I love my morning walks with my dog, Layla. Especially here in North Carolina. In Chicago, you would often contend with wild weather swings. It could be 80˚ one morning and 40˚ the next. It could be cold and raining one morning, sunny the next. Here in Raleigh, each morning for the past month has been sunny and around 70˚ around 7 AM.

In Chicago, we walked around a neighborhood. Here in Raleigh, they have paths called Greenways everywhere. They are paved, with mowed and maintained sections along the way, and they even have dog waste stations along the path, so we can make a deposit at the poop bank!

Layla gets to sniff, do her business, meet other dogs and people, and have the occasional stare-down battle with bunnies along the way. I get some exercise and inspiration. Yes, I've mentioned it before, I use Blinkist (15-minute Cliffs Notes audio versions of books). On our daily walk, I usually get to listen to three full books per walk. I get inspired by new ideas for business and topics for my blog posts and podcast episodes. This is no exception.


I was listening to a book on innovations, and there was a story that struck me. It was about a boy in a factory, in the late 1800s whose job was to pull a lever at intervals throughout the day. Mind-numbing work for sure. But one day, he figured out a way to attach a string to a rotating part of the machine and attach it to the lever to automate the process. Ingenious right? Well, it caught on and soon the entire process was automated throughout the factory.

That made me think of how modern-day marketing tactics often sell innovation as a way to automate the process of sales. Let me expand on that and why I think we get caught up in thinking that if we attach a string to the right wheel, money will just flow throughout our businesses. But alas, it generally never does.

The String

Some marketing people or agencies pick up on that great idea and say they will sell you the string. This is often in the form of YouTube videos, Instagram posts, Google or Facebook ads, and something that is simple and touted as the easy way to solve the problem and make you more money.

Maybe another agency will say that they have a better string. It could be a braided wire or a chain, that is stronger and will produce more consistent and longer-lasting results. This could be a content marketing system, or services that may cost a bit more, but takes less of your time.

Another option is a consultant or agency that will sell you the plans to implement the string. This could be in the form of a course or personalized training. All you have to do is follow their plan and money will automatically flow into your business.

The Burning Question?

When the audiobook moved on from that story about the boy and the innovative solution, I had one question that was burning a hole in my brain: What happened to the boy? Was he promoted? Did he get moved to another task so he could continue to innovate? Or, did he just get fired because he automated himself out of a job?

What is often missed is how that string, method, or innovation affects and involves people.

I have seen many innovations in marketing technology fail or fall short of expectations. This is because the people part of the equation was overlooked or ignored. Especially in the B2b business, success is based on interpersonal relationships. No matter how hard you try to train or technologically innovate a process if you don't factor in the human element of the equation, you end up spending lots of money with limited success.

The Conundrum?

The String Theory I mentioned before has the goal of getting more traffic to your website or more leads in your pipeline. The problem is that people often don't connect the basic goal of a website visit or a cold lead and how it ends in creating a conversation between human beings. Website visits and cold leads often include tire kickers and price shoppers. They have no real need or intent of buying right now. Often, those people are tossed aside to deal with the next influx of visits and leads.

The Better String (cable or chain) can take the form of a new software system. I have seen companies spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on marketing automation systems or CRM lead tracking software with the hope of better quality lead generation and lead tracking and nurturing. Although the systems are great and powerful, they are only as good as the data being captured and utilized.

The String Implementation plan will help maximize the investment of systems and processes, but there is one factor that gets in the way: People. You can teach or direct your marketing and sales staff to use the new systems. Factor in a 20-something, millennial, and the old guard, and it can be like cat herding trying to get them all to use the same system. The challenge is that some will embrace technology but shy away from human-to-human interactions. Others will focus on face-to-face meetings and phone calls and never enter the data needed for success.

The Strong Knot

The key to making a system work is to make it easy for the individuals on your team to adapt it to their style and needs. You can string together, innovation, technology, and training into a system that is adaptable to each individual, yet is universally used and accepted across the board.

First, you have to design the system with the end goal of creating human-to-human interaction. Then, the system should have a way of connecting pre-qualified prospects with your sales team. It's even stronger when you have specialists in certain areas who are assigned prospects based on their specific technological, or operational needs.

Next, you have to put interesting information in front of your audience. Information that entices them to take action and ask questions, or at least express their interest. Your latest sales pitch or widget feature and benefits are not what they want. They have a problem, and they are looking for a solution. Any website can make people search, and dig for answers. What most of us want is a human to answer questions so we can get a solid and definitive answer quickly and with authority.

Chatbots do not replace real interactions like phone calls, zoom meetings, or emails (that are answered immediately – not within 24 to 48 hours).

Finally, the information should be the innovation that attracts the audience. This often requires the top-level thought leaders in your company to be the source of the information. I have found that interviewing them is much better than asking them to write it. They tend to techno-speak, while your audience is looking for empathy. A good interviewer and writer can blend that into a message that leads to the ultimate goal of human-to-human interaction with your sales team.

That can turn ideas into information. This leads to prospects consuming and connecting. Then your sales team can do what they do best in a way that lets them use their personal strengths and methodologies to form long-term bonds that lead to increased sales.

Final Thoughts

The one thing I have learned about walking a dog is that it's their time and not yours. You have to let them sniff, run, and explore within reason. I have found that I am less anxious when I have information that feeds me while I let Layla be a dog. We both get what we want, and she and I are both satisfied and content in the end.

Connecting your customers and prospects with your sales team should be your main goal. That way, everybody gets what they want and, generally, on their own terms.

“Science may never come up with a better office communication system than the coffee break.”
– Earl Wilson

I would love to hear how technology or innovation has either exceeded expectations or led to disaster or downturns. How does your team adapt or adopt the innovation? Where do you think you have gaps that can be filled by more human-to-human interaction? Tell me about your challenges or successes in establishing long-term business relationships!

Comment below and share your thoughts, ideas, or questions about innovation.

To learn more about this and other topics on B2b Sales & Marketing, visit our podcast website at The Bacon Podcast.


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