Based on my last post, I thought it might be helpful to present several ideas about how to get small/young companies to focus on investing in strategic marketing, early in the product/service development cycle.
First, let's look at the sources of the problem.
- "Gotta get it out the door!"—CEOs are under the gun from the "get go" — budgets are tight and there is tremendous pressure to get to market quickly. As such, an activity that is not absolutely necessary is shelved for later consideration. The mantra, "let's get the product out and then we can deal with the rest" is a fairly common one. It
- "If you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail"—in small companies, CEOs often come with technology or finance backgrounds. It is much easier for them to focus on the issues with which they feel comfortable. To the uninitiated, marketing appears to be anything from fluff to black magic.
- To many young CEOs, marketing reeks of bloated budgets, time-wasting fluff-mongers, and generally an impediment to getting any real work done. (See Dilbert for more information ... .)
Trying to explain the value of marketing is generally a waste of time. Rarely do I hear a CEO say they don't believe in marketing; they all "get it," they just don't have any resources for it now ... Here is how you can cut through the noise and get executives to understand what good marketing can provide. This advice is equally valid for internal resources and outsourced marketers looking for an engagement.
- Start small—everyone knows that there are certain marketing pieces that any company needs; it might be data sheets, customer case studies, or a sales presentation. CEOs will spring for these. Once you begin, filling in the content require good messages and proper positioning. At this point, most companies will spend some time doing some messaging exercises—although they won't want to pay for it and they won't want to "waste time" validating the messages either.
- Projects that have clear deliverables are easier to digest—while it is difficult to propose a serious lead generation project with poor targeting and poor messaging, the process does lend itself for finagling some proper product marketing activities. For example, as part of a lead generation campaign, I often propose a white paper describing the market need and the product/service's unique value. This exercise almost always leads to a serious discussion about how the company's sees itself, and the company should go to market.
- Do your homework—showing a CEO what a competitor has been able to accomplish with good marketing is often a catalyst for getting attention. When a competitor is getting a lot of market traction, mentions in the relevant forums, etc., CEOs get nervous. Fear is a great motivator. Also, presenting a competitive market map shows the CEO you mean business and that you get it.
- Stay away from anything that sounds expensive, flashy, or fluffy. Proposing an expensive trade show with a customized booth and giveaways is almost always a non-starter for young, thrifty CEOs.
- Leverage industry influencers to amplify a company's message. A project to work with industry influencers is often well-received, if you don't propose a $15K+ subscription to an analyst group. Try and quantify the deliverables up front in order to set expectations realistically.
These suggestions won't guarantee success, but they offer a good start to getting off on the right foot. Comments and feedback are welcome.