March 12, 2021

Marketing Effectively at Scale Starts on Day One

Shane S

If you’ve clicked on this article, chances are your organization is navigating the complexities of marketing at scale. You might have glossed right over the “Day One” part of the title — but that is just as important as the “at Scale” part.

Here’s why: Whether intuitively or intentionally, every successful marketer needs to answer three fundamental “Day One” questions, as I call them. And marketers don’t just answer those questions on Day One and then move on; they bake the answers to those Day One answers into every aspect of their subsequent marketing strategy. That makes the challenge of marketing at scale way more manageable. 

So even if Day One feels like a long time ago, it’s vital to go back and review these Day One questions as your company accelerates its growth:

1. What are we selling?

As you begin to scale, it’s a good time to make sure that every member of the team has a crystal-clear understanding of your company’s product/market fit and value proposition. What is the target market’s pain point, and what do they gain by using your product or service?

2. Who are we selling to?

Once you understand the answer to Question 1, the answer to Question 2 should become obvious: You’re selling to anyone who is experiencing the pain point that your product was designed to cure. And yet the challenges of marketing at scale often obscure this basic objective.

3. How will we reach them?

Admittedly, this is a bit of a trick question. Once you engrain your company’s goal—alleviating your customer’s pain point, even at a large scale —into every aspect of your strategy, you begin to understand that the object isn’t for you to find your prospects, it’s to help them find you.

Scaling isn’t simple — but your approach should be.

The pressures of scaling up your marketing efforts can make it surprisingly easy to lose your focus. If you click on the links above, what you’ll find is less a list of instructions than a series of gentle reminders. To stay true to your company’s vision as you scale, start by resetting your marketing strategy to Day One basics.

1. What are we selling? 

As you begin to scale, it’s a good time to make sure that every member of the team has a crystal-clear understanding of your company’s product/market fit and value proposition. What is the target market’s pain point, and what do those target customers gain by using your product or service?

This basic, intuitive explanation of every B2B marketer’s goal seems so obvious. So why do so many B2B marketers struggle to communicate such a seemingly simple objective? Because, while it might seem simple, pinning down the basic objective is not easy. Many marketers struggle to concisely articulate what their product does and why it’s valuable to their customers.

The problem, I think, starts when marketers try to come up with a single sentence that explains what their product does. Again, concisely summarizing product/market fit is deceptively difficult—but when done right, it can be one of the most impactful weapons in your arsenal.  

Slack nails this on their home page with a simple headline:

A better way to communicate 

That’s followed by a simple sentence:

Unlike email, conversations in Slack are easy to follow.

Using fewer than 10 words, they sum up their value proposition. After that, another short sentence spells out specific features:

You can make calls, share files, and even connect with other apps.

They go right through the front door with what they’re selling: A communications tool that cuts down on mass email clutter and connects to other applications so users can spend more time being productive.

In other words, they highlight the pain and the gain.

Again, this all sounds so simple in theory. Making it work in practice is the challenge. There are multiple frameworks out there to help with pinning down these statements, from the tried-and-true “Crossing the Chasm” value proposition development model to very user-centric frameworks like Alexander Osterwalder’s value proposition canvas. And there is certainly a lot that you can learn from studying these different philosophies and approaches. 

As you’re going through this process, keep two key things in mind: 

  1. Stay super-focused when applying these different models to your specific marketing objective. Don’t try to boil the ocean—focus on one product and persona at a time to craft value propositions that speak directly and specifically to the pains and gains of that audience.
  2. Watch out for buzzwords and jargon. If you’re leaning on meaningless phrases like “functionality,” “disrupt” and “seamless,” take a step back. Are you describing what your product does at the expense of spelling out the problem it’s designed to solve? Are you focusing too much on why your company is great and not enough on the customer’s goals? Are you using these words as a crutch because you haven’t uncovered the true value of your product yet?

Just remember: You can’t sell your product as a cure if you don’t identify the disease first.

2. Who are we selling to?  

Once you identify product/market fit and articulate a strong value prop, the answer to “Who are we selling to?” becomes obvious: You’re selling to anyone experiencing the pain point that your product was designed to cure. 

As your company grows, the marketing team—and perhaps even more importantly, the sales team—wants to reach as many prospective customers as possible. Basically, that’s what marketing at scale means. Your company is ready to transition from the “low-hanging fruit” phase. You want to identify prospects that are just as promising as your early adopters, but are simply harder to reach, at least using the methods you were limited to during the startup phase.

Here’s where it gets tricky. During this phase a lot of marketers err on the side of ruling prospective customers in rather than ruling them out. In practice this tends to look like ultra-broad “targeting.” If a member or your marketing team thinks “anyone and everyone” can use your product, that’s an obvious red flag. 

Chances are you’re not falling into the “anyone and everyone” trap. But other, seemingly sound targeting methods can be just as broad—and just as useless. A few examples of uselessly broad categories include: “My customers are small businesses.” Or even: “My customers are large enterprise customers in manufacturing.”

That’s still not specific enough. Why? Because you haven’t identified the problem that your product can solve for that cohort. Unless you can honestly say that your product addresses a pain point that is universal among large enterprise customers in manufacturing, you’re overreaching. And that means you’re wasting resources on prospects who will never convert (or who become customers that quickly churn) 

One particularly insidious trap is to over-rotate on demographic- and firmographic-type segmentation and personas that sound something like this: “My customer is typically a 36-year-old male, he has a master’s degree, he’s a dog owner, he prefers to rent a home rather than buy and he enjoys craft beer.”

That level of specificity is superficially impressive but ultimately meaningless. Because, again, there’s no mention of the pain point. Unless the problem your product solves has something to do with owning a dog, renting a home or drinking craft beer, that profile tells you nothing of value.

That example might seem obvious. But during the stress of transitioning to marketing at scale, it’s easy to get lost trying to sort the signal from the noise.

I’ll give you an example we encountered here at Fiix. We were lucky because the pain/gain aspect of our product was clear from the start, and we were able to generate proportionate demand for the size of our sales team. I knew I didn’t need to hire a demand-gen specialist, at least not right away. Instead, I needed a “quant”—someone who could analyze that raw demand-gen data and turn it into something we could actually use to build a five-year marketing plan. Because although we had demand, we couldn’t make heads or tails of it. We couldn’t actually tell what was good, what was bad, what was converting, what was moving faster through the funnel, what was driving revenue. And I knew if we couldn’t answer those questions with a small amount of demand, we certainly wouldn’t be able to answer those questions with a huge amount of demand.

So we took a systematic approach. The first question we needed to answer was, “How valuable is this demand?” And we could answer that only by building the marketing tech stack and the data architecture model in the right way. By doing that, we were able to structure our funnel so that we could see how we processed the demand and how it converted.

Once we understood what was valuable and what wasn’t, we could then layer on a demand-gen team and say, “Demand Bucket A is valuable and Demand Bucket B is not. So let’s go scale Demand Bucket A. 

I realize I’ve made our process sound overly simplistic. But really, all we did was comb through our demand from a pain-point perspective. And in the end, we put the prospects who couldn’t live without Fiix in Demand Bucket A. And once we had a methodology for identifying the customers who couldn’t live without us, we had a framework for marketing at scale.

3. How will we reach them?

Admittedly, this is a bit of a trick question. Once you engrain your company’s goal—alleviating your customer’s pain point, even at a large scale—into every aspect of your strategy, you begin to understand that the goal isn’t for you to find prospects, it’s to help them find you.

The first step is to let go of traditional ideas of broad-brush segmentation. We need to stop thinking there is an important difference—or any difference at all, really—between B2B marketing and B2C marketing. Instead, we should start to look at all of our marketing efforts as simply B2H: business-to-human.

The next step is to tailor your marketing efforts toward a more human, helpful approach. Data indicates that people self-educate through almost 80% of the buying process. And again, that’s in both a B2C and B2B context; Forrester did a recent study that showed that over 75% of B2B buyers would prefer to self-educate through their buying process. 

That means the traditional “push” strategy, where marketers control both the message and the means through which the message is delivered, are dead. I can think of no better example of this than the moribund idea of large-scale tech conferences. Such gatherings were already costly, difficult to scale and running contrary to changing marketing dynamics in both the B2C and B2B worlds—and that was before COVID-19 hit.

It’s time to transition to a pull strategy. A simple place to start is with content marketing. Here are a few key questions to answer when making this transition:

  • Does your content clearly articulate what you’re selling?
  • Does it articulate the pains and gains in the right way?
  • Do you have content that ties to the various stages of the funnel around awareness, discovery, evaluation, purchase, etc.?
  • Have you done the hard, detailed work of truly SEO-optimizing your content so that customers can easily get the answers to their questions when they conduct searches for solutions to their problems?
  • Will those searches lead them to you?

The next big bucket of work is personalization. Salesforce recently shared a stat that 72% of customers expect businesses to provide them with personalized experiences. That also means customized experiences. Some customers like to talk on the phone. Some don’t. Some like to use the chat feature. Some like to read content. Others would rather watch a video. So how are you building experiences that cater to your buyers’ preferences?

Marketing today is about helping customers find you in ways they want to find you, when they want to find you. The future isn’t coming—it’s already here. Marketers need to acknowledge changing consumption and interaction patterns. But they need to do it while keeping those three fundamental Day One questions in mind. Those questions are essential for understanding who your customers are, what they need and how to reach them. Answering these questions doesn’t just inform your marketing strategy, it gives your whole organization focus, it informs your org chart, how you think about your revenue and sales organization, and even how you build your product. Frankly, these three answers inform every aspect of your business.

Repeating those questions periodically can be useful for you and your team. They can reveal if there is alignment throughout the organization. They can also help identify potential pivot points. Has your customer changed? Has the process your product was designed to facilitate evolved? Do you need to evolve your product in response?

Going back to the basics isn’t fun or sexy. It’s homework on a Monday night. But that’s what you need to do to pass the next test. 

This article was written by Shane Skiffington and first appeared on the Georgian Growth Network.

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