Adopt an Operational Mindset

I have a new hobby.  I have a new hobby because the old ones weren’t working for me anymore. I realized that if I wanted to experience something different, something new, I needed to make some significant changes of my own.

So, I bought a dirt bike.  It’s been a year now, and I’m pretty into it.  Although I do my riding on trails, I did spend time last year training in motocross skills with a former world champion.  I’m even getting into the whole arena-motocross racing scene believe it or not.

I just drove five hours to Indianapolis to watch a Supercross race complete with over sixty thousands fans, light show, fireworks, the roar of the bikes- it was quite a production.  There was another element of all this that struck me. When I think of how everything came together to produce the win — that mixture of technology, skill, grit determination, practice, focus – that is what it takes to ride like a champion!

It looks like it’s just up to the rider if you’re watching from a seat high up in the stadium. But, similar to real life, it’s much of what you don’t see that is critical to winning.  A key component of a winning race strategy is to ensure that the entire racing team behind the rider adopts an operational mindset.  An operational mindset is focused on structuring and aligning all components of the organization around enabling the rider to win.

These are the same elements that make up a successful operational strategy for today’s B2B marketer.

Adam Needles, my colleague at ANNUITAS, has addressed the need for this kind of strategic orientation in his book, Balancing the Demand Equation.  Specifically, Needles points out that there are five strategic building blocks that will help you align efforts to adopt an operational mindset:

  • Outputs:  Identify your objectives for program outputs-both in terms of revenues and your definition of a qualified lead.
  • Framework:  Work backwards through the qualification stages that are required to get to your outputs – clearly defining what must occur at each stage and the roles of sales and marketing.
  • Process:  Map out the flows of content offers, buyer profiling, lead scoring and nurturing that will move a buyer through your qualification stages.
  • Performance:  Run the ‘reverse funnel math’ – i.e., the total lead throughput and conversion rates throughout your demand generation program that will repeatedly deliver against your objectives.
  • Continuous Management:  Build and operate a demand generation program that is designed to be run in a continuous, always-on, 24/7 state.

You don’t tackle the above in isolation; it obviously requires a collaborative effort by both sales and marketing with a commitment to alignment.

In the 2012 Forrester survey on Marketing And Sales Alignment Remains A High Priority, the survey asked how the CEO, the senior-most sales executive, and the senior-most marketing executive prioritize sales and marketing alignment.

According to the report, “The gap is significant but reflects the clear understanding that sales and marketing executives need to build an effective partnership. While 90% of senior marketers say that the alignment is a high or very high priority.”

The report continues, “For specific areas that require collaboration, such as setting revenue goals and mapping out the customer buying process, we expect this critical relationship between sales and marketing to increase in sophistication, moving beyond tools and tactics and into collaborative goal setting and capture of customer insights. In particular, we expect the CMO to play a leadership role in educating and ensuring effective execution of marketing strategies and tactics focused on customer retention, customer loyalty, and maximization of customer lifetime value.”

Almost paradoxical — becoming truly “buyer-centric” is done by adopting an operational mindset.  The operational mindset is a key, strategic orientation essential to win not only a  Supercross race, but also in today’s B2B marketing.

Author: Jim Woodcock is Chief Operating Officer, ANNUITAS


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