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If you haven’t already seen it, here is the link to Brian Halligan’s recent Harvard Business Review article on how we need to apply a different approach to creating sales & marketing momentum and how changes in buyer behavior demand that we change our processes and engagement models to ensure continued revenue growth.

Great read, very thought provoking. I don’t totally agree that the Sales Funnel should be “retired” as it provides the backbone for sales and marketing KPI’s that resonate across companies and are a benchmark for almost every technology focused sales organization. Having said that, Brian’s Sales Flywheel model certainly reflects the complexities of the challenges faced by sales and marketing executives today.

His observations on “better product” and “lighter experience” engagement models certainly resonate with me and the conversations I am having with UNDRSTND Group clients every day.

https://hbr.org/2018/11/replacing-the-sales-funnel-with-the-sales-flywheel

 

Recently I have been reflecting on the challenges of running a successful small/medium size software and services company in the B2B space. Many of our clients fall into this category – founded by smart enthusiastic leaders who didn’t fit into big companies!
These leaders are keen to prove their worth by creating interesting products and solutions. Sometimes focused on innovative ideas and not a little bit of technical brilliance, sometimes focused on customer intimacy and building world class solutions for customers who really don’t understand how to solve a particular business problem themselves .
Over last few months I have worked with maybe a dozen companies like this in a variety of solution areas  and some things seem to be constant:
  1. Ability to apply a rigid focus to positioning, marketing and selling is nearly always missing – the compulsion to find revenue to sustain the company and the exciting idea is overwhelming and anyone who will listen is consider a “rich target” irrespective on any segmentation and targeting strategy.
  2. Product features and functions seem to be an obsession over merging a software offering with services to provide a solution or “whole product” as defined in Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm epistle which I think of as a software marketeers “bible”.
  3. And finally, asking for, and more importantly taking, advice seems to be ridiculously hard to do for these creative entrepreneurs. No matter how tough the road gets and how challenging staying focused on the agreed strategy becomes CEO’s and Managing Directors still believe they know best and simply won’t ask for help.
My experience has taught me that the knowledge gained by building a small company into a big company and all the mistakes and errors I made along the way are critical insights that small software companies who are doing it for the first time need to hear. But it is almost as if they are afraid to ask and because it highly likely that the entrepreneur is on this journey for the first (and maybe only) time  in their career they don’t know what they don’t know.
If they are on their first venture then IMHO I believe it’s a pre-requisite to find people who have the answers on how to build a successful business in enterprise software. And not only find someone who can offer safe advice on general business issues and challenges but find experts who can help with targeting, solutions, sales process and execution. The companies I have seen who have worked through their targeting and execution offerings in a focused way significantly out perform those that don’t.
And by “outperform” I don’t just mean revenue and profit – I mean quality of life and fun!
If you know where you are going and how you are going to get there you can stop questioning yourself all the time. A lot of small company executives are miserable with their lot , they try one thing and then another..,,, and then another – without planning and advice from experts…. as a result nothing really works well enough which becomes a self fulfilling and depressing situation often resulting in long hours, increased anxiety and questioning their whole strategy!
I say “ get some help” and build a plan for targeting & execution and share it with people who can help you – that way you will sleep better at night, probably become more profitable and never have to worry about going back to work for a big company again!!

 

The state of the art in marketing practices continues to evolve at a breakneck pace in our social, mobile, viral, info-tainment, personalized experience and short attention span driven world.  And the small software and services companies that we work with at UNDRSTND Group are finding it challenging to keep up.  So, let’s think about this practically and pragmatically, because for these B-2-B technology solution businesses, marketing is just a means to an end, not an end in and of itself.

 

If you don’t have a thought provoking, compelling and actively updated Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram and Web presence does this make you a bad company? No, of course not, but expectations are high for many that use these tools.  So, for the person who relies on Twitter for much of their news and interaction with the world at large, your failure to engage them on that platform could be problematic, if they are good target for your solutions.  But if you repeat this line of thinking for every viable channel of communications to your target audience it can become overwhelming and beyond the means of a small software and services company to address.

 

The story is similar on the content front.  Thought leadership blogs or more ambitious white papers are popular today.  Other people respond best to short videos but they better be entertaining and professionally produced which can become expensive.  And many people would prefer to consume complete self-discovery experiences on your website where they learn most everything they need to know about your offerings at their own pace without having to interact with a human and it better not be boring either (think about our experience as consumers on automobile manufacturer web sites exploring and building our dream car).  And of course, the pressure to constantly update material is greater than ever.  Oh, and have you implemented a chat function on your website?  Not yet? then you better get after it!

 

Now that we have shocked and depressed the small software and services business owner with a modest marketing budget, let’s get back to what we are trying to achieve with our marketing efforts and that is to drive revenue.  We’re not trying to win marketing awards or impress our neighbors with the cool company we are running … we’re trying to make our sales targets.  And to that end, let’s get practical and pragmatic with some ideas for how to make marketing work for us today:

 

  1. Less can be more. You’re better off investing in five really good marketing assets than spreading yourself too thin trying to have twenty pieces of collateral that end up being not compelling and become dated before you can circle around to all of them on a refresh cycle.
  2. Have a compelling website. It is the outside world’s window into your business.  So, don’t let that be a window into your cluttered garage full of old boxes and lawn equipment.  And remember that less can be more, so five really compelling pages is better than twenty pages of dated material.
  3. Drive them to your website. Once you’ve made sure that your website is good, use many of the other channels to drive people to your website.  A modest but compelling presence on social media that motivates people to visit your website is a good step.
  4. Multi-Channel Your Content. Do one really nice video to make sure to touch the YouTube crowd and reuse it across all your channels.
  5. Leverage other people’s content. Find well thought of businesses with larger marketing budgets with whom you don’t compete and ride their coat tails through thoughtful links and commentary around their thought leadership.
  6. Make marketing everybody’s job. Just about everybody in a small company can pitch it and help with your social presence.  The whole team should be active on social media building a following and promoting your brand and your message as part of their everyday jobs.

 

These are just a few high level practical ideas that we hope will spur your thinking and get you started down the road to successful marketing on a small budget in today’s world.  And if you still need help on this front, we’re always here at UNDRSTND Group.

 

Brent Bussell
Founder and Managing Partner
UNDRSTND Group