'Hockey Stick' Growth at your start-up
In the USA, Europe, and the UK, there is a dearth of Marketing talent, particularly in red hot Software businesses like Fintech, Networking, Telecommunications and Cyber Security.
By Marketing talent I mean individuals with smarts, training, experience and drive who can take a business to 'the next level'; whether that means faster growth, more sustainable or greater revenue or higher profits. This goes for any start-up from first round venture backed to private equity invested all the way to IPO or Merger and beyond
You also need to have a Head of Marketing who will take responsibility for success - or failure, and particularly in growth businesses, someone who is not afraid to take some risks
For this reason, Start-ups sometimes tolerate the types of personalities that the HR department of regular Fortune 500's would not accept. There are numerous examples of this in the media but I find the satirical comedy Silicon Valley is the best example.
So Here's my 7 point plan to create a good start-up Marketing Strategy and then to execute it flawlessly.
1. Ensure that you have control over Marketing. Otherwise, you may be in a situation where you are trying to execute a Marketing Plan created by someone else that you don't truly believe in. If you absolutely must be in this position, then at the very least, ensure that you are on the same page as the person who has created your marketing plan.
2. Data, go through all the date and find out what is going on. Don't just rely on the facts you see. Talk with people, try to establish whether the data you are seeing on paper matches what you are hearing. Countless times I have dealt with either no data at all or data that doesn't match reality. Don't be the fool that devotes inordinate hours and resources creating complex models using bad information. As they told me in business school 'Garbage in; Garbage out'. It doesn't matter how good your plan is, if it's based on inaccurate information, it'll be useless.
Even a fledgeling Start-up will inevitably have had many failures already and you can use this information to avoid making mistakes and model successful behaviour. Michael Porter
3. Targets, start thinking about what you are trying to accomplish. Is the problem that you have a weak brand? Is it that no one outside your core user group really understands your products? Are you simply preaching to the converted? Do your competitors have an iron-grip on certain Regions or markets? Is it that you have weak or poorly growing revenue? Are you sinking resources into the same old Marketing investments getting diminishing returns (This is happening a lot with Field Marketing, to the extent that some big names in technology are abandoning Events completely)?
Establish what that core problem is and then ensure that all your efforts are geared towards driving solutions to that.
4. Create a plan around that. For example:
a. If the problem is that your sales team are not converting your good leads, then bring in added Business Intelligence. A remarkable tool for this is Rainking, which has a team of 600 researchers calling companies and finding out information that will enable you to identify opportunities quicker and more effectively.
Additionally, if you are not lead scoring already, then I would suggest you start doing this. The way this works is - your sales team will immediately get alerted automatically when a lead reaches a certain 'threshold' score. So let's say that score is 10, then a lead from a company with $1 Billion revenue that has requested we contact them would immediately be a 10. A Lead from a company that is on our target list would immediately be a 10. A Lead from a company that could be a target, would be a 5. When that lead has downloaded 3 key reports in the last week, then it becomes a 10, and so on. However, you have to ensure the algorithm that determines scoring is accurate. I've worked at companies were this is not the case and I'd say no scoring is better than bad lead scoring.
b. If the problem is that you lack the numbers of leads needed to start with, then both Zoominfo, which I started using back in 2009 or Rainking, which I started using in 2015, are both effective. I would also work with the Marketing team to create compelling content, ideally Gartner or Forrester or failing that, some other well-known research firms, like IDC. Linkedin has just developed a new Account-based Marketing - (I met with the Head of Linkedin's EMEA business in a previous blog post) tool called Lead generation forms.
5. Execute your plan relentlessly. Ensure that everyone is on board with it.
6. Analyse your results regularly, at least once every 6 months and if not effective, pivot. If it's truly disastrous, be honest about it and go back to the drawing board quickly. This is essentially the same idea that I learned in Product Marketing for innovation, the stage gate process
When you do this look at Key financial metrics, like ROMI - Return on Marketing Investment (NPV, IRR, Payback period, etc.. Customer Lifetime Value, Cost per Click, Transaction conversion rate (For B-2-B, numbers of prospects who click on your links who go on to become Sales Qualified Leads).
7. Finally, and most importantly, encourage criticism and make your entire company a safe place to share information and mistakes. You cannot take important calculated risks without mistakes and you can't learn without them either