Why Your Marketing Isn’t Working: The Snowflake Theory
If Generating Leads Was Easy, Everyone Would Have All The Leads They Need
We all know that almost no business has all the leads they need or want. I don’t think it’s wrong to assume that very few companies know exactly what they need to do to produce all the leads they need month over month.
This is reinforced for me when I speak to groups.
I start all my sessions by asking the audience to stand. I then allow those to remain standing if they exceeded their company’s revenue goals last year. They get to remain standing if they exceeded their company’s revenue goals in the first quarter of 2019. They can remain standing if they exceeded their revenue goals in the second quarter of 2019, and then I ask the same question about the third quarter of 2019.
By the way, this doesn’t mean these companies are having bad years — it only shows whether they’re proficient at hitting their revenue goals.
When I’m done asking, less than 10% of the audience is standing. This means 90% of the people coming to my talk are struggling to generate leads, and they are challenged to close those leads consistently month over month.
This epidemic intrigues me.
That’s primarily because I’m high C and low D on the DISC profile, which means I’m analytical, detail-oriented, logical, accurate, organized, questioning and diplomatic.
I’m so curious as to why this effort is so hard for so many people.
You might not be surprised to know that I have a theory. I’m calling it the Snowflake Theory.
Side note: When I Googled Snowflake Theory, I was surprised to find almost no listings. There is a Snowflake Method for writing, but my Snowflake Theory appears to be an original idea.
The Snowflake Theory simply states that some situations are so complex that no standard solutions exist for those situations. Just like no two snowflakes look the same, no two businesses are the same. No two people, no two projects and no two cases are exactly the same. This means there are no standard solutions.
As much as people want you to think that what was done for someone else applies to you, that is incorrect and misleading.
Let’s look at a few applications of the Snowflake Theory.
Doctors and pharmaceutical companies make you think that if you have a condition, treatment plans and medications will cure your condition. But because you’re different than anyone else, they can’t be sure how your specific anatomy and genetics will react to the treatment and medication. So in many cases, people don’t respond as predicted, leading to frustration.
Weight loss experts, diet companies and gyms make you think that if you go on their diet, follow their programs or come to their facility, you’ll lose weight and be healthier. But because you’re different than anyone else, they can’t be sure exactly how you’ll respond. When you don’t lose the weight fast enough or you can’t keep the weight off, you get frustrated.
Marketing consultants, website design firms, PPC companies, SEO firms and MarTech companies make you think you have a situation where certain services and specific technology will solve your challenges. But because your company, your leadership, your industry, your products/services and your past experiences make you and your situation unique, they can’t be sure how you’ll respond. And when you don’t respond in the expected way, you get less-than-expected results, and this too leads to frustration.
Here is an example of how this might be illustrated in the marketing space. Need leads? Google and a ton of consulting firms that specialize in Google Ads will tell you to spend money on paid ads.
So you do. You create an account, put in your credit card and get a pay-per-click firm to help. But it is possible that your prospects’ buyer journeys don’t include Google Ads. It’s possible that you don’t spend enough to get attention. It’s possible that your ads are not written correctly. It’s possible that your competition is outspending you.
You can see there are many reasons (I only named a few) why a Google Ads campaign may never work for you. Now apply this to the hundreds (yes, there are hundreds) of marketing and sales tactics that can be used for your business.
In short, your business is a snowflake. There are no situations exactly like yours for you or anyone else to look at and copy. This also means there are no shortcuts, no blog articles to read, no videos to watch, no conferences to visit, no content to download, no webinars to attend and no podcasts to listen to.
These resources are helpful generically but not specifically for your business.
If you’re looking for guidance on exactly what to do for your company to improve lead generation, you’re going to have to figure it out for yourself, because your situation is unique.
Now before everyone goes crazy, I’m not saying all that content out there is worthless. You can learn things from it, but you are going to have to apply that learning in a way that makes it fit for your company, your industry, your leadership team, your budget and your goals (I think you get the idea).
It’s this ability to customize, personalize and adapt that makes marketing and lead generation so complex today, and it’s why so many companies are struggling.
What To Do
If you buy into the fact that your company is a snowflake, then you need to take a different approach to producing the desired business outcomes.
Let’s look at a similar situation (one we can all connect with). Most of us have had positive and negative experiences with doctors. Even though we’re not physicians, we can still tell the difference.
Positive: The doctor listens to you, takes his time, is thorough and communicates with you in words you understand. He is honest with you and clearly explains his recommendations and the treatment plan. You can get in touch with him when you need to (he might even give you a personal cell phone number). Your health is important to you, and the doctor makes it feel like it’s important to him, too.
I want you to notice that there is no mention of cost in that description. When you are sick, you don’t ask for the cheapest doctor in town. I believe we would all pay more for an experience like I described above.
Negative: The doctor is not really listening. You don’t get a chance to ask all of the questions you have. You get quickly moved on to speak with someone else (perhaps they hand you some articles or a brochure), and his answers are short, formulaic and generic. It’s impossible to talk to the doctor, and even the office itself makes it difficult to speak with a human being. It just feels like you’re a number and the office is a factory.
You need to come to expect the same from your marketing team. They have to take the time to listen, they have to bring a methodology and they need to be using the latest tools, techniques and technology.
Assessing A Prospective Agency Based On The Snowflake Theory
If you agree on the premise, how you look for an agency and how you want to work with an agency has to change. This might be why your last agency failed, or your current agency doesn’t seem to be moving fast enough or producing a big enough lift.
- You want an agency that will take the time to get to know you. When your prospective agency talks to you for 30 minutes and then agrees to get you a proposal, it’s a yellow flag. How can they know what you need after just 30 minutes?
- Some agencies want you to pay for the assessment. I get it — they add value, and they should get paid. But I think you want an agency that’s willing to pay it forward. They know you’re a snowflake, and they want to get to know every aspect of your business to give you the right advice, recommendations and strategy. They’ll earn your business.
- You want an agency that is going to think about, plan and strategize before they start working on tactics. How can you blog, create content or build a new website without knowing your personas in detail, understanding your prospects’ buyer journeys, having clear differentiation, and creating disruptive, emotional and compelling messaging and stories for each persona?
- You want an agency that talks in numbers. What does the goal line look like? How can you execute marketing if you don’t know where you are today and where you need to be? What does success look like? Can you get there in the time frame you expect?
- Some agencies make you pay an initial fee to do the assessments, develop audits and create recommendations. I think the best agencies are excellent at assessing your current situation and knowing what to do, how to do it and why they want to do it like that. Because they’re good at it, they don’t have to charge for it.
If you agree that your business and your specific marketing challenges make you a snowflake, then you have to look for answers differently.
Here are some options you might be considering.
Hiring a team in-house may be an option. You’ll need someone to lead this team because this isn’t your area of expertise. They’ll have a few previous job experiences (if they’re senior, maybe five or six, and if they’re more junior, maybe two or three).
Again, if you buy into the idea that your business is unique (and you should), then their previous experience will be only moderately helpful. They’ll try to do what they did before that only moderately worked. They might need more in-house people to help, or they might need contractors or an agency to help. More on that in a minute.
Remember, a ton of work is needed to get lead generation to be repeatable, scalable and predictable. It’s rare that one person can do it all.
Now you have a team of people. This could be costing you over $100,000 a year all-in, yet you’ve seen little in terms of improvement in leads generated and revenue created. Now you’re frustrated.
It’s not their fault, but they get the blame. The CMO role has always had the shortest tenure of any C-level position. But like I said, it’s not their fault. They tried their hardest. They used all of their experiences, but something was missing.
When your business is a snowflake, what’s missing is the ability to install a system (or a methodology) that accepts the uniqueness of your business and uses it as an advantage.
What’s missing is experience. When your business is a snowflake, what worked at one or two previous companies won’t be enough to handle what’s going on in your business. When your business is a snowflake, what you read on the internet is not going to work exactly like it did in the article.
And then what?
What’s missing is the 10,000 hours of practical experience with hundreds of similar situations and the experience that produced results in those other instances.
Generally, the best doctors are the ones who have been around the longest, have invested in their own continuing education, have created their own methodology or approaches (some even created their own tech) and have established themselves as experts in their practice area. They’ve written books, and they’ve been recognized by their peers as exceptional.
You need the same level of expertise applied to your business, too.
It’s very difficult to get this experience in the traditional ways.
It’s very difficult to hire for this. You can, but expect to pay over $250,000 a year and compete with Fortune 500 companies for talent like this.
It’s very difficult to outsource this to freelancers or contractors. The ones with this experience are also very expensive, and many of the best are not freelancing but instead in high-paying corporate gigs.
It’s very difficult to find an agency or company to help. Most of them have limited experiences with limited companies and haven’t been doing this for longer than a few years. Many of them don’t have the methodology, systems, processes and practices that have been honed over the past 10 years or longer.
Sometimes it’s hard to identify the right resources for your company.
How Do You Solve Your Marketing Challenges For Your Snowflake Business?
First, this starts with a recognition of the challenge. Your business is sick, just like you might be sick when you look for a new doctor. Hopefully, your business isn’t critically ill but just a little ill. Your condition is not terminal. You’ve been dealing with low lead flow, poor-quality leads and inconsistent revenue generation for years.
But now you want to fix it.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it. You need a team. You can’t figure this out on your own, and I don’t believe you can hire to fix this either. You need an agency with all of the tools discussed above to help you fix this once and for all. Here’s how I recommend you proceed.
Don’t Decide Based On Price
Let’s recognize that your snowflake business needs the best of the best, not the cheapest. If this is important to you, hire the best, not the least expensive or even the second-least expensive option. You would never choose your doctor based on price. Don’t do that here either.
Overpay For Experience
We’ve established that this is complex. Experience isn’t just about years in business or the amount of years your consultant has been in the industry.
You need a team of people with the 10,000 hours of experience necessary to solve for your business. You need a team with a defined and proven process, methodology and system. You need a team that can do everything you might need. You need a team that can not only collect data but also derive insights from that data. And you need a team that can use those insights to create recommendations that go into an action plan.
You need a team that understands the technology and how that tech needs to be configured for your snowflake business. HubSpot is not the right tool for every business.
You need a team with a planning methodology. If your team is figuring it out as they go, then you’ll feel like you’re executing “random acts of marketing.” If they don’t have the experience necessary, if they can only do a portion of what you need and if they don’t have a methodology, you are dramatically increasing the risk and the chance that the effort will fail. You don’t have to do that.
Understand The Relationship Between Time And Budget
You also need to consider your time horizon. When your teams (internal or external) need time to figure stuff out, or if you’re under-investing or you’re sharing your team (you share teams in most agencies and always when you hire contractors), it’s going to take longer than necessary.
How important to your company is fixing this problem? If it’s the top priority, then attack it strategically, invest in it aggressively and get an entire team on it immediately.
The more you pay, the faster you can fix your problem. But most agencies can only go so fast. If this is truly your top priority, there are ways to go lightning fast.
Look for agencies that can give you a dedicated team — a team of people who are only working on your company.
Look for agencies that can do it all, including web, content, paid ads, search, video, email, etc. The more they can do, the faster they can run, and the sooner you’ll see results. If they have to work with other agencies, they can only go so fast.
Make All Of Your Decisions Based On Data
Finally, the best doctors don’t wing it, and the best marketing people don’t wing it either. Since your business is so unique, you have to make decisions based on data associated with your business.
- We see organic search visitors down by 20% month over month.
- We see email marketing languishing at a 15% open rate and a 1% click-through rate.
- We see PPC campaigns converting at only 5% on MQLs and up 1% on sales opportunities.
- We see a site-wide conversion rate of .5%.
- We see an average time on page of 30 seconds.
These data points provide insights, and all of your decisions should be based on data.
- We see organic search visitors down by 20% month over month. We’ll need to look at your website and upgrade each page’s copy, naming convention, tags and meta descriptions. You’ll need additional pages designed specifically for certain keywords. We’ll also look at conversion rates across all of the pages and make page-by-page adjustments to increase the conversion rate.
- We see email marketing languishing at a 15% open rate and a 1% click-through rate. First, we need to look at how your list is segmented and make sure we’re sending the right emails at the right time to the right people. We might want to consider some technology here to make those sends smarter. Next, we’ll look to upgrade the content, making it educational and not promotional. We’ll need educational offers and more dynamic links in each email, and we’ll want to upgrade the personalization on all your emails.
- We see PPC campaigns converting at only 5% on MQLs and up 1% on sales opportunities. We’ll look at campaign strategy, campaign copy and, most importantly, the landing page for the campaign. We’ll need to consider more ads, target people more specifically, provide better offers in the ads and use a smarter allocation strategy to make sure we’re paying for the best keywords.
- We see a site-wide conversion rate of .5%. We need to add many more offers on the site, which means we’ll have to create those offers. Then we’ll place them on the right pages for the right people at the right place in their buyer journey, and we’ll make sure offers exist for people at all stages of the buyer journey (not just the back end). We’ll look at and fix landing pages, forms and even the nurture that executes after the form is filled out.
- We see an average time on page of 30 seconds. We need to add some richer content pages and add video. We’ll also test some additional site features, like carousels and surveys, to keep people on the site longer. We also want to make sure we’re linking to contextual pages so that people flow through the site based on our planned path for them according to role, buyer journey stage or industry.
What we’re illustrating here are not the same recommendations we give everyone. They’re recommendations we give one company based on everything that is specific about their situation. It’s this kind of thoughtful and experiential guidance that produces better results in less time.
The Snowflake Theory gives you a platform from which to start looking for solutions differently. No more packages, no more standard recommendations, no more generic solutions and, most importantly, an honest understanding that your company’s needs might be different than any other company on the planet.