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Growth is Good. Feed Your Beast.

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Businesses are beasts. When the beast is happy, there’s lots of back-slapping and everyone gets to go on cruises. But when the beast gets hungry, things change. Suddenly heads start disappearing and bodies start flying. …

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Why Marketing is so Hard

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Marketing is hard. But the problem is that too many people think it isn’t. Especially with all the new, “magic bullet” technologies out there that pretty much do everything for you. So where are the results? Why, asks your CEO, did we miss our numbers again?

marketing is hard

The fundamental challenge of marketing is that there are a zillion moving parts, give or take, courtesy of a shape-shifting buyer who makes Jello look like bedrock. The buyer’s journey, which is most often defined as an orderly march down a funnel-shaped thing, is more often beset by a range of shiny objects, conflicting egos, power grabs, FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt), budget shifts, priority shifts, urgent and important fires to extinguish, as well as various other threats to goals and timelines that show up daily in our businesses. In short, stuff happens.

So if that’s all true, if buyers cannot be relied upon to respect the very deliberate path we set out before them, what can we do to improve our conversion rates from prospects to leads and leads to customers? We can start by better understanding the Math of the Besieged Buyer that looks something like this:

marketing is hard

The chart above comes from something I call the Rule of 30-20-10. This rule is a simplified version of several “rules” from the world of direct response that have proven very robust over the decades (including current times) when it comes to predicting how buyers behave. (If you want to dig deeper, see Rule of 45, and the Advertising Research Foundation studies via Bob Stone.)

There’s a certain instinctive truth to the above chart. Of course, it’s not perfectly predictive, but it does provide good directional information to create some context around this discussion.

So we run a series of campaigns, and what happens? Taking our Math of the Besieged Buyer one step further, we might get:

If you consider the number of “wins” on the bottom line, you get an eye-opening look at the slippage that can occur in any marketing system. Importantly, it’s not the software you may or may not be using that causes the majority of this slippage. As discussed in an earlier post, it’s the work that you put in prior to going to market.

I was speaking with a colleague this week who has carved out a very successful marketing automation consultancy. He deals with all sizes of company, up to the very large and, presumably, sophisticated. The common feature that continues to amaze him is how impatient marketing organizations are. “Get it out” consistently trumps “do it right.” Everyone is looking for shortcuts, and few are putting in the critical thinking that addresses the kinds of slippage observed above.

Precision targeting often falls victim to “buy a large list and blast it” [note 1 above]. The breakthrough that comes from a well-conceived and tested value proposition is more often lacking than not [note 2 above]. The buyer consideration that results from offers that are constructed from truly compelling content is almost always in severe deficit [note 3 above].

marketing is hard

On Super Bowl Sunday, I received an email from Marketo, one of the supposed masters of context marketing, that made me laugh out loud (see image at right). To me, this is context marketing run by automatons. This isn’t clever and it certainly doesn’t address any business pains I’m experiencing. It’s someone in marketing who tried to use the Super Bowl as a quick and easy shortcut to relevance. This is the kind of stuff that is increasingly giving marketing a bad name.

The usual suspects of marketing slippage – targeting, value proposition, and offer strategy – continue to be shortchanged by marketers who are consumed by the delicious intricacies of execution at the expense of the hard work of thoughtful strategy.

Marketing is hard. But it’s made even more so when we forget that in-the-trenches patience and persistence will always score more touchdowns on the marketing gridiron (ugh) than ivory-tower hunches and hubris.


Why we love marketing dashboards

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Why we love dashboards

We love dashboards. We love being surrounded by stuff that makes us feel in control. It seems you can’t swing an iPad these days without hitting a marketing dashboard that promises to make your CEO …

How to Kill Your Startup in 5 Simple Steps

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If you’ve started a business and decided you want to drive it into the ground, here are five sure-fire ways to get you there faster. Rest assured that these marketing strategies have all been battle-tested …

Who’s in your tent? You’d better find out.

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The Customer Loyalty Effect can be brilliant – or devastating.
So you’ve got all these customers milling around in your tent. Do you really know who they are? Here’s a tip. They’re either Fans, Fence-sitters or Critics:
1. …

The story of Charles Bradley, and why you should never give up

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Charles Bradley: never give up

Have you heard of pivoting? It’s all the rage. In business and especially in startups, if one direction isn’t looking profitable, take your assets and try pointing your business (and maybe your life) in a …

Clever (and free) ways to find new leads

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Find New Leads

Most startups struggle with ways (especially free ways) to find new leads. Here’s one approach that’s worked for guest-blogger Josh Ellis.
The company I work for, FluentStream, is a bootstrapped company. As a result, we’ve always …

An Action Plan for Women Entrepreneurs (Part 2)

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Given that timing is everything in business, if you’re a woman entrepreneur you might want to consider that your time is now.
In Part 1 of this two-part post, I talked to Andrea Guendelman and Fran …

Where Are All the Women Entrepreneurs?

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Women in Startup Eco-System

Building a business is never easy, but do women entrepreneurs have an extra hurdle to overcome?
By now, nearly everyone with a pulse knows the names Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, Sergey Brin …

Rule #3: Compartmentalize

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Startup Rulebook

The Startup Rulebook
One of the features of running a startup is the feeling that hyenas have grabbed your extremities and are all pulling in different directions. They all want a piece of you, and if …

Rule #2: Believe in yourself

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Believe in yourself

The Startup Rule Book
So you decided to start a business. Why? Probably because you had a good idea and you believed that you could get others to feel the same way. Next stop: unbridled entrepreneurial …

Want to find your most profitable prospects? Ask your best customers.

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One-Minute Marketing Plan

Want to find your most profitable prospects? Just ask your best customers some simple questions. Start with these four:

1. How likely are you to recommend (my product or service) to a colleague or business associate, …

Rule #1: Never stop trying

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The Startup Rule Book

The Startup Rule Book
They say that true entrepreneurs aren’t motivated by money. Here’s why that’s not true, and then it is.
The #2 reason entrepreneurs get into business is the hope of achieving some degree of …

Marketing isn’t fast

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Marketing Procrastination

“The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago,” says an old proverb. If you have aspirations of swinging in a hammock between two stately trees this afternoon, you’d better not be planting those trees …

How to Write a Blog (a.k.a. The Fear of Blogging)

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How To Write a Blog

How to Write a Blog
Do you freeze up when you need to actually write something that the entire world (potentially) could read?  Does the word ‘content’ make you feel queasy? Does a little voice in …

Startup Marketing: You need a marketing system

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Marketing Dude

Fewer than 5% of startups achieve their dream growth
Hiring your first marketing person is scary. What do you know about startup marketing? What do they know about startup marketing? All you know is that you …

Social Media ROI Primer

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The Secret to Attracting Prospects

The 80/20 On Social Media Tools
When someone asks me about social media tool trends and the effect on social media ROI, I sometimes get a little nervous wondering if I was looking the other way …

Impulse Branding: Instinctively Good

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impulse vs instinct

Impulse is defined (in my parlance) as a desire (seemingly involuntary) that comes out of nowhere. Things like ziplining, buying lottery tickets, and dying your hair blue. There’s an endorphin rush that accompanies doing things …

The End of Sales? (or Revenge of the Marketing Nerds)

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The end of sales?

Have you heard this one?
Sales asks for support material.
Marketing supplies support material.
Sales doesn’t use support material.
I have. Many times. The reason for this could be that Marketing just keeps missing the mark, or it could be that …

Sunday Beast Bites #2

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How to pivot a business


Peak Content?

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Peak Content

When does content marketing hit its breaking point?
So here’s a story…
My wife runs a design company. She has a fax. Years ago, she would walk into the office every morning and there would be a …

Sunday Beast Bites #1

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Sunday Beast Bites #1


Be like Apple (used to be) in 4 words

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the passion to market like apple

Here’s the secret to creating an exceptional company:
stand for something meaningful
Standing for something meaningful is what has set Apple, for one, apart from the rest of the pack. If you want passionate followers, their passion …

80% of CEOs Don’t Trust Marketing

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No more Mr. Nice Marketing Guy
Somewhere along the way, marketers lost the trust of their CEOs. A 2012 study by the Fournaise Marketing Group shows pretty conclusively that the vast majority of CEOs in large and …

The Secret to Attracting Prospects

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The One-Minute Marketing Plan – Part 3 of 3
Okay. This is the wrap-up on the One-Minute Marketing Plan – part 3 of 3. Part 1 was all about doing the ground work to increase your …

The Secret to Finding Prospects

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The One-Minute Marketing Plan – Part 2 of 3
I lied. The One-Minute Marketing Plan will be spread out over three blog posts. Okay. Maybe it’s really a Three-Minute Marketing Plan.
Last week we did the prep …

The One-Minute Marketing Plan (that you can use)

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The only way to hit your goal is to have a plan
Is there any reason for you not to have a plan behind your marketing execution? Plans take too long to do? Marketing plans expire …

Break Email Best Practices. Add 200%.

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Why turning email best practices on their head may be a good idea
The idea of “best practices” has become something of a crutch in business. Email best practices, for instance, suggests that someone else has …

The Day Marketing Automation Stopped Working

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Marketing Sherpa Marketing Effectiveness

How the Laws of Engagement Can Save the Day
There’s a problem brewing in B2B marketing land. The stuff that used to work doesn’t seem to be working as well anymore. Below is a chart from Marketing Sherpa’s …

Marketing Follow-Through – Aligning Sales & Marketing

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Marketing Follow-Through

Like golf, marketing follow-through is the only way to ensure that you end up where you want to.
As companies grow, a gulf between the marketing team and the sales team often develops. Both groups understand …

Intrigue Marketing. Huh?

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Intrigue Marketing

If your marketing campaign doesn’t break through, you got nothin’.
The two most successful ways to achieve marketing breakthrough are: spend a gazillion dollars, and/or be really clever. The nice thing about clever is that it …

Nothing kills a bad company faster than good marketing

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I like you, but...

Really… what are your customers saying about you?

A few years ago my agency worked with a large interior design company whose customers were homeowners that numbered in the thousands. The design company’s business had grown …

5 Ideas to Improve Your Prospect Targeting

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Marketing Targeting

If you’re not targeting the right prospect, everything else you do is pretty much academic.
Idea #1 – Find more customers like your best customers
Do you know who your best customers are? They’re the ones who …

Marketing’s Secret Sauce

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marketing strategy

The simple truth is, if you know what works, you can do more of it. How do you find out? It’s all in the data.
“You can’t manage what you don’t measure.”
You may have heard that …

The 3 Keys to Better Marketing

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marketing strategy

The secret to increased marketing campaign response rates has been kicking around in direct marketing circles for decades. Knowing how to apply that knowledge to your marketing programs can double, triple or even quadruple your …