Buyers search online for their personal purchases, and are now using the same strategies for their business purchases, even as they continue to tune out unwanted ‘interruption marketing’. For many start-ups, their early marketing goal has to be to spread out as many online tentacles as possible so that a customer searching for solutions like theirs will come across them. As your budget will be low, focus on high ROI tactics such as blogging and search engine optimisation. In a while these early investments will pay you back with great search engine rankings and lots of ‘free’ traffic.
Most of the prospects on your site will be early-stage buyers who are researching and don’t yet want to talk to a sales rep. This means you need to excel at lead management, which is especially effective when using automated lead nurturing to develop relationships with qualified prospects and lead scoring to know when a lead is ready for sales. Check out Marketo and SalesForce for good, well established and proven products. By combining lead management with ‘pull marketing’ strategies like search, you will synchronize your marketing process with the prospect’s research and buying processes. The result is a campaign that’s at least twice as productive as anything else.
Some companies test everything: offers, copy, forms, designs, lists, and more. Testing removes any debate about what works and what doesn’t, since it lets customers vote with their actions. However, this can be misleading if the numbers involved are small, and you also need to be careful not to ‘overtest’, since too many variables yield insignificant results. For example, Marketo have a free online test calculator that will tell you how many tests you can run on your site.
One of your competitive strategies has to be to provide the best overall customer experience possible. In addition to investing in support and account managers, this can mean building an online marketing success ‘community’ or user-group where customers, employees, prospects, partners, and other influencers can share ideas and best practices. Of course, the more people in a community, the more valuable it is. This makes it hard to get it started – if nobody else participates, why should you? So, try ‘seeding’ your community with content and some initial friendly users to get the ball rolling.
Too many people use metrics that show activity, not results, and even fewer connect the results to the bottom-line metrics that matter to your colleagues. The most common marketing metric is ‘cost per lead’, but framing the discussion in terms of costs perpetuates the perception that marketing is a cost centre. So try and use ROI justifications for every marketing investment, to forecast results, and to demonstrate marketing’s impact on hard metrics like revenue and growth. By talking about marketing in the same financial language as your colleagues, you should be able to establish marketing as a key driver of revenue alongside sales.
Try not to focus too much on the marketing aspects (website, collateral, PR, lead generation, etc.) and therefore have to leave it to the salespeople to figure out how to actually sell the thing. The problem is that selling these days is hard – really hard. Time is precious, decision makers don’t want to talk to sales reps, and it’s usually easier to deal with the status quo than invest time in change. So, it pays not to skimp on the sales tools and training, especially helping your salespeople by crafting compelling value propositions and communicating your differentiators.
A start-up is a journey. At first it feels like a victory just to get the company named and the website up. Then you might start your first AdWords campaign and capture your first lead. Then you add the next capability, and so on and so on, with no end. There are way-points (the launch, a new release, a new website, etc.) but each step is just that: a step up a big staircase. With each step, you build the maturity of the company and its marketing, and on and on.
It’s difficult to manage a productive marketing campaign on your own without technology support. The number of possible channels and techniques you must master has exploded, and many of these require sophisticated testing, analytics, and targeting to do well. Companies like SalesForce and Marketo offer great products, and it’s never too soon to get started with them, so you’re not overwhelmed by the complexity of managing your campaigns. By using technology to automate the manual aspects of marketing, you’re freed to focus on the strategic and creative aspects of marketing that really drive ROI.
Don’t fall into the trap of trying to save costs by managing it all yourself – it’ll end up costing you more, you’ll get a bad, disjointed job done and you’ll have wasted vital time trying to sort it out. A specialist agency like Marcom, who really understand technology markets and what they are doing, will be able to ensure you don’t make the same mistakes so many other start-ups make, and that you optimise the return on your limited resources.
If any one thing characterises technology start-ups, it’s the need to do a lot of things with a small team and limited resources. You’ll be doing everything yourself – so sort out your ‘karma’, let go of anything unnecessary, and find a balance between awareness, demand generation, sales support, and product.
Marcom is here to support you and help you grow. The company of two passionate, highly trained and experienced marketers, Mark Baines and Ben Powell, clients trust Marcom with their brands and their marketing performance.
We have teams of specialists to realise all your marketing projects and help with your communications. Our skills are leading edge, our experience is huge and our commitment to your success is complete.