Thursday, May 07, 2009

Survey: 27% of Marketers Suck

A recent survey conducted by the Committee to Determine the Intelligence of Marketers (CDIM), an independent think-tank in Princeton NJ, recently found that:

· 4 out of 5 respondents feel that marketing is a “dead” profession.
· 60% reported having little if any respect for the quality of marketing programs today.
· Fully 75% of those responding would rather be poked with a sharp stick straight into the eye than be forced to work in a marketing department.

In total, the survey panel reported a mean response of 27% when asked, “on a scale of 0% to 100%, how many marketers suck?”

This has been a test of the emergency BS system. Had this been a real, scientifically-based survey, you would have been instructed where to find the nearest bridge to jump off.

Actually, it was a “real” “survey”. I found 5 teenagers in a local shopping mall loitering around the local casual restaurant chain and asked them a few questions. Seem valid?

Of course not. But this one was OBVIOUS. Every day we marketers are bamboozled by far more subtle “surveys” and “research projects” which purport to uncover significant insights into what CEOs, CFOs, CMOs, and consumers think, believe, and do. Their headlines are written to grab attention:

- 34% of marketers see budgets cut.
- 71% of consumers prefer leading brands when shopping for .
And my personal favorite:
- 38% of marketers report significant progress in measuring marketing ROI, up 4% from last year.

Who are these “marketers”? Are they representative of any specific group? Do they have anything in common except the word “marketing” on their business cards?

Inevitably such surveys blend convenience samples (e.g. those willing to respond) of people from the very biggest billion dollar plus marketers to the smallest $100k annual budgeteers. They mix those with advanced degrees and 20 years of experience in with those who were transferred into a field marketing job last week because they weren’t cutting it in sales. They commingle packaged goods marketers with those selling industrial coatings and others providing mobile dog grooming.

If you look closely, the questions are often constructed in somewhat leading ways, and the inferences drawn from the results conveniently ignore the statistical error factors which frequently wash-away any actual findings whatsoever. There is also a strong tendency to draw conclusions year-over-year when the only thing in common from one year to the next was the survey sponsor.

As marketers, we do ourselves a great dis-service whenever we grab one of these survey nuggets and imbed it into a PowerPoint presentation to “prove” something to management. If we’re not trustworthy when it comes to vetting the quality of research we cite, how can we reasonably expect others to accept our judgment on subjective matters?

So the next time you’re tempted to grab some headlines from a “survey” – even one done by a reputable organization – stop for a minute and read the fine print. Check to see if the conclusions being drawn are reasonable given the sample, the questions, and the margins of error. When in doubt, throw it out.

If we want marketing to be taken seriously as a discipline within the company, we can’t afford to let the “marketers” play on our need for convenience and simplicity when reporting “research” findings. Our credibility is at stake.And by the way, please feel free to comment and post your examples of recent “research” you’ve found curious.

Friday, May 01, 2009

The Elasticity of Sales Enablement

Trendy consulting advice suggests that, since marketing ROI improvement is ultimately limited by the effectiveness of the marketing/sales handoff, “sales enablement” is crucial to success. Consequently, in the present results-NOW environment, marketers (particularly B2B and high-tech) are re-examining their processes and dedication to provide sales with the right materials, tools, and training to unleash the power of the imbedded marketing ideas.

I think I agree with this. If there’s any hesitation to offer full-throated support it’s just that it seems to me to be a bit of a penetrating glance into the obvious. OF COURSE marketing programs cannot succeed without reliably strong sales execution. But let’s not put too many eggs in that basket just yet.

The hard reality is that, in the short term, there is only so much sales enablement one can achieve. Magic sell sheets do not turn mediocre sales reps into revenue superheroes. Online demo tools don’t revolutionize categories or spark unprecedented demand. Those sorts of changes come about through:

1. Sound sales management process.
2. Comp structures aligned to incent the “right” behaviors.
3. Methodical, continuous training based on observed effective practices.
4. Regular “pruning” of the bottom 25% of performers (and a few nearer the top who neglect the means for the end).

Those in marketing measurement who are familiar with the concept of “elasticity” understand that there are limits to just how much improvement we can achieve with sales enablement in any 3, 6, or even possibly 12 month horizon. So pressed for better results NOW, sales enablement may be more of a feel-good response than an effective one.

Don’t mistake the message here. Sales enablement is always important. But unless the foundational elements above are being properly managed, marketers efforts to “enable” sales may result in some great meetings and a few positive anecdotes, but may fail to achieve improvement on any scale or sustainable basis. So allocating more resources to “sales enablement” may not provide the expected returns.

If you want to get a better handle on the “elasticity” of your sales force, try performing a deeper analysis of recent buyers versus non-buyers, being sure to sample prospect leads from both high-performing and average-performing sales reps. Get a clearer understanding of why rejecters are not buying (or stalling longer) and analyze the data until you can clearly determine the factors which make the higher-performers more effective. If you conclude that those factors are mostly innate skill, personality or motivation characteristics, then the elasticity of your sales force is likely very low. This suggests that sales management has work to do in the fundamentals arena before marketing can help much.

If however you observe that better needs discovery, stronger communications capabilities, or enhanced preparation explain most of the difference, then your sales elasticity is likely higher and you should focus more on sales enablement in the near term.

When times are tough and horizons are shorter, we all want to help as much as we can. But let’s not mistake hope for judgment when reallocating resources from marketing programs to sales enablement.