B2B Marketing Blog

Written by Lisa Shepherd
on November 24, 2015

Ask Me Anything - Strategic Marketing Planning - Wrapup

Thanks to everyone who contributed to my first Ask-Me-Anything session.  We had some great questions, and while I didn't get around to answering all of them, I will follow up with blog posts in the coming month to address them.

Each AMA question I answered has a separate discussion, so I encourage all the members of the LinkedIn group B2B Mid-Market Sales and Marketing Leaers to add to my suggestions, as I know there is a lot of collective wisdom in the group.

And let me know what you thought of this format. I enjoyed doing the AMA, and hope that there will be interest in doing others in the future.

AMA Question #1: How do you 'manage' an owner / operators' involvement in marketing?

The full question: "Any strategies for encouraging owner managed companies to release their grip on 'everything' and free up the path to growth?"

Gosh this sounds familiar! I imagine anyone who's working in a family business or company that is run by the founder has come across this situation. We find it's especially prevalent in service companies.

I have yet to find a magic solution for this, but here are a few of the ways we deal with it:

The first step is to understand why the owner is not loosening their grip.It's usually one of three things:

1) They don't trust you to do it

2) They've done it so long that they don't know how NOT to do it

3) If they aren't doing it, they won't know what else to do with themselves

Each situation warrants a different approach, and sometimes it's a combination of all of these things.

If it's #1, the only way to get them to trust you is to show them that they can and should. This is actions not words. It might mean that you update them regularly and consistently on what's going on, it might mean that you write whitepapers that they think are great, it might mean showing them results. Whatever it is, I find that most business owners who don't yet know if they can trust you can be taught to trust you - it just takes a few weeks (or months) or consistent behaviour to establish the trust.

If it's #2, this might warrant a conversation with them to explain that the marketing work is now your job, and if they're not letting you do the marketing work, you're going to fail. I've had that conversation with a few business owners, and it was a 'revelation' to them - they honestly didn't realize how they were preventing me from doing what I was supposed to do.

And #3 is interesting. Some business owners love marketing and some hate it. For the ones who love it, they often take responsibility for it in their business. So when it becomes your job, they feel like they're being relegated to the pasture. Dealing with this is probably as much 'psychology' as 'marketing'. You can use the approach from #2 above, but then it's mainly an issue of what new thing can the owner do. Golf might be an option, but a lot of business owners aren't interested in that. Can you come up with something new for them so that they have a focus and can invest their energies in something that is relatively separate from others' initiatives?

I look forward to hearing your tips and tricks!

AMA Question #2: How do you change the perception of marketing as a cost centre?

The full question: "Most B2B companies still fight the perception battle of marketing being viewed as a cost centre in the C-suite. In theory, what marketing should be doing to add value, especially in a digital economy, is well understood. In practice, not so easy. Can you share your experiences?"

I couldn't agree more that this is a 'theory vs reality' issue. We've all been talking about ROI and ROMI (return on marketing investment) for years, but the reality in the market is that we're not there yet.

That said, there's definitely a growing appetite among B2B companies to measure and achieve positive marketing ROI (ie be seen as a profit-centre rather than a cost-centre), which is great. Mezzanine (my company) has been getting asked about ROI by about 75% of the prospects we've been talking with in the last 3 months - which is an uptick.

The challenge is that it takes time and effort to achieve a system in which you can quantity the results of marketing - and show that it's driving revenues. Unfortunately, too many companies don't commit to the journey of getting there. When I interviewed 20 CMO's last year as part of writing my latest book The Radical Sales Shift, I asked each of them how long it had taken them to build a marketing machine in which they could demonstrate that marketing was a profit centre. The most common answer was 'Still working on it!" That was the case for about 2 /3 of the CMOs. The second most common answer was 3 - 4 years.

Wow, that's a long time! And these were all incredibly smart, hard working and deeply experienced B2B marketers. So if that's how long it takes them, I can understand why it might take others longer, or maybe not make it there at all.

Here's what I've learned about changing the perception of marketing as a cost-centre to marketing as a profit-centre: 

  • You have to talk numbers.

    Too many marketers don't talk about numbers. If you go into meetings with the sales team and the business managers and talk about the cost of a campaign and the results in a quantitative way, you'll change their perception of you and of marketing. Take a calculator to meetings! (Thanks to Liz Williams at ADP for that tip). When you consistently talk about numbers, the rest of the company will come to see that you are focused on driving profit and getting results, not just spending money. 

  • Understand how to do an ROI calculation

I ask marketers who are applying for roles at Mezzanine to tell me how they calculate the ROI of a campaign or marketing initiative, and well over 50% can't do it. The majority make the mistake of using sales as the numerator. Ah, if only our revenues were equivalent to our profits! (There's a post on the Mezzanine blog about how to calculate ROI for anyone who's interested).

  • You need data.

    For all the companies who want a marketer to deliver ROI, and they don't even have a CRM, this is a problem. It's very difficult for marketers to demonstrate how much revenue they are delivering if they have no way to track what leads they've brought in and which have converted to revenue. And sadly, the sales team is not often generous with giving credit to marketers for business generated. A marketing system like Hubspot, Marketo or Pardot (married to Salesforce or other CRM) is needed to really show that marketing is a profit centre. And of course, putting those systems in place is a significant undertaking.

Those are my top 3 tips on how to change the perception of marketing from cost-centre to profit-centre. I think it takes a consistent effort over time, married with being able to report results, to do it.

How have you been doing it?

AMA Question #3: What mistakes to avoid in strategic marketing planning?

The full question: "I'm about to lead a strategic marketing planning process for a company that I've just joined. It's a B2B company with about $5M in revenues and has never had formal marketing in the past. Can you give some tips on what pitfalls to avoid when putting the marketing plan together?"

This is a great question and I decided to answer it in a blog post on the Mezzanine blog, as I know there are lots of people in the same situation. I posted it today under the title "The four most common strategic marketing planning mistakes". I'll recap the key points here.

We review a lot of strategic marketing plans so we see the full spectrum of quality - from awesome plans to simply tragic ones. There's a myriad of issues that crop up in the plans. I would say that there are 4 which are incredibly common, particularly among companies who are new to marketing.

Mistake #1 - Unrealistic plan

This is the number one mistake by a long shot. Most companies aren't realistic about what can be accomplished. If they're new to marketing, there are lots of misconceptions about the amount of time needed to coordinate the various people involved in marketing, not to mention the steep learning curve when taking on something new.

My general rule is to estimate how long you think something will take, and double it. Or taken in the other direction, put together your plan of what you'd love to do in a year, and then cut it in half.

That way you'll have a year one plan that is closer to achievable and will give you a sense of accomplishment, as opposed to a feeling of failure because you've barely completed half of what you projected.

Mistake #2: Unassigned tasks / no on held accountable for marketing

The second most common mistake is that no one is 'responsible' for the various marketing tasks on the plan. And if no one can be held accountable for getting things done, no one will get things done.

Here's an example. There is a common problem when it comes to company blogs. We often see that several individuals within a company are requested to submit posts for the company's blog. And a junior marketing manager is the owner of the blog. The problem is that the junior marketing manager can't hold the engineers and others within the business accountable for producing the blogs. So ultimately, the blogs don't get done.

Mistake #3: Unmeasured

Yes it can be tough to measure marketing results. Especially when you deal in a complex B2B business where there's a long sales cycle and numerous touch-points with customers along their buyer journey.

But just because it's tough doesn't mean it can be ignored. While it's tempting to focus on the 'fun' and 'creative' parts of marketing, it's the data and analytics that really make the impact.

That said, don't make the mistake of measuring every little thing. We try and put marketing scorecards together with about 5 KPIs that will serve as indicators. Leads generated, pipeline generated, revenue conversion rates are usually good metrics.

And I'm going to direct you to the Mezzanine blog for mistake #4! It's here: http://bit.ly/1WUtZUD

AMA Question #4: How do you run a successful webinar?

I think lots of our group members will be able to weigh in on this one, so I look forward to hearing your tips!

We've been doing more webinars at Mezzanine in the last couple of years, as they're fantastic for lead generation and nurturing. We have two checklists (one for Planning and one for Execution) to ensure webinars are a success. Here are our check lists: 


  1. Define your objectives - why are you holding the webinar, what do you want to achieve?
  2. Select a webinar topic - what will resonate with your audience and is an area of expertise for you?
  3. Select webinar presenters - do you have company members who are more comfortable than others presenting?
  4. Fill production team roles - who is responsible for each element of the webinar (create the deck, promote, etc)
  5. Create the webinar agenda - what will you cover, how long will it take (plan for 20 - 40 minutes)
  6. Build the presentation, including an orientation for the audience - don't jump into your content too quickly
  7. Plan audience interactivity - allow your audience to engage with the speakers by voting or asking questions during the presentation
  8. Schedule the webinar - pick a date and time that works for your target audience. Keep time zones in mind - if you're targetting UAE, don't hold the webinar at 4pm ET.
  9. Promote webinar - send out emails, add it to your email signature and website, do a press release, promote on LinkedIn and other social media.
  10. Rehearse your webinar - possibly the most under-appreciated step in the whole process! Don't skip this one.


  1. Prepare the environment where you're conducting the webinar - make sure you don't have background noise and the audio works well
  2. Set attendee and presenter permissions - make sure to mute the attendees and record the webinar for future use
  3. Open the webinar event - a different individual than the main speaker is a good way to handle the introduction
  4. Introduce the webinar
  5. Walk through the presentation - make sure to speak clearly and calmly, allowing pauses between slides
  6. Hold an audience Q&A - a great way to solicit engagement
  7. Conclude the webinar - let attendees know how they can follow up with any additional questions (great for lead generation)
  8. Follow up with attendees - send out the webinar recording via email to all attendees and non-attendees, and provide a Call to Action to ensure they can take a next step (eg download a relevant template, sign up for a follow-on webinar, subscribe to your newsletter, join a LinkedIn group).

I hope this list helps you hold a fantastic webinar!


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