Is Marketing the Sales Prevention Department?

Street SmartTo hear sales tell it, marketing says “no” more often than they say “yes.” Marketing has become the poster child for how to not be responsive to the customer’s needs. In fact, we’ve been called the sales prevention department.

Does that leave sales with only smoke and mirrors? Heck no. Marketing should always be trying to show sales and the customer that we’re trying to profitably grow their business. We can prove it in many ways.

Marketing looks to sales to be the customer’s advocate

Internal, cross-functional communication is a key part of that process. Because communication is a two-way street, every opportunity becomes a chance to “listen and learn” from each other to better serve our customers.

In our view, marketing includes these broad areas:

  • Identifying and bringing new products to market through new or existing channels of distribution.
  • Profitably manage our current products.
  • Developing merchandising and promotional programs for each product segment.
  • Helping our customers sell more products to their customers.

More new products, more often

The more “new news” that marketing can tee up for the sales team, the better the customer engagement. Sales won’t need to rely on short-term, tactical promotions that degrade margins. Instead, they will be able to be more consultative and proactive with new products that are on-trend and on-price.

More importantly, new products will help foster account growth and can be used to help everyone make more margin dollars. Your company will be viewed as an innovator and will be better positioned to withstand competitive pressures, especially from those who are really only selling on price.

Marketing needs to remember it’s all about communication (to sales)

PresenterWhen it’s time to roll out the big (and small) new products, marketing needs to fully arm sales with a “marketing launch kit” process that collects all key information into one place.

Marketing launch kits typically include:

  • Market and category review
  • Shopper insights
  • Current retail landscape
  • New product customer presentation
  • Competitive comparison
  • Promotional plan
  • Merchandising
  • Product specs

Don’t send an email launching a new product and expect success

Accompanying the kit would be product samples, pricing, all new literature and a comprehensive deck of all product features and benefits.

These launch kits are how we communicate all information to both sales and customer service on products and programs. They should not only be read immediately, but also saved for future reference on product availability, pricing, etc.

These kits are so important they should be presented to the sales teams, giving them a chance to learn and role-play the product presentation so they can sell with knowledge and conviction.

Listening to sales doesn’t mean jumping through every hoop

Street Smart Guy.emfLet’s face it, sales gets input straight from the horse’s mouth, the customer.  Each customer is supplying a valuable piece to the puzzle.  It’s important that each sales person capture that input and makes sure it gets back to the marketing team.

But don’t expect marketing to act instantly on every tidbit.

Every customer has their own set of individual issues. Marketing is capturing the insights from all of sales. They are sifting and prioritizing those that are important locally, regionally and nationally. From those inputs, plans and strategies are being developed that cover all the bases, not just one account.

Marketing isn’t being slow ― they are being thorough and deliberate. The reason is that Marketing isn’t the only department required to create a new product. That involves most of the rest of the company from ops to finance.

Customer responsiveness, urgency, and speed really are the goals of marketing

Not surprisingly, customers often pick up the phone and call marketing directly. Frequently, it’s to find out “what’s going on” with some issue that they’re aware of.  Contrary to what some believe, these phone calls are not just the “big guys.” We’re extremely aware that all customers are looking for accurate information in a timely matter.

Although we do our best to answer every customer request quickly and to their satisfaction, marketing must evaluate every customer’s request with the bottom line of what’s best in the long run for the company. Please understand that it’s not a case of trying to improve margins here and there, but managing our product mix to achieve the established corporate goals.

More importantly, we want the sales team to own the customer relationship. We want to ensure that we not contradicting the information you are relaying.

Hold marketing accountable for delivering what we commit to but don’t commit us without our agreement

Bottom line? The Marketing team can help you grow your sales and we do it with all the tools we have in the toolbox. Hold us accountable for delivering what we commit to but don’t commit us with our agreement.

For other Channel Instincts posts on product marketing, see What Drives Your Product Marketing? or Are You a Product Marketing Hero? and Are You a Marketer or Just a Product Expert?

Has Social Media Made PR Obsolete?

In an age of social media, why PR?Social media has changed the role of public relations, not made it irrelevant.  The speed of breaking news on online channels has increased the need for planning and crafting of consistent messages to be able to quickly respond to current events.

Too often, it seems, the only time a company attracts media attention is when something goes wrong; a product recall, an environmental hazard, a labor strike, or some other problem that suddenly thrusts a firm into the harsh glare of the media spotlight.  Because of this, many companies tend to view the media as a necessary evil — or, at best, a friendly adversary.

Which is better: “No news is good news” or “Good news is no news?”

Extra Extra In its simplest form, the problem is really nothing more than a difference in perspective.  A company wants coverage for its products, policies, and programs, while the media is looking for an interesting and informative story.  Unfortunately, controversy sells better than commonplace, which means that the old maxim “No news is good news” isn’t nearly as true today as its inverse: “Good news is no news.”

Given this, how does a company get the word out when the word is good instead of bad?  And if the word is bad, how can you make sure you’ve minimized the damage your company may have suffered as a result of any “negative” coverage?

Dealing with the media can be a positive experience, however, as long as you view it as an opportunity to consistently get your company’s message across – good, bad, or otherwise.

PR is part of the marketing mix

PR is part of the marketing mixTo understand the difference between media relations activities that merely publicize and those that exert a strong influence on the marketplace, take a look at the advantages you gain from a solid public relations program.  A strong media relations program:

  • Is economical.  PR allows you to reach large audiences very inexpensively.  Compare PR to the high cost of advertising in today’s market.  Few companies have enough money to reach all of their prospects on a consistent basis.
  • Extends the reach of advertising.  All too often, advertising, social media and public relations compete for money and management’s attention.  To be truly effective, all should work in concert by getting a consistent message out to all buying influences.
  • Adds credibility.  We all realize that an ad — in the form of publication space, broadcast commercial, internet banner, billboard, brochure, or direct mail piece – is a paid message from the advertiser with the explicit goal of selling something.  We are more likely to believe a third-party endorsement in a publication’s editorial columns because the editor or reporter – not the company – is telling us about the company or product.
  • Measures interest.  If the news or trade media cover a product announcement and no one responds, either there is no market for the product, or you were reaching the wrong target audience.  Public relations allows you to easily determine whether your announcement’s appeal is universal or very narrow.
  • Generate leads.  Most management is volume-oriented.  In fact, some firms have developed lead generation into a science by determining exactly how many sales will result from every 1,000 inquiries.  Inquiries at least provide a starting point for your sales call, letting you focus your efforts on an audience that has some interest in your point-of-view.
  • Builds or rebuilds an image.  A company’s image is extremely fragile.  Late deliveries, product recalls, rumors and innuendos can severely cripple a firm’s ability to stay in business.  Solid and aggressive public relations efforts can counter problems, and entice customers to give the company another chance.

Public relations is about your whole company – not just promoting an item or a special.  It helps create a more robust – and controlled  – image of your company.

7 tips for getting your message published

8 tips for getting your message publishedHere are seven tips that can help assure that your experience with the media is a productive one, one that is mutually beneficial to you, to the editors and reporters you deal with, and to the audience you’re trying to reach:

  1. Make sure it’s news.  Generally speaking, “news” is a deviation from the norm, something that’s different or unusual.  That’s why bad news gets so much attention.  Since good news may not be considered news at all, you’ll have to search for an angle that will give your story appeal — things that play up uniqueness.
  2. Be accessible.  Return phone calls promptly.  If you don’t return a call promptly, your opportunity to tell your side of the story may be lost.  Your value also depends on your ability to give complete, accurate and timely information.  If you can’t give the facts, know who can offer the best prospective on a particular topic.
  3. Avoid mind-fogging jargon.  Most reporters are generalists.  Often, they will have little or no knowledge of your company or industry.  They need facts laid out clearly, concisely, and in an orderly fashion.  They don’t need unfamiliar acronyms, jargon, or technical talk; they need to know what’s significant and what isn’t.
  4. Never say “No comment.”  This is seen as a terse brush-off that implies something is amiss.  If you have a legitimate reason for not commenting, give some brief explanation of why you can’t comment.  It will make you and your organization more credible.
  5. Keep your writing crisp and to the point.  Start with a short, punchy headline.  Don’t try to cram every fact into the opening paragraph — save something for the paragraphs that follow.  Avoid glowing adjectives and fluff.
  6. Don’t be afraid to volunteer the bad story.  This is a difficult concept for most organizations to swallow.  By releasing the bad story as quickly and professionally as a good one, you retain some control over your destiny.  This helps avoid your being put in a defensive position later on, and adds to your credibility.
  7. Make your visuals memorable.  In our digital world, compelling visuals that help tell your story are a must.  Be sure to have videos, photos and logo available in multiple formats.

PR’s role has changed

PR+Social MediaPR’s role has changed but by employing the full mix of public relations and social media tools, and by measuring their impact on the marketplace, you’ll establish stronger relations — and higher visibility – with key media players.  That visibility will reinforce your company’s image and show that you are a winner.

Are You Using a 30-60-90 Day Marketing Plan?

Having a 30-60-90 day action plan means you've done your homework and plan on being successfulAre you joining a company with big problems? It may be too cliche, but it probably depends on if you see the glass half empty or half full.

It’s easy to get caught up in the hiring process and your ego can get in the way of asking the right questions. You may never uncover or, worse, miss the warning signs that would prove that you cannot gain the commitments you’d need to succeed – especially with those critical quick wins that will help you gain credibility and traction with a new employer’s organization.

If you see the opportunity, the alignment and the financial backing, then you should accept that new position but only if you have a plan for success. If any of those pieces of missing, there’s a good chance that you will fail.

I’ve recently updated this post with more specifics for your marketing action plan. Take a look at What Does A 30-60-90 Day Action Plan Look Like For A Marketing Leader?

Having a 30-60-90 day action plan will make you a better interviewer – and a better employee

To build your initial action plan, think in terms of the first 30, 60 and 90 days.

  • First 30 days – Learn
  • Days 31 to 60 – Document and Build
  • Days 61 to 90 – Present and Prioritize

This 30-60-90 day on-boarding plan is marketing focused and is based on experience and input from my colleague Doug Thompson, General Manager Rockwood Manufacturing at ASSA ABLOY.

First 30 days – Learn

30-60-90 Day Plans

The focus in the first 30 days is about developing rapport and teamwork.  Your main goal is to be a sponge and learn about the people, product, sales and marketing within the company.  We have built this plan with the idea that the role being filled is a senior marketer in the company.

People

  • Understand expectations of your role and the department
  • Meet with each functional head and other critical individuals
  • Introduce yourself to the current Marketing team and schedule 1 on 1 meetings

Product

  • Review depth & breadth of product lines by brand including competition
  • Learn the manufacturing/assembly process & variations, site visits as necessary
  • Review category / brand / key account information and financials

Sales

  • Visit key accounts and discuss the current sales proposition and effectiveness
  • Discuss any perceived gaps in the marketing strategy or product line
  • Develop understanding of opposing brands in space and why chosen
  • Solicit ideas for product road map

Marketing

  • Review current marketing strategy by brand, perceived effectiveness
  • Understand existing user research and related insights
  • Review budgets
  • Start preparation of annual marketing plan

Days 31 to 60 – Document and Build

30-60-90 Day RoadmapIn this 30 day block, you are moving from strictly learning into a phase that involves gaining insights that you can weave into the recommendations you’ll be making later.

People

  • Continue to build rapport with corporate leadership team
  • Site visits to key facilities
  • Team Building exercises
  • Determine strengths and capacity of marketing team

Product

  • Review bills of material (BOMs) of high volume items
  • Spend time on the line building products
  • Brainstorming sessions held to generate innovative concepts
  • New Product Development process skeleton reviewed
  • Summarize wish list of new products

Marketing

  • Benchmark competitors marketing messages
  • Develop key points of difference between firms (product & marketing)
  • Internal review of initial brand messaging and position statements
  • Analyze sales trends in light of promotion to determine effectiveness

Days 61 to 90 – Present and Prioritize

30-60-90 business planPrioritization becomes increasingly important as opportunities unveil themselves.  Based on both your learning and insights from the last 60 days, you’ll be able to make thoughtful decisions that will net you those critical short-term wins that will power your credibility despite being the “new guy.”

People

  • Continue to build rapport with corporate leadership team
  • Explore future organization structure for marketing & product management team

Product

  • Review first pass of “current” product road map
  • New Product Development process checklist created
  • Define process / research needed to uncover next generation platforms

Marketing

  • Start evaluation of marketing support firms
  • Review & benchmarking of websites
  • Social Media footprint analysis

Sales

  • Feedback on product road map
  • Visit key customers with sales leads
  • Determine needs for training and sales materials
  • Work with sales leadership on how direct sales could fit into landscape

Having a 30-60-90 day action plan means you’ve done your homework and plan on being successful

If you see the opportunity, the alignment and the financial backing, then you should accept that new position but only if you have a plan for success. Coming prepared with a 30-60-90 day on-boarding plan signals to your potential employer that you’ve done your homework. It also demonstrates how you will work to gain traction within the organization to help ensure your success.

But be clear in your own mind that the 30-60-90 day action plan is your process to use before being hired to uncover whether that proverbial glass is half full or one about to be completely drained.