Networking is a powerful tool in a job search. The same is true of marketing and sales, where a professional contact can offer a much-needed foot in the door.

How can a person, without prior contacts, quickly reach a decision maker?

Submit your challenge to 200,000 "MarketingProfs Today" readers and let them help you get past the barriers of your problem. Share your marketing challenge and receive a complimentary copy of our book, A Marketer's Guide to e-Newsletter Publishing.

This Week's Dilemma

Storming the gates to reach decision makers

I'm new to my job, in which I'm doing business-to-business (B2B) marketing to set up new accounts. Currently, I'm making face-to-face cold calls, and I use our competitive advantage of excellent pricing as our prices are below the average. The challenging part is getting past the gatekeeper to reach the decision makers. Also, I call decision makers to schedule an appointment, but have a hard time encouraging them to meet with me. How can I break through the gates and arrive face-to-face with the decision makers?

—Leigh, Account Manager

Previous Dilemma

Number crunching the marketing way

Metrics, benchmarking and data are important to collect and analyze to determine the success of a marketing campaign. We're numbers-challenged and need help on how to measure the efficiency of a promotion plan for industry products. How do we collect the data and compare the money spent on ads, directories and trade shows with revenue from sales?

—Tanya, Marketing Manager

Summary of Advice Received It's easy to get overwhelmed with metrics. Tanya, many others are having the same challenges as you in tracking numbers. Readers have provided simple solutions that should make a great starting point:

  1. Keep the process simple. 
  2. Talk to customers.
  3. Track different campaigns.

1. Keep the process simple

Many companies have experienced problems with implementing customer relationship management (CRM) systems. They simply went looking for a CRM solution without considering their own processes. It's not necessarily the CRM applications that failed, but the lack of process and research led to problems. Mahalie Pech, marketing specialist with The Berger Partnership, says to keep it simple:

Before you spend hours researching various metrics-tracking software packages, hiring a programmer to build you the ultimate database, and interviewing interns to do extensive database entry, don't overlook the power of a simple spreadsheet.

The easier your process for tracking your efforts is, the more likely you'll keep up with it. No matter what system you have in place, a simple truth remains: garbage in, garbage out. That is, if your measuring device isn't receiving regular, valid data, it doesn't matter how ingenious your method of collecting data is.

2. Talk to customers

Customers are almost always the best resource for any testing and metrics. Some companies focus too much on what the company wants instead of what the customers need. Lu Jian An, business project manager of e-commerce with Standard Chartered Bank of Singapore, reminds us to revisit our business model:

First, the marketer needs to decide on the business model. What do you want to measure (profits, customer value or turnover)? And what is the revenue horizon? Keep in mind that a deposit sold to someone with a penthouse in Manhattan is different from the same deposit sold to the average person.

Secondly, the measurement must come together with the business objective. For example, a two-year objective could be to gain competitive advantage in providing financial service to working females. How should I value a channel that brings in 1,000 credit cards with 30 percent female users against another channel that brings in 950 credit cards with 70 percent female users? A data junkie's greatest enemy is always himself. Having more measurements than what your objective needs (not what you need) does not help to get the clear picture.

Designing the marketing campaign tracking should never come before being absolutely clear about how data will help you navigate to the objective. Simply starting tracking and hoping to find out something useful in data analysis is like buying 10 shares of each stock and then attempting to figure out the investment secret by looking at the price movement. This is costly and will not work.

After being clear about how the data affects your objective, it is just process and creative juices. A simple way to determine your process is to just ask your customers. Most of them are willing to tell you where or how they know about your offer (not product).

3. Track different campaigns

Many successful marketers track a product's campaign by making each tactic distinguishable and seeing what has the best results. Brandon Cornett, professional copywriter with Cornett Copywriter, explains how to do this using a Web site:

If you are truly trying to measure the effectiveness of your ads by looking at sales numbers, then you must create direct-response ads (in other words, ads that are designed to sell your product or service with no further action from a salesperson). If this isn't the case, and what you're selling requires additional steps in the sales process—a Web site visit, a phone call or a returned card—then you may need to shift your measurement focus.

For instance, if one of your ads is designed to get the reader to a page of your Web site, then you should measure that particular response (as opposed to total sales). This might be as simple as creating a special URL in the ad like Measure the hits on that URL, and you'll get an idea of how well your ad is doing its job.

You can then test accordingly, one element at a time (headline, offer, layout and image). Keep the stronger ones; toss the weaker ones. Then repeat. If the relevant page of your Web site is, in turn, designed to make the actual sale, then measure it accordingly. Look at the total number of (unique) visitors to that page, and compare it against how many people take action (convert). This is a simplified approach, but it provides a good foundation.

First, determine exactly what your ad is designed to do, what the next step is in the process you're after, and then measure based on that. If you measure ads solely by sales numbers, and there are more steps in your sales process than the ad itself, you're not accounting for the factors in between, like the performance of your sales staff.

Lu Jian An offers more ways to gather data:

If it is not possible to have direct contact with your customers, include a question in your warranty card, product registration form or anything that they are motivated to fill out and return to you. You can also slightly change the offers in different media—a red cap, a green cap or a yellow cap.

Other simple tricks, like an embedded source code and a gift reservation number (just print a number and say, "Quote this number for the wonderful gift we have reserved for you"), are also effective. Try using simple tricks to resolve one thing at a time rather than going straight into a complicated model for questions like "how to detect the occurrence of what event triggers who is willing to buy which product at what price."

Avoid becoming overwhelmed with many numbers and metrics; instead, keep it simple, communicate with customers and test different campaigns.

Storm the gates with help from the talented soldiers, MarketingProfs readers. They're the best defense when it comes to marketing barriers.

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Hank Stroll ( is publisher at InternetVIZ, a custom publisher of 24 B2B e-newsletters reaching 490,000 business executives.