B2B Marketers must become “marketing technologists” in preparation for machine learning

Earlier this month I attended MarketingProf’s annual conference in Boston for the 2nd time.  While there I sat through 5 keynote presentations and 12 deep-dive breakout sessions.  I met with 29 vendors and networked with hundreds of people.  It was YUGE!

I wanted to take a moment to step back and share my top takeaways.  First – B2B Marketers must become “marketing technologists” in preparation for machine learning.

machinelearning

Machine learning and artificial intelligence was all anyone could talk about at the conference.  Normally I would say it’s a new, shiny fad, but I already have machine learning running my house.  This is very real.  In my estimation, predictions about machine learning today are what marketing automation was 10 years ago.

Christopher S. Penn, an acclaimed author and VP of Marketing Technology at Shift Communications, did not mense words while speaking on the topic.  “There will be two types of workers in the near future.  Those who tell the machines what to do and those who do what the machines tell them. And those who direct the machines will have much better qualities of life.”

I spoke with many vendors in the market who are actively weaving machine learning into their product releases over the next 5 years – including HubSpot.  This is not a movie.  AI is here.

Penn states that all marketers must become “marketing technologists” to remain relevant.  We should educate ourselves on algorithmic thinking.

In order to remain relevant as new dynamics in marketing take center stage, I intend to learn to code.  10 years ago the common base requirement to work in marketing was HTML.  In 10 years we will all need to know how to code or be promoted far enough that it doesn’t matter.  I’ll hedge my bets.

What are you doing to stay ahead of the curve?

The Anti-Resume Every Marketer Should Make Immediately

Recently, as part of Zayo’s Coffee Club program, I met with a marketing professional named Karen Sutherland.  While meeting we discussed her marketing background and traded stories.  She then handed me a document I’ve been fawning over every since.

Below is Karen’s “Strategic Plan”, the quintessential “anti-resume” and it’s a project every marketer should take on immediately.  In it she summarizes all her experience, differentiators and objectives in an easy-to-consume and compelling format.  I’m blown away and can’t wait to make my own.

Strategic Plan

I’m sure this is meant to be a way to help plan your career with a more targeted and strategic approach.  In my opinion this is also the perfect way to introduce yourself on paper.  Resumes are detailed, bulleted and sometimes overwhelming.  You’re including dates and awards and metrics and publications and on and on.  This document drills down to everything a hiring manager or recruiter actually wants to know.

  • What do you want to do?
  • What do you know how to do?
  • Where do you want to do it?

Once the conversation has started your resume can fill in any timeline or metric gaps.

How to format your personal strategic plan:

  1. Name, contact info, URL at the top – just like a resume.

Don’t slouch on this section.  It doesn’t need to be professionally designed, but this is literally your first impression.  Make it count.  Maybe include a headshot or a special logo.  Maybe just play with the formatting or layout.  Use this to disclose your talent or personal brand without saying it outright.

  1. Professional Objective

I like what Karen did here.  Get to the point and tell the reader exactly what you’re looking for.  Don’t write a complete sentence, but make it skim-worthy.

  1. Positioning Statement

Now you can write in complete sentences.  Write a paragraph on what makes you different, skilled or the best choice – just like if you were describing a product.  Maybe play with the title by doing something fun like “The Pitch” or “In a Nutshell” – if you’re feeling adventurous.

  1. Competencies

I love that Karen broke this into three sections – skills she has, marketing specializations, and who she is.

  1. Target

I really like that she’s broken this down so well.  If you were marketing a product, you would clearly state what your target market looks like.  Why not do that for yourself?

Answer the following questions:

  • Where do you want to work geographically?
  • What type of industries do you prefer?
  • What size company do you prefer?
  • What is your ideal culture?

You may worry that this limits your ability to find work, but we all know the key to proper marketing is segmentation and targeting.  Don’t be afraid to be niche.

Now, do your research.  Which companies fit these parameters?  Which companies complement these parameters?  Now, go hunting.

In summary, stop what you’re doing and make your own strategic plan.  It may be a little tough at first, but zeroing in on your target market and treating yourself like the amazing product you are is the best free thing you can do to market yourself right now.

Why Video is the New Sales Slick

I’ve spent a lot of time researching video marketing in preparation for my next marketing plan.  There is a wealth of information on the trends and stats surrounding video marketing.  Ultimately I’ve decided, after all this research, that video is replacing the classic one-page sales slick as the go-to-source for B2B marketers to decimate information to the market.

  1. Video marketing is everywhere, just like your classic sales slick.
  2. They’re more engaging than a static piece of paper with a ton of words.
  3. They produce a better conversion than a one-sheeter.

I believe this so much, that I created a video about it.  (Very meta)

4 Steps to Successful Vendor Management

A good vendor can be a Godsend.  A bad vendor can ruin your life.  But never fear, there are some easy ways to select and maintain a vendor.

Image result for designer cartoonKnow Where to Find Professionals

Finding professional vendors in the first place can be tough.  I highly recommend www.thumbtack.com for finding new vendors.  You simply submit your project requirements, deadlines and budget.  You pay nothing to submit a project.  Then, within minutes, vendors are responding with proposals and pricing.  There is no commitment to hire anyone.  You can read reviews, see their portfolio and ask follow up questions.

I have used this to hire bands for parties, caterers for grand openings and photographers in cities I can’t visit.  Highly recommend it.

Ask to See Their Portfolio

Most vendors worth their salt will show you their portfolio off the bat.  If they hesitate, move on.  Nothing to see here.  They’re not ready to be in the big leagues and you can’t afford to take that type of gamble.

Vendors that will likely have some sort of portfolio of work to share include:

  • Freelance writers
  • Graphic designers
  • Giveaway manufacturers
  • Printers
  • Developers
  • Photographers
  • Anyone who calls themselves a “marketer”

Be critical when reviewing portfolios.  Don’t just accept good as good enough.  Think carefully about what you need and can afford.  If $10 more an hour gets you 10x the qualify, pay it.

Make It Obvious Why Professionals are Worth the Investment

It is not uncommon to start at a job that is not used to paying for vendors at all.  They expect to do everything in-house.  You may have to start off by doing a lot yourself.  But once you’ve proven that out, I recommend calling your favorite photographer, graphic designer, developer – whomever – and ask them to do a trial project for you.  You do your version, they do their’s.

Here’s an example of when I’ve done this myself.  Guess which one was professionally done.  I rarely have to explain the value of vendors anymore.

Professional Comparison

Keep Your Friends Close and a Good Vendor Closer

Eventually you’re going to start a new job.  Established marketers usually have a stable of vendors they prefer to work with.  Why?  They’ve cultivated those relationships carefully over many years that are built on trust, mutual admiration, and consistency.

Image result for designer cartoonIf you find a vendor that you work well with, fits your budget and does consistently strong work, keep them.

But it goes both ways.  I know you’re paying for their time, but a professional relationship goes far beyond money.  If it were just about the money your boss could scream at you any time they liked.  But they can’t if they want you to continue to show up to work.

The key is to treat your vendors like coworkers.  Don’t be afraid to assign work, but don’t jerk about it.  Have clear deadlines and expectations and then say thank you when they’re done.  Did they go above and beyond at the last minute while on their family vacation?  A hand-written thank you note or a $5 Starbucks gift card could go a long way to preserving the professional relationship.

Another way to preserve a strong working relationship is establishing a “scratch my back” agreement.  Ask them if you could create some sort of referral credit.  If you refer new clients to them, you get a little discount in your next bill.  Everybody wins.

3 Metrics Every B2B Marketer Should Know

Razzled-but-not-dazzled“When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind: it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your thoughts, advanced to the stage of science.”
– Sr. William Thomas, Lord Kelvin

The number one thing that has set me apart from other marketers throughout my career is my ability, and willingness, to do math.  It is not enough to make things look pretty or budget for events.  You must be able to express very clear and useful metrics that drive a business forward.  Here are 3 that I believe every marketer should know off the top of their head if ever asked.

ROI: Return on Investment

ROI

This is the basic of the basic.  You should be able to rattle off exactly what your ROI is for major initiatives and for your year overall.  Although we all know this is very basic, most marketers don’t actually bother to calculate it or share it.

If you have a negative ROI it could lead to negative consequences.  However, if you can get ahead of the question, report your negative ROI, and outline causes for this you will, most likely, be viewed as a professional in the eyes of your management.  Entry level marketers hide bad metrics.  Professionals address them head on.

Equity Value Creation

This equation literally tells the business how much more valuable you’ve made it.  Not how much money you’ve made it, but how much you’ve increased the company’s value.

This is a tough concept for many marketers.  We focus on the bottom line and how much deals are worth.  But how much is the company worth?  If you CEO decided to put the company on the market, how much more valuable have you made it?

This is a critical metric for marketers for two reasons:

  1. You’re communicating how your influenced deals affect the attractiveness of the company directly
  2. You’re communicating how your more fluffy work, like brand awareness and sales enablement, are contributing to the overall value of the company – if not the quarterly sales directly.

Equity Value Creation Formula

Let’s break this down:

  • Monthly Revenue – look at how much your influenced deals bill on a monthly basis.  If you’re measuring something like “brand awareness” look at your monthly revenue a year ago and compare it to now.  Calculate the difference.
  • Expense Ratio – What percentage of your revenue goes to cover expenses?  If you don’t know, a good estimate is 50-60%.  Expenses cover keeping the lights on, employees’ salaries, paying contractors, etc.
  • Multiplier – A multiplier tells a potential buyer of your company how much more than your annual profits they need to purchase you.  This one is tricky.  If your company is not publicaly traded, you likely don’t know what your multiplier is.

    Here are a few good rules of thumb I got from BusinessTown:

    • An extremely well-established and steady business with a rock-solid market position, whose continued earnings will not be dependent upon a strong management team:
      a multiple of 8 to 10.
    • An established business with a good market position, with some competitive pressures and some swings in earnings, requiring continual management attention:
      a multiple of 5 to 7.
    • An established business with no significant competitive advantages, stiff competition, few hard assets, and heavy dependency upon management’s skills for success:
      a multiple of 2 to 4.
    • A small, personal service business where the new owner will be the only, or one of the only, professional service providers:
a multiple of 1.

Essentially this equation takes your Annual Profits x your company’s multiplier and generates the value of the company if someone wanted to buy it.  You can use this to communicate how much more valuable your company is now that marketing is doing x, y or z.

NPV: Net Present Value

“A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.”

A dollar today is worth more than a dollar you make a year from now.  Marketers often report metrics based on the total value of a deal, which makes sense.  But to take your marketing game to the next level, start reporting on NPV instead.  Net Present Value is how much the deal is worth today.  For B2B marketers we often deal with more expensive, longer term solutions.   It could be years before our company realizes the actual full revenue from a sale.  By calculating your ROIs with NPV instead of total deal you’re indicating to your leadership that you understand the deal loses value the longer it lasts.  It shows you’re a professional.

Here is the actual equation:

Image result for npv formula

But only college students do it that way.  If your CRM doesn’t already calculate NPV for you, here’s a website that will do it for you.  There is an equation to calculate your discount rate, but here’s a cheat I found online for all our sanity:

  • 10% for public companies
  • 15% for private companies that are scaling predictably (say above $10m in ARR, and growing greater than 40% year on year)
  • 20% for private companies that have not yet reached scale and predictable growth

That being said, most CRMs can do it for you.  Just customize your opportunity page to include the field.

Portfolio Feature: zColo Magazine – Spring 2017 Edition

Cover_Issue2I have been MIA for a while now.  This is mostly due to my deep involvement in producing the 2nd zColo Magazine for work.  This has been a labor of love – as well as surely taking years off my life.

I invite you to peruse the magazine’s online version.  Feel free to leave me any questions in the comment section below.

I used Lucid Press to produce the magazine.  I find it fairly simple to work with, but creating an online magazine and converting it to print can be a pain.  They do allow InDesign uploads in BETA version if you’re exploring a digital content strategy of your own.

In this edition I chose to highlight my organization’s Colorado roots as the cover story, but I also highlighted some other recent professional projects.  Namely I did a visual tour of our latest Dallas data center, which I redesigned from the bottom up.  This foray into interior design was so much fun, but it was definitely challenging to find a balance between my design priorities and accomplishing zColo’s economic goals.  I’m pretty proud of the outcome, I must say.

Women in Technology and Identifying Sponsors

I am planning for my upcoming quarter – as I tend to do.  While looking at events coming up next quarter that I want my product group involved in, I came across the Colorado Technology Association’s annual Women in Technology Conference.

My company, Zayo Group, is extremely involved with the Colorado Technology Association and is a proud sponsor of this conference.  I had the pleasure of attending this conference last year, with Zayo, and was blown away by the inspiring and incredible women I met there.

Speakers last year included the CFO of Comcast, VP of Analytics & Data Products at Ibotta, and VP of Risk Management & Managed Cloud Services at Oracle – among many others.  All of the speakers were incredible women who blew straight through the glass ceiling and are killing it in traditionally male fields.

This, of course, makes me think about marketing – which continues to leverage science more and more each year.  Marketing is largely even when it comes to gender ratios – which is really special.  I know I am fortunate to work in a field where my gender isn’t an issue at a company that values women’s contributions.  This is not always the case.

I wanted to share one of the takeaways from last year’s conference that stuck out to me, as many of you may not be as fortunate as I.

There is a difference between a mentor and a sponsor.

Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State, once said, “There’s a special place in hell reserved for women who don’t help other women.”

There was a small panel discussion at this event that looked at exactly what the difference is between a mentor and a sponsor.  A mentor helps you along with advise and direction.  A sponsor pulls you up with them.  They help uncover opportunities for you to move up into.

While doing some research on this subject I stumbled upon a New York Times article on the very subject.  Sylvia Ann Hewlett, CEO of the Center for Talent Innovation in Manhattan and author of Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor writes, “To get ahead, women need to acquire a sponsor – a powerfully positioned companion – to help them escape the “marzipan layer,” that sticky middle slice of management where so many driven and talented women languish.”

She continues,

“Our two-year study, which sampled some 12,000 men and women in white-collar occupations across the United States and Britain, shows how sponsorship, unlike mentorship… makes a measurable difference in career progress… A sponsor can lean in on a woman’s behalf, apprising others of her exceptional performance and keeping her on the fast track.  With such a person – male or female – in her corner, our data shows, a woman is more likely to ask for a big opportunity, to seek a raise and to be satisfied with her rate of advancement.”

Hewlett does caution that sponsorship is a two-way street.  If someone’s going to stick their neck out for you, you’ve got to deliver fully every time.  You have to make them look good.  Otherwise you tarnish your brand and theirs.

At the conference, our table’s “luminary”, Roberta Robinette President — AT&T Colorado, lead a discussion about what the panel covered and stated that all of the sponsors in her career have been men – never women.    I think she had a point.  The only true sponsor I have ever had was a former male vice president.  That’s it.

How often are we really building each other up?  Not just emotionally, but professionally?  Rather than fighting to be the only woman at the table, why don’t we fight together?  It just seems a lot more productive if you ask me.