Setting aggressive marketing growth goals can be intimidating. Some marketers set the bar too low and try to achieve goals that seem impressive but decline year after year. Marketers want to help their organizations succeed but also set accurate expectations for stakeholders.
Today’s guest is Darrell Amy, author of Revenue Growth Engine. He talks about how marketers can easily set, accelerate, and achieve ambitious and aggressive marketing growth goals to succeed.
Ben: Hey Darrell, how's it going this morning?
Darrell: Ben, fantastic. I'm so excited for our conversation today.
Ben: Awesome, likewise. I'm really glad to have you on the show. Before we really get too far into the weeds on growth and goal setting, you're the author of the book, Revenue Growth Engine. For our listeners who might not be familiar, what's your elevator pitch book?
Darrell: I am passionate about helping companies hit their growth goals, specifically by aligning sales and marketing to achieve those goals. I spent my career straight out of university in the tech sales on the street, highly competitive. Then when I started my own business in 2004, the goal was to start a sales training company. Ben, my very first client came to me and said, this stuff you taught our sales team is fantastic, but our website doesn't say anything about it. Do you build websites? Being my first client, the answer was, yes, sir. We build websites.
I pulled out my marketing degree and that began the whole journey if you could rewind back to 2004 of web, search, social, inbound, account-based marketing, all the way through. I've been wearing both skis. I've had one ski with sales and one ski with marketing. Much like skiing, when your skis aren't lined up, bad things happen. We say that a little bit tongue in cheek, but I do believe when sales and marketing get aligned, good things happen. That was the premise behind what Revenue Growth Engine is what do we need to do to align sales and marketing to accelerate revenue growth?
Ben: Certainly, yeah. Awesome stuff. I love the ski analogy because I think that that accurately conveys both the sense of speed and the potential sense of danger.
Darrell: That's right. Well, we don't feel it like that in sales and marketing. We’re not tumbling into an orthopedic surgeon's office. But the reality is when sales and marketing are not aligned, it really slows everything down. It’s like an anchor behind everything. But when sales and marketing can get lined up and the processes are aiming in the same direction, that really allows a company to accelerate. I call that—the model I used, obvious from the title of the book—an engine. We want to make sure our engine is firing on all cylinders and when that happens, we're able to see the end result of sales and marketing, which is revenue growth, right?
Ben: Right. Yes, absolutely. We're all working toward the same goals whether we’re in marketing or sales. I think that's super important to remember. The first question I've got for you, marketers sometimes will set goals that maybe feel reasonable, maybe they're easy to achieve, or something that I've actually witnessed many years ago in the past. They will set goals that sound or look impressive to someone who doesn't really know what they're looking at. But when you actually look at it year over year as a percentage of growth, they're actually aiming for a decline.
Because they’ll use some sort of smoke and mirrors to make it look like that goal is maybe a bit more ambitious than what it actually is. When really, they're kind of bracing for a performance decline, which can actually be pretty dispiriting to witness. But I think the reason why they do it is fear. I mean that's my perspective. I'm curious what you think is the risk in playing it too safe when it comes to setting growth goals?
Darrell: Yeah, absolutely. Well, first of all, let’s talk about setting growth goals, which is a great place to start because if you think of revenue, which was you mentioned and then we're talking about marketing, sales, and customer success or operations are all driving towards revenue and should be driving towards revenue goals. A lot of times, what I've discovered, Ben, is the way people set revenue goals is one or two methods. One is the spaghetti on the wall method. You're going to throw something out there. What do you think we can do, Ben?
Usually, when you do that, you get around to the third quarter or in the fourth quarter recording this for calendar-based companies right now. You're not hitting the goal and then you go back and get, our goal wasn't realistic in the first place. That's a terrible way to run a company.
The other way to set goals is what I call the ruler method where you look at the growth trajectory over the last couple of years and go, we did this in 2019. We did this in 2020. We're going to do this in 2021. Let's put a ruler on that and let's set our goals for 2022. A conservative way to do it, no doubt. But also a bit of a challenge for companies especially coming out of the pandemic.
Some companies took a pretty steep revenue decline and they took a hit. The ruler is pointed in the wrong direction. Other companies were selling plexiglass or personal protective equipment and their ruler is pointed in unrealistic projection. How do you set goals right now? What I say is to look at the two things that drive revenue growth. The two drivers are this—net new business, how many new customers do we add? Then second is revenue per customer, how effective are we at cross-selling? In my goals, I always begin—let's scratch the total number, let's look at how many customers we have. Do we have 1000? Great.
With the right sales and marketing processes for net new in place, what could we get by the end of next year? 1200, 20%? Okay, great. What's our revenue per customer? Well, if we have a $10 million company and we have 1000 customers, our revenue per customer is $10,000.
If we had the right sales and marketing processes in place to cross-sell to get to our, what I call, 100% sold where our clients are buying everything that we offer, they're buying the entire suite in terms of CoSchedule for example, they're buying the entire suite, then what could we do? If our revenue per client is $10,000 right now. If we had the right processes in place, could we get that too $11,000, $11,500?
Now, we set goals in net new and revenue per client then we add those two up. Now, we have what I call an aggressive but realistic goal. It’s going to feel aggressive. But when you realize it's based on adding a certain number of net new clients and adding revenue per client, you go okay, that's based in reality. Then when we move throughout the year, we're now tracking high-level goals of how many customers did we add net? What's our revenue per customer?
In my opinion, that should be plastered on the wall, on the dashboards of every single marketing and sales team because that's what we're aiming for. That's where you begin and that's how I believe how you get to realistic revenue goals that everyone can buy into. Just drill down one level to net new and cross-sell.
Ben: Absolutely. I love how simple that framework really makes things because you give yourself a concrete target, and once you start thinking about it that way in terms of your strategy and execution, it becomes much easier to work backward and start asking yourself, if I need to get X number new customers or I need to hit X revenue goals, I know that the customer is worth about this. You start thinking about it that way, it puts you in a position, I think, where you can just start asking questions. If I need to get this done what could I do to influence that?
I think sometimes marketers kind of think about it coming out from the other direction. These are the types of things I'm good at executing. This is the type of strategy that has worked well for us in the past. Then I think they start thinking like, okay, if we do these things, what numbers do we think we can land on? Again, it’s fear-driven. It’s trying to lean into what you know you're good at instead of aiming toward the numbers your business needs to hit if anybody is still going to have a job.
I really, really like the way that you framed that. Drilling into that thought maybe just one level deeper, why should marketers really lean into the idea of setting goals that are on the aggressive side? Just on an emotional standpoint, why does it benefit them to reorient their thinking towards pushing for more growth or pushing for numbers that may feel like they're just a little bit beyond what they're comfortable with reaching for?
I guess really, the essence of what I'm asking is, I think that when you tell marketers to get aggressive if they're not super confident, they might feel like that's just a frightening proposition. How can you get right with yourself to reassure yourself that if you set an aggressive goal, that you can reassure yourselves that that's going to be a goal you can actually achieve?
Darrell: I think a lot of that, there's a part of us that wants to hedge our bets a little bit. Let’s just hit the goal [...] we can never achieve it. But I want to submit a goal for marketers that might be a little bit different than what we traditionally think of.
By the way, just by way of context, I mentioned earlier, I've been involved in inbound marketing since 2014 with my agency. I'm a partner in several companies but my agency is a HubSpot partner, so we've been engaged in that and in that whole world of inbound. But what I came to realize as evidence, those listening in can't see me, but I am a B2B. I'm squarely in the business-to-business world.
We're laughing because I'm on a sales podcast later today, the Sales And Marketing Alignment. I'm suited up. I got the navy jacket and all of that. I'm a B2B guy, Ben. In business to business in particular—and this is going to tie through an aggressive marketing goal—I say when you know who your ideal client is, which is a huge topic of a revenue growth engine, then you can know who your ideal prospects are.
For most businesses—whether your geography is local, regional, or national—if you know who your ideal client is, you should be able to know exactly who your ideal prospects are. Then you focus your sales team on those and your marketing. This is where it gets a little bit where I think we can start to set aggressive goals.
If I know I have 1000 ideal prospects, I'm going to divvy those up between my sales team. I'm going to tell my sales team, you can call on anyone you want. You can sell to anybody you want. Guaranteed 100%, we will always call on these companies a certain number of times per quarter. That's just the way it works. I don’t want to call in that account, no problem, Mr. and Ms. sales rep. We’ll give it to someone else. But 100% sales is geared at and aimed at what I call 100% coverage. Now, how does that apply to marketing and marketing goals?
I think, for my friends listening in that are in the B2B space, we should aim and set the goal for 100% coverage of our ideal prospects from a marketing standpoint. Let me explain. From a sales standpoint, I'm saying 100% outreach from that salesperson to the target account. From a company perspective, marketing should aim at 100% coverage for our ideal account.
We've got 1000 target accounts of ideal prospects, then the question we should be asking in marketing is, what can we do to get on the radar of every single one of those ideal prospects? Will we ever hit 100%? No. But what can we strive towards? Because I think a lot of times in marketing, you look at the classic marketing metric, especially in digital marketing, how much traffic did we get? What's our click-through? How are our ads performing? All of those things. What are our conversions?
There are dozens and dozens of metrics. How is the audience growing, et cetera? That’s all good. I'm not saying that’s not important, but for my B2B friends, I think what's most important is what I would call, just as we would call outbound selling, I call it outbound marketing. It really is an account-based marketing mindset that says, okay, we got these 1000 target accounts, they're ideal clients, as a marketing team, what do we need to do to make sure we’re on the radar of every one of them? That’s where we put all the tactics focused on engagement.
Salespeople, we get a lot of sales and marketing conflicts in a lot of organizations. You're not giving us enough leads. Marketing would start giving them more leads. Then salespeople say what, these leads are garbage. They're not qualified. I say, stop it. Stop it. Stop making this about leads. Start making this about engagement.
Do we have 100% coverage? Or you might even say, you might define it as 100% engagement with our ideal prospects. I like to use coverage on the net new side. On the cross-sale side, the other question for marketing driving cross-sale revenue is what percent engagement do we have with our current clients? Especially those ones that fit the ideal client profile. Because if we’re going to hit the cross sale numbers, we need to be engaged.
It is an aggressive metric just by its nature, but the standard that I believe we should be aiming for. I'm speaking primarily to our B2B friends, not people that are selling plumbing, roofing, or whatever to a broad mass market, but people who are targeting ideal clients, our metric should be on marketing 100% coverage for net new, and 100% engagement for cross sale.
We unpack that a little bit in Revenue Growth Engine. But that to me, that’s an aggressive goal that I know as a marketer, I go, I don’t know if I can get 100% coverage. You can’t, but can we strive towards that? I think in that process, yes, track web traffic growth, track audience growth, track social engagement. Track all these things, but don’t lose the focus on the most important thing we’ve got to do is engage with these ideal prospects so that we’re driving net new with the right types of companies.
Ben: Yeah. I think that’s a very thorough answer.
Darrell: Thank you. thank you, I think.
Ben: No. That's a compliment. But I think if we can distill that down a bit into just maybe a few bullet points for our listeners, it feels like you're getting back to something that I think you really nailed with the first questions, and that’s really like you can move a lot of fear just by getting really concrete and very focused about what your goals are. Because I think part of what you know makes goal setting scary is you feel like, I have no idea if I can actually hit that number.
But if you just pin down a number like 100% coverage or just make it something that is concrete and not so ambiguous. Now you've got a starting point. From there, you can start identifying, what is the metric? What's the KPI that is the absolute closest for revenue that we can reasonably track? You just keep going just one level down, one level down, and one level down. Pretty soon, those questions start to answer themselves. I think that's a really, really good answer to that question that went way beyond just the obvious response.
Darrell: Yeah, and let's just make it practical. How would you do that? Let's think about the marketing automation system that you have. You've got everything. Hopefully, you have all your ideal prospects in the system and they are marked as ideal prospects who can filter out to ideal prospects.
Then we look at engagement, interactions, engagement with emails that you send, social engagement with ads, whatever tactics you're using, and you assign scores to that engagement. But then we report back on our ideal prospects. What percent of them engaged at one or more? We got on the radar in anything, what percent engagement do we have?
If it's 55% this quarter, can we get that engagement up to 65% next quarter? What could we do? I'm talking to my B2B friends, but the reality is, it's not important that the entire world knows what you do. It's important that your ideal prospects know what you do. That's where I think as marketing, and this is leaning more towards an account-based marketing mindset.
Account-based marketing is primarily lived at the enterprise level. But as we look down across businesses of all sizes, the marketing metrics should be 100% coverage of net new and 100% engagement with our current clients. We can measure that inside a marketing automation system.
Ben: Sure, yeah. Absolutely. When they're going through their goal-setting process, which is getting into the early portion of Q4, probably having this conversation right now as we speak, or probably in the thick of it, how can they know if their goals are actually ambitious enough? Say they're bought into the idea of like, you know what, we need to set goals that are really going to drive some growth for the business. They're going to stretch us and challenge us to really make an impact.
How can they know or feel confident that they are setting goals that are actually ambitious while still remaining achievable? Because I think there does come a limit or a point where you might be unreasonable a little bit. You start to swing in the other direction where instead of playing it too safe, you might run into the issue of over-promising in a way that is setting yourself up—even if you did really well, you might be setting yourself up for failure.
If your boss or your clients think that you told them you were going to do one thing and then you ended up achieving something else. How can marketers gauge or just feel like they're finding that edge between being ambitious, but also being achievable, but also not playing it too safe? Because I feel like that's a fine needle to thread there a little bit.
Darrell: It's interesting that you're asking that question, I'm thinking about the answer to it maybe in a little bit different way in terms of as marketers, we are answering to up the corporate chain. We're answering to the VP of Marketing who's answering into the C-Suite. However your organization is structured, you may be answering into CRO, whatever that is.
Regardless of how your organization is structured, these high-level goals that we've talked about of revenue growth, what is my total number of clients? What's my revenue per client? How am I doing with coverage in sales and marketing for net new and engagement with sales and marketing for current customers?
Those are the things that then we need to go down a level and go, okay, now, can we tie our specific goals—whatever role we're in. If we're in a content marketing role, we're in an SEO, SEM role, or whatever role you play, how can you tie the metrics that you're delivering up to that coverage plan, and then ultimately, up to driving net new or cross-sell revenue?
We're all aware that this is a moving target. Everything's changing, obviously, email metrics just totally got wiped out. That's a totally new world with not getting data off Apple devices, for example. How do you measure that and show growth? The web is going to continue to change. I think that the privacy regulations and all of that are going to make marketing data that we used to get a little harder to get.
Another reason, once again, to start looking at, how do I take what I'm doing and tie that to driving 100% coverage with net new and 100% engagement, all the way up to driving revenue results. I think that's wherein this dynamic marketplace where the scorecard is changing. Things are shuffling around in terms of how we engage and how we can measure or not measure some of the stuff that we're doing.
I would continue to encourage listeners to set goals at some of those mid and higher levels revenue, higher-level coverage, mid-level; and then try your best to take the tactical things that you're doing across all the different communication platforms and strategies, and tie those to net new or cross-sell. I think when you do that, you're going to get a little bit more grace in terms of what you're able to do or what you're able to not do. Because at the end of the day, what matters in B2B in particular, are we covering our ideal target accounts? Are we driving revenue growth?
Similarly, are we covering our current client base and driving cross-sell revenue? I will say, just as a little footnote to that, Ben, as I'm working in my team is working doing revenue growth plans for companies and putting together a strategy for them to put all the processes from a sales and marketing standpoint in place to drive net new and cross-sell, I find about three to one, most companies are better at net new business than they are at cross-selling revenue.
I'll just challenge our marketers out there to think more about how can we drive cross-sell revenue inside our current client base? I'm not saying abandon net new, but the low-hanging fruit in a lot of organizations from the sales and marketing standpoint is selling more to the current client base. Marketing, we get hammered for leads. That's cool. That's fine, especially if they're ideal prospects. I still say we need coverage and engagement.
My friend, Mark Hunter, who is known very well in the sales world. Mark Hunter would say, you don't close a sale, you open a relationship. Once that relationship is open and someone has given us real permission by signing a check or a purchase order to deliver value to them and communicate with them. As content marketers, in particular, we have as much role or more of a role to play with the current customer base than we do even with the market in general, and really helping them realize the full benefit of everything they could get from our organization.
Ben: Yeah, for sure. I love the idea of thinking of making sales, not closing something down, but opening something up. That's such a simple thing, but that's a pretty radical shift in thinking about it.
Darrell: If you think of Seth Godin, Permission Marketing, the classic on this, the one that kicked this whole content marketing thing into motion. The ultimate permission is not a subscribe. The ultimate permission is when I actually write you a check and buy something. You're in, you've got permission. Ironically, for a lot of companies, the moment someone buys something, we hand them off to customer success, the sales department disengages, and marketing—other than maybe sending out a newsletter or something—disengages.
The reality is, these are, in a lot of ways, our best prospects because rarely does someone step in and buy everything on the first pass. They'll get your core product or service, and then there are all kinds of other stuff you can sell. If you're setting goals, we're talking about goals here in Q4, what are your goals for cross-sell? What are your goals for engaging with your client base? What strategies, tactics, and what's the plan to cross-sell? Because you can drive a lot of revenue with an audience where you already have permission to communicate with them.
Ben: Yeah, I think that's so true. These people already like you.
Darrell: Yeah, I hope so. They bought something and part of this cross-sell, I'm really passionate. One of the most important cylinders in your revenue growth engine is really considering the onboarding process. What are you doing during the first 100 days? Tip of the hat to Joey Coleman, never lose a customer again. That first 100 days are where you set the stage for the rest of your relationship.
They're going to decide if they're going to buy anything from you ever again or if they're going to cancel at the next renewal opportunity. I'd rather set that first 100 days up from a marketing and communication standpoint and also from a sales standpoint, to where they feel invited into a community rather than a fish that just got landed, and it's going to get filleted and eaten for dinner. There is a lot of opportunity for marketing starting with onboarding and continuing throughout the whole journey and experience that a client has while they're under your care.
Ben: I think something that's important to keep in mind with regard to goal setting is to be prepared for what might happen should you not reach your goals? To my way of thinking, if you never fail, all it means is that you're not trying hard enough. At some point, you are going to miss a number that you set out to achieve.
When that happens, the three most important things you can do are explain what happened, explain why it happened, and whether or not there were factors that were both within and maybe outside of your control to influence that outcome, and explain what you're going to do to course-correct and to get back on track. Most reasonable people will accept a good explanation that follows that framework. It can turn what might feel like a disaster into a learning experience that will help you do better the next time around. Now, back to Darrell.
This is getting a little bit more down into the weeds, but typically, we can think of what goals are what you might describe as business goals and then marketing goals. Let's just say you want to increase engagement amongst current customers by X percent, or maybe a company does decide we want to increase new leads by X percent or we want to hit a concrete net total of new accounts by a certain date, whatever it might be.
As a marketer, you might have several metrics that you can track along with various touchpoints, maybe one or two KPIs that you really focus on. Just getting as close to driving those business goals is what marketing can reasonably influence. I think this is a pretty basic question, but I think it's one that's really difficult to answer. I think it's something that people in this industry tend to find challenging.
How can you identify metrics in KPIs? How can you identify your real KPIs? What's the actual metric that is as close to that business goal as what you can get? It's not really you’re asking for a specific thing, but what does the process for finding a KPI really look like? Because sometimes I hear marketers talk about what their KPIs are. They sound like metrics. They don't really sound like key performance indicators a lot of the time.
Darrell: I think that right there, you just nailed it. There's a difference between metrics and performance. In Revenue Growth Engine, I'd say and I'm a firm believer that no customer, no client has ever bought a product or service from your company. Nobody buys products and services, they buy the outcomes. Those products and services deliver.
Simultaneously, if you think about this from the perspective of your internal customers, which is moving up into the C-Suite and all of that, no C-Suite ever "hires" or "fields" a marketing team to drive website traffic, email clicks, or ad blah, blah, blah. In fact, for most of the audience, your core customer, if I use that analogy moving up into the C-Suite in the leadership of your organization, most of the metrics that we have in marketing mean absolutely nothing to them. Really, it's like voodoo, all of these things. They keep changing.
If you think about marketing metrics, yes, marketing. In marketing, we have so many metrics, dozens and dozens and dozens of metrics. This is going to be so refreshing to the business outcomes that the C-Suite wants. The key performance indicator is what we've been talking about all along.
Who are our ideal prospects and clients? How well did we engage with them, and what business resulted from it? Revenue dollars. By the way, you're just fine-tuning, but the number of leads is not a business goal. Revenue is a business goal. The number of new customers is a business goal. Revenue per customer measuring cross-sell is a business goal.
If I can say to my marketing friends, I wear the marketing hat, I also wear a business owner myself, and consulting with business owners across mid and large organizations, most business owners, the business executive level is aiming at dollars—dollars and numbers of customers. These are the two things. Performance indicator, if I want to report a KPI, what I would do is I would say, here's how many customers we had last quarter, here's how many we have this quarter, here's our revenue per customer for last quarter.
Revenue per customer is easy, by the way. It's just total revenue divided by that first number, number of customers. It was this much last quarter, it's this much this quarter. That's what I put on the first slide. The second slide, here's how we did in covering our thousand ideal clients and our thousand ideal prospects, whatever those are, show coverage. Then say, and if you want to see all of the leading indicators, I've got 80 more pages. My slide deck would be happy to show you. They'll say, no, we're good, thank you.
Seriously though, I think this is one of the things where we miss it in marketing. We got to tie to top-level and mid-level business goals. Revenue, number of customers, revenue per client, and then what are we doing to cover our addressable market? I think if we elevate the conversation to the actual outcomes our internal clients or internal customers want, then there's less discussion about some of these things that they really don't understand anyway. If they did, they wouldn't have hired you. I trust that you understand how to drive the vehicle—web, search, social, all of the different tactics, and all of that.
Maybe a little bit different answer than what you were looking for. But I think key performance indicators, you nailed it at the beginning. We got a lot of metrics, but what we need is performance. That's the keyword in key performance indicators are performance. How are those things doing driving coverage and driving results?
Ben: I think that's a great answer because it's not an easy question to respond to. I think that you really got the response I was looking for or was maybe hoping to share with our audience. Sometimes I think that we have a tendency to overcomplicate things, to chase after the wrong things, or to chase after goals that maybe sound good to us, but maybe doesn't mean anything to a stakeholder because they're just not close enough to revenue or to actual business growth, which is really what we're talking about achieving in this conversation.
Darrell: Another angle on this, Ben, I want to bring into this too is if you're counting things and measuring things that the people that you report up to don't necessarily understand or want to understand, another way to do it is to assign revenue to those metrics. Let's see a really simple metric. We're using website visitors. It's totally simple, very measurable. What if you can take your net new revenue for the quarter and correlate that with revenue per website visitor?
If you want to make a case for more investment, say, in search engine marketing or whatever tactic you believe is a smart move for the company, take it down to—it's an old trick from the sales world. We used to motivate ourselves by going, okay, I know it takes 20 calls to make an appointment. I know it takes three appointments to make a sale. I know an average sale makes this much money. I could back it up and go, I don't want to make another call. But then, every time I pick up the phone and make $18.47, all right, I'll make one more call.
That's how salespeople motivate themselves to do the grunt work. Marketing is the same way. If you want to get a budget for some of these things, you want to clarify the importance of it, or at least attach some number to it, you might go revenue per click, revenue per website visitor. Is the website visit the only thing responsible for them buying something? Of course not. But now, we just want to make the connection at every possible moment to, how is this connected to revenue? I think that's the fundamental question for key performance indicators.
Ben: Yeah, definitely. I think if marketers can answer that question, they'll put themselves on the right path.
Darrell: Yeah, absolutely. You'll win the hearts and minds of the people that are responsible for budget, performance reviews, and all of that in your organization. This has been a really interesting conversation because I believe as a marketer and sales professionals, the most important thing we can do is focus our message on the outcomes that our ideal clients want. They want to hear, what's in it for me? This is classic good content, written to the persona and the outcomes they want. Use that same mindset when you're thinking about key performance indicators.
There's a lot of shop talk that we can talk about in the marketing world and dozens of dashboards, bells and whistles, flashing lights, and all of that we can put in place. But ultimately, what our clients—the executive suite—wants to see is, how are you doing at driving revenue and what ideas do you have to help us get more net new and more cross-sell? Those are the things.
The last thing I'll say about numbers and metrics, the challenge with marketing is it's frustratingly qualitative. It is. We got a lot of measurements in the back end, but there's a huge part of marketing that's not quantitative, it's qualitative. As much as we rely on data, there's tension here because marketers also rely on instinct.
Like you're saying these numbers, a dip in a certain metric may actually be a good thing. Maybe that we're just getting better quality. So if you drive it back up to revenue growth, I think that's where you start to get real metrics that mean something.
Ben: Yeah, absolutely. Last question I'm going to throw your way. Let's say a listener goes out, they do all these things, they follow the advice they're being given in this conversation, and they really take it to heart. They've got all this momentum behind them. They get super excited and then 12 months later, they miss their goal.
How would you recommend that they approach the conversation with their stakeholders to explain why they missed that goal and what are they going to do about it? Because it's very possible that if you set a goal right now, so many things outside of your ability to control or to influence can happen that can really render it physically impossible to hit that goal. This has happened to me before in the past.
To cite a specific example, we had a client that was just killing it on Facebook circa 2014. They made a change to the algorithm. They basically turn off the spigot. Suddenly, the way that you're doing things before doesn't make sense. You can't hit your goal. We couldn't hit the goal that we had set the way that things have been going because we needed to completely rethink our entire approach. That wasn't going to get done in a weekend.
It was near the end of the year when this happened. The client didn't like being told that this was beyond our control, and from their perspective, they were paying us to pull rabbits out of hats.
I think that that's just one example of a very common scenario that I think marketers find themselves in, maybe more often than we would like. But there are ways to approach the conversation in a way that doesn't kill that relationship either with that client or ways that you can put things in the context that a normal person can understand and a reasonable person will accept. How do you do that? You find yourself in that kind of scenario, how do you just handle the person-to-person conversation with people that you're going to have to explain that to?
Darrell: First of all, Ben, I totally feel that. Even as you're telling that story, I'm just flashing back. Some of the people listening in our marketing department inside an organization, some people listening in our marketing agency that's servicing the organization. When we say you have a client, you actually do have a client. It's not just the internal stakeholder, it's your client. This is a real struggle.
I think that as you were talking, I was thinking about my good friend, Pablo Giacopelli. He's the author of Holding On Loosely. He said, Darrell, failure is the most fertile learning ground on planet earth, and to fail is finding answers in life. I think we're going to fail all the time. We have a very dynamic marketplace. You could give dozens of examples of the last decade of things that have changed. One thing I know for sure that won't change is that things will continue to change. This is the world we're in.
When something like that happens, I think it's really, really critical, first of all, that we begin with the end in mind, which is revenue. We realize that that Facebook tactic was driving revenue. When that thing stops, it's a real problem. Probably the client communicated that. I'm quite confident.
Here's what I mean by that. Is the goal to get leads off Facebook or is the goal to drive revenue? If the goal is to drive sustainable revenue, the real lesson off that is why did we just have one tactic that was primarily driving revenue?
That's where I think we learned lessons along the way to go, okay, yeah, I know Facebook's paying out big time right now, but to give our internal or external clients the best advice, it would be smart realizing what we've learned along the way that things change that we should probably have two or three different core strategies in motion. Even if one's not performing as well as Facebook, putting all the chips on that number might not have been the best idea.
This is where when you fail, and in marketing, we will fail. I'm going to guarantee that. You're going to have stuff that falls flat on its face or stuff that was crushing it that just takes a nosedive. It's important that you find answers in life, and fail. You fail forward, you fail well. There are all kinds of books written about this that we really learn.
The bigger lesson in that story and in other similar ones I've been a part of is, wow, it would have been smarter if we had multiple strategies in place. Then we go to the back to the internal stakeholder or the client and we go, look, you know what, we had all our chips on this, the rules changed, Facebook changed, whatever. We're putting our best minds towards getting this thing back up and running. But going forward, it would be smart, we believe, if we had multiple tactics. Here are the three other things we think we should launch.
Now take that forward into future recommendations to go, hey, look, I know you want to put all your dollars on Facebook right now, that's great, but here's what we've learned previously. You should diversify your portfolio, don't just put it all on one stock or don't put all your chips on one number. I think that the way we communicate is important. Are we responsible for it?
We're not responsible for Facebook, Google, or whoever changing their algorithms. But we are responsible for knowing that that's a possibility and knowing that anything—especially in digital that we've experienced over the last two decades of digital marketing—is subject to change. I think we do bear a little bit of responsibility in giving good advice to diversify our strategies.
Ben: I love that answer because it kind of ties back to something you started off on at the beginning of this conversation in how much fear can hold marketers back and hold businesses back. If you're not putting all your eggs in one basket, that's a pretty good way to mitigate some of that uneasiness with things. Rather than placing one bet, you're placing multiple bets.
When you do that, odds are, enough of those bets will probably pay off to where you're going to drive revenue. You're not going to have to go face your stakeholder and tell them why you burned all the cash they gave you to grow the business. I think that's a great response. Darrell, this has been awesome.
Darrell: I had a great time, Ben.
Ben: Thanks so much once again for coming on the show. If our listeners want to find you, your book on the web, or your business, where would you recommend they go look?
Darrell: If you're listening, you can just text the word revenue to 21000. That'll get you access to all the resources on our website. If you want a copy of Revenue Growth Engine, if you'll pay the shipping and handling, I'll get an autographed copy headed your way. Lots of tools in there. My heart is to resource and to help marketing people and also marketing and sales in their alignment communication. I think you'll find a lot of tools in this book that'll help in that direction.
Ben: Sure, great stuff. Darrell, thanks again for coming on the show. I feel like I got a lot out of this conversation. I'm confident that our listeners will as well.
Ben Sailer has over 14 years of experience in the field of marketing. He is considered an expert in inbound marketing through his incredible skills with copywriting, SEO, content strategy, and project management.
Ben is currently an Inbound Marketing Director at Automattic, working to grow WordPress.com as the top managed hosting solution for WordPress websites. WordPress is one of the most powerful website creation tools in the industry.
In this role, he looks to attract customers with content designed to attract qualified leads. Ben plays a critical role in driving the growth and success of a company by attracting and engaging customers through relevant and helpful content and interactions.
Ben works closely with senior management to align the inbound marketing efforts with the overall business objectives. He continuously measures the effectiveness of marketing campaigns to improve them. He is also involved in managing budgets and mentoring the inbound marketing team.