The Difference Between Good and Bad Marketing

Marketing is such a misunderstood term because it can be defined so many different ways. Marketing can mean branding, PR, lead generation, inbound, advertising, SEO, Product Marketing and a dozen other things. In larger companies all of these functions are done by separate people in separate groups and when you split them all apart it can be easy to forget why the overall marketing plan existed in the first place. For startup marketers, the biggest problem is staying focused on the things that matter and forgetting about the million things you could be working on that don’t matter to the business. What is the difference between good and bad marketing? Good marketing drives revenue. That’s it. It’s as simple as that. You would think this is obvious to everyone, particularly cash-starved startups but I still see marketing plans going completely off the rails where marketers have lost sight of the real prize. Examples? I’ve seen marketing plans with a large amount of budget dedicated to participating in trade shows that have consistently produced few if any opportunities (“…but it will send a bad message if we don’t show up”). I’ve seen teams dedicate large amounts of time and effort into building social media followings without any plan to drive revenue from that (“…our competitors are doing it”). I’ve seen large amounts of money spent on PR that doesn’t reach the company’s target market (“…but all of our friends read TechCrunch”, “…my mom was so proud when I was in the newspaper”). I’ve found that focus on revenue is also a good benchmark to use when hiring marketing folks. When...

Tracking and Adjusting Startup Marketing Assumptions

A good marketing plan is based on deep customer understanding – who they are, how they view solutions and how they buy. That said, I’ve never built a marketing plan that wasn’t based on at least a dozen different things that I didn’t know and simply had to assume were true. Early in my career I didn’t worry too much about those assumptions as long as I had marketing tactics that seemed to be working. Until they stopped working. Then I worried about them a lot. Now I find I spend a lot more time exploring what my key assumptions are up front and then looking at what clues my metrics give me about how those assumptions might be refined or shifted. Here are some examples: Target buyer assumptions – You might have assumptions about who your target buyers are. For example, I’ve built programs aimed at business buyers where we made an assumption that IT would be largely in charge of the purchase and would be the budget holder, while line of business folks were merely influencing the purchase. One of my campaigns – a combination email and inside sales call-out campaign showed that business buyers were increasingly becoming the budget holders and we needed to shift our list building efforts, programs and tactics. At another company we assumed that buyer persona’s in one vertical were similar to those in another. After a couple of fairly unsuccessful campaigns was discovered that smaller companies in the new vertical used completely different job titles and we were often targeting the wrong person in the organization. Messaging/Offering assumptions – You will...
Startup Marketing: A Systems Approach

Startup Marketing: A Systems Approach

I gave a talk last week at The International Startup Festival on startup marketing. I’ve been thinking a lot about how many startups I see that are extremely tactics-oriented in their approach to marketing. My worry with many of them is that rather than starting with an exploration of their target customers (who they are, how they view offerings, how they buy), many marketers are jumping straight into tactics (i.e. choosing to focus heavily on social media or inbound marketing and excluding other potential tactics). It’s not a bad approach per se, particularly if you are measuring results and culling out the bad tactics and doubling down on the good ones. That approach does however lead to a few bigger problems in the longer term. First, the tactics tend to run independently and as a result lack consistency. Secondly assumptions are often not tracked across tactics and when they are, the measured results of the tactics are rarely used to re-asses those assumptions. Thirdly, because tactics were somewhat randomly chosen rather than chosen based on where the friction or best potential accelerators are in the buying cycle, any new tactic suggested is just as good as any other until you test it. Here are the slides Startup Marketing: A Systems Approach View more PowerPoint from April Dunford I had an amazing time at the conference. The speakers were great and I literally lost my voice chatting with startup folks in various tents including the speaker tent, the FounderFeul Mentor tent and the Women in Tech tent. If you didn’t go this year and get a chance to next year,...

Modelling the Customer Buying Process

Startup marketers need to develop a deep understanding how prospects move through the buying cycle when structuring a marketing plan that drives customer acquisition. Mapping this process requires an understanding of the stages that a customer moves through from not understanding that they have a problem through to purchase, and renewal as well as what will either speed up or slow down the customer as they move through the process. The explicit stages will differ somewhat from company to company but in general, the process looks like this: For each of these stages you have Accelerators and Friction points. Accelerators are things that help move people from one stage to the next. Friction point are things that can delay a prospect from going from their current stage to the next one. For example, if I was looking at purchasing CRM software for my business here’s the stages I would pass through: No Need – I am managing my contacts on a spreadsheet and I think that works just fine. To get to the next stage I need to understand what a CRM tool could do that I can’t do in a spreadsheet. Need – I now understand that I have a need. That may have happened because my customer base got bigger and dealing with a large spreadsheet is getting hard. It may be that I am looking to capture transactional information about customer interactions and storing that in notes is hard. It could be my sales team is growing and sharing a spreadsheet is hard and impractical. I’m not actively looking at different solutions yet – maybe because I...
3 Reasons to Build a Startup Marketing Plan

3 Reasons to Build a Startup Marketing Plan

Many startups aren’t executing against a documented marketing plan. I’ve heard loads of excuses for why a plan doesn’t exist. The 2 most common ones are that things are changing too rapidly to plan or the marketing plan is so simple everyone can track it in their heads. I’m not a fan of overly complex, long-term (i.e. more than 3 months) plans for anything in a startup. I am however a big fan of having the assumptions and inputs to a marketing plan written down and an rolling monthly operational plan that the team (even if it’s just me) is working against. There are a bunch of good reasons to create a marketing plan, work against it and maintain it.  Here are three: Documenting assumptions/expectations– There are a set of inputs to any marketing plan: known information about the segment/buyers, how the buyers see the value of your offering versus alternatives, and the steps in the buying process. There are assumptions around each of those inputs based on things that are very likely to change over time such as the competitive landscape, the current capabilities of the product, and buyer behavior. You, and the other members of the team may not be in agreement on those (or even conscious of them). Getting those documented will both reduce the risk of incorrect or mis-aligned assumptions and will allow the team to recognize and react to changes that impact the assumptionHere’s an example: A few years back I inherited a marketing plan for an enterprise software application that was sold through a direct sales force. Until that time that type of...