Saturday, May 27, 2017

Creating Sales Growth at your VC backed tech start-up

I have now been part of the Marketing teams of several start-ups that have proliferated and achieved phenomenal success, including:

Visual IQ, a Marketing Attribution Software provider (founded in 2006), was acquired by Nielsen last year for $2 Billion. 

Zscaler (founded in 2008), a Cyber Security Software company, just had its IPO. Zscaler is currently valued at $50 Billion on the NASDAQ.

I have learned from being part of these successful teams and from previous experiences in the start-up ecosystem.

Hot Software businesses like Fintech and Cyber Security need marketers
 with smarts, training, experience and drive who can take a business to 'the next level'; whether that means faster growth, more sustainable or more significant revenue, or higher profits. 

Angel investors, VC funds and private equity investors all demand individuals skilled in conducting market research, strategy and who understand all areas of marketing, including, of course, lead generation.

Here's my 7 point plan to create a good start-up Marketing Strategy and then to execute it:

1. E
nsure that you are on the same page as the person who has created your marketing strategy or even better, create that Strategy yourself. So many problems occur when CMOs and CEOs or Investors do not agree on this. See 'Why CMOs never last.' 

2. Data; explore this and find out what is going on. Don't just rely on the facts you see. Talk with people and establish whether the data you see on paper matches what you are hearing. 

I have dealt with either no data at all or data that doesn't match reality. Don't devote inordinate hours and resources creating complex models using lousy information. 

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. “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” —Michael Porter (See Porter's 5 Forces)

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? 
  • Do your competitors have an iron-grip in certain Regions or markets? 
  • Is it that you have weak growth? 
  • Are you sinking resources into the same old Marketing investments getting diminishing returns? 
  • Are you accurately measuring your Marketing investments? 
Establish what that core problem is and then drive solutions to that.

4. Create a plan around that. For example:

a. If the problem is that your sales team is not converting your good leads, then bring in added Business Intelligence. A remarkable tool for this is Discoverorg , which has a team of 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 specific 'threshold' score. 

So let's say that score is 100, then a lead from a company with $1 Billion revenue that has requested we contact them, is 'BANT' qualified and is the right target company and job title, that would automatically become a 'hot lead' at 100 points in your CRM system. 

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 critical reports in the last week, then it becomes a 30, and so on. 

If the problem is that you lack the numbers of leads needed to start with, then lots of high quality gated content will generate more contacts for your database. 

For inbound, Twitter, Google AdWords, AdSense, and Bing, display and search ads are all effective. Linkedin lead generation campaigns are good value as you can get more highly targeted. Just ensure you target your prospect audience (maybe with the 'matching' tool).

Inmail campaigns work very differently from sponsored content on LinkedIn. So figure out what combinations work best for your business.

I would also work with the Marketing team to create compelling content, from videos to infographics, from case studies to white papers.

Below: Forrester 'Wave report' on Marketing attribution with my company 'Visual IQ' in the top right hand quadrant.

In the past, we've created great content with Gartner or Forrester or failing that, some other well-known research firm, like IDC. These are high-value pieces of content that your prospects will 'trade' their contact details with you to gain.

One idea that We have done in the past very successfully is an 'Industry report' based on surveys we send out. Usually, I use SurveyMonkey, which I first got familiarised with at Business School back in 2006. 

CMO survey-backed report we ran every year at Visual IQ

Check out this Survey-based report on the State of in-video game advertising 2022, and beyond that I created with Content strategist Damien Seaman. It's the first report of its type ever created (check Gartner, Forrester, or IDC). It's based on survey responses of hundreds of thought leaders in Advertising, Ad Agencies, and Video Game companies.

Everyone is interested in what their colleagues are thinking about and sending these surveys out can also be an excellent way to reconnect with customers and prospects.

 'The Money Show', Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas, where I ran an event for our Financial trading software tool.

Another highly effective area of Marketing I've managed over the last eleven years has been events. 

I have had some great successes in this regard, from the Money Show at Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas, to the Adobe Marketing Conference in Salt Lake City, to the biggest Cyber Security event in Europe, Infosec, in London, UK. 

Not all companies employ rigorous financial analysis of the results here, so I have created an edge in this way. I write more on this subject here. 

We've had events that have generated thousands of leads, and business meetings that have gone on the create millions of pounds/dollars in sales.

Content from blogs can be effective. Make sure you optimize the content so it has important keywords to draw search traffic to your blog. Post on social media and wait for referral and search traffic to come to your site from your blogs.

For this 'awareness' part of your content you need plenty of interesting content; think more about great ideas than executing them perfectly. 

Also your prospects value authenticity and originality. Keep blogs real and interesting. People know when they're simply being manipulated to buy something.

I have put together Ebooks, webcasts, industry reports, case studies, and infographics, all of which can be good sources of leads.

5. Ensure that everyone is on board with it. If the management team is not, then discuss it, and get to the bottom of the problems. 

Once you are agreed on the plan, then execute it relentlessly.

6. Analyze your results regularly, at least once every month and if not sufficient, pivot. If it's not working, be honest about it and try something new.

The beauty of digital marketing is that you can A/B test continually to optimize all your metrics.

A typical A/B test 

Image result for a/b test example

Look at Key financial metrics, like ROMI - Return on Marketing Investment (NPV, IRR, Payback period, Customer Lifetime Value, Cost per Click, and Transaction conversion rate).

Monte Carlo simulation for a new product launch*

*Mark Jeffery Data-driven marketing Using Oracle's Crystal Ball' predictive analytics software with a random number generator, showing many possible variations of profit/loss for a marketing investment.

7. Finally, and most importantly, encourage criticism and make your entire company a safe place to share information and mistakes

You cannot take critical calculated risks without making mistakes. But without listening to, and acknowledging criticism you can't learn from your mistakes either.

Go to my website. or learn more about B2B SaaS sales & marketing here

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