I was on vacation, a few weeks after starting a new role leading a team of smart, creative presales. I had an idea that couldn’t wait… it couldn’t be this obvious, could it?
While I inhaled my morning coffee, I sent out a quick email to marketing. The response was concise.
“Great idea, let me see what we can do.”
Influence not control
I had spent the first two weeks in my role speaking to each and every person on my team, some more than once. They were disengaged by many measures, but not slackers. In fact, I remain impressed by the pure talent across the entire team.
I knew from my personal experience that when my own unique skills weren’t able to be used for my team, I’d feel disengaged.
I at least had an outlet in blogging. I’ve used that outlet to become a popular blogger at Progress, Software AG, and CA. I always felt that blogging was more for me (rather, for my success at the company), than for the company itself. Which is weird. With just a little effort I could take content I was already creating elsewhere as part of my job, and have it benefit the company.
The way it should work
Here’s an example. I wrote a post about smart city regulations, which got picked up as an article (because of some public speaking I had done), which in turn got put into the CA Executive Press Read-Out. The article got back to me from executives at CA.
You see how that comes together?
Work I was doing anyways with a partner, expressed on my blog as a way to help me be an authority allowed me to get a speaking slot, which in turn got some industry recognition for my company. I did not maximize this for the company, but that’s a tangent for another time.
Content machine influences the pipeline (a social go-to-market)
It always seemed that the content production “machine” wasn’t thinking big enough. In a company like CA with hundreds and hundreds of presales people, you would think we’d be oozing content. Instead we, and many other companies like us, had a measly trickle of “me-focused” content promoted by a bland social media propagation engine run on Gaggle (no link because the product’s whole premise is antithetical to social media leadership and I abhor it).
Early on at Progress, I was asked why I blogged. An honest question, as marketing couldn’t convince senior executives to write consistently. It was about influence, I explained. Many people are stuck in an old way of thinking… command and control. The new world (at that time in about 2008) was about influence.
Presales is about influence. Blogs enabled permissionless influence disconnected temporally from the audience (temporally is one of my favorite words — in Iaido we train to consider the distance from the enemy in terms of both space AND time). I could write any time I wanted, no audience required in the moment.
But how do you measure that thought leadership influence systematically?How do you measure thought leadership influence systematically? #presales #marketing Click To Tweet
An important question, because at a big company you have to measure results to justify an investment. The difficulty is there’s often a fear of trying something new, even if the reward is outsized. It’s safer to tweak an existing process (let’s have two people blog instead of one) and declare victory.
The answer, funny enough, came to me in 2013, though I didn’t put it together until 5 years later in the context of my team.
I knew my team was under-utilized. Hold on. Not in the way you’re thinking. In fact, because of what you’re thinking I had to create a new word.
You-tilization: How much of you-the-individual am I taking advantage of to create better team results?
The team had plenty to do. Their “utilization” metrics from the company’s perspective were fine. They were doing their jobs. But their own unique skills and experiences were under-utilized in the context of how we could maximize their contribution to the team’s goals.
I didn’t want my team fit into a box. In fact the juice, the meat, the passion is all that stuff outside of the box. One of my goals as a leader was to make the box small and easy. The core of the presales role – demos, RFP responses, discovery sessions, partnering with sales – that had to be simple so that we could work on the hard stuff – building relationships, driving pipeline, and winning with ease.Have you stuffed your creative people into a box? How do you measure their you-tilization? #blogging #B2B Click To Tweet
If I could make the box simple, then we could focus on the skills my team had as individuals in order to leverage them collectively for the team through what I loosely think of as thought leadership.
The Agile market didn’t know CA
We were at Agile 2018, and a top-of-mind question by many attendees at our booth was “what’s CA doing at a show for Agile?”
Incredibly, three years after acquiring Rally Software, CA remained somewhat unknown outside our own little bubble of thought. Rally on the other hand… people know Rally. Dare I say, they love Rally.
I had to get my team out there. There are so many avenues to express ideas these days… and CA has a big platform (even bigger with Broadcom!). How is it that we were perceived as irrelevant in a space where each of my team was smarter than the next, and each were as good as anyone I’ve met in the space?
I thought of a rallying cry:
You make CA relevant (with your ideas), we’ll make you famous (with our platform).
An idea worth sharing
At Software AG I struggled to have the impact that I know I could have made. In a moment of whimsy I took a URL that marketing had sent out with a sales campaign and changed one of their analytics tracking codes (UTM codes in analytics parlance). I replaced one of the tags with my name.
The results speak for themselves:
We were promoting a webinar. I personally drove 44% of the traffic to the landing page and 12% of the registrations. Believe me, I don’t have a large social media presence. I just have a consistent deliberate social media strategy. Realize what the remaining percentages refer to… not to individuals, but to the entire North American Software AG marketing effort!
What if I could get a UTM code assigned to each of my team?
What if I could track that code through our sales funnel?
Our terminology around the marketing funnel was “sales accepted opportunities.”
What if I could measure thought leadership influence impact to sales accepted opportunities by team member?
What a way to provide a measurement for the impact of thought leadership activity! What marketing does for campaigns, we can do for humans. I massively love this idea.What if you could measure thought leadership impact on pipeline? What a great way to capture the impact of your creative humans! #ThoughtLeaders Click To Tweet
Thought that lens, we could teach people how to improve… because we’d know what we were trying to improve. I could easily imagine awards monthly for thought leadership impact on sales pipeline.
How to create a culture
Yesterday, while talking to a company I’d like to work with, I was asked a question:
How do you create a culture?
I think in pictures, which means my answers to questions can be long (you’ve heard “a picture is worth 1,000 words”… well, that picture in my head takes 1,000 words to come out of my mouth. So, I’ve learned to try to have a soundbite answer.
You create a culture with a focused message, repeating it and reinforcing it any opportunity you can.
I realized I simply needed to give my team permission to experiment. Give them a clear goal and some structure. Help them with the process, so that it was easy for them to do what they were good at (the social thought leadership, not the “get it on the blog and make it look pretty part” for example).
Within a short time, half-a-dozen people experimented. Some posted to LinkedIn, some to CA’s blog (which resulted in some new webinar ideas), and one person wrote something that marketing decided to shop around for publication instead of posting to the blog! People started sharing their posts on our collaborative tool, realizing they could share each other’s stuff… but also learn more about each other’s ideas by reading what was being written.
The results speak for themselves.
Another question gets more to the heart of the matter.
What good is a blog? Why do I want to tell people how smart I am?
Great questions. I’ll take the second first. It’s not about you. It’s about your idea. Set your idea free because other people might find value. Because you may get feedback that improves the ideas. Like I’m doing here!
More importantly though, it’s not the “post” that matters but it’s impact to your sales cycle. How do you use that post to move your business forward – either by developing authority or driving pipeline. It’s the post in the context of everything else being done that makes the sum of the pieces greater than each individual activity measured out of context.
We had a simple “rule.” At the end of your posts, try to work in a reference to a CA call to action. Marketing was doing their thing already, we were just trying to drive traffic. We could always improve copy editing, conversions, and even have better calls-to-action. But, to start it was easy. There were already webinars, live events, white papers, and “try and buy” campaigns. Just promote those.
I still wonder if I’ve just described an affiliate tracking system, but instead of selling product (B2C) the affiliate is “selling” ideas (B2B/enterprise). Instead of measuring how much I’ve sold (say, as an Amazon affiliate) I’d measure how much pipeline I’ve influenced.
Even if it’s not possible to use an affiliate software solution (Ambassador is my favorite) out of the box to do this, you can start to see how this is so much more than “a UTM tracking code per employee.” You’d want people to track their progress (so they can improve), give them simplicity in doing it (auto-populating their tracking codes each time a URL is created), and centralizing the “campaigns” or “calls to action” that you want the team to promote. Not in a way that makes everyone sound the same, but in a way that keeps the drudgery of keeping track of the details easy, so that they can focus on the hard stuff (their ideas).
Anyways… I’m very curious what you think about this. Please let me know in the comments or on Facebook.