When Marketing is Effective

In the late 1990’s, I took a role as Director of Project Management for a newly public technology company based south of market in San Francisco. Things were fairly fast-paced, the money was flowing in, we had really beautiful offices, and great Friday imageafternoon parties out on the balcony. My team was tasked with projects large and small, from helping define and orchestrate corporate and IT governance strategies, to deploying a new email campaign management tool, and the data collection and data management issues behind them.

Coming from the data warehousing side of things at the phone company, supporting the back end applications that captured, tracked, and provided business intelligence around all of their consumer data, I had a good feel for the data at this new company. However, this new role provided me with something new: first-hand experience on the campaign management systems. Part of my team spent their days drilling through lists of customer data, extending it through third-party geographic, demographic and psychographic data, working with marketing to outline very targeted campaign strategies, and partnering with companies like Microsoft and Radio Shack to develop programs, package offerings, and run email-based campaigns.

And that’s where the real work began. Tracking the results was an impressive activity, reviewing response rates and website traffic for metrics, experimenting and adjusting our campaigns around highest-performing campaigns, and re-launching at a steady clip. Later in my career, I often made comparisons of these advanced campaign management tools to the supply chain modeling and software configuration management platforms that became central to my career. Remember, most of this was before the era of Search Engine Optimization roles. Very cutting edge stuff. It was an exciting time to be part of IT, and as part of the larger technical marketing organization (my teams were sometimes referred to as ‘Marketing Operations’).

So much of that function fits into my role now as a software evangelist. Not that the same definition can be claimed by all evangelists — the role is very different depending on who you talk to, and their background. Most evangelists come more from a technical persuasion, and are the resident experts for their companies. For me, sitting in-between sales, marketing, and product is the sweet spot. The key performance indicators that drive me (and my commitments) also sit across those three areas. As I recently joked to the audience at the NY SPUG during a presentation, "My job is to be an instigator. My goal is to expand our customer and partner network, and I get to be very creative about what that means." It can also be a creative chore on how to measure those goals.

I often write very targeted content, looking at the language being used within the industry, and by partners and competitors, and then consciously going a different direction — and then watch as things shift, how specific language I use gets picked up and adopted by others, and helps shape the dialog within the space. I am a big believer in the concepts within the book ‘First, Break All the Rules‘ by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. Don’t bother trying to match the competition. Ignore them, and focus on your own path, on your customers, on your team. Be aware of what others do, use the data to inform your decisions. Lead, don’t follow. (Another great book in this vein is ‘Purple Cow‘ by Seth Godin)

Don’t misinterpret this as an egotistical rant. It’s more of an observation of the power of the written word, and the value of being consistent (and constant) in your messaging and the volume of that messaging. Effective marketing, I believe, has as much to do about tracking and measurement, and the ability to adapt and change based on those measurements, than it does on the message itself.

A solid message but crappy execution = FAIL.

Solid execution and weak messaging = ability to learn quickly and improve.

Of course, solid execution together with strong messaging = success. Just don’t forget that running a campaign is only half of the execution equation. Tracking the results is the other half.

In my experience, there are some clear signs as to whether your marketing has been effective:

  • Sales are up (duh)
  • Website traffic increases, sales leads increase (again, duh)
  • Lots of feedback (I know, another ‘no-duh’, but I’ll expand on this: positive customer feedback, yes, but the feedback takes on a whole different level when partners, OEMs, and even competitors congratulate you on the quality of your content or campaign)
  • Social indicators are growing (things like Twitter followers, LinkedIn requests, Facebook fans, blog RSS subscriptions, and so forth)
  • Traffic from competitors increases (how many times they’ve hit your website, your target landing pages, attempted to download whitepapers or products, visited your LinkedIn page, favorite your tweets)
  • Your competitors campaigns consist of nothing more than answering your content, instead of leading with their own ideas (the "me too!" mentality)
  • Your competitors attempt to co-opt your wording, your terminology (two of my favorites, intentionally inserted into my own articles, have been "granular migration" and "full-fidelity migration")
  • Your competition can’t leave you alone at conferences (especially fun is when they come over and try to argue with you, right in front of your booth. What about defacing your signage and materials while you’re at lunch break, in clear view of other vendors? I mean, who does that?)

At the end of the day, the best way to guarantee marketing success is to provide the best products and services, and then be open and honest with the community and prospective customers about what you can and cannot do for them.

My advice: be authentic in your marketing. Prospective customers (and you better believe your competition) can see right through inauthenticity. I sure do.

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and Office Servers and Services MVP, the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and CMO of revealit.io, a blockchain-based video technology company.