You Are Not Salesforce.com. Not Yet.
So how do you navigate all of the shiny new marketing tactics to get to Salesforce.com status (or close)?
Let’s face it, if you are a growth company you have very different marketing needs and goals than someone like Apple, Google, Salesforce.com or any other corporate giant. Being a growth company means you have developed your product or service offering to the point where you need to extend marketing beyond your personal network and connections to drive real sales.
And that can be a challenge.
Today, there are many marketing channel options and tactics that a marketer or CEO has at their disposal; print, email, social media, earned media – the list is long. This is where the challenges emerge: How do you separate the “shiny new thing” hype from what will actually drive your business? If you are responsible for sales negotiations and seeking seed or venture capital, how are you supposed to oversee, and drive, all of the marketing “must-dos”?
One of the most daunting marketing realms is social media. It is free, easy and everyone is doing it. For many companies the Twitter struggle is to know what the right message is for the right medium, and do it well. One article tells you that you have to be on Twitter. Your former colleague at the “Fortune 100” company says LinkedIn is where it’s at. They are both right, and they are both wrong. What does – and should – matter is marketing your brand in an educated way that is both tested, and tied, to your specific business goals and revenue expectations. How? By finding the most direct and effective way to authentically reach, convert and keep customers.
Business people often say, “We tried paid search but it does not work,” or “We did social but it really has not done anything for us.” Generally speaking, paid search and social media don’t work if they’re not tied to strategic goals, with a message that resonates, and the research to back it up. CEOs need to focus on being proactive versus reactive; responding to trending “noise” and racing to “check the boxes.”
Another temptation is to absorb advice from marketing agencies, as well as individuals that work with big business, it is smart to listen but be sure to apply a cautionary filter. The idea might be new and their advice might be shiny, but, is their wisdom going to translate to you gaining market share or meeting profit benchmarks? In other words, will it get you to where you need to take your brand and your company? This leads me to my next point, “consider the source and the brand.”
Consider the Source and Your Brand
Marketing for an established brand like Apple is very different than the digital channel plan for an emerging growth company. If you just developed new software as a service, for instance, you aren’t going to go to market with the same plan or sales expectation as an established brand like Salesforce.com. With this said, it is important to consider the paradigm through which an individual is speaking; in other words, consider the source. The big company agencies may be able to court you with portfolios of the big, name brands they work with, but they will also charge top dollar for that level of work. Again, it comes down to what you need – not what you want. Take your ego out of the equation and be a true advocate to the company that got you to this moment. What you are looking for is your product and your company – only better. Here are four tangible things to start marketing your growth company:
- You must have a plan based on research and market understanding. I recently had a research discussion with one of those big corporate big brand agency guys – and although we disagree with the $100K price tag for research and process, we do agree on the fundamental point that you need research to create your hypothesis in order to test your market with accuracy. Without research, you are rudderless and will deploy random campaigns with random results. (Again, I see this all the time. “I posted to Twitter and my sales didn’t increase.” “I went out to get 1,000 likes and got 3.” “I Googled my brand and came up on page 10.”) A little research goes a long way for a growth company. Your research-based strategy will be your compass – you won’t be tempted to go off-course chasing the shiny and new.
- You must be flexible and willing to change your strategy. Good research – and patience – will help you build a strategy to validate your research and hypothesis. You will also need to know when to execute that plan and measure the results for your various marketing channels; but also know when to cut bait and test the next channel, message or next best option. Staying flexible will help you hone-in on your primary and secondary target market; wherever they are in the buying process.
- You need data and not just feelings. This is by far the most important step. The best business decisions are based on actual acquired data; and marketing is no different. Yes, the right content, messaging and target personas are all very important, but data collection and analysis is the step many people skip. They execute tactics and get business, but they ultimately have no clue where the conversions or sales came from. How was the business actually won? It is tempting to throw money at what they ‘feel’ like is working. This approach is not only a huge pitfall that can sink companies. It is often fed by the fear of not wanting to stop. What if I pull the wrong channel budget or wrong content? With data that measures output from the first point of every channel touch through conversion, you will be able to make empowered business decisions. It is time to lose the Magic 8 Ball. Guessing is for amateur marketers, not for growth companies.
- The more data the better. You need to collect data from key sources and pull it together in a readable, usable format. Data is worth your time, and the reality is that top-line data can tell you that you are on to something in a target marketplace and, for example, that a particular email or Google AdWords campaign is working. Then you duplicate and test again. Then you grow. Then you make money.
When you have positive ROI that you can defend with data, you can throw as much at it as you can until you start hitting a diminishing return, then find the next channel. This process is called gross channel development. This process of discovering what is working and what is not and moving fast enough will keep you on your toes; focused on developing and nurturing the next powerhouse segment.
Know this: Markets are moving targets and the sales process is forever changed by the advent of mobile everywhere and the Internet of Things (IOT). It is better to keep more than one oar in the water, so to speak. Maintaining your focus on research and targeting your market based on actual data can help you find a unique path to ROI. In some cases, it may be a long slow road when you have a long sales cycle, but you will not know until you see it through. Stay the course and measure every tactic of marketing output right down to the dollars you spend. Know where your leads and traffic are coming from and target them right where they are in the buying process.
Once you have your leads, and sales takes over, your work won’t stop there. The process – research, strategy and data – continues, and so does the journey to be the next Salesforce.com! For more information, check out our whitepaper on How the Sales Process Has Changed or for more information on how to get started on your digital marketing strategy, contact us today.