Why marketing today takes courage

marketing courage

I recently spent a few days with the CMO of a well-known company in Denmark. I filled his head with a vision of what was both necessary and possible in this new world of digital marketing and he turned to me with a serious look on his face.

“This is going to be difficult, isn’t it?” he said.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“To take advantage of these opportunities … I’m not sure we have the right organization, the right people, the right skills to make this change. To succeed, it’s going to take a lot of courage, isn’t it?”

I had not thought about it quite that way before, but my friend is right. Leading marketing transformation is going to take some guts. It means moving from

  • What we have done versus what we need to do
  • What we have permission to do, versus what the market requires us to do
  • Using available resources versus creating the optimal team for NOW
  • Creating a budget based on “what we did last year” to funding focused on breakthroughs

I think another reason we need courage is that many times we have to make an uncertain move because business requires so much speed. Speed matters today.

We can’t hesitate … and we don’t always know what we’re getting into. Marketing today requires a much higher tolerance for ambiguity than it did at the beginning of my career.

Strategy is liquid

For decades, our opportunities to maneuver were extremely limited. Traditional media. Trade shows. Maybe a little PR. Today the opportunities to reach our customers are shifting all the time. And more significantly, the rules of engagement are shifting, too. What worked last week may not work this week.

It takes courage to explain that to your boss.

Years ago, strategy was a function of the price, product, placement, promotion. Yes, that still matters but today, success is three-dimensional, a combination of speed, space, and time. Strategy today is not putting a flag in the ground. It’s putting a flag in the sand. Strategy is liquid.

I was recently working with a fairly large firm who desperately needed to make a transition from print and paper to digital marketing. But everybody on the staff was firmly rooted in newspaper and magazine advertising. The CMO tried a re-training program but it became apparent she was creating chaos and confusion instead of a digitally-savvy team. It wasn’t going to work. She needed to fire and re-hire. Courage? Yeah.

Marketing takes courage

It’s interesting to compare the rate of change in other major company functions with marketing. Let’s face it, if you’re in HR, manufacturing, or accounting your daily routine is not dramatically different than it was 10 years ago. Sure the laws have changed, competition shifts and there’s always new technology to learn but the function is basically the same. Marketing? It would be unrecognizable to the people who wrote the text books or taught me when I was in college.

Today, marketing is math instead of instinct. It’s continuous testing and iteration instead of “stay the course.” Marketing means crowdsourcing and collaboration rather than building a team that is on a definable career path.

Leading a marketing function today takes a wholly different skills than it did 10 years ago. Chief among them, courage.

This post was originally written as part of the Dell Insight Partners program, which provides news and analysis about the evolving world of tech. For more on these topics, visit Dell’s thought leadership site PowerMoreDell sponsored this article, but the opinions are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dell’s positions or strategies.

The Data-Driven Sales Team: Why Social Selling Works

data-driven sales

Over the last three years I’ve been doing quite a bit of “social selling” training for big companies and it has been an interesting experience.

I see that some people are eager to embrace the change. Others are in the class because they are being FORCED to embrace the change. And still others nod their heads in vigorous agreement to get through the workshop … and then go back to their notebooks and Rolodex files.

I once had a sales person in Europe challenge me about the use of data and technology in sales: “My customer wants to see me EYE TO EYE,” he exclaimed. “And so I don’t need your data to do that.”

Of course social selling is more than data. It is a new mindset, a cultural shift, a strategic direction. I believe part of the reason for this resistance is that data and technology don’t seem as important in a profession where personal relationships can still make a difference.

Why is data relevant in a relationship business like sales?

I recently came across a post by Bryan E. Jones, vice president of commercial marketing for North America, Global OEM & IoT at Dell. Over the last few years I have spent some time with Bryan and admire him as one of the most driven and passionate people I’ve known when it comes to social selling. In his post “IT Trends and Implications: Why Marketers Should Care,” Bryan makes his case better than I ever could.

His main points included:

Data Mean Sales

The amount of customer data collected from connected devices continues to grow. In order to make sense of this, organizations will need to not only employ data scientists, but also data-driven marketers as well. Dell’s recent Global Technology Adoption Index found that organizations actively using big data show 50 percent higher revenue growth rates than those who aren’t, but despite the benefits, 44 percent of organizations globally still struggle with how to approach big data effectively.

Sales Needs to Adjust to Compete

With the growth in smart devices and the Internet of Things, we’ll have more platforms that can deliver insight on human behavior and preferences, enabling marketing and sales teams with new, more effective ways of customer engagement. The breadth and depth of devices alone will present a new level of challenges to marketers and sales teams who fall behind.

Social Selling Works

There is no question that data-driven social selling can drive sales. According to findings from recent research on the impact of “social selling” in large IT organizations, 75 percent of B2B buyers are influenced by information found on social channels. What’s more, 97 percent of the time, cold calling is ineffective.

The B2C – B2B Cross-over

Increasingly, B2C data analysis is being applied to the B2B world. We’re now seeing B2B marketers explore programmatic buying (a method of online display advertising) which originated in B2C. While programmatic buying helps B2C marketers produce voluminous leads, B2B marketers are more concerned about quality over quantity. As a result they are taking programmatic one step further by discovering best practices to help prioritize leads.

I love this guidance from Bryan because it really highlights why sales MUST embrace digital. In fact, if you’re not developing and improving marketing strategies that leverage IT trends, you’re vulnerable.

I see so many people in sales who have trouble making this adjustment. Embracing the changes before us can be scary. Sure, it can be a competitive edge but I think above all, it is a matter of relevance. Will you have that job next year?

Lead the change!

This post was originally written as part of the Dell Insight Partners program, which provides news and analysis about the evolving world of tech. For more on these topics, visit Dell’s thought leadership site PowerMoreDell sponsored this article, but the opinions are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dell’s positions or strategies.

Illustration courtesy Flickr CC and antonioluisousa