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I hate meetings. Let me say that off top. Raise your hand if you've ever left a meeting where you said to yourself: "Wow! That was riveting!" Anyone? So why do we do it to ourselves? They lop off chunks of valuable time on our calendars every week to execute a task that we can all agree provides limited value.
But perhaps its not the meetings themselves but how we conduct them, who leads them, how and most importantly what's the central purpose.
When you think of a marketing meeting you envision the most senior executive at the head of the table going around the room, getting updates, frying anyone deemed not on point and offering an occasional that-a-boy to an over-performing individual (if not brown nosers.) But what real value does that add?
With CRM, communication applications and other martech tools, there are far more efficient ways get updates, track progress and report out. However marketing meetings CAN be a useful exercise if executed appropriately. Here are 6 secrets to running the best marketing meetings.
I hate to break it to you, but marketing is nothing without a sales team closing deals. Therefor there's no reason to have a marketing meeting without sales. Conversely, sales meetings are useless if you're not discussing the leads that marketing is developing for the sales team. Hubspot uses a cutesy term called "Smarketing" Marketing and sales teams MUST have a symbiotic relationship in order for your sales funnel to be effective.
You might be asking yourself: Our sales team and marketing team don't get along, why would we bring them together? That's kind of the point and why THIS meeting is not another exercise. Almost by very nature, marketing and sales shouldn't and don't agree on much. We call it creative tension. Marketing thinks in terms of lead qualification, funnel and rules while sales often breaks rules, thinks in terms of deals and close rates.
A survey conducted by the Corporate Executive Board found that "87% of the terms sales & marketing use to describe each other are negative." Conversely a study by the Aberdeen Group, found that companies with strong marketing and sales alignment saw 20% annual revenue growth verses those with poor alignment where revenues declined by 4%. If that doesn't scare you into getting your teams together, I don't know what will.
Focus on Solving Problems
So what do you do in these meetings? Simply put, solve problems. Far too often a sales process is created and expected to produce results in the present and future. We see it on the agency side and at the client level. It doesn't work that way. Technology changes, interests wain, your pipeline gets leaky and its important for sales and marketing to use this time to solve problems by following these four easy steps:
- identify the problems - open the floor to stakeholders in yours sales cycle. What challenges are they facing? Is marketing discovering trends in the types of leads or buyers personas they're qualifying? Are they not delivering enough leads to keep sales busy, or perhaps they're too busy fishing through unqualified leads? Is sales not contacting the leads fast enough? These are all issues that can and should arise in these meetings. It can seem like a gripe session, but as long as everyone is committed to growth and success you should be fine.
- brainstorm solutions - get out the whiteboard and some markers and get input on how you can go about fixing the problems. Keep in mind the idea isn't to point fingers but instead to come up with efficient solutions. Same rules apply as any brainstorm. There are no dumb ideas, be constructive not critical, build on others ideas and quantity over quality.
- create action items to fix it - One of the main reasons I can't stand meetings is far too often there are no next steps. Its imperative to progress to clearly define action steps and even more importantly, assign who is responsible for what. If you don't, you'll be back in your next meeting discussing the same problems.
- review and assess progress - with each problem solved you should be monitoring and measuring. Those assigned responsibility for each action item should be prepared to report out on progress. This is important because it can create policy moving forward. A field fix today can be tomorrow's best practice.
Focus on operatives not leadership
If you go back to that picture I painted of a boardroom meeting, the boss is always at the head. If you want to make progress in your marketing meetings, ditch the execs. They're not necessary and stifle progress. No one is going to feel comfortable discussing problems in a blueprint with the people that created it in the room. Even if the culture of your organization welcomes constructive criticism, leadership isn't necessary. Remember, you're only there to solve problems. Instead focus on those people that are in the trenches daily to see those problems and innovate ways in which they can be fixed.
Keep an Eye on the Clock
There is nothing worse than a marathon meeting that drags on and on. There is absolutely NO reason why a meeting should last any longer than one hour. In Chet Holmes (R.I.P.) book, The Ultimate Sales Machine, he discusses holding one-hour meetings as a measure of good time management. If you set an agenda before-hand, pre-determine how long each item should take and hold all members accountable to being respectful of time, you'll notice you won't need marathon meetings and get the same value.
Hire an neutral moderator
I know it might seem to make sense and be tempting to run the marketing meeting. However, given your objective to simply solve problems, it can tip the scales towards bias. Consider hiring a neutral moderator. Someone who is authoritative but has no bias towards marketing or sales. Their purpose is to keep the discussion moving, keep everyone on task and on time. They should be able to balance the discussion giving an opportunity for all voices to be heard. Designers, engineers and IT professionals are great for this because they can bring additional value to the table you weren't thinking about.
Get Contributions From Everyone
We not only believe in diversity in the workplace but also in thought. It eliminates groupthink and provides for a more rounded and global perspective. However, you can't get that if everyone doesn't contribute. There are 5 types of passive meeting attendees we see and corresponding ways to address them:
- I can't get a word in edgewise -This is where your moderator is key. Identify people dominating the conversation and be sure to call on those who haven't contributed. If you have a larger team, consider using a magic prop. Only those holding can speak.
- I have nothing to contribute to the topic at hand - if they don't have input to contribute, replace them with someone who does. There's no reason to waste their time or everyone else's.
- I'm happy to just watch - This is a time to work not watch. Politely tell them you would be happy to email them a recap after the meeting. Then find someone who can provide more value.
- I don't like what's being said but I don't want to be a downer - These are actually the most important individuals to identify because if you can empower them to contribute, their viewpoints can add tremendous value. Remember, this is the time to workshop problems and address them. If they're seeing the problem differently or identified different problems that no one see, you need them to speak up and draw everyone's attention to it. Pull them to the side and let them know how valuable their feedback is.
- I know what I need to do and it doesn't require more discussion - Similar to the previous attendee, this person is important to identify. Again, this meeting is about solving problems. If they know what to do, they either have the solutions that everyone needs or they are mistaken. In either case, their input is crucial.
Marketing meetings can be a drag. However, by getting buy-in from sales and engaging parties that are committed to identifying problems and finding solutions, your time investment of one hour will reap dividends in the form of growth and your bottom line.
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