I have the privilege of speaking with CEOs on a regular basis and discussing their business challenges. Without exception, marketing and lead generation always come up in the conversation. Many begrudge spending money on marketing services or marketing consulting. In fact, they hate it. They feel like someone is taking cash out of their pockets.

When you dig a little deeper to understand why, many CEOs will explain that marketing to them feels like a series of unconnected projects and tasks with vague un-measurable results. In other words, they spend money on stuff (websites, sales sheets, logos, etc) and they have no idea if it adds to the bottom line. Hiring a marketing consultant should help fix this problem, but often it doesn’t. Before you hire a marketing consultant or marketing services, take this simple test.

  1. List all the things that generate leads for your business today and how much you are spending.
  2. Document the definition of your ideal prospect in one sentence.
  3. List how many leads you get from current tactics that map to #2.
  4. Write three bullet points about why customers buy from you. This cannot include price, customer service or product references.
  5. Take the leads from step #3 and indicate if they map to the statement you drafted in step #4.
  6. Whatever leads shake out from the first 5 steps, divide by annual cost.

Are you happy with these results?

Like the accounting system in a business, marketing has to be viewed as a process – An integrated process, tied to strategic goals and measured in its contribution to business results. In order to do this, you need to be clear on the answers to the above test.

The reason most CEOs feel like they are tossing money out the window when they purchase marketing services, is that many struggle with:

  1. Focus. Many CEOs are afraid to put a stake in the ground for fear of missing a sale. But in a world of incredible choice, it’s better to run hard at a specific target. Casting a wide net to produce mediocre leads, is not cost effective for any part of the business. The wrong prospect is harder to manage and will cost you more in the long run.
  2. Message. Many companies communicate via various marketing vehicles by talking about what they do rather than why it matters to the customer. Marketing tactics fail when content is not useful.
  3. Cost. Many CEOs don’t know what it costs to find and keep a customer. According to Sirius Decisions, a market research firm, growth-focused companies spend more than 25% of overall revenue on sales and marketing. For marketing to work it needs to be a consistent effort, built into the annual budget.
  4. Nurturing & Retention. Most marketing plans focus on acquiring new leads and no time, money or resources are spent nurturing the existing ones. An integrated marketing process, tied to strategic business goals needs to address prospect and customer engagement from just looking, to the customer experiencing a product or service.

Before you engage a marketing consultant, agency or provider of any marketing services, think about the answers to the test above. If you can’t answer these questions, how will you know if marketing tactics are working if you don’t have a benchmark. If you want your website, as an example, to generate more leads for your business, be clear on who comes to your site today, what they are searching for and what they care about and if these really are the people you want to care.

Lastly, never hire a marketing consultant who doesn’t ask these questions and document it as part of the strategy. If they say they can increase traffic to your website or bring you more leads without working through these questions, they are just selling unconnected tactics that will likely fail to deliver business results. It’s easy to drive traffic to a website with today’s technology tools, but if no one buys from you when they get there, what was the point?

If you’d like to hear more about how an integrated online strategy can help your business, I will be presenting “Selling an Online Strategy to the C-Suite” on November 3rd at the YTA Marketing Peer Group. If you are not a YTA member, send me a note and I will share my slides from the presentation.

On November 12th, Marketing CoPilot, gShift Labs and Constant Contact are co-hosting a complimentary breakfast at MaRS on Developing Your Web Presence RoadMap. Register here for this event.