The 3 Big Questions in Sales and Marketing

future exitFirst published July 28, 2008

In most small companies sales and marketing is the responsibility of the same person. Often the person in charge has been with the company for some time and what they know about sales and marketing has been learned on the job. Sales and marketing are joined at the hip. In fact your strategic sales plan should be an outgrowth of your strategic marketing plan. Although there are multiple marketing objectives such as investing in customer relationships, building community, establishing your company as content expert in your field, etc., the fundamental purpose of marketing is (drum roll, please) to create sales opportunities.

It is amazing to me how many companies operate without full understanding of the answers to the following questions. So what are the key questions that should be answered for successful sales and marketing to occur?

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4 Surprising Email Marketing Situations and How to Avoid Them

First published August 6, 2008

Yesterday I participated in a webinar sponsored by Target Marketing Magazine that focused on getting the most out of your emails to customers. The presenters were sharing the results of a study across four vertical markets. I learned some amazing facts such as:

  1. 30% of marketers do not send an email to interested prospects within 30 days of the prospect making herself known to the company through a subscribe/send me more information process.
  2. Another 25% do not send the first email within 9 days.
  3. 60% do not send welcome messages.
  4. 70% collect enough information in the sign-up process to customize messages and then don't use the information.

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“Old Marketing” v. “New Marketing”

dollar-key.jpgFirst published September 14, 2008

Traditional marketing is still very much with us in K-12 publishing. Because of the institutional nature of our market, we still operate in “push” mode with direct mail, outbound sales, either in person or by phone, conferences, etc. For most K-12 publishers, sending occasional customer emails and offering online webinars and demos is as Web 2.0 as it gets. For educational publishers, it is still very much about filling the sales funnel moving prospects to customers through a multi-step process.

But even in educational publishing, this traditional model is giving way to something new. In traditional sales, the company was in charge of moving the process forward, and in the Web 2.0 world, the new driver is the customer.

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4 Guiding Principles for Navigating Uncertain Times


First published October 16, 2008

Even the financial pundits have admitted they do not know when the market lurching will end and national and international markets will settle down. With the intercession of the government, there is a general belief that things will settle down at some point. It is the consensus view, however, that we will end somewhere higher than we are now, but nowhere near where we began this unprecedented fall.

The general advice financial managers have been giving their clients for the last two weeks is good advice for everyone – hold steady. For business people, it is an opportunity to reexamine your core business, re-identify your strengths, your unique selling proposition, and your key messages. Going back to the basics is smart business in any economy but certainly in a challenged one.

Here are some things to consider:
1. Be strategic – Review goals and objectives, budgets, and staff resources with a critical eye. Companies sometimes cut marketing and promotion budgets in a knee jerk reaction to market downturns, and it’s easy to see these line items as “expendable.” But they’re usually not. Marketing and promotion expenditures are investments in your long-term health as a company. Examine what is working; what is not working, and what can be postponed; but understand the long-term consequences of these decisions.

2. Be clear – Once you have made realistic adjustments to your goals and objectives, make sure that you are communicating this to all your constituencies inside and outside the company. In challenging times, it is even more critical that your entire team work together to minimize wasted time and effort. Remember that communicating your key messages inside your company is equally important to communicating them externally.

3. Be strong – As the business owner or manager, it is your job to make the tough decisions. You have an obligation to the company that supersedes any obligation to individuals. It is unlikely that you will now have all the resources you had planned, so weigh your decisions carefully and re-read #1.

4. Be available – You need to be visible and available to customers and employees. Everyone is rattled. Many of us have never seen volatile fluctuations like this before. The causes are complex and the solutions are multi-faceted. Do not trivialize concerns or respond with facile reassurances. Be direct and authentic.

This is an opportunity to have full, rich conversations with your team about your mission and how to accomplish it. Revisit the basics of your business, particularly sales and marketing. Listen to your customers.  Find and read business blogs by people who may have a wider market view than you do like Lee Wilson who weighs in on how this financial crisis affects K-12 publishing. Challenge your thinking by reading people like Seth Godin , Chris Brogan, and Joe Wikert. There are many experienced pros sharing their perspectives online. Sort through what is meaningful to you and what isn't. Come back and share what you've found.

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What if we don’t use the bad economy for an excuse?

detour-sign.jpg

First published February 27, 2009

This interesting question is posed by David Brock. He tells of one company that has made it a policy for their salespeople and their sales are up 10% this year.

As I'm heading into three days of a trade show with a client, it will be a great opportunity to observe and practice this attitude. Brock is right that customers still need to have what we sell, so it's up to us to make sure that we are astute enough to uncover their real objections and not just chalk up their non-purchase to the economy.

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The Cost of Fear and Uncertainty

j0402504.jpgFirst published March 25, 2009

As I've listened to the presenters at the Executive Publishing Conference and Expo this week, it occurs to me that in all this talk about the recession and who is navigating the economy well and who is still on the sidelines trying to figure out what to do, that there is a real cost to fear and uncertainty.  And, in addition to real costs of inertia or non-engagement that there are also opportunities lost along the way.

Someone said yesterday, "if the new up is flat, then we're up." It's a bit of black humor that gets to the heart of today's business climate and that is, if you haven't lost ground, then you're doing pretty well. After listening to publishers' experiences these last two days, it seems to me that even jumping into the fray, investing-scrapping-reinvesting yields more benefits than inertia. The worst outcome for a company is losing relevance to its community while sitting on the sidelines.

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Online Marketing & Sales 101 – Teach Don’t Sell

First published August 6, 2009

In the continually evolving world of online marketing and sales, it is those experts and websites that share reams of content with their audience around common areas of interest that are the most successful. Hands down; no contest.

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