeting your client where they are.
  • Maintain a narrow focus on objectives.
  • Reduce time developing marketing.
  • Ability to direct the process as you wish.

Example

Your lead starts as a stranger to you and your business, a “cold” lead. She is one in a group of potentials: maybe the target audience on a Facebook ad, or a list you acquired. This is your Demand Generation stage; she doesn’t know you, so she can’t want your product.

At some point, she sees your product; in this case, through an ad online. She’s interested, clicks on the link, and follows it to your landing page. She quickly clicks away and doesn’t think about it again. Days later, another ad appears; this one addresses her pain point and offers a downloadable resource. This is Lead Generation. She sees ads or promoted social posts – sometimes clicking through and sometimes not. Finally, something resonates enough that she gladly trades her contact info for a piece of content. Once you have her email (or phone number), you now have a proper (warm) lead.

Lead Nurture begins. Ads become more targeted, and emails are sent to stoke her interest in your products or services. Your automated program is tracking her movements on your site, what she interacts with, the links that interest her, and ranks her interest on a numerical scale (her lead score).

So you’ve generated demand for information, generated a lead from an unknown, and nurtured your lead for some time. What next? Well, that depends on how effective your marketing is at targeting their needs. Eventually, their interest peaks; they have fulfilled the marketing qualifications and graduate to a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL).

Your sales team is alerted to their new status and reach out. Maybe your lead gets a phone call, text, or personalized email. They are now Sales Accepted.

Leads can jump backward or forward through the process, depending on various factors. For whatever reason, they ignore the message and return to downloading freebies, liking social posts, and reading the blog. When this happens, they return to Lead Nurture until the next time interest spikes, and you reach out again.

This time they reach back! Sales schedules a meeting with them, and your lead keeps in touch. Sales decides that they fulfill the qualification requirements, and are one step closer to closing a deal!

The day comes that they make a purchase. You have successfully converted a cold lead into a customer. Once again, this customer is aware of your business, but doesn’t need you; they have reset to an earlier stage, and it’s up to you to guide them back through the process.

Key Take-Aways

  • The marketing process is the stages a potential client moves through to go from unaware to buyer.
  • The process follows the basic human decision-making process.
  • Leads can move backward or jump forward through the process, depending on various external factors.
  • Meeting your lead where they are in the process is key.

Check out our Complete Marketing Process Flowchart HERE.

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Symptoms of Poorly Defined Audience Personas:

  • Poor Conversion Rates
  • Difficulty Defining the Buyer’s Journey
  • Content that is All About Your Product or Services

Understanding the Problem

Weak personas are absolutely the most common problem facing marketing teams in the United States. Many marketers are so busy doing marketing that they forget whom they are marketing to. 

As marketers, we understand everything we do is about getting the “right message to the right person at the right time.” We know that buyers go through numerous stages before they’re ready for a sales conversation, and we have to align our message touchpoints to these stages or we will lose their attention entirely. However, it is distressingly common that marketers are so far removed from our buyers that we forget what is important to them, and then our message doesn’t land.

The Solution: Define and Document Your Personas

Regardless of your industry, there are a few tried-and-true practices that always form the foundation of our work. One of these is persona building.

Getting to know any new person means asking questions. Defining buyer priorities is all about asking the right questions and prompting insight into the “why” behind buying decisions. I strongly recommend documenting buyer personas using open-ended questions.

My personal favorite two-part prompt is, “What problem does this person have, and how do we help solve it?”

If you need help, Tactical Marketing’s Buyer Persona Worksheet is a free resource available to anyone looking to improve their Persona Development!

Download the Persona Worksheet HERE


If you’re looking for more quick fixes to big problems like these, check out other articles like this.

More

Overstretched Resources: https://www.tacticalma.com/lack-of-processes/

Unpredictable Lead Gen: https://www.tacticalma.com/unpredictable-lead-gen/

 

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Symptoms of Lacking Processes:

  • Last-Minute Campaign Changes
  • Overwhelming Manual Activity
  • Missed Deadlines

Understanding the Problem

Marketing has the highest employee turnover rate of any industry at an astounding 17%. This means that marketing programs are often a hodgepodge of ideas, rebuilt and reprioritized over-and-over by the different people who have come and gone. As new marketers rush in, they take on lead generation, email newsletters, marketing automation, and social media – with the expectation that all of these practices will continue without a hitch. Marketers dive into a defined set of activities and change the micro-strategy; often, there is not enough time to reinvent the entire marketing process. Couple that with the fact that most marketers have experience with hands-on tactical initiatives and not systematic, strategic planning.

Just knowing where to begin can be incredibly frustrating.

The Solution: Find The Right Processes

Take what you need! When it comes to strategy, don’t reinvent the wheel; look around, and find a good resource. Marketing processes have been rebuilt by everyone under the sun.

If you need a strategy, I guarantee it’s already out there.

Companies like Tactical live and breathe strategic planning. We develop standard methodologies and approaches to form playbooks that work for thousands each year. Whether it’s our playbook or another company you’re a fan of, don’t be ashamed of taking inspiration from the resources you see and using them as a jumping-off point.

For example, we make our standard strategic playbook available to anyone for free download on our website. We intentionally designed it to be a jumpstart for strategic marketing planning so you can get back to executing campaigns

Download the Marketing Process Flowchart HERE


If you’re looking for more quick fixes to big problems like these, check out other articles like this.

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Weak Personas: https://www.tacticalma.com/poorly-defined-personas/

Unpredictable Lead Gen: https://www.tacticalma.com/unpredictable-lead-gen/

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Symptoms of Unpredictable Lead Gen:

  • No Automated Lead Nurture
  • Unknown Conversion Metrics
  • Undefined Marketing Funnel Stages

Understanding the Problem

No matter how your performance as a marketer is measured, funnel stage conversion rates are part of your process. Many marketers mistake their goal metric as the only metric to track (e.g., leads generated per quarter). This oversight creates a very reactive environment: if leads seem down, send more emails, and buy more ads; if leads are up, assume everything is just fine.

The Solution: Standardize and Monitor Your Reporting KPIs

When marketing is executed proactively, campaign results become predictable, and any deviation from the standard becomes evidence of success for failure.

If your marketing has unpredictable success, then you probably aren’t using the right metrics to standardize and optimize your campaigns.

I recommend explicitly identifying funnel stages and benchmarking your current conversion rates. With these metrics, you will be able to clearly define where your process gap is. Additionally, you can predict the audience size needed to hit your target revenue or predict how much revenue you could generate from your current audience

This type of reporting is commonly referred to as a lead waterfall and generally requires some effort to develop. If you’re looking to jumpstart this at your company, we have, of course, built an easy to use lead waterfall template in Excel that you can download and use!

Download the Lead Waterfall Template HERE


If you’re looking for more quick fixes to big problems like these, check out other articles like this.

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Overstretched Resources: https://www.tacticalma.com/lack-of-processes/

Weak Personas: https://www.tacticalma.com/poorly-defined-personas/

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Most marketers agree that segmenting audiences is an intuitive practice that yields undeniable results. Commonly this is seen in advertising campaigns where audiences are selected by demographic factors like location, age range, or gender. As with most common practices in marketing, the difference between the good and the great is how well they understand and implement its nuance. The saying goes: a novice knows what to do, a journeyman knows how to do it, and only a master understands why. In this article, we explore some of the “why, what, and how” of psychographic segmentation.

The Why: Psychology of Personalized Experiences

Humans are social creatures by nature, literally; it’s in our biology. We are communal creatures sorting the world into ours and theirs, friend and foe, safe and unsafe. It’s in our nature to trust the familiar and, by extension, trust that which seems to be like us. It’s the same instinct that makes us want our “usual” server at a restaurant or feel embarrassed to forget a coworker’s name. We are social. We want to belong.

As marketers, our goal is to impress on our chosen audience the idea “this company gets me.” We want to create comradery with them. In our ideal case, prospects see our products and think, “it’s like this was custom-made, just for me.” We aspire to brands like Apple, with lines of people willing to wait hours for our newest release, or Forbes’ whose authority over definitive content goes largely unopposed.

The pinnacle of marketing is a buyer’s desperate desire to be part of our culture. It’s a bad look when we’re begging to be a part of theirs.

Regardless of who is a part of whose culture, the buyer must feel connected to our brand, our messaging, and our content. “Marketing that attempts to connect with everyone connects to no one,” this means being specific and personal. Great marketing teams are careful to single-out an audience for whom their service is a perfect fit, then personalize the customer journey.

Psychographic segmentation focuses on the latter, “personalizing the customer journey.”

For more about identifying a target audience, check out our article on personas: Do You Know Who You’re Talking To?

The What: Personalized Lead Nurture With Psychographic Segmentation

We’ve discussed before how demographic attributes are foundational when building personas and identifying markets. When it comes to lead nurture, however, demographic segmentation quickly breaks down. Selecting the right audience allows us to target the right people, but nurture needs to be more personal. Effective nurture requires observing and measuring how each individual responds to our messaging.

Psychographic attributes measure behavior, inferring interest and views from that behavior, including held values, political beliefs, perceptions of brand, and how a message resonates. Psychographic attributes are far more challenging to collect than their demographic counterparts and are, in turn, far more challenging to develop campaigns around. They are, however, far more personal and practical in the current marketing landscape.

The How: Marketing Automation Decreases Funnel Leaks

As we’ve discussed, buyers gravitate toward companies whose messaging reflects their own values, beliefs, and perceptions. What converts one lead will often nix another. Historically, marketers have run A/B tests to find what converts “the most,” and the rest are counted as a loss. But there’s a better way.

With marketing automation tools, we can attain those powerful psychographic insights and immediately put them to work. For example, a recent campaign we ran for a client had two audience targets. We knew that one of our audiences was “gritty” and another more “professional.”

We tested a theory that one audience may respond better to Rich Text Only marketing emails rather than the full HTML versions our client had been running exclusively up to that point. The results were fascinating. After our very first send, we noted the “gritty” audience responded in an overwhelmingly positive way to the Rich Text nurture email, and our clickthrough rates tripled from that same message in an HTML form. However, our “professional” audience showed a massive 85% drop in engagement.

Using profile and behavioral segmentation, we built the mechanics of this division into all nurture campaigns going forward, ensuring that subscribers are on the correct path based on their demographic and psychographic traits. We are now maximizing results in both audience segments, and using marketing automation (Act-On Software in this use case), we were able to automate these campaigns without the need to manage lists or individual sends going forward.

We launched two very successful (and very different) campaigns to these audiences. The campaigns performed 800% higher than those tried by a previous agency.

Additionally, by translating all psychographic and behavioral markers into a lead score formula, we configured an automated alert system for the sales team. Anytime there’s a spike in interest level from a lead, or a lead reaches the set threshold, our client’s sales team is pinged, thus accelerating the progress of MQLs through their marketing funnel.


Demographic segmentation is useful, but it’s a very 1950’s way of thinking about marketing. Marketing in a global world requires knowing your audience and knowing when to act; otherwise, they’ll fall for the next company vying for their consideration. With the array of marketing technologies that exist in the world today, we can leverage powerful insight to know what resonates with our audience without expensive focus groups or market research. Measuring and interpreting the data correctly is key to reading audience signals, and marketing automation technology gives us the ability to segment these data signals and build incredibly powerful marketing campaigns.

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I’m Stuart Nessel, VP of Business Development at Tactical (let’s connect on Linkedin!). In 2019 I was offered the opportunity to become the head of our sales organization. From this top-level view, I’ve had exposure to one of the most crucial benefits of a well-run team: collaboration between sales and marketing. It’s opened my eyes. With these departments working in tandem instead of isolated silos, they could suddenly accomplish new and great things. For many years I was just a soldier on the sales team. I would execute personal processes to find and close deals, never thinking about the broader ecosystem of sales and marketing, or how it worked; I just followed the program. And while there’s something to be said for the consistency of hitting quota, quarter after quarter, I never saw the big picture and how it could elevate my performance. I just hit my numbers, and life was good.

But it wasn’t great.

One of the most crucial benefits of a well-run team: collaboration between sales and marketing

My perspective has since changed. Now, I’m responsible for building and leading an entire sales organization. Quota is not a personal objective anymore. It’s a company one. This shift was both exciting and scary; I knew I needed a bigger, better plan to take us to the next level, but I couldn’t see all of the pieces myself. The good news is that I found out I’m not alone. I have an entire marketing team at my disposal. And collaborating with them in 2019 taught me an essential attribute:

Alignment.

With my sales expertise and their marketing plan aligned, we have a world of possibilities at our fingertips. I’m not just calling prospects; I’m targeting the right people with the right message at the right time. When our messaging aligns, we create synergistic, targeted content. Our customers hear consistent messaging from their first contact with us until I close their deals, and beyond. This alignment supports customer retention, higher sales win rates, and faster revenue growth.

There are Three Areas Where Sales and Marketing Alignment Are Critical to Success

Communication

If you have a great marketing team and a great sales team, you need to ensure they’re talking to each other. Weak organizations often don’t understand how different marketing and sales can be, so they don’t conceptualize how much reliance there is on their separate specialties.

Strategies

Regular meetings, weekly or daily, improve communication, and promote creative solutions. I quickly learned that by communicating to the marketing team what our customers are responding to, they’re able to tailor their messaging for greater success. I share the pain-points I hear about from prospects and clients, and our marketers keep our strategy relevant. But I also want our clients to feel heard. I want them to feel like I have every solution in my back pocket. To do that, I need something to back up what I’m promising. By listening to the insights our marketing team pulls from data analysis and marketing automation tools, I better understand our customers before even getting them on the phone. Through thoughtful and timely marketing, we provide a tangible display of our abilities.

 

Success in one department breeds success in the other.

Goal-Setting

Sales and Marketing need to know about each other’s initiatives, from start to finish. That way, goals are aligned, and they work towards a shared purpose rather than being at odds.

Strategies

The number one rule of goal-setting is to make sure they are:
  • Attainable 
  • Trackable
  • Measurable
And you need to ensure that the goals set for Sales and Marketing feed into one another.
Personally, I can count on about two conversions for every seven solid leads. But before I ever see them, those leads are fostered by the content our marketing team produces and publishes. To separate the wheat from the chaff, I need to see who is engaging, interested, and ready for our message. I supply our internal marketers with feedback on what’s working: what I’m able to leverage into the greatest success. By sharing that information and setting goals that align Sales and Marketing together, we build the foundation for successful campaigns.

If our sales goal for the quarter is to double the budget of our current deals, then our marketing should focus on our broad range of services and the channels where we already connect with clients. An example from our organization:

Many of our current clients are loyal to our email marketing services but are unaware that we are a full-service agency providing much more.

  • Consulting
  • Reporting
  • Analytics and Attribution
  • Content Development
  • Graphic Design
  • Process Development and Optimization
  • Market Research
  • Branding
So our marketing team needs to focus on creating a customer journey that explores these various services so that the sales team has an opening to expand deals.
On the other hand, if our sales goal is to sign $100,000 in new business each month, our marketers will focus on capturing new interest. They may choose to promote online video content, or engage with our existing leads through an interactive email campaign, or reach out to another company for a collaboration.
What if our sales goal is to sign five new deals in a specific sector? Then, our team focuses on promoting to marketers in that field and the services that interest them most.

Execution

Marketing can now put the plan into action with confidence that their efforts will be beneficial to sales metrics. The sales team knows that the marketing team has their back with new incoming leads.

Strategies

When both departments launch initiatives, they need to be timed and aligned just right for optimizing incoming leads. When a lead graduates to MQL status (marketing-qualified lead), quick attention is required from the sales team for a high conversion rate. When MQLs are touched-on right away, the opportunity to set meetings and turn them into customers increases exponentially.
Remember to track your ROI and go over it as a group. Analyze the information you monitor and improve your strategies.

When MQLs are touched-on right away, the opportunity to set meetings and turn them into customers increases exponentially.

 Alignment at each step of marketing and sales initiatives allows the conversation to flow seamlessly from the hands of marketers into the care of sales experts. If you are a sales leader, I urge you: teach your marketing and sales teams to work together. This way, you will deliver a cohesive message to prospects and clients alike, build confidence in your people, and help you to achieve your sales goals.

If you are a sales leader, I urge you: teach your marketing and sales teams to work together.

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“We just aren’t seeing results from our marketing.”

An overwhelming majority of our new clients open our very first conversation with this as the force that urged them to reach out.

Companies often ask us to evaluate underperforming marketing campaigns. It’s one of the free services we offer, and we’re usually able to deduce the problem within that first consultation. We audit their marketing strategy and never hold back solutions to their marketing limitations.

We recognize that marketing is a science, first and foremost; a blend of behavioral sciences that seeks to understand people individually and in groups. As engineers must understand physics, so marketers must understand psychology. It studies norms, deviations, probabilities. Anyone who has studied psychology beyond a few Buzzfeed articles will quickly learn:

Psychology is a data science.

Great marketers understand this, but putting into practice is difficult. Making the academic science actionable in your marketing is a developed skillset.

In our assessments, we are evaluating several essential criteria. Most assessments follow a typical evaluation format and include questions like these:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What is your objective?
  • How is your target audience engaging?

The answers to these questions reveal breaks in clarity and specificity, and it becomes straightforward to diagnose where we’ll find gaps in the marketing process.

Let’s break down some standard answers, the problems they indicate, and how to fix them.

Who Is Your Target Audience?

Common Answer: “We are targeting businesses of X size.”

What It Indicates: With this kind of generic approach, the messaging in any individual piece of marketing targets a business, not a person; a person with needs, doing research who is going to come across their content.

How To Fix It: Develop buyer personas to identify the people who need the solution you’re offering. Tailor your marketing approach to their customer’s needs, not the company they work for.

Need help identifying your target audience?
Download Your Free Tactical Guide to Buyer Personas

What Is Your Objective?

Common Answer: “To generate more revenue in 2020.”

What It Indicates: The objective is too vague. An indirect outcome (like “generate revenue”) is too far removed from an actual marketing plan. This ambiguity in process creates an obstacle to developing real solutions.

How To Fix It: Define the process by which a person would get from the asset (marketing) to the end goal (a purchase) and create individual conversion goals to track at each stage so they can be continuously measured and improved.

How Is Your Target Audience Engaging?

Common Answer: “We are seeing poor opens and click-throughs.”

What It Indicates: The first indicator here is what they see as the most important activity of their marketing strategy (in this case: email). It also indicates the true metric by which they measure marketing success (in this case: click-throughs and page views).

How To Fix It: Think of all metrics as part of a whole. Each individual metric has a story to tell. In this example, low open rates indicate the email subject lines aren’t clicking with the target audience. Poor click-through rates indicate that those who do open the email don’t find the content relevant and/or are missing a clear call-to-action.

Learn More About Target Audiences Here

Obviously, these are just a handful of common examples. The advantage we have, as a full-service marketing agency, is exposure to massive data sets, including thousands of collective marketing scenarios. We will look at as many Google Analytics reports in a given week as most marketers will in their career, and we build as many emails in a month as a typical marketer will in their life.

When you have that kind of exposure to information, patterns emerge that will elude those who are focused on one brand at a time.

So if your marketing could use a fresh pair of eyes, a quick diagnosis, a new perspective – set up a free consultation. We give you the first hour of pure consultation (no sales pitch). For us, this approach results in a large conversion to paid engagements – not because we asked you for the business but because you find value.
Perfect symbiosis.

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