Remembering What Marketing is All About

I hope, for most us, that we’ve known what marketing has really been about all these years.  I’ve thrown this Drucker quote around enough and still, I have found too many marketers (a general term, I know) in big corporations who are bent on the creative, promotional side, cutting off their real efforts at the launch of a campaign, like building a ship and simply pushing it out to sea, leaving it to the mercy of the wind and waves.  Marketing isn’t about design, creative, advertising, etc. Marketing IS the business, and the business must generate revenue.

Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two–and only two–basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.” – Peter Drucker

It seems that small business marketers often get it better than big business marketers.  Let’s take the typical online marketer, for instance.  In the big corporation, the online marketer is optimizing pages, tagging code and doing site research.  They are tracking visitors and clicks and collecting all sorts of information.  The small business online marketer is tracking sales.  That’s the difference.  We’ve let marketing grow to be such a creative outlet, that creative activity has become the end, and its grown and grown, spiraling away from accountability and away from tracking what matters most: sales.

Technology is changing that.  Between marketing analytics programs like Omniture and Unica, we can now entertain ourselves with all sorts of metrics, etc. And with marketing automation systems like Silverpop B2B Engage, Marketo and Eloqua, we can track activities into the funnel.  We can now, more easily than ever, measure the results of a marketing activity from launch, all the way into the funnel and win/loss.

The chasm is closing between sales and marketing.  Technology is moving us marketers closer and closer back to direct accountability for revenue generation.  The only thing holding us back is ourselves, as “marketers”. I think we ought to change the term. I think we ought to call ourselves “Revenue Generators”.

I had a good talk with a friend about some of their marketing practices at their high-end management consulting firm.  I noticed that their site, approach and positioning had changed several times over the last year, and each time it became less clear and less open.  He told me that they had let their original marketing director go last year, and that’s why it changed. When I asked why they let him go, his answer was a simple, and striking, tell-tale of the landscape that we marketers venture today:

“He didn’t tie himself to sales, so the Principals couldn’t see how all the great things he was doing was impacting the business.”

And that, is that.

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The Business of BANT

Ducks in a RowI am amazed at how many sales and marketing organizations that I come across that lack defined process, and in doing, lack the ability to manage and improve their own operations.  In the past 15 years, I have been in marketing and sales organizations throughout the world, both small and Global 2000 in scope, and it never fails to astonish me at how much they lack a simple, common set of criteria for prospect evaluation. Of those that do, few use a nomenclature that is enforced and consistently applied throughout the funnel and across the organization.

Enter BANT: an acronym that, I believe, was introduced to the world through IBM (please correct me if I am wrong).  While I have met a ton of sales professionals who know about BANT and give me the, “Yeah” head-nod and twist of the face that means, “I consider those things with my prospects, who doesn’t?”, very few cognitively use it and measure their activity with it  (That’s the thing about successful sales people – few know why they are successful or what they are doing that really drives success).

Whether you acutally use the acronym BANT or some other tool, the question is: do you have a set of clear criteria that is codified, articulated and implemented across your organization? Its not enough to rely on the “gut instinct” of your sales pros – challenge that instinct and ask them something along the lines of the following:

  • Does the prospect / prospect organization have Budget, or will they have it in an acceptable timeframe for us to work with them?
  • Are we working with the right Authority(ies) in the organization that can actually purchase the product?  How do you know?
  • Does the prospect organization / individual have a matching Need with our product / solution?
  • Is the prospect’s Timeframe to purchase an acceptable one for us to be spending our time with them?

Now, there are a couple of key considerations to point out when working the enterprise and/or complex sale.  The first is from a sales management point, that it is not enough to ask those questions.  In fact, you may not want to ask those questions at all, but get at them from a different angle, such as, “What kind of budget do they have at this time, and what are their spending plans for it? Is someone competing for that money?”  Asking questions such as these puts the team on the spot to really learn what the purchasing situation of the prospect is.  I have heard too many sales leaders (and I am even talking VPs of Global Sales) that glance over these, rather than using this as an opportunity for not only accurate forecasting, but mentoring, training and modeling sales skills to their organizations. My favorite question is “How do you know?”.  Simple, straight forward and cuts through the salesman two-step.

The second point of using BANT in a B2B role, is that you may need to be following multiple BANTS: one for each contact and one for each account, perhaps each opportunity if you are selling multiple products into large accounts.  You may have an individual that has 3/4 BANT in the system, or even full BANT, but because we know that it is never just one person making the purchasing decision in an organization, the account or opportunity may not be at full BANT yet.

The second, and equally important part of BANT is that it is not simply for sales, but for marketing as well.  We must let go of the days where marketing activity is merely creative outlet and flashy campaigns. Marketing exists for one reason and one reason only: to get sales.  And with the dramatic change in the purchasing process over the last 30 years, marketing in most organizations has become the sales team.

It’s marketing’s role to manage those inquiries and suspects and begin to score them based on their BANT position, creating messaging, communications, interaction and conversations that move prospects towards full BANT, and there is a way to do that, because not all BANT is equal.