Before all else comes leadership. And without it, all else (social media, metrics, tagging, platforms, content, tactics, calls-to-action, the works!) is doomed to failure.
A CMO recently visiting Velocity made a riveting observation as we were discussing content marketing goals and metrics with him. It was something like this:
Everything begins with real leadership. Someone’s got to lay out the goals very, very clearly, and get everyone behind them. It all needs to start there, and be followed up with culture.
In other words, it all starts with leadership; the leader’s got to be 100% clear about what he wants, and then make sure everyone else knows what’s going to happen and why. Then inspire them to go there.
Given that brief, I set out to ghostwrite the speech or memo that a charismatic digital marketing director or CMO circa 2012 would give to his troops. For inspiration, I channeled the first 100 days of a Marisa Meyers or Barack Obama. That may be aiming high rhetorically, but there are no prizes for aiming low.
In a way, it’s the kind of memo or speech that I’d wish every digital marketing leader (and particularly clients) would share with their teams, their companies and their agencies.
This draft was shared with the CMO who originally inspired it, and with two marketing directors/CMOs (noted after) who read and commented on it.
The Digital Marketing Leaders’ Purpose & Principles Memo
There is one thing and one thing alone that will justify the existence of a marketing function in our business. It is this:
We bring the buyers.
If we are not getting people excited enough about our products and our brand to march to our door (and to walk through it, dammit!), then we are not worth the money that’s being spent on us.
Our reason to exist can be summarized as easily as this: highly-qualified, sales-ready leads. That is all.
To many, this comes as a shock. To many, marketing’s the spoiled brat of the company, responsible for the company stand, a brochure, logo, strapline and general mayhem.
To them, this new purpose asks too much of marketing. They’ll wonder: “You’re already pretty busy right now; how are you going to do that too?”
This is how: We’re going to stop doing all the stuff that doesn’t contribute to this goal.
In our world, marketing’s traditionally been a service function. In other words, we’ll help anyone in the company who needs to talk or present the company to anyone else.
Branding for the company picnic? Pens and pencils with the company name on it? That new slide for the IT chief’s deck? Using marketing like this is like asking Usain Bolt to compete in knitting. It’s almost criminal.
Digital’s turned marketing inside out; we can now see our impact on the business directly. The global market’s suddenly within reach of anyone with a website. And the tools we need to measure and to report on our performance are more or less free.
Given that premise, if we don’t tack straight for the greatest value and rapidly improve our performance, we’re not doing our job.
What I’m staking out is a new mission for marketing – less services, more operations.
We’re going to be more focused.
That focus will start in our own product and business strategy.
As our buyers’ best defenders and allies, we’re going to give our own offering hell before the buyer ever has to.
And we’ll focus on the strategies and tactics we adopt to achieve our primary goal: highly-qualified, sales ready leads.
A service-oriented approach will not achieve that. If we don’t think something will contribute to that goal, we won’t do it. That’s it.
When this company started, it met the needs of buyers so perfectly that many of them cemented long-term relationships with us. Today many of them remain thanks only to that cement; we’ve lost touch with their wants and needs.
That is not a situation that can last for long.
Our marketing will begin with a promise to the market. That promise is this:
We will constantly and as rapidly as possible improve our product in terms of what you want.
That shouldn’t be controversial. From prior experience, however, it is. We’ll demand this from the organization; if we’re not met in earnest, we’re out of here.
Today’s digital landscape bewilders many otherwise great marketers and marketing departments. We’ll be guided by our single-minded purpose of getting highly-qualified, sales-ready leads, and a ruthless determination to adopt the strategies and tactics that get them.
In how many channels will we need to look? We’ll leave none unexamined. How many interactions will we need to bring the leads in? We’ll get those touches.
Our leads are relationships, and – like it or not – we’ll need to adapt to how they want to steer the relationship. But we’ll be consistent and constantly improving.
Our efforts to bring high-quality, sales-ready leads will rest on principles:
I. We will publish and share stories and information that help our buyers do their jobs better, based on our own expertise.
II. We will excite and inspire by the boldness of our ideas and our personal integrity (not the volume of our communication).
III. We will keep promotion to the absolute minimum, instead focusing on utility, honesty and our true personality.
IV. We will always fight in the corner of the customer; if marketing’s not fighting for the customer, then we’re lost to the customer.
V. We will communicate with the market where, when and how they want to interact with us; they control the conversation.
VI. We will treat our data about the market as holy. Permission and respect will be at the foundation of our data-driven efforts.
I know that, with a focus on these principles, everything else (no matter how complex!) will fall into place: Social media sharing and monitoring, marketing automation, multi-channel marketing, content creation, and demand and lead generation.
By fighting for a world where our customers find their work easier, more interesting and more powerful, by pulling out every stop to provide products and services that do that, and by helping them to engage us as soon as they want, we will earn our wages in the enterprise.
If our ends (bring the market, in the form of great leads) are single-minded, our means are decidedly less so. No one in this organization can prescribe THE way to bring the most, and the best leads. At the rate our market and the marketing discipline is changing, that would be a fantasy.
So I will promise you this: We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to discover effective strategies and tactics. That may look like wanton experimentation, but it’ll be backed by a clear methodology:
We’ll know what we’re doing and why and we’ll be measuring it.
If something isn’t working, we’ll know about it. And we’ll record our experiences in case it’ll work later, or by doing it differently.
If something works, we’ll know too. And if we can pump it up on a massive scale, we will. If it only works on a small scale, we’ll do that (for as long as it makes sense).
We won’t find joy in experimentation. We will find joy in success, based on experimentation and process (and definitely some failures).
We’ll be tied at the hip throughout all of this to sales.
If our data is holy, our input to sales must be treated like scripture.
These leads are the received truth, and sales will get them exactly when they’re ready to talk.
It will be a constructive conversation based on a clear understanding of the potential buyer’s business and his or her needs.
If sales suffers from long sales cycles or disinterested prospects, that is our problem. If sales doesn’t succeed in closing business, then we’re not providing truly sales-ready leads. We want our leads to sell like a shoe drops.
Like any core function of our company, our marketing team will grow only when our results dictate it. In this day and age, a single marketer can achieve a lot. Every marketer after the first will need to add and extend the reach of that first marketer.
To the extent that everyone in our company is a marketer (thanks to social media), we’ll only ask them to be professional and share what feels right, and good to them.
That’s it. This marketing department will steer straight at the heart of our market. If you’re going that way, jump onboard. If you’re not, jump off here.
Let’s do this thing.
Thanks to John Watton (@jwatton) and Bryon Thomas (@bryonthomas) for reading drafts of this.