Friday, February 14, 2020

Lesson #321: Marketing is Still an Art (and a Science)

Posted By: George Deeb - 2/14/2020

Data driven decision making has been the mantra of most good CEOs and CMOs over the better part of the last decade.   They want all ma...

Data driven decision making has been the mantra of most good CEOs and CMOs over the better part of the last decade.  They want all marketing decisions to be based on solid data, which had previously not been available, but is today in high amounts.  But, data can be deceiving.  It may lead you in one direction, when in fact the right answer may be completely in the opposite direction.  Allow me to explain with this case study from my Restaurant Furniture Plus business.

The Marketing Strategy When We Acquired the Company

We acquired Restaurant Furniture Plus in 2018.  Up until that point, the founder was largely dependent on advertising in the Google Shopping section, with product listings of all their SKUs.  I was curious why they were not advertising in the Google Search section with keywords, and her response was “we tried for a few months, but the data could not prove it was actually working, so we pulled the plug.”  I was hopeful, that was an upside opportunity for us, if we could figure it out.

Our Marketing Strategy Soon After We Acquired the Company

One of the first things we did when we started our own marketing efforts was to build out our list of keywords and begin advertising in the Google Search section (while keeping our Google Shopping campaign live).  We thought of all the possible keywords around our products, including chairs, tables, stools, etc., and all variations of those words, including extensions for restaurant, hospitality, wholesale, commercial, foodservice, etc.

Our Initial Results Were Not Great

We were perplexed; our initial results were exactly the same as the founders’ results when she had tested Google Search.  The conversion data in Google was telling us it wasn’t working and our agency recommended we shut it off.  But, that made no sense to me.  I know we had tripled our marketing spend overall, and I could see our revenues rapidly growing with that spend.  So, I decided to dig a little deeper into the data.

What We Learned from the Original Data

When I started to “peel back the layers of the onion”, interesting insights were identified.  First of all, the overall campaign was not working, but there were pieces that were.  For example, generic words like “dining chairs” were not working, because it was largely consumers looking for furniture for their homes, and all the competitive bidders for that space, like Wayfair, Pottery Barn and Pier One, were talking the advertising costs up to unprofitable levels.  But, specific words like “restaurant booths” were doing much better in helping us get to our desired restaurant targets.  So, we decided to put all our efforts on those more directly targeted words, and shut off everything else.

Secondly, we uncovered a major attribution problem.  Our customers were using multiple devices, starting from a Google search with their mobile phones, but buying from us from their work computers when they got back to the office, where we losing the tracking of where the lead really originated from.  So, we immediately turned on Google attribution modeling tools for them to help us learn that our return on ad spend (ROAS) was closer to a profitable 6x, than the unprofitable 2x the original reports were showing, with the proper marketing attribution tracking in place.

And lastly, we were managing our agency to optimize the wrong data metric.  We were pushing them to drive an immediate ROAS.  The problem with that was the only transactions that happened immediately, were the small ticket online ecommerce orders worth $500 each.  Not the big $5,000 offline orders we wanted to be closing, which had a longer 2-3 month sales cycle.  We immediately shifted gears, and told our agency not to worry about immediate ROAS (we would track that in 3-4 months).  Instead, the only data point we care about, is driving big ticket leads into our sales pipeline (that we know won’t close for 2-3 months).  In this case, patience for proving ROAS would be a virtue.

What Happened After We Changed Our Data Focus

Once we uncovered the above learnings and implemented the above changes, amazing things started to happen.  Instead of us leaning towards stopping our Google Search marketing efforts based on the initial poor data-driven results, we actually uncovered the true power of the Google Search campaign and started to accelerate our efforts there (completely the opposite of what we would have done based on the preliminary look at the data).   And, as a result, our revenues started to accelerate with more big ticket leads coming into the business.  Yes, we had to be patient, waiting for those leads to close over 2-3 months, but our pipeline had never been bigger or healthier, and revenues soon followed.

An Interesting Twist

With these changes, our desired leads were accelerating so fast, that our sales team asked us to “pull off the gas”, to let them catch up.  That allowed us to test something we had never done before in our history—what would happen if we shut off Google Shopping, the main driver of the business to date.  I’ll tell you what happened.  The business got materially more efficient.  Our marketing spend went down, our average order size went up, our quantity of phone calls and orders went down as we lost low-ticket consumers (allowing us to operate with fewer staff), our ROAS started to grow, and our revenues/profits started to grow with a clearer big-ticket focus.  We were doing a lot more, with a lot lower investment.  The Google Shopping channel that had been our focus for years, was never turned back on, and we doubled down on Google Search.  Completely the opposite from where we were heading, all with a little bit of common sense and a clearer analytical lens.

Concluding Thoughts

So, yes, data is really important for your business.  But, which data points you manage towards, and how you study the data, can make or break your success.  For as much as we would like to turn our marketing efforts into a science, it is still very much an art, knowing the right probing questions to ask and still following your internal gut.  This case study was an example of Leonardo Da Vinci (art) trumping Albert Einstein (science).  Take these learnings into your own business, and make sure you have a good balance of both art and science in your decision making.

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

[VIDEO] George Deeb Discusses How to Influence Customer Buying Decisions (on ASBN)

Posted By: George Deeb - 1/30/2020

I was recently interviewed by the  Atlanta Small Business Network  (ASBN), an online "television network" serving the small bu...

I was recently interviewed by the Atlanta Small Business Network (ASBN), an online "television network" serving the small business community, about how best to influence customer buying decisions.  I thought this video turned out great, and I wanted to share it with all of you, to help you learn it is better to focus your pitch on "Why It Matters to Them", instead of "What Your Product Does".  I hope you like!!

The embedded video player didn't give me the option to change the size of this video.  But, if you want to see a bigger version, simply click the expand size button in the player above, or feel free to watch it on the ASBN website.

Thanks again to Jim Fitzpatrick and the ASBN team for having me on the show.  I look forward to our next interview together.

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Lesson #320: The Rise of Account Based Marketing

Posted By: George Deeb - 1/13/2020

I have been a marketer for decades, and have seen many evolutions in marketing best practices.  First we saw the rise of digital marketi...

I have been a marketer for decades, and have seen many evolutions in marketing best practices.  First we saw the rise of digital marketing vs. offline marketing.  Then, we saw the rise of social media marketing within digital marketing.  Which was followed by marketing automation technologies, replacing human marketing tasks.  There is a new trend that is starting to take off called Account Based Marketing (or ABM for short), and it has the potential to change everything for B2B marketers.

How Have B2B Marketers Historically Marketed

Most B2B marketing campaigns are designed to support the B2B sales team with their selling efforts.  That includes building all the internal collateral materials, doing inbound “pull” marketing including content marketing, doing outbound “push” marketing including the search engines, public relations and lead generation efforts, trade marketing at events or related media, and business development channel partnerships, to name a few.   Re-read this article I wrote on the basics of B2B marketing, as a refresher.

The goal here was to make everyone and anyone that could be interested in your product or service aware of your company using techniques like this.  The problem with this method is you may be able to narrow down to companies within an industry, but not all companies in that industry are created equal.  Maybe you need to better focus on companies of a certain revenue size who can afford your product or service, or companies within a certain geographic region, as examples.  Which means there may be a lot of wasted efforts and spend in this campaign.

What is ABM and How Is It Different

ABM turns this model upside down.  It basically says, you tell me the top specific company accounts you want to be targeting, and we will put a marketing campaign in place that only speaks to those specific accounts/people.  Presumably, with no wasted marketing spend, as 100% of your dollars are targeted towards those exact accounts.  And, hopefully, with better automated efficiency, than a human sales team would have calling into those same accounts manually.

If a normal B2B company spends 80% of their sales and marketing budget on sales team related expenses and 20% on marketing related expenses, ABM could result in material dollar savings, replacing expensive outbound sales people with much more affordable ABM marketing campaigns, automation technologies and inbound order takers.  This works particularly well for B2B companies with less complex products at lower price points, that doesn’t require in-person selling to strategically sell and nurture enterprise clients buying expensive solutions with long sales cycles.

ABM Best Practices

A good ABM campaign requires the following.  First, you need to have a good list of targets to go after.  Use a service like Experian, Acxiom, Hoovers, D&B or ZoomInfo to help you find the right specific titles/contacts of individuals, at the right specific companies in your industry, who have the other right specific characteristics you require to maximize success for your business (e.g., revenue size, geographic location).  The key here:  we are targeting specific people, not specific companies.

Once the list is built, now comes the fun part.  You can upload those email addresses into your Google advertising account, and if you are a whitelisted emailer, Google will target advertising to as many of those people as they can match in their system, regardless what websites they may be visiting online (assuming it is part of the Google ad network).  You will set up email campaigns and automated nurturing to those exact people, using 6-7 content pieces.  You will set up you LinkedIn advertising through InMail and personally connect with those exact people.  You will target those same people in Facebook.  Etc.  Your target contacts won’t be able to miss your advertising messaging, because they will see it all over the internet at multiple times, presumably resulting in increased odds they will want to work with you given the increased frequency of seeing your messaging.

It is important to note, where possible you should customize your messaging to that specific user.  For example, if you are selling through multiple channels, have a unique set of content for each channel you are going after (e.g., client direct, their agency, different departments, different use cases).  And, even better, if you can make it look like you are speaking directly to that individual—their company, their role, their needs—your results will be even better.

You can either manage your ABM efforts yourself.  Or, there are several ABM focused agencies that can do the work for you (e.g., Ignitium, Iron Paper, Yesler, KEO Marketing, Square 2 Marketing, The PMG Company, OBO Agency, MRPfd, and Momentum ABM,  to name a few).  And, several ABM technology platforms that can help you (e.g., Triblio, Engagio, Everstring, Inside View and Terminus, to name a few).  I have not researched all of these companies, so be sure to do your homework before engaging them, as I simply learned about them doing ABM research on Google.

Restaurant Furniture Plus Case Study

Back in 2018, we acquired Restaurant Furniture Plus, a seller of furniture to restaurants.  The business was 100% dependent on Google for leads.  But, there is no quality control with Google.  You never know whether the click is going to be a consumer, a single location restaurant, a small chain, a large chain, or whatever.  Our target is small growing chains that best need a service like ours.  So, only a third of the clicks we were buying was our exact target.  Said another way, we were wasting 67% of our spend on stuff we didn’t want.

By employing an ABM strategy, we are better able to only target the desired small growing chains we want, no longer wasting money.  In the process, we are watching our average order size increase, losing the small orders from single locations.  We are watching our business become more efficient; we don’t need as many transactions to drive the same amount of revenues.  And, we are seeing our base of repeat revenues growing, as small chains are opening new units every year (as compared to a single location that is “one and done”).  You tell me which marketing route is better for our business!

Concluding Thoughts

If you are not using ABM marketing techniques today, you probably should reassess your entire B2B sales and marketing strategy and execution efforts, to see if ABM can help save you time and money with your go-to-market plans.  My guess is, you may be wasting a lot of time and money today that ABM can help you recover.  It will be very interesting to see how ABM techniques and demand evolve over the coming years, but there is no time like the present, in terms of being an early adopter of ABM.

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.

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