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The Kool Aid Tastes Good – A Marketing Round One

Before we begin here, let me add this brief disclaimer. I consider Craig Rosenberg to be a friend.  I stumbled upon Craig’s blog due to a post he once wrote about Marketo and their then battle for supremacy with Eloqua, and because I loved the content I began following him.  That was 5 years ago.  Since then, I’ve built a respected marketing consultancy, worked with both incredible and terrible clients, learned as much as I’ve taught, and I truly believe every word of the LeadMD methodology.  In my heart, that’s success, and I feel good about it.

The marketing profession over the last 5 years has advanced by leaps and bounds.  Marketing is now at the heart of the revenue cycle for savvy organizations.  Marketers have changed, and for the better.  We, as marketers, now buy technology, we are returns and analytics driven, we are the captains of the corporate ship, and we navigate it toward success.  It’s insane to think of where marketing came from and where it is headed now.

For all of the progress above, unfortunately we are still having the same argument.  When the sales and marketing process breaks, who is to blame?  It is a process that is inarguably intertwined and it is a process that is still incredibly disparate consisting of many company walls.  It’s the reason why great companies grow and poor companies fail.  To me, it’s just as important as product.

Craig, Jason Miller from LinkedIN, and myself are arguing this point once and for all on a truly incredible webinar this Tuesday, February 25th at 11am. The format? Debate. I will represent marketing and Craig will represent sales. Jason will attempt to moderate us. Be there for the fight of the century.

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Craig recently touched on a topic that is close to my heart in a blog post. Kool Aid. It just tastes good. Unfortunately, there are like 26 grams of sucrose in that stuff – it’s basically liquid diabetes.  In relation to drinking the proverbial “Kool-Aid,” the results are the same.

When Craig and I square off, we will be debating the true cause of success and failure when marketing and sales attempt to align.  As Craig notes, there are a few notions out there that have served to relentlessly drive change in the “old school” selling process.  The two notions here are

1. The buyer engages with sales when they are 70% through the buying cycle

2. Marketing will nurture these leads back and hand sales “ready to buy” leads

I get what you are saying about responsibility here Craig, but memo to Sales: Who quotes the two metrics above more frequently than anyone else?  Sales!  The above have been served up on a silver platter by every SaaS organizations’ sales team since 2008.  Is there validity here?  Yes.  Is everyone the same?  No! In some senses, yes, many executives want “best practices” when they sound convenient.  Change is never easy and the lack of change is the real element of failure in relation to the above. “Be careful what you wish for” is right but not in the sense stated in Craig’s post. If you truly want change and you want to nurture leads in marketing then empower marketing to deliver on this.  If you think this will be done with the same resources, content and methodologies as you were using 4 years ago – think again.  The fact of the matter is that the only recipe for delivering quality is quality.  I walk into companies and the VP of sales tells me, “here is why people love our product”.  To which I say, “Why”?

Crickets.

Dude, if you want marketing to build trust (which is my definition of selling) you need to first, assemble a top-notch team because that stuff is NOT easy. If you think the same team who built your sales brochures for a decade is geared up to do persona based nurture, think again!  Next, it’s time to create content that speaks to the buyer’s real challenges and then get technology in place to map that behavior to buying stage and persona, and modify the message accordingly.

You will have buyers who DO conduct 70% (or more) of their buying process online.  Likewise, you will find buyers that want to speak to someone to form a relationship with 2 years prior to the purchase date.  Buyers buy on their own terms – when you attempt to mash them into your mold they buy from someone else.  The one item that is truly at the root of the change in buyer behavior is that today buyers can now actually make that choice.  Ask anyone who bought software in the 80’s or 90’s – see if they feel like they bought on their own terms.

Now for the second notion, the belief that marketing can “nurture” buyers.  The sales fallacies here have always centered on the underlying belief that marketing doesn’t really influence decision makers. The C Suite doesn’t download resources, they don’t attend webinars, they aren’t on the web and likely they use a typewriter and quill pen to sign contracts.  Come on!  Are you kidding me?  If you believe that C level execs (or any decision maker for that matter) doesn’t spend as much, if not more, time online than everyone else then you are saying so to justify your crappy content.  I can tell you one thing unanimously about driven leaders – they are immutably curious.  If you have something that will make their lives easier, drive more growth or generally move mountains they will be all ears.  Your content, not the channel, is where the blame falls.  Don’t believe me?  Ask any CEO if they watch Ted talks.

When content truly becomes buyer driven, buyers will see it as a resource, not a waste.

I can’t wait to square off against Craig on Tuesday – I know it will be an epic battle because although we are friends, we really do have some strong disagreements over what to fix with this highly belabored process of generating interest and buying.  I’ll close with a reminder that I am also a client of Craig’s – he has been helping us with buyer interviews and sales messaging and process adjustments based on those personas.  Craig never sold me a damn thing.  Seriously, we never had a sales call.  Why?  Because of the man’s content marketing that I became a fan of 5 years ago.  If that’s not a case study to back up my position, I don’t know what is.

I have to get back to training for Tuesday’s 11am PST rope-a-dope, running with logs in the snow and chopping wood, that Rocky IV type of insanity.  Bring your questions, we’ll be there, settling it in the ring.

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