2021 Marketing Planning, Budgeting and Measurement Benchmark Report


Articles we like.

Never fluffy and definitely not clickbait.

We’re not full enough to think we know it all; we’re constantly learning. Out of the dozens of articles we read each week, these are the ones we believe you should read. They’re practitioner case studies, new vantage points, and thinking that challenges conventional marketing thought. They’re decidedly not fluffy, “me too” marketing, clickbait.

6 Reasons Platforms Fail

The Iron Horse Insight: For every successful platform business like Airbnb or Uber there are hundreds of others that don’t make it. This HBR article highlights the reasons platforms fail, and those reasons come down to a lack of understanding about how platforms operate and compete. The one that resonates with us is “failure to engage developers” as we see this frequently. It’s often not about a lack of engagement, but it’s about engaging people in the wrong way. A developer’s interests, needs, and profiles are fundamentally different from the core audience a marketing team is focused on. The offers, type of engagement, and resources you use with your core audience won’t resonate with developers.

Read on Harvard Business Review Arrow Right

Five Ways to Improve Communication in Virtual Teams

The Iron Horse Insight: They’re basic at first glance, but these five best practices to drive communication in virtual teams are often overlooked. 1) Match technology to the task, 2) make intentions clear, 3) stay in sync, 4) be responsive, and 5) being open. Though it is related to each of these areas, we would call out a 6th—established norms. In most company’s norms develop organically, which is a mistake. Norms are common processes, such as how a team assigns work, manages work, determines success, and holds each other accountable. These things should be intentionally created. If you don’t, you’re more likely to have norms that negatively impact your business, like the norm of every one of your meetings starting several minutes late.

Read on MIT Sloan Management Review Arrow Right

R.I.P. Good Times

The Iron Horse Insight: It’s on a random page on the Sequoia website, and it links out to a DropBox, but trust us when we say it’s a really good read even though it’s buried. We’re highlighting this digital misstep because this presentation was given by Sequoia in 2008 right before the financial crisis, and before knowing how long and sharp the downturn would be. After chuckling at the tombstone opening, go to slides 44-49 and 52, where it highlights the new realities, increased challenges, and a checklist for survival. COVID-19 might be new, but the way to think through and persevere through Black Swan events is well established.

Read on Sequoia Arrow Right

Coronavirus: The Black Swan of 2020

The Iron Horse Insight: Why Sequoia doesn’t have a blog on its website, is beyond us. We don’t follow the logic of that decision because what it posted to Medium about black swan events was quite insightful. We particularly loved the observation about how “nobody ever regrets making fast and decisive adjustments to changing circumstances. In downturns, revenue and cash levels always fall faster than expenses.” This sentiment rings true as does the guidance it gave to the founders and CEOs of its portfolio companies about managing through a storm of uncertainty. Cash runway: Do you have as much cash runway as you think? Sales forecasts: Even if you don’t see immediate exposure, assume your clients will revise spending habits. Capital Spending: review if your spending plans still make sense. Marketing: Pull in the cost of customer acquisition.

Read on Sequoia Arrow Right

How Sales Hustle and Automation Can Hurt Customer Experience

The Iron Horse Insight: If you’re a B2B buyer, odds are you get generic, irrelevant cold emails that create terrible first impressions. The flood of poorly crafted, impersonal emails is driven by automation tools. This can hurt relationships with prospects/customers, especially at scale. How do you prevent this? Go through your sales experience as a potential customer. Fill out marketing forms, receive emails from reps, and listen to voicemails from SDRs from the customer’s perspective. As Brian Carroll notes, “this is eye opening and changes everything”. We agree. Additionally, this exercise can provide guidance on how to use tools like Outreach, SalesLoft, HubSpot, etc. properly in the first place. One effective way to do this is by highlighting examples of automation done wrong to the sales team when training them on the tool. Moreover, when rolling out sales automation systems, be sure to build checks and balances into your processes to monitor customer outreach and engagement.

Read on B2B Lead Blog Arrow Right

How to Fix Bad Writing Before You Type a Single Word

The Iron Horse Insight: As marketers, we rely on the written word to get our point across. Lindsey Quinn breaks down three things to consider before you start writing. 1) Audience. Think of one complex person and write to them, and only them. 2) Objective. Pick one thing you want that one person to think, feel, and, better yet, do after reading your content. Remember, readers, don’t care about your objectives; they care about their own objectives. Help your readers achieve their objectives and they’ll help you achieve yours later. 3) Takeaway. What do you want your readers to remember? Choose one takeaway, put yourself in your readers’ shoes, and deliver what they came for and what you promised.  We’d also add a fourth item. 4. Presentation. Keep in mind where and how your reader is going to read and access the content as this directly impacts content size and format. Far too often marketing content is too broad; it tries to appeal to the masses and suggests that the solution can do everything and solve everything, and as a result, it falls short. Use these tips to focus in on your message and maximize the impact of your words.

Read on the HUSTLE Arrow Right

A New Study Should Be the Final Nail for Open-Plan Offices

The Iron Horse Insight: When you walk into an office you’ll undoubtedly see an open floor plan. The idea and hypothesis behind the open office design is simple: an open-plan office allows for more interaction and collaboration. However, a recent study shows that open-plan offices have led to a 73% decrease in face-to-face interactions and a 67% increase in email usage. Has there been an over-rotation toward open-plan offices? Sander would argue yes. Product, sales, and marketing should collaborate, but at the end of the day, people still need to focus and do heads down work. Our take: there is a reason we always wore noise-canceling earphones in open offices. Good office design is aesthetically pleasing and provides spaces for collaboration BUT also needs to provide space for intense concentration.

Read on THE CONVERSATION Arrow Right

Lessons from the CMO’s Inbox

The Iron Horse Insight: You and everyone else is trying to get in front of the CMO; however, it’s unlikely. In fact, Rohrs explains in his blog that “6,892 technology companies [are] trying to sell something to CMOs.” That’s a lot of competition. Instead of targeting a CMO directly, Rohrs suggests that BDRs should target front-line marketers. Their inboxes are less cluttered and they’re more likely to understand the value of your product, service, or solution because they are the end-users and they’re the ones feeling the pain in their daily jobs. We agree with (and really like) Rohr’s idea. In building on it, we urge you to take into consideration the size of the company that your BDRs are expected to target. For instance, it’s more likely to get a response from a CMO at a <$25m company than get a response from a CMO at a major enterprise so, if/when BDRs are targeting a SMB, we suggest they target C-level execs in addition to front-line personnel. If they’re targeting an enterprise, we suggest following Rohrs’ advice.

Read on MarTech Advisor Arrow Right

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