You own a marketing agency. That means you place those pesky ads that follow me around the internet, right?
The stereotypical misperceptions about marketing and its roles and responsibilities can be amusing. We get everything from day drinking whiskey and brainstorming clever slogans (à la Don Draper) to dropping business cards on people’s doorsteps. The good news is that these perceptions aren’t reality, and marketing can (and should) play a critical role in supporting overall business strategy.
In today’s world, marketing can no longer hide in the shadows. The marketplace is crowded, and buyers are more educated than ever — two factors that are thrusting marketing into the strategic spotlight to help companies differentiate.
Marketing is best known and respected for helping sales fill the funnel, but it can guide a myriad of strategic imperatives, including:
1. Defining Or Refining Your GTM Strategy
When launching a new company, products or services, employ VOC (voice of the customer) to translate clients’ perceptions into value propositions. This will help to inform the plan, materials and launch of new offerings to ensure the communication is both accurate and compelling.
Get that critical outside view by connecting with customers and asking questions that get to the heart of the value you provide. For example, instead of asking: “How do you use this service?” ask: “Think back to before you began using this service. What were the things that you were trying to overcome?”
Don’t forget to get multiple viewpoints. You wouldn’t add a feature to a product because one customer asked for it, and likewise, one person’s opinion doesn’t translate to messaging. Look for patterns and commonalities — that’s the crux of what you should focus on.
2. Determining Which Channels To Focus On
Determine the most viable channels for sales (e.g., channel versus direct). If your company sells through channels, understanding how to maximize the opportunity for success requires analytical work — it’s about quality, not quantity. Channel analysis can (and should) include both quantitative and qualitative parameters. For example, look at deal origination and flow, market share and geographical coverage to ascertain “great” versus “in need of improvement.”
Analyze qualitative factors such as truly engaged partners versus on-paper relationships. Then be honest about whether (and which) channels are working. Ideally, you’ll want marketing working in lockstep with sales to design programming and institute a robust channel program to retain existing partners and attract new ones. The channel needs support and continuous engagement in order to be successful, and this analysis is a great way to determine where to focus your efforts.
3. Product And Services Architecture
All the different products and services you offer must appear cohesive to the buyer, beginning with mapping features to buyer behaviors. You’ll want to determine where bundling products and services make sense (both from a delivery and a buying perspective) and how to configure and explain to the market how to consume it. Keep an eye out for key cross-sell and upsell opportunities, and don’t forget to test concepts with customers to get an objective perspective.
4. Seeking Investment, Partnerships Or M&A
Whether your company is seeking funding, partnerships, a merger or an acquisition, strategic marketing can play a critical role in evaluating the landscape and finding the best fit for your business.
For example, you can evaluate the market landscape and identify opportunities for alliances and co-marketing — key strategies that can help elevate your brand and reach. Targeting potential investors, buyers and partners require the same discipline you would use for new prospects. You’ll want to determine who they are, where they consume information, who you know that’s already connected to them, what events they attend, whether they engage via social, etc., and design your marketing programs with that in mind. These methods, when applied correctly, can put your company squarely in front of the desired audience.
5. Penetrating New Markets/Segments/Verticals
The “spray and pray” approach is rarely the best way to penetrate new markets or segments. You need to evaluate market size, ability to penetrate and competitive climate. You’ll want to understand the players, challenges and messaging in the market because the nuances help with targeting and mapping your products and services to market need. Creating a matrix and applying a numeric weighting to parameters is one great method to evaluate potential new areas.
6. Expanding Geographically
For companies looking to expand geographically — either abroad from the U.S. or vice versa — marketing to non-native audiences can be complex. Consider disparities in language, cultural considerations, different or preferred channels for social media and content, and distinct laws and regulatory issues. Balancing these factors with resource requirements is something you must evaluate in order to proceed successfully.
Brand Visibility And Clarity
7. Determining Messaging And Positioning
Have you ever visited a website and had no idea what the company actually does? Most likely that’s not simply a website problem, but a messaging and positioning problem.
Determining exactly how you fit into the market requires a deep understanding of the market landscape, which includes assessing your products and services against competitors, current and future trends and customer use cases, and creating a communication plan to zero in on what is compelling and meaningful. Again, don’t make decisions with an inward-only lens. Where possible, test your concepts with existing customers and prospects.
8. Developing Thought Leadership
These days, content is king. Buyers want to understand what you’re all about, and content is one of the best ways to orient them to your brand and ethos. To craft this content, it’s important that you deeply understand your ecosystem, anticipate and reflect on market trends, and write about topics that will resonate with your targets as insightful.
Marketing can not only help with creative, innovative ideas that get your audience to understand and evangelize what you do, but it can also bring an important analytical viewpoint to your company’s strategic imperatives. Whether your company is seeking a refreshed go-to-market strategy, growth, or brand visibility and clarity, marketing can be a valuable resource to add analytical perspective on marketplace trends, customer viewpoints and what’s resonating with your targets.