It is critical for everyone on the revenue-generation side of the business (including you folks in the marketing department!) to understand their vital role in generating revenue and profit while doing so in a way that protects valuable company integrity. When the CEO and CFO are frustrated because revenue targets aren’t being met – it’s hard to argue about how much integrity you are expressing in the marketplace. Integrity is important, but by itself, integrity will not pay the bills.
The natural inclination of many marketing leaders is to accede to the requests (demands) of the sales leadership to take actions that drive short-term revenue. This is where the concept of “field marketing” came from. Field marketing was a very popular role from the 1990’s and the first part of this century and field marketing personnel were expected to be very close to sales leadership, and in some cases, actually reported to the sales organization.
I understand this well because early in my career, I worked as a field marketing director for the relational database company Sybase. I reported to the marketing VP, but with a dotted line to the sales VP. In this role, I sometimes felt like an embedded reporter in a war zone – loyal to my comrades in the sales department but also realizing that short-term sales objectives can sometimes conflict with the best interests of the company. We were a very hot entity at that time, growing at 40% plus per year. In this type of environment, you have to be careful not to take actions that feed the revenue beast while damaging the company’s valuable brand.
At a different company, my CEO boss told our executive team, “Don’t confuse marketing with sales or sales with product delivery.” While cleverly stated, this was an endorsement of marketing and sales doing what they needed to do to make the deal, with the product delivery team picking up the pieces. Best to banish this attitude from your thought processes because it can lead to lost revenue and unhappy customers.
How to Be a Revenue Star without Sacrificing Integrity
With the relentless mandate to generate more revenue, we B2B marketers face a tough challenge: always putting our best foot forward while selling prospects on the merits of our product or service offerings – while staying in the truthful zone. You need to resist the urge to create expectations that are not met by customer reality, either during or after the buying process. The penalty for not meeting expectations is to lose the sale during the process, or a failure to retain the customer past the first transaction.
As regular CustomerThink contributor, Ruth Stevens explains: “The first essential strategy in retention marketing is to deliver on the promise made to the customer at the point of acquisition. Meeting customer expectations is simply the minimum requirement for doing ongoing business. Any dissatisfaction with the product, service or experience will be an insurmountable barrier to retention.”
How many times have you heard a customer say something like, “This is not what I expected” or “I feel I was misled in this transaction”? Sometimes this is a result of over-exuberance on the part of content producers but it can also be a deliberate strategy of exaggerating (lying?) to gain the order. Bottom line: Yes, you should promote aggressively but make sure it is not just a compelling, but also a realistic vision of both the buying and usage experience.
Compelling yet realistic expectation setting is what I refer to as “congruent messaging” which is different from the incongruent messaging that many B2B marketing departments produce today. You want to make sure you give potential prospects the information they need when they need it – including at all stages of the buying cycle. It’s even better when you build in some engagement touchpoints that not only educate but also bring prospects into your relationship orbit.
As someone who writes a lot of promotional and educational materials for clients (and my own company), I admit that coming up with fresh and compelling copy consistently can be very tough. However, as a wise mentor said to me early in my career, you don’t want to put your name on something less than your best.
You Can Sometimes Sell More by Selling Less
The impetus to drive a quick sale can make you miss a couple of important steps. Regardless of your go-to-market model and whether you are selling a big-ticket item or something inexpensive, the revenue generation process has four discrete steps: 1. Attraction, 2. Education, Engagement, and 4. Selling. Make sure you don’t shortcut the process by selling too early and skip the education part of the process. The good news is: if you do a good job with your educational materials, the selling process will prove easier and the sales cycle time will decrease.
Education happens at every stage of the sales process and as mentioned above, you need to give the prospect what they need to feel good about the buyer journey, every step of the way. This means pure education at the early stage, followed by a stronger push for engagement and the eventual sale later in the process. Moreover, if you are educating people out of the sale before they engage fully, so much the better.
Nothing is better than making the sale but getting a “no” from an unqualified prospect is a very good thing. The successful B2B marketing leader does the sales team and their company a great service by separating these non-buyers from the qualified individuals quickly and efficiently, allowing reps to focus on prospects that may potentially buy something. The best way to provide prospects with the optimal level of attention is to keep the focus on quantity on the marketing side and quality on the sales side.
As a B2B marketer, you take risks by swimming against the tide in these ways – especially when sales leadership is blaming you for a lack of revenue. However, the rewards are great when you do so. Your company will benefit and if it does not acknowledge your value, other companies can use a marketing leader that knows how to help generate revenue without sacrificing brand integrity.