Why Marketers Fail at Internal Communication and What to Do About It

Listen to the radio

I believe that at the foundation of marketing is internal communication with your company’s key stakeholders. I’ve seen too many CMOs work strictly from their own viewpoint or agenda. Without two-way, meaningful conversations, internal silos begin to emerge and that leads to ineffective marketing efforts.

It’s just too darn expensive to ignore input from others or discourage collaboration. So put your ego, your hesitancy, your agenda, or whatever it is, aside and tap into these information sources. The results will speak for themselves.

Talk Less, Listen More

I want to stress the word listen. Notice I didn’t say talk. You are collecting data, not preaching or delivering a canned message.

When was the last time you visited the training department? Training material is full of how-to information. Spend a little time researching common questions and answers. There’s nothing like seeing your product or services in action during a training session. It can help you craft a meaningful message.

How about product support or customer service? Have you asked them for information? Which FAQ is asked most frequently? Have you communicated the marketing messages to these important customer-facing representatives? If not, you are missing a great source of market intelligence.

Take a Hike

Take a walk over to shipping and receiving. Ask about returned merchandise and common complaints. You may need to adjust your message based on what you hear.

Sales teams and marketing teams have a natural tension. Sales wants better leads. Marketing wants better customer demographics to target with a precise message. Ignore the tension and seek out successful sales people. Ask about customer success stories and specific pain points that lead the customer through the decision process. You might find a great candidate for a customer case study.

Your marketing execution team is a data source that is invaluable to your overall strategy. Make sure each team member is responsible for various types of market research. They can be especially helpful in defining measurement systems and reports.

Want to know one of my best allies? Unlike some marketers who view the accounting department or bookkeeper as the enemy, I find them to be one of the best allies. Keep them in the loop. In my experience, accountants are grateful for a heads up on marketing expenditures and in return, can help red flag concerns with cash flow. They can also provide cost comparisons and answer vendor terms and service questions.

Surprise Is Not Always a Good Thing

When it comes to money, CEOs and CFOs hate surprises. I think we all do. It is critical to establish a pattern of communication to build your reputation as a good steward of the company’s financial assets. You must establish trust and accountability, and create measurement reports.

Why? Because you can only go to the well so often before it runs dry. If you need to ask for more money, make sure you have effectively communicated the objectives and the status along the way, AND make a compelling case for additional investment.

Homework Assignment
These sources can help you define your initial marketing plan and budget and build in some risk contingencies. Consider it your homework to do some checking in with the different departments listed here. I’d love to hear your results. Email me at jenny@borrowmybrains.com.

Are You a Shop-a-Holic? Stop Overspending or Underfunding Now


Overspending or underfunding marketing programs  happens when you have a shop-a-holic mentality.

If a little marketing works then let’s buy a lot, right? Wrong.

Let’s spread our marketing dollars around and experiment with everything, right? Wrong.

The result is almost always buyer’s remorse.

When Does Overspending Occur?

Overspending on marketing happens when you make last-minute decisions.

  • You can’t take advantage of early-bird discounts which are a staple in marketing.
  • You lose the opportunity to book related travel in the hotel hosting an event, costing you more in time, money, and convenience.
  • You miss out on bundled marketing packages or bulk purchases.
  • You end up with the leftovers:
    • The worst spot on the trade show floor.
    • The presentation slot at the end of the conference when everyone is gone.
    • The least desirable 1/4 page ad space positioned across from your competitor’s full-page, full-color ad.

So not only have you overspent, you haven’t maximized the effectiveness of your marketing dollars and have little to show for it.

Why Would You Ever Underfund?

First of all, you wouldn’t do it on purpose. Underfunding occurs when you don’t have enough information or experience to make informed decisions.

  • You book a trade show but can’t afford a lead retrieval system at the show.
  • You schedule a press conference but don’t hire a photographer.
  • You don’t have promotional funds for a new product or service launch because you blew the budget in the first quarter.
  • You buy one-off email lists rather than having a full campaign strategy.

In this case, you spread the money so thin that nothing is working well because it was short-changed from the beginning.


What’s the Cure?

If you know me at all, you know that the answer has something to do with a budget. Your budget is your bible. It clearly defines what you are spending and when you are spending it.

Marketing moves fast. Marketers are working months and even a year or two ahead of a product release or event. Decisions must be made and contracts signed.

When you commit to a marketing activity, you are always committing to a schedule and payment plan. If you cancel, you very rarely get all your money back.

Wouldn’t you want to make your decisions in the most informed way possible?   Take a look at my ebook 5 Easy Steps to Building a Marketing Budget.

Never Be the Last Gift Opened Again

Dog with Birthday hat

How to Get Your Email Campaign Opened

I attended a large wedding shower a few months ago. To be honest, I really didn’t want to go and had a customer deadline looming. I didn’t have four free hours to spend but I went anyway.

I rushed out that morning to buy a last-minute gift from the registry. Thank goodness for the gift-wrap station in the store. I made a passable bow, taped on the card, and off I went.

It wasn’t lost on me that the gift table was brimming with gifts from the same store in the same generic wrapping paper with the same limp bow.

Still thinking strategically, I placed my gift closest to the bride. Surely she’d open it first and I could duck out and get back to my project. That was the plan – but it didn’t work out that way.

My gift sat on the table and got moved from one side to another. Present, after beautiful present, was opened to oohs and ahhs. “Please open mine. I have to get going. You’ll really like it,” kept going through my mind. I was getting antsy.

Finally, my gift was in the hands of the bride. The last gift to be opened. I think only the two of us were paying attention. She beamed at me as she held up the gravy boat I bought. I winked at her and bolted for the door.

So, What Does This Have to Do With Email?

It occurred to me that this experience is just like some of the email campaigns in my inbox. How many of you send out routine, ho-hum email blast with a boring subject line and generic content?

They land in my inbox saying “Open me.” Unless they are relevant and grab my attention, to the back of the line they go at best, and into the trash unread at  worst.

Let’s Do It Differently

I am pleased to say that I have a new strategy for giving gifts and surprisingly it works well for my email campaigns also.

Have a plan and be intentional
Stop writing last-minute content. Just stop. Instead, keep a notepad handy and write topics, outlines, and key phrases noting down the appropriate audience segment. Plan your content publication dates on the calendar.

I don’t shop last minute for showers or weddings anymore either. As soon as I get an invitation, I shop online and have the gift shipped to me. I get the best selection because everyone else is waiting till the last minute.

Give them a reason
Subject lines matter. It is critical to get it right and affects your open rates dramatically. Take advantage of your email provider’s tools that use algorithms to judge the effectiveness of subject lines. Test several subject lines on a small segment.  Use the winning subject line for your full database.

My shower gifts now give the bride a reason to open them first.

I bypass the generic wrapping paper and head for the outrageous. For a couple that had recently rescued a puppy, I wrapped their shower gift in puppy paper complete with dog tags and bones for a bow.

The paper had nothing to do with the gift inside or the occasion, but it was unique, memorable, and stood out from the sea of silver and white swirly wrapping paper with purple bows.

Know your audience and respect their time
Think about your recipients and their schedule. Narrow your focus down to one audience and one message specifically for them. Give them real value in the information you provide. Offer an Opt-In freebie such as a checklist or job aid.

Mail programs will often tell you that Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. is the best time to arrive in an inbox. However, if your target audience is a payroll clerk trying to get time cards calculated, Tuesday morning is the worst time.

With just a slight attitude adjustment, I have a renewed respect for the bride (the audience) and the occasion (their planning and effort). Wedding showers and parties are no longer an obligation; they are joyous occasions to celebrate. I clear my calendar. I rearrange activities to allow plenty of time. Sometimes I even buy a new outfit to celebrate right along with the bride.

Review and improve
I am a big fan of picking your measurement system BEFORE you execute. To me, it is too easy to play Monday morning quarterback and attribute results to something that just isn’t valid. Metrics can be overwhelming so I suggest choosing three to start. Start with Open Rate. Over time, your Open Rate should go up. The Click-Thru rate should also go up. The Opt-Out rate should go down.

What Are the Results?

The results from my gift-giving research are in and it is statistically significant. I’ve attended at least six gift-giving occasions since that fateful shower. I began being intentional, having a plan, thinking about the recipient, and giving them a reason. And guess what – my gift was opened first every single time.

I’d like to see this method work for your email campaigns as well. Try it and let me know.

Make an Intelligent Pie and Enjoy Better Results


In honor of Pi Day  3/14/17, I want to discuss pie charts as they relate to marketing and business.

Visualize your marketing budget as a pie chart.

I like to see a healthy, colorful pie with marketing slices amply funded and in good relation to each other.

A pie chart gives me a quick picture of any concerns. Taking data and creating formulas and charts is always interesting to me. Not because I am particularly good at mathematics.  It’s not something I actually enjoy but I am a firm believer it is necessary to measure your marketing. And that,  requires math.

Spreadsheets are my favorite tool. They are great when it comes to plugging and chugging through calculations. The equations coded into the spreadsheet free me from worry that I have the information wrong. When set up properly, you can model “what if” scenarios by simply changing a few variables.

A quick audit of a client’s past budget and actual data tells me a lot. I usually organize expenses into broad categories and then make a pie chart. That visually draws my eye to the categories where the most and least spending occurs. For more on effective budgeting, check out Learn Why Budgeting Is So Important.

If your pie is only two or three colors, you are distributing your marketing budget too narrowly. You’ve probably got some great content and information to share but you aren’t leveraging it. You should be using and reusing your content 8 to 10 times!

On the other hand, if your pie has lots of colors but they are razor thin slices, you are are most likely funding too many activities. Your activities will be severely underfunded and doomed to failure from the start.

The final pie scenario is one where the balance of activities is perfect but you have only a single-serving chicken pot pie instead of a full-size pie for an entire family. In other words, the size of your overall marketing budget is just too small and needs to be expanded to perform well.

I recommend dedicating a percentage of revenues to marketing.  The percentage depends on the margins in your industry and the health of your business. You have to start somewhere so try 3-4 percent and go from there.

All this talk of pie is making me hungry. How about you?

Do You Want a Killer Sunrise or Sunset in Your Life?

So, which is it? Can you tell? Is the sun rising gloriously over this frosty morning scene or is it sinking into the horizon with a blaze of fiery defiance?

Does it matter? Oh yes, to us Michiganders it matters. You see, there has long been a battle over which side of the Lower Peninsula is more beautiful.

The Sunrise Side, the eastern side of the state has miles of Lake Huron shoreline but it can be rocky and wavy. The sunrise is easily equivalent to any masterpiece painting or musical opus.

The west side of the state, along Lake Michigan, has gorgeous sandy beaches, tons of tourist towns and cultural events and is a quick jaunt from Chicago and Detroit. It’s pricey but worth it to spend twilight after twilight tracing the colors across the sky as they fade.

Well, which is it? Drumroll please . . .  I took this picture of the sunrise over Lake Huron one day this winter. It was so breathtaking that I didn’t even bother to open the door and step outside. I didn’t want to miss the moment.

What does this have to do with marketing? In the digital age of marketing we are constantly striving for results: Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI), open rates, click-thrus, and so on.

Be Careful What You Measure

Marketers need to exercise caution when throwing around these metrics. Too many times I’ve seen the wrong equation applied to a problem. The resulting action, based on incorrect data, didn’t get that desired “don’t want to miss it” moment.

To my way of thinking, we have to get back to the basics: Who is the target audience and what is the appropriate message to reach them. It is basic and simple and that is what you measure.

In our sunrise/sunset scenario, its not the angle of the sun, the percent of red versus pink, the type of cumulous or nimbus clouds, or even the speed or direction of the wind that matters. It doesn’t matter whether the sun is rising or setting.

It doesn’t even resolve the conflict over which side of the Mitten State is more beautiful!

If your audience prefers the indoors, watching tv, or is colorblind, this picture may have no appeal at all. Measuring the message of a “can’t miss moment”will not give you any relevant data for decision-making.  Why? Because you’re starting with the wrong target audience.