Last night I attended the quarterly dinner in Palo Alto, CA of Start-up Marketing Execs, a group of some 1600 marketing VPs representing start-ups and yet-to-be Fortune 1000 companies. These tend to be feisty affairs where a dozen or so savvy marketers compare notes and offer insights on the challenges facing them. The fuse to the bomb is always lit before the appetizers arrive.
I’ve attend a few of these dinners now – enough to pick up recurring themes. It’s a mix of pluses, minuses, and reckonings of which way the wind is blowing. I jotted down my recollections of the discussion points, then added them up. Ten! I couldn’t resist. Caveat: the information is anecdotal, and the order is arbitrary … so don’t overreach on this
- CEOs, Boards and VCs look to marketing for leads, leads and more leads – quantifiable evidence of marketing’s contributions to the top line. Lead management can be a hellish affair. Marketers are viewed as knowing where the lakes stocked with trout are, and what bait works best (sales people know better but wisely keep silent on this score). So it follows that many are given a fishing rod, some worms, and told how many will be showing up to the fish-fry for dinner that evening.
- Marketing – what it does and what it can do – is narrowly understood. Its role is viewed as getting leads and promoting – spreading the word, beating the drum loudly, and doing whatever it takes to get people standing in line clutching their wallets, demanding more. A tad frustrating is the experience shared by some that marketing is akin to a rainmaker: a shaman that invokes spells when drought conditions hit the P&L.
- CEOs and Boards want iPod moments (iPhone, iPad will do … as long as it begins with “i”). And ever since reports that Yuri Milner bought the $100M estate in Los Altos Hills, the heat’s gone up.
- Social Media is mistakingly regarded as free – a form of frictionless marketing that defies the laws of thermodynamics, supply and demand, and gravity. Which means that budgets can be shifted from advertising and PR to other places like engineering or the bottom line. Which means that regular Tweets and Facebook postings can also be brought to bear on getting leads, making rain, and creating iPod moments. For free at that!
- There is universal agreement that social media (networking) is no flash in the pan. It’s here to stay, and it’s changing the marketing landscape. Forever. But it’s not free (hey, how is Facebook getting the valuation it is if it’s giving the stuff away?). It’s intuitively easy to use (mostly), but brutally difficult to master. It doesn’t operate at all like mass media, but it’s used as if it’s a micro-version ot it.
- Sales people are not going away anytime soon – especially in B2B sales. No one is going to be buying hydro-electric generators from GE online based on some nifty Adobe Flash presentation. The new media is marketing’s opportunity to more ably clear and light a path way to buyers for sales people.
- Marketing 101 proved the folly of “Build a better mousetrap and the world will be a path to your door.” On the flipside, marketing can’t do a lot to sell bad mousetraps (or outmoded ones). Yet, if there’s enough in inventory, you know what you’re going to be asked to do.buy it on
- Marketing got a lot harder shortly following the introduction of tools to make it a lot easier – SEO, email outreach, analytics, CRM. Before, your competitors had six-shooters. Now they have bazookas. And the big ones have unmanned social media drones. And, contrary to popular belief, bullets are not free.
- Sales people are not going away anytime free – certainly not in high-end B2B sales. (Who really thinks that an airline is going to option-out an Airbus A380 using Adobe Flash and buy it online?) Marketing’s opportunity is having the tools to clear a pathway to a sale and light it brightly for a sales person. But with all the competitive arsenal, it is easier said than done.
- The final bit of universal agreement is that all the news tools – the web, social media, communities – are shifting the odds in favor of the customer. Buyers have enormous access to information – and not merely from sellers or industry watchers, but from other buyers, too. They ask their questions, give their praise, and hurl their invectives publicly. For the record. And expect a response. Publicly. For the record. This is the game-changer for marketers, the stuff of which future iPod moments will be made or merely imagined.
I’m going to follow up on some of these in the future.