Not sure you realize this, but Valentine's Day will soon be upon us. Being a total non-romantic (at least in this post), the day is significant solely as it represents a milestone date that you, as a B2B Sales and Marketing expert, should be leveraging. In other words, whether it's Valentine's Day, Thanksgiving, or any other significant event in the eyes of your audience, you should be planning well in advance to launch a campaign around it.
We've all been there. Trust me when I say, based on my past track record, I should probably be the last person to write this post.
So what's your plan? Have you already created a lead generation campaign that will leverage this milestone event? If so, congrats; you're now excused and no longer need to read this post.
Still here? Welcome to the club. Alright, let's make sure this doesn't happen again.
Folks, it starts with a Marketing Calendar. I know we talk about it. We mean to do it. We may even have an Excel spreadsheet of the major events we're doing (i.e tradeshows). However, used properly, a Marketing Calendar becomes a critical tool in your strategic planning. Before you do anything in your annual marketing plan, look at the calendar, pick the dates out that are opportunities to leverage (i.e. Valentine's Day, or Thanksgiving), and then enter a Campaign launch date that is days, or weeks, prior to that date. Once that major milestone is in place, you can reverse-schedule your supporting tasks to ensure you actually launch on time.
Of course, when that's done, you should enter your events next. Those dates are often fixed and not controlled by you. Following that, you can add in your news releases, your blog posts, and your newsletters. What we're doing here, if you haven't picked up on this, is staggering the marketing milestones so that they don't overlap. We want to optimize our campaigns with our financial and people resources. When you have multiple campaigns happening concurrently, it's a recipe for team discord. Avoid this at all costs!
Now that your schedule is layed out, you can start adding additional marketing campaigns to supplement your activities. For example, a tradeshow may be an opportunity for promotional emails and incentives to drive event attendance.
Sounds easy enough, eh? Almost common sense. So...how many of you can not only show me your marketing calendar, but also claim to invite others in your extended organization to participate and contribute to direction, content, and measurability? How well do you actually meet your deadlines?
It's not easy. It's hard. I understand. But a marketing calendar that's shared by, and visibile to, the entire organization is a Marketer's best friend. You eliminate the question of "What does Marketing do?". You actually create morale because staff feel like Marketing is making noise and generating revenue. The conversation moves from "We need new leads." to "We need to close the leads we have."
So how do you make this mythical marketing calendar? For years I used MS Project or MS Excel and simply posted it outside my office. I updated it weekly with my team and shared it via email to my executive peers. When people asked me what we were doing I'd simply walk them over to the posted calendar (they soon stopped asking!).
These days, I prefer technology to create and manage my calendars.
For years I used BasecampHQ. It's a great product for simple project planning. That's all we really need. It is great for transparency because team members can be both internal or external. The subscription fee is relatively low. It's a good investment.
Currently we're using ManyMoon. We love it. We made the move because our email and team collaboration backbone is all built upon Google Apps (GA). Unfortunately, BasecampHQ didn't have great integration with GA but ManyMoon does. Being able to update projects and milestones and tasks seamlessly between your email, contacts, and projects is very efficient. The reaction from our clients is overwhelming. In fact, while we may be engaged to deliver a subset of their marketing activities, we encourage our customers to use our ManyMoon instance and update the shared calendar we have with them to include all of their marketing activities. It works well for both of us. We can see what they have coming up on the calendar - even if it doesn't involve us - and we can plan our campaign dates such that they don't create conflict for our clients. Conversely, our clients now have a single place to go to see their entire marketing calendar.
So what's your plan? Do you have one? Are you planning for success, or failing to plan?
It's that time of year. You know the time. The time when you reflect on the fact that, from September to December, you didn't accomplish nearly as much as you'd hoped or planned to. Life got in the way. Work got in the way of work. Stuff happened but now you need to really buckle down and focus on demand generation, business development, guerrilla marketing, and general Revenue Creation 101. All I can say to you is this - I feel your pain. I get it. As my New Year's resolution, I propose we travel this road together. Here is what I plan to do. I'd love your feedback. Tell me how my plan compares to yours. Did I miss anything?
- Write down everything that's important. I've made three lists:
- Immediate To-Do's.
- Client Deliverables
- Business Development programs
- Get as many of the To-Do's off of your list as possible. Just go nuts. They'll keep you up at night if you don't do them. Remove that distraction. Stop putting off the little things. You'll feel better.
- Create a calendar of your daily must-do tasks. You know what I'm talking about:
- Write that daily blog post.
- Respond to active new media conversations relevant to your industry, with active link-backs to your content.
- Post your thoughts, opinions, etc, on Twitter, again with link-backs to your content.
- Grow your list of Twitter followers daily. Add at least five to ten new Follows every day with people you think are interesting and relevant to you.
- Read at least one to three articles of content daily to remain up-to-speed on what's happening in the industry.
- Dedicate time for at least ten emails and ten phone calls related to business development and lead generation every day.
- Reserve a consistent period of time for client deliverables.
- Reserve a consistent period of time for client discussions, phone calls, and emails.
- Be consistent. Be committed to your schedule.
- Implement a Project Management solution, such as BasecampHQ, and then commit your time in writing for each of your deliverables and projects.
- Create repeatable templates, ideally within your Project Management solution, for each repeatable task. For instance, if you have a standard method of on-boarding new clients, make a template for that so that you can quickly schedule the tasks, and the timelines, as they become clients. It makes it easier for you and your team, as well as ensures the client is properly managed from the beginning.
- Create a project plan for each client deliverable. Again, if possible, update your Project Management solution with the tasks, dates, task owners, and any relevant and associated documents. This will ensure you are committed to the delivery, and timelines, of these tasks. Effectively, you're making yourself accountable to yourself. I don't know about you, but I hate letting myself down.
- Use automation as much as possible to make your time more effective. Currently, we are trialing a CRM product called Insightly because it seamlessly integrates with our Google Apps email and calendaring solution. We never have to leave Google Apps to update our CRM. That's efficient. If our trial goes well, we'll consider replacing BasecampHQ with Insightly for our project management, thus creating a single environment for our technology infrastructure. That's our ultimate goal.
- Set goals. Measure them daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly. Be candid with yourself. Do not make excuses. If you hold yourself accountable, you'll love the final results when you look back in six months time.
I know it all sounds like a lot of administration and paperwork. Trust me - it will pay huge dividends if you invest now for your long-term success. At most, we're talking about a couple of days doing the initial effort. Afterwards, we're talking about small daily updates; almost no time at all, really, in the big picture of your day. Most importantly, since people will be slowly getting back to work this week, with minimal expectations of you, now is the time when you can truly afford to make the investment of time and planning and scheduling to ensure you keep your New Years Lead Generation resolutions. Remember - you're not alone. We're in this together.
Happy New Years.