If you’re the CEO, the last thing you want to hear from your team is, “everything’s fine.”
Even if business is going well, the role of any top company executive is to seek out areas of improvement. To probe and to challenge the status quo, even if it’s contrarian.
Particularly in a marketplace where every company seems to be telling the same brand story (disrupting an outdated industry, creating sustainable products, selling direct to consumer, etc.) and pushing for the same marketing goals (growing revenue, lowering customer acquisition cost, increasing conversion rate), there has never been a more important time for leaders to use their curiosity to fuel business growth.
Our team regularly has the privilege of working directly with the CEOs (and other top executives) of a wide variety of cool and exciting brands, from startups who want to disrupt industries, to legacy brands who are working to retain their market position.
We admire the way these leaders think. For example, questions like this often come up:
“Our company need to be amazing at xyz, so can you tell us where we are not as good as we should be?”
In our experience, CEOs likely ask this kind of question because they rarely interact directly with the performance marketing team. Executives may join at the kickoff of the project to cast the vision, but they’re not typically in the weeds with our account teams on a day to day basis. And so, from the very start they’re looking for pockets of growth and opportunities to improve.
Ricky Joshi comes to mind, who is the Co-Founder and CEO of Saatva Dream, the online luxury bedding company. If you’re not familiar, Saatva has been receiving major press recently (check them out on USA TODAY’s best mattresses in a box for 2019!)
Brands like Layla and Casper better watch out. Saatva offers white glove delivery service. The mattress is not only dropped at your doorstep, but brought inside and placed on the bed frame for you. They literally do the heavy lifting for you.
Small world, I was recently chatting back and forth with a member of their marketing team, and one of the questions Saatva’s CEO is famous for asking is:
“How can we do this better?”
Short, simple, challenging. Joshi said that he loves asking this question for because it helps his team break out of their box and come up with more, oftentimes outrageous suggestions. And even if the marketing team doesn’t end up using the ideas because they're a bit too out there, it's still important to foster that sort of thinking.
How can we do this better? If there's a blog out there, how can we write one with a similar effect but even better? How can we reach our audience better? How can we report better and smarter?
In order to challenge the status quo, Joshi says, we have to think outside of it.
That example is merely one of many. Here are several other performance marketing questions CEO’s should consider asking their teams:
Keeping your expectations at bay is critical. Know that there is a difference between a brand launch, which takes a few months to understand baselines; and an existing brand optimization, which can see results more quickly, i.e., one to two months and sometimes even quicker. It’s common for brands to freak out because their cpa or conversion rates aren’t hitting their goals immediately.
However, most performance marketing requires gathering enough data and running enough tests so you can create higher quality audiences that are more likely to convert. You simply have to be patient. Introducing new advertising campaigns will always look worse in the short run (unless something is being criminally mismanaged), but if your marketing team or marketing agency is worth their salt, then it’s only a matter of time before performance is in the right place. The reason any kind of marketing works is because it drops.
My teammate Phillip Street, one of our Digital Specialists, spent the start of his career in the world of lead generation and user acquisition. He’s found the above question to be highly useful for CEO’s to ask their marketing team. Phillip told me that one goal along the performance marketing journey is to figure out if your customer is:
(1) A real person
(2) A useful person
Thanks to the rise of bots and fraudulent traffic, he says, the qualifying process is now essential to any lead generating strategy. Without it, your brand could be paying for leads that are completely useless. Now, most agencies realize how difficult it can be to traverse this terrain, and often times they simply deliver email addresses and let the client figure out how to qualify them. (Sounds like another case of badvertising to me!)
To prevent this, here’s one rule of thumb to consider. Bots don't buy things and they don't fill out forms. This rule, while not accurate one hundred percent of the time, reminds your marketing team that the lead isn't valuable until it does something valuable. As such, every brand has to find creative ways to qualify their leads before sending them to their website.
One of the easiest ways to do so is by making sure you’re as honest, informative, and accurate as possible in ad copy. Your creative not only has to convert at a highly efficient rate, but also bring your company the type of users that are actually useful. And so, even if your copy severely limits the amount of leads you’re able to attract, the ones that do come will be way more likely to bring value to the client.
We discussed this question during a recent kickoff meeting with an exciting new direct to consumer client. From a performance marketing angle, there’s so much that can be done with the answer.
Let’s say your toothbrush brand has strong relationships with companies within or adjacent to your vertical, such as grooming products, pajamas, sleep aids, so on. A powerful advantage of modern digital marketing technologies is that you can utilize partner consumer data to power a lookalike audience for your own company. As long as it’s executed in a transparent way, this strategy can save time and money that your marketing team would have spent trying to build your own audience from whole cloth.
Another angle on the partnership front is to seed partner products in the actual ads themselves, helping to create value for alliance brands. For example, if your product video in an ad shows a couple brushing their teeth before they go to bed, why not have both of the models wear the very pajamas that your partners sells? Both brands win.
Drucker said over fifty years ago that leaders should treat their team’s knowledge as the organization’s most valuable asset. For performance marketing, this mantra is doubly important. In our last post, we explored the idea of running ad campaigns as a form of paying to learn about customers. Our experience shows that the more ads you run, the more you learn about your customers, and the more you can create winning digital experiences and interactions.
Hilton’s past CMO, Mike Ashton, regularly asks this type of question to his staff. His marketing team started exploring what became known as the circle of pain and circle of dreams. Meaning, things customers value and hold dear, things they feel strongly about, things that frustrate and delight, things that influence quality of life, relationships and happiness. From this insight, Hilton was able to build a bridge between the brand and the customers that transformed performance, positioning and experience.
How could your brand attempt the same?
At your next marketing team meeting, require each person in the room to come prepared with their own list of unique customer data points they think the competition doesn’t know about their buyers. Find the commonalities, then review them against ad sets from your top competitors (use Facebook’s Info and Ads feature). This exercise helps your team differentiate through knowledge, which will help your performance marketing campaigns drill down which aspects will trigger your customer’s buying interest in the future.
Make no mistake, these types of questions are hard to ask, and even harder to answer.
But as the CEO, it’s worth it to avoid someone on your marketing team saying, “everything’s fine.”
Use your curiosity to probe and to challenge the status quo, even if it’s contrarian, and you can be sure to fuel business growth.