Archive for the ‘Website’ 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.

If I Only Had $1 for Marketing, Where Should I Spend It?

A question that I have been working on for a number of weeks… Where would I focus my marketing budget at different budget levels? What activities provide the biggerst return on your marketing dollars? What would I recommend for a marketing budget?

These are common questions that I get when I build a marketing organization directly or I provide marketing consulting. It is especially relavent with so many companies slashing marketing budgets, at the same time looking for something to change the rules and build a foundation for growth.

My short list of critical marketing activities are below… budget is harder because you have to take a lot more factors into account; such as  industry, sale cycle, channels, pricing, packaging, type of product, type of services, size of company, growth expectations, etc…

1. Branding – the ability to tell your story, make it compelling, and differentiate yourself is critical.

2. Website – making sure that the website tells the right story, is search optimized, and credentials your organization. Some websites sell, but most are really sales support or customer support. The best sites manage the customer relationship. Depending on the industy, maturity, etc. I would recommend building an online community (social media components embedded into the website) to manage the pre-sales activities (community) and the one-to-one customer account activities (private groups).

3. Demo, Video, Sample, Picture, Flash, etc. – something that is a tangible representation of your offering that communicates the value of the offering which can be syndicated out through social media sites, Youtube, etc.

4. References, Case Studies, and Testimonials – Communicating value in a tangible way, credentialling your ability to deliver the solution

5. Collateral, PowerPoint, Flash, Webinars, Seminars, etc. – Depending upon your industry, there are accepted norms for delivering the pitch… some industries it can be done your website, via webinar, others require a PowerPoint, others still use PDFs. Irregardless of the medim, you have to tell the “visual story”; solution, pictures/imagery, value proposition, differentiation, package, pricing, functions, features….

6. Online Marketing – Search Engine Pay-Per-Click, Search Optimized Press Releases, Linkedin, Facebook, other industry specific social media sites/groups, maybe a banner ad on critical industry sites, etc.

7. Media, Blogger, & Analyst Outreach / Industry-specific Online CommunitySocial & Forum participation – The lines between traditional media, bloggers, analysts, and communities are blurring. You have to have  a strong presence and recognize the contribution those who follow the industry have on buyers.

8. Multi-channel Marketing – Email, direct mail, personal landing pages, drip marketing, campaigns, analytics, etc. You need a good outbound marketing engine as most companies cannot rely on networking & inbound referrals alone. You also should tie it into a good CRM system so that you can make the information actionable.

9.Events, Conferences, Tradeshows – With the economy tight, a lot of the travel dollars have been slashed, but participation is still a good way to get out of your own network. Selection of which to attend is more art than science, but a good rule of thumb is “go where the customers are”…

10. Partnerships – getting a partnership is really only the first step in actually getting business from partners. Nurturing relationships, training and supporting, building solution value, providing sales support, and providing channel marketing are the real challenge in getting sustainable business. “Build it & they will come” doesn’t usually work for partnerships, either.

Bottom line, is this is a generic list of activities, but the secret sauce is prioritizing where you spend your limited dollars. I write about social media a great deal as I believe that done correctly that it can be a game changer, but the real value is focusing on doing the marketing basics really well. You can always build upon a great foundation, but you have to crawl before you walk before you run.