Building a Brand through Employee Enablement

ColoradoMarketingSummit.PNG

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.

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)

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.

3 Ways to Dominate a Department of 1

Image result for stranded on an islandMarketers often find themselves on an island.  No, I don’t mean wonderful President’s Club trips (we’re never invited to those).  I mean working alone.  This is one of those skillsets we just have to master.  But we’re not alone.  A ton of B2B roles find themselves alone, especially in smaller companies.  Field sales, HR, accounting, legal – they can all be stranded on an island, expected to do the work of 12 people with the accuracy of IBM’s Watson.

But the big question is how do you do that?

This post is not about how to get your boss to hire more people or how to lower expectations.  It’s about truly dominating your field – all by yourself.

Image result for marketing plan funny1: Make a Plan

If you’re going to be stranded on an island, you should probably start making a list of what you need to do.

  1. Build a shelter
  2. Find food
  3. Figure out how to make fire…

You get the point.

In work it’s no different.  For marketing, that plan is fairly straight forward.  Their called “marketing plans” and you spent 4 years in college doing nothing but preparing for them.  In large organizations marketing plans are usually a luxury.  They are time consuming, cumbersome, and the only people who care about them are the people on your team.  Many small or medium B2B companies will tell you they are a waste of time too, but don’t listen.  When you are doing everything on your own, your marketing plan is your saving grace.

A well crafted marketing plan can do many things.

  • Create buy-in from executives on time spent, budget, priorities, etc
  • Define where you want to focus your efforts
  • Show exactly how big an undertaking many campaigns can be
  • Document your value to the company

It doesn’t have to be the massive business document you designed in school.  When you’re a department of one, you can skip a lot of the pageantry and get straight to the point.  Here is the outline I use:

  • What I accomplished last quarter/year.
  • My goals for next quarter/year.
  • Marketing Mix
  • Budget
  • Calendar

I don’t need to go through SWOT or Competitive Analysis.  I can just speak to those when asked.  The only people who ever read those are marketing anyway.  I dare you to find a small business executive who wants to read marketing’s SWOT analysis.  Go on, I’ll wait.

The other thing I highly recommend is writing them on a quarterly basis.  Business moves too fast for an annual marketing plan.  It normally takes about 3 months to throw them out anyway.  Do them in 3-6 month increments and they’ll be much more useful.

2: You are the expert – Act like it.

Image result for expert funnyIf you are running a department by yourself, it is your job to execute.  No one wants to babysit you and no one has the skill set to help.  You are the expert – act like it.

This is one of the reasons I love my quarterly plans so much.  I can take the time to think through what I want to do and why, rather than being put on the spot every 30 seconds when someone has a question.  Planning breeds confidence, which breeds trust.

Pro-Tip: Ultimately the trust of those around you enables you to dominate a department of one.  If they don’t trust you, you cannot lead.

Keep one thing in mind.  Experts don’t know everything.  They just know more than everyone else in the room.  I am not the world’s foremost expert on marketing.  But I am the expert on my team.  And if I don’t know an answer, my expertise tells me how to find it.  And 99% of the time, that’s good enough.

3: Know Your Limits

I had a VP once who called me “Wonder Woman”.  The nickname was so prevalent that for secret Santa one year he actually gave me a pair of Wonder Woman pajamas (they are insanely comfortable).  He gave me this nickname mostly because of the sheer volume of work I could churn out in a small amount of time.  This ended up being my downfall.  I got overconfident and determined to do anything and everything to succeed.  I over committed.  I made mistakes.  And because I moved so fast, it took a while before anyone (including me) realized.

Image result for exhaustionIt was embarrassing, but the entire experience taught me a very clear and simple lesson – know your limits.  Had I simply pushed back and told him I was going to start dropping balls if I took on any more work, he would have probably backed off or taken something off my plate.  Just because I’m the resident “expert” does not make me a superhero.  I can make mistakes and I can forget things, just like everyone else.  Part of being an expert is knowing how far you can go before you have nothing left to give.  It’s a hard lesson, but a critically important one.  Especially when you’re all alone.

Working alone does not have to be a death sentence.  You have all the creative and prioritization freedom in the world.  The question is whether you will rise to the occasion.

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

 

How To Write A Personal Marketing Plan

Image result for writingAs marketers, I find we’re always aware that we should be doing more to promote ourselves.  But with the demands of marketing products and companies – often with very few resources and little support – it can be exhausting to go home and create a marketing plan for our own brand development.

I totally get it.

It’s like the old saying, “Never check a book keepers books”, meaning accountants never have time to do their own accounting.  Marketers never have time to do their own marketing.  But here’s the thing… wouldn’t it be easier to market ourselves if we tackled it the same way we tackled a marketing plan?

Hear me out.  I’m serious.

What if we stepped back and created an actual marketing plan for us?  SWOT analysis, competitive analysis, go-to-market strategy – the whole shabang?!  What if we, as marketers – the experts in strategy development – Image result for beautiful mind gifremoved emotion and passion from the equation and treated our careers like another product we are meant to master and make successful.

I actually think that would be more fun than sitting on the bus every day remembering that you really should be sending out (spamming) your resume and going to networking events.

So let’s break it down.  How, as marketers, can we assign the same product marketing plan
principles to promoting ourselves?  Like any good marketing plan, we start with an outline.

Your Personal Marketing Plan:

  1. Situation Analysis
    • It’s time to get real about your situation.  Do you have a degree?  Masters?  Are you at the beginning of your career (1-6 years), middle (7-15 years) or towards the end (15+ years) – what does that mean?  Have you recently been laid off?  Same company for 10 years?  Be honest and completely objective.  You are simply collecting data.  There’s a reason the marketing mix is at the end of the plan – you don’t know what you’re going to do with the data yet.
  2. SWOT Analysis
    • Strengths – Be honest (none of that fake modesty BS).  What do you actually excel at?  In my case, I’m really good at presenting and creating compelling stories.  Try naming 6-10 skills/attributes where you totally kill it.
    • Weaknesses – This is often the easiest thing you can do.  We’re fairly good at tearing ourselves apart.  In this case, keep it constructive and objective – no emotion.  What are your weaknesses?  In my case, I am not great at following financial conversations quickly.  Many of my colleagues can do complicated calculations in their head and I find myself struggling to catch up.  As a marketing professional it’s up to me to use this information to improve my product (myself) and play to my strengths.
    • Opportunities – This one can be exciting and daunting at the same time.  Opportunities could include new roles, going back to school, or any number of other surprises life sends our way.  So write them down.
    • Threats – This can take many forms.  Layoffs, new hires, new technology standards or KPIs… the list can be endless.  Think about the things that could most threaten your professional life and plan accordingly.  Pretending threats don’t exist is just as stupid as dwelling on them.
  3. Competition Analysis
    • This one’s tough.  I’ll admit I struggle with this one myself from time to time.  The obvious competition are your co-workers and colleagues, but what about externally?  It might help to do some research.  How many people are studying marketing these days?  How many people are going back for their MBAs in marketing?  How big is the talent pool in your city?  Think like a recruiter when tackling this section.  Ultimately, that’s what you’re up against.
  4. Professional Objectives
    • Now comes the part where you physically write down (or type if you’re like me and are glued to your laptop) what you want to be when you grow up.  You’ve researched the market, you’ve thought seriously about what you excel at and struggle with.  You’ve even evaluated your current situation.  Where do you want to go with all this data?  For me, I want to be a leader among next-generation B2B marketers.  It’s crazy.  I get it.  But it’s something I can constantly reference when I’m thinking about my next step.  Will this help me become a leader in my field?  If the answers yes, go do that.  If no, don’t waste my time with it.One thing to keep in mind when setting goals is to keep them SMART – Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Time-based.  A better way to state my goal would be “I want to be a keynote conference speaker on the subject of B2B marketing within 10 years.”  It hits all the marks and is in line with my original goal of being a leader in my field.  You’re turn.
  5. Financial Objectives
    • This one’s the easiest, so I won’t spend too much time on it.  How much money do you want to make or save?  Write it down.  Done.  (Once again, think SMART)
  6. Marketing Mix
    • Okay, here comes the fun part.  How are you going to get there?  You’ve done the research and you’ve stated your objectives.  Let’s dance.  Here are a few options, but we’re marketers – get creative.
      • Social Media
      • Conferences
      • Networking Events
      • Write a book
      • Design a portfolio
      • Write a funny resume
      • Make personal business cards that express your personality
      • Teach a class
      • Volunteer your marketing skills for a cause you care about
      • Buy a billboard for a month promoting yourself – seriously, have you ever seen anyone else do that?  I didn’t think so.
      • Give a lunch and learn to your company employees so they know what you do all day
  7. Budget
    • Any B2B marketer worth their weight will tell you “You don’t have to spend a fortune on marketing, but a small investment goes a long way” – so invest in yourself.  You don’t have to buy a billboard (although that would be awesome and I really hope someone does and sends me a picture) but you could spend the money to go to a marketing conference.  Or budget time, which is often just as precious as money, each month to volunteer or teach or write or whatever.  Some investment goes a long way.
Image result for personal billboard
Okay, apparently someone did do it… and it’s awesome!