Dear CMO:

Think of how much more effective your marketing budget would be if you asked three more questions:

Question #1: OK, now that we’re done with our campaign planning and understand all the final execution-level details… what happens next?

Question #2: OK, now what do we do?

Question #3: Got it, now what?

Pretty intellectual stuff here. If you’re into deep paradigm shifting, try the paradigm you’re standing on first before you reinvent the wheel. No one executes well enough, and if we did, our marketing efforts would pull in twice the returns they do today.

You push your company to launch a certification program for your channel parter sales people. You get the budget, you select your e-learning vendor, you modify your existing power point presentations, and you push it out to your partners with a program to drive enrollment. There. Done.

Question #1: OK, now that we’re “done,” what do we do next? How have we constructed the actual training? Is it death by power point, or have we steeped the curriculum, quizes, and take-aways in the best practices of the psychology of persuasion? Have we brought in examples of social proof — of many, similar others that have gone before your students and who might serve as good role models? — or of authority figures who can show case studies that support your positions? Have you employed reciprocity — have you given before you have received — to promote the relationship?

Or did you just check the box?

Question #2: OK, now what? Did you engage your channel partner principals with a financial presentation, proving the value of your program and making it their own? Did you market your program — create an identity, a design language, put creative and appropriate media behind it, launch it, support it, and promote it — the same way you would have launched one of the products you are certifying them to sell? Compare a product launch, from budget to marketing outputs, to your program launch: did you give it enough of a chance to win?

Question #3: And… now what? What else did — or didn’t — you do? Are you employing social media to get the erstwhile competitors in the field to feed off of each other? Are you supporting this with after-the-launch incentives, promotions and awareness building activities? What else? What after that?

* * *
Key Takeaways:

> We’re all too busy. We have too many products, too many programs, and too many demands on our time to make sure that every bolt is tightened and every touch point is engineered to its optimal level. Right? Wrong. We’re too busy to prepare a post-mortem to management explaining why the program wasn’t as effective as we originally thought and how we’ll spend more money and more time re-launching it at greater expense. Spending the time today, before we launch, is what we have time for.

> They’re too busy, too. Our competitors aren’t nearly as smart as we are. We’re just more alpha than they are. Period. So trust that they won’t do this as well as we do. As a matter of fact, whoever they are, we — with our superior planning, execution, and focus on those last three feet where all battles are won or lost — will take advantage of their sloppiness. We want to be in the position so that when they spend more money, our sales go up. Does our certification program talk about their certification program? Do we debunk their tests, their management double-talk, or their solutions? Do we always drag them out over the thin ice of our creation? Of course we do. That’s why we’re so… damn… good.

> Spending all of your time on driving awareness and little of it on the absolute last moments prior to full engagement means you’re leaving things to chance. Regardless of whether these last moments refer to your channel sales person finishing your certification program AND psychologically committing themselves to your cause, or to the guy standing in the aisle at Best Buy wondering which TV to buy, you don’t win until they choose you. And if you’re spending your budget wisely — particularly in difficult economic times — you’ll focus on conversion at this point of influence. It isn’t enough to drive them in. You need to win them over. Let the other guy spend his money on driving them in. It costs more and means less.

* * *

When times get tough, we all need to focus our attention on what realizes revenue in the most efficient manner possible. Let your competition spend the big bucks on driving category awareness. You can win at the point of influence with a smaller, smarter strategy that focuses on your target at the instant they are going to commit themselves.

More on this later, with a stronger retail spin next time!


Photo courtesy of Flickr.