Ian Brodie loves magic. He also loves marketing. It’s no wonder that Brodie is able to – through the magic of effective marketing, sales best practices and the right marketing metrics – help businesses improve their marketing efforts and win more clients. Ian has been named one of the “Top 50 Global Thought Leaders in Marketing and Sales” by Top Sales World magazine, as well as one of the “Top 25 Global Influencers in Sales and Sales Management” by OpenView Labs. His book on email marketing, “Email Persuasion: Captivate and Engage your Audience, Build Authority and Generate More Sales with Email Marketing” is one of the best-reviewed books on the topic. On top of those endorsements, Ian is most proud of the results he has helped his consulting clients achieve.
We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Ian on a variety of subjects, including the biggest marketing concerns small businesses face, how to achieve sales and marketing alignment and the keys to effective email marketing.
1) As a “marketing coach” who works closely with sales clients, what do you think is the key to sales and marketing alignment? Why is it important?
In some ways, without making it sound controversial, I think the way to make sales and marketing alignment successful is to forget about it! Not that sales and marketing alignment isn’t important – its absolutely vital – but if you were talking about alignment between manufacturing and distribution, nobody would talk about the importance of alignment there because it’s SO obvious that they should be aligned! You’re not going to manufacture things you don’t distribute and you’re not going to distribute without manufacturing things. It should be the same with sales and marketing. If you find yourself worrying about them not being aligned, there’s something fundamentally wrong with the way you’re doing things.
What I find works best is when sales and marketing are naturally aligned, that’s what you want to aim for. You start with the process of winning a client and both teams think about the best way to do that. If you think of that end-to-end process and what are the things we should be doing at each stage, get the what sorted out – not who should be doing them. If you start by thinking about who, then unfortunately usually both teams get tempted into empire-building and they find themselves having stupid conversations about who owns the client – nobody owns the client. The big question is how should we work best as an organization to bring this client onboard. Think about how to naturally align marketing and sales by thinking of that end-to-end process of how to win a client.
Moses didn’t come down from Mount Sinai with marketing cast on one stone and sales cast on the other stone. They’re just words we’ve created to describe different types of activities involved in the acquisition of customers. We shouldn’t let these words create artificial barriers between what we’re doing.
2) You work primarily with small firms. What are the biggest marketing concerns or issues facing smaller companies?
Typically the first thing they worry about is lead generation. They always say they’re brilliant at what they do, they deliver a great service but they’re the best-kept secret in their field. They don’t have enough new contacts, new leads coming in. When they talk to people and tell them what they do, often they emerge with a client but they just don’t have a steady-enough flow of new leads coming into the business.
If you peel back the onion a bit and ask, “Why is that? Why aren’t there new leads coming into the business?” It’s often because they aren’t sure what kind of marketing works for them. Every business is different. The fundamentals of marketing are the same, of course, but they play out differently for different businesses. Same fundamentals; different tactics. A lot of time they don’t know what the right approach is. I try to help them find this right marketing approach to take.
3) You’ve described ‘traditional’ marketing as being a ‘painful process.’ Why is this and what is different about marketing today?
To be honest, it was painful one or two decades ago but it has gotten more painful. Traditionally, marketing has been seen as – perhaps wrongly – showing off. Going out, schmoozing, telling people how wonderful you are – of course, good marketing has never been like that, but that’s the perception that people have. This “showing off” is what people find to be the most painful.
Lots of companies still do marketing and sales in a painful way. They think the best approach to bringing in new customers is going out and meeting people and networking and shaking hands and doing a 5-minute elevator pitch – lot’s of people still do that and they think it’s very painful. But there is an increasing movement toward doing marketing and sales that adds value to your clients in advance of you working for them, and then you go out and nurture that relationship and build credibility and trust over time. That’s a lot less painful and a lot more effective as well.
4) More people are moving away from titles like “consultant” in favor of “coach.” How do you feel about the recent industry shift in sales and marketing toward an increased emphasis on coaching?
Coaching has become something of a buzzword and it has also developed a kind of mystique or evangelism around it. The evangelical approach to coaching kind of shows a lack of a understanding about its history. To “coach” comes from the physical horse-and-buggy coach, and it refers to something that gets someone from where they are now to where they want to be. That’s the derivation of the word coach. You help someone get from where they are to where they want to be.
The very first coaches were sports coaches, and they told people what to do, usually by shouting at them or throwing things at them. They also helped them discover their own talents and trained them too. It annoys me when people get all evangelical about coaching and how it should only be done in a specific way and they forget that it’s quite a modern construct.
Coaching is just one of the things in your toolkit. Your job as a coach is to help people achieve their goals. One way is to help them discover the answer in themselves, which is the way a lot of coaches are taught is the only way. But other times, you might get the best results by facilitation of a group, or giving advice, or actually getting your hands dirty and doing. You have to choose the right intervention method that gets the best and most sustainable results. When the person or client being coached takes ownership of the process, they’re more likely to get sustainable results, of course, but it’s not the only way. It’s interesting that many more people are calling themselves coaches these days. It may just be a fad, and we’ll find that when coaching goes wrong, they move on to another title, like advisor. We’ll see what the next trend is.
5) You recently published a book on email marketing, which is a hot topic these days. What is the key to truly effective email marketing?
Simplistically, the key to email marketing…is to actually do it! There’s been a renaissance in email marketing recently. The truth is, when you look at statistics, email marketing turns out to be much more effective than any channel, including social media, in terms of generating sales. The numbers and their own habits are telling people that email marketing works. Email is where people get down to business, rather than just chat. Still, many people are just playing at it – they’re not really doing email marketing. They’ll send a once-a-month newsletter, or they’ll just send emails that are full of promotional messages.
There are three big areas to make email marketing work:
1. You need people to subscribe, especially your ideal clients, to your emails. There’s an art to that.
2. You need to use email to nurture and build relationships. Most emails tend to have high-value customers and clients. We are in businesses where you have to build long-term trust relationships. If you want email marketing to work, you have to use it to build trust and credibility – not to keep offering sales and pitches.
3. Finally, of course, you have to learn how to turn a good relationship and make an offer from an email to get the client to talking and working together.
6) Conversely, what are most companies or people doing wrong when it comes to email marketing?
They’re doing is so infrequently that they’re not getting results from it. Every study that’s been done on email marketing has shown that increased frequency brings better results. If you’re only emailing somebody once a month, they’ll forget you. You also have to pack everything into that one email. If you’re emailing them two or three times a week, you can just drip, drip, drip it in. You get the same impact as a really long email by doing lots of shorter emails. They’ll read them, they might get value from them and click on your links. Drip drip drip works better than big bang.
The second mistake is that, especially for smaller businesses, they’re too impersonal. They try and write as if they were a multinational corporation. They send emails from “info@” or “no-reply@” and they write in the third person. They’ll have lots of fancy graphics and “did you know” and three articles that look like a professor has written it. As a small business, you can and should get personal with your clients. Talk to them as if they were coming into your shop in person. Write emails as if you were a trusted business adviser.
The final mistake is that people don’t get the balance right between selling and not selling. Some people make all their emails sales pitches, and nobody wants to be pitched at all the time. Other people aren’t promoting anything at all, because they’re too afraid of including anything sales-oriented. The secret to getting the right balance is to be more seductive in the way you sell on your emails. Lead people into it. Give them useful information, talk about how you can help them achieve their goals, and then it doesn’t feel salesy.
7) How important are marketing metrics to you and your clients? Which ones / types do you like to focus on the most?
They’re really important. Without the right metrics, you are shooting in the dark. What a lot of people do, especially when it comes to online marketing, is they’ll see a guru say “This is the best landing page, you should all use this.” They’ll copy that landing page template. They forget that every business is different. There are styles of landing pages that work well for different types of businesses.
The only way to know if things are working for you or not is those metrics. Without those metrics, you’ll just be implementing what works for other people. With your own metrics, you’ll be able to learn and test and implement what works for you. You’ll come up with the answers for what really works, instead of just listening to and following what other people say works.
Ideally, whenever you can, you need to be tagging the initial lead generation activities in your system and trace it all the way through to sales. Then, you can get the numbers and find the landing pages that actually sell the most, as opposed to the landing pages that just get the most opt-in rates or what not. You want to find end-to-end measures to get the results that actually matter to you. The real end measure is sales.
8) Where is marketing trending over the next 5 years? How would you advise companies or business professionals to gird themselves to be best prepared for the next-generation marketing landscape?
I’m going to be honest here – I have NO idea where marketing is trending over the next 5 years. Generally speaking, marketing is getting more personalized, more tailored, more aligned. It’s part of a generation where, instead of doing everything face-to-face, people are more open to going out looking for things and searching for what they need online. My experience is, year-on-year, it’s best to stick with the fundamentals that are working. The fundamentals that worked for you this year should mostly work next year – except some things will be less effective, while other things might become more effective.
When new things come around, it’s worth experimenting – with a skeptical mindset – and lots of testing. Test them for yourself, have one or two of those things that you’re testing and, if they work, put them into your toolkit. If it doesn’t work, try something else. It’s less about guessing what the next big thing is and more about testing and figuring out what works for you.
More about Ian Brodie
Ian is a marketing coach who helps businesses win more clients. His consulting firm has a vast library of resources and best practices that share practical strategies and tools on how exactly to win more clients. He has been named as a top thought leader and influencer by both Top Sales World magazine and OpenView Labs. He lives in Manchester, England, with his wife and two kids. Apart from marketing, Ian is passionate about the world of magic.