Building a Brand through Employee Enablement

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I recently spoke at the Colorado Marketing Summit (#COMKTG) on a panel entitled “The Colorado Brand”.  During the session I mentioned an employee engagement program I introduced as a grassroots marketing strategy.  After the session I received 10 emails and LinkedIn messages from marketers wanting to know more about the program and how they could replicate it at their companies.  Since so many people were interested, I thought I would share it here.

Back when I was head of marketing for zColo, a Zayo Group sub-brand specializing in the data center industry, we were noticing more competitors coming into the Colorado market.  Considering this is our home turf, we were all understandably annoyed by the influx.  I remember being in a meeting where we discussed the lack of local brand recognition and saying, “This is not acceptable in our house!”  And so the program #OurHouse was built.

#OurHouse was a grassroots campaign designed to leverage our large staff in Colorado in order to get the name “zColo” out in the market.  It was comprised of a few pieces.

  1. Train employees on the elevator pitch
  2. Get our brand name out and about
  3. Introduce ourselves to other Colorado brands
  4. Communicate internally using a simple message

Training employees on the elevator pitch

You would be shocked at how interested your employees are in building the brand.  My quarterly marketing plan presentation always had great attendance from, strangely, the engineering side of the business.  Data center technicians, electrical engineers and software developers would show up in mass (85% attendance) to hear what marketing had to say, while sales averaged only a 15% attendance record.

When you have engagement like that from curious employees, leverage it.  These are the people talking about the company, interacting with end customers and representing your brand on a daily basis – so turn them from employees into advocates.

The easiest way to do that is to teach them the elevator pitch.  I’ve written instructions for writing a simple and memorable elevator pitch in the aptly named blog post, “How to Write an Elevator Pitch“.  By giving your employees, all your employees, the tools to quickly and eloquently describe your brand, you’re inadvertently creating a field marketing team.  They will feel more confident speaking on the brand and you can be assured they’re doing it correctly.

Ask yourself, how big your field marketing team could be if every employee was a trained brand advocate?

Get your brand name out and about

After you have taught them how to talk about the brand, give them something cool to wear that also has the brand.  We made jackets that read zColorado and gave one to every data center tech and employee in Colorado.  The jackets were a HUGE hit!  I would walk around town and see employees wearing them proudly on the weekends.

The key is to create something people will want to wear.  We got nice jackets that were actually warm and fashionable.  Since state pride is a really big deal in Colorado (think on par with Texas), incorporating the state brand also made local employees want it all the more.

Plus it was a unique piece of swag that was made only for them.  I even had a director pull me aside once to tell me how much the field employees appreciated the jackets and how they felt they were more involved in the company culture as a result.  It made me feel amazing.

zColorado
Sporting our zColorado jackets

Introduce Ourselves to Other Colorado Brands

After all our Colorado employees got a jacket, we made a list of all the Colorado companies we would love to work with but didn’t have a relationship yet.  Then we packed up the jackets and mailed them, along with a signed letter, to the CIOs at each of those companies.  The letter introduced zColo and asked for a meeting with our Vice President.  We received several thank you notes and a few meetings out of the campaign.  Since brands rarely send you a $30 jacket just to say hi, you can understand why they were understandably appreciative.

Communicate Internally Using a Simple Message

As the program grew legs of it’s own after a while, it was important to have a simple way to communicate internally about how we were reaching the Colorado market.  Zayo uses Salesforce for everything, including internal communication.  We would use the hashtag #OurHouse on any internal communication about the program, which was easy to remember and understand.  Since it was also the name of the program, it made a lot of sense.

Your Turn

Now it’s your turn.  Ask yourself the following questions as you’re developing an employee brand engagement program of your own.

  • What will success look like?
  • How do I want employees to talk about the brand?  How can we train them to do it correctly?
  • What are ways we can get employees excited about the program and feel they are owners in its success?
  • What are other ways we could utilize the program to build the funnel?
  • How long do we want the program to last?

After you’ve designed your program or are in the planning stages, leave me a comment below and tell me how your company is turning employees into brand advocates.

3 ways to work successfully with multiple marketing organizations

My company has a (not so) unique challenge.  As is the case with most companies our size or larger, we have multiple marketing departments with multiple teams.  The corporate marketing team is grouped into 4 organizations, which has several sub-organizations in each one.  In addition corporate communications sits in investor relations and each product has the option to develop their own dedicated marketing SMEs.

To be successful you need a carefully crafted balancing act.  Who does what, when and why?

I’ve been in this role for nearly a year.  In that year I have learned a ton about managing expectations, collaborating with other departments and keeping my cool when people tell me things can’t be done.  Here are a few lessons learned I’ve developed that you may be able to leverage too.

1) No one likes a know-it-all

Image result for know it allI am the first one to admit I struggle with this one.  I’m the first one to raise my hand and explain how my point-of-view is the right one.  Over the last year I’ve tempered this part of my personality.  The fastest way to get people on your bad side is to embarrass them in a meeting – especially with their boss or stakeholders.  Intentional or not, correcting people is never the way to go.

So how do you let someone know that what they’re doing is wrong or dumb?

I have gotten really good (if I do say so myself) at saying two things:

  1. Playing devils advocate, what if…
  2. I like that.  We could also…

No one is going to fault you for saving their ass, but the more you correct someone in public the more they will circumvent you in private.  Many books call this, “giving them an out.”  Don’t leave them with egg on their face.  Give them an opportunity to still look professional in front of their stakeholders while course correcting from the rocks.

2) Include them in the process

Image result for include others memeRegardless of which marketing department you’re in, don’t go it alone.  I struggled with this a lot in my product marketing days.  One day corporate marketing came to me and said, “We love all your ideas, but if you don’t include us we can’t help you.  Let us know what you’re doing so we can be there to support you.”

They had a point.  I wanted to keep all the glory, but I was also taking on all the work – and failing at both.  When I started leaning on them for support, not only was I able to move projects along faster, but had more success in other ways.  They had visibility into dynamics, politics and sometimes budget I didn’t.  And by involving them in the planning process, they had a vested interest in supporting my programs, which made everyone more excited.

Now that I’m in corporate, I have to do the same thing the other way.  By involving vertical marketers, product marketers and business development leads in the planning phase I get more resources and more buy-in earlier.  It raises my professional brand and sets me up for success longer term.

3) Share Success

Image result for thank you memeJust like no one likes a know-it-all, know one likes someone who hogs the spotlight.  If someone helps you reach success with a project, or in your career, acknowledge it.  No one gets where they’re going alone.

In my previous role, I introduced SEO to the company by piloting it on my own product.  I paid for it.  I hired the company.  I reported the outcomes.  But corporate helped too.  They helped me implement my vision and did a lot of extra work to make my experiment a reality.

As a thank you, I would never dream of not giving credit where credit is due.  In every read out I would use the phrase, “We partnered with the website team to…”

Even if they don’t own the vision, outcomes or barely lifted a pencil, share the love.  If they see you do it, they will reciprocate one day.

(Plus, everyone knows what you did.  No need to wallow in it.)

Know Your Goals: Takeaways from SXSW

Image result for sxsw expo

Zayo recently hosted a series of events at South By Southwest (SXSW), a music, movie and interactive festival held in Austin each year.  SXSW is an over-the-top event, that genuinely takes over the city.

While I was there I wanted to explore the expo floor.  My purpose?  To understand what types of organizations exhibit at SXSW, their goals and if it might be a good option for my organization in the future.

Who was there:

Image result for sxsw expoTo say it was a hodgepodge would be an understatement.  The expo floor contained everything from well-known brands like Lockheed Martin and no-name startups looking to attract investors, to cities and countries trying to attract businesses to move and stand-up desk manufacturers.

My plan of attack:

I worked my way from booth to booth asking if there was a representative from marketing present – which there usually was.  I needed to talk to people who spoke my language and knew where I was coming from.  As Anne Handley would say, “My People”.

I introduced myself and told them why I was there.  Then asked a simple question.  “What is your goal for SXSW?  How do you know if you this event was a success?”

My Shock:

Image result for sxsw expoI spoke to 30 marketers in total.  Of them, only 2 could clearly tell me how they would measure success.  Some were even outraged by the question, citing that hosting a booth with measurable financial goals is ridiculous.

To say the least, I was shocked.  In a decade of marketing, I’ve never seen such disregard for ROI-based metrics.  I honestly have no idea how I would do my job without them.

This is the reason marketers have a bad rap and people think we just spend money.  (see earlier post on topic) A campaign without goals is just work.  At that point you’re just collecting a paycheck to look busy.  What’s the point?!

It my not-so-humble opinion that all marketers should know their metrics inside and out, upside down and backwards.  We should recite our ROI metrics in our sleep.  This is how you earn the trust and respect of an organization.  Not by throwing epic parties, but by explaining why.

I have previously written about the 3 metrics every marketer should know (post).  These metrics will help you answer the “why” question and will earn the respect of the most staunch financier.  Otherwise, don’t learn them and risk getting sideways looks from those that operate the budgets the rest of your career.

Your choice.

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.

All marketers do is spend money… and other stupid crap people say.

Image result for eye roll memeI have no idea why marketing gets such a bad rap.  I’m sick and tired of it personally.  I can only guess that people are jealous because marketers have an awesome job where we get to throw parties and design cool stuff and don’t have to talk to customers every day.  I would probably hate me too.

But here’s the thing: No one’s job is a walk in the park.  Here are a few of my favorite stupid things I hear from non-marketers about marketing.

All Marketers Do Is Spend Money

I’ll admit, marketing can be expensive.  Especially at organizations that struggle to pay their employees regularly.  But here’s the thing.  Good marketers pays for themselves.  Marketers actually hate spending money, because we know we have to prove an ROI for every dollar we cost the company.  I have never met a B2B marketer who’s like “I have this massive budget.  I can’t wait to burn it on display ads and liquor!”  It just doesn’t happen.

Image result for marketing dilbert

If you have a marketer on your team that you feel “only spends money”, most likely they have fallen victim to a few shortfalls:

  • They didn’t state the projected return before spending the money.  Doing this results in two outcomes – (1) Stated goals keep them honest and (2) Helps them get everyone on board with the expense beforehand – which avoids uncomfortable discussions later.
  • You are making them buy crap for no reason.  (Yes, this is a real thing)  Don’t get mad at marketing for low ROI when you insist on buying thousands of pens to put at your $60,000 tradeshow booth that costs $20,000 just to ship.  No wonder your event marketing isn’t working.  You are setting it up for failure.
  • They’re not tracking or reporting their return in KPIs that mean anything to you.  Marketers speak marketing.  “KPI” stands for “Key Performance Indicators” and if you didn’t know that chances are you don’t speak marketing.  If marketing insists their campaigns are working and you’re not seeing evidence of that, most likely you have a failure to communicate.  Explain to marketing exactly how you define success and ask them to explain to you how they define success.  Without an agreed upon set of KPIs, you’re likely going to have a tough time understanding their value.

Those who can’t do, teach.  Those who can’t sell, market.

Image result for marketing liquor and guessing

I understand how this misconception would come to be.  I tried direct sales.  I did not enjoy it one bit.  I’m not talking about the cooshy stuff most B2B account reps do.  I mean I literally walked around Home Depot for 10 hours a day, 6 days a week trying to get people to sign up for in-home kitchen cabinet refacing consultations.  I was paid $25 a lead.  They called it “direct marketing” – I called it bullsh*t.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t sell.  I have been told by many sales directors over the years that I have the personality and ear for it (whatever that means).

However, I don’t like being called 400 times a day to see if I’ve moved the pipeline $2 further than yesterday.  I also don’t like to be in constant competition with the people on my same team. The stress of doing sales day in and day out is miserable.  But somehow the puzzle of click-through-rates is exhilarating.  It’s not that I can’t do your job – I just don’t want to.

Marketers are the drunk frat boys of the business world

Image result for marketing dilbert

Screw you.  We all know that’s sales.

Marketing isn’t a real business discipline

 - Dilbert by Scott Adams

Marketers have a bad rap for being stupid.  People claim we don’t know anything about how business is done and, I’ll admit, I’ve perpetuated that stereotype from time to time to get out of boring meetings.

But the fact is that statement doesn’t make any sense.

I graduated from one of the most prestigious marketing programs in the world, Penn State.  (WE ARE!)  At the time our marketing program was ranked 16th in the world – THE WORLD!  But they wouldn’t let me graduate with a business degree without also studying managerial accounting, finance, statistics, calculus and a host of other classes every business student studies.  I just took a few more marketing classes than you and a few less [insert discipline] classes.  That doesn’t mean I don’t understand business and you sound like a moron by saying that.

In conclusion, haters gonna hate.  Marketers are going to continue to be professionally awesome.  Also, I love Dilbert and you should buy all of their products.  (No they did not pay me to say that.)

 - Dilbert by Scott Adams