When my wife and I were in Maui last time we got roped into one of those time-share pitches. The offer was just too good to avoid: Suffer through a time-share pitch and get tickets to one of the shows going on at one of the hotels. As we knew the tickets were hard to get we decided to “suck it up” and go.
We don’t fit the profile for time-shares. We have young children and pets. Our ‘vacations’ are limited to weekend escapes. This didn’t matter to the sales guy, he put us right into his high-pressure canned pitch anyway. We suffered through it and got vouchers for our tickets. We swore we’d never do it again.
Those services where your company gets matched with C-Level executives at a resort are very similar to time-share pitches. The service provider gets executives from large companies to show up at a resort for a few days at no cost to them. They get free transportation, lodging, meals, golf, etc. In return they need to suffer through a series of 15-minute pitches from the CEOs and VPs of Sales from desperate emerging companies. These C-Level executives are essentially like my wife and I suffering through the time-share pitch to get our vouchers.
The desperate entrepreneurs feel great because they have spent one-on-one time with C-Level executives that are seemingly impossible to reach. The prospects are always polite and professional and make the entrepreneurs feel ‘swell.’ However, at roughly $5,000 / meeting, these are mostly just a waste of time, effort and money. They rarely turn into business. The only ones that make out are the service providers and the executives that get free 5-Star vacations.
You can get meetings with C-Level executives without being desperate and wasting money. In fact, I wrote about how to do it here: http://bit.ly/d6wFJY. Avoid these C-Level matchmaking services. There are alternatives with much better ROIs.
bill at design-works dot com
There are three main elements to any social media marketing effort and one must consider them in a precise order for the effort to be worthwhile. They are:
1) Members: Who do you want to communicate with? Note that I specifically said “communicate with.” Your goal is to open an ongoing dialog, not just stuff sales messaging down the members’ throats.
2) Messages: What information do you want to discuss? Within the same company you may want to have multiple conversations depending on the role.
3) Mediums: Where are your targeted members congregating? Knowing who you want to communicate with and what you want to discuss with them will often help make it clear which medium to explore.
We often encounter executives that open a discussion with “We *have* to have a Facebook page!” When we go through the process of questioning them as to who they want to communicate with and what they want to communicate, it often turns out that Facebook isn’t where they should be investing their time, money and resources.
Make your social media marketing efforts more valuable by remembering the simple “3 M’s of Social Media Marketing”: Members, Messages and Mediums.
We use a process elegant in its simplicity for helping our clients create meaningful, credible and executable 12-month marketing plans. The end result is a marketing roadmap that all key company stakeholders (sales, marketing, finance, operations, etc.) are aligned with. Marketing then no longer has to continually keep “going back to well” and justifying budgets and tactics as they are all tied to strategic initiatives and revenue goals.
Here’s what we do:
- Have our client agree upon between 2-4 overall 12-month company GOALS
- Help the client translate these goals into (SMART) OBJECTIVES
- Time-bound (i.e. 12 months)
- Mutually determine STRATEGIC Initiatives to meet the goals
- Document sales processes (current and proposed)
- Develop profiles of prospect stakeholders in the sales process (helps ensure ultimate tactics are rifle-shots vs. shotgun blasts)
- Tie them to revenue objectives and realistic budgets
- Investigate and detail the TACTICS to execute the strategic initiatives
- Document the budgetary costs, resource requirements and timeframes for each
Prior to coming onsite to begin the GOAL session we create questionnaires to be completed by various client stakeholders (execs, employees, customers, partners, etc.) A competitive matrix and initial SWOT analysis is created. We then go onsite and meet with all of the main stakeholders. The onsite component is either one full day, or optimally, 2 half-days back-to-back. During these sessions (often heated, frankly) we nail down the GOALS, OBJECTIVES and STRATEGIC Initiatives.
Upon conclusion of the onsite sessions we use the agreed upon strategic initiatives to investigate, analyze, compare and document recommended TACTICS. The deliverable is a credible, executable 12-month marketing plan that has precise tactics tied directly to the goals of the company.
In an ideal world we can get this done in 3 weeks but our experience with our clients demonstrates that it takes four to five weeks. Doing the investigative work prior to the onsite meetings makes the meetings a lot more meaningful and valuable. It is very difficult to get senior executives in a room all together so it is important that the time with them as a group is well spent. Further, to do a credible job recommending tactics requires a lot of expertise, analysis and thought. We do not ‘cookie-cutter’ these.
Our clients find the process and the result extremely valuable and find that it saves them money by not wasting budgets on useless and/or misaligned tactics. One of our clients is using the plan to present to its investors to justify their marketing spend for the next fiscal year.
Going to Market is Like Going to War, without a thoughtful plan you are doomed.
Contact me to learn more.
Most start-up teams have the product, market and customer knowledge to perform market research themselves. However they often lack self-confidence and waste a lot of time, effort and money relying upon a perceived “higher authority” to give them divine answers.
Any market research has a “confidence interval” associated with it. One starts by making a hypothesis and then tests the hypothesis by analyzing a sample universe. In theory the greater the sample size the greater the confidence interval. Therefore, for example, “if I spend $200K on this study I can be 90% confident that the results are true.” This field is littered with landmines…
1) It assumes you are making the correct hypothesis
- You are likely spending a lot of money proving something is wrong
2) All of the time and money you spent on analysts could have been spent on actually acquiring customers
3) Any practical “tribal knowledge” to be gained from the research is lost to a third party
- That will likely use it on the next team suffering from a lack of confidence
If you are a member of a startup team and you want to perform market research just do the following:
1) Go into a conference room with your team and start arguing
2) Argue about what different verticals make sense: weigh the plusses and minuses of each
3) Argue about what company size makes sense: weigh the plusses and minuses of each
4) Argue about who in each scenario would make the technical decision: weigh the plusses and minuses of each
5) Argue about who is actually going to make the financial decision: weigh the plusses and minuses of each
6) Argue about how they would actually process a purchase order if they wanted to buy
7) Create a matrix of what you find
LOOK AT THE RESULTS
9) Pick two that look most promising based upon your analysis
10) Identify 10 SPECIFIC companies in each category
11) Find out the contact information for the financial decision maker in each of the target companies
12) OK, here’s the good part: GO MEET WITH THEM. It isn’t as hard as you think (at least in Silicon Valley)
What is perhaps unusual in the SF Bay area is that people are ready and enthusiastically willing to meet with entrepreneurs and offer sage advice. When you contact these people, tell them that you are an entrepreneur and are seeking their advice after doing your own research. Tell them you are not trying to sell them something but are looking for painfully honest feedback.
There are only a few possible end results of this effort.
- They blow you off
- You meet and get painfully honest feedback and it’s bad
- You meet and get painfully honest feedback and it’s good
- You end up getting a customer or a referral to someone that will be a customer
Don’t underestimate what you know. If you want help facilitating this process email or phone me at:
But whatever you do don’t waste a lot of money on 3rd-party market research. The money you spend on it may only raise your confidence interval by a few points. And that certainly won’t be worth what you will lose by doing it yourself.
Consider this simple memory aid when creating marketing campaigns for channel partners.
If you are selling a solution through partners and you want to know what motivates them, recognize they are really only concerned with the "3 Pros":
- Profits: How much money are they going to make selling your solution?
- Prospects: How many customers are going to buy your solution?
- Problems: How difficult are you going to be as a vendor to work with?
Ultimate end-users of your solution are concerned with value and your messaging towards them should address that. However, any Promotion targeted at channel partners should not be focused on your Product.
Think Profits, Prospects and Problems when trying to get “Thru the Noise” to channel partners.
Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.
“We need to do social media marketing!”
“We need case studies!”
“We need a Facebook page!”
“We need to do internet marketing!”
“We need a Twitter account!”
“We need to etc., etc.”
I hear things like this all the time.
These are all tactics. In many cases they are good tactics. Usually however, tactics are launched with a lot of enthusiasm and then fade into obscurity. Why? Because executing tactics without aligning them to an overall strategy is a waste of time effort and money.
Going to market is like going to war.
At our practice we advocate and use the marketing planning principles espoused by Tim Calkins in his book “Breakthrough Marketing Plans.” His method for creating a plan is elegant in its simplicity:
1) Agree to what the main business goals of the company are
2) Assign specific, measurable and time-objectives for each goal
3) Determine the strategic initiatives required to meet the goals
4) Research the tactics required to execute the strategic initiatives
The end result of this effort is a ‘wish-list’ of tactics and a budgetary estimate of what each tactic will cost and the expected ROI of each. Each tactic will be aligned with a measurable objective (often multiple objectives) and therefore will be aligned with overall company goals.
Then, rather than a gut reaction to the latest marketing trick, sound business decisions can be made as to whether to execute the tactic, or not. If the tactic doesn’t tie into an objective, either don’t do it or revisit the plan.
Our clients are often resistant to this at first. After going through the process several amazing things happen:
1) All stakeholders (sales, marketing, finance, engineering, support, etc.) buy into it
2) New marketing ideas are evaluated based upon their fitness to the plan rather than by gut instinct
3) Marketing spend becomes measurable
4) The quality of leads in the funnel goes up
A client of ours develops and sells enterprise disaster recovery software with an average deal size between $50K and $100K. Even during the downturn they have been successful. However, given the state of the economy the average time to close a deal was getting too long. We reviewed their sales process and determined where deals were getting hung up.
The sales team was focusing primarily on meeting with disaster recovery (DR) teams. The good news was that 86% of the time that a correctly profiled account performed an official evaluation of the solution, it closed. The bad news was that DR teams typically do not know how to sell internally. Deals tended to drag on and on. We recommended a different approach.
We suggested they have the sales team meet with CIOs first instead. The sole purpose of the meeting would be to get the CIO to direct the DR team to perform an evaluation. If the CIO was conceptually sold, the role of the DR team would be solely to vet the solution. When they reported back to the CIO that it “performed as advertised” it would be a relatively simple matter for the CIO to reallocate $100K of the IT budget. This would be faster and more predictable than relying upon the DR team to promote it internally. They asked us how to get meetings with CIOs; we showed them.
We first segmented their customer base into verticals to determine if there were any unusual characteristics that we could exploit. The company is very strong in financial institutions but hadn’t cracked the NY Metro area. A decision was made to specifically target 24 financial institutions in Manhattan.
We created a two-part landing page which included a video of their CEO speaking directly to the CIO. The CEO explained why the CIO was being contacted and what were the expected outcomes of a meeting: either move to an evaluation or disengage; they were completely upfront with the prospect. Also included was a technical presentation of their solution for the CIO to forward to the DR team. So how did we get them to the landing page?
We purchased “emergency preparedness kits” that came in rolling luggage that had enough supplies to keep a small group well for 3-4 days. We included a simple note directing the CIO to a custom landing page. The package was substantial enough that it could not be ignored. We knew when they got the package. We knew when they were on the website. We knew when/ if they forwarded the technical materials to their DR team. And we even knew the message they included when they forwarded it. The results surprised even us.
They got meetings with 6 (24%!) of the CIOs that received the kits. Their VP of Marketing told us that previously they had not been able to penetrate these accounts at any level.
So don’t believe you can’t get in front of ‘lofty’ decision makers. With some creativity and a well executed plan you can get through to just about anyone. For an example of our work, check this out:
On the surface using Google (or Yahoo or Bing) AdWords looks simple: pick some keywords, write a few ads and close a few deals. In actuality, creating and optimizing AdWords campaigns is very complex, touches many facets of an organization and requires many different skills. Further, if you are entering a new market with a new solution, chances are that an AdWords campaign won’t work. If you are entering an established market it is likely going to be very expensive.
Following are steps for creating and optimizing AdWords campaigns:
- Define each solution being offered
- Specify each market(s) for each solution
- Specify the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for each solution/market combination
- i.e. 2 solutions each addressing 2 markets = 4 KPIs
- Generate keywords: thousands of them
- View the world as prospective customers might
- Use synonyms, homonyms and even misspellings
- Cluster keywords into campaigns
- You should try several campaigns for each solution/market combination
- Set a monthly budget for each campaign
- Create multiple ads for each campaign
- Ads must connect with the thought behind the keyword entered
- Two ads/campaign is the minimum
- Cancel ads that don’t get clicks
- Continually experiment with new ads
- Drive the visitor to a specific landing page
- Connect the thought, with the keyword, and the ad, to a call for action
- Create at least two landing pages/campaign
- Continually optimize landing pages to ads
- Perform multivariate testing of each landing page
- Interface to a CRM system
- Determine how conversions from each campaign are defined in terms of your sales funnel
- Use analytics to lower acquisition costs and increase conversion rates
- Use automated bid management to ensure that your ad budget is used optimally
The more transactional your solution (typically translated to lower cost) the quicker the correlation to ad spend success. For enterprise sales where it may take as long as 24 months to close a deal, it is critical to monitor all leads brought in through AdWords in terms of where they enter the sales process and how they move through it. One may then determine the success or failure of campaigns from pipeline analysis.
There can be an immediate increase in traffic through AdWords campaigns. However, to optimize campaigns it typically takes about 4 to 6 months. Why it takes so long:
- Strategy, including setting budgets and determining KPIs – 2 weeks
- Setup and launch – 2 to 4 weeks, includes:
- Keyword generation
- Campaign creation
- Ad writing
- Landing page creation
- Interface to CRM
- Analytics and bid management configuration
- Optimization – 4 to 6 months, depending upon:
- Competitiveness of market
- Budget (you need a sufficient sample size to optimize)
No one person has all of the skills to create, manage and optimize AdWords campaigns. And even in the rare instances that one does have the skills, there just isn’t enough time for one person to handle all of the moving parts. It requires:
- Product knowledge
- Market knowledge
- Customer knowledge
- AdWords knowledge
- Writing skills (ad copy, landing page copy)
- HTML programming skills (landing pages)
- Financial skills
- IT skills
- Project management skills
There is more demand for this talent than the supply of competent resources. The end result is that you are either over-paying for talent or you are hiring unqualified personnel. In those rare instances when you recruit a good one, they will leave for a better paying position in less than 12 months.
If you are just “testing the water” with some AdWords campaigns, create a six-month test budget and retain a firm to manage it for you. If you begin to see a correlation between your ad spend and a pipeline with qualified opportunities in it, increase your budget. Then continually optimize it as you would any other business process.
Until the mid 80′s most solutions were proprietary and very expensive to design, engineer, develop, sell and support. There were therefore relatively few choices and few methods to disseminate information about them (trade shows, trade rags, sales forces, etc.) This began to change with the introduction and use of open standards (SUN/Unix). So prior to then it was relatively difficult to build a product but relatively easy to market it.
The advent of the web and the proliferation of open standards and openware in the late 90′s, brought different challenges to creating a successful company. With the web, there are now countless ways to get information about a solution or offering. The challenge to an emerging company is identifying the audience they need to reach, finding the correct messaging and then efficiently and cost-effectively reaching them. As there are exponentially more solutions available now than there were 20 years ago, prospective buyers are bombarded with messaging from literally hundreds, if not thousands of vendors. It is challenging for any company to get through all of the noise. Further, buyers are a lot more informed and sophisticated now than they were prior to the web. If your messaging isn’t personalized it won’t be believed. Many great products/services/solutions die on the vine because they can’t get through the noise and to their audience.
The result is that the capital investment it takes to create a successful enterprise has shifted from engineering and development to sales and marketing. The challenge here is that while this may be conceptually true it has not occurred in fact. Most B2B companies underfund and do an extremely poor job of marketing.
1) Generally speaking, the best marketing people go to B2C companies where there are huge budgets and lots of ‘interesting’ things to do. B2B companies tend to scrimp on marketing budgets – what really good marketer wants to work with that?
2) Typical career paths for VPs of Marketing in B2B companies are System Engineer-to-Product Manager-to-Product Marketing Manager-to-VP of Marketing. Often the people performing marketing in B2B companies know little about customer buying processes and have little customer empathy. Regardless, they are not funded sufficiently to successfully accomplish their missions. You want a good B2B marketing person? Find one that came up through the ranks in sales.
3) Many technical entrepreneurs still have a “build it and they will come” mentality and have to go through a painful learning process to discover that this is not true. It is almost a rite of passage that they move from CEO to CTO and then leave “to pursue other interests.”
A fundamental shift in how capital is allocated to build a company is required. It needs to shift from development (which is now relatively easy) to marketing and sales (which is now relatively complex).
We often encounter mistakes or missing pieces when new clients ask us to improve their websites. Below is a list of some of the common one's we've observed:
1. No website analytics.
This is one of the most important things you can add to your website yet surprisingly it is often overlooked. With free analytics packages available such as Google Analytics there's really no reason to not have stats on your website. If it's important for you to know who your audience is, where they came from, and what they're looking at, then you really should have analytics on your website.
2. Splash pages / intro pages.
There's nothing more annoying than being forced to sit through a loading animation before you can interact with a website. Flash is a great compliment to a website but it should not be used for the entire site. Instead, use Flash to do things that you cannot or should not do in HTML such as playing an animation to demonstrating a product or service.
3. Embedding important text inside images.
Unless you've got some good reason to hide text from search engines you really shouldn't be embedding text in images. Text embedded within an image cannot be read by search engines and people with disabilities will not be able to read the text using a screen reader. If you MUST embed text within an image, be sure to summarize the text within your image's alt attribute.
4. "Clever" website navigation
Your navigation should be clear and easy to follow. If you've got a section that contains company information, call it something intuitive like "company" or "about". Don't make your user roll over or click anything to discover what's behind it.
5. Poor use of unique title tags
Title tags (<title>) are generally regarded as one of the most important metrics for achieving higher SEO rankings but so many sites either don't use them or use the same text for every page. Here are some key attributes to consider when writing a good title:
- Use keywords that are relevant to the current web page and your target audience
- Include your brand at the beginning or end of each title tag
- Limit your characters to 65 or less (including spaces)
Example: Award Winning Marketing & Design | Designworks