One of the main reasons I started this blog was to look at how marketing and sales need to be inextricably linked for a start-up, or any technology company for that matter, to be successful because that rarely seems to be the case. Over the last few posts, I’ve looked at how marketing and sales need to be more aligned and how to do that through the sales funnel.
Now, it’s time to let the rubber hit the road so that marketing is delivering what’s needed to move prospects through the funnel and generate revenue, which I believe to be the most important metric for measuring the success of any marketing campaign or activity.
To do this, the first step is to build a sales-centric marketing plan. I call it sales-centric as I’ve seen a number of marketing plans, which are only a collection of tactics not focused on a common goal or a list of activities that may get the company some awareness but is totally disconnected from the sales process.
For me, the sales-centric marketing plan can be summarize in six simple words: create content, generate demand, build credibility. I believe these strategies need to be the cornerstone of most marketing initiatives today and there are tactics that you can use to make each possible without breaking the budget. Let’s look at each one briefly today then I’ll explore each in more depth in subsequent posts:
Content can and should be the foundation for all your marketing programs. Creating compelling content can position you as a thought-leader in your industry and move prospects through the funnel by helping them solve their problem and positioning your product to do it.
This content can take many forms and in a lot of cases you can repurpose the same content in multiple formats to appeal to a wider audience. Obviously, a website that is deep in content is a good place to start and a blog can go a long way too. You can also publish product collateral, eBooks, white papers, videos and tutorials that are even more detailed; just to name a few.
In the last few years, content marketing has become a buzzword that many use to explain this strategy but creating valuable content has always been a core element of every plan in my mind.
Once this content is created you need to make it easy for your prospects to find and share it so you can demand. Social media can make sharing very easy and once again the tools are free or inexpensive. You can also look into sharing this content on sites that are specific to your industry or depending on format Slideshare, YouTube and others are a good platform to consider. Plus, there still may be a role for webinars, events, search and a variety of other tactics that can be used to generate demand if you budget allows.
However, this is about more than just generating as many leads as possible. Demand generation is about reaching the right prospects, at the right time, with the right message, to turn them into customers. It involves creating awareness of your solution, qualifying the leads, sending the sales-ready leads to sales, nurturing the others by building relationships with them until they are ready to buy, while working with sales to move the qualified leads along the funnel until the deal is closed.
There’s no question that it takes time to build a credible brand in the marketplace, which is why I make this the third strategy as you probably need to focus on the others first, but this is a critical pillar of your marketing plans. It’s extremely difficult to turn the prospects you found into customers if they don’t know that your solution works or that your company will be around for the next several years. They also want a third party to validate what you are saying in your content.
There are a number of tactics and ideas for how you can make your marketing credible from becoming a thought leader by speaking at conferences to winning awards or endorsements from a third party. There’s also something to be said for the company you keep so associating yourself with trusted brands can enhance your credibility and also generate demand.
However, getting quoted in the media or having an analyst endorse your approach may be one of the most valuable ways to build your credibility. Or even better, prospects trust what their peers and friends say most of all so positive reviews and customer references may be best of all.
In the end the tactics behind these strategies depends on your target market, objectives for the marketing plan, the product and service you are trying to promote and the big one, budget. With start-ups, more times than not, it is this last one, budget, that ends up determining the tactics but even in larger organizations this may be the case.
In the next few posts, I’ll explore each strategy in more detail and look at the tactics that would be most effective and cost-efficient. In the meantime, let me know what you see as the three core strategies in a marketing plan in the comments below.