The final problem in our series is usually told to us as "We're having trouble marketing our product (or service)". We understand. There are so many directions out there, it's difficult to know what path to go down, or where to spend your money. Yet, it's important to have a clear idea of where you're headed. If you don't want to get lost.
The problem with having a clear idea is that it isn't necessarily shared by everyone. If you're the head of your company, employing sales people and marketing people, you might be surprised to learn you all have different ideas. Maybe that's an internal communication problem, or maybe it's the way your goals have been interpreted by your employees. The result is that everyone's going in different directions, and the first step is to get everyone to set the same course.
What's your goal?
An article on MarketingProfs last year quoted a B2B marketing guide: "The purpose of B2B marketing is to attract and retain profitable customers." In other words, to make sales, or help Sales make sales. But not just once. The contracts you sign should bring you recurring, and preferably increasing revenue. Yet the role of Marketing as a function is often seen as lead generation, which we've discussed in previous posts.
When we consider the problem in terms of 1) attracting customers, 2) making sure they're profitable, 3) retaining them, and 4) ensuring continued profitability, we can see marketing is about more than just lead generation, and Sales, Marketing and Customer Service (or Support or Success or Experience etc.) need to work together to hook, convince, convert, and maximize the lifetime value of customers.
The article goes on to say that to achieve the above purpose, "it's critical to understand what motivates customers to buy your products and services." At Usher & Spur, we completely agree. Before you head out, you need to make sure you have everything you need for your journey. In other words, you need a strategy.
How does your goal translate into a marketing strategy?
This post from Medium's Startup Grind publication gives the recipe for great marketing communications, which is how your Marketing department hooks, convinces, converts, retains and maximizes. And it's also extremely clear that strategy is a commitment from the top.
"Smart CEOs treat communications as a force multiplier for sales, a tool to dramatically increase valuation and the vehicle to get acquirers lined up at the door. Not so successful CEOs treat it as a tactic that can be handed to others."
"Hiring a PR agency too early is a sign that the CEO is treating this as someone else’s problem. In a startup, the first pass of understanding Audience, Message, Media, Messenger can only be done with the founders/CEO engaged."
As the head of your company, your engagement is essential. You need to understand and believe, and you need to support your team in what you are all trying to achieve. You're the expedition leader, the one with the vision, listening to input from the experts you've surrounded yourself with, and providing them with the means they need to make your dream a reality.
If you aren't clear on who your target audiences are, whether customers or investors, and what motivates them to buy your product (or service) or invest in companies like yours, how can you approve the channels and tools your people recommend as the best use of money, time and resources? And if you're not convinced of what you or your company's communications are saying, how can you assist your marketing department's efforts by talking to the analysts, press and influencers who'll help convey your message to your targets?
How does your marketing strategy play out?
When your destination is clear, when you've gathered your supplies, you can start to map your route. We call that a marketing plan. We recommend starting with your objectives. Make them SMART, and include financial and non-financial criteria. And this is when your marketing people can finally decide what actions to take, with the answers to your questions much more obvious than they were at the beginning of this post:
- What marketing best practices suit you?
- What tools will you need?
- Which events will you attend?
- What social media channels, trade publications, advertising platforms or other media will you use?
- Will creating your content in-house or finding freelancers work better?
- Should you opt for a marketing automation platform, a digital marketing agency, or a PR firm?
- When is the best time to roll out individual campaigns?
When you've decided on your actions and built your calendar, you can draw up your budget.
And remember! A marketing plan isn't just an annual exercise in order to earmark money. It should be followed, measured and adjusted as the year progresses.
Does your company have a documented sales and marketing strategy? How about a marketing plan? One without the other? Does that lead to frustration? Tell us your story in the comments.