Archive for the ‘emerging growth companies’ Tag

Is Your Marketing Like Teaching A Dog to Read? Part 2

In part 1 of this series, I shared a story about a professor who taught his dog to read… obviously, the dog could not read at the end of the semester, but the professor “taught” the dog. Unfortunately, this is very common in marketing, especially in emerging growth companies. The companies have very “pretty” marketing materials; website, collateral, powerpoints, but when you cannot really understand the audience, value proposition, or why they are different.

The litmus test for marketing materials is whether you can use your competitors name in your materials and it would apply. Or you could insert a company name from another industry and it reads just fine. Finally, you could insert any company name and no one understands what you do.

The real challenge is that the organization did not go through a structured exercise to map the value chain: audiences to benefits to functionality to features. Here is a high-level process to do just that:

1. Focus on identifying the market & associated segments

2. Fnd the pain – immediate call to action – for each segment; ie. this is the problem or opportunity you address; your solution = benefits

3. Communicate in the language the market understands – means you need to have a market SME, customer advisory board, or perform lots of prospect interviews to understand their needs in their language.

4. Test your messaging – social media participation, sales calls, speaking events, networking events, advisory boards, analysts, etc. Frequency and time allow you to polish your messaging. I know that I am ready when I can get through the 1st several meetings with a prospect or an investor without them finding holes in my presentation and Q&A. Doesn’t mean your offering won’t have challenges in due diligence, but if you are targeted to the right audience with the right solution, the first two meetings should be about concept, relationship, and “fit”.

5. Model your marketing on the sales process – each stage is idenitfied and marketing’s support required – One of the biggest challenges to getting the marketing materials “right” is identifying the scenarios under which it will be used. If your sales process is to work through partners, then providing a generic sales presentation won’t work. If you are selling into a specific vertical, then understanding the buying process may mean that you have to have 2 different presentations; one executive and one technical for different meetings. Collateral and sales support materials are very expensive to produce (opportunity costs) so focusing on a limited number of high-quality tools versus having a checkmark for materials is critical.

6. Focus on how to speed up the sales process – optimize, accelerate, replicate – momentum, reselling, bridging – One of the biggest challenges in any sales process is the “porpoise effect”. You build momentum and then it subsides, you resell and build momentum, and then it subsides. Most qualified buyer sales that seemingly look qualified with a need, but don’t get beyond the initial sponsor die due to lack of momentum. Either the sponsor could not sell internally or lost focus… The ability to empower your sponsor to be an evangelist will assist you in maintaining momentum. Everything in sales support should be around how do we help the potential customer make a decision faster. You will close more sales this way.

7. Participate in the early sales – look for objections – price, package, credentialling, references, technology, features/functionality, language, benefits, positioning, competitors. My biggest beef with some marketing communications people is that they don’t understand the market, customers, or the products. I want to get in front of the customers and interact with the market. I need to understand the buyer behavior and get feedback to fine tune the messaging.

8. “Save your powder” – the first set of sales to early adopters doesn’t require big marketing; focus on sales support, business development, online marketing, andPR; expensive marcom, tradeshows, events, and brochureware after the message has been tested. Save the marketing dollars till you have proofed the model and are ready to grow big. My approach to marketing budgeting is like “rolling a snowball downhill”. Make a small investment to credential your sales process;  when the market is proofed, build upon the foundation.

9. Build a customer lifecycle early. Know where you are going and how you will get there. Build towards a critical mass of referencable customers. Shrink the product’s functionality & features to slightly beyond what your target market requires. Also, make sure you set customer expectations so that you can exceed them. Make sure the roadmap is clearly articulated and scales with your customer expectations and your identified new market segments.

10. Your first set of references and referrals are the most expensive & the most valuable. Focus the organization on wowing the customer and tie all organizational goals to customer satisfaction.

Making sure your marketing “dog” can actually read is critical to scaling your business. If you have to personally evangelize to every new prospect to get them to understand the concept of your product and the value for them, you will have a very expensive sales process. Even service companies need to package their services to scale effectively.

Part 3 will address the challenges of Mid-Market companies.

Part 4 will address the challenges of Established Brands.

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Is Your Marketing Like Teaching a Dog to Read? Part 1

I had an accounting professor who told us a story about a colleague of his who decided to teach his dog to read. This professor crafter a full lesson plan and spent 12 weeks delivering a daily lecture to his dog. At the end of the semester, he certified that he had taught his dog to read. This obviously doesn’t actually mean the dog could read, but he delivered a beautifully, executed lesson plan.

This is a common occurance in Marketing, as well. It manifests itself in several ways:

Smaller, Emerging Growth Companies – Marketing Collateral Which Doesn’t Say Anything

A common challenge for smaller companies is the mistake that Marketing Communications equates to Marketing Strategy. The first thing early stage companies do is engage with a marcom firm and focus on building the prettiest branded website they can afford. Then they throw in the logo, marketing slicks, and a powerpoint. All of these are important, but they skip some important steps; like defining the product target audience, defining the value proposition, and mapping the features/functionality to the product benefits, validating the pricing and packaging, and then testing the messaging to make sure the priorities of the market are accounted for in their planning. This results in a marketing program that “teaches the dog to read”, but doesn’t actually communicate a clear call to action or even explain what the company does for whom…. the end result is that the actual communication and education about the product’s value has to actually occur during a sales call which isn’t very scalable. Part 2

Mid-Market Companies – Siloed Marketing Communications Channels

More established mid-market companies have a different problem in that they have mostly grown organically so they have done a good job of communicating the concept & value of their offerings. The common approach to marketing tends towards mimicking what larger, enterprise companies have done with a “pasta method” approach to marketing… throwing everything up against the wall to see what sticks… Without the coordination or the brand recognition of larger established brands, the market really doesn’t see the “get” the value of the offerings because there isn’t a cohesive multi-channel story. The lesson plan is a fully fleshed out lesson with multi-media slides, but you only get to hear half of it….

Established, Enterprise BrandsFighting Economies of Scale

Large enterprise brands have the resources and the history to communicate brand strategy. The challenge for large enterprises is the challenges of coordinating the vast organization to deliver a consistent message. A friend of mine told me about working with one major brand that had a different agency of record for each communication channel. And the different agencies didn’t play very nicely. Now, add in multiple products, divisions, and new communications channels. Large enterprises have the access to talent and the resources to deliver the “whole lesson plan”, but without the ability to coordinate, it is like having the lecture delivered by multiple professors on different campuses.

The rest of the series will focus on strategies to enable companies of different sizes to build sustainable foundations for communicating the value of the product offerings. At the end of the day, if you cannot get your message across in a way that is compelling & differentiated, translated into actionable prospect leads, and resulting in closed sales; it is like “teaching your dog to read.”

Part 2 – Emerging Growth Companies