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...
A/B Testing: Knowing What Works Doesn’t Tell you Why

A/B Testing: Knowing What Works Doesn’t Tell you Why

I read a great post today called “Throw Everything you Know About Ads Out the Window”. The author describes how he ran a very simple test of two ads to see which would work better. You can see the two ads here. The first ad was very professional looking with good looking graphics, nice fonts and a green call to action button. The second ad was in his words “some shit ad I made in 5 mins in Microsoft Paint.” The ad was a hand drawn picture of a car with the hand written words “Need for Speed!!! Play free!!”  He tested the 2 ads for 15K impressions each and found the low tech ad generated a clickthrough rate of 0.137% versus 0.049% for the more professional looking ad. Whoa. That’s quite a difference. His conclusion that, “every idea you have is worth testing no matter how crappy it is”  is a smart one in my opinion, but also trickier than it might sound. Your Test Results Tell you What Works but not Why So we know the second ad generated a better CTR. Now what? Here is a list of reasons the second one might have gotten more clicks: Novelty – we are inundated with ads and something that looks very different is interesting and click-worthy. Free – research shows that this a bit of a magic word for folks and it appears much more prominently on the second ad. Less Text – the second ad had much less text and is easier to read. Single Image – A single image might make the ad easier to process. Simplicity and Flow...
Pitching to Bloggers (and Journalists) – Tips for Startups

Pitching to Bloggers (and Journalists) – Tips for Startups

Most early stage startups don’t have the budget (or the desire) to hire a PR agency to help them get news coverage. Getting coverage for a startup is (in my opinion anyway) easier than it has ever been – there are loads of online publications that cover startups and they’re easy to find and contact. But as least favorite engineering prof used to say to me “April, just because I say it’s easy, doesn’t mean you can’t mess it up.” Here’s my list of Do’s and Don’ts Do This Cultivate relationships before you need them – Did you ever have a friend that only called you when they wanted something? Don’t be that person. There’s generally a ton of runway pre-launch you can use to establish relationships with bloggers and journalists. Meeting face to face (at events, social gatherings, industry meetings, etc.) is always the best way but I’ve had good relationships that started out with me commenting a lot on their blogs, sharing their content, and linking to or blogging about their content on my company blogs. The goal is to get a better understanding of the person (what do they like/dislike, how can help them out, etc) at a stage when you aren’t asking for something. Have something newsworthy to talk about – this isn’t just about having a great product, it’s about having a great story to tell that people will want to read about (and yes, great products make this easier). Why should people be excited about your news? How does it relate to other newsworthy things (market/buyer/cultural/economic trends for example) people are interested in?...
Customer Retention: 7 Ideas for Marketers

Customer Retention: 7 Ideas for Marketers

As marketers we are often so focused on new customer acquisition that we sometime forget to pay attention to the customers that we already have. That would be a massive mistake. It costs 6-7 times more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep an existing one. You are 4 times more likely to close business with an existing customer than you are with a new prospect. I recently brainstormed with a CEO about programs for their current customers both to improve customer retention as well as to drive new business – here are some of the ideas we came up with: 1/ Give your Newsletter a Kick in the Pants – We all get too much email. Your newsletter is going to have to kick ass just to get folks to open it, let alone take action. What could you give customers that would be so interesting, awesome or remarkable that they’ll say, “Yippie, the newsletter arrived today!” What works for you will depend on your market but I’ve seen good results with sample code, a customer spotlight feature, sharing industry data your customers don’t have access to, interviews with industry experts and video snippets of product managers or support folks sharing their favorite tips and tricks. I’m sure you could come up with a hundred other ideas. If your newsletter doesn’t feel like hard work to create, you could probably do better. 2/ Campaign to your Lost Customers – You are twice as likely to close business with a lost customer than you are with a new prospect. With close rates like that, you should...
“My Friends” is not a Market Segment

“My Friends” is not a Market Segment

Here’s the scenario. You have a startup that offers a cool new online service. You release it and put the word out to all of your friends. “Hey, do me a favor and please sign up for my new service!” Loads of them do. “Amazing,” you think to yourself, “I’ve got traction!!” Not so fast bub. What happens next? You’ve targeted all of the friends you have. Who do you target next? You have no clue because you haven’t focused on a market segment, just a (somewhat) random group of people. Traction Needs to be Traction in a Market Not all traction is created equal. In fact, I would argue that you need to have traction in a market segment (or segments) in order for it to be meaningful. And by meaningful I mean the kind of traction that gives you an indication that you can scale and a path to doing that. What is a Market Segment? A market segment has 2 key attributes: Identifiable – I can describe the segment in such a way that it can be specifically targeted. This can be demographics (new mothers under the age of 30 in New York) or role driven (IT managers working at companies with less than 500 employees) or company-oriented (Canadian retail banks with branch offices in different provinces) or even environment driven (companies with large Oracle data warehouses in North America). The more specific this is the easier it is to identify the folks and target them. Common set of needs – This is the need or problem that your solution solves. Examples would be: a need to...
Less is More: Why B2B Marketers Know Fewer Leads are Better

Less is More: Why B2B Marketers Know Fewer Leads are Better

Sirius Decisions released the results of a survey earlier this week that confirms what many B2B marketers already know but isn’t intuitively obvious for non-marketers – delivering fewer, higher quality leads beats simply trying to increase the number of leads coming into your pipeline. This is an old argument between marketing and sales – sales wants more leads but marketing knows that it’s relatively easy to stuff a pipeline with mediocre-quality pseudo-prospects (and the moment we do, sales will immediately go all Glengarry Glen Ross on us and complain that the “leads are weak”). The definition of a “sales-ready lead” in my opinion is shifting farther and farther down the sales pipeline. People are perfectly capable of researching products on their own and don’t want to get a sales person involved in the process until they have done a certain amount of research on their own. Trying to insert yourself into the process before a prospect is ready is at best ineffective (prospects don’t believe much of what sales people tell them anymore) and at worst damaging (because you’ve now annoyed them to the point they no longer want to talk to you).  The other critical factor that this study highlights is that there is a limit to how many leads a sales rep can effectively handle and going beyond that may actually be damaging. Key findings of the study: Companies mandating tighter pipelines had a better close rate – Companies managing a pipeline of 3 times or less of their quota closed 40.5 deals out of 1,000 sales-qualified leads, compared to only 30.6 deals for those managing more...
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