Marketing Plans

When Sales and Marketing Collide

by Scott Joyce (with intro by Susan Zweibaum) on June 29, 2011

This post is a slight departure from my norm.  Instead of being written by me, this post is written by a guest contributor who I have worked very closely with in the past and is an incredible salesman.  Our goal is to look at marketing from a salesman’s perspective and how these two different corporate groups can best support each other.  I hope that Scott will continue contributing and that it will provide interesting insights for my readers.  Please note that the opinions written by Scott are purely his and I reserve the right to counter in future posts.

 Everyone sells, and every salesperson is in marketing. 

 When you are on an interview, you are selling yourself.  When you act in a film or a play, you are selling your performance.  When you are in management, you constantly have to sell your ideas and concepts to others.  

 Every salesperson is in marketing.  The very definition of marketing is “the activity … of creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value” (American Marketing Association, www.marketingpower.com).  A salesperson is always tasked with delivering value to his/her current and prospective clients.  A salesperson is always marketing themselves and their company to their clients.

 With such interwoven goals, you have to wonder why the sales and marketing arms of organizations are so often on different pages.  I don’t pretend to know all of the answers, but I do know of several common culprits that often drive a wedge between the message and success of the sales and marketing groups.

 1) The Old “Do More With Less” Marketing Method

In a bad economy, one of the first things to get cut is marketing dollars (the wisdom of which is a whole different topic).  So when the marketing organization is whittled down from 10 people to two, they are left understaffed and sometimes lack significant departmental experience.  Yet, many organizations don’t scale back their plans – they had 10 projects on the docket, and they are going to have to figure out how to “do more with less” and get them all done.  This is an awful thing to do and often puts the marketing organization in an untenable situation.  Tasked with completing 10 projects with 20% of the staff (and probably even less of the original dollars), they are forced to produce canned products that are often generic, not on message and just plain useless to the sales organization.  In my world, we call this “checking the box” – you got the task done.  Whether it was done right is another story, but the task itself is done.

 At one organization, this resulted in a laughable result.  The organization needed professional marketing slicks – single-page flyers that told a professional what the organization could do in a variety of categories within their space.  These needed to appeal to upper management, so they needed to be produced in color and on high-quality material.  The project went through on schedule and professional material was produced, but the budget was significantly cut midway through.  Instead of scrapping all of the ideas or the project itself, the creative team decided to cut costs by grouping together multiple concepts on a single page.  The resulting message distracted the target from the main message, creating information overload amid a jumbled cavalcade of ideas that did not flow.  The sales force hated it and ultimately did not use it, so the project became a complete waste of time and money.

 Marketing and sales need to partner together to create joint goals and timelines, especially when annual or quarterly plans need to be adjusted on a large scale.  Difficult decisions need to be made and made quickly – waiting only makes the problem worse.  When an organization’s resources are reduced, they need to pull back and focus on only the key initiatives or ideas where they can get the biggest return on the limited investment that can be made at the time.  If the sales organization had been apprised of the changes, they would have worked with marketing to simplify the message and focused just on one or two main areas.  This would have clarified the message to the customer and produced usable materials, leading to a successful, albeit scaled-back result.

2) When Budget Cuts Strike

 Budgets often change in midstream due to a variety of business circumstances.  When this happens in the middle of a project, the best thing to do is quickly evaluate if it has eroded the foundation of the project or if the project is still viable.  Unfortunately, many executives love to cut budgets but then try to force the organization to achieve the original goal.  We like to call this “phantom budgeting,” where money disappears but suddenly results and goals are stretched to bridge the difference.  No one is really sure how it will work, but these executives feel that if everyone tries hard enough, it can be accomplished.

 Here’s a great example: A technology company’s sales organization had absolutely no branded materials to leave behind or send to customers.  Meanwhile, their competitors were giving away branded laptop cases, USB drives, etc. The sales group was tasked with creating ideas for affordable items and came up with many, mostly technology-related items.  However, in the middle of the project, the budget was cut considerably.  Marketing chose a few of the lowest-end items from the list and bid them out because that was all the budget allowed.  One was a pen and the other a mouse pad.  The pens that came in looked really nice – until you used them for a day and the black paint from the company’s logo flaked off on your hands.  The mouse pads looked OK, but they actually had customers return them (most customers threw them out), because the cheap rubber that they were made from (which turned out to be from recycled tires) smelled so bad that they left an awful aroma in computer rooms.  In both cases, this company wasted a lot of time and effort executing a marketing program that not only hurt their brand, but also created ill will between the sales and marketing organizations.

 Don’t fall victim to this common mistake.  Scale back the projects, extend the timelines or scrap some of them altogether, but don’t produce inferior products that wastes time and hurts your brand.  If budgets get cut, reassess your priorities and the return you expect to get from them.  Creating ineffective marketing materials does more damage than good – it creates ill will amongst the sales organization, doesn’t drive customer retention or sales, and frustrates the few marketing experts you have left on your payroll.

 3) Creativity Run Amuck

 Most marketing professionals are creative; it is part of the very nature of the position.  Creativity knows no bounds, but budgets and timelines do.  The creative side has to be tempered with leadership that balances the unique with what is practical and necessary.  The sales organization is not much help with this.  Those of us in sales like to think we are creative, so we dream up crazy ideas all the time, usually with very little thought to their practicality.  Get a bunch of creative marketing and sales professionals together, and they can come up with a $300 million advertising campaign that features explosions and famous actors pitching product, all to sell a few thousand purple widgets.

 Too often the creativity of a group exceeds the practicality of the situation or even the sophistication of the customer.  Make sure those that lead these groups are pragmatic.  Executives need to choose project leaders who can balance the company’s needs with the creativity of the team.  These leaders must strike a delicate balance between the executive who often lacks detailed knowledge about the project but knows the organization’s financial means/outlook and the staff who have all the ground-floor details but don’t necessarily see the bigger picture.  This group leader has to have the strength to push back on executives and the patience to continually refocus the group.  A weak group leader who is influenced exclusively by either side almost never produces a result with any lasting value and effect.

All of us are facing economic circumstances that are unprecedented in our lifetimes. As such, we should be looking at the way we do business through a different lens than we ever have before. Executives and leaders need to realize more than ever the influence they have on the course of events within their organizations, the impact that fast-paced decisions have on their people, and how quickly circumstances can and will change in these uncertain times. Employees need to recognize the need that employers have for individuals who not only adapt to change, but who prove that they have multiple skill sets that make them invaluable assets to. And both groups need to ensure that the departments they represent, especially those of sales and marketing, are working together on projects, adapting quickly to the changing marketplace and delivering the best result possible with the resources available. Those that execute this well will not only survive, they will thrive.

Scott Joyce is a senior manager in a corporate sales division of a Fortune 150 firm. He has nearly 20 years of experience in sales management and training.  His perspective is built on his ability to forge close cross functional relationships, particularly with marketing.

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“Would You Like to Try One?”

by Susan Zweibaum on May 12, 2011

Keys to Developing a Successful Sampling Campaign

Sampling is an important tactic within marketing and there are a variety of sampling types and vehicles you can use to distribute your product to a target audience.  Additionally, there are many times within a product’s lifecycle that you may want to sample, including a new product launch, trial to a new or expanded target audience, as a sales incentive with a retailer, to name just a few.  However, sampling programs are a not one-size-fits-all proposition and each brand team should approach their plan through a customized lens that looks at who is your target, where do you find them, how big is your budget and how are you measuring success?  Sampling also should be approached as an integrated effort and not just a standalone tactic.  It works best when supported by a larger marketing communications plan.

I have developed many sampling programs throughout my career.  They have ranged from the very small (1000 units) to the very large (14 million units) and in each case I examined the key components I am outlining for you below.   I would like to tell you that there is a magic formula for successful sampling, but there really isn’t.  Different sampling vehicles have unique response rates and each target demographic responds differently to each sampling method as well as your individual product.  Sampling won’t help if the product doesn’t connect with your target audience.   If you develop a sampling plan methodically and take into account these considerations you will be more likely to be successful.

1)       Make sure sampling is the right vehicle for your product:  Not every product should be sampled or can be sampled effectively given the size of your budget.  Establish strong objectives and goals for the sampling program and make sure that sampling will help you achieve those goals.  For instance, your product must be refrigerated but you don’t want to sample at retail and you want to reach 250,000 18-24 year olds with a budget of only $150,000. Sampling may not be feasible in this case, and you may want to change your parameters or your goals.

2)      Be Targeted:  Sampling will be totally ineffective if your sample doesn’t hit your target audience effectively and efficiently.  For instance, you don’t want to sample at Spring Break if your target audience is 45 to 54 year-old women.  The more targeted the sampling the higher chance of converting that sample to trial and ultimately to purchase.  That doesn’t mean that all your sampling should be direct mail, but you want to ensure that the greatest number of samples are reaching your target without duplication.

3)      Test-and-Learn:  What seems like a good way to sample may turn out to be the absolute worst, either due to the delivery method, the fulfillment agency or the venue.  On the other hand, what seemed like a slightly odd venue may turn out to be the most productive in terms of trial.  When possible, test smaller programs to determine if they are delivering the ROI you need and they are meeting the objectives of the total program.  Once you’ve determined which programs are going to be successful, build these into your larger plan.  Sampling is often part of the long-term strategy and something that a brand does every year.  In these cases, test-and-learns offer the most effective means of developing a truly efficient and successful sampling plan with programs that work well for the brand.  For others, sampling is just part of a new product launch and seen as a short-term hit.  If that is the case, then test-and-learns are tougher, but still can be considered as part of the in-market test phase of the product launch.

4)      Include as part of an integrated plan:  Sampling in and of itself will not necessarily drive sales.  Sampling should be part of a broader plan that drives awareness and trial.  Just because a person has tried a product and liked it doesn’t mean that they will automatically go and buy it.  In-store offers, online advertising and outreach, advertising and other media vehicles will continue to drive awareness and remind that consumer of the product they sampled.  In some cases, they will receive the sample but not try it until they are reminded by the other messages around them.  Include different sample delivery methods that coordinate with your integrated plan to broaden your reach and provide an ability to determine the best vehicle that drives trial and purchase by your target audience.

5)      Look for Value-Added Programs:  Often sampling is part of a larger sponsorship or media partnership.  These sampling opportunities may be tougher to see a positive ROI, but they often bring a more intrinsic connection to your brand’s psychographic as well as increased opportunities for expanded media.

6)      Provide a sales incentive to trial:  Even when someone has tried a sample and liked it, they often need some help putting it in their kitchen cabinet.  A financial incentive such as a coupon will bridge any hesitation the consumer has in a first-time purchase.  Furthermore, if you are conducting a sampling program as part of a customer marketing initiative or a retailer direct mail program, the retailer is more likely to support the program if there is an incentive sending that consumer into the store to purchase.

7)      Research and Measurement:  Use market research for as many sampling programs as possible in order to determine actual ROI.  Use outside, third-party test methods and do not rely on the sampling agency results or standardized questions.  You want to develop research questions that are appropriate to your brand and brand objectives.  You want to achieve a positive ROI based on purchase intent and actual incremental purchase, and the only way to determine that is through research.  When used in conjunction with test-and-learn scenarios, you will begin to develop a sampling plan that will drive incremental sales.  Additionally, use a consistent measurement methodology across each program so that you ensure an apples-to-apples comparison.

8)      Evaluate and Adjust:  Go back at the end of the year and evaluate all of your sampling vehicles both separately and as a whole.  Determine your overall program ROI and evaluate if each vehicle and the total plan is delivering against objectives.  If your sampling initiatives occur year over year, adjust your plan based on the evaluations of objectives and ROI.

So, how you may ask does this translate to the real world?  Here is an example.

A brand team was given the challenge of delivering 8 million samples for a product launch, but they were told to keep the delivery cost to an average of $.12.  The only way the agency putting the plan together could deliver that was to utilize commodity sampling, meaning that they throw them out there broadly the cheapest way possible with limited ability to ensure the target was getting the product with no duplication.  The actual ROI was around $.20 when what they wanted was much closer to $1.00.  There was limited market research so they had no way of determining if the sampling worked.  One year post launch they were still sampling this way and there was little additional promotional activity to connect the sample to the overall brand message.  A lot of money spent with little to show for it.

As year two and three plans were executed the sampling plan evolved and the team moved away from commodity sampling to a more integrated approach.  They looked for vehicles that provided added value through additional media, sponsorships and coupons.  They moved to more targeted vehicles such as direct mail and retailer sponsored programs that while more expensive deliver the product directly into the hands of the target and offer more of an incentive to purchase.  They added market research to every program and began to eliminate vehicles which were not working for them.  By the end of the third year the overall ROI was around $1.00 and they upped the number of samples to 14 million.

I have determined through working with many different products that developing a successful  integrated sampling plan is a little bit art and a little bit science.  You need to fully understand your target audience and their motivations – demographics and psychographics, but you also need to look at the program financials, ROI and market research results.  You also need to do your research.  There are so many different ways to get a product into the hands of your target consumer and you need to search a little to find ones that will fulfill your product goals.  I discover new vehicles every day that can get a product out there in ways I never have thought of.  Just do some web surfing and listen to the vendors that call.

In a future post I will provide some examples of good sampling programs that have taken these concepts into account.

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