Last week alone, I had two conversations with two CMOs in the software and cyber security space and although their companies and set up were very different, they both had the same problem: the had defined a marketing strategy on paper but no one was following it.
The leadership team of the company comes knocking every week with new ideas, sales is unhappy with the inconsistent flow of quality leads and proposes changes and even the product team creates new wireframes for the homepage for them to implement.
In other words, everyone has a million ideas, suggestions, and demands, but with a tiny team, it was impossible to put everything into action. The outcome: everyone got even more frustrated because "marketing doesn't deliver!" while the marketers never get around to executing their actual marketing strategy they had put in place. They are busy spinning wheels to make everyone happy.
In this article, I want to pick apart why this is happening and give you four steps to follow that will build an organizational foundation for your marketing strategy to be successful and I will share one bonus coaching tip with you at the end that will help you personally.
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The Hundred Opinions & One Executioner Problem
Shortly after I had these conversations, Connor DeLaney, Impact's Director of Revenue Operations, shared a video on his LinkedIn profile that really hit home with me. He explained the exact problem and he called it the "one hundred opinions and one executioner problem."
Essentially, everyone has different ideas on how marketing should do their job. However, that leads to a mix of long- and short-term thinking, half-baked strategies, inconsistencies in approaches, and a general lack of structure. The outcome is what we call "Random Acts of Marketing" that produce poor results, making everyone upset with marketing.
In his video, Connor also offers advice on how to solve this issue by having a framework in place everyone can follow and switching from an idea-focused mindset (which is often expressed as a us-versus-them to a contributor-focused mindset.
As an Impact-Certified They Ask, You Answer coach, I help businesses every day to make this difficult transition. So, today I want to dig a little deeper and give you the five organizational foundation stones you need to lay to avoid having this problem in the future and set your marketing strategy up for success.
1. Decide On A Framework To Guide Your Entire Organization Like They Ask, You Answer
Your customer experiences any interaction with your company as a singular entity. They don't think: "Oh, now I am talking to the sales department. Of course, they have different messaging." They don't care who they are talking with in your company. Every team and employee must represent a united front to your buyers. You therefore need a cohesive framework that unites and aligns your sales, marketing, support, onboarding and customer success, and any other external facing team.
This is true especially for marketing because everything that marketing produces (e.g., content, campaigns, offers, and other assets) reflect the heart and soul of the brand. Marketing needs to use consistent messaging that is not contradicted by sales messaging and create outstanding buyer experiences that get carried through the entire life time of the customer. Consequently, as a company, you need a framework to follow.
How They Ask, You Answer Provides A Framework For Business Transformation
Let me give you an example. We recommend the They Ask, You Answer framework to certain businesses that are a good fit. They Ask, You Answer is a revolutionary business philosophy coined by Marcus Sheridan that transforms businesses by aligning your teams behind a common goal to become the most trusted voice in your industry. This is accomplished by bringing your marketing and sales in-house and equipping them with the skills, knowledge, and confidence needed to become the best possible educators.
Now think about it: every sales person, executive manager, customer service rep, installation technician, and so on has a unique set of experience and knowledge that they use to serve their customers every day. With They Ask, You Answer, they become subject matter experts (SMEs) that provide input into the content creatin process and they will use the content to serve their customers better going forward.
Rather than throwing random ideas at marketing, they are now thinking in a contributor mindset as in "How can I help us achieve this goal?" They were trying to do the same thing before but didn't have a framework to follow. Now, they actively contribute to a shared goal.
By the way: this helps with Shiny Object Syndrome as well. If you see that your marketing and sales team are constantly getting distracted and side-tracked by new apps or AI tools, a framework will help keep you on track.
2. Get Organizational Buy-In (Don't Skip This Step)
Now here is where I see most people go wrong. A lot of marketers try to implement a new framework, like They Ask You Answer and lead by example in the hopes to show success and then implement it into other parts of the business. Years of experience (and some hard lessons learned) have taught me that this is a recipe for failure.
You need buy-in. From your executive management and from your sales team. Period.
Again, let me illustrate this on an example with They Ask, You Answer which is all about educating the buyer in an honest, unbiased, and transparent way. Now, one of the questions buyers are obsessed about is "What does it cost?"
If you are currently not sharing your pricing publicly, can you image what happens the second you replace your "Request a Quote" landing page with a detailed pricing page explaining price ranges, where you fall on the spectrum and factors that make the price go up or down? Best case scenario, you get a strongly worded email. Worst case scenario: your sales team is going to throw a fit.
Here is another example. You join the weekly sales call in an attempt to understand what questions your buyers are asking. Your sales team gets suspicious but they indulge you. You go away, do a lot of research and write an article answering that question. Newt week, you come to the meeting proudly showing your article off in the hopes they will use it in the sales process. Your sales team didn't have any input in the creation of the article and will therefore in most cases not even read it, let alone use it.
In summary, I cannot stress enough how important it is to get everyone to understand why you are doing what you are doing and how it will affect them. You MUST have full support from your management and sales team.
How to solve it: Host a cross-departmental alignment workshop.
One highly effective way is to hold an alignment workshop. I work with a lot of marketers who have been trying to implement change in-house but aren't being heard. It has noting to do with their message or how they are delivering it. It is the old prophet in their hometown problem. Sometimes, someone from the outside needs to come in and say the same thing you have been trying to say all along for everyone to listen.
3. Formally Align Your Sales And Marketing Team
So far, we have decided on a framework that guides our entire organization and we have executive management and sales support. Now it is time to formalize this officially by aligning your sales and marketing teams.
- Together as a team, define your buyer personas or ideal customer profiles (ICPs), map out your customer journeys, and (re-)define your sales process. This allows everyone to have a shared (and agreed upon) understanding of your audience and how we engage with them. Make sure to agree on what customer lifecycle stages, lead statuses, and deal stages should be used in your CRM and what the handover process looks like.
- Create a revenue team which includes key members from marketing and sales. This team will meet every two weeks to discuss which questions are being asked and what content has been or will be published.
- Determine shared marketing and sales goals and metrics to keep track of how you are progressing. This way, there will be no more finger pointing and blame-games, but a collaborative effort to achieve the goal.
4. Create A Culture That Supports Your Framework
Once everyone understands and is aligned with new framework, you need to implement ways to weave it into your culture. Simply adopting a framework and starting actions isn't going to create new behaviors. Think about how we as humans create better habits. We need to do something consistently enough over time to create neurological pathways.
The same applies for your organization. Let's look at some examples how this could look like using They Ask, You Answer. For example, this philosophy requires us to become amazing teachers and communicators. It requires us to have an attitude of life-long learning and being genuinely curious. It requires us to pull back the curtain and answer questions the rest of your competitors won't tackle. It requires us to sell in ways that others aren't willing to sell.
In reality, this might express itself as follows:
- We make a commitment to answer a customer question if it is being asked.
- The KPIs for sour ales professionals include contributing to three pieces of content a month. This can be in form of video or being interviewed by the content manager.
- We create content that is focused on the buyer's problems, not promoting our own products.
- We constantly strive to learn and improve. For example, we have weekly roleplaying sessions and monthly watch parties.
These are only a few examples but you will get the idea.
5. Take Ownership Of Marketing (Bring It In-house)
Transformational change isn't going to be possible if you outsource your entire or part of your marketing function. As I mentioned above, your content and assets you put into market need to reflect the heart and soul of your company. A marketing agency isn't going to be able to do that.
For example, a marketing agency will never have the same motivation as an internal writer. They are paid to get an article out on time, whereas an in-house writer might tweak and improve a Top 5 article over time. Also, they will never have access to your organizational subject matter expertise as someone inside your organization and they are bound by their deliverables as the defined by their monthly retainers, so there is little flexibility to adjust as needed without changing the retainer.
By taking ownership of your marketing and bringing content creation and other outsourced marketing functions back in-house, you gain better control and you will produce drastically better results over time.
However in-sourcing your marketing doesn't come with out its challenges. For example, you need to have the right procedures in place to hire, onboard, and train your new content manager, videographer, and other marketing professionals and you need to have a coaching and training program and place to continuously hone and improve their skill set.
One way to solve this challenge quickly and efficiently is to hire a digital marketing and sales coach. For example if you are implementing They Ask You Answer, you can hire a certified coach to guide you through your They Ask You Answer Mastery journey. this includes extensive training for your content managers, videographers, Hubspot owner, salespeople, and even your executive management team.
Bonus Coaching Tip: Focus On Being Respected Over Being Liked
One common pushback I get from CMOs when I talk to them about putting these guardrails into place is that their desire for being liked is bigger than their need for being respected. Especially when confronted with sales people, marketing leaders often opt for the role of People Pleaser in the hope that if our peers like us they will grow to respect us:
- We say yes to marketing projects we know will leader nowhere or would fail (but we still give it our all to make them work).
- We say yes to website changes or marketing tactics that might hurt us in the long run.
- We say yes to mediocre to bad quality articles being published on our blog although they don't meet our internal quality standards just to please the author.
- We say yes to messaging being used because the CEO likes how it sounds even if it is confusing to the buyer.
- and so on...
But this won't get us anywhere. When things go wrong (and we know they will), who is going to be responsible? But this isn't about who is to blame.
My point is we need to change our mindset to value being respected over being liked. When we demand respect, we start to ask more difficult questions, e.g., "You want to start a podcast. Can you tell me more about how you see this helping us achieve our goal X in the next six months?" Don't be mean or rude, don't assume that you are right, but ask questions to understand why they are suggesting it. If it is a good idea, but it cannot be done right now, tell them so and add it to the list of ideas to revisit next quarter when you reevaluate your priorities.
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