Sales and Marketing Performance Blog

A Messaging Architecture to Convey Value, Position, Differentiate

Posted by Mark Gibson on Wed, Mar 31, 2010

A Messaging Architecture Captures your Value Proposition

In the dot.com boom and Outbound Marketing World of just a few years ago, marketing, advertising and branding agencies engaged well funded startups in positioning and branding exercises and at the same time relieved the investors and company of a lot of cash.

This sort of top-down branding went hand in hand with lavish launch parties and first-mover takes all mentality that fueled the dot.com boom and subsequent bust.

Driving eyeballs was what mattered and often the brand message was disconnected from the underlying value of the products and the sales team's ability to articulate it in conversation with buyers.

It is difficult to imagine spending lavish sums on branding, positioning and advertising in today's Inbound Marketing, lean-startup World, where every dollar spent is closely scrutinized and analyzed for ROI, and where it is recognized that B2B brands are built over time, based on customer success. 

To me it seems obvious that the branding should be based on the value the company creates for customers and we can capture this information through a careful analysis of how customers use the products/services.

Brand Positioning

What matters in messaging is connecting your brand and positioning message with the most visceral value-creation proposition for each interested group of buyers in your prospect universe. Al Reis in the book "Positioning" suggests rather than try and create something new and different in the mind of the buyer, we need to manipulate what is already there and re-tie the connections that already exist.

Brand Messaging Process

A methodology for messaging value is built from the bottom-up, based on connecting value-creation to buyer-needs rather than a top-down "Mad-Men" view of the World into the reality of selling products/services...we have tried both approaches and bottom-up works best.

  1. Start your journey to clarity in messaging value with a sales and marketing messaging alignment workshop. The output of this process is Messaging Architecture that will help marketers and salespeople position capabilities and engage buyers in conversations around their problems vs. the product features. 
  2. Identify your buyer-persona's and their roles, goals, issues and problems that your products/services can address
  3. Next, map your relevant capabilities that can help buyer persona's solve their problems
  4. Group Win-themes into logical clumps and abstract the positioning pillars to create clarity in positioning vs competition.
  5. At this point we will have enough information to create visual confections and visual stories that salespeople can use to engage buyers in conversation around their issues.
  6. With the Value Proposition in place, the Brand Message including mission-statement, tagline, corporate positioning and corporate presentation (visual confection) can easily be derived.
  7. Content Creation Templates are used to develop consistent content across the company for both blogging and Website content by insiders as well as external writers, by extracting win themes and buyer persona issues and appropriate keywords.
  8. Create a "Mission Statement" that helps employees connect their daily toil with company vision, revenue, profit and customer satisfaction goals.
  9. Create a positioning statement that identifies the market segment you wish to occupy in the mind of the buyer and why your product/service is different and valuable. 
In a startup attempting to re-segment an existing market, the positioning statement will be used countless times in sales and marketing messaging, it should be well thought out and should not change every week.  

Align Sales & Marketing Messages - Webinar
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Topics: messaging value, marketing messaging, differentiation, branding

Start-up Sales and Marketing Insights and 2010 Priorities

Posted by Mark Gibson on Tue, Mar 09, 2010

CSO Insights have been publishing sales performance data for technology companies for the past 16 years.

This year is the first time they have broken that data set down to include a survey of Start-up sales and marketing performance.  In their 2010 Sales Performance Optimization Survey, a total of 182 startup sales leaders completed the comprehensive survey of all aspects of the sales and business development process.

As a consultancy we focus on solving marketing and sales problems in both start-ups and in established companies. Established firms trying to sell innovative technology to early adopters, have similar problems to startups, except for the cash-flow constraints.

This survey of 182 start-ups of which 60% were based in the USA highlights a number of issues of which we have first-hand experience. We believe the following data are interesting and worthy of discussion.

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Topics: CSO Insights, marketing messaging, lean startups

Sales & Marketing Performance Tip - Define Your Perfect Prospect

Posted by Mark Gibson on Tue, Feb 09, 2010

Sales and marketing aligning to define their perfect prospect is one way of improving lead generation and getting more from marketing investments, according to CSO Insights 2010 Sales Performance Optimization Survey of more than 2800 companies.

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Topics: CSO Insights, marketing messaging, buyer-persona

2010 CSO Insights Survey: I Want Inbound Leads, Marketing Alignment

Posted by Mark Gibson on Tue, Feb 02, 2010

CSO Insights * yesterday released their 16th. Sales Performance Optimization Survey of more than 2800 Chief Sales Officers (CSO's) around the World from many different industries.

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Topics: CSO Insights, marketing messaging, buyer-persona

How to Create Messaging that Fuels Inbound Lead Generation

Posted by Mark Gibson on Fri, Jan 22, 2010

Most marketing executives will have lead generation close to the top of their list of goals in 2010; however generating quality sales leads has never been harder, or easier - depending on your strategy.

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Topics: inbound marketing, marketing messaging, buyer-persona

Clarity Trumps Persuasion and Drives Sales Conversations

Posted by Mark Gibson on Tue, Jan 12, 2010

Clarity in Internet, marketing and sales messaging is a topic we have been writing about for the past five years as it critical in creating marketing messages for B2B technology companies that resonate with buyers and help them get found on the Internet.

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Topics: marketing messaging, sales performance

Ten Top Ideas for Improving Sales and Marketing Performance in 2010

Posted by Mark Gibson on Wed, Dec 16, 2009

Most sales professionals will be very focused on closing last minute deals in the popular end of year discount-fest enjoyed around this time of year by our customers. Most marketers will be considering how they can improve program performance in 2010 to generate more leads and build mindshare.
It's a bad time to be calling sales and marketing leaders to engage in conversations about improving sales and marketing performance in 2010, but when is a good time?
So instead of calling prospective 2010 clients, I'm posting a blog and sending a link with the top 10 things for sales and marketing leaders to consider in their planning for improved performance in 2010, with a link back to a landing page on our site to register interest in further discussion.
  1. Sales and Marketing Messaging Alignment: of all the productivity initiatives, this one is the easiest to implement, the lowest cost, with the highest payback as it drives inbound marketing messaging on the Website and elevates the standard of sales conversations with customers.

  2. Territory and Compensation review: are you rewarding your sales team for the behavior you are seeking? Do you have top reps sitting on house accounts and easily making their numbers and potential new stars struggling to learn the business and open new business at the same time, are you under or over paying for performance?

  3. Adopt Inbound Marketing: If your sales team is still cold calling, then your marketing isn't working and your sales team is wasting a lot of time; inbound marketing is a better approach to lead generation. Inbound marketing using HubSpot has potential to significantly outperform cold-calling and traditional telesales performance over 6-12 months and provide an ongoing lead generation annuity. If you enter 2010 with an Inbound Marketing Strategy using HubSpot, you will exit it richer in many ways.

  4. Get into Social Media: in particular, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN and if you are in Europe (Germany) XING. These tools will help you research, connect and engage prospects for your products and services.

  5. Implement Lead Nurturing best practices: if you are a thought leader in your market, or an early stage technology company that has a potential for leadership, you need to nurture your leads with a program that educates, informs and engages over the year until they are ready to convert.

  6. Get performance data: so you can benchmark your performance against peers in your industry. The most comprehensive sales performance data I have seen is from CSO Insights and by clicking here to taking this survey you will receive a free copy of the 200+ page 2010 Sales Performance Optimization Survey from more than 1500 companies, when published in January.

  7. Align your selling culture with the way your customers buy: Did you know that early adopters buy differently from mainstream buyers? Failing to engage and win the early market with novel technology is the leading cause of death for start-ups and many killer-products and it's both a sales and marketing problem.

  8. Implement a professional sales certification program for your sales team: We know that sales performance improvement requires deliberate practice of skill and technique, regular role-playing and feedback from experts. A one-off training event is a waste of money without a learning methodology that includes Performance Support, Coaching, collaborative learning and support from experts and sales managers and a certification event to drive behaviour to attain a minimum standard.

  9. Review CRM activity and make changes to formalise your sales process to create pipeline milestones and transparency in the sales process, so that everyone is selling the same way and that buyer and seller are aligned and qualified at each transition in the process. If you haven't seen it yet, take a look at Landslide Technologies, it's the future of CRM - very cool!

  10. Have a great holiday, enjoy your family and friends, get some well earned rest...you all deserve it; 2009 was the toughest year ever in our business.
To discuss any of the above topics and your performance goals for 2010, follow this link to contact Advanced Marketing Concepts Ltd.


Boring PowerPoint Sucks - learn Visual Storytelling
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Topics: inbound marketing, marketing messaging, sales performance

Sales and Marketing United - a Winning Team

Posted by Mark Gibson on Tue, Nov 17, 2009

The problems affecting technology companies that operate silo’ed sales and marketing organizations are many and varied. The gulf between sales and marketing in these companies is a lonely place – a “no-mans land”.

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Topics: inbound marketing, marketing messaging

Recruiting SaaS B2B Sales Channels and Getting Sell-through

Posted by Mark Gibson on Wed, Sep 09, 2009

I responded to a comment on LinkedIn last week on the topic "Marketing and Selling SaaS is hard!!!" on the difficulty in recruiting B2B sales channel partners and getting them to sell-through and I thought  I’d expand on the subject with the help of my former colleague Bob Langer . Here is the original article Marketing and Selling SaaS is hard

This is a hot topic - not only for the new cohort of SaaS solutions providers, but for every entrepreneur with visions of channel sales success as well as medium sized companies wanting to sell innovative products through an indirect model.

Why Channel Sales?

The fundamental question is - why do you want to sell through channels?
Let’s assume you have some really strong business reasons for wanting to sell through the channel and everyone in your company, including the investors, is on board with the idea.
Before proceeding, please ask yourself the following four questions.
  1. Is your direct sales process fully optimized, to the point that you have identified your own best practices and everyone on the direct sales team sells the same way?
  2. Are you generating more inbound leads than you can handle meaning sales people spend all of their time speaking to interested prospects (inbound leads) who find you on the Internet -and are not cold calling or working on telesales developed leads?
  3. Is your product fully-baked, to the point where the code is stable, you have an SDK, standards-based API and fully documented instructions on how to extend and integrate with your product?
  4. Are your existing customers raving fans of your product?
I've worked about half of my professional selling career in OEM, VAR and Reseller channels roles where my responsibility was recruiting and driving sales through channels.  Recently, I’ve consulted to numerous companies selling through channels.

Based on this experience I suggest that if the answer to all four questions above is not a resounding “yes”, then you are probably not ready to sell through channels.  I coined the phrase “when you are truly ready, the channel will show up”, based on years of direct work with and observation of how the vast majority of channel partnerships actually work.  
Trying to move channel partners in a specific direction before either they, you, or more importantly, the market is ready, inevitably leads to wasted effort, cash and disappointment.

Now let’s assume you already have a committed channels plan in place, you have dedicated resources and a number of channels partners signed up, and like thousands of companies worldwide - your program stinks. 

When I speak with CEO’s, they routinely point to weak channels as their number two problem in their B2B sales and marketing groups, right behind the top problem of insufficient qualified leads.

So how do we come to grips with the harsh realities of today’s market, the overall capabilities of channel partners and what we should really expect from them?  The remainder of this post will provide some insights and recommended tools that you can use to actually improve channel performance:


Selling to the early market

First and foremost, is your product, service or solution based on a novel or discontinuous technology? If not, is it an evolution of an existing product or technology in an established market? The answer to this question is crucial.
•    If your product is novel and truly disruptive, go back and answer the first four questions.
•    Now that you have answered the questions again in your own mind, is there an established buying category and have your products been accepted by the early majority (mainstream market) or are you still selling to the early adopter market and trying to get across the chasm?
  • If you are across the chasm and into the early majority, please go to the next question
  • If you are selling to the early market then you will need your channel to sell the way the early market wants to buy. The early market buys differently from the mainstream market and it is a "value-created" or consultative sell.
  • The "Technology Adoption Cycle vs. Risk" animation is adapted from our Selling in the Internet Age training course IMPACT Buying Concept.
  • Most channels sales teams are geared for "value-offered" or "value-added" sales models and simply don’t understand how to, or have the skills to sell novel technology to early adopters.
  • This mismatch in the early market "value-created" buying culture vs. the way the typical channel partner is selling (value-offered or value-added) is the biggest reason why so many channel partners and programs fail.  Follow this link to a discussion on why value-created selling is key to penetrating the early market. You might want to have a discussion with your direct sales team on this topic as well and buy a few copies of the book Why Killer Products Don't Sell. 

Selling to the Mainstream Market

If you’ve made it and sold your way across the chasm, congratulations are in order as this is a fantastic achievement for any business. If you're positioning a new product in an established buying category, with established competitors then you face another set of interesting challenges:
  • How are you planning to, or how did you acquire your existing partners?
  • Do they fit with where you are today and where you need to go?
  • What relevant training and support have you provided for them?
  • Have you developed your own Messaging to raise the standard of conversations your direct sales team has with target buyers and to differentiate your product vs. competition and, more importantly, have you trained your partners to use it in role-playing situations?
- Don’t expect the channel sales team to figure this out on their own.  Most have other products in their portfolio to sell and they are probably more comfortable doing so.
- Channel sales performance is a direct result of how easy you make it for their salespeople to position and sell your product and the market demand for the product class.
- If all your channel have is a PowerPoint, brochures and a price-list parked on a portal somewhere and distant memories of a ½ day product pitch from your product management team, then you will fail.
  • Have you planned to collaborate on lead generation programs and have you shared leads with them?
  • Have you gone on their first half dozen sales calls to give them feedback and coaching on their sales calls?

What channels sales people need to be successful

If you plan to spend as much or more effort on training the channel to sell as you do your direct team, then this is a good equation. In the post-Internet era the value of a 1:1 call with a buyer has risen by an order of magnitude; here are a few suggestions as to what direct and channel sales people need to be successful.
  • Product knowledge and how to position relevant capabilities and to diagnose and qualify if these capabilities are relevant
  • d. The ability to have the buyer envision using your product and/or service in solving their problem
  • e. Understanding and leading the buyer through the value-exchange in using your product and the associated ROI.
  • f. Communication, language skills, sales-craft skills and tools for Selling in The Internet Age
  • Big Idea narratives and visual confections that tell your story and guide conversations with target buyers, supported by proof points to create a story that engages the buyer, create true differentiation for both direct and channel salespeople

Where the channel works really well

In today’s technology market, there are many great examples of highly functional and well-developed channels.  Cisco Systems, Microsoft and Salesforce.com have surrounded themselves with hundreds of thousands of partners that deliver, implement or extend their products and services with a high degree of effectiveness.

This primarily occured because all three companies realised that extending their ability to reach a broader audience would best be served though a channel.  Except for Microsoft, channel success ocurred after their markets were well developed and beyond the chasm, it was easy for the value-added partners to do exactly what they do best, e.g. add value. 

To enjoy the highest level of success with your channel, understand what they can and can’t do for you, equip them to win and set mutual expectations.  Most importantly, even though they are not your employees, treat them like they are, invest in training them like they are your own and manage them closely. 

Otherwise, don’t be surprised when they fail to deliver.

Webinar - Create Visual Confections that Sell!
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Topics: inbound marketing, killer products, marketing messaging

Are You Ready For Inbound Marketing Yet?

Posted by Mark Gibson on Sat, Mar 28, 2009

Chances are you didn’t arrive here by accident; you followed a link from either a search engine or a Blog or links from a social network site…welcome to inbound marketing. 

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Topics: inbound marketing, marketing messaging

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