Depending on your role and experience, you will have very specific opinions on how to market your products and services. Unfortunately there are a lot of options to choose from and getting the right balance of programs and level-of-spend can be a challenge.
Most will agree that customer acquisition, retention and revenue is the end goal, but every executive (CEO, CRO, CFO) has a different notion of what marketing should do to support these goals.
Getting Everyone Aligned is Key
No matter how big or small your company is, it is critically important to have executive agreement and commitment to a marketing strategy and plan that is aligned to achieve company goals.
Your strategy, plan and spend will be dictated by:
- Customer acquisition and revenue goals
- Sales/business development strategy
- Target market (B2B, B2C, C2C)
- Geography (local, regional, national, international)
- Resources (budget and people)
Many technology companies often waste time and money on programs that aren’t aligned with sales, which result in longer sales cycles, higher cost-of-sales and missed revenue opportunities.
The CMO is challenged with balancing the plethora of available marketing options and optimizing the return on every marketing dollar spent. If you haven’t sat in a marketing chair, you probably don’t understand the cost & complexity of executing marketing programs.
To help people better understand the scope of marketing and investment options, I have listed typical deliverables and tactical options that marketing must balance to meet company objectives.
First, the Essentials
There are five fundamental marketing deliverables required to succeed in a technology business.
- Customer Profile – Marketing should construct personas for the buyer, influencers and users of your product/service.
- Positioning – You should have a compelling story that sparks the interest of your buyer and differentiates you from your competitors.
- Relevant Content – Thought leading content (white papers), customer use cases, expert testimonials and product/service knowledge is an essential element for a high tech marketing program.
- Online Presence – Your website is your global storefront, provides the content for customer research and directly reflects your brand value.
- Sales Readiness – You must enable your sales people with product training, customer-facing content and sales tools that are aligned with the sales playbook.
Options are Plentiful
Optimizing your marketing mix and associated spend is largely dictated by the definition of your target customer. Your goal is to construct an effective mix of marketing programs that ultimately results in qualified opportunities for sales and high win rates.
In addition to the items mentioned above, a typical B2B marketing plan will consider a balanced program that includes:
- Physical Events – If you select the right events (trade shows, seminars), you can justify the ROI by following the qualified leads through the pipeline. But, cost per lead can be high.
- Digital Events – Webinars typically provide a lower cost per lead than physical events and can be leveraged over time by re-marketing them as an on-demand event.
- Telemarketing – Establishing an outbound telemarketing capability to find qualified opportunities and set-up meetings can be very cost effective. A telemarketing program also supports recruiting attendees to physical and digital events.
- Email Marketing – With a solid opt-in database, you can execute low cost email marketing campaigns to nurture prospects along the sales cycle and keep people informed about company news.
- Advertising – Traditional print advertising is hard to measure and expensive, but may make sense if you have the funds to maintain frequency. Digital ads, including online banners and pay-per-click, are easy to measure and quick to adjust, so spending is easier to control, and risk is much less.
- Public Relations – A PR program makes sense if you are producing newsworthy content and you know what your prospects/customers are reading. Newsworthy means that the editor of the publication sees your news as relevant to their readership. Measuring placement is easy, but it is difficult to measure customer impressions.
- Analyst Relations – Enterprise customers rely on industry experts and analyst firms (Gartner, Forrester, IDC) for advice. These firms establish product categories and rank technology suppliers. They influence the vendor selection process and can influence the licensing/pricing decision.
- Social Marketing – Social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram) are free and seem like a no-brainer. Often thought to be more relevant for B2C companies, more B2B firms are getting on board. If you decide to participate, make sure you have the resources to contribute, monitor and respond to customer inquiries/comments.
- Branding – Many people think branding equals advertising, but advertising is only one component of a brand strategy. A company’s brand is a mix of many things, too much to discuss here. Engaging a branding firm can pay big dividends over the long haul.
Aside from these discretionary programs, you must also take into account the cost of marketing infrastructure/tools (Marketo, Salesforce, Pardot, etc.) and the cost of outsourcing specialty services (graphic design, copywriting). You may also have to allocate resources to support user group meetings/events and annual sales kick-off events.
Finally, set aside a slush fund for unanticipated events, like a product launch, acquisition or push into a new territory
Optimizing Your Marketing Mix / Spend
I wish I could offer a formula to optimize your spend and mix, but there are too many factors that influence where and how to invest. At a high level, you should consider the following:
- Start by understanding the needs of your primary customer, sales. Prioritize your tactical plan so it is aligned with sales objectives. Frequent, high quality communication between sales and marketing is a critical success factor when constructing and measuring the effectiveness of your programs.
- Once you have an agreed-upon strategy, give it some time to develop. Learn from the day-to-day execution and evolve the plan/tactics in light of what you learn. Try to avoid micro-managing your strategy and over reacting to programs that didn’t deliver immediate results. It takes time for messaging to rise above the clutter, especially in this day and age.
- Integrate your programs to get maximum exposure. Nothing you do should stand-alone. Plan up-front to leverage every marketing program across all customer-facing assets, and this includes keeping sales informed of programs so they can inform their customers and prospects.
Of course your marketing mix is constrained by available budget. There are rarely enough funds to execute the strategy completely. Determine the boundaries of the discretionary marketing budget, develop a balanced approach and be prepared to adjust your plan on short notice. Build on programs that deliver results and discard those that didn’t meet expectations.