Six takeaways & tidbits from the Hard Corps Marketing Show

That's Casey, not me

That's Casey, not me

Thanks to Casey Cheshire and Jamie Taylor for having me as a guest on Casey’s podcast, the Hard Corps Marketing Show.

I met Casey a couple years back as Bedrock Data expanded into the Pardot ecosystem for integrations, and we bonded at last year’s OpenView Go-to-Market Forum; we moderated different panel discussions and were among a small group going back and forth on social media at the event. And then I discovered Casey and I also have a shared affection for podcasts, with Casey starting his own recently.

Why “Hard Corps”? Not only is Casey a badass demand generation marketer, he is a United States Marine Corps veteran - hence the name of the show.

You can find the podcast on Podbean or YouTube, plus you can search for it on iTunes, the Apple Podcast App, Stitcher or Overcast.

It was an organic discussion and these were some of the things I covered:

Marketing attribution:

Avoid the word “credit” as it’s not about crediting one specific action, and that will  set the wrong tone with sales. Educate that marketing is a multi-touch game and therefore measure multiple influencing factors in customer acquisition and revenue generation.

Approach to Closed loop reporting:

It’s not necessarily about ROI (e.g. saying XYZ investment will generate XYZ return), but rather to rank your marketing programs & activities by revenue influence. This will help you to identify which types of activities you want to invest more in, which are promising but need to be improved/fixed, and which you should likely divest from / drop.

Run Marketing like a Business:

Frame decisions this way when analyzing results, with sales, finance and executive teams. For both internal resources and program $, ask where should we be investing more, where should we be investing less and how do we get better results. Always strive to make the best possible business decision, and communicate why those are the best decisions.

It’s okay to say “We need to improve X”:

As a marketing leader, don’t shy away from pointing to things that need to improve. This can help build confidence from others around you, that you have the awareness to know when things are working, and not working. The first step to improving something is acknowledging “there is a problem”, right?

How to align with sales on funnel numbers:

I talked about when presenting marketing outcome metrics like MQLs, Opportunities created or Pipeline side by side with Sales bookings numbers - to both give perspective on what was created that’s impacting the current sales booking period (e.g. with sales cycle built in) and the current period. This can help give perspective on why, say for example, a growth in marketing performance is not immediately showing up in sales numbers. It’s a win for both sales & marketing to present this clearly.

All in all, be transparent, accountable, & thoughtful:

To earn the respect of colleagues across departments.

Casey is always pointing out I can be found at many B2B marketing events, so he asked what I have in store the rest of the year. I told him I’ll be speaking at both MarTech West in April and the Data Summit in Boston in May, and I’m sure I can be found at both Hypergrowth and Inbound in the fall.

We also got into some of my earlier career stories including the genesis of the Moneyball moniker based on my work with the NBA, plus what it was like growing the first marketing technology software within Omnicom Group while traveling around the world.

Give it a listen!

Seven articles dripping with insight for Moneyball Marketers

I find myself consuming content all the time - the tipping point was over a year ago when I finally gave up my circa 1999 flip phone for an always-on iPhone. I’m now consuming content even more than before – Twitter feed, LinkedIn feed, LinkedIn emails, vendor emails, you name it.

These are some of the better posts I’ve come across of late - and you know they're good when you not only share them but you find yourself going back to read them time and again.

#1 - The Content Marketing Imperative – Some nice visuals and stats on the WHY of content marketing from Michael Brenner. My favorite part is slides 19-26 which was a mini before and after case study for Michael’s work at SAP – inspirational! After that you are welcome to tune out as it turned more into a commercial for Michael’s current gig at NewsCred.

#2 – Why Content Marketing Fails – First off all, Rand Fishkin rules. He was the highlight for me at the HubSpot INBOUND conference this past year. This is also inspirational and my single favorite slide is the insight from Slide 85 where he says: "The Price of Success is Failure after Failure after Failure" and "Hopefully each of those failures provides an opportunity to learn. We as marketers need to commit – great results take time to develop, and the single biggest source of lack of performance is stop/starts or constant change in direction without ever seeing a set of strategies through to completion."

#3 – On Challenger Marketing – This one resonated with me big time and contains key insights for any brand trying to unseat the “main player” in their space.  Read the Q&A on Commercial Insight which has impacted my approach to webinars – I want all webinar topics to align to this approach.  First and foremost, commercial insight must be grounded in a set of unique capabilities and strengths that set your company apart from all possible competitors (including the status quo). Ultimately, whatever you teach your customer about their business has to lead back to something you can help them do better than anyone else”. And, “Commercial Insight isn’t about the supplier. It’s about the customer.”

#4 – Why Sales People Shouldn’t Prospect – This is a classic from David Skok covering Aaron Ross’s Predictable Revenue approach. I often refer to the four specialized functions of sales that Ross recommends  - Inbound Lead Qualification; Outbound Prospecting (Business Development); Account Executives / quota-carrying reps who close deals; and Account Management / Customer Success. Lots more insight in this article.

#5 - Presenting Value of Marketing to the Board – Nice blog post from John Neeson of SiriusDecisions with some good tips on how to communicate the value of marketing at the senior most level. I find this a helpful read when preparing for any senior level presentation and helping to “keep the conversation high.”

#6 – How to Get a Job at Google – In all of my roles building a team via recruiting and  hiring has been central to success. There are some good tips in this New York Times article which I’ve also followed in my career including the prioritization of cognitive ability, humility and ownership over a specific skill or expertise.

#7 - Don't Just Curate Content, Harvest it – Content operations is an increasingly important function within marketing teams to support content marketing execution. Jim Burns and Mark Gibson provide four key fundamentals to support a content marketing operation – constant acquisition; content headers; harvesting contents; and managing content source. This is a must read.

Five Powerful Metrics to support your Closed Loop Marketing in an Inbound Marketing and Lead Nurturing World

The first challenge of closed loop marketing is getting a system and process in place to enable your closed loop reporting. I’ve covered how to do that in multiple posts and most succinctly you can read about that in my CMO Essentials article “Six Essentials to Setting up a Closed Loop Marketing System.”

Once you done that, you’ll encounter a new set of challenges --- how do you navigate through a set of metrics and reports and use the ones that are the most important? Reporting for the sake of reporting helps nobody – the key is identify the right metrics that help you measure against your strategies and indicate if you are headed in the right direction or have issues that need to be addressed.

In a world where inbound marketing and lead nurturing are critical to building a high volume and repeatable demand generation machine, these are five metrics I’ve found to be particularly useful:

#1 - Active Marketing Database

Your active marketing database represents your ‘cookied population’ of MQIs whom you are using nurturing programs to try to advance to MQL. A growing active marketing database is a signal that your top of funnel inbound programs are growing and your nurturing practices are not serving to turn off your audience. Active marketing database grows each month based on adding additional MQIs, and falling out each month are unsubscribes, bouncebacks who have not been matched to a new email address and those who have not engaged with you via a web page visit in over 12 months.

#2 - MQIs by Medium

This measures how each of your mediums are contributing to MQI growth. One of Adam Barker’s best practices is that each team member owns a metric, and these are key metrics to have ownership by team members. The most scalable MQI mediums to grow are Inbound (Website, Blog, Social Media) and Digital (Paid Search, Retargeting, Email). As a side note I am at a point where I don’t even want to consider content syndication leads as MQIs because of the massive quality difference between syndication MQIs and those from inbound & digital channels.  

#3 - % of MQLs that “graduate” from MQIs

This metric give you a single measure of the performance of your MQI-to-MQL nurturing programs… how much are they contributing to your MQL production? A higher number indicates you are driving performance out of your active database, whereas a lower number indicates prospects are identifying themselves to you for the first time as they visit your website for a later stage call to action such as free trial or contact sales – which signifies a missed opportunity to have more influence as they move through their buying process, or cast a wider net. The best in class number for this percentage for mature demand generation organizations is 50%.

#4 - Of MQLs advancing from MQIs, what were the MQI Lead Sources?

Building on the concept from #3, the next question becomes which sources are yielding MQIs that are then after nurturing graduating to MQLs? This should help to identify which sources to spend more time on driving volume to scale your MQL numbers.

#5 - MQL to Opp Conversion Rate by MQL Source & Medium

As you scale MQLs you also need to keep an eye on quality, and a key quality metric is the conversion rate from MQLs to Opportunities.  Monitor these rates to ensure you don’t see any red flags. The most common red flags to watch for are quality issues within paid search particularly the Google content network and that if you are using scoring programs or content triggers to pass leads to sales, that sales team has everything they need to best convert those MQLs to Opportunities.

"Everyone on the team owns a metric" and 11 other best practices to support a data-driven, high velocity marketing process

Marketing is a team sport. I’ve come to admire and relish being part of marketing teams that operate as a team – where team members excel in their roles and support each other, and the team evolves and improves and ultimately creates market impact “greater than the sum of the parts”.

One such team is a group of modern Boston-area marketers who are now on their third venture together – first an initial group at HubSpot, then a larger group at SmartBear Software and now at Continuum Managed Services.

You have to figure that if the team has stayed together over the years through multiple company moves (from Cambridge to Beverly to Boston), the recipe must be working and they must have figured out plenty of best practices along the way.

So when I learned that Adam Barker, the Director of Demand Generation at Continuum, was going to be sharing his best practices around reporting and marketing process at the MassTLC Demand Gen Peer Group, that meant “Must Attend” for me.

And Adam delivered the goods.

These were 12 best practices that Adam shared, that he and his colleagues apply to building and operating their data-driven, high velocity marketing process

1.       Hire “T-shaped” individuals

They look for marketers who can go deep in a specific area of specialty, but also have a breadth of experiences and interests and the flexibility to operate in multiple areas.

2.       Everyone on the team owns a metric

The team is structured such that everyone owns a metric that represents the impact of that particular  marketing area, usually a specific medium. When I asked Adam for examples he said that the team is broken down into owners of:

  • Blog / Organic Web Traffic
  • Paid Search
  • Social Media
  • Events
  • Programs
  • Prospect Emails
  • Customer Emails

These metrics represent approximately 50% of quarterly MBOs tied to individual bonuses.

 3.       Cross-train the team

There are regularly scheduled “lunch and learn” sessions where each team members presents a “how to” in their area, e.g. “writing a great blog post” or “running a PPC campaign”. This serves to both further develop skills as well as build team camaraderie, and is also a component of the MBOs for each team member.

4.       Report on how marketing is doing, not what marketing is doing

This is also a principle I’ve employed, which is reporting on activity alone sends the wrong message – because it’s not about activity, it’s about the results. Adam made the point that reporting on activity can actually serve to cloud or create confusion around performance and take away focus.

5.       Share updates weekly

As part of the process, each metric owner updates the metrics in their area weekly. These metrics are posted to a shared repository, in their case the company Wiki.

6.       Develop automatic repeatable reports & dashboards

Automated reporting is essentially to feed the process. Having now lived through seeing a product line move from manual to automated reporting, I can tell you that many businesses are still relying on manual reporting, and the shift from manual to automated is a true difference maker – in the visibility its bring and the marketing ownership that it enables.

7.       Meet with Sales weekly

Meet with sales weekly and as part of this review the performance results (see #4). Adam’s group refers to these as “Smarketing” meetings – I first heard Mike Volpe CMO at HubSpot use that term to refer to joint Sales & Marketing sessions when meeting with him in 2009 – and I’ve also referred to this as the revenue team.

8.       Share anecdotal updates    

Adam showed an example of an “anecdotal update” e.g. an email to the sales team with info on the success of a recent program. Everyone is likely doing this in some way, but referring back to #4 and what’s noteworthy about this update is it includes brief highlights of the programs e.g. # of leads or how it compares to results of other programs, to reinforce to the sales team that marketing has its eye on the ball.

9.       Operate in monthly marketing sprints

The marketing team defines deliverables as part of monthly sprints, which both ensures alignment and focus on specific deliverables and minimizes distractions getting in the way.

10.   Weekly marketing leadership meeting

The marketing leadership team stays aligned with a weekly leadership meeting.

11.   End of Quarter retrospective board meeting

This quarterly business review asks questions such as “What did we learn?” and “How will it drive our strategy for the next quarter?”

12.   Rinse & repeat

Each of these steps become more effective as team members get comfortable in the roles and their process. So like many things in marketing, it’s important to remain committed and the results will come through consistent application of the process.

Great list from Adam.

For those looking to understand how to setup and operate a data driven demand generation machine, these are two additional resources I've written that go deeper into these topics:



CEOs and Boards of Directors: Should your marketing team be paid on variable compensation?

Mike Volpe, the CMO of HubSpot, recently published this article entitled “CMO Warning: Don’t Tie Marketing Incentive Compensation to a Metric.” Mike shared six reasons why tying marketing compensation to a metric could have adverse impact on the marketing team and the business.

I shared the article with my Sales Operations colleague who is often championing for metrics-based compensation for marketing, and she asked me “So what do you think?”

When I paused to think about it, what I realized and shared back with her is that for performance-based marketing compensation to have a positive impact, you would need these five things to be in place:

  1. Strong Marketing Leadership - to communicate and manage the program
  2. A clearly documented & agreed to MQL Definition with sales
  3. MQL goals aligned to the business plan, based on revenue targets, forecasted win rate & forecasted MQL-to-Opportunity conversion rate – I have discussed a planning process for this here
  4. A plan for how the MQL numbers will be attained – I have discussed building a bottoms-up MQL plan here
  5. Closed loop reporting visibility to measure effectiveness of each vs. goal – in this Aberdeen CMO Essentials article I discussed how to do this with six essentials to setting up a closed loop marketing system.

Now here’s the rub - the marketing organization that has these five components in place should be set up to meet and exceed their target numbers, so the performance based conversation should be seen as a massive positive (not a negative) provided that like Sales there is no cap around the upside marketing can attain based on their performance. So it shouldn’t be seen (by either Marketing or the Business) as attaining a % of your bonus based on meeting MQL objectives, it should be seen as earning a % of the revenue growth driven through marketing’s efforts to meet and exceed the revenue growth plan.

And for those organizations that don’t have the five aforementioned points, any attempts at performance based compensation will surely lead to conflict and negative ramifications like those detailed by Mike Volpe.

So for marketing management, whether or not compensation is tied to specific MQL metrics, having an approach like it is, will help ensure the process and systems are in place to best ensure success.  

And the best case scenario for boards of directors, executive teams and marketing teams alike – and the whole business for that matter –is that marketing drives the pipeline at the pace required for the target business growth (and beyond) and is rewarded for doing so in line with the performance.


Top 43 Lessons Learned from my first year as Director of Marketing

Below is a slightly edited version of an article I wrote at the one-year anniversary of Director of Marketing at Ipswitch File Transfer, sharing the top 43 lessons (tongue in cheek) that I learned. Re-reading the list, most of it can be universally applied.

  1. It’s not a strategy if it hasn’t been written down
  2. It’s not a program if it hasn’t been communicated to sales
  3. The content  doesn’t exist if it’s not in the content inventory
  4. With an inventory number (which means it can be easily updated when it changes)
  5. When presenting to the executive team, don’t tell a long story and summarize it at the end
  6. Start with your conclusions or key takeaways, single slide
  7. Then have the story to back it up & go deeper, as necessary
  8. Make sure your vendors & agencies get this too
  9. There’s power in data and best practices
  10. And we have to leverage it
  11. “I thinks” typically get won by the most senior person
  12. So use data
  13. And third party, best practice insight
  14. Get the VP of Marketing involved early in the process
  15. Talk to Sales. A lot.
  16. And talk to our Customers. Even more.
  17. If you are asked a question, answer the question first.
  18. Then get into the details
  19. We deliver on our commitments
  20. And if a committed date is in jeopardy, we communicate it early
  21. So we can do something about it
  22. If the projected start date has passed and you haven’t started it, that’s probably an issue
  23. Every project need a project manager
  24. Project managers send out meeting agendas ahead of time
  25. And afterwards recap the meeting – what’s been resolved, what’s open, next steps
  26. As part of a project make sure you define how you are going to measure it
  27. And who needs to approve it
  28. Don’t schedule a review meeting if you aren’t ready for it
  29. That can get create a lot of stress 
  30. Stop the Madness
  31. That means we’ve got a lot we want to do, but we need to prioritize based on impact
  32. And first get done the things that will move the needle
  33. Fill your Boat
  34. That means don’t feel you need to solve the difficult problems on your own
  35. Give yourself enough time
  36. And assemble the right team together
  37. Empathy is a really important skill
  38. That helps you put yourself in the head of a prospect as they go through their buying process
  39. It also helps you know where your colleagues are coming from when they give you feedback
  40. Always ask “what about International?”
  41. And “what about Channels”?
  42. Our website is our most important marketing asset
  43. And last but not least:  We have assembled a killer, veteran team over the past year. We are gelling as a group every single day. We are starting to finish each other’s sentences. One of the reasons I took this job was to become part of an outstanding marketing team leading the way forward, and we have created that team. We are well suited to learn from each other, and leverage each other’s strengths in driving the growth of our company and brand. I look forward to a lot of good times ahead together.