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Did you know that 52% of marketers support 2 to 4 roles and buyer personas with dedicated content, and the top 3 drivers of blog content strategy include personas, audience demographics and buying stage? 

 

Did you also know that using buyer personas makes websites 2 to 5 times more effective and easier to use by targeted users? 

 

And personalized emails improve click-through rates by 14% and conversion rates by 10%?

 

Thorough and well defined personas are the first step in any marketing program. In order to map journeys, target, personalize, and engage, companies must have personas that define a myriad of interests, behaviors, and attitudes.  But to create those personas requires an investment of time and resources.  So how can organizations move forward with persona development that meets the needs of the company from a first touch through advocacy?

                               

I reached out to Katie Martell, CMO and Co-Founder at Cintell, to understand her best practices around persona development, persona management and research. Katie.jpg

 

 

The term persona is not new to a lot of marketers. However, what we understand persona marketing to be, and what persona marketing should be, tends to be different. How do most marketers approach persona marketing, and how should they actually approach persona marketing?

 

It helps to look back and see where personas became part of our business vocabulary. Personas actually began in the world of software development, and they were intended to help developers and engineers understand the human being on the other end of the tools and technology that they were building. And it was a way of humanizing a list of product requirements that helped them make better decisions based on empathy and an understanding of an individual.

 

Persona development has since become the proven initiative for increasing the effectiveness of what we do in marketing, the sales enablement we provide, as well as product development.

 

Unfortunately, many companies don’t have the resources in place to effectively research, create, and share those personas internally. So they don’t realize the irrelevance of their message, for example, until after a product launch, or when a campaign underperforms.  In fact, SiriusDecisions recently found that 60% of B to B organizations don’t fully understand their buyers.  I think this happens because companies tend to be the centre of their own universe.

 

Persona based marketing is nothing more than taking the time to understand the lives of the individuals who interact with any kind of purchase decision.  Persona marketing allows you to speak their language, address their problems, and convey your message on their terms.  This should be at the forefront of your marketing strategy, not an afterthought.

 

 

Personas are often developed and owned by marketing.  Who within an organization should leverage personas, and how can marketing engage them in the development and use of personas?

 

If you walk down the hall of your organization and ask your sales team, your product team, and your marketing team, to describe the buyer, would the answers be the same?  Marketers are increasingly looked to as the in-house resident experts on the customer in their organization.

 

In a recent study by the ITSMA (IT Sales and Marketing Association), they found that B to B marketers worldwide think that their number one priority next year will be understanding buyers.  Marketers know that buyers are changing, and their best tool to compete is solid insight that drives more relevant decisions.

 

We must not only get this insight right in marketing, but also give sales what they need to have empathetic conversations.

 

I love personas as sales enablement tools to help sellers see the world through the eyes of their prospects. They become much more effective, much more powerful in what they do day-to-day. And personas can, and should, be put into action across every single department that ever has an interaction with a customer.

 

 

For companies that are beginning to define their persona research process, what are some best practices that you could provide them?

 

First of all, kudos for getting started. It’s the hardest step.  I have a few simple tips that we see as really helpful to get started in the persona process.

 

Number one is to build an internal team.  We recommend representatives in sales, customer experience, support, product development, and even a C-suite member be included where possible to help drive buy-in and adoption.

 

The next step is to use that internal team as a collaborative part of the persona development process. Sales and customer support individuals talk to clients every day, and they have insights from these front lines that can be really helpful. Keep an open dialogue with them, because it helps you to stay on top of evolving trends and new priorities that are emerging in the world of your buyers. 

 

However, be aware of the internal bias that these teams do have. They will by default, even unintentionally, take the worldview of their employer.  Be sure to use research, and have real conversations with real buyers. Persona interviews take time and effort but they will reveal the true perspective, vocabulary, and priorities of your audience.

 

 

What are some initial steps companies can take to recommit to, and refresh, their persona process? 

 

We were shocked to find that personas are mostly updated only when there’s a marketing regime change, and that can mean years go by without refreshing persona insights. Consistently refreshing the persona is key to staying relevant. Just look at your own job. Has anything in your world as a professional changed in the last six months?  New influences, any new legislation you need to look at, any new priorities? Of course the answer is yes.

 

Things change.  Personas should be thought of as living and breathing entities.  Have them reflect the real day-to-day environment of your buyers.  Stay on top of topics that are top of mind for the customer, like new laws in the market that are affecting their decisions, market conditions, new influences, and news events.  Your buyers are not static. You personas should not be static.

 

We recommend refreshing the persona with multiple streams of information from external research, internal perspectives, and additional rounds of interviews, or qualitative surveys that are done once a quarter, once every six months, or whatever the cadence is that you can support.  This will keep your messaging current, and most importantly it keeps you relevant. 

 

That of course is the holy grail of marketing - relevance.

 

Sign up for a free Cintell account and start creating living breathing SmartPersonasTM today.

 

Listen to the entire podcast.

There are a number of laws and regulations that dictate how organizations are allowed to market their products and services. These regulations include what organizations can say about their products and services as well as their competitors and their products.  They also regulate how often organizations can market by e-mail, their use of the internet, and what information can be collected as well as how it's used.  This can become a virtual landmine for marketers and they must partner with their legal and compliance teams in order to navigate.  Many marketers ask, "What regulation and compliance research is required and what are the best sources of information?"

 

As we've seen in previous compliance posts, you cannot take a set-it-and-forget approach to compliance.  To successfully meet compliance objectives, marketers must commit to developing a culture with compliance as a focus.  This requires a consistent effort to align with compliance and legal team.  It also demands marketers make the effort to research and elf-educate on regulations affecting their communications. 13-Compliance.png

 

As Ryan Coats stated, "I like to start at the source of the policy or regulation.  Going to the governing entity's website usually gets you the key requirements for compliance. Not sure who the governing body is? Google is your friend, especially if you know the law or legislation you're researching.  Once you've gathered the key requirements you can look for other sources to augment your understanding, or as I usually find, give you information in simple and easier to understand terminology."

 

If you don't have a specific policy or regulation you're researching you can approach compliance proactively by leveraging industry experts like SiriusDecisions, MarketingSherpa and Gartner as well as many local and regional groups.  Here are 30 additional compliance resources for marketers.

 

National Business Group on Health

Global Business Group on Health

American Bankers Association Compliance Resources

ESPC

AMA

Governance, Risk and Compliance Management (GRC)

Regulatory Compliance Association

IT Governance, Risk & Compliance

Health Care Compliance Association (HCCA)

Risk, Audit, and Compliance Executives (RACE)

cGMP Compliance

Governance, Risk & Compliance

Insurance Legal/Compliance Professionals

International Compliance Requirements for Commercial Email Marketers

EU Countries With Cookie Laws Implemented

DMA-eec New International Privacy Guide for Email Marketers

Email Deliverability and Privacy Grande Guide

Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL)

The Dos and Donts of Compliance

Digital Marketing According to HIPAA - Pharmaceutical Companies

Digital Marketing According to HIPAA - Providers and Payers

How Do You Balance Both Compliance and Marketing Best Practices?

Five Social Media Compliance Best Practices for Financial Institutions

How to Align Sunshine Act Compliance with Health Care Professionals Event Practices

How to Market Effectively and Get Past the *Bleeping* Attorneys

7 HIPAA Best Practices for Health and Life Science Marketers

Compliance Is Not Just About Technology, It's Also About Culture

Beg, Borrow, or Steal?  Which is the Correct Approach to Compliance Resources?

"We're Deal-Makers, Not Deal-Breakers": Legal's Recommendations to Marketers

Hold Off on Approval High-Fives: 3 Marketing Compliance Best Practices and Tactics for Executing Against Each

Which compliance resources would you add to this list?

Last week we spoke with Stephen Herzog, Corporate Attorney and Member of the Cincinnati Bar Association, and received his recommendations on how to best align and partner with legal and compliance teams.

 

Equipped with the legal and compliance perspective, how can marketing begin to develop and align their practices?  I reached out to Ryan Coats, Director of Demand Generation at Optum.  Ryan has extensive experience successfully working within a highly regulated industry.  Ryan provided us with his 3 overarching compliance best practices, and tactics for executing against each.

 

  1. Develop, document, and automate privacy policy and global email policy

 

Develop: Get your facts straight, do some research and educate yourself enough to help guide a conversation.  You don't need to know it all or be an expert but you do need to be able to understand and contribute to a conversation with stakeholders.

 

Document: This is the toughest step to get right, for me.  We're all so busy, and once you gain agreement on your approach to policy/compliance you'll give some high fives and push forward without another thought to documenting the process, players, responsibilities and actions needed.  Upfront, appoint someone to be responsible for documentation.  When I don't appoint someone to be the C.D.O (Chief Documentation Officer) I fail at this critical step and find myself scrambling for documentation later. 12-nohighfive.jpg

 

Automate: Automation is a key to solving the many compliance complexities that exist for a regulated business.  Once you've developed and properly documented the policy it's much easier to build the programs you'll need to enable automated compliance. In my experience this takes some time to get right. Don't overpromise on your deadline; allow yourself and technical experts time for testing and improvement. Testing and improving goes a long way to getting to the right automated solution perfected.  Test, Test, Test has never been more appropriate than in an automated compliance program. Additionally, you need to ensure you've determined how this automated program might or might not impact other programs you have in place.

 

  1. Keep legal happy to ultimately get things done

 

Be proactive: Talk with them before, and not the day before, you need their help or sign off. Being proactive and showing you're interested in following their processes shows you respect their viewpoint and your willingness to be compliant.

 

Come prepared:  Bring with you some basic knowledge and ideas on how to proceed or what you think you need to be compliant or gain approval. Provide the legal and compliance team access to the same information you've already reviewed to prepare.  Being helpful is always a good approach.

 

Use visuals: As an example, we were recently talking about our UK Opt-In policy and what language would need to be included in the footer.  I walked everyone through the experience from start to finish.  Seeing the forms, emails, footers and related data assets in action made the conversation easy for all to understand and provide approval to proceed.

 

Admit you don't know: It's ok not to be an expert at regulatory compliance.  That?s why we have legal and compliance folks to help ensure we?re doing things properly.  Admitting you don't know helps the legal and compliance team know they need to be more involved and help guide you down the path to compliance.


  1. What regulation and compliance research is required and what are the best sources of information?

Start at the source of the policy or regulation:  Going to the governing entity's website usually gets you the key requirements for compliance. Not sure who the governing body is? Google is your friend, especially if you know the law or legislation you're researching.

 

Augment your understanding: Once you've gathered the key requirements you can look for other sources to augment your understanding, or as I usually find, give you information in simple and easier to understand terminology.  These other sources include Topliners, learn from people who have already tackled the issue.  Industry experts like SiriusDecisions, MarketingSherpa and Gartner have great information on compliance best practices related to marketing regulations.  There are also many not-for-profit organizations that you can gain membership to, such as ESPC, AMA, and likely others in specific industries relevant to you.

 

It takes effort and understanding on the part of marketing to develop a great partnership with legal.  By implementing these best practices, and executing against the supporting tactics, you can develop a successful process that supports the regulations imposed and leads to successful marketing programs.

What compliance best practices would you recommend for marketers?

There are a number of laws and regulations that dictate how organizations are allowed to market their products and services. These regulations include what organizations can say about their products and services as well as their competitors and their products.  They also regulate how often organizations can market by e-mail, their use of the internet, and what information can be collected as well as how it's used.  This can become a virtual landmine for marketers and they must partner with their legal and compliance teams in order to navigate.


In order to achieve the marketing and regulation alignment necessary, companies must have the ability to develop a close partnership with marketers and legal colleagues within an organization.  Although the regulations are very detailed, interpretations may differ from company to company or even person to person, therefore it's important to ensure clear communications between legal, regulatory, marketing and sales partners. 11-thumbs.jpg


I reached out to Stephen Herzog, Corporate Attorney and Member of the Cincinnati Bar Association, for his recommendations on how to best align and partner with legal and compliance teams.

                                                                                       

  1. First and foremost, the Legal Department must adopt a mentality of assisting people within the organization as deal-makers, not deal- breakers.  The Legal Department should not just be able to identify problems, but find and propose solutions to those problems.
  2. Have areas of responsibility designated within the Legal Department, and publish a listing within the organization, so people know a person to contact about a legal issue.  They should not just send a request to "the Legal Department".
  3. For repetitive legal matters, have a form available on-line within the organization for people to fill-out and send to the designated person in Legal to review.  This form generally solicits the type of information needed for the lawyer to be able to ask the right questions if need be, and speeds up legal review (example --  a business justification document filled out for contract review).
  4. Do not try to "sell" the Legal Department on your point of view.  Just provide the unvarnished facts and let Legal decide what they mean.  In addition, provide all information and documents to Legal on a matter, not just those that you believe support your view.  Sometimes the most innocuous looking document can be the most important one in a legal matter.
  5. Reveal both the good and bad facts to Legal about a matter. Bad facts can be dealt with.  Bad facts that are not disclosed--but surface later-- usually cannot.
  6. Legal problems are easier (and usually cheaper) to avoid than they are to correct.  Adhere to published legal policies in the organization.  Usually, any such policy resulted from a significant learning experience, and is designed to avoid the same or similar legal problems.

 

It takes a great partnership to ensure that what is intended with programs is carried through into your marketing communications. Ensure you have a good plan in place with the right check points and guarantee that this plan has been developed jointly with Legal.


What best practices have you implemented to align with your legal and compliance teams?

When it comes to marketing execution one of the most common objections I hear from manufacturing marketers is "lack of resources".  While this is certainly a valid issue, there are some cost-efficient alternatives to hiring full-time staff.  The Summer Season is prime for hiring college interns.  Interns can be a great remedy to the ill of resource constraints.  I know this because it's a practice I leveraged for a number years.

 

Hiring interns to assist with our content development is a practice I borrowed from my current employer when I was with my former employer.  We brought in journalism students to assist in capturing the knowledge of our internal staff.  We had very bright individuals at our company but they didn't have the time, and often weren't comfortable with writing in the voice, and with the frequency, required in today's age of "snackable content". 9-the-internship-movie-poster-2.jpg

 

We referred to our journalism interns as canaries because they would go into the field, find the story, report back, and develop the piece.  With a little editing we found that both our content volume and quality increased.

 

We extended this content development exercise into our graphic design department.  We partnered with several universities and eventually brought on graphic design, instructional design, video design, and project management interns.

 

This was a tremendous success.  I found that not only did we get quality work out of the students, but they also raised the bar for the rest of the team.  We all worked harder, faster, and more creatively.  And for the students they walked away with work for their portfolios, college credit, experience, and a little extra cash.

 

This program was certainly successful because of the Executive buy-in as well as the mentoring offered by those on our marketing team.  These programs only work if you set the interns up to succeeded.  The team provided the required direction and coaching to enhance the skills of the students.

 

Whether you're considering hiring one, or a team of interns, proper planning is required.

 

Below are some recommendations for hiring interns.  You can also download the guide I used here.

 

Program participation

The Intern Program is a program designed to enhance the Intern's experience at the company.  Manager support is critical for Intern participation in marketing.  Managers are expected to support their Intern's participation in the program.  Interns whose Managers strongly encouraged or required their participation report a much more fulfilling intern experience than those who did not have their Manager's support to participate.

Over-prepare for the Intern

Often interns work much faster, more thoroughly, and more accurately than the Hiring Manager expects them to.  It is best to be over-prepared for the Intern.  Have a key project lined up for the Intern to work on but also identify several smaller projects that can be assigned when the intern comes to you to tell you that he/she has completed the primary project.  The last thing interns or managers want is to have down time with n intern wandering around looking for work to do. Managers should be prepared with too many assignments for the Intern rather than too little.

Accessibility and Feedback

Interns want feedback- they want to know how they are performing, how they can improve, what the Manager likes.  Managers should schedule weekly meetings to sit down with their intern to discuss the project/work, the workload, how the Intern is fitting into the team, questions the Intern has about the company and/or the project. The Manager should also take time to get to know the Intern.  Interns have commented that some of the best Managers were those that took the time to get to know them as a person.

 

Hiring Managers must be accessible to their Interns.  Managers should have an "open door" policy when it comes to be available to the Intern. Interns with Managers who are accessible for questions have a much better experience than those who never see or interact with their manager.

Mentor 

It is expected that the Intern will be assigned a Mentor. The Mentor should not be the Hiring Manager. The Mentor can be someone the Intern will be working with directly, a supervisor other than the manager, or another employee in the division that the Manager feels would add value to the Intern's work experience.

Tips

Ask anyone who gives assignments to the interns to notify the intern manager so the manager can monitor how much work each intern has "on his/her plate."  In some cases, the intern's workload may be too little or too great.  In cases where there are multiple interns, one intern may be overworked while the other is under-worked.  The manager can then re-assign tasks to another intern (or another staff member) as appropriate.

 

Be flexible in what assignments your interns work over the summer.  As the summer progresses, their interests and capabilities will likely evolve. In particular, as they "get up to speed," they may identify new work areas where they can, or would like to, contribute.

 

Introduce the intern to as many technical staff members on the projects as appropriate, and encourage the intern to speak with these individuals (in addition to you and your back-up) over the course of the summer about their work.  This will enhance the intern's experience by exposing him/her to different skills, personalities, etc.  The interns will get more out of the summer if they are permitted to "pick the brains" of 10 people versus just one or two people.

 

In order for the intern to feel like a "regular employee," ensure that they have the proper equipment to do their jobs (in particular, up to date PCs with sufficient storage space, memory, etc.).

 

If you have a problem of any kind with an intern, you should discuss it with him/her immediately than wait and "document it" for the official record.  Interns are all typically bright and hard working, so use these evaluations as merely a formal method of recognizing an intern's good performance.  It's extremely important to keep an open dialogue with the intern throughout the summer - once a week is not enough, daily is a better, and several times daily is even better!  It's a great idea to discuss with the intern at the beginning of the summer what he/she wants to "get out of their intern experience," but recognizing that those goals may evolve or change completely over the course of the summer.  Goals usually evolve continuously over the summer as the interns learn more about the types of work the company does, and where they can (or want to) contribute, etc.

 

What practices have you put in place to develop and support an intern program?

Regulations and compliance can be overwhelming, so overwhelming in fact that this is often the cause for innovation paralysis. Companies become so concerned with remaining compliant that they're unwilling to try anything new, even if those new programs could improve the customer experience and the fiscal wellness of the company.

 

Additionally, marketers need to offer targeted, personalized marketing content that will help them get their message to the right people.  But these marketers are burdened with the safeguarding of information, opt-in requirements, and allowable use of data. Often marketers are pulled between marketing best practices and what's permitted by compliance.  These marketers must understand how to align both marketing and compliance best practices. 8-compliance.jpg

 

What do you mean by compliance?

Compliance can refer to a myriad of thing, and perhaps this is why the topic is overwhelming. Compliance can refer to permissible communications monitored by the FDA, FINRA, HIPAA, and the HITECH Act. Compliance can also refer to ABA requirements like font size, audio, and visual requirements.


Regulations can be federal and regional. This certainly places added strain on departments to understand what can and cannot be communicated across regions and the variance tied to language requirements.


Compliance can also be tied to the ethics of communication execution. Consider the duplication and cloning of sites, spamming by sending mass emails and lacking opt-in permissions, domain squatting, diverting traffic through deceptive links and cookie stuffing, inflating clicks to a program, stealing credit card information, brand bidding, and  violating the IAB & PMAs codes of conduct.


As you can see, compliance and regulation do not impact just those highly regulated industries like financial services and life sciences. If you offer software downloads, accept online payments, or market to regions that require opt-in, then you are impacted.

 

What should be our focus?

Over the next several weeks we'll explore the balance of marketing and compliance best practice.  We'll explain the best practices around basic language rules, redundancy avoidance, technology roll-out, legal and marketing team alignment, lead time, and the importance of simplicity.  We'll also discuss the processes around education development and reinforcement, and knowledge transfer, as well as the creation of SOPs, opt-ins and subscription centers


We'll also answer questions like; how should I organize my marketing team to align with compliance requirements? Should I have compliance members on my marketing team? Should I hire individuals with experience, or should I train new individuals?  How can you develop, document, and automate privacy policy and global email policy? How can you keep legal happy, and ultimately get things done? What regulation and compliance research is required and what are the best sources of information?


As you read along with this series it's imperative to remember that compliance is not just about buying technology, it's about culture. In this series we'll certainly touch on technology and the value technology can bring to the compliance process, but ultimately we'll guide you through the development of a compliant and regulatory friendly culture. 

 

What compliance and regulation questions do you hope to have answered during this series?

Over the last several weeks we explored how marketing organizations can impact income statements, profit, cash flow and owner earnings, inventory controls, and capital expendituresAll of these measurements ultimately feed into the balance sheet.

 

The balance sheet reflects the assets like cash, stocks, inventoried raw materials, land, equipment, and accounts receivable.  Liabilities are also included and these can include money owed to a bank, unpaid for parts and inventory, and accounts payable.  Lastly, equity (total assets minus total liabilities) at a point in time is also listed.  Essentially the balance sheet lists what the company owns, what is owes, and how much it is worth.  Companies typically prepare balance sheets monthly, quarterly, and the end of the fiscal year. The balance sheet summarizes the company's financial position at a given point in time. 7-balancesheet.jpg

 

On one side of the ledger balance sheet are listed the assets, liabilities and equity are on the other side. As you can surmise, the objective is to balance the 2 sides of the ledger.  With assets, liabilities, and equity always in flux, companies must work to bring balance to their financials.  And as we've covered in previous weeks, marketing can contribute greatly to this financial balance.

 

Reduce Inventory

Companies must avoid having their cash held up in inventory; therefore they want to carry as little inventory as possible.  Through Demand Prediction Reporting, companies can build out data models that track (or pull data over from an existing system) inventory, purchase history, frequency of purchase, quantities of assets, partner they buy from, average delivery time per partner and per asset.  Based on the data model, they can create dashboards that demonstrate trends in purchase (time of year, geography, etc), opportunities for up-sells and add-ons, and sales cycle duration.  This information can be used to create automated trigger emails that send communications in the month or so leading up to when they typically order.  Companies are now integrating systems and tying customer-facing channels into their sales, marketing, and production programs. 

 

Accelerate Collection of Receivables

But inventory reduction is only one step in finding financial balance.  Cash flow is also pivotal.  Cash flow is the revenue or expense stream that changes a cash account over a given period.  It's a measure of the company's ability to generate cash over a period of time. Cash flow increase is usually impacted by financing, operations or investing.  Cash outflows result from expenses or investments.  The faster receivables are collected, the better a company's cash position.  If you can reduce inventory or speed up collection of receivables, you will have a direct and immediate impact on your company's cash position. The efficiency ratios let you know how you're doing on just such measures of performance.  By implementing onboarding programs, cash flow scoring, and advocacy programs, marketing can contribute to this increased collection of receivables.

 

 

Increase Asset Turnover Ratio

Managing inventory, increasing sales, and reducing days sales outstanding all contribute to financial positioning by increasing the asset turnover ratio.  Total asset turnover gauges efficiency in the use of all assets. If marketers can assist in inventory reduction, total asset turnover rises. If marketers can aid in cutting average receivables, total asset turnover rises. If marketers can drive demand and nurture opportunity through the buy-cycle, sales will increase and total asset turnover will rise.  Any of these managing- the- balance- sheet moves improves efficiency.

 

 

 

In the end it's important we correlate our marketing measurements with the larger business.  Identify how you currently measure performance for both your department and yourself.  How do these numbers relate to your company's financial statements and impact the performance?  Once you understand these financial measures you can begin to operate to your full potential, bring balance to the financials, and contribute to the fiscal wellness of the company. 

Whew, so we've covered marketing's impact on the income statement, revenue, profit, and cash flowIt should now be evident that marketing plays a tremendous role in the success of the business.  The projection of money promised, services delivered, and the speed of cash through the door can all be positively affected by a strong marketing organization.  By developing strong relationships with clients, establishing trust and credibility, and delivering the right resources at the right time, marketers can demonstrate their greater value across the entire organization.

 

Marketing is no longer just about demand generation, lead hand-off, and sales enablement. Marketers now influence both the short-term success and long-term potential of a company.

 

This influence extends beyond the money coming into the organization, as we've covered in the last 4 posts.  Marketers can also impact and influence monetary investment.  Let's take a look at inventory control and capital expenditures. 

 

Inventory

Last week we discussed the importance of cash flowWhat's often troubling for organizations is when they evaluate their finances and discover that all of their cash is held up in inventory.  This is not a good thing for the company because a company always wants to carry as little inventory as possible.

 

Most companies will evaluate inventory days and turnover.  These ratios are based on the fact that inventory flows through a company and it can flow at a greater or lesser speed.  Companies tend to look at inventory as frozen cash.  You don't want an inventory deficit that?s so low you can?t meet customer demand.  At the same time you don't want inventory sitting on the shelves because you're not generating cash through the door.


Demand Prediction Reporting is becoming a highly requested feature.  Companies want to build out data models that track (or pull data over from an existing system) inventory, purchase history, frequency of purchase, quantities of assets, partner they buy from, average delivery time per partner and per asset.  Based on the data model, they want to create dashboards that demonstrate trends in purchase (time of year, geography, etc), opportunities for up-sells and add-ons, and sales cycle duration.  This information can be used to create automated trigger emails that send communications in the month or so leading up to when they typically order.  But this is now more than a futuristic objective. Companies are now integrating systems and tying customer-facing channels into their sales, marketing, and production programs. 


Capital Expenditures 6-6a0120a80567b0970b017c365ab77b970b.jpg

As I began digging into the lines on a balance sheet, one question I had was; is marketing a capital expenditure or an operating expense?  An operating expense reduces the bottom line immediately, and a capital expenditure spreads the hit out over several accounting periods.  Operating expenses are the costs required to keep the business going day to day, like marketing salaries.  These are listed on the income statement and are subtracted from revenue to determine profit.

 

Capital expenditure is the purchase of an item that's considered a long term investment.  The category is broad and includes equipment purchases and the development of new products.  These appear on the balance sheet and the depreciation of capital expenditures appears on the income statement.  They're treated different from ordinary expenses because they typically involve large amounts of cash, are expected to provide returns for several years, and they entail some degree of risk.

 

As greater IT purchasing has shifted to the marketing organization, the role of capital investments has also become a consideration.  The basic principle of capital investments is tied to the time value of money.  Money (or cash) you have now is more valuable than the money you hope to collect in the future.

 

Marketers that are looking to invest in marketing and sales technology must be able to demonstrate the future returns of cash invested today.  Below are 3 steps to calculate capital expenditures.

 

Step 1: Determine the initial cash outlay.  This is tricky because it requires some educated guessing.  You must make judgment calls about what a machine or project is going to cost before it begins to generate revenue.  These calculations should be factored as cash out the door, not decreased profits.

 

Step 2:  Project future cash flows (not profit) from the investment.

 

Step 3:  Evaluate future cash flows to figure the return on investment. Are they substantial enough so that the investment is worthwhile? On what basis can we make that determination? Consider the payback method, the net present value (NPV) method, and the internal rate of return (IRR) method.

 

Now that you have an understanding of marketing's role in money coming into the organization as well as the money going out, next week we can look at how all of this affects the balance sheet.

In the last 3 posts we've discussed how marketers can think beyond broad ROI contribution.  Now that we understand marketing's contribution to revenue and profit it's time to discuss how marketing can make a positive impact on cash flow and owner earnings.

 

It's important to remember that profit is not the same as cash.  Profit is based on promises, not money coming in.  And while they're different, a healthy company requires both.

 

Cash flow is the revenue or expense stream that changes a cash account over a given period.  It's a measure of the company's ability to generate cash over a period of time. Cash flow increase is usually impacted by financing, operations or investing. Cash outflows result from expenses or investments.  The faster receivables are collected, the better a company's cash position.  5-cash-flow-highlighter.jpg

 

Cash flow speaks volumes about the fiscal wellness of a company.  In fact, one thing all of Warren Buffett's stocks have in common is the company's ability to generate healthy, consistent, and predictable cash flow.

 

So how can marketing organizations begin to bring on more cash, quickly?  Below are 3 considerations.

 

Consider Onboarding and Programs

As stated earlier, the faster receivables are collected, the better a company's cash position. Your company should understand their average days sales outstanding, or DSO. This is the average collection period and receivable days. It's a measure of how fast customers pay their bills. 

 

Let's say it takes a customer an average of forty-two days to pay their bills.This is an opportunity for rapid improvement in a company's cash position. Of course, it's important to understand if this deficiency exists because of poor product, service, or support, or perhaps an internal bottleneck.

 

Disgruntled customers do not typically pay on time. Consider a customer onboarding program that delivers educational content relative to topics of interest based on the contact's digital body language and purchase history. As an example, one customer journey may focus on maintenance and upkeep of Product A. One journey may focus on getting more out of Product A by using the product in various ways. One journey may focus on Tips and Tricks for using Product A.

 

Consider Scoring on Cash Flow

Marketers must focus on future profits, but also on cash flow. Companies want to sell to other companies that can pay their bills.  Information on cash flow, liability, and revenue data is often available for publicly traded companies. 

 

Consider capturing cash flow data against an account within your CRM system, if you're not already. As you develop lead, or opportunity, scoring models score against cash flow as an explicit entity.  Cash flow may not be the most important indicator when identifying sales opportunity, but it should certainly be a factor.

 

Consider Delighting the Customer

Do you offer customers the kind of service that will encourage them to pay their bills on time? Is the product free of defects? Are the invoices accurate? Does the mailroom send invoices on a timely basis? All these factors help determine how customers feel about your company and indirectly influence how fast they pay their bills.

 

Develop regular, personalized communications, to your customers that offer helpful content.  If you deliver newsletters, utilize dynamic content throughout the newsletter, pulling in content relevant to the client's digital body language. Ask for input and demonstrate that the customer's input and feedback is valuable.  Collect their feedback on services received, goals for the future, and satisfaction with results to date. And don't stop at the response.  Acknowledge that you received and understand their feedback, and provide a reply that outlines actions you plan to initiate based on their feedback.


You may also want to introduce an advocacy program. Advocacy programs, like those supported by Influitive, allow you to identify advocates, enhance relationships, obtain feedback on products and services, and identify future opportunities. 

 

 

Remember to baseline your current Days Sales Outstanding numbers. Implement programs that target strong companies and build relationships with your customers. Measure the improvement of your DSO metric month-over-month. Within a year you could very well report your contribution to cash flow improvement.

 

Next week we'll discuss marketing's impact on inventory controls and capital expenditures.

Marketers are moving in the right direction.  They're thinking about marketing contribution beyond the performance of emails and campaigns. However, marketers have remained focused on ROI and not on their greater contribution to the fiscal well-being of an organization. The best place to begin understanding marketing's contribution is the income statement.

 

The income statement is also known as the P& L statement, statement of earnings, and statement of operations.  It summarizes revenues, expenses, and profit for a period of time. When reviewing the income statement marketers should consider a few questions.

 

For example, in your organization, does marketing technology count in depreciation calculations as shown on the income statement? Understanding this calculation will guide you in justifying expenses as well as determining from what budgets these expenses should be deducted from.  4-How-to-Read-an-Income-Statement1-1024x666.jpg

So let's explore a few lines of the income statement in more detail.

 

Marketing's Contribution to Revenue

What's important to recognize is that the income statement begins with sales, and sales (revenue) is always at the top of the income statement. Revenue on an income statement is referring to the product or services that were delivered during a period of time. It's not closed opportunities; it's what was actually delivered. 

 

As a marketing organization, can you demonstrate how you speed up delivery of services? Have you implemented an onboarding program that reduced time-to-delivery from 8 weeks to 4 weeks? Have you developed material that allows the customer to execute pre-work resulting in faster implementation? Are you tracking purchasing behavior and buying signals to understand demand insight which contributes to inventory control and faster delivery of the product with minimal wait time?

 

When discussing revenue, marketers should recognize that "services" is an important word.  As a marketing organization, do you provide services to customers through education and/or content that factor into the services delivered?  Understand what that dollar amount equates to.

 

Marketing needs to understand their contribution to this "top-line growth".

 

Marketing's Role in Liabilities

Another line on the income statement is current liabilities. Current liabilities represent money owed to creditors and others that typically must be paid within a year. Long-term liabilities are usually bonds and mortgages; debts that the company is contractually obliged to repay over a period of time longer than a year.  So how does this apply to marketing?

 

Well, let's say your organization is executing a major marketing campaign involving creative services, display advertising, print advertising, and content development. If the work is completed in January and totals close to $1 million you might determine the campaign will benefit the company for 12 months. You could advise the company to view this $1 million dollars as a prepaid asset and charge one-twelfth of the cost each month on the income statement. 

 

But if the company is performing well financially then you may advise the company to "expense" the entire campaign and charge it all against January's revenue.  Now marketing has a marketing program that's paid for, and profits in the months to come will be higher.

 

There are 2 variables at play; the financial health of the company and projected long-term benefit of the marketing program.  Marketers must understand the company's financial wellness as well as provide a confident projection on the longevity of the marketing investment.  If any of the creative or content development was executed internally, and cross-charged to an internal department, you'd also want o calculate the accrual.  The accrual is the portion of an expense item that is recorded in a particular time span. Much like product development costs, these costs would be spread out over several periods so a portion of the cost would be accrued each month.

 

Taking this a step further would be positioning this marketing expense as ?% of sales; showing the magnitude of an expense number relative to revenue.

 

We've started identifying where marketing impacts different lines on the income statement.  Next week we'll delve further into marketing's impact on profitability, profitability ratios, and some suggested fixes to low profitability.

Gartner analyst Laura McLellan predicted that by 2017, CMOs will spend more on IT than their counterpart CIOs. 

 

As marketers our first reaction is to raise our fist in united victory.  Marketing organizations are finally earning the respect, and budget, that many feel is long overdue.  As we often hear "Marketers are finally winning that seat at the table".

 

By my question is, once they win that seat will they understand what's being said at the table? 3-financial-health.png

 

As marketers, the primary data point we consider, outside of channel and content performance, is ROI. We've worked on "closing the loop" and demonstrating our contribution to sales revenue. And while ROI is certainly an important metric, marketing can contribute so much more to the fiscal health of an organization.

 

Marketers Must Think Beyond ROI

It's time marketers begin to evaluate their greater contribution.  Marketers must begin to demonstrate how their organization contributes to the company's financial picture via revenue growth, profit growth, and margin improvements.

 

Marketers must recognize that they can contribute to the greater conversation.  If the company's doing well, what suggestions can you offer for continued growth?  If the company has financial challenges, can you offer suggestions on inventory turns to be improved or gross margins or receivable days?

 

Right now, can you answer whether your company is profitable?  Does it have positive equity?  Can it support payroll?  Are revenues growing or declining?

 

Why It Matters

Sales managers need to know what type of profits they're generating.  Marketing needs to understand their contribution to these profits as well.  This has an effect on discounts, which products are profitable, and which solutions and services receive marketing support.

 

Financially intelligent marketers can make better decisions. They can use their knowledge to help the company succeed. They manage resources wisely, use financial information more judiciously, and increase their company's profitability and cash flow.  What's just as important is these financially intelligent marketers can understand more about why things happen.  Recognizing how KPIs and performance goals were impacted by the company's financial situation can bring tremendous insight and focus to an organization.

 

Some Examples

An understanding of your company's finances, as well as your contribution, can be used to justify purchases and investments.  For example, most technology vendors can build a business case for you that calculate time saved through a software purchase.  But, can you respond to push-back about time wasted learning the new technology?

 

Let's say a manufacturers is evaluating backlog and is assessing how much of that backlog will convert into sales within the next quarter.  If the sales team estimates that 75% of the backlog will turn into sales, can you support this estimate by evaluating marketing engagement and Digital Body Language? Can you measure trends in behavior to indicate probability?

 

Or when analyzing the value of the marketing organization and the services provided, how would you calculate marketing's intangible assets like employee skills, customer lists, customer engagement, reputation, and awareness?

 

 

Over the next several weeks we'll explore how marketing organizations can impact income statements, profit, cash flow and owner earnings, balance sheets, Marketing's Influence on Corporate Monetary Investments

Laura McLellan, Research Vice President with Gartner, has written extensively on the future impact of customer experience in the C-Suite.  She recently published a fantastic post on "10 Proof Points -- Why Customer Experience Is the Next Big Thing".  But I've always struggled with how you measure the customer experience.  How do you measure and monetize the customer experience?  Today I learned.

 

A lot of effort has been focused on defining the perfect customer experience, but let's talk about what that imperfect experience looks like.  Like art, or bad art, you know it when you see it and you react when you experience it.

 

All I wanted to do was activate my new phone.  A simple task, I thought.  My old phone would no longer hold a charge.  I followed the appropriate process and ordered the phone through my company's self-service system.  I placed the order, received notification of shipment, and 2 days later received my new phone.

 

It Starts With Confusion and a Little Bit of Patience

In the package was a card from my service provider, providing the website address for phone activation.  I submitted the data for my phone but I continued to receive errors.  I selected the customer service web chat feature. It asked for my account information. Because the account is managed by my company, I was limited in what I could provide and therefore, could not access web chat.  I clicked around some more.  I finally found passage into web chat where I was redirected to the activation page at which I had originated.

 

And Then Irritation Begins

I clicked around some more. I made a phone call to customer support and was put through a series of automated commands.  Following the automated instructions, I turned off my new phone, and then turned it back on.  Still nothing.  I returned to that same activation page, again.  This time when I submitted my information I was informed that my phone was now activated.  The problem was it actually wasn't.  I could neither call nor text from my new phone.  I could access my iCloud data from my new phone, but I had to use my old phone to call. I called the automated customer support line, again, and received the same message I had received on the activation landing page.

 

Irritation Evolves Into Exasperation 2-index.jpg

I called another support number and finally spoke with a human. The human looked at my account and said there must be something wrong with my SIM card and that I would have to visit a local store.  I drove 10 minutes to the store, waited 5 minutes to check into their queue, and then waited another 15 minutes until I was waited on.  Once I spoke with the store representative she looked up my account information and informed me there was nothing wrong with the SIM card.  She explained that because my line was tied to the company's premiere account, a business representative would have to activate my line.  Apparently store representatives can't activate business lines.  I asked why this wasn't mentioned by the web chat assistant or the support representative I spoke with.  The store representative said they work out of different systems.

 

Finally, Anger Sets In

She called, and left voice messages, with 2 different business representatives.  That was two and half hours ago and I have yet to hear from anyone.

 

8 hours, 47 web clicks, 1 web chat, 3 support calls, one 10 minute drive, an hour-long store visit, and 2 unanswered voice messages and I still have no resolution.  That is how I measured my customer experience today.

 

The Solution

Now, I don't believe in calling out the negative if you can't provide a suggestion for improvement. So, here's my suggestion.  I would recommend to my service provider that they invest in unifying their data.  And I recommend they do that now, because studies anticipate a 50X explosion in data growth by 2020.  I'm offered up display ads from my service provider so they're certainly tracking my Digital Body Language.  When my phone shipped I should have received an email, from the service provider, that was personalized to my business account, which contained content and activation instruction to my business account.

 

Companies become so focused on how to bundle services, up-sell, and cross-sell products and solutions yet they neglect the key to business growth.  Satisfaction and loyalty from customers, often developed through the customer experience, will trump creative marketing campaigns any day.  To develop an improved customer experience, companies must integrate systems and get them talking.  They must also implement technology that can leverage that personalized contact and account data.

 

I've never put my fist through a wall, but I came very close today.  From now on, when I'm asked to monetize the customer experience I'll respond with "however much it costs to repair a hole in the wall".

"How do we get past the *bleeping* lawyers?!" 1-Your-Own-Law-Firm-Sleazy-Attorney-Technique-No-8.jpg


"It takes us 10 weeks to get anything through compliance!"

 

"We attended an event 3 weeks ago and we're still waiting on legal to approve the post-event campaign!"

 

These are just a few of the quotes I've heard from those working in the life sciences industry.  Wouldn't it be great if you could just bypass the whole compliance approval process?


OK, so you can't get past the attorneys.  But you can better align with them and provide the information that will put their compliance concerns at ease.  Below are 6 actions you can take to work more effectively with your legal teams.

 

  1. Outline your compliance process and where marketing communications fit in.  Marketing cloud technology is not meant to replace your existing compliance system, rather it's meant to compliment your existing process. Tools like Eloqua and Compendium allow for an additional layer of review and approval.  Make sure you identify at what point to involve legal.  They probably don't need to see every draft, and would rather review all marketing assets for a program at one time. Understand their process.  Have the attorneys define how much they want to see, and at what point in the process.
  2. Leverage built in tools.  Eloqua contains a functionality that allows organizations to lock down content.  This provides sales with the power to communicate independently, while assuring the organization that brand and legal standards will be met.  Both Eloqua and Compendium also contain review, approval, and testing
  3. Export communication workflow.  Once you've created your campaign workflow and decision rules, export them out of the system.  This allows legal to visualize the process and approve the entire program, versus one asset a time which ultimately stalls the flow of communication.
  4. Define what data is captured in each system.  Document what data is stored against a contact record, as well as what data is passed back and forth between your CRM, MA, and compliance systems.
  5. Allow ample time for development, revision, and approval processes.  If you haven't already, document a project schedule.  Baseline the work effort across the communication development process.  Identify the constraints, like legal approval.  Now, use that project schedule and execute backwards planning. Understanding when all communication assets must be finalized and approved allows you to plan backwards and identify the start date of the project.  Clear it with legal.  Explain why the schedule is defined as is, point out the constraints, and obtain buy-in that they can meet the approval time frames if all completed assets are turned over for review by the defined date.  And don't forget to build in time for the revision process.
  6. Create an employee training and education program.  This program should extend beyond an email with the rules listed.  If employees are sending communications, creating content, and posting to social site then policy and governance should be clearly communicated to all employees, preferably in the form of training.

 

Working with your legal team will probably never be easy, but it can be easier.  Below are supporting documents that will guide both you, and your attorneys, in executing effective, and compliant, communications in a timely manner.


FTC updates “DOT COM DISCLOSURES”

Eloqua EU Compliance Whitepaper

Understanding Compliance – How to Navigate the Difficult