Lousy Marketing Messages: 5 Causes and Solutions

Lousy Marketing Messages: 5 Causes and Solutions

I was chatting with a startup CEO about marketing messages and how important it was to create a great story. His company has an awesome story and even though they only have a junior part-time marketer on staff, their messages are great. “I don’t get it,” he says to me “I see all this lousy messaging out there and yet we manage to do it! What’s wrong with people?” That got me thinking. Why is there so much bad messaging out there? Here’s what I think: 1/ The Team Stinks at Message Creation – The company has a good story but the team stinks at message creation and can’t translate that story into compelling messages. In my example above, the company happens to have naturally great storytellers on staff so they don’t have this problem. Not every startup is so lucky. Solution: Hire or rent some marketing talent. If you go with a consultant make sure they come with super references and make sure you stay heavily involved in the process. The output will be better that way and the team will get a better understanding of how to create messages. Caution: keep reading because this might not actually be the problem. 2/ Marketing Doesn’t Get It – The company has a good story but marketing (or whoever is creating the messaging), although great at message creation, lacks the understanding of either the offering or the market to really understand or believe the story. Messages are then created based on this (incomplete or flawed) understanding, resulting in weak messaging. Solution: Either spend more time with the marketing folk making...
Why You Can’t Market like Apple (or Why Marketing is Hard)

Why You Can’t Market like Apple (or Why Marketing is Hard)

The reason marketing is equally interesting and frustrating is because you are never exactly sure what will work until you try it (this is particularly true in startup marketing). Contrary to the belief of armchair marketing critics, we can’t simply copy what marketers at Apple or Facebook or Groupon are doing and expect it to work. Heck, we can’t even always repeat OUR OWN successful tactics and be guaranteed good results. This concept frustrates the hell out of the engineers that I’ve worked with in particular. They want there to be a formula or a textbook that simply tells us what to do and how to do it. Hey, I’m an engineer myself so I understand the desire for a formula but the reason it doesn’t exist is because there are too many variables that impact what works and what doesn’t and many of those are constantly shifting. Some examples: Markets – Mature vs. new, expanding vs. contracting or consolidating, geographically constrained vs. global, heavily regulated or government subsidized vs. open, big vs. small – markets come in all types. What works when you are selling to banks probably makes absolutely no sense when selling to grandparents, or families or law offices or insurance companies. Except occasionally it does. Offerings – Marketing tactics for high value items are different for low value deals – smaller deals close faster, are often non-competitive, often only involve a single purchaser, etc. The economics of customer acquisition are obviously different (you can spend $100K closing a multi-million dollar deal. selling a $5 a month subscription, not so much).  The type of product matters too, even...
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...
How B2B Product Marketing is Different from B2C

How B2B Product Marketing is Different from B2C

I read a great post from Gopal Shenoy this week about how B2C product marketing is different from B2B. I’m a B2B marketer so that got me thinking about writing a post in the reverse. Here’s how I think B2B product marketing is different from B2C 1/ Channels are important (sometimes critical) – Most B2C companies sell direct. B2B is often through channels or a mix of channel and direct. The channels can be single or multi-tier and you will need to figure out how to price for these channels, enable and train them, incent them and ensure that there is as little channel conflict as possible. This is not easy. 2/ Long term customer relationships – Many B2C companies talk about “building customer relationships” like it’s a new thing and that’s because for many B2C companies it is (with the exception of SaaS-based B2C services where churn is a major metric). On the B2B side, there are fewer customers and often you will live or die by your long-term relationship with that customer. That means you will often have dedicated teams assigned to larger accounts. 3/ Tiered customer service – Because those long-term relationships are important, customer services becomes absolutely critical. Of course service is important on the B2C side as well, you don’t often see differences in the way you serve customers. On the B2B side there is quite often a massive difference in the way you service a very large account vs. a very small one. 4/ Purchasing teams – For larger-ticket items there will be a number of people and groups involved in a purchase...

Inbound Marketing and Product Marketing

It’s not very often that I get to talk to a group of purely product management and product marketing folks so when he Rymatech folks asked if I wanted to do a webinar with them I was quick to say yes (the webinar is happening Wed. Feb. 9th at 12 EST and you can register here). The topic I am going to focus on for that webinar is the changing nature of marketing in general and what that means for product marketing professionals in particular (a topic I have been thinking about since I spoke at ProductCamp Amsterdam).   Here’s a brief overview of the topic: 1/ Traditional Marketing Sucks – People hate traditional marketing. It’s interrupt-driven, untargeted and pushy.  People are pretty good at ignoring things that bother them so that style of marketing has become less and less effective. 2/ Customers Want to Control the Sales Process – Prospects don’t want to be “sold.” Customers are interested in researching products themselves and tend to resist interacting with a vendor to as late in the buying process as possible. 3/ The Only Way to Enage With Customers Early in the Buying Cycle is to Provide Useful Stuff – So if your prospects don’t want to be sold to – how should you interact with them?  By helping them rather than selling to them.  Inbound marketing (in my definition anyway) consists of providing things that help prospects.  That might be best practices or tips.  It could mean helping them understand specific technologies in the market and when they should be used.  It might mean educating them on different approaches to solving a...

Marketing Tactics vs. Strategy: Striking a Balance

One of the biggest differences between marketing jobs at a large company versus doing marketing at a startup is the breadth of responsibility.  At a large company, marketing roles are highly siloed and folks are slotted into field marketing, PR, communications, strategy, etc. and they rarely work on projects or tasks that cross those lines.  At a startup there aren’t enough people around to start splitting up jobs like that so more often than not there are one or two people doing everything.  That’s is the fun part of doing startup marketing (and one of the dangers of hiring a person who has only ever worked at big companies for your startup, but that’s another blog post).  The challenge of course is that you have to wear a lot of hats simultaneously So how do you find a balance between the strategic and the tactical sides of the equation?  In my experience most marketers are more comfortable on one side or the other and they tend to spend too much time in that comfort zone.  For example, folks that are awesome at lead generation can easily spend all their time doing only that.  Folks that are good at strategy often find lead generation “boring”. All strategy and no tactics – you might never get off the ground There are obvious problems with not paying attention to short term revenue.  Even though your positioning and strategy might establish you as a thought leader (yeah, hate that word but you know what I mean) in a market, you might not survive long enough for that strategy to translate into revenue without...
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