The Marketing Guy

Rooting for Good Marketing Since 2009

Archive for The Marketing Guy

The Name of the Game is Execution

Given the crowded marketplace that most companies compete in today, there are no shortage of competitors touting the same features, functionality, and customer benefits to prospective buyers. Great marketing is often done around the edges, when you can notice a seam, a forthcoming trend, or developing theme that you take advantage of first and establish a leadership position.

But even that lasts for only so long. Take Apple and the iPad for example—as revolutionary as the tablet has become, the market will soon be flooded with new offerings (including, one must assume, something from my esteemed employer—fingers crossed!) which offer user benefits and features that, on first glance, make all the products look and feel pretty similar.

This happens a lot in B2B marketing as well. A company will notice an emerging trend and if they’re smart, they’ll take advantage of the trend quietly so as not to draw attention while they have the opportunity to themselves. But eventually, an industry analyst will write an article, a blogger will post a news item, and a new job posting will appear online that gives a sign as to the opportunity the company is seeing.

As marketers this can be a frustrating experience, when a competitor sees the same opportunity you did and comes into your market with the same value proposition, benefits, and feature set. And in markets where there’s no clear dominant leader (let’s leave the tablet market aside for just a minute), what determines “who wins” the market is often not about marketing anymore, it’s about execution. Are you able to close more business than your competition? Are you able to position yourself as “the inevitable winner” in the market? Can you demonstrate not just feature superiority, but “evidential” superiority?

What often fuels marketing success is not what the product or service actually does, but the benefit that the product or service actually brings to the user—and in turn, how your product or service brings more benefits than the competition. Often times as marketers we do a great job a pipeline loading, driving awareness, and a lot of the marketing activities at the beginning of the sales cycle. But increasingly customers are making purchases not on the basis of which company has the best airport advertising, but on who else is using the product with proof points that the product actually does what it purports to do.

The marketing battle today has increasingly moved to the trenches, and the ability to repeatedly execute is now key to a successful product strategy. It’s a great time to look at how you are executing with your product line-up as well, and determine how improving your execution can improve your marketing capabilities.

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Ensuring your Marketing is not “One Size Fits All”

Many marketing departments these days are masters at churning out fact sheets, product demonstrations, customer references, and execute a PowerPoint presentations with the best of them. But if you ever get out to the field and spend time with the people selling the product—the people whose salary depends on closing the deal—you’ll find that the marketing materials they use and need can differ greatly vs. the corporate bill of materials that gets refreshed on a yearly basis.

As such, those of us in a corporate marketing function are often guilty of the worst marketing crime—not understanding our customer—when we continue to produce the same materials over and over without a thought as to the customer behavior at different points of the sales cycle. We somehow forget that what they need move from a person doing research on the web to a full-blown prospect to a customer is vastly different. Why then doesn’t our marketing reflect this fact?

Sometimes it’s due to our requirement to drive marketing to a common denominator of delivery—after all, everyone wants to know about our product’s features, it’s pricing, who else is using it, and why it’s better than the competition, right? Well, yes. But often times not all at once. In the traditional sales funnel, throwing all of our marketing in at the top layer and not saving anything for the last meeting when you really need it can be the difference between providing the compelling reason to purchase, and a lost deal.

If you haven’t had the chance lately, I’d highly recommend doing some shadow work with some of your sales reps—inside and telesales, a sales specialist, the account manager, the technical product manager, whoever is on the front lines of dealing with your customer. What you’ll find is that they use marketing very differently depending on where the customer is in the sales cycle, saving their ace in the hole—which could be their best reference, special pricing, or advance access, just for the right minute when they need it. They never give everything away up front. So why do we do that with our marketing plans?

Although it will take some extra time, your ability to customize the message for the right time you’re engaging with the customer is often the key to standing out from the competition. Think about your customer buying cycle—how many different stages do they go through before they pull the trigger? When have they made the “mental” decision to purchase and transition from research to validation of their choice? And more importantly, how does this transition from buying stage to buying stage impact the marketing materials and strategies you should employ?

Those teams operating on all cylinders know that marketing in today’s marketing environment is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. The need to nurture a prospect over many months and through many early buying stages differs greatly when the purchase decision is ready to be made. Excellence in marketing demands that we are not only able to recognize the difference between stages of the buying cycle, but are able to strategize and execute our plans to win these customers to our side.