Why B2B and Manufacturing Marketers Often Fail (And How They Can Succeed) With James Soto From Industrial Strength Marketing [AMP 183]
CoSchedule's Headline Analyzer Studio will score your overall headline quality and rate its ability to result in social shares, increased traffic, and SEO value.Test every headline before you publish. Try Headline Studio »
Do you need a prescription for fixing what’s wrong with marketing in the manufacturing space? It’s not a dose of flashy trends or tactics, but philosophical and foundational ways of thinking differently.
Today’s guest is James Soto from Industrial Strength Marketing, an agency dedicated to helping industrial manufacturers make marketing the strength of their business to meet customers’ needs.
Some of the highlights of the show include:
- Family Business: Manufacturing experience through analog, digital, cell transition
- Bluetooth Backbone: Visual reality momentum on standards and sources
- Promise to practice being better marketers and sellers of products and services
- Critical Component: Make way of living life and doing business obsolete
- Top Tenets: Change, plan, communicate, respond, and measure success
- Marketers’ Mindset: Change should not mean doing, making, or writing stuff
- Clarity: Who are we? Where’re we going? How do we get there?
- Communication: Persistently create engaging, useful, and actionable content
- Excellence in Execution: Being who you are and being the industrial-est
- Marketing Readiness Assessment: What should be the next steps?
James: Hey, thanks for having me, Ben. Glad to be here.
Ben: We’re glad to have you. Would you mind just taking a moment to introduce yourself and explain what you do at your agency, Industrial.
Yes. My name’s James Soto. I’m the founder and CEO of Industrial Strength Marketing. That’s our full name but our friends just call us INDUSTRIAL. We have a focus squarely on the manufacturing sector. At the end of the day, I work for my team and their families, no one works for me. I’m here to really serve the needs of our clients, that’s what we try to think about every single day.
I grew up in manufacturing, I was born into a family. My father has been in manufacturing for 42 years. I worked my way through college on the plant floor. My sister became an industrial engineer and worked through the transition from analog and digital through the 90s, 94, Yahoo! […] and cellular networks were being built. My company was providing information in and around things like Bluetooth standards when they were just funny numbers and standards organizations that were forming really the backbone to really what has created the digital reality of today, a lot of that momentum was happening in the 90s.
Fast forward to ’98, Google was formed and going into the early 2000s. I was recruited by, of all things, one of the top industrial sourcing sites, basically the Google of Industrial and Thomas Publishing. They were transitioning from a traditional directory-based model to really becoming more of a destination site and really looking at the impact of the transition of B2B industrials were going online for sourcing and connecting industrial buyers and suppliers. I ran a big part of that business and really as part of it, it was exposed to hundreds and hundreds of companies and saw a major problem in the market that, for the most part, marketing was either missing, mismanaged, or misunderstood in the manufacturing sectors and they were way behind the adoption curve.
Created Industrial Strength Marketing to help these companies make marketing the strength of their business, that’s really where it led. Fast forward, we’ve grown to be perhaps one of the most well-known agencies squarely focused on the sector, manufacturing, innovation, industrial technology, services. We’ve been very blessed with multiple Inc. 5000 fastest growing company, best places to work. That’s all because we have great people, great teams, great clients, and we live by really strong core values.
That leads us to today where we’re really just trying to help people. Our promise today—and this is kind of where I’ll leave it off—is to really help companies, Industrial’s, be better marketers and sellers of their products and services. That’s our promise, because we can’t do things for them. They have to have great practices. But we also have to fill in sometimes totally, but sometimes just very discreetly. That’s what we’ve built, that’s what takes a lot of my time.
Ben: Something that I understand is that, in your view, industrial marketers are really struggling right now and that a lot of them are actually failing to live up to their potential or to be as successful as what they could be. From your perspective, what are some of the top problems that you feel that industrial and manufacturing marketers are facing and what’s holding them back from success right now?
James: I like to look at things at macro, I think we’re humans. The first thing is, I think what’s really holding folks back, in my opinion, is the lack of the belief that you have to make your way of living life and doing business obsolete before generational technology market forces or the competition does. When you really look at the marketing sciences and what we do, I believe that that’s a critical component of that equation. Certainly all those forces—generational technology, competitive forces—are a big factor.
Everything comes down to the leaders. The first area I see where they’re falling down, and certainly in the manufacturing sector and even in all segments, is at an executive level, is there that belief? Do they fail to believe in marketing? Do they have a bad relationship with it? Have they been burnt? They spent money and it’s so intangible to them, they don’t know what’s happening or if it’s a CFO having to make all these proposals of how to spend money and have to figure out where they make their bets on dollars.
Marketing without the ability to attribute it to something that addresses a growth agenda has really created this issue of belief. That premise that created the business on which was, for the most part, in the 258,000 manufacturers in the United States, marketing is missing, mismanaged or misunderstood. You only have to look so far as look at those top industry weeks, 5000 companies. Take out the apples and the consumer focused ones like where the end products of the consumer.
When you look at the real true B2B industrials, you see that, go look up their org charts and see how many of them have a chief marketing officer. You’d be stunned by the lack of representation of an executive level marketer versus a slash role in sales and marketing. That starts to show really where the priorities and their perspective of that marketing function is.
The second area is they failed to commit. They’ve got to believe and you start to see that by structure but it’s the failure to commit to that and see it through. You really have to see where you are in that journey. Are you traditional the way you used to do it in the old days? Are you really, really that digital pacesetter where you are on that journey?
The next area we see a lot of failure is the failure to plan. One of the core questions we ask, we look at marketing readiness, is we ask, “Tell us about your marketing planning process and the actual plan itself.” What we really find when we actually see the product, which is typically hard to get even with NDA, we see that there truly isn’t a planning, a plan, or even a form. If there is one, it’s not worth the paper it’s written on and it’s not actually something they adhere to. It’s, “Here’s my comp plan and these are things I have to do and check off, hit my comp plan or buy strategy.” It depends on what level, right? I’m looking at the implementer level of strategic marketing.
I think the last area and I think a lot of this feeds to it all, is that really the failure to measure. There is a reason why there’s a lack of trust in a lot of organizations at the executive level. You notice, I’m not talking to you mid-level marketers, all entry level, mid marketers on up. I still really believe that the ultimate failure is a lack of connectivity and value placed on it because there’s no context.
Our leaders actually need our help as marketers and the measurement component allows us to have that swagger, allows us to say, “You know what? We can’t measure. Guess what? This is a baseline here because we don’t have these metrics.” For that reason, I absolutely believe we have to look at the predictive success metrics of things about sales, marketing, function, finance, positioning, branding, customer understanding, why people do business and don’t do business with you.
From there, you can create a framework to understand what you are and aren’t doing, and you can now actually manage a marketing function because you’re measuring it. But it starts with belief and I think that’s the fundamental opportunity of a lifetime for a marketer, whether you’re an entry level person doing brochure design, or you’re actually doing inbound, or you’re doing account based marketing. You’re looking at AI, predictive, and a tent-based modeling.
All of that, I think there’s an opportunity for anyone who really wants it, to make the case for marketing and go direct to the executives, and make your case, and back it up and show that passion and caring for your business because none of this matters if you don’t center it on the customer and their needs. It’s that and the ability for the culture to center around the customer. I think that is why they’re failing, they’re finding something in that whole range of activities that’s just feeding and compounding upon the next.
Ben: I think that is so true that everything that you do is going to have compound effects in everything else that you do. Nothing we do as marketers really exist in a vacuum. I think that’s a great insight there for sure. To kind of continue on with that thought, if these marketers don’t do something right now to change how they’re thinking, how they’re operating, and how they’re approaching marketing, what might the consequences be?
James: I think the issue there is, is it the issue of not changing as a marketer? Or is it the issue of how do you deal with change itself? One of the things we have to do when you look at a world where you guys have a great solution focused on bringing folks together and literally the left hand knows what the right hand is doing.
From a marketing team standpoint, there are 7000 different technologies out there. MarTech, Technologies, if you look at the big landscapes and the maps that they do, I think Chief Martech does one. You start to look at the overwhelming amount of things and capability and shiny objects, quite frankly, that we can look at. I think what change should not mean is doing stuff, or just making stuff, or writing stuff.
I often don’t really talk about that because I believe, as marketers, we need to shift from our value set being the primary place and making things to actually delivering value strategically and authoritatively through that authority and insights to people around. How do we actually grow the business? How do we address the growth agenda? That’s the business you want to be in, to the extent that you get to the point where you’re in the activation of those things.
If you are that artisan, if you’re that practitioner, and you were that craftsman, then you can go in and have clarity of, here’s the vision, here’s we’re putting our money where our mouth is with the vision of the business and we’re putting our resources behind it. We know who our customer is. We can articulate why they do business with us, what are the things we have to get over in terms of hurdles. We understand what their currencies are, how we’re made to feel, how we can really be real.
When you get to that and the clarity of who your customer is, what their challenges are, what are the key targets that are important and not important to you, and then understanding this critical point of differentiation and positioning of your business, now, all of a sudden at the brand level, you as a marketer, are able to implement the strategic vision of the at the corporate level of, “Hey, this is the business we should be in,” or at the business unit level, “How do we compete?”
When you’re implementing at that level, that change you’re talking about, the mindset is centered around the customer. How do we deliver super high value and how do we leverage our mastery of what we do? Because it’s in strategic context, it’s a value based context. It’s a scientific look at the client with the highest threshold of value and a strong commitment to mitigating and refusing to be noise. That’s how we get through change. We have an aspiration to create a higher standard for the organization about what is marketing, what does it mean to our business, and what’s the key function? Are we willing to go through the change in the pain to do that tooling up? Getting our first shot, being ready? Let’s get ready before we start doing stuff.
That’s where I think we’ve got a great chance to literally be a solution for the company. Again, it’s really to really inspire people to be brave and believe that they can help their companies truly make marketing the strength of their business. I think that’s the fundamental question, that is in talking about tactics. It’s about the existential issue and it’s sometimes going up to the leader and saying look, you hired me. I would believe you always want me to shoot straight and hopefully have a healthy organization, we can get access to that leader or help.
You’re just brave enough to go up to them and say I care about this company. I want it to grow. I don’t want to just make the case for staff and I want to do social media. Dive deep and look at the fundamental issue. That leader needs help, know what they don’t know, and you can be that guide. You can be that person that helps them through that transformation and it’s a mindset issue. It’s like, how do I get your mind understanding this?
Lastly, the way I’ve learned how to get through that mindset issue is to stop talking through jargon. Often, I really talk about let’s start with clarity. Who are we? Where are we going? How are we going to get there? Envision values, you hear a brand all the time but I just position it as clarity. I also look at Patrick Lencioni, like The Advantage and books like that but I also believe that starts with health. If they have a healthy leadership where they can communicate and let me tell you, there’s a lot of unhealthy companies and they know how to be a cohesive leadership team, have constructive conflict, and do things like that.
Marketing can bring out some real, real negativity when you have that conversation because it’s still perceived by so many as an expense. We start with clarity, and the next thing we look at is how do we really focus and be targeted, understanding who we’re targeting. What’s that customer’s segment and what is that problem in the market we’re really solving? It’s almost reimagining our business model. What’s the value proposition? What’s the customer segment? What’s the pain in the market we’re addressing? I think it’s those fundamentals and that’s why we’re being targeted.
The next kind of tenet I talk about is planning. You’ve got to have a plan. When we start to look at it, it’s funny how most of the upfront work after customer understanding and competitiveness and what, is if you have clarity, if you understand who the customer is, you’re centered on their needs. Now, you can build a plan to start to serve those needs and anticipate what their challenges are because the more we move from asking people to marry us to saying hey, let’s go on a few dates and let’s actually deliver value. Let’s actually publish.
I think every branch should be the publisher of the fundamental destination online, offline, wherever about how you succeed in that business. How do you grow? How do you have a great career there? How do you solve problems? How to get people in and out of your type changing shop? If you sell wheel balancers and wheel changing equipment. You’ve got to be in that business. That ability to have a plan is so important and then you can build strategic frameworks.
You can start looking at how we can really be quicker at being discoverable? Instead of talking about SEO and all that stuff, we talk about how we can be found by the right people at the right time wherever, whenever, however they may be looking? With a leader if you’re talking in those terms, that’s the core essence of what you’re trying to do. Once you focus on discoverability like chicken and the egg, it’s being communicative.
Instead of talking about content, strategy and this, we need to atomize our content across blah, blah, blah, you got to really look at how are we going to be persistently like next level publisher level communicative and that context be delivered at the right time to the right person? Please, not wrong, it’s too expensive. It’s got to be contextually engaging, useful and actionable. It’s got to deliver value and then we look at that.
The next tenet that I think’s critical about solving these problems and why people are failing and this is because there’s so many quick available choices, and so much of the buying journey comes and loops back and forth to our digital presence. When they are ready to have the friction of a human involved, we have to make sure we are responsive. The data shows from Harvard Business Review that 27% of leads are never even followed up on.
They don’t realize the fact if you are first to the opportunity, meaning there’s three more folks there where they’re looking, that the rates go up exponentially, that you’re not going to even have that enter your sales cycle. If you’re beyond the first hour, it goes down like 70% according to some studies of your ability. Responsiveness, whether it’s service, whether it’s social engagement, whether it’s actually a B2B request for quotes or information is critical. Responsiveness is a key tenet.
Then, let’s start talking about CRM. Let’s start talking about seeing the technological plumbing that it takes to do that. Obviously, then we need to really be transparent. What I mean by that is we’ve got to have transparency into what the hell’s going on in terms of the measures. You’ve got to be camp managers, you don’t measure so you need to be able to have this ability to fail fast, keep and kill.
As part of the planning and as part of the ongoing nature of it, you’re going to need those insights and the transparency to really see what’s happening. I think if we follow those tenets, if we follow that line of thinking, I think we’re going to get the belief, we’re going to turn leaders into believers. I think that’s ultimately what we’re failing to do is addressing them as actually the elephant in the room.
Ben: Something in this conversation that I think is really important on a tactical level to take to heart is the need to be responsive to your customers and to your potential customers. Sometimes it’s easy for us as marketers to think about what we can do to capture someone’s attention at the top of the funnel. I think that’s especially true for those of us who lean heavily on content marketing and maybe social media marketing for generating inbound leads.
But we really need to be challenging ourselves to think bigger than that and also to be thinking deeper than that as well. I really think what we can do is to help sales and success teams engage with the leads all the way through the buying cycle and to be responsive to the customer’s needs long after we first hooked their interests.
Now, in manufacturing, this is really important because buying cycles in that industry can be extremely long. In some cases like a buying cycle might take more than a year and that’s a long time to have to be able to continue to engage with the lead and really providing them value through the duration of that experience. If you can get better at this in any way, it’s entirely possible that your outcomes will improve and your revenue will increase even if you were to bring fewer people into the top of the funnel. Now, back to James.
For my next question, this is something that I feel like the answer to this question is going to just kind of dive deeper into a lot of what you’ve already shared. But I guess maybe they kind of look at this from a little bit of a different perspective, rather than where marketers come up short amongst marketers in the manufacturing space and the B2B space, amongst those who are doing well. What are they doing differently that is setting themselves apart from the masses that kind of seem to be struggling with some of these fundamental things?
James: Yeah, I think the ones that are doing it well, I believe, self-identify as a marketer. I think they self-identify as this is what I do and they take it damn seriously. Here’s the thing. A lot of folks are marketers, a lot of folks are designers, a lot of folks are named in the role in marketing team but not all of them are truly concerned like sharpening the sword, are bucket filling, and are going to the shows. They work on it as if they’re a craftsman. It’s as if there’s an apprenticeship, there’s a commitment to continuous learning and improvement.
We do a lot of consuming. But I got to tell you, I look at having founded and led an agency for as long as I have been working on the media side, in the industrial media side, I’ve been in the business and technology and data side. I found that there’s two folks. There’s folks that never get out of the office that kind of come in and do the job every day and you’ve never seen them out in the wild. It’s not this technique, it’s that this one thing that they’re doing. Again, they’re going from doing marketing. We got to move from doing marketing to being marketers. Do you see what I mean?
For us, when we look at the industrial sector, you have to then level that up within the organizational construct to say I am not only going from doing these things to being that. It’s through where I go, how I act, what I do out of work, in work, what I read. Where they’re going to have to go, it’s not just deeper than that. It’s to the point where they look at it from their company’s standpoint and they embody the brand, they embody the points that make them different.
Let me let me explain that. This is a little abstract but I think I’ll clarify it here. I’ll use this as an example. We compete against thousands of agencies nationwide. We picked our niche and I whittled it down in that sense because we’re so unapologetically industrial. That’s why we went from industrial marketing and we’re like hell as bad as, we’re just industrial. Why we did that, because when we ask our client as every company should if they do their own internal readiness assessment for it.
We asked our clients, why do you do business with us? What do you think has made us? What made the difference? What made us different? To the letter. They say, “James, because you’re industrial. To our team, because you’re industrial.”
Guess what our number one key differentiator is when we look at all the agencies of all shapes, sizes, and areas of focus—we are industrial. We looked at our other differentiators, we center on the client so they can center on their customers. We Kaizen, which is an industrial principle for continuous improvement. Step by step, change for the better. Not everybody does the measurement, not everybody goes through that pain threshold of constantly never being satisfied. It’s very hard as an agency to have that mindset, but you have to, I believe.
But to the point of that industrial and you changing as a marketer, the next level is not just to be positioned as whatever. Let’s say you’re in the business of making Lamborghinis or Ferraris, let’s say making Ferrari’s. You need to embody that brand as a marketer. Everything you do, it’s about being the fastest.
For us, it’s not just being we are industrial and we market and everything that’s reflected, it’s getting everyone through that action inside, outside the office, what we consume, what we read, the plant tours that we do—all that stuff—to be the industrialest because we’re going to win if that is a key requirement to working with a major high-speed vehicle manufacturer, sports car manufacturer or an industrial company.
I go so abstract on this because we get into the thing you do the trick, the hack. It’s not that, it’s a mindset, it’s a people issue. Do you believe that you are in the right place doing the right thing that you’re passionate about? That’s what being who you are and being the est of it, being the indutrialest of it, the fastest, or the strongest if you’re englue or something. Yeah, I think that’s it for me.
Ben: Yeah. I think that makes total sense. That is a great way of things. Go ahead.
James: It’s hard, that’s a big demand for me as a leader. That affects recruiting, that affects gut checks, like are you sure you want to be here? That puts a lot of pressure on an individual to that type of mandate. But let me tell you, when Elon Musk is saying to his SpaceX employees, “Our mission is to make life multi-planetary.” They’re all ready to go to Mars, they’re busting it. There’s steepens science, engineering, iteration, testing, and failing fast. What’s great about that business is they know their master plan, they know those moments like we’re seeing us get there when you see this, when you see that we actually can build a rocket that gets into orbit. You see that we’re getting there. You get to see this.
When we saw the issue of cost reusability and you’ve seen the first landing of a booster rocket, you will know it when we have now gone to 100% reusability through Starship, which is blowing up left and right during iterative testing in Texas right now. You will see it when that first one launches and lands on the moon and then refuels in space and we take our first people to Mars. You will know it when there are thousands of them going back and forth, creating a supply chain to literally reduce the risk of our species going extinct.
I wouldn’t mind being number one in my organization, going to being number 150 in that one. That’s the one I’ll sign up for, and I think that’s the passionate marketers that we’ve got to create is who wants to come on board and be number 42 here at Industrial, or 25. Whatever the number is, I think that’s what it is really about.
Let’s judge ourselves by the value we provide, not just the stuff we do make. If that is your craftsmanship, if you are that artisan, heck, yeah. But so many of us marketers are not illustrators. We’re not UX people, we’re not all of those things and this shiny object deliverables and look at that kick butt campaign. It’s the outcomes and value and that you’re trying to facilitate that serve, because the customer got what they wanted. Company got what it deserved.
Ben: What you’re saying is those 100 growth hacks or whatever I’ve been reading about are maybe not quite so valuable as some of these other much more fundamental, philosophical things that you’re talking about, just like, what are we even doing here?
James: Yeah. But I think excellence is in the execution, right? When you have a framework of that clarity, again, can we look right back to the top of those tenets, and you know what you’re targeting, you’re proactive and you have a plan that’s centered around it. You understand the customer, you understand what you’re doing, what that does is it frees us up.
I think more as the marketers that do the things that make the things, it frees them up with that clarity to be artisans, to be crafts people, to take those growth hacks and literally implementing the corporate and business unit level strategic marketing management from a brand level that empowers them to do so much more amazing work. It’s not their fault, it’s a leadership issue. That’s the pressure I put on myself, man. I wish I could do a hell of a lot better on that, you know? But I know it’s a problem, we’re always working to be better. That’s why I believe in Kaizen or change for the better.
The thing when I talk to people about high level stuff like this, it’s not about that overwhelming thought. It’s about what’s the one small step I can take? Maybe it’s saying hey, boss, or saying to your team, if you’re the leader hey, team, I want to know more about what marketing can do to help us grow our business or what we can do better on digital. Or it could be hey, boss. I just want to know if you’d be interested in talking to me and if I could buy you a cup of coffee and talk about my passion for marketing, and how I think it could help. That’s the one small step and then you go from there.
Ben: Cool. Yeah, love it. That’s a great segway to my next question. You’ve kind of touched on this a little bit there, but if I’m a marketer at a manufacturing company or B2B company, or honestly really at any company at all and our brand isn’t doing well, our company is not doing well, or maybe even just our team or our department within that company is is struggling, what’s the very first thing that you would recommend that marketer do to help turn things around?
James: The first thing is admitting you have a problem. I think that’s the very first thing you do, and I think you assess the willingness to address it. If you’re in a bad culture, you know what I mean? No one talks to the boss and they don’t know that the troops are suffering. Sometimes it’s not purposeful, we’re just oblivious. People who I like get you in the head, happen to me all the time.
I think it starts there, if you’re going to if you’re going to turn things around. But let’s just assume there is the appetite for change for the better. One of the things I find is you also have to be honest with yourself. From the leader, what I’ve learned the hard way, they’ve always tried to figure things out, myself. You should pay that price, you should dive deep. In the history of mankind, there’s never been as much information out there, go get it. But I’ve learned painfully that other people have figured this shit out. I have to say it that way because, you do want to know, that’s how I feel.
Other people have figured this shit out and I can’t believe how empowering, how we’re leaving, how much empathy there is when someone’s been through what you’re doing and this is how I got through it here. Here is an accurate referral around scheduling, here is an accurate way we addressed it. I think, fundamentally, when you figure that out, that’s why turning yourself into that little mini consultancy, no matter what you do in your practice area, that next level up because you’re doing this one component of a campaign but it’s like the campaign manager or the account manager doing the whole thing. I think that’s super important.
But if you can’t get it done and you’ve tried to have it figured out or get someone to help you figure it out, you’ve got to make a partner and build discussion. We partner or do we build that. It’s hard to build DNA, I’ll be honest with you. If you don’t have the DNA, you got to be real honest. You get a one look at your DNA, you get to really look at if you can level up and if you’re trying to figure it out, there’s just sometimes where you got to go and say hey, we need a partner. That’s when company colleagues, that’s why agencies get business quite frankly. We have to stay ahead, we have to have that. But it’s less and less about the stuff, it’s about the big stuff and how you execute it.
I’ll just say this one other thing for marketers. If anyone listening to your show, if you don’t believe that you should be teaching clients to do what you do, you’re crazy. Brands have to be better marketers than sellers. They have to have their own tech stocks. They have to be able to manage truly, authentically their social channels. They’re the brand, they’re the people. What’s scary about that is the folks who are in the service side feel like a threat.
But the truth is, if you’re doing the right thing and you’re growing because things are changing so much and new technologies, if you’re committed to that change and continuous improvement, we’ll always figure out, there’s always stuff for you to help them with. If you’re really committed, I think you’ve got to realize that your job is sometimes to make people better and fully capable. Teach someone to fish. That scares a lot of folks but that’s the new normal, that’s the true reality of today.
Ben: Sure. Let’s say I’m not the same marketer. I’ve gotten real with myself about what my problems are, what my company’s problems are. We’re starting to take some steps to try to improve our situation, make marketing a more valuable component of our business. Once we’ve gotten to that point and maybe we’ve reached a level of maturity to where we’re able to kind of think a little bit bigger, maybe take some next steps. What do you feel maybe those next steps should be? What are the questions that marketers should be asking themselves to get the next two, three, four steps ahead?
James: Yeah. I think that’s the question. Once you’re ready to start saying, “What are those small steps we take?” Here’s the issue. How many folks look at marketing and have to defend it? How many of us are marketers, we have to defend what we do? Versus being in a position to really look at data from a standpoint of what’s known, like there’s no true north. A lot of marketing, we’re defending things that are subjective. Well, what happened? What was this? How many? What context? You don’t know if your how many was crushing it over the how many before you arrived.
We work with iconic industrial brands, they’re all different phases of their journey. What we really found is that if a leader, someone who’s really in a position to provide resources and ultimately take those first steps, if they don’t have the context of where they started, they won’t know where you took them.
The first thing we really recommend is to really assess where you are with the marketing practice and function. We look at it from the standpoint of the organization in terms of how well positioned it is in terms of brand, we actually look at their customer understanding of why they do business with them, what do they see is different from them, things like that. We look at financial performance ops related to sales performance, marketing performance, and return on investment. We look at the facts of what do you actually know about your customer. What do you know about how long it takes to get to a sale? What are they really pushing back on? What are those 10 things they push back on? What are those answers to the questions? Do you know them?
What we found is we’ve been doing this marketing readiness assessment and I actually did it interactively of all things at these big major conferences and keynotes, we used an interactive tool. We literally did a blind survey of all these industrial leaders and marketers. I think I did five events because a lot of people wanted it and then we went to their leadership conference. Every single one of them failed the test, like 40 questions and all those dimensions. What we realized was it was creating conversations about hey, it’s not about being unhealthy and you’re in trouble because you don’t know this. It’s the realization that we need to help and support each other to get to these answers.
We were seeing one of the metrics that really startled me that they were firing salespeople quicker than the velocity of the time it took to close the sale. They were selling capital equipment. That business, it may have about a 14-month sales cycle and they’re hiring a new person and letting them go in 8 months on average, not letting them build the pipeline. They don’t know that velocity question.We saw folks that were killing marketing campaigns that were actually working because they didn’t know the fact that their typical average sale was very low but the lifetime value is very high. If you actually don’t know those metrics, you can’t even calculate return on investment, ROI.
We created this marketing ready assistance, we did it and now we’re actually giving it out for free to folks to inspire them to have the tough conversations about what they know and don’t know about it. What are your three points of differentiation? What is your rescission rate for customers? The things that feed into, quite frankly, not setting arbitrary goals. I know a lot of people like our goal is to be a $20 million or $200 million company by 2020. You know why? Because 2020 sounds good and it rhymes. It wasn’t because they’re looking at real data and benchmarks.
To that point, again, what’s that first step we need to do? We need to make sure we’re ready for marketing and because we understand those predictive success metrics of what we need to measure and actually account for in terms of brand, positioning, clarity, who the customer is, what their needs are, these are very simple frameworks that companies sometimes can get through 30–60 days if they’re committed and they put their attention to it. They can either partner to do that or they can try to do it themselves, and that’s been successful both ways.
I think that’s a long answer. All my answers are typically long. Fortunately, I’ve got the experience since 2003 doing this. These are things that we’ve had to learn on our journey because we’re too damn busy to do stuff, just to do stuff, we got too much to do. It’s too busy just to try to do crap for people in billing for it. Those days have ended.
Ben: For sure, yeah. You know what? No worries about any of your answers. Anything big, too long winded, I think this is excellent insight. I think this is very valuable. You bring up a unique strategic perspective to a lot of this stuff that I think it’s refreshing. With that said, that does it for all the questions that I had. Before I let you go, is there anything else that you would like to add to this conversation before we wrap it up?
James: Yeah. I think we’re at a time where we have to look at our companies and really objectively look at the state of your marketing function. Priorities are reflected by your budgets and being able to do things and defend them, to really make the case and to be able to really drive performance. Are you really set up because you really understand what you’re swimming toward?
I just want to encourage everyone to be brave because I think this is our moment as marketers, the world’s changing. There’s a lot going on. We have some unprecedented things happening in the world. At this moment, we have to realize this is our moment. I think we may get some time once our families and everybody’s attended to were okay, that maybe we’ll get a moment’s peace to actually focus working on ourselves and our lives and making our way of doing business and living our lives obsolete before generational technological market forces or the competition does.
I think you believe that I believe we’ve got to make marketing the strength of your business. I’ll be honest, this is like our agency secret sauce stuff, like this is what we go in with and where I’m like next level relationships with our clients, like we’re not even talking tactically. We created a website called getmarketingready.com. It has these free assessment surveys. One of our partners actually adopted it for their business—they book interviews, interview ballet. It’s been one of the best converting tools that they’ve had because they’re getting to the essence of what people need to know to get ready to do business with their business or in that case, build their authority. Ours is to do marketing and make marketing that truly, truly adds strength of their business.
Feel free to check out that website. Let me know what you think. But I hope you use it for good, to have healthy conversations, not things that divide you. Own it, work on it together, because if you do that together, you’re all going to have some high fives at the end. It’s going to be good but you got to do it one step at a time.
Ben: Great stuff, all right. To everybody listening, you can go check out that website. James, once again, thanks for coming on the show and being as generous as you have been with your knowledge, sharing that with all our listeners.
James: I got to thank my parents. Thank you.
May 6, 2020