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The question of how to define marketing, especially in a technology organisation, as opposed to sales, remains one of my favorite questions.
The best answer I’ve heard was from a former SVP Marketing as SPSS, “As a company goes in to battle, marketing is like the bombers whereas sales are the infantry. Marketing bombs ahead and provides the air support to sales”.
I love this analogy and to take it a step further I believe the sooner you expect an activity to pay back the less likely it is to be true marketing as opposed to selling.
Being at the heart of two tech organisations I can now share six tips from my experience on how to become a marketing oriented technology company.
I hope you've put the tips from part one into practice; this is part two with my three final tips.
4. Realise the importance of direct contact
The good news is that whilst marketing really matters and B2B marketing requires completely different tactics, becoming a marketing oriented organization does not mean blowing the bank.
Given that you are dealing with a relatively small pool of prospective customers, you can interact with them directly via social media, phone or in person. The important thing to remember is that first impressions count so every person representing you whether as an employee or agent needs to understand they are a living, breathing advertisement for your brand.
You just need to get them on message and remember that people do judge a book by its cover, so make sure any client facing people share the core organization values and are solid in social situations.
What I’ve noticed is people I meet from the industry rarely talk about my products, the non-customers will tell me what they think about the salesperson that called them, the person they met at a tradeshow whilst customers will give me their opinions on the various people they’ve interacted with, good and bad.
Genuine excitement about ROI is few and far between, which perhaps says something about how functions are siloed in large organizations.
In business it’s all about people interacting with people. People like to do business with people that share the same values and defining the values for an organization is fundamental if you don’t want to be giving out mixed messages.
These values underpin the brand which is used to attract the talent and the customers. Great talent and customers attract each other in a virtuous circle, so once you achieves this then growth is only limited by the rate at which you can onboard customers.
The earlier and more clearly defined your values and proposition are, the quicker your business will get going. Salesforce.com is probably my favourite example of this.
5. Focus on experience not features
Marketers are obsessed with consistency because when experience meets expectation you get the reputation for keeping promises which buys you trust. For this reason it is vital that all aspects of the product meet expectations, especially first impressions.
Steve Jobs was obsessed with packaging and Apple’s packaging gets you in the right mood to start interacting with the product. For me your product is your most potent marketing tool, get it right and you get viral growth but get it wrong and your unhappy clients will spread their misery through your business.
The essence of a good product is the ease with which you can interact with it. This is why you should always prioritize usability over features whether that interaction is via a beautiful user interface or account manager.
Design consistency matters too, because we place so much importance on the visual. When things don’t look the same we start to wonder if it’s the same company and undermines brand confidence.
6. Validate learning and go back to one (see part one)
How people respond to bad situations is the real differentiator in life. Even with the best product in the world you will still have unhappy customers from time to time and some of those customers will end up leaving.
However, a termination still gives you an opportunity to exceed expectations and whilst you should do everything you can to keep a customer once they make the decision you should respect it and take the opportunity to leave a good lasting impression.
Not only is this a good damage limitation exercise but people move jobs so frequently so the same person may become a prospect or customer again sooner than you think. Disaffected customers are usually all too keen to tell you specifically about how expectations matched reality and should be done by the CMO if not the CEO.
Building a marketing oriented company means putting a little marketing into everything. It starts with the phone call or casual conversation at a conference bar, it transcends into every page of the website, the collateral request, the sales demo, the contracting process, the implementation, the user interface, the account manager, the user community and ultimately the termination.
Define your proposition and values carefully and communicate them clearly to every employee. Focus on quality not quantity and when you raise your game start at the beginning by getting buy in from your people and then work your way through the process.
Everybody is a marketer, get marketing out of its silo and use your brand values to guide every decision. Consistency builds trust and that is how you build a billion dollar technology company.