While your company’s brand is the most important differentiator when it comes to beating out competitors and winning a customer’s business, it’s important to remember that there is no magic lever you can pull. Ultimately, building a brand and growing a business requires the careful planning and directing of a variety of marketing activities. That’s why it’s essential that you develop a cohesive marketing strategy that holds these activities together and focuses your team around completing common goals.
To quote author and leadership professor Lee Bolman: “A vision without a strategy remains an illusion.”
In this section, our experts share their tips for developing a well-defined marketing strategy. From building ideal customer profiles, to finding the perfect co-marketing partners, to creating a demand generation portfolio, you’ll learn how to craft a detailed plan that guides you toward measurable and predictable growth.
Experts quoted in this section:
Especially in the early days, turning away sales is difficult. But no amount of cash can make up for selling to the wrong customers.
If you get someone to purchase your product who isn’t your ideal customer—meaning they won’t get value or see success from using it—they’re going to destroy your business. They’re going to:
I feel like I need to say it again… Taking money from the wrong customer can kill your company and your brand.
In any business relationship it’s critical to be clear and consistent about your values and your vision, to know who you are and what you stand for, and to bring that “Big Idea” and conviction into the relationship.
In order to tell a bigger story that resonates, you need to treat the partnership like a sale, applying the same process you use to learn about your customers — their mindset, needs, goals, etc. You then need to find the points of alignment between those needs and the solution your partnership will provide.
Once you have their attention and sell them on the vision, it’s time to provide prospective partners with more information to gain their trust.
In addition to sharing the front-facing story, it’s important to address logistical and risk-mitigation concerns by sharing your company’s back story, explaining in credible detail how you’re building your business, and offering clear examples of how you add value. If you can tie all these pieces together, you can make a strong case for a partnership.
After a startup establishes product market fit, scaling demand generation becomes the next major challenge. Doubling or tripling ARR each year for several consecutive years is not easy. The best marketers create a demand generation portfolio. There are four axes to measure this portfolio: scale of investment, sophistication, breadth and potential.
A demand generation portfolio might include search engine optimization, search engine marketing, social media marketing, influencer marketing, conferences/events, referral marketing, branding, partnerships, reseller agreements, outbound sales development, channel activation, analyst relations, and so on.
How can one manage a broad and growing portfolio? By measuring them on those four axes.
How sophisticated is the organization in leveraging the channel? How much experimentation, insight, predictability has the team developed?
How broad is the demand generation strategy? How many campaigns, how many creatives, how many partners, how many referrers
How many customers and much revenue could this channel bring if successful?
4. Scale of investment
How large is the business’ investment in the customer acquisition channel? What is the spend on the people, software and media?
…when you look at the percent of revenue that comes from direct vs partners, based on data from the World Trade Organization (WTO) about all the revenue floating around the planet, it’s really 75:25 from partners versus from direct. The vast majority of revenue comes from affiliates, influencers, brand-to-brand relationships.
Over the last 20-30 years, from a martech standpoint, the focus has been on optimization of the 25%. Starting with 10-15 years of CRM, then the recent 10 years of marketing automation. And now the third wave is that we’re seeing a lot of companies saying, “okay, I’ve done a lot of optimization on that 25%. Now I need to do the 75%.” The 25% is easier. It’s captive, it’s in your control. It’s your in-house team.
People who have huge budgets get great experiences. And that’s because sellers know that when you walk into that kind of shop, they predict that your fit is very high, and that you have the means, and so they are investing the time of those awesome salespeople — relationship managers — on you, because they know that about you.
And the problem is that in our world, or the internet world, we don’t know anything, and so we’re not investing anything. So the answer to marketing these past ten years hasn’t been to improve the experience, it has been to decrease the cost — to massively decrease the cost so they can create yield.
But here’s the thing: My job isn’t to generate a ton of leads, it’s not to generate a ton of sales whatever the cost. Because I can offer a Porsche to every person who comes to Drift — this is not happening, I’m not offering a Porsche — but say that I did. Of course people would convert and I’d have sales. But the yield would be negative. My job is to generate the max yield, in dollars, that’s my job.
And the answer from people like me in these past years has been to decrease the cost to improve that yield. The problem is that decreasing the cost creates awful, sh*tty experiences. That’s the problem.
1. Set up a framework for your organization.
How are you organizing customer marketing? It shouldn’t just be advocacy. For example, at many organizations advocacy exists but there is no dedicated marketing energy to adoption, retention, and expansion. Understand what moves the needle the MOST for your business and make sure there is focus on it. Advocacy is great, but not if adoption is broken.
2. Have clear goals for customer marketing.
For example, say your company is introducing a new product. As part of your Plan of Record (POR) there should be a cross-sell goal that that team is incentivized to hit (marketing and sales).
3. Segment and prioritize your customers – they are not all the same.
Marketers do a nice job with segmentation for acquisition, but this same discipline sometimes drops off with customers. Segment based on health, company size, role.
The biggest mistake I see is not thinking through the goals of the launch itself. Each type of program launch – from an ebook campaign to a customer advocacy program – can serve a variety of goals. Without articulating the aim of each program, you lose the needed direction for the campaign and won’t know if the campaign was a success.
Each program rollout should include a planning phase where the goals, action items, and milestones, are set out at the start. Then, at the end of the campaign (or at least a predefined checkpoint), there should be a recap phase where the team reports on the results and does a retrospective on what worked and what didn’t. This helps marketing teams be a lot more intentional about their efforts and make the best use of their most important resource: time.
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