Tag Archives: Marketing

Where Should You Focus – Eyeballs or Dollars? Six Thoughts

Situation: A company sells personalized content as well as a tool kit. The long-term plan is to monetize storage of personalized content. When they speak to venture capitalists, the VCs advise them to focus on just building their user base and not to worry about revenue.  What would you do? Where should you focus – eyeballs or dollars?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Take advice from venture capitalists with a grain of salt. Remember that their game is to fund companies that they like incrementally, taking a greater share of ownership of the company with each increment in funding. The more you lack revenue, the more you’re dependent upon them.
  • Gain traction by offering free content with up-sell opportunities for premium access.
  • The give-away strategy is a great model to build your initial user audience. Consider micropayment options for special features, content storage, and so forth.
  • Going slow and steady may not be the right model for this space. Company growth for a web-based platform is different from the typical bootstrap model.
  • It’s hard to get good advice for viral marketing opportunities from CEOs who have bootstrapped their companies. Look for other input. Seek the advice of CEOs who have been successful in the viral online marketing space and learn as much as you can about their business models.
  • Gaming is another opportunity – premium or virtual world sales.

How Do You Maintain Momentum as You Grow? Seven Factors

Interview with Ishveen Anand, CEO, OpenSponsorship.com

Situation: Emerging stage companies that get early traction must maintain momentum and strong growth. This is particularly true if the company is competing in an established industry where innovative and new solutions are not the norm. Early adopters fall back into old, comfortable habits. Filling the pipeline with new prospects takes a lot of energy. How do you maintain momentum as you grow?

Advice:

  • Find a familiar, respected example of an existing service that is similar to yours. Match.com is widely recognized. We use Match.com to describe how we connect athletes with potential sponsors. Our service is free in the early stages and focuses on introductions. It costs nothing unless the parties decide on a deal. It’s up to the parties to decide whether to go out, form a relationship, and later end up together.
  • Map the stages of a sale for your offering, and select progressive KPIs that represent these stages. For example, early on it may be users. Later it becomes messages between users. A sale is closed when messages produce deals. Once you have progressive KPIs you can focus on tipping points between the stages and facilitating movement from user to message to deal. Set metrics and timeline objectives at each stage of the transaction.
  • Closely monitor conversation rates between users, messages and deals. Watch the momentum of conversion between the stages and test interventions that positively impact this momentum.
  • Match social media channels to the personalities of each of your stages. Twitter is a great metric of sales success and LinkedIn helps us to understand the reach of OpenSponsorship. Instagram is a great tool for those selling products, so slightly less relevant to us, but still necessary. Use the appropriate channel that will best bring potential users into your sales stream. An advantage of social media channels is that these provide additional insight into your transaction stream and what users are saying about you.
  • Understand what’s right for your users. Early on you look for elements that will create buzz and feed viral growth. Target special events and opportunities which offer high visibility. For us, a big event will be the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. For another company it may be a large convention like CES or SxSW. Plan in advance and make the most of these opportunities.
  • Know your users’ seasonality. What are their peak purchase seasons? Do they have special seasons? What are their off-seasons? How can you take advantage of this knowledge to offer them new opportunities? Populate your web site with the right pages and social media marketing efforts linking to these pages to drive usage and business year-round.
  • Important pieces of momentum are staffing and investment. Early on, these seem almost like distractions to a CEO. The CEO is more engaged in the product or service being provided. However, personnel and fundraising decisions critically impact the future of the venture and must be taken seriously. Success will depend upon the CEO’s being able to move seamlessly between conversations about product and service, staffing and fundraising.

You can contact Ms. Anand at ishveen@opensponsorship.com

How Do You Coordinate Sales and Marketing Plans? Four Points

Situation: A small company uses a sales plan, but not a marketing plan. The CEO wants to know about marketing plans, and how they are different from sales plans. Most importantly, if a company has both, how do you coordinate sales and marketing plans?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Sales and Marketing Plans are two aspects of the annual planning and revenue forecasting process. The difference between the two is focus – strategy versus implementation.
  • The Marketing Plan is strategic. It defines and quantifies the market that the company addresses, and also what markets the company does not address. It identifies the key attributes of the company’s market and products or services, and sets the broad direction as well as the high level objectives for the planning period – usually one year. It also covers both current products and product additions or extensions. The focus of the Marketing Plan is one-to-many.
  • In contrast, the Sales Plan is focuses on execution of the Marketing Plan. Ideally, the sales team takes the Marketing Plan and sets individual and team sales objectives that will meet the revenue objectives set in the Marketing Plan. The focus of the Sales Plan one-to-one – what each sales representative, and each division of the sales team (unit, district, region, country, and so forth) commits to sell during the coming year.
  • To coordinate the Marketing and Sales Plans, it is best to draft the Marketing Plan before asking the sales team to draft their Sales Plan. It helps the two teams to coordinate their projections for the coming year and allows the sales team to project sales based on changes to the product mix included in the Marketing Plan.

How Do You Know Your Team Can Handle Planned Growth? Six Steps

Interview with Gene Tange, President, PearlHPS

Situation: An acquired company is poised for dramatic growth. The corporation that acquired them has questions about the current team’s capability to realize planned growth, and achieve their financial and operational targets. How can they assess whether the existing team is up to the task?

Advice from Gene Tange:

  • Think of this as an assessment process that accurately predicts the ability of the leadership team to realize planned outcomes while maturing key business processes. The leadership team is tied to both financial and operational outcomes that cover competence, continuity and alignment. This enables proactive management of organizational changes to support planned growth of the business. A real life example will illustrate the steps of the process.
  • The starting point was whether the current CEO had the right compliment of skills and capabilities to lead a high performance team. Could this leader see beyond the current stage of growth in terms of the talent and processes required for growth? Could he build a high performance team, align them and retain them to achieve results?
  • The CEO then laid out the future state organization. The essential question was whether he had teams of leaders in each of the key functions to assure success.
    • Specifically, the Product Development Team generated a competitive analysis comparing the current product with all others to assure a 2 year competitive advantage.  They were also tasked with improving cost of manufacturing.
    • The Sales Team installed an integrated CRM system to support large orders, including internal cross functional communication to increase customer visibility and satisfaction scores.
    • The Operations organization moved from a traditional batch manufacturing process to a state of the art, focused factory organization, eliminating WIP, reducing operational costs and increasing the speed of order to delivery.
    • Finally, the Finance and Administrative functions were assessed.
  • As a result, in 16 months the company grew 5x in revenue and increased margins. Time from order to delivery was reduced by 16x. Headcount was reduced while shipping volume increased by 5x.
  • A disciplined assessment process that predict business outcomes and ties your talent to the bottom line can provide a significant advantage in today’s highly competitive environment.

You can contact Gene Tange at gtange@pearlhps.com

Key Words: Growth, Experience, Assess, Capability, Processes, Predictive, High Performance, Competence, Continuity, Alignment, Organization, Structure, Manufacturing, Sales, Marketing, Customer Relationship, Finance

How Do You Build A Scalable Sales Model? Three Steps

Interview with Scott Dietzen, CEO, Pure Storage

Situation: Even with a better mousetrap, an early stage tech company can’t afford a large sales force to cold call enterprise prospects. How do you build an affordable, scalable sales model – one which lets you quickly identify potential customers, and sell to them with a predictable rate of success?

Advice from Scott Dietzen:

  • From our experience, there are three steps to the process:
    • Form and quickly test hypotheses about your early adopters, and be prepared to iterate. “Friends and family” customers typically provide this test bed;
    • Look for ways for candidate customers could self qualify, and then strive to make that easily repeatable; and
    • Once have honed your messaging, leverage PR, viral marketing, social media, and other inexpensive means get your value proposition in front of more customers.
  • The chain of events between hypothesis, private experimentation and public launch is crucial:
    • Before launch, you want to have many confidential conversations about your value proposition with early prospects, and hopefully get many customers to privately try out your product. What do they love about the product? What changes will make it even more valuable? Listen and learn. At Pure Storage, we spent a year and a half in customer testing before we came out of stealth.
    • Most companies work too hard on the product and too little on the go to market plan. It’s better to do these in tandem. At Pure Storage we thought our messaging would skew toward performance, but learned that the fact that we saved customers 10X on their power and space budgets was equally important to them.
    • By having referencable customers in place before launch, you are better able to declare and defend first mover status and their validation is crucial to a successful launch.
  • A great way to accelerate growth on a start-up budget is to let customers self qualify for free:
    • At WebLogic, we offered developers a free download evaluation version of our software. A developer could choose to use WebLogic for free, and then go to their manager only after they had a WebLogic solution up and running. This made it far easier for management to make a buy decision, and took off so fast that it was hard for our sales force to keep up with the inbound license key requests!
    • At Pure Storage, we give away a software tool that storage administrators can point at an existing storage workload. The tool allows them to evaluate the savings from our data reduction algorithms, and hence how much their companies could save in cost and power by converting from mechanical disk storage to Pure solid-state flash. Enabling the customer to generate their own ROI story is an easier, more economical path to winning a happy customer, and the end user insider becomes a hero for delivering value to his/her organization.

Key Words: Technology, Solution, Model, Sales, Marketing, Customer, Identification, Hypothesis, Early Adopter, Social Media, Scalability, Pre-launch, Stealth

Why Do You Need Uberinfluencers? Four Factors

Interview with Skip Brand, CEO, Martini Media Network

Situation: Thanks to the rise of social media, the 10-20 million individuals who were the influencers with the most purchasing power have increased to 70 million. Within the influencer group, there is a sub group deemed “uberinfluencers” who have the most influence. How do marketers reach the uberinfluencers and why are they so important?

Advice from Skip Brand:

  • Uberinfluencers increasingly spend more time online, are twice as likely to make a purchase, and spend three times as much per acquisition when they do purchase. Also, they always share new product experiences with friends and family via different social media (Facebook, Twitter, Blog’s, etc). For the first time, consumers control a brand’s reputation and are able to set the brand’s tone and image. This is why marketers need to focus more dollars to get in front of this audience.
    • Uberinfluencers spend more time online than the general US population. They are brand savvy, digital savvy and socially networked.
    • They have diverse and specific interests and leverage the Internet extensively to connect with their passion areas. Niche sites appeal to this audience because of the specificity and existence of community. If you better understand where these people spend their time at work and play –you are better positioned to leverage their influence.
  • The company that wants to reach and leverage these uberinfluencers needs to be scalable, exciting and relevant.
    • For this audience, small is beautiful and also scalable. Let’s use the example of golf, a passion for many uberinfluencers. Your site should feature the highest quality courses and equipment if you want to reach 50% or more of this target audience. It must be easy to navigate, provide enough information to make them feel comfortable about product selection, and have a social component to help them broadcast your message.
    • Uberinfluencers spend time on sites that are exciting, engaging and which have a single share of voice. This means one focused ad per page instead of multiple ads.
    • Particularly in a recessionary market the site must work diligently to maintain relevance by continually enhancing site content to provide a fresh experience with every visit.
    • Marketers should put uberinfluencers at the center of their media buy and strategy.
  • To attract and leverage this audience you must maintain a maniacal focus. Reach out to them using social networking tools, which find uberinfluencers where they work and play on the web. Let’s illustrate this with an example.
    • Let’s say that your uberinfluencer is a digital media executive. You will find them on social networking sites because they are living what they are doing. Put the right message in front of them. If they buy they will spend more, but it’s even better if they tell 10 friends about you.
  • Once you start figuring out the keys that attract uberinfluencers, they will start telling each other about you and news of your product will spread across the web, in turn maximizing your revenue!

You can contact Skip Brand at skip.brand@martini-corp.com

Key Words: Strategy, Sales, Marketing, Uberinfluencer, Social, Network, Media, Purchase, Opinion, Influence, Online, Work, Play, Hobby, Niche, Scalable, Exciting, Relevant, Focus, Viral

How Do You Find and Focus on Your Promoters? Five Factors

Interview with Richard Owen, CEO, Satmetrix Systems

Situation: If you are not creating promoters of your product or service, you are inhibiting your own growth. Growth is challenging and if you don’t have positive word of mouth it becomes more expensive. How do you find and focus on your promoters?

Advice from Richard Owen:

  • Calculate and understand your “Net Promoter Score” – the percentage difference between “promoters” and detractors.” Promoters are those customers who would highly recommend your business, detractors have a negative perspective.
  • It is important to attend these two audiences – “detractors”, who create negative word of mouth, and “promoters” who create positive word of mouth. Detractors can be targeted for service recovery. At the same time, you must identify your promoters and find ways to get them to actively let others know about your business. Both negative and positive effects are being amplified today by social networks.
  • Understand what your business does that creates detractors and promoters. Gather and analyze root cause data to provide insights around the actions you and your team should take to change the balance in your favor.
  • Hold employees accountable by “stack ranking” the customer performance of each of your teams or employees. In part, this helps you to understand areas of strength and weakness and allows you to create individualized or group action and coaching plans. There is also a tendency for groups below the average to improve performance because they are being measured.
  • These are simple ideas, but making this work in practice can be a challenge. Setting up an effective system takes more leadership than leaders typically realize and is often counter to the short term realities of most companies. Success requires a long-term perspective and an external versus internal focus. And, of course, the right systems!
  • While the leadership of many mid-market companies are as sophisticated as that in large companies, mid-market companies lack the resources of large companies. A focus on action around promoters and detractors allows a company to get 90% of the value for 10% of the effort in customer experience management.

You can contact Richard Owen at richardo@satmetrix.com

Key Words:  Promoter, Growth, Word of Mouth, Positive, Negative, Cost, Data, Customer, Metric, Coach, SMB, Perspective, Effectiveness, Resources

When Do Marketing Partnerships Make Sense? Four Considerations

Situation: A company has an opportunity to form a marketing partnership with another firm. The primary potential benefit to the company from this partnership is gaining access to new customers. On the other hand, partnerships may bring complications. What is your experience with marketing partnerships, both positive and negative?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Marketing partnerships can certainly work, provided that both parties see benefit to the relationship, and both are committed to make it work.
  • Be sure to clearly define boundaries with the partner.
    • If either company can perform a particular service, whose customers are who’s?
    • Is there alignment throughout the partner’s organization regarding the partnership? Or are their conflicting priorities within different branches of that organization? Test the waters ahead of time and assess how these will potentially impact the partnership.
  • There are potential pitfalls:
    • What is the in-house/outsource attitude of the partner? If there are strong voices for in-house production or service provision, these will not be supportive of the partnership.
    • Watch the quality of the partnership over time.
      • Successful partnerships are based as much on friendly cordial relations as on business priorities. Are your business cultures and ethics compatible?
      • Who is the champion for the partnership on the other side? What will happen if the champion leaves? Is there a back up champion?
  • Build an exit strategy into the partnership that will allow you to leave gracefully and mitigate financial or good will consequences if the partnership sours.

Key Words: Marketing, Partnership, Customer, Access, Pros, Cons, Benefit, Commitment, Support, Boundaries, Priorities, Pitfall, Quality, Relations, Culture, Ethics, Champion, Exit

What is the Future of Digital Marketing?

Interview with Vikas Sharan, CEO, Regalix, Inc.

Situation: In traditional marketing, many marketers are more focused on activity than results. In the digital environment, top marketing organizations must become better at listening to their customers, watching them, and tracking their purchase decision behavior. What does this mean for the marketer?

Advice:

  • The digital world has changed marketing.
    • The traditional marketing campaign was led by creative. Through the early 90’s marketing was directed by media players and large publishers. Once a campaign was developed the pitch was “buy lots of impressions and customers will come.”
    • During the dot.com boom and into the 2000s there was a shift to ROI – spend $x with Google, get y clicks that will yield z buying customers. This was very transactional and could be expressed relatively simply.
    • Behavior is now changing, and the model is becoming more collaborative:
      • A potential customer expresses interest and a need.
      • A supplier offers a solution.
      • The potential customer verifies and validates the offer through online communities, Twitter, Facebook or other resources, and eventually may make a buying decision based on what they find along the way.
      • The buying decision today is very different from the traditional offer-driven process.
      • All of this can happen in minutes.
  • For the marketer, this means moving far beyond the simple advertisement.
    • The marketer needs a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and many more sites, in addition to their website, to woo potential customers.
    • For marketers this is expensive and requires a different level of resource commitment. It is, therefore, important for them to attribute the appropriate value to each online presence that the customer engages as they evaluate their buying choices.
    • Only through developing complex metrics, which change real time as customer behavior changes, can the marketer track and understand customer behavior and adapt the offer to the needs of the customer.
    • As individual consumers increasingly engage employ new forms of digital technology the challenge to marketers only increases.
  • The digital marketer who will thrive will develop a sophisticated, metric-driven understanding of the multiple touchpoints and social interaction of a given transaction.

You can contact Vikas Sharan at vsharan@regalix-inc.com

Key Words: Digital, Marketing, Customer, Behavior, Conversation, Online Communities, Facebook, Twitter, Touchpoint, Measurement, Metrics

Working with an Off-Shore Business Partner – Six Recommendations

Situation:  The Company has an off-shore business partner. Primary concerns involve team performance, process documentation and anticipating sales/marketing problems before they become issues. What have you found effective to monitor these areas?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • At the executive level, keep things simple – identifying the major goals and pieces of projects that are the make-break points.
  • Simplify the high level summary and make sure that all of the supporting activity is aligned with and supports key project or company goals. Some members manage projects with weekly or bi-weekly meetings.
  • The benefit of keeping it simple in your own mind is that you can always return to this simplicity when dealing with detail level queries from the partner. It keeps you grounded and on track.
  • One company uses project timelines that clearly show each of the teams where they fit into the project and how important it is for them to complete their portion of the project on time and to spec. Keep everything simple and direct.
  • Sales tracking and management is different from development projects. Drive monitoring off forecasts, pipeline, and achievement of metrics that track with the forecasts.
  • In working with your off-shore partner, organize your presentations so that the key points of emphasis are readily visible. Have back-up slides to show detail aspects of particular projects or initiatives, and be prepared to cover the details if needed. This will help to build confidence between you and your business partner.

Key Words: International, Partner, Performance, Process Documentation, Sales, Marketing, Alignment, Project Management, Communications