Early in December, Victor, a good friend, referred a potential client to me. This client is not my typical B2B technology and global enterprise clients. It’s a mid-size and regional accounting firm based in Northern California. The founder was able to grow his business through events and referrals. While they recognized that digital marketing and outreach is necessary to continue growing, they didn’t know how to start. What they did first was to update their website, that was good. Then, they did a re-branding of their logo. I didn’t know why they did that in that order, but OK, that’s fine. During the re-branding, they hired a marketing agency to conduct a complete audit and create a comprehensive marketing plan. Well, that should be good, right. After the plan, it’s execution. It should be easy, right? Well, it didn’t go well. The agency was not able to get traction during the execution since the content was needed to come from subject matter experts like partners and managers. In addition, partners and managers were very busy. Their hours need to be billable so they really didn’t have time to work on creating content such as blogs, white papers or what not. Everything seemed to be last minute and, ultimately, the relationship between the agency and the accounting firm didn’t work out.
Beeta, one of the firm’s partners, asked me to review their work and come up with a plan to move things forward. She made it very clear that they don’t want to overhaul their website or change the current logo. It’s ok to update and optimize the website, but my recommendation should not include a complete overhaul of the website. Ok, it’s good to know what a client wants or doesn’t want to do. I can work around that.
After reviewing the plan from the other agency, I told Beeta that the plan is solid. They have many recommendations. What I suggested was that we focus on 1-2 big initiatives. In addition, I told her that plan is one piece of a puzzle, for major initiatives to work, we need to align Plan, Processes, Tools and People. The failure to execute properly had a lot to do with three things:
So I suggested that we should focus on one big initiative first. Since events and referrals are the core of their marketing outreach, let’s optimize and improve on that. What can we do or automate before, during, and after the event? Is the training the most important part? Beeta told me that they don’t have time to do prep before the event and follow up after the event. Fine, let’s train the partners to understand the process and delegate the preparation and follow-up to the internal program manager. Again, we need to have a process, then identify who does what and when in advance. In general, I told her that they need to know who should attend the event at least 3 months in advance. If partners want to delegate research and follow-up to the program manager, this person needs time to prepare. Advanced planning is critical if we can to make this work.
Another pain point is content creation. Beeta told me that they understand the content is important. Unfortunately, the agency expected them to write content, but they just didn’t have the time. I told Beeta that we may not need partners to write content. How about doing interviews with them instead? Have writers interview partners and draft the content and have Partners review. However, partners need to “commit” to doing the reviews and getting back to the writers in a timely fashion. We need to hold partners accountable. Partners have to meet writers half-way.
I told Beeta that marketing is not sexy. The execution is about processes and tools. Let’s use the post event follow-up as an example: we need to send out an email to prospects 24 hours after the event with CTA to set up a follow-up call. If prospects respond, what should we do next? If they don’t respond, what should be our next steps? Askquestions, create a process flow that everyone can follow. For each step, identify who should do what and have templates or scripts available. Source tools wisely, make sure that tools are integrated. It sounds easy, but it’s challenging when you get down to the nitty-gritty details.
We had an in-depth discussion on the processes, tools and the potential hire. Then, she asked me what I can do to help her. I can help her find the person to hire. I can also help her to set up the processes and tools with templates. The program manager can work with me to implement the processes and tools and work closely with partners and managers. This person needs to have a marketing background, but must also be able to write well and do program management. It’s hard to find someone that has the required background, but I have a couple of candidates in mind.
This type of work is not what I usually do. I tend to focus on marketing strategy, planning, messaging framework, customer journeys, and even sales enablement. However, I also enjoy being in the trenches to layout processes and sourcing tools. I learn as much as I do from the planning work.
A marketing plan is important, but processes, tools and people are even more critical during the execution stage. Another component is training and communications. Train people how to use the tools and reinforce it over and over again.
I told Beeta that we can build momentum. There will be some growing pain along the way but we will get there.
Again, send me your marketing questions. You know where to reach me. If you like the podcast, please leave comments on iTunes.
Keep hustling, my friends. You got this.