Book Club: Jeanette McMurtry on Partnering With Marketing to Drive Sustainable Business Success

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Olivia Fuller: Hi, and welcome to Book Club, a Sales Enablement Pro podcast. I’m Olivia Fuller. Sales enablement is a constantly evolving space and we’re here to help professionals stay up to date on the latest trends and best practices so they can be more effective in their jobs.

In the post-pandemic business landscape with volatile economies, meeting customer expectations is increasingly complex and difficult for businesses to get right. This means that it’s more important than ever for business leaders to collaborate and operate with a growth mindset across the entire customer journey to achieve sustainable success. In her book Marketing For Dummies, Jeanette McMurtry talks about the critical role that marketing strategy plays in ensuring long-term success and how marketing, sales, and enablement can partner together to move businesses forward.

I’m so excited to have Jeanette here to tell us a little bit more about her book. With that, Jeanette, I’d love for you to introduce yourself to our audience and tell us a little bit more about your back.

Jeanette McMurtry: Thank you. I’m really excited to be here and I’m quite honored for the invitation. A little bit about me, I’ve been a marketing consultant and a staff CMO on and off for many years, and I’ve really focused on helping brands create what I call psychological relevance. For years, I was able to travel the world and talk about the power of personalization. What I mean by personalization is seeing your name in the graphics, the copy of the direct mail letter is all about you, it’s not about some generic event. It’s all about your transactions and history with the given brand.

Well, at some point, that became a commodity. I clearly decided I need to find a way to take personalization to a higher level so I started studying psychology to learn how to take personalization to the level of the human psyche and I really pondered and studied the psychology of choice. Why do we do what we do and why do we not do what we don’t do? Why do we choose one brand over another? It was the most fascinating thing I ever could have done for my career and for my approach to marketing, which has been very successful, by adding those elements. I studied Young, Freud, and Kahneman, all the psychologists from back then to the current day to really learn about what makes us think the way we think and then behave and purchase the way we do.

I started applying these concepts to marketing campaigns for brands across different industries and I saw the results of the campaigns with psychological relevance beat those that did not have psychological relevance by 500 to 600% for revenue generated and response. That’s unheard of, so as a result, I have developed what I call psychology-based marketing, and I am very fortunate that I’ve had the opportunity to write books about this whole new concept in my discoveries along the way of how to apply psychology and how to create brands around psychological relevance.

OF: That is fantastic and I’m so glad that you brought that up. Your approach is backed by psychology and backed by science. That’s something that really stood out to me even just from the introduction. In your book, you said that marketing is part science, part art, and part technology. I’d love to hear a little bit more about that. You mentioned the psychological aspect, but can you share a little bit more about the role that each of those parts plays in marketing, especially in the modern business world?

JM: We’ll start with science. Science covers a lot of different things. It covers not just psychology, which I’ve just mentioned, but the psychology of science is really critical if you want to tap into consumer behavior and you really want to make a difference in building relationships and relevance for your brand. It’s also about the data. If you don’t have good data about your customers, about your market, about their behavior, about their transactions, about their personas, all the different things that data models help marketers understand so they can be extremely relevant with their marketing, you can’t succeed.

You have to have a good data program. You have to have a good CRM system. You have to have commitment, and this is where sales and marketing, and sales enablement have to work together. There has to be a commitment to update those data fields. I have worked with so many brands that have Salesforce and HubSpot and other programs and they aren’t even coming close to optimizing the power of that science because nobody fills out the customer data fields.

You have to monitor your conversations. You have to document their needs, their transactions, their disconnects, and their connections so that you can segment them accordingly and model your data and your marketing program. Art, art I would say is the most fun and exciting part of business, and why I love being in the marketing side of business because art is your creativity. It’s your imagination. It’s coming up with the iconology that’s relevant to the personas that you’re marketing to every generation, every customer segment, every person has a different way of looking at the world.

Apple has an incredible job with their iconology and the way they’ve created impressions to simply just graphics. For a long time, their ads were simply just graphics, a silhouette of someone with an iPod, which iPod doesn’t even exist anymore, but you have seen a transition in their marketing that really is simply based on graphics and art and a lot of imagination. When brands can come up with the kind of art, they create a persona that creates an immediate pill, we tend to go towards people that are just like us.

That’s where art comes in technology. We are so blessed to work at a time when marketing technology is so powerful. Technology is the fuel and the vehicle that gets us to the means that we need to get to. Technology changes every 10 minutes, if even faster. When I wrote Marketing for Dummies in 2017, the 5th Edition, there was a certain set of technologies that I focused on. When I wrote Marketing for Dummies 2022, much of the technology that I was writing about was not even invented for the 2017 version. In fact, a lot of the technology wasn’t even thought of, and this book has been out since December. It’s not really that long ago and there’s still new technology that we’re talking about in marketing circles that wasn’t even thought of when I wrote that book. That’s how fast technology changes.

Marketing and sales teams, and anyone responsible for sales enablement especially, have got to understand the technology and which technology exists for what outcomes in order to drive those communications and relationships and experiences are so critical to success today.

OF: That is fantastic. Technology evolves so quickly, I would love to just compare even what you talk about in the different editions of this book because I mean in five years it will change so drastically. Even companies that have a hallmark piece of technology, you mentioned, for example, an iPod that could be obsolete in another five years. It is so crazy to think about how that does really impact everything that marketers have to think about and also how sales enablement has to work very closely with marketing to keep the sales field on its toes. That’s fantastic.

JM: I want to build on something you just said to keep the sales team on their toes. One thing that brands have to be really careful of, just because the technology exists doesn’t necessarily mean you should use it because it’s extremely expensive. The marketing stack is not cheap and a lot of CMOs are saying now, wow, I wasted so much money by trying to integrate everything as it came out. We don’t have time to keep up with it. As anyone is building their marketing technology, it’s important to focus on what you know. You can use what you know, you can discover how to master, and your team will execute regularly and consistently so you can get ROI. Just wanted to throw that in there.

OF: Absolutely. Not just adopting technology for the sake of the technology, but really being thoughtful about the stack and what will actually unlock that productivity. In the book you cover both the fundamental marketing and sales strategies that can work in any economy, and also some things to consider in the post-pandemic world, which again, is something that has changed since 2017 and what we were all thinking about to 2022 and 2023. What are some of those foundational elements that are important for an effective marketing strategy regardless of the economy?

JM: It’s actually one major element that you have to focus on, and that is a growth mindset. I don’t know how many people are familiar with Carol Dwyer. A few years ago she wrote a book called The Mindset, the Psychology to Success, and there she talks about a growth mindset and how important that is to succeed in any economy across any industry and for any brand. A few years after this, Harvard Business did a research study to discover how companies with growth mindsets come out of recessions or bad economic times versus those that don’t.

It’s human nature when you see the storm coming to batter up the windows and hunker down. When you do that, you’re really setting your company up to fail. In an economy, you can’t hunker down. You have to brave the storm, eyes wide open, and go after it. You have to decide right now and do this before this storm arises. Of the companies that weathered these last few recessions that Harvard Business studied, only 9% came out ahead of their revenue status after the recessions were over. They compared three different recessions and only 9% did succeed, 17% failed altogether, and 80% of those companies they studied either came out of the recession below their revenue status or right at break even.

They lost quite a bit of money and opportunity. What was the difference in that 9% that came out? They did lay staff off. Now, this is a really important thing to think about because we are watching more and more companies lay people off at record speeds that I’ve never seen before in my lifetime, and a lot of it’s the marketing team. They’re not laying staff off, which means they’re keeping morale. Employees that are not living in fear of being next. They’re producing, they’re innovating, they’re using their imagination. They’re confident, they’re excited to move forward.

The other thing they did is they stayed committed to marketing. It’s amazing to me when companies get scared, the first thing they do is cut the marketing staff. Really now think about, okay, so while your competition continues to do marketing programs and build brand awareness and build relationships, you’re becoming invisible. What’s the sense in that? Those are the 80% of the companies that either came out of the recession less profitable than they were before, or they failed 17% of companies failing in bad economic times. That’s a pretty big number. Nobody wants to be of that mindset, yet you see the majority of companies today following the hunker-down mindset versus the growth mindset. It’s a fascinating study, and the case study that Harvard puts together is Office Depot versus Staples.

I don’t know about your market, but Office Depot has closed every business, every building within a 60-mile radius of me. Staples is thriving because it took the growth mindset during the really hard times and invested in people, invested in marketing, and created customer experiences that created loyalty for good times and bad times.

OF: That is some fantastic research and, really great points there. I love what you said about the difference between the hunker-down mindset and the growth mindset and in particular, maybe where some choices can be made in business that really do set the leaders and the people that are able to achieve that sustainable long-term success to the businesses that maybe won’t be able to weather the storm. Thank you for sharing that.
I’m curious to learn, today in particular, what are some of the biggest changes that sales and marketing teams are experiencing in the current economic landscape, and what’s your advice for how companies can overcome some of those challenges?

JM: Same thing. Focus on the growth mindset, but there’s another element of the growth mindset. It’s really important for marketers to think about, and that is moving from a USP to an ESP. You are not going to grow your business if you continue to promote a unique selling proposition because guess what? Nothing really is unique. If you do come up with something unique, It’s pretty much repetitive or duplicative within a minute by a bigger company you might compete with.

Technology allows companies to narrow those gaps really quickly and copy anybody’s really good idea, so that is not going to make you sustainably competitive for very long, yet people are always trying to say there’s something unique about it. Well, first of all, nothing is unique about customer service because anybody can improve their customer service within a minute. You know, just, hey, tell your staff, give customers whatever they want, no questions asked. That doesn’t take a lot of time to make that change. That’s nothing, and everybody I know thinks that’s what sets them apart.

First of all, let the customer decide if that’s what sets you apart, and if you ask them, you get into market research, which is covered in depth in chapter five of my book is a lot of different research technologies to find out what customers really think about you and your category. When companies do customer research, they often find out that they’re not really as good at that customer service advantage as they think they are, so they can’t focus on that. What you can focus on to weathering any storm, and even if it’s not about economic time, this should be your primary focus, and that is to move from a USP to an ESP.

I don’t mean extrasensory, psychic voodoo kind of stuff, I mean emotional selling proposition. Everything we do is emotional. Going back to Harvard Research, there’s a former professor named Gerald Zaltman, and he did a lot of research on how consumers think, and that’s actually the name of this most popular book. In there he talks about his research that shows 90% of what we do is driven by our unconscious mind. That means we are driven by our emotions more than we are rational research that we might do about the best price, the best deal of the best quality. Those factors are thrown out by the unconscious mind, and we go towards brands and people and organizations that make us feel really good.

They make us feel like we are invincible. We get those dopamine rushes that make us feel like we can conquer the world, or we get oxytocin that makes us feel like we’re belonging, we’re loved, connected, or valued. When those things happen, price, service, and convenience don’t matter. Brands need to look at the emotional fulfillment that they provide.

Do you provide security? Do you help people relieve their fear of making a bad decision or help them get beyond FOMO, the fear of missing out? Do you help them create a sense of belonging through social proof? What are the emotions that you’re creating consciously and unconsciously? Once you create an emotional bond through ESP marketing, that bond is really hard for a competitor to break, and they’re most likely, if you keep it up through sales enablement and account-based marketing kinds of strategies and execution, if you keep those emotions strong and those bonds growing, no one’s gonna take that customer away from you for price or even convenience and that’s proven. A lot of research shows that.

OF: That is so interesting. I love what you said also you can’t differentiate on customer service because it’s really about if your customers view your service as exceptional as well. Kind of along those lines in making sure that you’re staying on top of those preferences and the needs of your buyers, I’m curious what your advice is for how marketing leaders can stay on top of those changes, or at the very least, just understand what the preferences of their buyers are?

JM: Going back to what I was mentioning about customer research, a lot of people think, oh, research is really expensive and no one is going to fill out my surveys anymore. Well, guess what? Going back to technology, there are a lot of ways to stay on top of your consumer’s attitudes and their thoughts about your brand, and there are a lot of affordable ways to do this. There’s really no excuse for not keeping in touch with your consumer’s attitudes and perceptions of your brand. If you don’t, then you’re gonna be in that bucket that I mentioned earlier of the brands that think they have great customer service, but their customers don’t agree with that.

There’s a lot of research that shows that what brands think about their role in customers’ lives is very different from what customers think. If you’re one of those, it’s going to be really hard to succeed. So what are some of the customer research tools we can do? Well there’s no excuse for not asking the big famous NPS question, and that is the question for the net promoter score; how likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?

That is a loaded question because it really is telling a brand if they’d be loyal to you because if you’re not gonna be loyal to a brand, you’re not going to recommend it to a friend because if you’re embarrassed by the quality of the experience your friend has, it makes you look bad. You’re putting skin in the game when you recommend anything to someone you care about. If you set someone up to lose money or have a bad experience, you will feel responsible for setting someone up for a bad experience at some level, and nobody wants to be in that situation.

That helps really define loyalty at a very deeply emotional level. There are a lot of programs you can go on. SAT Metrics is the one who created that survey. You can download the survey platform, put it in an email, or you can put it on your website and you can collect data and you can see the different categories within that question that help you realize how committed your customers are to you and how and how likely they are to be loyal.

There are also social listening tools. You can go out there and find programs, you can purchase them like a SaaS model to help you listen to the collective voice of consumers that you’re targeting. What are some of the things that persona or that generation or that customer segment, what are saying on social media? What kind of comments are being made on Instagram or TikTok or any of the platforms they use socially about a brand or category? If you use the right SaaS platform, you can even get down to hearing what individuals are saying about you on their social media pages and you can pinpoint one unhappy customer and you can mitigate that risk by reaching out to your sales enablement teams to solve the problem and give them what they’re looking for and what they need so they don’t continue to say bad things about your brand, but also so they’re more loyal.

There are a lot of things you can do. You can do a one-minute quiz or a one-question survey on your website. You can do longer surveys with SurveyMonkey. It’s still a very good tool to use, but there are endless opportunities for survey tools and if you want to get even more current local community data, you can tag a survey onto a radio station in your community or a newspaper. You can pay a little bit of money and they’ll throw your question into a survey that they’re already doing and they’ll ask people that you would not normally be able to reach.

They are also platforms that you can tap into that aren’t just like your local radio and TV stations or newspaper, but they’re huge platforms. They have a database of thousands of people willing to answer surveys in a given category, and you just send them your questions, ask their panels and get you back the data. There are so many ways to find out, but not doing any kind of research is setting yourself up to really be challenged to keep up with competition and keep up with trends, and as we’ve already discussed, things are changing very quickly in consumer markets and attitudes because of technology their expectations of brands are changing too. If you’re not talking to consumers and learning on a regular basis constantly, you’re going to fall behind once you’re behind. It’s really hard to catch up.

OF: Absolutely. Thank you for sharing also those no-cost, low-cost models as well that you can use for customer research that’s very tangible and actionable for our audience. From your perspective, what role can enablement teams play in helping marketing teams effectively navigate changes in the market?

JM: Sales and marketing need to work together hand in hand. They need to be really one unified team. The traditional business model is you have a VP of sales and a VP of marketing, and so you have these different silos that sometimes don’t like to work together because they like their independence, but if that’s how they operate you cannot succeed. They have to work together because you have to have a unified strategy for customer experience.

One of the things that I discussed in great detail in the 6th edition of Marketing for Dummies is a customer touchpoint journey. Both marketing and sales enablement needs to understand the decision criteria, the decision processes, and the decision journeys that your target customers are taking to get to yes. This happens in retail. It happens in B2B. This is especially important in B2B because those complex decisions have a lot of repercussions for the people making those decisions. There’s usually a lot more at stake than buying a $5 widget at a store.

What are the criteria that they are looking for to help them make wise, informed, and confident decisions that will help them further their career path and not look bad to their superiors if something goes wrong with the software system they’ve got? You need to understand that. Marketing needs to understand that and create messaging appeals to make them feel comfortable in engaging with your brand to learn more because again, you have that emotional relevance and the psychological relevance that you can fulfill the outcomes that they’re looking to fulfill physically, tangibly, and emotionally.

Sales enablement needs to know how to carry those leads that marketing generates through the touchpoint journey by providing content that’s relevant for each step of their decision process checklist to help them know they’re making wise, informed decisions, and tell them objectively what they should be looking for in products. You can’t be a commercial appeal. These need to be touchpoint journeys with educational value and create a sense of partnership.

Then, of course, what are the touchpoints for conversations and for meetings? What does a sales meeting look like? How is that first sales conversation built upon the promises that marketing is making? How is that pitch deck? How is that proposal? They all have to be built upon the same premises and promises that are being made at the beginning of a brand relationship because if you’re making promises in marketing or creating a sense of emotion that has not executed every level of that journey from introduction to the closing pattern to conversion, you become an inauthentic brand that nobody can trust and they don’t believe your marketing, so next time you have a great offer or a great promotion to get out there to the public, they’re going to move on to the next competitor because you burned that bridge. It’s really important that those departments work together on that journey from promises to deliverables.

OF: Absolutely. I love that you described that as a journey. Something that you wrote in your book is that building a marketing strategy is really a journey with a specific destination in mind. I’m curious to learn maybe a little bit more about the advice that you would give to marketers and enablers to first identify that destination that aligns with core business objectives, and then measure progress toward that destination.

JM: The destination of every single marketing event that you execute, whether it be a campaign or an event, your customer experiences, or your sales journeys needs to have one destination in mind. I don’t care what industry you’re in, and that destination needs to be a lifetime value. No company can afford to start over every three or six months, or even every year in building a profitable revenue stream through new customers. If that’s how you operate, you are not going to be in business very long.

The only businesses that can succeed across any industry, B2B or B2C, are those that are able to retain their customers through the things we’ve been talking about and capture their loyalty. Loyalty is in different forms. Loyalty is always going to buy my product when you’re going to need it so I can count on those repeat purchases, but I also need to recount on referrals from you.

If you have three referrals from every customer you have, think about your business growth. That’s a free sales team. You’re not paying commission and you’re not paying payroll, you’re not paying benefits to your customers that are bringing you three to five customers. That goes back to the MPS score. Ask that question, find out how likely they are to recommend, and then give them reasons and incentives to recommend other purchasers.

Lifetime value is probably one of the most important things that somebody can learn how to calculate, so you need to take the time to calculate it for your industry, and for your business. What’s the life cycle of your clients? If you’re in a business where you’re likely to keep someone for 10 years or five years, figure that one out, and then you have to figure out how to take the elements and characteristics of your most loyal customers. Append that to your data models, by going back to the science we talked about earlier, and make sure you’re going after new customers that look a lot like your loyal customers.

That cycle becomes a very successful approach, but again, if you’re looking at a destination for a short sales quota or just to meet the quarter’s revenue that you’re under pressure to meet, that’s not sustainable. You’re not going to be able to do that for very long and your competition that’s focusing on loyalty, they’re going to take ahead.

There’s another thing to think about too. A lot of companies have contracts and when you get a client signed in the contract, I spent a lot of time in the SaaS and software world, so that’s how I think, you get those clients lined up in contracts for three to five years. That’s really something to think about because if you’re letting your competition get those customers or getting those prospects, they’re going to have the market locked up for three to five years.

That’s why the customer experience is so important. When you set your destination for lifetime value, you have to understand the customer experience and the ESP that you’re going to deliver from every aspect of the marketing campaigns to the sales enablement execution, to closing and account management through ABM. If all those elements don’t come together, you’re never gonna get to that destination.

OF: That is fantastic advice. Well, Jeanette, thank you so much for sharing all of this expertise with our audience. I learned so much from this conversation and I’m so excited for our listeners to hear this. So thank you again for taking the time.

JM: Thank you. It’s an absolute honor to be here today and talk about my books. I feel very honored to have a voice and to be able to share some of my experiences throughout my career to help people be successful no matter what business they’re in. So thank you, Olivia. I really enjoyed our conversation today.

OF: To our audience, we absolutely recommend picking up a copy of Marketing for Dummies. We will include a link to that in the transcript. Thank you so much for listening. For more insights, tips, and expertise from sales enablement leaders, visit salesenablement.pro, and if there’s something you’d like to share or a topic that you’d like to learn more about, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

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