Do you have a written marketing plan?
To some people this may sound like a ludicrous question, but having worked with more than 300 vendors (of all stages and sizes) over the past 18 years, I still find myself surprised by the number of vendors that don’t have an explicit and written marketing plan.
When I say ‘plan’ I mean something written, that has been discussed and is agreed upon by relevant stakeholders.
I see plenty of cases where there is no written marketing plan – and instead, marketing is done on a whim, a hope, possibly a prayer.
So if you don’t have a written marketing plan in place, my advice is to start on one – now
Yes, creating a marketing plan can take time (though it doesn’t need to be – in fact shouldn’t be – ‘War and Peace’). And while having a plan in place is a great starting point, the plan then needs to be executed – campaigns are run based on the plan, launches are mapped out, metrics are in place, it’s measured and optimized.
Want some ideas on what you should (and shouldn’t) include in your marketing plan? Sign up for a free 30-minute strategy session to discuss your marketing and sales.
During 18 years I’ve seen many vendors throw themselves into launching new products or services without a written launch plan, and it’s simply not the best way to map out and achieve results. Going without a launch plan -pinning results on hope instead of research and facts – is also a stressful way to launch anything. Plus a well-considered launch plan shifts the results — including sales.
Planning launches ahead of time with step-by-step messaging, objectives, audience analysis and targeting allows you to put specific objectives in place, to speak to relevant prospects and gives you essential momentum.
Launches also need to be shared with your team – whether you’re a startup, early stage or a more established business. You don’t want to dedicate all of your time, voice and effort outside your own company and team without considering how you should first launch their own products and services within their company – so your employees, partners and other stakeholders are part of the launch, and not just bystanders that are told about the launch after it has happened. An internal launch doesn’t just grow your fan base and build up enthusiasm internally (which may be more important than you think).
If you’re launching something that is very new, then consider a staged launch starting with a soft launch. This gives you the opportunity to build a base of customers, collect feedback, ask for references and testimonials, before you go onto a larger-scale launch.
Want to know more about how to stage a launch, or have any questions about setting objectives, defining audiences or getting your message right for an upcoming launch? Then why not join me for a free 30-minute product launch strategy session.
Anyone who has found themselves in an unfamiliar city has likely asked themselves the same question: ‘What’s a good restaurant in this area?’ Years ago, you may have asked the hotel concierge for a recommendation. Now, most consumers simply turn to their smartphone and apps such as Yelp or online reviews. You don’t personally know anyone who has posted these reviews, yet we trust them (studies show that four-fifths of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations).
Prospective clients are viewing your website and social media accounts with the same intentions and clues. So it’s important to use endorsements and facts — including real-world numbers and verification of your position: what do others say about your business, product or service – across social media; in the press and reviews; in your case studies; within quotes and on other marketing copy?
Many technology companies fail to effectively use external sources such as customer and instead overuse self-proclaimed statement (think ‘leading provider of’).
Case studies are an essential tool in technology marketing: they provide proof, illustrate benefits and demonstrate real-world examples of how a specific technology has been implemented to address and resolve customers’ problems. Yet many case studies are too cookie-cutter, formulaic success stories that espouse the virtues of a vendor’s business and are chock-full of marketing messages. So when you write case studies be sure to create authentic, genuine stories that focus on the voice of the customer and explains the challenges, business benefits and real-world results.
Whatever stage your company is at, spend time this week asking customers for references and feedback. If you’re very early stage and don’t have a customer base you can turn to, then ask individuals you’ve worked with for feedback on your personal; skills, experience and achievements.
For 18 years I’ve worked with businesses of all sizes to help them realize their key objectives and entrepreneurial goals. From one-person startups searching for funding to global leaders that want to maximize sales, shorten the sales cycle and have a bigger impact; I’ve worked the full spectrum. No matter the size of the business, though, companies may be on the brink of marketing-self-sabotage — where marketing initiatives undermine or delay sales — and they don’t even know it.
A common misconception is that the ‘Sales and Marketing’ team is just that – one team. The false-combining of these two departments into one has always baffled me. The skillsets held by the sales team differs drastically from those leading the marketing efforts. While there is a mutual responsibility between the two groups to grow revenue and boost sales; their approaches won’t look the same and, sadly, sometimes their goals aren’t aligned.
In the worst-case scenario these miscommunications delay company growth, waste valuable budget dollars – and can even create animosity between the two departments.
During April, I’ll be sharing a series of blog posts on some of the best-practices I’ve worked to implement with businesses to maximize – and align – sales and marketing goals.
In technology, with all its acronyms, blurring of lines and the need for influencers, commentators, buyers and vendors themselves to define new markets, there can easily be overlaps from one technology to another. Yet sometimes vendors overstep those lines and claim spuriously to do what their competitor does.
I’ve seen this a number of times in an enterprise sales situation – a vendor is defensive of a potentially competitive vendor coming into a project so they ‘overstate’ what their own technology can do. It’s not always blatant – in my experience they typically and truly intend – whether through through customization or development – to deliver what they have promised. But often claims are deliberately left hanging out there, to their advantage, and longer-term potential detriment.
In consumer technology there is far more of a ‘does what it says on the tin’ attitude, largely because of the need for simplicity driven by the target market, price-point and competition. Buying something for a few hundred dollars to perform a specific task is much simpler than trying to implement and integrate complex enterprise technology. The inherent complexity of enterprise technologies often makes it difficult for vendors to describe succinctly what they do. But some tech vendors certainly don’t help themselves, either. So if you’re a technology vendor and you’re currently reworking your messaging, please be deliberate, considered and honest.
It’s also important to consider how you categorize your product or service – what do you call it? What do your customers think they’ve bought? I’ve certainly written a number of enterprise case studies where a CIO or IT director describes the product/service they’ve implemented and they really aren’t using the same words as the vendor that sold the solution.
So – take a moment and think about why your company exists, what it does and what you should call it – as honestly and as realistically as possible.
1. Why does your company exist — what is its vision and purpose?
2. What problems do you solve?
3. Who do you solve these problems for?
4. Describe in the simplest terms possible what your technology does for them
5. Do you have customers that are already using this technology to solve such problems?
6. Ask a good proportion of your customers (don’t just ask one or two):
– What is the problem you had before you worked with us?
– Did we solve this problem?
– Can you describe how we solved it?
– How would you describe our technology, product or service — what is it? (and no prompting them with your own self-created market or terminology!)
7. Ask each of your employees, business partners, suppliers, and other people you trust to complete the following statements on paper:
(Your company name) makes/develops /sells _______________ to
_______________ which helps them _______________.
8. Which technology sectors/descriptions are frequently confused with your own technology but do NOT do the same things that you do?
9. And conversely, which technology areas do you overlap with?
10. Want to know more? Email me or send us an email to email@example.com ask for our tech enterprise messaging template.