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What Ricky Bobby Can Teach Inbound Marketers About Demand Generation

by Doug Davidoff | Apr 13, 2016 5:00:00 PM

Ricky-Bobby-2.jpgI wanna go fast. --  Ricky Bobby, Talledega Nights

Much has been written about the radical changes in how customers learn, engage, shop and, ultimately, buy products and services. Customers no longer rely on salespeople as they once did, and have more control than ever.

This observation is not new. Every day more forward thinking companies are adopting inbound marketing and demand generation approaches that align with this new reality. As our marketing manager Stacy shared in a recent post, more and more content is being created every day (many would say too much is being created).

Despite the effort and investments these companies are putting forth, they’re often not seeing the return they expected. Over the last several months, I’ve conducted a number of assessments for companies that have been implementing inbound for years. I’ve seen a noticeable uptake in diminishing results.

So, what’s the reason for the failure?

From my analysis, the problem is that many companies are only addressing half of the problem. The other half of the problem, the half that doesn’t get anywhere near the attention it deserves, is all about speed. Speed, or more accurately velocity, is a crucial factor in the success of your efforts; and the reality is that most mid-market companies aren’t moving fast enough.

Ricky Bobby was also fond of saying, “If you’re not first, you’re last.”  The translation for that in sales and marketing is that you’re either perceived as the best or your perceived as me too.

Think about demand generation velocity as NASA (and Elon Musk) does when planning trips to space. In space exploration, you must power enough velocity to break through the gravitational pull of the Earth’s atmosphere. In business, that gravitational pull is toward commoditization. You must power your efforts to gain the velocity to break through and that means you need speed.

Two years ago, I wrote a post for HubSpot highlighting the three reasons that inbound marketing efforts fail. Even when your strategy is good (you understand your customers, you’re creating good content, etc.), if your process isn’t strong enough or fast enough, you still fail.

To gain the velocity needed to succeed, you must focus on developing your process so that it moves fast enough and drives consistent, predictable and scalable results. Here are three tips to build a process designed for velocity.

But, First Let’s Talk About The Single Biggest Mistake You Can Make

The first temptation to gain speed is to skip all of the crap around building a solid foundation and jump right to execution. Start posting blogs, send emails and start making calls. This presents two problems:

  • Because of the lack of a foundation, you can’t maintain execution. You quickly run out of ideas and little to anything actually works, so you quickly lose the motivation to continue.
  • Most importantly, it doesn’t work. To break through commoditization’s pull, you must have a super solid structure.

Enough about mistakes, let’s get to the tips:

1. Start Slow So You Can Go Fast

This is the answer to the mistake above. I remember some years ago when I had the opportunity to interview executives from companies that were outstanding on execution. They made good decisions and they made them quickly. I asked them how they do it. Their answer was that they give a significant amount of attention to strategy. The have their arguments before they execute. While this may delay getting things started by a month or two, it saves an insane amount of time and frustration once things start happening.

The same approach is needed with demand generation. Spend the time to think through your personas, debate and discuss messaging approaches and how the process will be handled. We typically spend a solid 60-90 days in the beginning of an engagement to put the strategy and the structure together. I’m not going to lie here. It can be quite frustrating for clients who have been known to say things like, “I thought you guys were the experts. Why can’t we get things moving faster?”

Of course, the answer is that we are getting things to move quickly. We’re just making sure that we save time - and money - from the backend.

2. Think Small

A motivational speaker once shared with me that if you can improve by just one tenth of one percent a day, by the end of the year you would have more than doubled your ability. Of course I was too young at the time to appreciate his advice. I didn’t want to go small...I wanted to go big. I wanted to vault and skip steps. And sure, in the early part of my effort, I did make a lot of progress (and laugh at the speaker). Then I hit a wall and got kicked to my ass. That speaker had the last laugh.

It wasn’t until I finally matured and applied that advice that I got real traction. Today our focus is on continual, iterative improvement. We finally realized that we need to do $2 of revenue before we could do $20 million, so now we focus on the next waypoint.

This approach simplifies the decisions you have to make, and enables you to stay agile. It allows us to move faster, measure and then have the data to drive the next decision. Since we started thinking small, our productivity has more than doubled and our results have quadrupled.

3. Be Focused

I learned this one from a fellow baseball coach. You can only work on or coach one thing at a time. If you’re trying to work with someone to improve their hitting and you address more than one thing at a time, you lose impact and the end result will most likely be worse than when you started.

The same is true for demand generation. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard a prospect say something like, “We want to enter a new market with a new product and to do that we need to increase traffic and improve our conversion rate.” I always think the same thing when I hear that, “Good luck.”

Pick what’s most important. Set micro goals and run micro experiments. Don’t make it a goal to “increase traffic.” Make it a goal to increase a specific type of traffic.

Want to improve conversions? Run a test on a popular page and see what it does to conversions. You can learn valuable insights in days that you can then apply to your overall approach.

It is said that perfect is the enemy of progress. By thinking small and staying focused you avoid that barrier. This allows you execute faster, gain the velocity and momentum you need and to break through commoditization to fast, profitable growth.