Content Marketing, Customer Experience, Event Marketing, Interactive Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Automation, Marketing ROI, Online Marketing, Sales, Social Media

Marketing Activity Grid, explained (I): Introduction

Great plan!Last week at the B2B Marketing Forum in Utrecht, I shared the Marketing Activity Grid as part of my presentation. I got a number of requests to elaborate, so I am writing a couple of posts on the topic.

In this first piece, I will go in to the Grid’s background. Before I do though, let’s agree on a clear starting point: the goal of marketing.

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Competitive Strategy, Content Marketing, Customer Experience, Event Marketing, Interactive Marketing, Marcom, Marketing, Marketing Automation, Marketing ROI, Online Programs, Sales, Social Media

The Elusive Buyer; Building a Common Deal Trajectory in 5 steps

Pic-TrajectoryThe holy grail of marketing – any marketing – is connecting strategy, tactics, execution and output to the sales process. As with that other Grail, its hard to find. Building a Common Deal Trajectory is a great way to start the search, though – I will cover it in more detail and with recent examples in my presentation at the B2B Marketing Forum on 13 March in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

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Blogging, Brand Management, Bureau, Customer Experience, Marcom, Marketing, Positioning, Social Media, Stories

Beer Lovers Unite: Schuurbierdag

happiness is a cold beerYes, this is a slightly awkward post. I know. But I have been pondering this idea for a while and I want to put it out there.  

I call it “Schuurbierdag”, to be translated as Shed Beer Day. Yes, Shed Beer Day. That may need some work by some brilliant copy writer. But alas, let’s have a look, shall we?

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Customer Experience, Event Marketing, Marketing, Sales

SNUG, or 8 woes of customer marketing

MagicCircleTheaterMarketing to customers can be a tricky thing, if you don’t really know who you are talking to (which is not unusual among marketers, I’m afraid). You just don’t want to screw it up, do you? That’s why I joined the ServiceNow User Group (SNUG) UK meeting in London 2 weeks ago.

The UK SNUG is chaired by the ServiceNow champion within one of our enterprise customers in the UK and aimed at bringing our customers together to share experience and best practices. For marketing, a user group conversation helps to understand how to successfully market to existing customers, that is: without interfering with their business or the sales process.

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Competitive Strategy, Marketing, Sales

“Execution” didn’t get the menu

What's for dinner?A while ago, there was a debate on the Internet around the question what is more important: to have good strategy, or a culture of strong values and execution?


The topic was trending for a couple of weeks. Strategy or execution. You’d come across posts and tweets like “Execution eats Strategy for Breakfast” or vice versa (see examples here, here and here). The whole thing was quite academic, and the conclusion most of the contributors reached wasn’t all that mind-blowing (“both are equally important”). But I was reminded of it in a coaching conversation with a group of early career marketers – it is by no means an academic question.

It turns out that in real life, both “Strategy” and “Execution” are usually in place, but not well connected. Execution never got the strategy. Strategy never read Execution’s dietary requirements. So the real challenge is not to decide between strategy or execution, but to have both without compromise and to keep them connected during execution. Not a once-a-year boardroom conversation, but an ongoing cycle of planning and execution. Again, no rocket science, but the hardest thing to accomplish.

My coaching job
I started coaching groups of SRM Digital Marketing students a while ago. They come into this particular training course from all over the place – from fast moving consumer goods, universities and real estate agents to media, business consultancies and holiday brokers. Some academically trained, some self-made marketers. For me, it’s a nice opportunity to learn about the marketing function in other categories of business, extend my professional network and keep up-to-date with (digital) marketing theory. So yes, I am loving it.

(One important insight I picked up is that the majority of marketers are actually not in high tech, are not used to 60%+ gross margins and 80%+ year-over-year company growth. Many actually fear loosing their jobs within the next couple of months. They put their hopes in graduating, to add some weight to their resumes.)

Sit with the C-suite
To graduate, these students are to propose a fully detailed operational e-marketing plan in support of their companies’ business objectives – and defend it in front of the exam committee. In constructing the plan, they’re supposed to run internal and external analyses, apply various marketing models, and review 3 to 4 strategic options that could help solve key business issues. It’s actually a lot of work, and to gather all required data, these students are encouraged to sit down with their CEO, CFO, CMO et cetera. The idea is that in order to propose an e-marketing plan, you need to understand both the marketing plan and the overall business strategy first.

Here’s my point
From the 8 marketers I have coached so far, not a single student had a clear understanding of the business strategy they were supposed to contribute to, nor could they bring a complete and updated marketing strategy to the coaching conversation. For many of them, a part of their agenda is set by executive management, part of it by sales management, part of it by Recruitment, et cetera, leaving little to no room for proper marketing planning, which is then spent on the website, a couple of large events, and give-aways. So much for marketing.

So for these students to even get into a position where they can start outlining their e-marketing strategies, they are forced to first produce the overall business and marketing strategy and have it signed off by their management. It gets them into difficult conversations, they’re sometimes told to mind their own business, or denied access to key data points. Its evidence to prove that marketing doesn’t have a seat at the strategy table, but is expected to own execution.

Copy/Paste Marketing
My personal experience from working in marketing departments for the last 10 years isn’t much better. In many cases, the year starts with a lot of focus on strategy development and planning, resource allocation and best intentions around evaluating the plan from time to time. Targets are anecdotal, for the most part: defend position, find new customers, beat the competition, upsell, establish thought leadership around topics X and Y, et cetera – without clear and measurable objectives attached to them, which is the starting point for any good operational plan. Then, the annual calendar of activities is updated (usually a copy/paste of the previous year, with minor changes). Some new or refurbished programs and projects are defined and assigned.

And come February, the operation shifts into gear and the marketing teams start running heads down (or in fact just continue the run they took a break from over Christmas), and before you know it, the year is gone – with the plan still pretty much on the table.

Questions for you
Two questions I want to leave you with: If the guys in charge of execution didn’t get the strategy, what is it they are executing against? How do you deal with the disconnect between strategy and execution throughout the year?

Brand Management, Marketing, Stories

Goodbye NetApp


I resigned from my position at NetApp to join ServiceNow as per December 1st.

It’s a jump from a rather big to a fairly small IT company. From storage software and hardware to Platform and Software as a Service. From a crowd of dear colleagues and friends to just a handful of strangers. From “Go further, faster” to “Transform IT”. From consolidation and organizational maturity to fast growth and sheer opportunity. At ServiceNow, I will focus on Enterprise Customer Acquisition, in order to fuel the company’s growth in EMEA.

When I joined NetApp in 2007, the company held the number 5 position in EMEA, behind EMC, HP, Dell and IBM. Today, we’re the clear runner up, with EMC in sight. Revenues more than doubled since. Markets understand that in storage and data management, true innovation will come from NetApp, and NetApp only. Our brand and positioning never was more differentiated than it is right now. I am proud to have been part the team going beyond to get that done. I will miss this category of IT business.

But more so the people in the EMEA Marketing team. I want to thank a few of you here. Ton, for getting things organized, for your sincerity and straightforwardness. Lorrayne, for your great stories, self-mockery and channel insight. Robert, for your blunt boldness, ideas and lightning-fast humor. Udo, for turning event and sponsorship management into a higher art form. Heike, your wisdom. Stéphanie, your endless energy. Sandrine, your courage, commitment and hard work. Heather, your curiosity, care and friendly pitbullness. Antonio, your focus, patience and long-term scope. Silvia, your professional style, marcoms expertise and constant flow of solid ideas. Ingrid, for helping me get things done despite everything. Marvin, your talent, wit and sharp eye for quality. Kerstin, your open mind, know-how and relationship management. Dani, will I ever find a more marketing savvy and committed colleague? Claudia, Michal, Irina, Shiri: I admire how you guys create great marketing out of thin air. Rakan, for picking up the pieces sitting next to me. Kate, for running the show – it will go on!

And the leaders. Ashley, I am walking out of our second term together; I am sure it would’ve been lots of fun. John, thanks; we delivered some solid programs together along the way. Hamish – you just rock, mate. Ali, Jac, Pascale – I have thoroughly enjoyed working with you and your teams. Thank you for leading the way. Lastly David: It is all about beer and skittles in the end, isn’t it?

I thank you all for now, and know we will stay in touch.

Brand Management, Content Marketing, Marketing, Sales, Social Media, Stories

The P for People

What would you charge to introduce a total stranger to a dear friend?

I’m pondering this question since I stumbled upon the term “transactional social media”, which I understand as “social media with the primary aim of converting non-customers into customers”. “Transactional social media” may sound like a contradiction in terms, like selling hard…. to friends – but that’s exactly where we’re heading. At least that’s what services like Zuberance and NetAffinity seem to suggest, which enable automated social network activation, spot influential preference, drive peer-to-peer (social) recommendation and (business) introduction.

The basic idea here is that a friend’s advice is followed 90 per cent more often than a stranger’s (i.e. seller’s commercial) call-to-action. Which makes sense.

Do you remember the times when Nike and Sony (man, they used to be so cool!) would supply influential teens with free product, just to get to the other members of their peer group? I think they called those tactics “member-get-member”. Those where bedtime stories compared to what we’re about to witness in social space. The opportunity is just too big, fat and juicy; the social data mining technology too readily available and powerful.

It’s about time we marketers (re-)define the 5th marketing P: People (Preference, Psychology). Because more than ever, to get to people, you need to go through people.

In social space, ordinary people can quite easily be turned into resourceful sales reps. It’s just a matter of applying the right triggers, penalties and rewards.