Be Loyal to Your Brand Loyalists

Brand loyalists are committed to the vision, demonstrating unwavering allegiance and constant support to a product, service, person or institution.

These brand ambassadors embrace the culture and community created through the brand experience. They understand and speak the language of the brand. And they eagerly embrace the symbolism and association of everything that the brand represents.

Brand loyalty is expressed through a faith and commitment to an organization, a product, service, an idea or philosophy. It is measured through the consistent interactions, such as a purchases or tenure, irrespective of the cost, time, competition, or convenience.

Brand loyalists are flag-wavers, collaborators, devotees, steadfast and should always be viewed as trusted advisors.

Loyalists are truthful. They speak their truth. They will share the good, bad and ugly and often remain loyal through the ups and downs. They are committed to the success of the brand and feel it is representative of them, as showcased by their admiration. That relationship means they will not hold back. They will fight the disloyal and challenge the brand owners to be heard and understood. They have an important voice and they expect to be trusted and respected by those they show such abiding support.

It is essential that owners and representatives of the brand facilitate the valuable conversations and engage directly with their loyalists by first knowing how to identify them. Brand ambassadors have unique and collective traits, motivations and characteristics. They are individual and they are part of groups. They are consumers, clients, influencers, employees, partners, community members, competitors, investors and family members. They all are vested stakeholders in the brand. Brands must be able to identify them individually through demographics and behaviors, as well as by their affiliations.

Once the loyalists are identified, it is critical that the brand knows where their loyalists are hanging out.

  • Where can you meet your loyalists face-to-face?
  • How do they communicate and share experiences?
  • Where are they spending their time?
  • How do they buy your products and services?
  • Where do they get their information?
  • Where do they buy the t-shirt and flag?

Healthy brand cultures are supported by communities and provide opportunities for loyalists to gather, share and participate in the brand experience. Forrester analysts noted that insight communities allow companies to build a relationship with their customers, and gain a better understanding of the deep-seated values that their customers hold. Many marketers emphasize the online experience to develop communities; however, this is only one way to engage directly with your loyalists.

Where to Build Brand Communities:

  1. Your own backyard. Start at all your location(s). Communities should be onsite, both for consumers and employees. Create meetup spots at your offices, plants, retail outlets and corporate headquarters as hang-outs. People that gather in your space get to witness firsthand the brand ecosystem. They are able to see and learn how the brand is built, engage with the people that create the experiences and participate with those that operate in the day-to-day and are faces of the brand.
  2. Neighborhoods where you serve. Go local and elevate your brand in the communities where your loyalists engage with your company, products and services. Participate in local events and support local interests. People want to be able to interact directly and know they are joined in the communal causes. This is extremely important when you are looking to grow your global brand. Loyalty must be localized, driven from those that are able to provide a native experience, with all the cultural nuances and represented on the ground in those geographies. Authenticity is when you let go of your “center of the universe” and show up on their turf, anywhere and everywhere your loyalists participate with your brand.
  3. Social gatherings. Join in the conversations taking place where you don’t own the medium or channel. In addition, create your own conversation channels where your stakeholders can engage with fellow loyalists. Sponsor events, both virtual and in person. Be live and alive, listening and learning through active participation. Provide opportunities to socialize and share, whether it is a company gathering spot, retail hot spot or social platform.
  4. Digital experiences. Create two-way digital exchanges. If your website is just a site for information download and only pushes out content, it is not an experience! You want to share experiences and allow followers to participate with the brand. It should be a push and pull mechanism. Otherwise, it is not an experience. It’s content. Loyalists will consume information; however, they really want to engage. They want to feel worthy of providing insights, advice, experiences and know they are valued beyond just providing revenue. Give them the forums and ability to participate in your digital world.
  5. Direct service. Every touch and conversation is an opportunity to invest in and create new loyalists. Do not let this moment pass by without taking active measure to participate in a direct dialogue. Question what is top of mind for them. Why are they carrying your flag? How can they help you address challenges and provide feedback? This is for all stakeholders – every person that touches your brand. Service is more than just fixing an immediate problem, it is awareness, communication and a pledge. It is how you create a brand experience, promise and value.

Four Ways to Engage Brand Loyalists

#1: ASK – If you want to know how loyal your ambassadors are, ask them. Use surveys like Net Promoter Score to gather feedback and rate their experiences. Identify who and define your audience by individual characteristics. What journey did they take to become a loyalist? Gather the data and use it as a basis for measuring loyalty over time.

#2: SHARE – Let your loyalists share their experiences with others. Don’t hide your loyalists! Their stories are your best brand apparatus. It is estimated that more than 70% of people will buy based on the recommendation of others, so let the people speak! The best employers get their loyal team members to recruit and refer people for open positions – it saves money and deepens loyalty. Provide the opportunities via forums, media, channels, events and content where people can tell their stories about being a brand follower. This is not brand content created by the brand, let it be user generated. If you have three places where people are sharing their stories and producing UGC, find three more. In fact find 30 places and imagine how many stories can lead to referrals and fill your pipelines with new and loyal buyers.

#3: PARTICIPATE – Brands are built over time and they need nurturing and attention. Be front and center with your most avid fans and understand the pains and fears of those that are not embracing your brand. Get involved in feedback groups, onsite visits and exchanges with other brands and experts. Create loyalty programs and utilize reward systems, if applicable. A 2016 study found that customers who are members of loyalty programs generate between 12 and 18 percent more revenue than non-members. First and foremost, show up and listen. How can they help you improve processes? How can they test new product and service ideas? What can you do to ensure they stay loyal to the brand? These are conversations that can advance your company and brand. Reward them for their participation. Ignoring them will only cost you, as it is five to 25x more expensive to find a new customer than retain an existing relationship.

#4: UNDERSTAND – Every person that touches a brand, from the maker to the buyer is part of the brand experience. Why are they your customer, employee or partner? How are you visible in the community? Why does the competition love you and fear you? How do investors and family members of your team talk about the brand? Know that makes them tick, their pains, their experiences and how to create (and recreate) happy moments. Highly-engaged customers buy 90 percent more often and spend 60 percent more per transaction, according to the Rosetta Consulting study. Analyze the information on a regular basis and use it to improve the company, the buyer experience and leverage those that are most committed to the brand. Know the value and exploit it.

For a business, engagement leads to retention as noted by Rosetta Consulting, in that engaged customers are five times more likely to buy only from the same brand in the future. It is dollars and sense.

For marketers, brand enthusiasts are the best source of content. They are the real-time storytellers, the dreamers, the advocates and the believers. They are also the protectors. They are vested in the brand. They want it to do well.

You don’t earn loyalty in a day. You earn loyalty day-by-day.  Jeffrey Gitomer 

Loyalists are essential to long-term success. Be part of their world and go to where they hang out. Know them, listen to them, grow with them and value their service. Gratitude and appreciation will accelerate loyalty.

Be loyal to your loyalists.

Jamie Glass, CMO and Founder of Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.

10 Reasons for Hiring an Outsourced CMO

What is an outsourced CMO?

Let’s start with the easy part, the CMO is a Chief Marketing Officer.  The C-suite designation is earned through experience in leadership and management of the marketing function within an organization. Typically CMO’s will have a dozen or more years’ experience in both strategy development and tactical execution.

The CMO’s role is to advise the CEO and other executive team members how best to expand markets, increase awareness, build loyalty, drive engagement and grow revenues.  The high-level marketing leader is responsible for creating the “voice” for the organization through the brand experience.

A CMO is the brand ambassador, loyalty activist and customer champion.

Internally, the function of a Chief Marketing Officer is to bring together the talent, processes and technology that helps an organization realize the vision and execute upon the strategy that is aligned to specific organizational goals. It is the CMO’s responsibility to build the marketing plan that outlines roles, responsibilities, budgets, resources, timelines, tactics and measurable outcomes.  They lead the marketing organization and orchestrate their day-to-day activities.

Outsourcing for a company or organization is to purchase (goods) or subcontract (services) from an outside supplier or source.

Outsourcing is simply giving the responsibility of the position to someone that does not reside within the business. Why would you outsource an executive-level position?

Top reasons organizations outsource:

  • Experience and competence
  • Budget and/or need to reduce costs
  • Assessment of people, processes and/or technology
  • Gaps in skills and capabilities
  • Need for industry and market expertise
  • Resource constraints within existing teams
  • Urgency to drive initiatives or deliver critical projects
  • Strategic development
  • Team leadership
  • Tactical management and oversight
  • Need to streamline operations and workflows
  • Test job requirements and long-term business needs
  • Reduce risk
  • Advise and consult with leadership

Startups, SMBs, high-growth, turnaround and transitioning businesses can lack the time and dollars required to invest in bringing aboard a full-time senior marketing executive.  Outsourcing the CMO function allows leaders to leverage high-level talent in smaller increments of time and budget, while still gaining qualified and capable expertise that can help accelerate strategic business plans.

When do you need an outsourced CMO?

  1. You have a strong tactical marketing team; however, you do not have a marketing person sitting at the table where company decisions are made about the vision, mission, strategy, tactics and growth plans for the next 3-5 years.
  2. You lack a marketing strategy or plan.
  3. You desperately need a sustainable marketing engine that can deliver predictable results.
  4. You spend money on marketing, though you see little ROI or do not have the capabilities to track budgets, measure performance or forecast results.
  5. You need better competitive analysis and market research to know if you are talking to the right people and delivering the right products and services.
  6. You need a comprehensive assessment of marketing tactics, team members and capabilities to ensure you are built for long-term success.
  7. You know digital transformation can greatly improve your business, yet you lack the expertise that can represent marketing’s role in that process.
  8. You want to implement advanced tactics or implement marketing technologies to help the organization best utilize their data and assets to improve the customer experience.
  9. You need an expert that can help you improve brand loyalty, reduce churn and supports the business development team to achieve their growth targets.
  10. You are dissatisfied with results of marketing and the impact on revenue and know that you are missing out on existing market opportunities.

Today’s marketing function is complex. Business are operating at Internet speed, content is coming in from right and left, technology is taking over the world and digital transformation is accelerating the way we operate in our global economy.

Compounding it all are needs to manage vast amounts of data, utilize advanced analytics, define complicated customer journeys, understand the infiltration of artificial intelligence, manage talent, assess numerous marketing technologies, facilitate demands for personalization and improve customer experiences and create endless amounts of content to stay relevant. And that’s just the beginning. It’s overwhelming for most organizations, along with managing everything else that impacts growth.

It can’t be overstated, marketing is getting more and more complex. Companies need experienced executive marketing leadership to help manage growth, breakdown internal silos, and improve efficiency and economics.

Senior marketing expertise and leadership is essential at a macro-level to bring together the micro-level experts needed to deliver results in this entangled environment.

Having a competent leader that can help an organization stay abreast of trends, recognize opportunities, align resources, implement strategies and resist temptations to waste money is critical for any organizations’ success – whether working within the leadership team or as an outsourced contributor.

An outsourced CMO can provide the experience required to create, define, build, manage and execute the multitude of tactics needed to achieve your business goals.  

If you don’t have the resource internally, outsourcing the Chief Marketing Officer function provides flexibility for a business to utilize an experienced resource for the required time, scale and budget that the business can afford today.

If you have questions about the benefits of an outsourced CMO or are looking to assess your current marketing function, contact me at jamie@artfulthinkers.com.

Jamie Glass, CMO + President, Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.

Analytics and Data-Driven Marketing Trends

Transformation has taken hold of corporate marketing in a big way. Analytics and data are framing the top priorities for current investments by CMOs, who are increasingly responsible for predicting profitable growth for their organizations. This shift requires advancing and centralizing the practice of data-driven marketing people, processes and technology in order to effectively achieve the defined business goals and expected outcomes.

Data has long been part of every major function within a company. However, the current intention of CEOs and stakeholders is to unite the massive amounts of acquired bits and bytes to better inform decision-making throughout the organization.

It is the expectation that marketing, sales and finance data be combined and proactively analyzed to help understand the customer journey, improve company performance, predict revenue growth and increase profitability.

In order to bring together these disparate data sets and effectively utilize collected insights to predict, businesses are heavily investing in marketing technology (MarTech). In a recent survey of marketers by Squiz, these investments are essential to better understanding customers and prospects (62%), which is a key priority and as well as a challenge for enterprise marketing teams. The survey also noted that 55% of marketers are investing in MarTech in order to take a data-driven approach to marketing and 97% of the respondents said marketing technology has enabled them to be more strategic. (Source)

Businesses expect marketing to lead the way in achieving revenue growth targets. Data-driven playbooks are critical tools used to define the journey, understand customer preferences and capitalize on trends. Key to the playbook is the interpretation and translation of data through marketing analytics to support the tactics and activities.

Marketing analytics is the practice of measuring, managing and analyzing marketing performance to maximize its effectiveness and optimize return on investment (ROI).

Analytics empower businesses to recognize patterns and set priorities. Analysis centralizes the focus on outcomes and achievement of business goals by moving beyond standalone marketing metrics and reporting, to fully realizing the value of marketing from data insights.

Success comes from applying the insights that marketers acquire through data, learning from the input and then creating actionable playbooks to manage performance.

Because of the vast amounts of data and the fact that many of these complied repositories are nested throughout the organization, marketing leaders must work with the entire corporate landscape to realize the vision of data-driven marketing and decision-making. This includes researchers, digital and financial analysts, technology and innovation team members, IT, data scientists, product developers and sales operations. Collectively, this group must work together to continually challenge assumptions, push for collective understanding and master the “math” to increase predictability and usability of business intelligence.

What should marketers measure and analyze in order to create an effective data-driven marketing playbook?

Common Data Sets Analyzed by Marketing Data-Driven Organizations

  • Customer Journey Analytics: CJA data is acquired from CRM and MarTech to identify, analyze and measure each stop in the customer journey, from prospecting through acquisition to retention. Marketing data sets come from target data, marketing activities, lead generation and segmentation. Sales data sets come from pipeline activities, conversion, satisfaction, loyalty and retention programs. Financial data provides revenue, acquisition and retention costs and profit information.
  • Mobile and Web: Data from digital systems and online properties, including CRM, call center and web analytics platforms. Data sets include search, behavioral, and demographic information gathered via SEO, ecommerce, conversions and engagement.
  • Voice of the Customer: VOC includes perception and opinion data learned via sources such as structured surveys and feedback mechanisms, as well as unstructured data from open-ended survey questions, texts, reviews, customer service emails, social media, and human interactions via phone and in person.
  • Customer and Prospect Personas: Target and customer data gathered in profiling, segmentation, lead scoring and personalization campaigns. Data sets used in persona analysis includes demographic, physchographic, transactional and behavioral.
  • Lifetime Customer Value: LCV data measures net profit attributed to the entire relationship with a customer, often valued over defined periods of time. Net profit of a customer is lifetime customer value measured against customer acquisitions costs.
  • Media Analytics: Attribution and marketing mix modeling (MMM) data is used to analyze paid media results in all channels and includes campaign and spend details.
  • Social Media Marketing: SMM data includes all acquired information from social and digital media platforms such as Facebook, Messenger, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, WeChat, Pinterest, YouTube and LinkedIn. Data is often used to measure targeting, reach and engagement.
  • Product Life Cycle: PLC data is acquired as a new product moves through a sequence of stages from introduction to growth, maturity and decline.
  • Reach Cost Quality: RCQ data, gathered at each touch point, measures the number of target buyers reached, cost per unique touch and the quality of the engagement.

In contrast to the obvious need and growing investments in data-driven marketing, it is a widely reported fact that most companies today are far from getting the “full value” of all the data available to them to help make better decisions. Most organizations are in the early or mid-stages of the shift to bring all data together in order to effectively guide and predict growth and profitability decisions. The undertaking is often very complex and expensive.

Marketing must press forward and lead the way!

Good news, a recent study by the Global Alliance of Data-Driven Marketing Associations (GDMA)Winterberry Group and MediaMath shows eight in 10 advertising and marketing professionals worldwide use data-driven techniques to maintain customer databases, measure campaign results across both individual and multiple marketing channels, and segment data for proper targeting. (Source)

Now, we must work together throughout the entire organization to ensure that driven-data marketing and analytics provide the proper insights that we can learn from and create successful outcomes, like increased growth and profitability.

Jamie Glass, CMO + President, Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.

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Marketing is Growth Hacking

Marketing is defined as the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising. Is that not really a definition for growing a business?

There are many applications and tactics used in marketing today to build audiences, engage customers and drive revenues.

Separation of growth and marketing does not serve any business well, small or large. Metric-driven association to the business goals must be the primary function and purpose of marketing. In the present, this often has a digital orientation whether you are defining these outcomes to market share, product sales, customer loyalty, new customers, retention, clicks or pipeline velocity. Marketing results should be measured by growth, no matter the tactic or application.

When we entered into the digital age, marketers began to alter course in search of new ways to best attract eyeballs, motivate actions and engage with consumers. In this shift, there were many in the start-up world that felt that marketing was not fluid or quick enough to make this transition. The inertia of the start-up needed immediate and innovative solutions to meet the high volume growth requirements, most of which were heavily reliant on online methods of marketing.

A scramble for “new” resources and technologies ensued and marketers were soon heavily influenced by a community of “outside” thinkers and doers that had unique skills and talents not housed within their formal marketing departments. It was the beginning of what we know have come to know today as “growth hacking,” which is sometimes referenced as the antithesis of traditional marketing.

The term “growth hacker” was first introduced by Sean Ellis in 2010. Sean Ellis  is CEO and co-founder of GrowthHackers.com, the number one online community built for growth hackers, with 1.8 million global users and over 350,000 new monthly visitors. Sean is an author, lecturer and the producer of the Growth Hackers Conference.

Yet, great marketers principled in traditions also see growth hacking as core to how they have always viewed their progressive role within an organization. Marketing is helping a business grow. To meet the demands of the business, top marketers are always in pursuit of new tools, processes, people and technologies to apply to the discipline in order to help the organization achieve its goals.

Marketing is core to any growth-oriented business that seeks to improve results on the investments that are designed to expand markets, promote products and drive sales.

Marketing should never be stagnant in thought or application, or it is useless (and probably needs a new leader). Marketing can not be motionless and standard. It must be dynamic, agile and fast-paced to keep up with the ever changing environments that impact financial results and performance every day.

Traditional marketing is good for textbooks; however, rarely is meaningful in the real-world. Marketing changes daily because of the innovations in platforms, mediums, design, research, intelligence and so much more. This constant change impacts how marketers drive awareness, engagement, influence and the customer experience. Growth hacking may be a a term that makes marketing feel youthful, hip and in tune with the digital world; however, marketing can never be successful if it stays traditional in its approach and utilization.

Growth hacking is marketing in the digital age.

Calling marketing “growth hacking” or renaming a Chief Marketing Officer to a Chief Growth Officer only puts words on activities and titles that should be at the forefront of every good marketer’s strategic playbook. The words may be necessary to focus an organization on strategic objectives and rally the troops to identify with the direction of the organization; however, relevance of growth should always be leading marketing’s responsibilities and role within an organization.

Growth should be marketing-led by which the business is representing and enacting strategies for brand, loyalty, satisfaction and the customer journey. This means that marketing strategy must deploy a variety of tactics that fall into a “growth hackers” profile and required expertise, including:

  • Web
  • Analytics
  • Affiliate Marketing
  • Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
  • Social Media
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Digital Media (Graphics and Video)
  • Content Marketing
  • Customer Feedback
  • MarTech and Automation
  • Lead Generation and Sales Operations Software
  • Mobile and App Store Optimization

Experts in each of these areas of responsibility often require unique skills and diverse capabilities. While some of the tactics may be combined into roles, marketing leadership must often rely on internal and external resources to deliver in all of these areas.

Leading a marketing organization today also requires access to experts beyond the walls of the marketing function. One suggestion is to assemble growth hacker work groups from functional areas within finance, technology, sales, product development and innovation. Some of the roles that can contribute to growth initiatives include: software developers, engineers, analysts and qualitative researchers, business intelligence analysts, AI and robotics, data specialists, as well as QA testers and reviewers.

In the 1950’s, Neil Borden defined the “Four P’s of Marketing” as product, price, place and promotion. Traditional and still applicable today; however, how we market is always changing because of innovation in products, services, delivery and experience.

Most customer journeys are influenced by digital involvement. Often, products and services are completely or have some components of digital today. Price is influenced by the research available to consumers online and most decisions are made before even engaging with the brand. The places people acquire products and services are online and expanding faster than traditional brick and mortar. Promotion is often part of or solely on channels and platforms that are online. All of this requires growth hacking resources, skills, processes, technologies and expertise.

Growth hacking is fundamental to marketing. Marketing is essential for growth, whether hacking or traditional. How we combine efforts, expand our expertise and work together will define how fast we get to our goals.

Jamie Glass, President + CMO, Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.

Marketing Works for Sales

How does marketing best function in an organization?

Marketing works for sales. Marketing works to generate revenue. Marketing is part of the sales engine.

The primary role for marketers is to coordinate with revenue-generators on the required plans, tactics and activities to successfully identify buyers, build pipelines of opportunities, accelerate conversion of new customers and grow existing business.

Marketing must work hand-in-hand with those that have the responsibility for generating revenue to grow and sustain a business. As head of both sales and marketing in my career, I can definitely affirm that success only happens when the two work as one!

Marketing is not a silo and should not operate as one. Marketing must have a symbiotic relationship with those responsible for selling. Unless a business takes on debt to fund operations, there is no revenue in which to function until something is actually sold. The more that is sold, the more operating cash there is to flow into marketing programs and initiatives. If marketing requires a bigger budget, it must facilitate more sales.

Sales is also not a silo and should not be looked upon as a single functional group within an organization. Sales must inform and coordinate with marketing to make this relationship achieve maximum success. The fact is everyone in the company is in sales. Every employee has influence and everyone should directly or indirectly support the selling of an organization’s products and services.

One of the most important steps for sales and marketing leadership, along with the CEO, is to agree upon how the organization will communicate and measure success. The organization needs a common language that everyone understands.

A CMO or head of marketing must ensure the entire marketing function is equally accountable for revenue based on these terms, as are those working in a sales role. Everyone in the marketing organization must be knowledgeable and operating daily to achieve and/or improve upon the identified business performance metrics. The marketing benchmarks must also align to how the entire organization articulates business goals and measures success.

Key Business Metrics for Sales and Marketing

Revenue – Revenue is the amount of money a company takes in over a specific time. It includes deductions and discounts. Most companies will reference this in a P&L as top line and measure it over time as top line growth. Sales and marketing share responsibility in generating revenue for a business.

Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC) – This is the price paid to acquire a new customer. It is the combination of sales, marketing, research, and product or service related expenses used to bring in a buyer. Businesses can utilize this important value to set budgets for sales and marketing. CAC management ensures the business is putting enough capital toward winning the number of customers it needs each year to achieve the revenue goals. CAC should also be used as a barometer for efficiency and effectiveness, along with a benchmark on how the company performs related to their competition.

Customer Retention Rates – Customer retention rates are the percentage of acquired buyers (customers) who continue to buy services over a certain time period. You will often hear that it costs seven times more to find a new customer than retain an existing one. Retention is an important metric. Existing customers are also a gateway to value-add services. Retention should also be analyzed over time and value.

Customer Attrition Rates (CARs) – Opposite of the retention rate is rate of attrition, also commonly called “churn.” Customer attrition rates is the percentage of customers lost over a defined time period. This metric is also usually a leading indicator for customer satisfaction, efficiency in delivery, product use and product or service value. Sales and marketing strategies to reduce CARs are as important to acquiring new customers.

Lifetime Value (LTV) – This is also sometimes called lifetime customer value (LTCV). It is revenue (value) of a customer over the life of the relationship (time). LTV helps sales and marketers understand the potential impact of growing the value and extending the timeline as a customer. This important data point also helps businesses understand the costs of losing a customer. LTV can be used to measure brand equity.

Overhead – Overhead is all non-labor related costs used to operate the business. It is considered fixed expenses regardless of the number of customers or revenue generated by the business. Overhead is often seen as controlled costs and a topic of discussion during budget reviews. Sales and marketing should combine efforts in overhead management to ensure processes, technology and people are not overlapping or creating extra costs. For example, sales automation and marketing technology should be evaluated together to ensure the business maximizes value and works unilaterally to combine all data inputs and resources to effectively manage the customer journey.

Fixed and Variable Costs – These are the monthly expenses used to operate the business. Variable costs align to the amount of goods or services produced and these will increase or decrease based on the volume of production. Fixed costs are not associated to production volume and include costs such as office space, equipment, advertising and insurance. Businesses will utilize costs as a metric on how much is invested into sales and marketing for production.

Profit Margin – Profit margin is the percentage of revenue above the cost of the product and/or service. Think of it as the mark-up. Profit margin can be evaluated by the overall business revenue, as well as by product and service lines to determine the health and ROI on costs related to sales and marketing. Gross margin is the percentage of difference between revenue and cost of goods sold (COGS), divided by revenue. Net margin is the percentage of revenue after operating expenses, interest, taxes and preferred stock dividends. If you are operating in the black, your profit margin is positive and if you are operating in the red, your costs and expenses are greater than the revenue coming into the company. Profit margins can also be utilized to evaluate the health and sustainability of individual customers or segmented customer profiles. It is an important metric for sales and marketing in strategic account management.

Pipeline – Pipeline is a defined series of steps and stages between starting and completion the sales process. It is often valued by the total dollar amount of all identified sales opportunities. The process can be defined as a variety of sales and marketing actions, most commonly prospecting and buyer identification, qualification, meeting, proposal, close and retention. For evaluation, each step or stage will often be assigned a weighted dollar value (percentage) based on the likelihood to close (win). This calculation is often used in forecasting and predicting sales run-rates.

Pipeline Growth – This is the percentage of growth of the associated dollar value of the sales pipeline over a period of time. Pipeline growth can also be measured by numerous variables such as number of prospect opportunities (deals) in the pipeline, types of opportunities, product or service lines, or by territory. Most organizations evaluate pipeline growth monthly. It is important for sales and marketing to analyze growth over different intervals to determine any seasonal or buying cycle variables that will impact sales. Pipeline is a critical metric to determine the future health of the business. Sales and marketing activities are directly connected throughout the pipeline journey and coordination is critical for supporting growth, conversion and retention.

Sales Forecast – This is an estimate of future sales. Forecast accuracy is often a hot topic within a business, as it enables a business to make operational and investment decisions based on predictive future revenues. The sales forecast, often prepared by sales reps and weighted based on analytics and accuracy, informs the business leadership on how to manage daily cash flow and resources. Ideally, forecasts should be visible to the entire organization in real-time through shared sales automation tools and online pipeline reporting. It helps inform employees how the business is predicting performance. Transparency keeps people accountable.

Conversion Rates – Conversion rates can be applied to multiple marketing and sales tactics within the sales pipeline. It is calculated as a percentage of specific actions. Marketers often use this in the early stages of the sales cycle, as defined by a call-to-actions. It is measuring the rate a person converts to the next stage by taking all types of actions. These can be measured as response rates, volume of calls, incoming emails, online comments, web visits, clicks and purchases. Sales often measures conversion as a percentage of win/loss on proposals or quotes and purchases. This is a valuable metric and it should be combined with the length of the buying cycle to determine where sales and marketing can invest resources to accelerate conversion rates.

Customer Satisfaction – Most businesses utilize a customer satisfaction rating or ranking to measure the health of the customer relationship at a given point in time. A common metric for measuring customer satisfaction is Net Promoter Score®, or NPS®. The NPS rating is derived from participants that are surveyed based on one question, “How likely is it that you would recommend [brand] to a friend or colleague?” Those that provide a rating of 9-10 are considered promoters and 0-6 are detractors. NPS is calculated from the percentage of detractors minus the percentage of promoters. Those that score 7-8 are considered passive. Influence is a strong category for marketing initiatives. NPS can help an organization determine the best way to build a strong influencer campaign for existing business referrals and add-on sales, as well as utilize to increase LCV and retention.

One of the common pitfalls that occurs when businesses align sales and marketing metrics is to try to give single credit to one function. Obviously, this happens inherently through commission programs. However, visibility and communication can be universal in a business. It is a shared responsibility that does not have to be solely recognized through compensation. The common language for defining success is the starting place!

Let it be known, when a company surpasses revenue targets, everyone wins. If a company misses their revenue target, everyone is accountable for the performance. That means everyone must answer to the identified measurements the company puts in place to track performance and results.

The purpose of a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is to empower the organization to achieve the business goals through a series of strategies and tactics. Marketing is reliant on the sales function to convert identified opportunities into actual dollars. If we all work united in the pursuit of revenue and customers, then together everyone achieves more! Go TEAM!

Jamie

President + CMO at Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.

What is Your Gig?

Have you been reading all about the gig economy and the massive expansion of people taking gigs and working independently?  Payroll numbers keep dropping and gigs are up!

In the past when I thought about people who are doing a “gig,” I assumed they were playing in a rock band. That is not true today. In fact, there are millions of people doing “gigs” that are not at all related to music or putting on a show.

What is a gig today?

A gig is often a job and project that is temporary, without a set number of hours or defined length of time. A gig is not employment. Gigs are global. Those that take on gigs can often do so working remotely, sun-up to sun down. Gigs offer flexibility and diversity.

Gigs became more prevalent through the expanded use of the Internet, beginning with old school job boards and temporary work websites. These have now morphed into specialization communities, social sites and platforms for crowd sourcing, online recruitment, talent management and project collaboration based on identified skills and types of expertise.

Though the term is trending now, gigs aren’t just for hipsters and millennials. They aren’t only relevant to teens, working moms and dads or those that need a little extra cash driving people around in their own car. Gigs are growing across all types of industries, geographies, and for all ages and levels of expertise.

We call this collective group of alternative workers the gig economy. They are contingent workers, freelancers, contractors, outsourced talent and independent workers, often doing short-term engagements without a set number of hours or employment benefits.

Some say we are in a freelancer revolution. Intuit predicted that by 2020, 40% of American workers would be independent contractors.

More than 53 million Americans are now earning income from work that’s not a traditional 9-to-5. That’s 1 in 3 workers. Source: Monthly Labor Review, October 2015

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “Gig workers could be in contingent or alternative employment arrangements, or both, as measured by BLS. Contingent workers are those who don’t have an implicit or explicit contract for long-term employment. Alternative employment arrangements include independent contractors (also called freelancers or independent consultants), on-call workers, and workers provided by temporary help agencies or contract firms.”

Companies are driving the gig economy.

People are in high demand to fulfill gigs. They provide immediate expertise for limited work or short-term assignments and they often are able to provide quick turn-around on projects. Businesses are highly motivated today to utilize people that will take on work as a gig. Global corporations often utilize those in the gig economy for a variety of projects and tasks, from technical to creative.

As an example, language service providers have a huge network (600,000+) of translators and linguists that work independently or as freelancers. This group consists of native language experts that localize and translate all types of content in hundreds of languages, as well as do gigs for product testing and reviews for some of the world’s largest consumer, manufacturing and technology brands.

It was reported by CNBC in October 2016, that over the past 20 years, the number of gig economy workers has increased by about 27 percent more than payroll employees, according to CNBC calculations using data from a study by the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution.

The top industries sited for utilizing freelancers for gigs include transportation, healthcare, communications, technology, arts and entertainment and construction. Companies often list cost savings in benefits, overhead and administration when utilizing people to do gigs. Most will work remote, require little training and can work from any where in the world, reducing office space requirements. They will often use their own equipment and materials, which also creates further savings for businesses.

Why would an experienced corporate executive want to be part of the gig economy?

I believe the inherent richness of taking on “gigs,” where you can apply creativity, inventiveness, and strategy experience across various companies, is perfect for an executive. Imagine collaborating and advising all types of businesses, applying your seasoned experience and knowledge gained from other “gigs,” to then celebrate in your client’s success. It’s rewarding and stimulating. It is also feeds a need and desire to problem solve, stay relevant and never stop learning.

The gig economy is trending today with great buzz, yet it has been long in existence across all functions. As a corporate executive, I’ve been hiring people to take on gigs for 20 years in marketing, including web developers, creative designers, digital pros and software integration experts just to name a few. In finance, I’ve recruited accountants, auditors, controllers and investment managers for gigs. In technology, I’ve hired people for gigs related to coding, implementations, data management, process and workflows and so much more. Gigs are part of every company.

The gig is up!

No matter how you classify those working “gigs” today, they are actually profiles that span across all levels of expertise. They are growing in demand requiring extensive know-how to advise C-level executives and upper management on strategic initiatives and projects. Though they are designed for short-term projects by definition, I’ve worked for some CEOs for five or more years on what started as a gig.

Gigs are important to all business sizes. I’ve worked on gigs for small start-ups, as well as established multi-million dollar businesses. It’s the expertise that matters most. You could even say board members and advisors are all participants in the gig economy, providing a high level of practical skill and judgment.

The richness in experience I’ve gained through a variety of gigs that I’ve worked on over the past 20 years, has enabled me to apply my knowledge and skills across all types of industries, including retail, finance, technology, professional services, localization, media and even golf. The more gigs I get, the more experience and best practices I can share with other businesses in pursuit of their goals. It’s fulfilling and mutually rewarding.

I’ve long said, sales is sales and marketing is marketing no matter whether you are selling custom golf clubs or sophisticated business intelligence software. Without the overhead of taking on another executive, gigs enable a CMO and senior executive like myself to advise multiple companies across various functions – a big savings that can drive even bigger results. Whether I help a CEO set up a sales organization, write a business plan or implement complex marketing programs, the ability to apply past experience benefits everyone.

So what’s my next gig? I’ve had a very rewarding experience as the CMO at Welocalize. Working with this growing and vibrant organization since 2013, it is now time for me to venture on to my next gig (or two). I’m now going to apply the knowledge I’ve gained from a very interesting industry to helping more CEOs and business leaders – whether it is in globalization, product marketing, service line management, executive leadership or just plain old sales and marketing. It is my journey in an exciting history of being part of the gig economy through my own “gig” business, Artful Thinkers.

So, I’m ready to take on some new gigs! How can my expertise help you?

Jamie Glass,  CMO + President of Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.

EXTRA #1:  Today the gig economy is growing: Last year it was estimated that 34% of the American workforce were freelancers, and that number is projected to be 43% in 2020. How can you survive in the gig economy?

EXTRA #2: Do You Need an Outsourced CMO? 10 Reasons for Hiring an Outsourced CMO