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    07/11/2024 |

    Unrealistic Expectations Associated With Your Marketing Are Preventing You From Growing

    I think it’s time we talked honestly about the unrealistic expectations businesspeople have about their marketing, how to grow their companies, what investment means and how to finally think differently about marketing.

    Every week I talk with five to 10 company leaders about their marketing. All of them have asked to talk with me, so they know they need more leads and new customers to grow their businesses.

    But when it comes to doing what’s necessary and investing appropriately, all logic seems to go out the window.

    I ask these marketing, sales and C-suite leaders a lot of the same questions: What did you budget to generate all these leads? What were you expecting to invest to generate more leads? How important of a priority is this for your company?

    And my favorite question: What would it mean to your company if you had a revenue generation system that produced scalable, predictable and repeatable revenue?

    The answers are pretty consistent.

    What did you budget to generate all these leads you need?

    We don’t have a budget for this. We didn’t know what to budget for this. We have a budget, but we’ll have to find money from somewhere else to do this.

    What were you expecting to invest to generate more leads?

    We don’t really know. We’ve talked to a bunch of agencies and the range is pretty dramatic, so we’re not sure. We’ve never done this before.

    How important of a priority is this for your company?

    It’s a major priority. We have to get this fixed.

    What would it mean to your company if you had a revenue generation system?

    It would be a game-changer.

    So, what’s the problem? All these company leaders know they have an issue, they’re not equipped to fix it, they’ve tried to fix it in the past and haven’t been successful, they want to solve it and they say that it’s critical to the success of their businesses.

    Yet when it comes to their expectations around all aspects of this work, there’s a major disconnect. They don’t want to invest what’s necessary to make the change. They don’t want to invest the time to fix this issue once and for all. They don’t want to follow the expert advice they’re getting.

    It also seems like in most cases, people tend to do nothing as opposed to doing something, even if it’s not with us.

    Why? What’s behind this?

    If we want to understand what prevents business leaders from moving forward and fixing their marketing and sales execution challenges, we really need to dig into how they think about these proposed solutions.

    I like to look at psychological back stories to understand how people think, and it’s clear why people don’t make the decisions they need to when it comes to growing their business. This article from PsychCentral provided some good information to help me understand.

    People don’t make decisions because they fear failing. You’ve all heard it doing nothing is often the safest thing to do. It might not be the right decision, but at least you’ll know what to expect.

    People don’t make decisions because they lack confidence in the subject matter. When people don’t know as much as they think they should, it’s hard to feel safe making any decision.

    People sometimes lose perspective on the big picture and get caught up in the details, causing them to feel confused. They lose sight of the big goal grow the company and instead get caught up in the details.

    This makes sense to me.

    There is one more core concept here worth talking about, and it’s the buy button. Yes, we all have buy buttons in our brain. It’s the part of the brain that controls fight or flight sometimes it’s referred to as the reptilian brain. There’s a great (and short) article on LinkedIn that goes into this in more detail.

    The short story is no one buys anything until they feel safe, and the oldest part of our brains controls this feeling.

    We have to make people feel safe and give them as much information as possible so they feel like they’re equipped to make a good, smart and safe decision.

    If we’re going to help CEOs and revenue leaders make better, more informed and safe decisions, then we’ll have to help set proper expectations around their perspectives going into these conversations about marketing and sales.

    A lot of incorrect expectations exist today that I think are confusing business leaders and contributing to a lack of confidence in their decision-making and ability to feel like they’re making a safe choice.

    Let’s look at all those incorrect expectations.

    Expectations Around Investment

    There’s a real issue here with what good, high-quality, results-delivering marketing work costs. Most people want their investment in marketing to be as low as possible. Yet you’d never select the cheapest doctor, the most inexpensive attorney or the lowest-cost accountant, right? You’d want someone to do a great job for you because these three areas are critical to your success.

    Why is marketing any different? Going with the cheapest option is almost always going to produce the worst results and the worst experience. How can it not? To provide such a cheap service means they have to use cheap labor and provide a light client experience.

    Good work costs money. Good people cost money. Good agency processes, methodologies and frameworks cost money. You should hire the most expensive firm and set the bar high. Define what you expect in terms of the engagement, relationship and results.

    You shouldn’t be looking for a vendor (vendors sell hot dogs). You should be looking for a partner that takes the time to understand your business inside and out and functions as an extension of your team. This kind of relationship requires investment.

    If you’ve struggled to find a solid agency to be your partner, it’s probably because you’re not paying enough for that type of relationship. Pay up to get the best doctor, best attorney, best accountant and best marketing agency. The results will speak for themselves.

    To feel safe, talk openly about expected results. Work with your agency to agree on expected results. Once you feel comfortable that they can deliver on what you’ve agreed and the investment associated with those results, you should feel safe enough to proceed, and you’ll be able to hold them accountable for those results.

    Expectations Around the Amount of Work

    After 20 years of providing marketing services to clients, one thing is clear people who find an agency willing to do work for less money almost always expect the agency to do more work than they’re actually paying for.

    This might make sense to you trying to get your agency to do as much as possible, then continuing to complain about wanting more but not wanting to pay more. In truth, this is not helping you.

    Making an agency overservice your account is going to put them out of business. If every client is overserviced, the agency will be unprofitable and have to shut down. That’s not how partners treat each other.

    More truth? It doesn’t matter how much the agency does, it matters what results the agency produces for you. If you agree on the results, then you should let them do what they need to get you the agreed-on results. The value is not in the work or the stuff but rather in the system they build and the business outcomes they contribute to.

    This is how you should set up the relationship with your partner agency, measure that relationship and compensate them for their contribution to your business outcomes. Agree on results and the right level of investment to deliver those results, then let them do their thing.  

    Expectations Around Results

    Speaking of results, this is generally where the real issues come from. Almost every company wants massive results but isn’t willing to invest appropriately in relation to those expected results.

    We need 1,000 leads a month, but we can only invest $1,000 a month, and right now we’re getting 10 leads a month.

    I can promise you that this isn’t happening. Anyone who would promise this isn’t being honest.

    There is a direct correlation between results and investment because there’s a direct correlation between the work that must be done and the expected results. The higher the expectations, the more work and the more investment required.

    We have no problem working with clients that are looking for a huge improvement from their marketing efforts, but they must be willing to invest the money for us to do EVERYTHING necessary to move the needle. They also have to be willing to invest the time to build the programs correctly so that they run well and produce the desired results.

    Cutting any corners either with regard to the investment or the quality of your team, campaigns or technology configuration will hurt your results.

    Stop trying to get something for nothing. Work with your agency as a partner to jointly agree on expected results and the work/investment required to generate those results. Hold each other accountable for both the work and the investment.

    That’s how partners work together.

    Expectations Around the Time It Takes To Get Results

    I understand that you need leads and you need them today. But the reason you need leads today has been brewing for months or even years. Almost nothing in your business that has been broken for years is going to be fixed in a few days.

    Regardless of the results you’ve agreed on with your agency, it’s unlikely those results will be delivered in days. Expect it to take at least a month or longer to fix everything that’s wrong or missing in the way you currently market your company.

    So, when your partner agency says it’s going to take six months to get the results going, it’s not because they want it to take that long or because they want to get your money for five months before being accountable, it’s because you only wanted to pay $5,000 a month for the work.

    Had you been willing to pay $10,000 a month or even $50,000 for one month, I guarantee you any agency worth anything would be able to promise results in less than six months. And if you were able to invest $50,000 for a month of work, our agency would be generating leads in the fourth week of that engagement.

    Again, there is a direct relationship between the amount of work that needs to be done, the investment you’re willing to make and the timing of when you should expect to see results. You’re setting the schedule when you tell us you’re only willing to spend $5,000 a month.

    Expectations Around Their Involvement

    Last but certainly not least, this work requires your involvement. Why? First, we’re talking about the story and positioning for YOUR company. You should want to be involved. We’re talking about how we take your company to the market with what we say and what we show. You should care, and because you already said it was a top priority, you should be excited to be involved.

    We won’t need you for 40 hours a week, but depending on the results and the timing we’ve agreed to, we might need you for about five hours a week in the beginning. But once the revenue generation system is built and running, we’ll need you a lot less.

    Let me make one more point. Marketing is not a project you start and stop. It’s not something you do for a few months and then reap the rewards. It’s not something you try and then stop if it’s not working.

    You don’t do HR, finance or sales part-time, and you should never do marketing part-time either.

    Think about marketing as a marathon, not a sprint, or like a diet where you have to change your eating and exercise habits to lose weight and keep it off. All fad diets help you lose weight, but as soon as you stop, you gain the weight back plus more. If you start marketing and see some results but stop, you’ll have to start over again when you get back to it.

    Make sure marketing is something you do every single day.

    I wrote this article to help people bring a healthier perspective and some realistic expectations to the table as we start to talk about what we can do to help you generate more leads, sales opportunities and new customer revenue.

    With this new thinking, new perspective and hopefully these new expectations, you’ll be able to see marketing differently and better evaluate the investment, the advice you’re getting and the agencies. You should be empowered to make a decision that moves your business forward so it executes marketing and sales that’s aligned with how your prospects want to buy and what you need to grow your business.

    Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist headshot

    Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

    Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.

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