45 sX red blue pill

For CEOs Eyes Only! - All businesses need to grow or else you’ll contract and fail.  So, why is scaling up and growth so difficult and complicated?  There is a serious and fundamental problem within B2B organisations that can only be solved by CEOs or Managing Directors.  However, to find the answer, there is a bit of a rabbit hole and you’ll only find out if you take the red pill, not the blue (which will keep you where you are).

Contents

  1. The scary business facts
  2. A bit of background
  3. Who’s really qualified to decide on new hires
  4. What businesses want - and what they get
  5. Misleading data leading to misguided expectations
  6. Passing the Buck - Still
  7. Seventy years and no change
  8. Scale up or Bale out?
  9. Attracting new business
  10.  Keep it Strictly Simple (KISS)
  11. Getting back to basics
  12. It can be lonely at the top
  13. Ever heard of F.A.B.?
  14. There is no Plan B
  15. Is time really ‘of the essence’?
  16. Sit back and consider the possibilities

The main problem is the Marketing Technology (Mar-Tech) Matrix.  Your staff attempt to master the technology but keep failing because it’s not the technology that needs to be addressed.  

In one sentence – Stop using marketing automation, create unrestricted multi-format digital content to educate and serve prospects and customers, and watch your business grow.

Of course, there is more to this than one sentence, however, by the end of this article, I may have changed your outlook and business trajectory.  As CEO, you need to hear this information, but few are qualified to say it: -

  • Most businesses are unable to scale up or achieve their desired turnover
  • Marketers can’t create suitable/sustainable interest to attract enough prospects
  • Sales keep reverting to cold calling because they lack decent leads
  • There is a constant churn of marketers, yet the job descriptions don’t change
  • Hiring managers are unqualified to hire someone who could make a difference

Businesses fail to scale because of incorrect and misleading advice from subordinates, especially when it comes to recruiting marketing people.

I recently embarked on a new approach for my own consultancy, which ended up becoming more like research and insight than looking for new business.  It began with sending out my CV to businesses and agencies who were looking for a senior marketer and the responses have been, well, unsurprising.

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The Scary Business Facts

Before we get really going, take a moment to digest the following: -

  • 20% of all businesses fail in the 1st year
  • 30% of all businesses fail in the 2nd year
  • 50% of all business fail in the 3rd year
  • 70% of all business fail by the 10th year

This equates to 91% of all businesses failing within ten years.  Now look at the performance of businesses who obtain investment: -

  • 40% of businesses fail who receive investment
  • 75% of businesses fail to achieve their own targets
  • 95% of businesses fail to achieve a return on investment for the investors

UK government statistics show that on average 500,000 businesses start up and 500,000 close down, every year and the total number of businesses within the UK is just under 6m.

Correlate the above with the financial performance or annual turnover per person per annum of most businesses: -

  • £80k - Up to 10 staff
  • £135k – Up to 50 staff
  • £165k – Up to 250 staff

Now you can see why unicorns are in demand, and why tax breaks are part of the mix and necessary for investment – as only a small proportion actually make any money!

It is clear that all the hype from digital, automation and A.I. needs a serious review and re-evaluation from the B2B perspective. Especially when government statistics are so dire, yet Mar-Tech keeps inflating their own performance in order to sell their SaaS.  We both know it is statistically impossible for every business to succeed, therefore, how much will you accept as being the truth when it comes to actual success rates and failures.

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A bit of background

I’m a B2B marketing consultant.  A founder of four start-ups and a content creator/technical type person.  I’m a published author and developer of this website from the ground up and business advisor.  As CEO you will look at this article, my CV or website and say, “well, clearly he’s done his 10,000 hours and he’s got all the attributes of an expert in what he does – if we can afford him, get him on board.” 

My career can be easily segmented; first I was an employee, then a director, then an employee, then a director and now I’m looking to become an employee again.  This is easily explained as entrepreneurs identify a problem then solve it and so on.  I am at a very exciting juncture now; in that I have been seeking to find the answer how to scale businesses profitably.  Now I have the answer, I intend to execute the plan on behalf of a business rather than embark on a road-show path to tell everyone how clever this is.  As the saying goes; those that can ‘do’, those that can’t, ‘teach’.  I do…!

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Who’s really qualified to decide on new hires

However, when a subordinate employee, recruiter or non-business-owner director looks at or reads the same, their response is “Oh, he’s a CEO type, he’s reached the pinnacle of his career!  He’s got his own business.  Oh, his website is immense, he’s got an empire (yes, a recruiter said this to me!), so why does he want to work for someone else?  We couldn’t possibly take him on, he’s too senior!  Or maybe they’re afraid, especially if they’re CCOs, CMOs or are in any way connected to marketing.  I mean, I am really scary, imagine, a marketer who can do marketing and can prove it. 

But in all seriousness, I know they’ve never run a business.  Secondly, they certainly haven’t run a marketing strategy consultancy as most of their experience with agencies is normally for SEO and PPC, and should be relegated to B2C practices only, not B2B.  But considering the fundamental problems with B2B marketing, my logic has led me down a path to want to help businesses exponentially scale rather than ‘bust a gut’ trying to convince inexperienced decision makers to take a different path. 

There is another factor, working as a consultant, I normally report direct to a CEO anyway, so working full-time within a business is no different.  I am still doing what I’m good at, which is marketing.  However, those who are not as comfortable or confident in their own abilities cannot understand this.  This is what makes me scary 

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What businesses want - and what they get

I know there is an expectation and preference for B2Bs to want to employ marketing and sales directors rather than contract them in.  Perhaps it’s the desire to ‘own’ the 9-5 of the individuals as perhaps they’ll make more of a commitment and then between them, they'll find the business, make appointments, and close the deals. Sounds simple enough, but nothing could be further from the truth, and they both know it.

I can't stress enough how important it is to grasp the reality of business development and scaling up, especially as the general expectation is for subordinates, including board members to deliver information and data upon which you, the CEO can make decisions. 

No one is going to recommend a strategy they’re unaware of or that will endanger their position.  Furthermore, new requests or strategies can be expected to be delivered in seconds by subordinates or they are summarily dismissed, typically because they rarely come up with genuine new ideas to move the business forward and more often than not, simply want more budget to justify their existence!

As Steve Jobs said, “we employ experts to tell us what to do, not the other way round”. Businesses want and needs the right advice from the right people.

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Misleading data leading to misguided expectations

Back to recruitment; as a CEO you will have been told by countless staff over the years what a typical job description needs to look like for both sales and marketing personnel, which most would readily accept. The trouble is they are wrong.

The people creating the job descriptions are simply repeating those who have gone before them, or they have allowed the recruitment companies to write them. You only have to look at the technical demands of a CMO compared to that of a VP of sales, CFO or COO to realise there's an imbalance.

Marketers are expected to be alchemists. They are to know every piece of software, descend on your business, do their magic alchemy and make your business successful through digital. But even an alchemist needs raw material (content) and that is what is lacking in most businesses.  I’ve even come across five-year-old businesses who have no content for prospects except blogs that extol the success of the business in their ability to raise finance.

The scale of expectation of marketers is breath-taking, so is the difference in compensation plans.

When a Chief Operating Officer is paid more than a CMO, it becomes clear that the expectations of marketing are pretty low.  That said, I read a job description that required the marketing director to have experience taking a business from £25m annual recurring revenue (ARR) to £100m ARR and to be proficient in a list of activities and software as long as your arm.  Does anyone actually think that they would even attract such a world class superstar in the first place if they’re already responsible for £75m annual revenue for another business - and, wait for it…they want to pay the marketing director the princely sum of £80k per annum.  It makes me wonder what the Sales Director and sales teams were actually doing.

Take it from me, I’m not looking to create a movement for higher-paid marketers, they’re on their own.  In my opinion, they’re responsible for the failure of most businesses over the past twenty years anyway!

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Passing the Buck - Still

This lack of business acumen and understanding is where the problem starts.  It then escalates into a situation where the people doing the recruitment are not qualified to ascertain if one person is better suited over another as they’re simply using bad data in the first place.  Nowadays it’s not about the strategy, it’s about the person and their ‘cultural fit’, yet the adage - if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got - becomes relevant.

When it comes to new business, the sales team and the rest of the board expect marketers to provide leads. Therefore, sales are protected as they can blame marketing for poor performance and marketing responds by saying, sales can't close, with neither accepting any blame.

This situation has resulted in the average tenure of a CMO, over the past ten years in the UK and the USA, being about 18 months!  This is well known throughout the recruitment industry (they love it!!!) and is mentioned by most of the marketing press on the Internet.  CMOs promise the earth, take three months to get their new marketing plan going, twelve months to see it crash and burn, then three months looking for a new role and they either jump or are pushed.

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Seventy Years and No change

Sales strategies have not evolved since the 1950s. Marketers still think along the lines of ‘broadcasting’ a message (spray and pray) as they did back then on T.V., newspapers and radio.  The marketers are to prepare the way for a sales person to walk in and close the deal.  Now it’s a one-to-one educational relationship sensitively crafted over mobile and personal devices to build awareness before the sale and the digital relationship is to keep going after they’ve purchased.  It’s called customer experience – CX.

However, cold calling is still demanded of BDRs at a 400-1 shot, even with the wide scale use of marketing automation, which is deemed necessary to get a prospects name, email, and telephone number.  With Google and Apple clamping down on cookies and privacy, there are going to be some interesting developments in the months and years to come.

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Scale up or Bale out?

Every B2B wants to scale up, but most CEOs believe it is only possible by increasing headcount and or increasing/taking on investment. This is wrong thinking!  No business can profitably scale if sales are made on a one-to-one basis. Scaling a business profitably today can only be achieved digitally and its way more cost effective than people think – but sales and marketers have never been driven enough to want to work out how (until now!).  I mentioned earlier the average turnover per person per annum.  For Google it’s $1.2m pppa! So, most businesses have a way to go.

And then there’s the question of digital transformation which is banded around everywhere yet causes consternation in most CEOs as it seems a euphemism to turn the business in to IT testing ground to employ consultants who don’t care less about the business.  Trust me, it’s not a problem if the focus is on internal and external customers and the company’s desire to help both to thrive. 

Consider this, if the general consensus is that staff to want to keep their jobs, yet your business is not achieving higher than average turnover per person, it’s possible your key personnel are in a state of stagnation and unable to break out, so they keep saying what they think you want to hear.

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Attracting New Business

As CEO, you need to be made aware of the alternatives to scaling your business, and it's not about getting more investment and increasing headcount.  Put simply, there needs to be an adjustment in marketing production and an acute awareness of how SEO and PPC is failing B2Bs and why marketing automation is not the answer. Save your money!

Marketing Automation Platforms + PPC

Marketing automation platforms (MAP) used in conjunction with pay-per-click (PPC) and landing pages to coral names and email addresses is a sure-fire way to remain invisible to your market!  B2B marketers attempt to apply B2C tactics to obtain leads for business centric products and services.  It does not work, which is why cold calling is still an acceptable method of new business generation and ‘reverse-IP-lookup’ software like Lead Forensics and Candii are used to identify website visitors.  MAPs sabotage B2B success.
 

Marketing Automation Platforms Hide Content from SEO

As you know, SEO works by Google ‘crawling’ your website content, referencing it and displaying it in their Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).  Using Marketing Automation email forms to entice prospects to give up their contact details in exchange for your content makes SEO worthless because Google can’t crawl the content nor can your prospects get access to the ‘thought-leadership content you so desperately want them to read.    

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Keep it Strictly Simple (KISS)

Just let them have the content, no strings attached.  Don’t gate-keep your content.  If you’re using marketing automation to capture leads, STOP.  Remove all the email forms, ensure the content is actually recreated as proper web pages and include the downloadable document within the new pages.  Then re-index the pages(s) on the Google Search Console. 

There is more information about page structure and the overall content structure which Google likes on this page here.  This will exponentially increase your visibility at no cost.

You must understand how this seemingly clever software is sabotaging your business.

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Getting Back to Basics

It might seem like going back to basics, but that's exactly what's needed. People buy people, and businesses make purchases to increase profitability, they're not buying sports trainers to look cool, no one ever said “this SaaS looks good on me”.

There is more to the whole marketing approach and for many businesses it requires a bit of an overhaul and a review of the necessary strategy to make it ‘prospect-friendly’.  Bear in mind, according to Gartner, 83% of B2Bs research digitally before they’ll engage with a salesperson so clearly there are businesses successfully engaging prospects somewhere on the Internet and in your industry, it might as well be you.

Marketing success today is about education. Teach your prospects how you can help them, treat them well and they'll stay close. But beware, treat them like they’re a ‘mark’ from the 1980s and they’ll vote with their feet.

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It can be lonely at the top

We both know, it can feel like you’re on your own.  But if you’ve been around the block, you’ll like this next saying, “Don’t buy or make any changes until we’ve had a chance to talk!!!  Well, apart from forcing a meeting or telephone conversation on you, which I won’t do, you need to avail yourself of this information and view the development of your business through new lenses as no one else will ever suggest it. 

Naturally there are some adjustments to personnel, but the objective is to transition to Digital Selling.  If you can sell to one business this way, it can be replicated, but if you can’t, don’t keep throwing money at it or let someone else keep doing it.  Keep in mind, once you nail it you can scale it!

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Ever heard of F.A.B.?

Back in the day, we used FAB, it stands for Feature – Attribute – Benefit, and that translates into ‘what it is, what is does and, what it means’.  If this resonates with you, think of what I’m says as follows:

Feature (What it is)   
A Digital Selling Framework
 
Attribute (What it does)
Creates multi-level engagement using all types of media format, at every stage of the buying process requiring the minimum direct ‘human’ interaction
 
Benefit (What it means)
Increased prospect and customer engagement who are ready to buy in their timescale, making your business highly profitable and structurally scalable

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There is no Plan B

One question that comes up is about creating leads for salespeople.  As I mentioned earlier, this is rooted in a 1950s sales and marketing mechanism that demands the production of leads by one group, to be followed up by another group leading to a 1:1 sales process.  This is the cause of low performance per person per annum when combined with the Internet and digital infrastructure.

It’s a bold statement, but I do not believe you have any alternative to scaling your business other than adopting a Digital Selling Framework strategy and redefining IT, Marketing and Sales to Technology, Content and Revenue.  There’s more about the required changes in the whitepaper - take a look here and in the corresponding Digital Selling article here.

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Is time really ‘of the essence’?

This is not about convincing you to spend more money or buy new software, it’s about convincing you to adapt your existing business infrastructure structure to exploit new business development and become genuinely profitable, to function in a less stressful working environment and to have a great life.  We both know business is what you make of it and as the Abbey National Building Society advert tagline said, “because life’s complicated enough”.

One question you’re probably asking yourself right now is how long will it take?  Well, it’s a gradual thing and depends on how much content you’ve already got and what should be created to provide a digital infrastructure that keeps working 24/7. 

Put it this way, if you had a relatively simply SaaS product and no content at all, it could take approximately three to four months before launch, however, the process would be on auto-pilot for the following twelve to eighteen months or longer.  You’re selling B2B, your business doesn’t need to be creating social media post every half-an-hour, therefore this strategy is pretty-much set-and-forget.

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Time to sit back and consider the possibilities

To find out more, read some of the other articles online, listen to the podcasts, watch a video or two or download our whitepaper and perhaps pass on to a colleague.  Bottom line, explore my website, it will all make sense, but just keep reading and consuming the content - pause over a drink and ponder the possibilities.  I know you will never look at your B2B marketing in the same way again.

For me, I’m pretty chilled, I’m taking my time, waiting to find to right company to work with full time, who want to scale their business to unimaginable levels.  It’s not that I have an over-active imagination, it’s simply that I have planned for this to happen and as mentioned earlier, I’ve done my 10,000 hours and can prove my strategies and abilities.  I’ve also got more T shirts and life experiences than most which is why it makes my career trajectory more exciting.

If you’d like to have a chat about your business and where you could take it, just get in touch, we could cover a great deal with a video call.  Now that you’ve read this article to the end, you can’t unread it and so I commend you on your tenacity and taking the ‘red pill’.  I seriously wish you well for the future of your business. 

All the best N.

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