In a world where “fake news” is a growing concern, the good news is that you can’t fake a bad customer experience. In B2B, for better or worse, word of mouth quickly exposes anything that does not hold water.
Here’s three checkpoints for marketing to certify a successful B2B launch.
Checkpoint #1: Can your CMO speak freely with the Board?
As a rule, it helps if your CMO is a member of the board to begin with—but it’s not essential, nor is it enough. Without full buy-in that the elements of the launch will be cared for by the heads of other functions, you cannot ensure success. It’s critical that all cylinders are firing in a row and that each leader can openly discuss readiness without any feeling that one will attack or sabotage the other.
A big part of that conversation has to be parented by your CEO. Yes, parented. He or she must facilitate a ‘safe to say’ environment and put all the pink elephants on the table. Accountability of each team’s function should be clear. There cannot be any question of where the P&L ownership lies and marketing should not be treated as a stepchild. Also, objectives for every function have a duty to be documented, read by all and discussed before agreeing to move forward. This may seem logical for most of us but more than often it’s overlooked or neglected.
Marketing must not simply take the ball when given a product to launch. Before that happens, all the tough questions should have been answered and, within reason, cleared the way to a sensible expectation of success, with hints of “fake news” nowhere in sight.
Specifically, here are some questions to cover:
- Is the total addressable market justified and does your product have enough differentiation to compete effectively?
- Has sales/channel capacity been mapped to the opportunity and do all agree on the math? Has finance approved the business case?
- Are all the operational aspects to make order taking, contract approvals, pricing, etc. tested and proven to work acceptably for sales?
- What is the time frame for implementation and have steps been taken to ensure customers will find that satisfactory? Does the post-implementation experience encourage customers to want to buy more and tell others to buy?
Checkpoint #2: Do you have a launch gate process where all functions have an equal vote?
A launch gate process where all the functional heads sit at the table and over many months’ time agree to the objectives and required investments is paramount to success.
In addition to leadership, resonate throughout the sub teams who will perform all the actions that the leaders call out in each gate meeting. In other words, there needs to be rigor in the process; don’t be quick to check something off the list. Ask probing questions. Require trials and follow-up. Mandate program management and documentation so that all parties are accountable and any postmortem will be done using the facts. Again, no “fake news” allowed.
Checkpoint #3: Can you pass the litmus test that data trumps opinion?
Ah … the facts. Like politics, they depend on the source and context as well as who controls the narrative. Your sales force automation data must be clean. It should clearly identify the funnel generated that was marketing influenced. Ensure tags have obvious meanings. You want every lead accurately categorized. Remember, data is easy. Solid, reliable data, however, takes real work.
Brand awareness, sales enablement and AR/PR should all have specific objectives as well. None of those objectives should be revenue or sales productivity targets; they need to be pure marketing objectives. Part of the up-front agreement should be that your functional leaders, particularly for sales and product, all understand how the marketing objectives work. This means they know how impressions, social media views/likes/shares, press articles, analyst reports, downloads, event attendance, etc. contribute to priming the market to open doors for a sales conversation. They don’t actually create the sales but they do contribute to what eventually becomes revenue and share growth.