Welcome to the maze of complex B2B sales. Did you think B2B sales was going to be straightforward; based solely on rational, business-savvy calculations? Based on the bottom-line? Most everyone recognizes that the B2C sales process requires appealing to consumer’s emotions. But believe it or not, business buyers, influencers and users are human, too, and thus are not-exempt from emotional decision making. Ego, hierarchy, competitiveness, fear, grandstanding, sycophantry join budget, market share, revenue, profits, risk, time, resources in the sale.
The “Status Quo Coefficient” represents that which you must overcome above and beyond the pain your product solves, in order to make a sale.
I hope my PR friends won’t hate me after this post, but the point needs to be repeated: Startups should not hire PR agencies. It seems not a week goes by without hearing about young companies blowing huge wads of cash on “marketing” they’re not ready for. Some entrepreneurs get in this fix because they fail to distinguish between PR and other marketing tactics. They know intuitively or are told they ‘need marketing,’ but the first thing they think of is PR. As I’ve mentioned before, PR <> Advertising <> Word of Mouth <> Social Media, etc.
Before you hire a PR agency or even consider PR, the first thing you need to understand is what you are trying to accomplish, what is your objective. Second, you should consider whether that objective is right for the stage of your business. If you are an early startup, pre Product-Market fit, or even pre “Sales and Marketing Roadmap,” you should not hire a PR firm.
Three beautiful words. When used together, one of the most wonderful — if not most underused — phrases in our lexicon. Am I being hyperbolic?
Modern culture dictates that we claim to know, so we spend a lot of time knowing stuff. We expend much effort displaying our expertise. If we personally don’t know something, we rely on designated “experts,” who tell us they know (despite their unimpressive track record). We know where the stock market is headed. We know how countries will respond to “liberation.” We understand the ins and outs of other cultures. In relationships, we do not hesitate to state unequivocally the others’ thoughts, intentions and motivations. At some point in the past, we have “known” the world is flat, the sun revolves around the Earth and that spontaneous generation exists. Collectively, we know both that “God Exists” and that it doesn’t. We know that the people in our tribe are more intelligent, moral, and civilized than in theirs. Of course, they say the same thing.
I don't know who is more exasperated, entrepreneurs flummoxed by marketers or me, upset that another entrepreneur has been flummoxed by marketers!
People, language is for communication and marketing terms, abused as they are, fall somewhere within the scope of language. To communicate you need to learn the terms. To practice marketing or to hire a marketer you need to grasp some basics. Please.
Marketing Help Rule 1.
(<> means "not equal to")
Blogging <> PR <> Brand <> SEO <> Logo <> Advertising <> Tagline <> Messaging <> FaceBook <> Positioning <> Twitter <>Lead Gen <> [Enter mktg term here]
Marketing Help Rule 2.
Trust me, you don't need all the marketing tactics listed in Rule 1.
Marketing Help Rule 3.
The right marketing tactics for you, right now depend on WHO your prospective customers are and WHAT stage your company is in.
Marketing Help Rule 4.
All Marketers have a core competency (or two). Regardless, (almost) all Marketers will sell (almost) all marketing services.
Marketing Help Rule 5.
You need marketing to grow your business. And more likely than not, you need or will soon need help marketing. Admit it.
For a moment, forget everything you know or think you know or have heard about marketing. Start with a clean slate.
A technical CEO learning marketing is the equivalent of a sales/marketing CEO learning development engineering.
I am not a developer. If push comes to shove, I can code in PHP, or develop shell scripts, and truth be told, I did take a couple of ECE courses in college; courses which inexorably told me I was not going to be a developer.
My path to becoming a marketer was unusual, I think, which has had both its advantages and disadvantages. I like to think I'm a "technical marketer," rather than what I call a "Madison Ave" marketer; not to dis the later, since they have their role to play in the grand scheme of marketing. By technical marketer, I don't mean one who only markets technical products, or who does only "product marketing" in the industry vernacular, but rather a marketer who uses processes and actionable metrics to achieve near term business objectives that lead to realizing company vision.
Unlike my classmates who headed to Silicon Valley from UC Davis upon graduation, I moved to Washington DC to work for a defense consulting firm. After a couple of years, "I dropped out" to write a novel, which I subsequently finished, explored the country for 3 months, finally landing in San Francisco and beginning my career in technology.
My book was (is) trite and sophomoric. After all, what insights do most 20-somethings have worth sharing? A lack of experience -- a lack of failure -- makes pontification shallow. One of my younger brothers, who was trying to make a living as a painter at the time, had a great comment. He said that he felt my book, like his art, was merely trying to say too much. That it wasn't that we didn't have good things to say, but that there was lack of discipline in focusing and examining in greater depth a few ideas, rather than "letting it all hang out."
The toughest part about practicing customer development is getting started. You already know that customers are not going to magically find you because you have a great product, work hard and are good looking. Now that you've realized how big the world is and that using a megaphone from your roof top is a poor method of user acquisition, what's next?
Presumably if you are committed to the principles of customer development, you are already committed to "getting out of the building." Before you can interview potential customers, however, you have to find potential customers to interview. Unfortunately, there are no magic bullets. This is painstaking work. Just as with other portions of the customer development model, to find early adopters you make assumptions, test, and iterate. If you are having trouble getting started, try these steps: Continue reading “How to find early adopters” »
I am sensing marked uptake on the concept of conducting serious customer research in order to jump start high tech start-ups. It's about time. There's definitely buzz building around Steve Blank'scustomer development methodology. Ego dictates that whatever you're thinking about must be what the world is thinking about and to that, I plead guilty.
As with most marketing terms, the phrase "market segment" is often tossed about carelessly by entrepreneurs, technologists, and yes, even by some marketers. To my mind, however, segments are a cornerstone of market-driven business plans. Market segments are fundamental to a process-oriented view of taking technology to market and building business plans from the "bottom up."
In 1991, Geoffrey Moore in Crossing the Chasm defined a market segment as:
a set of actual or potential customers
for a given set of products or services
who have a common set of needs or wants, and
who reference each other when making a buying decision.
Most of this is pretty intuitive. In a nutshell, a market segment is comprised of like buyers who share the same pain. But there's more to it. The reference part trips some people up. The key point to understand is that the customers and potential buyers must be willing AND able to reference each other.
I just got off a webinar about lead gen in today's economic environment. I was pleased to see several process-oriented and metrics driven marketing recommendations, including:
need to be revenue focused, rather than # of leads focused;
marketing taking greater responsibility for pipeline management;
measuring, testing, refining every step of way through pipeline;
identified information and activity overload problem;
A few key points still missing, IMHO.
First, in today's environment, business needs to be profits-focused, not just revenue-focused. This is a critical distinction. An expensive advertising campaign may add more leads to your pipeline, some of whom eventually buy. You've increased revenue, but hurt the short-term bottom line. (Arguably there may be longer-term benefits from raising "awareness" through advertising.)
Second, this may just be a language thing, but I'm guessing not. Marketing and sales professionals continue to talk about the "sales process," e.g., the necessity to create activities and produce collateral that "nurture" customers through the sales cycle. Despite the fact that this webinar correctly identified information overload as a problem, the end recommendations still pushed for "getting all the information the sales team needs into their hands." Step back! This is classic reactive marketing and emblematic of VP of Sales (& Marketing) driven marketing.
Key question to ask: what is the buyer's process.
Third, "who is the prospect" was asked at the end of the webinar, when it should have been slide 1. Even if your company was able to handle multiple segments before the economy tanked, you need to reassess to determine what are your profitable segments now. See point 1.