by Karen Hayward, Chief Outsiders Managing Partner and CMO, and author of “Stop Random Acts of Marketing: Deliberate & Practical Growth Strategies for Mid-Market CEOs“
Middle market companies are ambitious to grow, and they need the right marketing strategy that can guide the whole enterprise to new heights.
Ask any CEO if they want “marketing” and they’ll nod and speak to the value of an attractive website, a recent trade show, or their latest brochure. Ask that same CEO if they want “sales” and the answer will be far simpler… and more enthusiastic. The Internet killed the pure cold call years ago, and marketing is now responsible for 80 percent of the buyer’s journey, which is now done digitally, before the first salesperson is involved. That leaves marketing responsible for awareness, consideration, interest, intent and half the evaluation process.
1. Know the Difference Between a Junior and a Senior Resource.
But often smaller, less mature businesses will have a junior resource in the marketing role and one of their most senior resources in the sales role. This leads to a marketing effort that is little more than a series of random acts, without the experience or insights that might make them effective. Too many companies are flying blind, when there are resources available to help them plot a course to real sales growth.
Experienced players treat marketing as a process of deliberate and practical growth strategies. That means first conducting research to learn the truth about a company’s competitors and customers. Then with those insights in hand, they design a strategy to win more sales and ensure the sales and marketing team are aligned in understanding how best to execute it. A more junior marketing resource might lead the effort from there, but only after the strategy has been thoughtfully outlined.
2. Develop a Map to New Customers.
Every business strategy must be built on an accurate view of the company’s competitive landscape. It’s only natural—if a business is winning sales, and even growing on a regular basis—they think they understand what their customers value. They have a point of view; often, however, it is different from what customers think.
It’s crucial to tap unbiased parties to conduct the research so they don’t have preconceived notions. Customers may be buying that product or service for reasons that aren’t touched upon in any of the current marketing language.
But a company’s marketing needs to reflect the competitive landscape, too. To better understand them, conduct a digital competitive review. This involves an analysis of six different aspects of a competitor’s digital presence and looks at 4-10 competitors in this kind of study.
Look at web traffic. A company may see their traffic is up by 20 percent, to a thousand visitors. But during the digital competition review, we’ll discover a peer has 20,000 visitors, which puts that company’s performance in a more accurate context. Look at branded, and non-branded search traffic, and understand what’s driving people to a competitor’s site, and what’s driving them to your site.
Look at SEO and develop a strategy for content or paid advertising to address why customers are finding a company’s web page. Content is digital fuel. And devise key performance indicators (KPI) to best track progress along the way.
Also, look at digital advertising and social media platforms. A lot of companies are on platforms like Twitter when the prospects of industrial companies, for example, aren’t going to be looking for solutions there. At best, those companies might have a LinkedIn group.
This is about developing a map to find new customers. If a company doesn’t understand what their current customers value or what their current competitors are offering, it’ll be hard to know what message to focus on, or where to deliver it. Oftentimes, companies will worry about website copy before they accurately understand what they need that copy to do in the first place.
3. Keep the Sales and Marketing Teams Aligned.
Even with that map in hand, it’s crucial to align both the sales and marketing teams on where the company is going and to ensure a seamless hand-off. And the easiest way to do so is to have sales and marketing sit in the same room and agree on the priority targets by geography, industry, and job title. Marketing will serve up these kinds of leads and ensure only high-quality leads are in the sales funnel. Then the sales staff agrees to a certain timely follow-up process with those leads and can ask marketing for any help in doing so. Doing that, all by itself, will generate a 15 percent or more increase in productivity. Use a chatbot to add conversations to your marketing, and your top of funnel engagement will increase.
This isn’t only about driving efficiency; it’s about driving growth. And that means properly identifying priority targets, developing the right message and the best way to deliver it. This takes experience and expertise, which a lot of smaller, less mature enterprises might not be able to afford on a full-time basis.
The reality is, most businesses don’t need a Fortune 1000CMO on staff; what they need is top tier talent to develop a plan, and more junior marketing people to execute it. Planning and onboarding that strategy takes one kind of skill, maintaining it is another.
Think of it this way. Most companies admit they need someone to pilot their marketing program but may not appreciate what it takes to draw up a flight plan. And without a flight plan, that pilot is just flying blind, which is no way to reach a destination, or even land safely.
Karen Hayward is a Chief Outsiders Managing Partner and CMO based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She helps technology companies accelerate growth by building and executing strategic marketing programs while driving sales and marketing alignment to deliver breakthrough revenue. She is author of “Stop Random Acts of Marketing: Deliberate & Practical Growth Strategies for Mid-Market CEOs“.