Andrew Davis wants us to rethink marketing's job beyond lead capture
How much of your marketing strategy is tied up in capturing leads? Landing pages, pop-up forms, LinkedIn invites and pitches, SDR email sequences - if you don't have these things part of your strategy, you are doing it wrong. Right? Not necessarily.
Davis spent some of his early years working for Disney. He managed the puppet budget for Bear in the Big Blue House and was worried about being over budget. But the thing was, no one was upset about the budget. Instead, he realized that it was essential to build puppets that kids love: "they [Disney] are in the business of getting people to fall in love with characters." As soon as they do, Disney has something to sell. As Davis explains it, Disney is not in the business of making shows, it's in the business of licensing deals, and if kids don't love the puppets, they won't buy the teddy bears or other products.
Marketing is very much the same, Davis said. "Marketing is inspiring people to buy stuff."
But many companies are focusing on things that don't inspire people to buy. What they are doing may make people aware, but there is no emotional connection.
Marketing is measuring the wrong things
When Davis presented at the Breaksh!t conference in June, he talked about getting rid of foundational things like pop forms, unsolicited LinkedIn pitches, and cold emails. But those things do work, technically.
According to a study by Sumo, the average conversion rate of high-quality pop-up forms was 9.28%. The average conversion rate of all pop-ups was 3.09%. (Interesting side note: I found this study referenced on many blogs but couldn't find any additional recent studies).
So why does Davis say to get rid of them? He said the problem is marketing is measuring the wrong things. If all you are measuring is that the person filled out the form, then yes, pop-ups work, he said. But what are they doing after the form fill? Or if you are sending valuable content, are they consuming it? Are they inspired to buy?
Especially in marketing, they love to measure lots of little things, but the only things that matter at the end of the day are an increase in revenue as a result of activities you've delivered on. And most marketers have no semblance of an idea on how to actually report, measure or present their impact on the business.
Like Disney and the Jim Henson Company (which Disney bought), it's not just about how many people watch a show. Davis said many shows had decent ratings that made no money because no one bought the plush dolls. "If you can create a product that inspires people to buy other stuff, it's a much better return on investment."
So let's talk more about the pop-up. How many designers create it, so it's nearly impossible to close it? How many people fill out the form to get content they've never seen and find themselves either disappointed with that content or they just never read it? And how many of those people hit unsubscribe the next time you send them an email - whether it's an email from an SDR or a marketing email? How many people didn't know what they were subscribing to, Davis asked?
Davis shared the story of the blank ad experiment. An advertising guy decided to test if ads really did work. So he bought a bunch of ad space and placed a blank ad. The ad received a decent clickthrough, which Davis said was interesting on its own. But on the landing page, people were asked why they clicked the ad, and the majority said they clicked it by accident.
Clicks don't tell us the whole story. And neither do form fills. As a result, they tell us very little about whether a person is interested in our company or products and services.
Marketing is obsessed with getting emails and names, essentially generating leads, said Davis. At least they are until the CEO wants to know what marketing's impact was on revenue. "Then you'll get innovative reporting methods and better marketing."
What are the metrics marketing should focus on? Don't say engagement because Davis hates that word - unless you take the time to define it precisely. But when you do that, 'engagement' isn't a metric itself.
Thinking like a revenue center is part of what you need to do. Tricia Saunders, Trimble's Director of Global Revenue Marketing Operations, shared some ideas in an Adobe Summit that are important to bring up again.
Marketing must know Sale's goals, including how those goals break down into net new, renewals, cross-sell/upsell, and partner revenue. The next thing to understand is how marketing helps drive these sales goals. So, you have to look at past experience and understanding of previous pipelines to figure out how many marketing inquiries and MQLs it took to achieve the revenue from past pipelines.
But there's more than thinking like a revenue center. You also have to think like a relationship builder, and that requires a good content marketing strategy.
Content marketing is an important piece
Where does Davis see content marketing fitting in? Content marketing is an important part of helping others understand why and how you are different. Companies need to share their perspective, and that perspective needs to come from their own people.
Understanding your "why," according to Simon Sinek, is critical. And Davis agrees. But even more important, he said, is the "what" - what you do to make yourself different.
"With content marketing, you can push yourself to challenge conventional wisdom and share insightful, visionary content." In other words, not commodity content like the FAQs that competitors, influencers, even analysts have already answered. Davis recommends stepping things up and earning the attention of people interested in what you are doing. When you do this, those people will sign up for the next big piece of content and eventually build a relationship with you.
Content Builds Relationships >> Relationships Build Trust >> Trust Drives Revenues
Davis offered three things that make great content marketing:
- It has to be from a person, to a person. Too many brands create content that doesn't have a strong byline, he said. Interpersonal relationships are key.
- Make an appointment with the audience. Set the expectation that you will deliver high-quality content and challenging thought leadership regularly. Deliver on that.
- You need a hook. "A simple twist on a familiar theme for your audience that ensnares them because that's what keeps them coming back."
And if you think there is nothing left to say on a topic, you're wrong. "There are content holes in every market," Davis said. If you can't find a content hole, you aren't digging deep enough.
Traditional metrics like leads, visitors, pageviews - don't seem to be going anywhere. And as much as people hate pop-up forms, marketing will continue to use them because they produce leads (questionable ones, but leads just the same).
But a company that puts more effort into the next level of marketing measurement - the metrics that show marketing is critical to the bottom line has a better chance at success. If we took a page from Andrew Davis's book and focused on building relationships, we would focus on relationships, not leads, and have a better chance at winning and keeping customers.