One of the things I enjoy best about being a veteran marketer (that’s “marketing” for saying I’m old) is that I’ve had the chance to mentor and develop a lot of young marketers. It’s something I think I’m good at. It’s definitely something I take a lot of pride in. I consider it one of my legacy attributes. If a bus hits me tomorrow (which would be hard considering I live in a rural paradise) then at least my professional life will have impacted many past employees and associates and some of my wisdom, and hopefully not too many of my mistakes, will be shared with their employees and their associates. I’ll be that wise, old dead dude the protagonist in any Hollywood movie talks about when they’re sharing their wisdom with their protégé (I just hope they’re not wearing a yellow shirt or you know they’re going to die and my wisdom will be wasted on them).

Recently I had the chance to help a wonderful young lady get a new job which allowed her to finally lead her own marketing team and craft her own go-to-market strategy. It was the next logical step in her career and she was ready for it even if she had a lot of self-doubts. Her primary marketing experience was in the professional services area yet she was now leading marketing at a software company. Within a few days she was messaging me that she was overwhelmed, felt ill prepared, and didn’t think she could do the job. She claimed she wasn’t technical and she did not understand the software world. She was scared, and she didn’t want to fail.

I told her to relax. Breathe. And remember…marketing is marketing. Nothing has changed. She still had the same knowledge she always had. She was ready for this challenge. I reminded her she simply needed to go back to the basics. Like any good marketer, she needed to learn and understand the following:

  • What does the product do?
  • Why would a consumer want your product? What pains are they experiencing? What benefits would they gain by owning it?
  • What about the product is unique and differentiated, and what about it is a “me too” or “gotta have it just to play in the game” feature?
  • What does a typical Buyer’s Journey look like?
  • What objections, and questions, will the prospects raise at each point during the Buyer’s Journey?
  • What FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, & Doubt) will the competitors utilize to discredit you and position them to win?

After you understood that then it was back to marketing basics. Assess the tools you have to utilize, and then make a marketing plan to achieve your goals. Do a critical assessment and discovery of the following:

  • How are you being measured, in terms of your own performance? In other words, whatever you put in place had better achieve those goals otherwise it’s probably a waste of time and money to put it in place.
  • What are the business objectives that you need to support? Typically this would relate to revenue, or market share, or new industry launches, etc. Be sure your marketing plan can demonstrably help achieve these goals.
  • What assets do you have available to you? Do you have a library of videos, blogs, case studies, white papers, info graphics, research papers, etc., available to you? Or, do you need to develop it from scratch or simply augment whatever you do have?
  • Do you have the technology pieces (email, CRM, marketing automation, etc.) you need to support your plan? What other investments should you budget for?
  • Do you have the right staff in place to execute the plan? If not, do you need to replace staff, or train them with new skills, or source some contractors to help?
  • Is there a defined sales and marketing process in place, with established service level agreements, you need to support? If not, you’d better work with the key stakeholders, including Sales, and ensure you are in alignment.

Finally, once you know all of this you can create a variety of calendars to support the vision including:

  • Campaign calendar for demand generation programs
  • Content calendar
  • Public relations, blogger, and social media calendars
  • Events calendar

A very important step is ensuring you have all of this budgeted for. You may need to reduce your scope if the budget doesn’t support your plan, or you may need to go back to the well and ask for more money. However, if you’ve got a defined plan with supporting logic and required tactics then it’s easier to ask for the additional funding.

Finally, you need to measure everything. Get consensus on what KPI’s need to be tracked and reported against. Typically, they will support the very metrics used in your own performance expectations as well as that of the company’s business plan. If you want to be viewed as a Marketing leader then you need to have the courage and confidence to report your metrics. It’s the only way you’ll ever have productive conversations with the key stakeholders.

I think we would all agree the above is what marketing is all about. Marketing is marketing, regardless of the product or service your selling.

After my lengthy diatribe reminding her about what marketing is and that she knows all of this, she responded by reminding me that she still didn’t know what it was they did. After laughing at her I gave her this advice — “Go find a technical resource that people respect (i.e. sales engineer, software developer, Chief Technology Officer, etc.) Ask them to please show you the product and explain why people care because you just don’t understand it and you really, really want to.”

In other words, I told her to be honest and transparent and vulnerable. I also explained that she would earn more respect from the technical folks with that simple admission then she would ever earn by having an amazing direct mail or webinar or trade show. By doing this, the technical team would get behind Marketing because they’d feel like part of the team rather than the more common relationship where the technical team completely disrespects the value and contribution of the marketing organization.

She hung up and said she’d think about it. I don’t think she was convinced I was right.

A few days later she texted me in a blitz of excitement that included uppercase letters and many emoticons. She had done as I had suggested. The technical team had spent hours educating her. It had gone extremely well. She now understood what they did and she even thought it was pretty cool. Best of all, the technical folks were thrilled to be consulted and heard. They were now working together on some future marketing campaigns and she was so happy she had taken the job.

If you can relate to the woman in my story then let me remind you to stop overthinking it. No matter what you’re selling…marketing is marketing.