This is a guest post written by marketing strategist Mike Gospe who is co-founder of KickStart Alliance and the author of Marketing Campaign Development. His new book, The Marketing High Ground, is a B2B marketer’s playbook describing the best practices surrounding persona development, positioning statements, and messaging.
The biggest irony with most marketers is their inability to successfully communicate internally. By and large, we inbound marketers are experts in our functions of content creation, search engine optimization, social media, and the like. But when it comes to sharing our plans internally across the marketing department or aligning a master plan with sales, the act of communicating clearly and succinctly could stand a fair amount of improvement. One of my first bosses pointed this out to me early in my career after a campaign snafu that resulted because the press relations and advertising teams were out of sync. (Read that humbling story here.)
A Failure to Communicate
Picture this scenario: Someone (it could be anyone in a business unit or a corporate marketing team) produces a 50-page inbound marketing plan and emails it to a long list of folks with a short introductory sentence: “Here’s the plan.” On the distribution list are folks ranging from various marketing functions to sales leaders. The email is sent once. There is no cross-functional kick-off meeting. And there’s no executive summary. No follow-up Q&A. Weeks pass. Worst of all, the plan sits on a shelf and is never actively referenced. Then, in the midst of executing a set of marketing activities, frustration erupts when the copywriters are fired because they “can’t get the messaging right.” Sales people continue to wonder what the heck marketing does, and executives decide to change the direction of the campaign largely because they don’t know (or remember) what the objective was in the first place. What’s going on here?
The short answer: The marketers in charge of the planning process failed to clearly communicate the plan internally, lobby support, and provide helpful short-hand reminders about its strategy. These are sure-fire symptoms that the plan was not communicated clearly enough or defined properly to ensure that the larger team responsible for its implementation understood it. The good news is that this common tale of woe can easily be avoided.
3 Steps for How to Socialize the Plan
Development of the go-to-market plan is a team sport. No single person working in isolation from corporate marketing, sales, product management, and customer support should develop the marketing plan. If so, the plan is instantly worthless because nobody else has a stake in the output. Shared ownership is a requirement. So, the development process needs to harness the creativity and ownership from across the company.
But once the plan is drafted, the marketing team leader’s job is far from over. Everybody in marketing and sales needs to know about the campaign, its objectives and goals, and the timing of key tactics that will unfold. But how can you communicate the essence of your plan so the entire extended team will a) understand it, b) remember it, and c) echo the plan’s objectives and themes in their own work?
Here are three tactical ideas to help you socialize the output and invite colleagues to join you on the marketing high ground:
1. Think Small
Share only a few key slides. More is not better. Avoid the temptation to share your entire 42-page plan. No one will read it. Only the marketing core team needs to know the full details of the plan. For everyone else, share the executive summary. If folks want more information, they will ask for it. Here are the basic slides I use every time I’m launching a new campaign:
- Objective of the marketing campaign
- Target audience and persona priorities
- Positioning statement
- Message box
- Description of key activities and offers
- Timeline for execution
Once you’ve created these 6 key slides, encourage everyone to tack these slides to their cubicle walls. Imagine walking down the hall where you see the persona slide tacked to the PR manager’s wall, or the positioning statement slide tacked to the wall of the product director. It’s powerful stuff.
2. Get Seen
Become a guest speaker. Just because you draft a few slides and email them doesn’t mean that anyone has read them or understood the implications. You need to engage the organization by making the plan visible. This means getting out in front of groups of employees to talk about the plan and answer their questions. It’s what marketers can do better than any other function, yet it rarely happens. I encourage marketing directors and integrated marketing leaders to make the rounds to key staff meetings, starting with sales, product management, engineering, and customer support teams. No other outreach effort on your part will work as well to establish your credibility with internal audiences. Ask for 15 minutes on their agenda. Not only is this extremely valuable for bringing your marketing plans and programs to life, but it is also a powerful skill set to hone for your personal career growth.
3. Lead the Way
Facilitate a marketing-sales summit twice a year. Being the ambassador for your marketing plan is very effective when it comes to sharing information. However, to pursue effective cross-organizational alignment, a different tactic is needed. Carefully structured summits are “working meetings” attended by marketing and sales leaders. They are the perfect venue for sharing plans, gathering feedback, and solidifying a shared understanding of sales’ expectations and marketing’s goals and objectives.
Could your marketing team do a better job of marketing its own initiatives internally?