Transcript - The View from the Top – September, 2015 - Marketing
Meredith: Welcome to The View from the Top podcast, a MassTLC series. My name is Meredith Haviland and I'm a partner at Foley Hoag, where I represent a number of companies from startup to exit, facing many issues in today's tech community. Joining me today is Jeanne Hopkins from Continuum Managed Services. Welcome Jeanne.
Jeanne: Thanks Meredith, it's good to be here.
Meredith: So Jeanne, we're going to talk marketing today, and I think one basic question is what is marketing?
Jeanne: Well, that's the elusive question, right? So I like to tell people that marketing is not just brand, it's not the P in the 4Ps of promotion. Most people think about marketing as advertising and brand. And it really is much more than that. Marketing should be the fuel that actually powers the engine of your sales team and if marketing is not able to make the contributions necessary for sales, then they're not really doing their job. In my honest opinion.
Meredith: So how do I, as a startup company? Let's just start there. Okay, so I have $10 in my budget and I'm trying to develop a product. Why do I care about marketing? Well, first of all that's a good question when you really think about marketing and you have $10, so people think "Well, I don't either have enough money to be able to spend it on advertising" for example. Because they say my $10 doesn't go very far, or they try to make the investment with the wrong type of person for their particular team. I get to talk to a lot of startups and they say "Jeanne, we would like you to be able to join our team." And I'm like, "You don't need somebody like me. What you need is get your feet under yourselves and figure out what is your value proposition? Who are you selling to? Do those people that you think you're selling to actually want to buy those product?"
So, when I think if I had $10, you know where I would spend it? Research. I'd want to figure out, are the people that we think are the customers, are they really the customers and what actually floats their boat and what are the things that make them want to buy from you. And then the second thing I would do is I would spend it on doing a pricing analysis. Because when you think about, you've got a product, you've got your price, you've got your promotion and you know how you're going to sell it through a place. So there's your 4Ps. Most marketers don't know deadly about pricing a product. They just think, "Well, heck, I paid $10 bucks for that so therefore let's put $10 price tag on that." And in reality you might be able to get 25, 250, 2500 for the product because you haven't done enough research to be able to figure what will the market bare and how important is your product to be able to sell the problem that your customer wants.
Meredith: And so if I'm going to undertake to do one of these products studies, do I this, do I hire the marketer internally? Do I look to an external resource?
Jeanne: Okay, so yes, if you're thinking about being a startup that's a good question. So you came up with the great idea, so if different stage startups, different people have different levels of funding. I've talked to these people that are starting up thinking "Oh, I've got a great idea" and that idea they think is going to translate it to revenue or else we have people that are on their second or third or fourth start up, and those people usually have degree of funding and they've known where they've actually failed, and so they usually make their initial investments and the development of the actual product. So they usually have better handle on, they've brought in some product experts, they socialize it through their ecosystem.
It's the real start up startups that say, "Hey, I've got a great idea." And usually that idea maybe a good idea, but nobody wants to buy it. So what they should be doing is not just talking to their mom and their dad and their uncles and aunts and grandparent. They probably want to go out into the open market and be able to do some way of a stand-up comedian would do. Go out and try out your material. Who exactly do you think is going to buy this product and then figure it out? Sometimes it's a painful exercise to realize that there really isn't the market for that, it's too nascent at this particular point. I've worked for a couple of companies that the product was way ahead of its time, it's probably still away ahead of its time, say 15 years later. But you understand that you thought that it feed the need, but nobody wanted to pay for it. So marketing, looking at your end user customer.
Meredith: And so if it turns out that you targeted the wrong customer, how difficult is it to market to the right customer or to figure out who that should be?
Jeanne: There it is. That's a good question. Because very often what the founders think.
Meredith: All that they've solved the world's problems?
Jeanne: And they're always right, right? I mean have you ever met a founder that was wrong? Have you ever met? Honestly, goodness me, have you ever met a founder that said, "Yea, maybe I didn't come up with the right idea, on maybe this idea needs to evolve and maybe I need to adapt to the market places that were in right now." Have you ever had met any founders do that?
Meredith: Willingly on their own?
Jeanne: Willingly on their own without the board forcing them into. You know, into backing them into a corner and they go kicking and screaming in a little bit of passive aggressiveness goes on with that. So, what my point is that there's lots of great ideas out there, there's lots of very very good ideas out there, but really what you're doing in any company is you want to be able to market a product that people want and you want to be able to have a value proposition that people can assign a dollar value to. Because it is ultimately your business model, right?
So again, is someone wanted to change their opinion, is somebody wanted to say, "Well, maybe I was wrong. I know your laughing at me because you're like... can't see very many people saying maybe I was wrong." But sometimes you're force into a pivot and sometimes when you're force into a pivot, it doesn't work well for the organization. Because you've hired people that are of your similar mindset. So getting more information going into it is probably a better idea.
Meredith: I've actually seen a lot of situations as well where in particular, again, startups who haven't yet found their niche actually seem to think they have a lot of different opportunities out there and try and market to many different... take a lot of different strategies and market to a lot of different customers or businesses and what's your thought on that? Can you have too many strategies?
Jeanne: I think civil, right? It's kind of I do what I think of. Because what ends of happening to most marketing people, most marketing leaders, they get hired into an environment where there's consistent pivots or lack of focus and many marketers are force into this highly reactive modes so they're reacting to "Oh, the CEO thinks this is a good idea. The Chairman of the Board thinks this is a good idea or does the does the VC thinks this is a good idea." So you're doing this, you're doing this, you're doing this and in reality, a good marketing person is proactive. And a good marketing person is able to say this is what we're doing this month. This is what we're doing next month. This is what we're doing the month after that. Like right now, we're looking at planning our next year where I've got the whole team thinking about we're getting... we're barely halfway through 2015, but in order to start planning for 2016, we have to start thinking about it now.
What are the budget implications? What do we want to achieve? Where do we want to go? What kind of people do we need in order to be able to be successful? So, in December of 2016 when the board says, "Did you make your revenue target?" I need to be able to say, "Well, I came out of the gate and we were able to achieve those revenue targets during the course of the year. Marketing people don't think forward, they're always looking in their rare view mirror, for the most part. For the most part.
Meredith: What about later stage companies? You see companies ever saw off and try and take on a new marketing strategy or for example at social media to an old company that maybe isn't necessarily one that you would think of as being online and so show. How can that either help or hurt your marketing strategy?
Jeanne: It doesn't really matter what kind of a company that you're in. I think that the world has changed from a marketing view of the world. So let's just pretend you had to buy a car recently so you thought about buying a car, right? Now, did you go to the yellow pages? Did you look at a bunch of newspaper ads, did you go and get the auto trader book at your nearest 7-Eleven? No. What did you do? You went online and used the Google machine in order to try to find. You wanted Alexis, a 2012, full boat kind of a car and this is what you are willing to spend and you found seven cars that were within the 250 mile radius that you could buy.
That's what you figured out then. This is how people buy now a days. Whether you're B to B and A. Let's call it a boring industry. I have to say that most marketers are not in fun industries, most marketers are in businesses that they may be like "Oh, my God. This is so dull, how am I going to make this exciting?" Every person in the planet needs to have a digital foot print. I don't care if you're 15 years old or 55 years old. You need a digital foot print. So getting yourself expose to social media figuring out what's important to sharing on Twitter. Every person in your company should be linked in to your company. Should be linked in to the Twitter fridge to be able to share, micro publish your content collectively as an organization. Because that's how you get that critical mask that you're amplifying. You're messaging.
And you have to learn how to do this because if you can't do something with something as free and simple, as say Twitter or Linked. I'm not talking about the page stuff, I'm just talking about sharing it on a very micro level. What's going to happen because I guarantee in two years there's going to be some sort of an awesome marketing technology that came out and the team that is unable to use something as simple as a free tool, like a Hootsuite for example. And to be able to understand their feeds and understand how people are sharing and what makes really good content.
They're not going to be effective marketers or business people, because ultimately marketers are in the business of sales. Marketers are in the business of generating revenue, and so you are ultimately... it impacts your business.
Meredith: So a notion of putting something up online and getting your Twitter account setup is not enough. You need somebody who's monitoring it, who's updating it, who's refreshing it?
Jeanne: No, I don't think so. I think you could spend five to ten minutes a day. My personal one, I have 21,000-22,000 followers and it is all auto. It's all automatically, it's an auto feed where I pulled in some RSS feeds from people that I like to follow or companies that I follow, so it automatically post for me, and periodically I will share something on a personal level very rarely. This is what... you don't have to spend a ton of time or money being able to do that. You can just set these things up auto magically and it gives you that visibility that you need, just organizationally. I'm not saying that you have to tell people like what you have for lunch today, or that you're going to go get your haircut tomorrow, but I use Twitter and I think most people use the social media networks.
You separate your personal from your professional. And then your professional aspect is as you get to a more senior level in an organization, it's important for you to be able to share socially on behalf of your company. That's an expectation that I think many organizations have.
Meredith: And you mention that the outset how marketing is more than creating your brand, how does the brand fit into that? And how do you develop that? And how do you do it to more of the brand and get your name out there and get that exposure especially as a new company to the scene?
Jeanne: So that's a good question, because I think that most people of brand and they associate it with business to consumer-type products, but many of us are in business-to-business things. And so this is where it becomes important if you could just think of yourself as having a mental style guide and often times I talk to some of our small business partners and I talk about optimizing their marketing, and I will suggest to them that if I look at their website and I look at their Twitter profile and I look at their Linked profile and I look at a couple of other things, none of it looks like it goes together, none of it.
They're not using the same image, they're not reinforcing whether it's your logo, whatever your logo is. It could be a cat on a hat. You need to be able to reinforce that on your business card, on your website, on your office stores, on your t-shirts that you have people wearing. There is nothing better than seeing a 20 employees out there with your t-shirts out in a boat, and creating that critical mask, getting that, sharing that socially, that just amplifies the entire reference. So I say, take a logo, pick a color scheme and just reinforce it in your office, individually, on your business cards, every single piece of marketing material. Every time you produce something you should put it up on some sort of a face wall just to make sure that everything is looking very similar.
Meredith: And this seem like pretty low budget items to be considering, so as a start up with limited resources, seems like pretty easy things to be keeping in mind.
Jeanne: I would like it if some companies wouldn't spend $7,000 designing a logo because there are some great resources like 99 designs out there that you could spend $99 and get a decent logo created for your particular business. Take that, the rest of the money, the $6980 and be able to build something that has lasting value. Invest it in your website. Invest it in content that you can actually share. Look at building out a blog or some form of content to a series of podcast like we're doing right now. This is so easy and such a low cost yet effective way to be able to get your messaging out.
Meredith: So going back to the marketer, okay. If you're going to hire your first marketer, what skill should that person have?
Jeanne: I think they need to be able to jog out. I think that they need to have strong enough sense of self because if you hire two junior of a person, they're going to end up doing whatever you told them to do instead of being able to have their own voice. You need to have someone that has a strong enough sense of what the next logical step is in the interaction of your particular team. And really what you want is you want somebody that can build a team, you want someone that's kind of network in the organization.
Whether they'd going to Search Results HubSpot user groups, or they're attending other types of MassTLC advance, you want somebody that's senior enough. That has a few years under their belt that it's not the first time that they've seen something, but they're able to help grow your overall business.
Meredith: And what about the timing of that? When does it make sense to get your first marketing person?
Jeanne: I think you need your first marketing person before you go to market.
Meredith: That's very well said. And it sounds like companies now are going to market so soon. That really needs to be some of your initial thinking.
Jeanne: Yeah. I think a lot of people make a lot of company's investors make the investment, the Dev team and they really have and identify a customer, a price, how they're going to promote it, how they're going to generate leads. They often times think about the revenue target without figuring out like how am I going to get the gasoline and the engine to be able to get to that revenue number.
Meredith: Is there one thing that you see as you work with companies as the common mistake that people are making?
Jeanne: Yeah, on their website, on their home page. I looked at 15 different calls to action and my personal pet peeve is when I see a page title on their homepage which is the most important Google sign post that says "Home" instead of the business that you're in, and sometimes physically where you're located.
Meredith: This is been great Jeanne. Lots of great input and lots of great tips on a shoe string budget or otherwise, so thank you so much for joining us today.
Jeanne: Thanks for having me Meredith.