3 Marketing Programs to Kickstart Summer

Too early to talk Q3? Nope.

For many companies, Q3 is slow. Summer vacay is in full swing, and those of us back in the office are itching to pack it in early. And Europe? Literally the entire continent is eating gelato at the seaside until mid-August.

Yes, it’s summertime and the livin is easy (as Gershwin wrote and Billie Holiday turned into magic—you really should listen right here). It’s everyone’s favorite season but Q3 can be the toughest time of year for B2B. So why not plan ahead and take advantage of the lull?

Here’s three ideas to kick start your Q3 plan (or recharge marketing any time of the year).

1. The Summer of the Sprint

For those familiar with agile project management, scrums and sprints are a big deal. While the marketing team isn’t responsible for product development, which is usually the context for agile, you can still apply the idea to marketing.

Pick three sprint themes to tackle this summer. Maybe your customer onboarding needs a refresher, or nurture emails that have been running on autopilot need some love, or you’ve been meaning to connect with new influencers to expand your reach but haven’t had the time.

No matter what you have going on, I’m pretty sure you can find a few projects that dropped off the radar, and those will be your sprints. From there, it’s all about planning and execution.

Here’s a quick breakdown of how a sprint runs:

  1. Identify sprint theme
  2. Pinpoint goals and scope the work
  3. Select team members and responsibilities
  4. Schedule kickoff meeting and daily scrum
  5. Go
  6. Meet at the end for a project review
  7. Move on to the next sprint

Week-long sprints are great because they’re so fast. On Monday you kickoff, and by Friday you’ve achieved something. The momentum never has time to wane, and before you know it, you’re on to the next thing. If you have a bigger project, try two or three-week sprints.

By the end of the summer, the team will feel great about crushing a few big projects and you’ll have results to show for it.

2. The Summer of A/B Love

You only need to attend one conference a year to feel cosmically bad about the A/B tests you’re not running.

When it comes to email marketing, web presence, messaging, and pretty much everything else we do, A/B testing is the one thing we should be doing, yet tends to get kicked to the curb. A shame, since A/B testing can actually help identify valuable insights that can’t be found by other means.

Build a few important A/B tests into your Q3 plan. If that doesn’t sound like fun, divide into Team A and Team B and see who wins.

If you can find a way to gamify the tests, you’ll get the whole team writing better copy, tightening up messaging, and re-imagining landing pages for better conversion.

Regardless of what you’re testing this summer, take the time to do it right. Also take the time to listen to this podcast, where two wicked smart economists discuss data and causation.

And speaking of gamification, don’t forget to pick a nice outdoor patio for happy hour to celebrate the winning team!

3. The Summer of Trying Something New

Even if summer isn’t a slow time for your organization, it’s a great time to kick the tires on a new tool or platform. If you wait to start assessing vendors and doing demos until Q4, it could be too late to sign a deal and get up and running in time for the new year.

So think about the tools and initiatives you’ve been meaning to explore and get into it.

Here are a few solutions we love:

Engagio

Pretty sure we might have hit maximum overload on ABM about four months ago, but while many are familiar with the concept, most are far from implementing it or understanding how to measure ABM success.

Over the past few years, digital and inbound have matured and we’ve learned a few lessons. Namely, when you stuff the top of your funnel with folks who downloaded a piece of content, it might take an act of divinity to move those folks through the funnel.

Without exactly the right mix of content, campaigns, and sales outreach, you can forget about decent conversion rates or a healthy funnel.

Or, you can stop thinking solely in terms of leads and start thinking about engaging the right people at the right accounts. This is where ABM comes in, and Engagio is leading the pack. Because ABM requires tight alignment between sales and marketing, Engagio has built a great platform for marketers and an equally great Salesforce widget for your reps to track account activity.

LinkedIn for Lead Gen and Retargeting

Okay so LinkedIn just rolled out native forms. If you run sponsored content programs already, you can now point to a LinkedIn form instead of your own.

I like being an early adopter so I’ve been giving it a try for one of my clients. I’m recommending it here because I’ve seen a boost in conversion: forms are pre-filled with the person’s LinkedIn data, thus removing friction, and the experience is seamless because they’re not leaving LinkedIn and bouncing to your landing page (you could also argue there’s less connection with your brand).

That said, the new lead gen forms are not without bugs (you can’t download leads in Chrome—only works in IE or Firefox), and the UX is not at all intuitive: you need an account manager to walk you through it once or twice.

Another huge offering from LinkedIn is retargeting through Matched Audiences. You can engage key accounts, prospects, and audiences with three new capabilities: website retargeting, account targeting, and contact targeting.

If your database is loaded with contacts who’ve gone cold and email isn’t cutting it, this is an effective way to reach them through targeted ads and content. And for visits to your website that haven’t converted, you’ll expand your reach on LinkedIn, which has the potential to be much more targeted than Google Display.

Plus LinkedIn is up to 500 million members, so.

Sponge

Welp, if I didn’t believe in this product I wouldn’t be working here. Sponge is the only solution that ties planning with performance and analytics, and really helps even the most non-mathy marketer become revenue-focused and quantitative.

After a simple integration with Salesforce, login to Sponge and start playing with revenue targets and model budget scenarios to see marketing’s impact on the bottom line.

Sponge also provides reporting made for demand gen marketers, so you won’t have to rely on Salesforce reports and waiting around for the ops team to get you the data you need. Since Sponge gives you one place for plans, campaigns, and analytics, the whole team will be addicted before you know it.

If you’re a semi-neurotic serial refresher (no judgment here)—tracking campaign performance by the minute, running conversion rates, and contemplating the health and velocity of your funnel—Sponge is your new nerdy best friend.

Rybbon

If you use gift cards or other incentives to drive webinar registrants, survey completion, or any other point of engagement, I bet whatever you’re doing is pretty manual and not easy to track.

Rybbon changes all that. You can order through the Rybbon portal, set up your campaign, grab a token for Marketo, and you’re done. You can track when a gift is redeemed and schedule a sales follow up. The ease of use is one thing, but the lack of risk is also huge: if your allotted giftcards aren’t used, you can return them for a refund or order new gifts in any increment you need.

Try a survey that helps you get a better read on your customers and prospects, then offer the anonymous results in a follow up campaign. It’s a great way to boost engagement and get valuable insights at the same time.

So there you go, a few ideas to rally the team and try new initiatives that can move the needle in meaningful ways. Whether your summers are slow or not, a smart Q3 plan can set you up to crush Q4 and end the year strong.

Happy Hour Will Resume After Q2 Planning

FML it’s end of quarter again.

It’s late. I have so many tabs open I’ve lost track of where I am. This would be waaay better with wine (yanks laptop off docking station, runs for door).

I’m pretty sure you can relate to late nights during end-of-quarter planning. Of course we track throughout the quarter, but the EOQ round up is a big deal—and rightfully so. Your plan for the upcoming quarter is only as good as your audit of the past.

It helps to focus on a few key questions, like:

  • Did the company achieve its revenue target? What was marketing’s contribution?
  • Which campaigns generated the most leads? The fewest?
  • Which campaigns had the highest impact on pipeline?
  • How did the funnel perform compared to your assumptions?
  • Did anything unexpected happen? What and why?

Whether your team adheres to a lead target, an opp target, or an ABM strategy that focuses on engagement within key accounts, ask the right questions, get the answers, and document that data in your quarterly plan. When you gather the team for a marathon planning sesh, the “Look Back” slide should be your starting point—inviting the team to unpack what worked and what didn’t.

In this on-demand webinar, three CMOs discuss how they set the marketing vision, inspire their team, and create plans that drive growth. Watch Planning for Growth in 2017 now.

Stop. Start. Adjust.

Stop, Start, Adjust is an annual and quarterly exercise that forces brevity and clarity around where you’ve been and where you want to go. Assuming your lead and opp targets don’t fluctuate wildly from quarter to quarter and you know your goals, dedicate a session to outline the practices that need to go away completely, that need to begin in earnest, and that need to be optimized for better performance.

Here’s an example of how the exercise can take shape:

Once you’ve nailed Stop, Start, Adjust, move on to budget. Do you have the budget to support new initiatives or fine-tune what you already have? Can you reallocate anything from the Stop column? Here’s a few practical tips that’ll help you stay on track:

3 Guidelines to Throw on Your Whiteboard Right Now

1. Be bold enough to kill anything that isn’t working

Seriously. Do not be afraid of losing leads. If you have campaigns or channels that generate leads with abysmal conversion, take them out back and shoot them. Free up that budget to try something new. You have nothing to lose.

2. Revisit your target personas

Funny how we lose sight of who we’re actually marketing to in the midst of all the number crunching. Make sure everyone is clear on who your target personas are and aren’t—and evaluate whether your programs do a good job of reaching them. Be prepared to abandon generic offers that cater to everyone and no one.

3. Budget with agility

Start with the big buckets and assign budgets accordingly, then follow through with a budget review every two weeks and adjust as necessary. Give your team the freedom to spend smarter on campaigns that move the needle.

 

Planning doesn’t have to be painful. Read The Modern Marketer’s Guide to 2017 Planning and learn how to create effective plans, inspire your team, and put some damn fun back into B2B marketing.

 

That Time I Got Advice about My Marketing Career

In 2011 I was running content marketing at a software company in Burbank CA.

There was a good Mexican place down the street, a notable Armenian café around the corner, and the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains rolling down to meet the road behind the office. Coyotes would hang around the parking lot at dusk.

The place itself was meh—an 80s building with a depressing façade and joyless cubicles inside. Mostly beige from what I remember, open and light, but every bit as bleak as a brown Caprice Classic. My favorite memories of that place are the people I worked with and the enormous pine trees I could see out back, over the maze of cubicle walls.

Another memory that stands out is a bit of advice from my boss. I’m pretty sure he meant well, but I remember driving home that day wondering where I really fit in. It was simply this: “Robin, you’re creative. You need to stop tinkering. Just focus on writing and quit all this tinkering.”

Even though this was only 6 years ago, it was relatively early days for marketing automation and inbound. Marketo was still a shiny new toy—and holy crap! I couldn’t stop tinkering.

His point was that I was hired to produce compelling content—to tell stories, craft narrative, and connect with IT dudes who might care about storage virtualization and I/O optimization. Yet there I was messing around in Marketo, running A/B tests, and trying to figure out if leads were converting to opps, and if opps were turning into deals.

Why? Because no one creates content for the sake of creating content.  Plus I’m a curious person.

My content was part of email campaigns, paid social campaigns, Google search and display—my content lived behind landing pages that had to convert for lead gen. My content served the top of the funnel, the middle of the funnel, and armed Sales with material to slay the competition and win business. My content was actually like that Run DMC song about Adidas (in my own mind anyway).

But seriously, even though this was only 6 years ago, it was relatively early days for marketing automation and inbound. Marketo was still a shiny new toy—and holy crap! I couldn’t stop tinkering.

To me—like so many of us—there was nothing more satisfying than not only creating the content itself, but also setting up a campaign, sending it out into the world and measuring what came back.

Here were the tools that made it all possible.

Sure, I’m creative, but I’m also a B2B marketer. What’s the point of all this creativity if I have no idea if my shit is effective? I still live in the real world of leads, opps, conversion, pipeline and revenue.

In fact nerdy unicorns who possess that rare mix of creativity, analytical thinking, and operations chops are replacing the old guard—the CMOs who focus on corporate communications, brand, and PR.

Anyway, fast forward to present time. These days I focus less on content creation and more on demand gen, ABM, and funnel optimization. I spend crazy hours bouncing from Marketo to Salesforce to Google Analytics to Excel, piecing together data and trying to answer some of marketing’s most basic (yet still very tough to unpack) questions: What the hell is working? What’s not? How should I allocate my marketing dollars over the next 4 quarters?

Sure. I wish it were easier to untangle the metrics behind multi-channel B2B marketing. Yep, I sometimes wish I could go back to focusing more on the creative side.

But here’s the greatest thing about marketing in 2017: it’s not a matter of one or the other anymore. In fact, nerdy unicorns who possess that rare mix of creativity, analytical thinking, and operations chops are replacing the old guard—the CMOs who focus on corporate communications, brand, and PR.

While I appreciate the advice and the nod to my talent, I’d rather apply data to my creativity, and use every tool in the toolbox to help marketing teams hit goals and drive revenue.

So If you need me, I’ll just be right over here. Tinkering.

Sponge can turn you into a marketing unicorn. Hop on a demo right here.