The Right Way To Invest In Marketing

As you may already know, that while a lot of the work I do is project-based, many clients retain me solely on a trusted-advisory basis.

These clients get unlimited access to me. They can call me any time to bounce ideas off of me, get my feedback/thoughts on their strategic direction, and generally have an open line to ask for my input and opinions. One of the things I’m sometimes asked to do in this capacity, though, is to sit in on pitches from service firms, and to augment their BS meters or to provide a fresh set of eyes.

Recently, I was in the room while a client of mine, the CEO of a mid-market B2B industrial company was getting pitched by a marketing agency, and it was enlightening, to say the least. It shed light on the horrible practices and beliefs among some marketing ‘professionals’ in the field.

The agency, who was obviously very successful, was pitching my client on a $135K investment. They had a fabulously designed slide deck and slick video presentations. It was really pretty.

They talked endlessly about brand cohesion across their website and brochures. They spoke about helping them cultivate an “instagrammable brand” through an intensive social media program. It was undeniable; these guys were immensely talented. But in all that they presented, there was something fundamentally flawed with their approach.

The agency never once asked about my client’s sales numbers. They never once asked about how revenue was generated. They never asked how many leads turned into sales, or how many didn’t. They never once asked what would happen to leads and prospects their efforts would generate through a positive “brand experience.” They never asked about the customer experience after making the sale, or what happened once a prospective customer was exposed to the beautiful Instagram imagery.

Quite bluntly, they seemed rather ignorant about the three primary purposes of marketing, and which of those areas my client would get the most benefit from.

The three primary purposes of marketing are quite simple:

  1. To help prospects find you and ultimately contact you.
  2. To do the pre-work/legwork to make it easier for customers/clients to buy from you.
  3. To keep you top of mind with existing prospects/clients, so they buy from you again.

The activities which this firm was talking about were directed at gaining “greater visibility in a socially connected world”, to paraphrase their language. The problem with this plan (which they never bothered to ask about) is that my client drives 95% of their revenue through an outbound sales team and that the prime driver of marketing for this client was in purpose #2 and #3.

Many of my readers (and you may be one of them) are in closely knit industries where there are only hundreds (or single digit thousands, at most) of clients in your total marketing universe. For most of my readers, the challenge isn’t getting the phone to ring–It’s getting a prospective buyer to return their calls.

In companies that fit this profile, the marketing budget needs to be focused on providing compelling reasons to talk to the sales team or to follow up with existing prospects & clients. These companies aren’t getting their clients from Facebook advertising or having a hot Instagram account. And it’s certainly not coming from more brochures.

It’s easy to lose focus and to forget that literally, every part of your company is, in its way, only there to support your overall revenue growth, and there is no department where this is truer than marketing.

Your challenge for this week: Think about the sales lifecycle of your company, and which of the three purposes of marketing you need to satisfy. If you expect no sales after the first, then marketing will solely be focused on #1, with #2 a distant second.

If you’re in a close-knit industry or region where total prospects are limited, then you will need to focus more on #2 and #3.

And if you’re a global brand that relies on the combined activity of millions or billions of people, then you will put most of your efforts into #3.

Whichever mix fits your company and industry, be sure to ask the following of any marketing investment:

“Which purpose is this satisfying, and how is the proposed investment going to support our sales?”