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Startup Marketing and Sales
by April Dunford

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

04/04/2012

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:

  1. Novelty – we are inundated with ads and something that looks very different is interesting and click-worthy.
  2. Freeresearch shows that this a bit of a magic word for folks and it appears much more prominently on the second ad.
  3. Less Text – the second ad had much less text and is easier to read.
  4. Single Image – A single image might make the ad easier to process.
  5. Simplicity and Flow – The second ad is much simpler and it flows simply from top to bottom. The “professional” ad is more complex and flows right to left and top to bottom.
  6. Weird Psychology – Maybe that hand-drawn ad reminded us of the doodles we made we were 5 years old and a Proust-ian nostalgia swept over us and gosh darn it we just had to click!!

OK, so the last one isn’t all that likely but hey, anything’s possible. So what does this test tell us? It tells us that we can improve our CTR in one (or maybe many) of these ways. It’s giving us some clues about what hypothesis to test next but without those tests, the “why” around the increased CTR is not clear.

CTR is not the Same as Conversions

Another important thing worth pointing out is that there was no mention of conversions after the clicks. If I look at some of the possible reasons that the CTR might have been higher I could see that maybe some folks are clicking just to see what the heck this crazy ad is all about but aren’t really serious about taking any other action. While the test might have proven the second ad generated more clicks, it did not prove the second ad “worked” better from a business perspective.

industry analysts

Industry Analysts: Can You Buy Coverage?

01/11/2012

I had a B2B startup founder ask me if it was possible to buy placement in a Gartner Magic Quadrant. The question shows a fundamental misunderstanding that the big industry analyst firms like Gartner Group and Forrester are “Pay for Play”. That simply doesn’t make any sense.

You care about analyst coverage because customers care. Customers care because vendors can’t purchase it.

The only reason marketers care what some industry analysts have to say is because some customers respect their opinion. The moment customers suspect that this opinion can be bought, they would stop paying for their advice. These markets where an analyst opinion really matters are often those where the decision is made by a purchase team that doesn’t have the time/skill/money/risk tolerance to perform a complete evaluation of every vendor in the market. They trust analysts to educate/advise them enough to quickly get the vendor list down to a more manageable size. It varies by market/geography/company size of course but if you are selling to a Fortune 500 IT buyer in North America, you may not get on a short list if Gartner doesn’t cover you (if you are selling to consumers, you probably should stop reading this right now).

You can’t buy love. But you can purchase a date.

So the entire business model of an analyst firm depends on customers trusting that the analysts are not biased for or against certain vendors. Vendors cannot purchase coverage in a report, nor inclusion on a Quadrant or Wave. Analysts do cover companies that don’t pay for their services. So does paying an analyst firm increase your chances of getting favourable coverage in their research. Heck yes it does! But it doesn’t guarantee they will write nice things about you. Purchasing a contract gives you their attention. It gives you the ability to interact with them regularly (the biggest mistake you can make is pay for the contract and not establish regular meetings with the analysts, more on this later). This leads to several things:

  • A better understanding of how the analyst firm views the market
  • An opportunity to educate the analysts about the value of your offering and your point of view on the market
  • The opportunity to influence their thinking about how the market is evolving
  • Advanced warning about upcoming research and the ability to respond to questions and surveys before the research is published
  • The opportunity to introduce them to your customers, further illustrating your offering’s value and increasing your chances of coverage.
  • The ability to establish the credibility of your company and your depth of knowledge of the space, increasing the credibility of your offering in the eyes of the analysts.
  • The ability to establish relationships with the analysts (hey, they are people too and it never hurts if you all know and like each other).

So buying the contract is a bit like buying your love interest dinner at Le Bernardin instead offering to split the bill at McDonald’s. It won’t guarantee that you’ll fall in love but it will increase the odds that they’ll show up so you can make your case.

The often-ignored but equally important reason you want to work with analysts – to learn from them

But here’s the thing. Coverage isn’t the only reason you want to work with an analyst firm. It may not even be the main reason you want to work with them. You want to work with them because you can learn from them. They spend all day thinking about the markets you are in. They spend a significant amount of time talking to customers. They know what your competitors are up to. Who else in your market can give you this kind of perspective? How valuable this perspective is to your company depends on a lot of things but here are some things I’ve used analysts for:

  1. Feedback on messaging and positioning – they know the terms the rest of the market is using and they know how customers express themselves. That puts them in a unique position to give you feedback on how you are expressing your value proposition and your terminology. They also have a firm grasp of what your competitors have and can help you understand what really differentiates you.
  2. Competitive insight – we are all under non-disclosure when we talk to analysts so they can’t tell you anything that isn’t already in the public domain (well technically anyway). but it isn’t always easy to keep up with what the competitors are doing especially if you are in a crowded market. Part of the analyst’s job is to stay on top of who’s doing what in a market.
  3. Customer insight – Analysts do a lot of customer briefings. I find myself asking questions like “Have you ever seen a company with this problem?” or “We think that customers using competitor X’s product tend to look like ABC. Would you agree?” You should never trust any one person’s opinion as the final word on a market but the insight you get from an analyst can help you understand where to look next.

Now don’t get me wrong – I have worked with analysts that I though had a spotty level of knowledge of their market, had obvious biases toward certain vendors and seemed to be incapable of constructive feedback. Every profession has a few that maybe should be doing something else with their lives. Fortunately for me that has been the exception rather than the rule.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you will have a much deeper understanding of the particular slice of the market that you play in than any analyst you will meet. They on the other hand will probably understand the broader market better than you do. You need to keep this in mind when you are filtering their feedback.

Two big cautions for startups!

  1. All of the good stuff that you get from analysts only happens if you do the work. You have to establish a regular calendar of meetings with multiple analysts. You have to prepare for those meetings. You have to find customers that are willing to talk to them. You have to have interesting new news to talk about. You have to complain like heck if your analyst is a dud. If you simply sign the cheque and wait for the good stuff to come rolling in you are wasting your money. Without an analyst relations plan, it’s pointless.
  2. Don’t forget your other marketing priorities. If you are a B2B startup working with analysts is going to be on a long list of things you have to do including lead generation, sales support, enabling your salesforce, building content for your site and campaigns, securing customer references, etc. etc. You have to weigh working with an analyst firm against the other things on your list and take your budget into account. If you only have $60K to spend on marketing, I wouldn’t recommend that anyone spend half of that on a Gartner contract. Even though I think analyst relations is very important for certain companies in certain markets, you need to be smart about it and make sure it makes sense for the value you will get.

 

pitching bloggers

Pitching to Bloggers (and Journalists) – Tips for Startups

01/05/2012

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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? Most startups are great at tying their solutions to technology trends which works well for tech/startup publications. If you want more mainstream press your tie-in’s will need to be more mainstream. I talked to a startup recently that got good coverage tying their product news to the Occupy movement, and another that had a great story related to wedding planning that launched at the time of the royal wedding. You need to answer the question – why is your news interesting right now?
  3. Pitch writers that are a good fit for your news – I’ve seen few examples where folks have been successful by blasting large lists with a generic pitch. Do your homework and understand what the writer covers, their likes and dislikes, whether or not they have written about other companies in similar markets and if so, what were the stories like. Build a personalized pitch that includes why you chose to pitch them specifically. If possible tailor your story angle for the publication or for them personally.
  4. Make it as easy as possible – I like to have a media page that I can direct folks to where writers can get quick easy answers to basic questions (i.e. who/when/why was the company formed, who are the noteworthy employees/customers/partners/investors/advisors involved, what is the value the company delivers and to what markets) and get easy access to logos, screenshots, video, graphics etc. Write your press release so that it’s easy to copy sections from it to create a story (hard to believe but this happens more than you would think). Video and/or images (I seem to be the only person on the planet that’s sick of infographics) that compliment the story work well because they make it easy to create a visually interesting post.
  5. Kiss butt (a little) – Just like regular folks, bloggers generally like working with people who are nice to them more than they like dealing with jackasses. In my opinion, putting a little sugar on it just helps move things along. Tell them you loved their most recent post, say thank-you when they cover you, send them a happy holidays note – this stuff seems simple but so few people do it that you will stand out when you do. Just be careful not to spread it on stalker-thick.

Try to Avoid This

  1. Phoning people (or pestering them on social media) – What’s the definition of zero? The likelihood anyone will return your unsolicited phone call. I could have also said the probability that a blogger will pick up the phone when you cal,l but you get it. There’s a reason most folks don’t publish their phone numbers. Most publications have a preferred method of contact for pitches that they publish (usually a dedicated email address that is monitored) and going around it just annoys people. This goes for sending private messages to people over social media. Those channels are full of spam and using them when you don’t know the person makes you a spammer too.
  2. Getting the names and/or genders wrong – My name isn’t Apple but I get a lot of email addressed to her. It’s hard to take people seriously after they have mistaken me for a fruit. Also confusing someone for a member of the opposite sex is just no way to start a relationship.

What am I missing?

 

paparazzi

Infographics – The Lindsay Lohan of Content?

10/04/2011

I’m sick of infographics. I’m sad about it too because I used to love them. I was excited about the potential for infographics to help us get more visual in the way we communicated messages and told stories. Sadly this isn’t the way it played out. We got beautiful graphics alright. Lovely ones. But somewhere along the way Infographics became all about the look and the story was forgotten. They’ve become the web version of shouting “Hey look a rainbow!!” and we look, even though we know most of the time it’s a trick and there isn’t a rainbow there at all.

I’m worried that Infographics are becoming the Lindsay Lohan of content – People still click on the links to see the sordid photos but they stopped paying to see her movies a long time ago.

Let’s look at an example. Last week I came across this one – The Best and Worst of Marketing (if you built this, I’m sorry for picking on you but this post needs an example and unfortunately, you’re it)

infographic best and worst marketing The Best and Worst of Marketing
Infographic by Marketing Degree

 

Does it look great? Sure it does.

Now what’s it trying to tell us? It lists the “best undergraduate marketing colleges.” In terms of what, you might wonder? Most difficult to get into? Most CMO graduates? We’ll never know because in teeny font at the bottom we see the list of sources which include such specific references as www.businessinsider.com and the website for the University of Pennsylvania. I supposes that’s how they made #1.

Moving along we see a list of best and worst paying marketing jobs. The best ones are a couple of Chief Marketing whatever jobs and then there are 3 Director level titles. Where are the Vice Presidents? Obviously we’re underpaid.

Then we have the best and worst marketing campaigns, best and worst marketing slogans and worst marketing slogan translations. Like there is a way to actually measure or rank any of that.

What is the story this graphic is trying to tell me? That if I don’t go to the University of Texas I run the risk of writing a slogan that translates into “it takes an aroused man to make a chicken affectionate” in Spanish? I have no idea. The graphic is a set of random marketing tidbits (I can’t even call them facts or data points) prettied up by a graphics person for the sole purpose of getting me to the page. It worked – I’m here. I’m here and I’m baffled.

Has it educated me? No. Has it inspired me? No. Did it make me want to take any sort of action at all? Nope. What we have here is a hot mess of “data” that doesn’t tell a story.

We Can Do Better

Don’t be me wrong – I don’t think all Infographics are terrible. There are some great ones out there. I’ve mentioned Eloqua’s Content Grid here before and it’s a good example of one that’s really useful and informative. I’ve used it a handful of times in the past month when I’ve been trying to describe how different types of content is relevant to different prospects at different stages of a deal.

(totally random aside – I loved Tufte’s Beautiful Evidence. Here’s a post where he highlights the work of Megan Jaegerman from the New York Times that was done over a decade ago. Again, I wonder where we went wrong on this stuff)

But for every graphic like that I get a dozen like this, or this, or this.

When our content becomes the equivalent of tabloid journalism, I’m sure we can generate clicks and some short-term attention. We all like looking at interesting pictures. But great content needs to inform, educate, motivate, inspire or enrage. If our content can’t do that then we’re no better off than the scandal-prone starlet who’s embarrassing photos still fetch a fee but can’t land a movie role because the audience no longer pays to see her movies.

In marketing terms what I’m saying is this – it’s nice you can drive some traffic with those pretty pictures but I don’t believe you are driving any business.

 

Bad Smell!!

Lousy Marketing Messages: 5 Causes and Solutions

09/27/2011

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 sure they get it or if that doesn’t work, hire someone with a background in your solutions and your market.

3/ Message by Committee – The company has a good story but everyone (including the IT person, the lawyer, the accountant and the late night pizza delivery guy) is allowed to edit it resulting in a watered-down mess that is a mere shadow of the great story the CEO tells in a sales meeting.

Solution: Let marketing work on drafts and narrow down the reviewers to a couple of folks maximum. In my experience marketing should create the messages with input from the CEO and a review cycle by the head of sales. That’s it.

4/ The Story Sucks – There is no compelling story to tell about the company or product therefore no matter how talented the marketer is, at best you will get mediocre messaging.

Solution: If you have any market traction at all this won’t be the case but some very early stage startups will land here. Usually there’s a story but you will have to talk to a bunch of happy customers to extract it. If there aren’t any happy customers, well, the offering is the problem and all the marketing in the world isn’t going to fix that.

5/ It’s Cultural – In my opinion, truly terrible messaging (from a company that’s not about to die) results from a perfect storm of institutional indifference and lack of marketing talent. First you have (incredibly bad) messaging created by developers, admin staff, indifferent contractors or pizza delivery folk. Next, the company does not believe messaging is important, thus creating the conditions where these lousy messages are allowed to see the light of day. Or maybe the second condition allows the first condition to occur. Chicken meet egg.

Solution: Marketing talent can only take you so far here and in my experience good marketers won’t stay where they aren’t appreciated. If you figure out how to fix this one, short of fixing the culture, I would love to hear about it.

(Side note: I can almost forgive startups for landing in this last state – if none of your founders have a marketing bent you might end up here. Strangely however, I find the worst messaging happens in mid-sized companies that did some great marketing when passionate founders still had a hand in it but later lost their way through a combination of bored/boring management and not being willing/able to pay for and retain decent marketing talent.)

The Ingredients for Great Messages

All of this points the way to how you create great messages. The ingredients are:

  • A great offering
  • A team that gets that message creation is important
  • Someone on the team that’s good at message creation

Marketing talent alone, isn’t going to cut it.

 

Portrait of a weight loss male with thumb up

Hiring Marketers for Cultural Fit

09/18/2011

Culture fit is always a big deal when you’re hiring but it’s particularly important for marketing jobs which are notoriously difficult positions to fill successfully at a startup. Marketers are also really hard to interview – their great communication, interpersonal and sales skills make them potentially full of bullcrap very difficult to read.

I’ve been building a team where culture fit has been one of the biggest challenges. The folks I’m hiring not only need to deal with a TON of ambiguity (and a certain amount of chaos), they also have to be able to deal with a spectrum of language and culture issues in an environment where successful teamwork is critical to the job.

Here are some things I am working into my interview technique to help me asses culture fit that I think would be useful for anyone hiring a marketer at a startup:

  1. Process-related questions – in general I like process-related questions when interviewing marketing folks because anyone can say they did things like “developed and drove programs” but it’s hard to figure out what the person’s exact contribution to the effort was (especially when there was outside help involved). Asking things like “Walk me through the process you used to build that” or “Describe the steps you took to get that project done” are usually good ones to get into the details of someone’s role. They also let you see how a person sees themselves in the context of their own team. Are they working with other folks or just doling out tasks? How are they interacting with their management team? How are they making decisions and moving projects forward?
  2. Have them describe their best and worst jobs – Yeah, it’s a bit of a cliche question but I still like it because of the number of times I get a totally surprising response. Again, pay attention to the people-related stuff. Did they clash with other people on their team? I’m totally sympathetic to folks who have left a job because they didn’t like their direct manager but a repeating pattern of lousy managers makes me worry that the employee is difficult. What were the aspects of the teams and culture at their other jobs that the candidate loved and hated?
  3. Pay attention to the questions that folks ask – Personally I love it when candidates ask a lot of questions about the work and I worry when they ask a lot about the organization structure and/or compensation in early interviews. I find that star employees know that the job is the main thing and compensation and titles are something to sort out after you know the job is a great fit.
  4. Have them talk to lots of people – I think startups are better at this than big companies but sometimes they forget to do it with marketing candidates. Your company culture is the people you work with. If everyone can’t feel good about each other at the end of an interview, they sure won’t at the end of a product launch.
  5. Trust your gut – I have one critical position that’s been open for a while and I’ve interviewed so many candidates that I’m starting to let my guard down on this one. I have had a couple of mediocre candidates slip past the first interview stage because I’m starting to get desperate. The good news is that my team promptly shoots them down but I’ve still wasted everyone’s time with a round of interviews that never should have happened. Interviews are like first dates – everyone is on their best behaviour. If there’s something that rubs you the wrong way in the interview it is almost guaranteed to make you insane 2 months down the road. Always trust your gut if you feel like something doesn’t click.

As I was writing this I was thinking about how both sides (candidate and interviewer) have to be wary of the issue of fit and interestingly I think most of these questions work for both candidates and managers.

What do you think – do you have any interview tips to share?

Break

Back from a Break

09/18/2011

About 8 months ago I started a new gig that’s taken up all of my time and attention from a professional standpoint. The company is not a startup but the project does involve launching a set of new products into a space that is new for the company which is why I was brought on board. The organization is also new and from a process and procedures standpoint, so even though the company has been around for while, there is a lot of operational trailblazing going on as well.

My time has been taken up with 4 major activities:

  1. Building out a team of senior level B2B marketing professionals that crosses channel marketing, solutions marketing, marketing communications, analyst relations, competitive intelligence and services marketing.
  2. Working on messaging and positioning
  3. Providing an expert point of view to the broader population of marketing folks at the company who haven’t marketed to enterprises and/or CIO’s previously
  4. Working on a content marketing strategy and plan

I’ve been sitting on a handful of posts wondering if I should change the focus of this blog and in the end I decided not to. I am going to focus on topics I think are relevant to startup marketers, with maybe the occasional big company B2B post thrown in just for laughs. So many of the principles of prepping a marketing and launching a product are the same across big and small companies, I think there is still a lot for me to say (and frankly, I can’t predict what I’ll be working on a year from now).

I am also a bit overwhelmed by the amount of email I’ve gotten in the past couple of months from folks that read this blog and missed it while I was busy doing other things. Thanks so much for your notes (you know who you are) – it’s good to know that when you stop, someone notices.

Stay tuned.

Senior Lady Enjoys Computer

Do Not Build Startup Messages for Your Grandmother

07/12/2011

I’ve heard people say that startups should build marketing messages that a grandmother can understand (where “grandmother” is short form for “clueless non-technical person”). There’s some obviously uncool stereotyping going on there (I say that as an engineer old enough to be a granny, albeit only if both I and my fictional offspring had managed to produce kids at a young age, but still) but that’s not the only reason I hate that cliche. I hate it because building messages for a fictional clueless person just doesn’t make any marketing sense, particularly for a startup.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for simplicity and if nothing else, the exercise of “writing for your grandmother” gets you thinking about an audience that might not be as technology-savvy as you are. But at the same time, WHO that audience is matters a lot.

Great messaging starts with a deep understanding of the market you are targeting. A market is defined by a common set of needs primarily, but markets also tend to have a common language, a common level of understanding of a technologies/products/services, and sometimes they have a common set of beliefs, experiences or even iconography. Great messages resonate with target markets when they are built with those commonalities in mind.

Here’s an example. I met the guys from Wave Accounting a couple weeks ago – they are a startup that provides an online accounting solution for small businesses. On their home page is a picture of a shoe box full of receipts (it’s a video but that’s what you see before you hit play) and the following message:

Shoebox accounting stops now.

Spreadsheets and shoeboxes full of receipts are a pain. Wave gets you on top of your accounting, fast and easy, so that you can spend your time on…well…anything other than accounting. And Wave is totally free.

So how do you feel when you look at that page? The answer depends on who you are. I can tell you I’ve run a small business and when I look at that shoebox I feel dread. I hate that frikkin’ shoe box! I’m thinking – Yes, Wave Accounting, solve my horrifying shoebox problem, please!

Do grandmothers get the shoebox creeps? They do if they run a small business. The ones that don’t are likely as ambivalent about that shoebox as neurosurgeons, factory line workers, new reporters, 6 year old boys, and anyone else who doesn’t run a small business. If Wave Accounting tried to message to everyone (or a generic non small business running grandmother) they would get rid of the shoebox, and with it, the magic connection they are making with small business owners on their web site right now.

I know what some of you are going to say next. “That’s fine for those guys but we’re the next YouTube so we HAVE to market to everyone because our market IS everyone!” It’s true that there are products out there that have a user base and a market so broad that they might have to market to pretty much anyone. But that isn’t you. You are a startup trying to get traction. The best way to do that is to focus on the market segments most likely to buy your stuff. At the very early stages you are marketing to early adopters within those segments. Early adopters are by definition not like everyone else! In fact they hate stuff that’s intended for everyone.  You want to construct marketing messages that work for your target segments, not an imaginary grandmother stereotype.

So please, give my granny comrades a break and stay focused on your segment.

Startup Launch Marketing

06/29/2011

I think there is a lot of confusion over what the word “launch” means and what marketing things a startup should be doing when they launch.

I don’t believe that demoing at an event like TechCrunch Disrupt is equivalent to a launch. Nor do I believe that a launch ends the moment your product/service is generally available to the public. I’ve done a bunch of launches (5 at startups and 2 new businesses inside a larger company) and I’ve seen a lot of things that worked and didn’t work. In my opinion a launch is a multi-phase event that has distinct phases and there are different things you do at each phase.

I was chatting with a startup founder about this last week and sketched this out. Here’s the picture I came up with:

Note that every stage is inclusive of the previous stage – you continue to do what you were doing pre-release, after you have released, you just add a set of new tactics. The same happens when you move from release to post-release.

Some notes on this:

The idea here was to capture the purely marketing tactics that are executed at different phases of a launch. That doesn’t mean that these are the only things marketing is working on. For example, I would expect marketing to be involved in product development and definition (particularly pre-launch), pricing, channel strategy, etc. That said, I’m sure I’m missing tons of thing that should be on this graphic so please add them in the comments.

I have some big catch-all categories in the graphic such as “outbound lead generation”, and “retention programs” that include multiple tactics (for Outbound that would be things like advertising and tele-prospecting, for retention programs that would include things like User events and rewards programs). Tactics in those categories vary so much from business to business that I thought it made sense to lump them in categories. That doesn’t mean those categories have the same weight as other individual tactics – often they require a huge effort.

There are a bunch of terms on here that might not make sense to people but rather than defining each of them I thought I would just wait and see which ones people don’t understand (sorry, I’m lazy like that). If it’s confusing, ask.

This was inspired in part by Eloqua’s excellent Content Grid which maps content types to a buyer progression. I thought to myself “Hey I should map that for launch marketing activities over the different stages of a launch and make it look way uglier!” and here we are.

I also enjoyed Josh Duncan’s post – A Product Launch is like? that talks about different types of product launches and clearly illustrates the multi-phase nature of a launch.

Differences

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

06/21/2011

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 between seemingly similar ones such as – feature phones vs. smart phones, an enterprise database vs. a data warehouse, a photo sharing service vs. a video sharing service. They differ in the way you express value to prospects, the needs of customers at different stages of a deal, the importance of partners and channels, and a host of other things. And don’t forget that better products are just plain easier to market period.

Companies – What works for big companies doesn’t always translate to smaller ones and vice versa. An established company can get away with things a new company can’t because of reputation and status. Large companies can sell a vision because prospects believe they will be around in 5 years to execute on it. Big companies can throw dollars at tactics to make them move quickly (I’m doing a series of face to face round tables with CIO’s for a large company that I could never do at a startup for example). On the other hand startups can move exponentially faster on things like content marketing without processes slowing them down. I’ve worked with startups that have launched blogs in a matter of days, where I’ve seen large companies take a week to move a single blog post through their approval process.

Founders/employees – A small company with a famous spokesperson can do things a company with non-famous folk can’t because they come with built-in credibility. A launch event with Steve Jobs just isn’t the same as a launch event with Stephen Elop. It works at startups too – if your founder is Marc Andreessen or Jimmy Wales you can do things that a startup founded by someone like me couldn’t because the world is already paying attention to what they say.

Prospect Behavior – This is the worst one. A spectacularly successful tactic or campaign run for a specific product from a specific company in a specific market may simply cease to work because prospect behavior changes. Banner ads that were novel last year just don’t convert anymore. Events that were crowded are now empty. Your prospects are getting flooded with email and aren’t opening your drip the way they used to. The economy goes soft and customers close their wallets. These are hard to predict (but if you are measuring results you can usually see them coming) and when they happen there’s not much you can do aside from pick up your ball and play somewhere else.

At a conceptual level there are things that are always common to marketing that works (and this is the stuff you read about in the marketing text books): focusing on well-defined customer segments, communicating customer value (vs. feature/function), delivering information that is helpful to prospects, etc. – but these are high-level concepts. The gorey details of HOW you will get that done right now, for this product, in this market, for these customers, is where the marketing magic happens and is a whole lot harder than it looks.

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