We spend a lot of our strategy and operational support (a.k.a., value add) time with our portfolio companies helping to develop and execute go-to-market strategies and we also do a lot of research, development, and testing of new practices on behalf of our companies through OpenView Labs. As part of this, we have found that some of the best relatively new disruptive marketing practices to experiment with are:
1. Making their website a destination site for their customers. This could include:
- Posting relevant, compelling, frequently updated content (blog posts, articles, videos, audio, how to guides, free widgets, etc.) that their target customers want to digest (part of a content marketing strategy). This content is not just product driven content, but rather content that is aimed at the interest of the audience that generally helps to reinforce the competitive positioning and allows for conversion of interested prospects. Take a look at Zmags, Compendium Blogware, and Reality Digital for some different angles on platforms that work well alone or together to help do this. (Full disclosure: these companies all have close ties to OpenView and/or the OpenView team).
- Developing a community for the target customers to interact (with both the content and with each other). Cynthia Francis, CEO of Reality Digital has 5 tips for building online communities here.
2. Leaving content breadcrumbs on well trafficked sites where their target customers might be (such as slideshare, youtube, twitter) and through their e-mail newsletters that could steer interested users to their site and encourage users to engage in their destination site (or mention their site to others). This involves either posting some of their content to well trafficked target sites or summarizing some of their content (and perhaps the content of others) and sending it to their (opt in) e-mail newsletter list. Ken Cho, an old friend, just launched a company, spredfast, to help companies do this in a well orchestrated manner.
3. Engaging in the online target customer circles (a.k.a. social networking) their target customers are engaging in which are outside of their website. (note: this does not necessarily mean jumping into a number of social networks, but rather identifying the small number of blogs and communities where the target customers or the industry mavens gather and actively participating in them…some research is necessary to pick the right ones for your target customers)
Each of the practices can be executed independently, but the three together have proven to be very powerful. For example, the participation in online target customer circles will help a company better understand the important issues (to turn into content on your website), help to encourage interested target customers and industry mavens to see you in a different way, and help to encourage the target customers to visit your destination site.
One word of caution, however. These disruptive marketing practices take a regular rhythm and time to develop and become truly disruptive. The execution needs to be frequent, regular, relevant, and compelling to your audience and executing it well takes a content marketing strategy, a plan management discipline. A lot of companies get started and then quit because they don’t realize this.
The good news is that each step builds on the next step and the results also build on themselves and snowballs if done well. Also, a by-product of doing this is a customer intimacy that leads to customer insights, which are great inputs to better product and development, better more complete go-to-market strategies and sales and marketing support, and a better customer experience. Net, net, this effort really helps in creating competitive advantage. Also, since many competitors have a difficult time with longer term strategies, you have a good chance of being the winner in your product market if you start moving in this direction (and once the competitors realize it, they will have a difficult time catching up)!