5 steps for start-ups to run a marketing campaign

5 steps for start-ups to run a marketing campaign

Marketing is self consuming, once we get in there is no way we feel we have had enough of it . We always want that additional few likes, Extra viewership, Extra Reads, Extra Leads and such. While we may be right in wanting the ‘extra’ and the ‘additional’ it requires  an exceptional campaign to get there. While not all exceptional campaigns require resources, most do. It is therefore important to attempt to create a good clever campaign without the need for resources burning  us out. Here are few things to consider

Step 1.  Identifying the right audience. Knowing whom we are selling to i.e.  the target market whom we want to address is first most important thing. It is important that we understand the profile of the person/s we want to target our campaign to. For example –  In a B2B scenario a campaign targeted for Purchase or vendor Management teams could be different from  a campaign targeted to CEOs of companies for the same solution, product or services.

Task : List down the profile of the desired audience in a simple excel sheet. (Hints: What type of Companies, Who within the company, His Level of Experience etc.)

Step 2.  Messaging.  Once we have got the profile of the audience, identifying and creating the right message, for our audience inline with what the audience wants is key. Often times, we get carried away by the exceptional product that we have and focus on it ‘more’ that what our audience wants. A simple example would be our desire to talk about the great underlying technology of our product while the problem that our audience wants addressed is maybe just a simple and secure way to share data over the internet. While technology is important, we would lose crucial attention seconds to technology tidbits which we would rather have for the audience to figure out how to reach us.

Task : List down the simple problems we have set out to solve. It could be technical if the audience we are going after is technical or simple life problems or business problems if the target audience is such. (Hints: Improve data crunching for higher data throughput in a cloud transaction or simple way to identify stock-outs in a retail store).  It is important to keep in mind that the same message can be represented in multiple ways. Once we have the messages listed out, brainstorm on them till we arrive at one or two most powerful messages (keeping in mind the delivery mechanism- for e.g. a message for a mail campaign with the reader’s own interpretation could be different from a print message where we could have visuals guiding the message)   

Step 3.  Getting the delivery mechanism/vehicle right. This is what, which generally takes away the resources. Marketing campaigns are run through expensive media Ads, Print Ads to downright and significantly inexpensive email campaigns. Generally a right combo of multiple delivery mechanisms work. In our case of Start-ups and SMEs, a combination of email campaigns alongside a well designed website and a dose of social media could help create the visibility and therefore the perception of availability. It would not serve the purpose if we reached out with a good email campaign and we did not have a good (within our means) website to support our claims in a campaign email.

Task : As a takeaway a from the step 1 derive the best and the 2nd best possible hang-out where the audience is available ,  Once we have identified  that, the decision of choosing the Delivery Mechanism is a function of the budget and resources . It is important however to know the trade offs in going for the 3rd best hangout due to resource and budget constraints. However, in a IT service/product business the most economical delivery mechanisms may often be the best delivery mechanisms.

Step 4.  Creating and executing the Campaign. Creating the campaign is an involving activity and a culmination of our knowledge about our identified audience, understanding the messaging that we want to project, the time we have, tuned for the delivery mechanism we choose. Once we have the above 3 steps in place and we know our budgets, it is a mixture of creativity and resources (that our budgets define) and the available time. Therefore the key here is to assign a budget and identifying the time by when the campaign needs to be executed, for example a holiday season or a Financial year closure. Budgets and time also define the creation of the target pool – the email databases for email campaigns, the Blog topics for Blog campaigns, Phone numbers for Phone-out campaigns etc. (not touching the print and media campaigns which focus more on the content)

Task : This is the most time consuming part of the Campaign Preparation. Our creative team, the marketing Team (Including the leadership) works on developing the content, design and the message. Another team identifies / builds the target market list/database, complete with email IDs, phone numbers, company profile data as required. A plan for running the campaigns is created covering sequential and parallel runs and the plan is executed accordingly.

Step 5.  Yield Management – Measuring, tracking and follow up. Good marketing campaigns always have this step well thought out before the campaign is executed. Lack of preparation of post campaign activities can be disastrous. Imagine not having enough sales force to address request for meetings before a holiday season across multiple geographies. The prospect that responded to our campaign of ‘let’s meet’, if not met, will most likely never respond to our future campaigns.  Also, not being able to measure the number of  responses received , type of responses etc. in mail campaign would deny us of crucial learnings to be accounted for in our next campaign.  Our preparation for this activity could also influence our messaging and the vehicle of choice for our marketing campaign.

In all Marketing Campaigns are involved activities, much beyond sending out random emails and tele-calling and the success depends on how much preparation goes behind. While resources are required, smart and less resource intensive ways of campaigning can also yield desirable results.

Task : In case of email Campaigns, create a simple excel sheet with the number of emails sent, day, time, messages and capture the responses, both negative, positive and neutral and build action items for all responses that require action. Collate the info and use the analysis for the next campaign.

Happy Marketing !! 

Frugal Marketing and Sales

Frugal Marketing and Sales

New entrants by their nature of operations have limited resources at their disposal and after investments on their core products/services have very little for their Marketing and Sales activities.

Pitched against the might of behemoth companies in almost any field of service or product leaves only few options for the new entrants, unless they are ground breaking ideas and/or are driven by a set of extremely nascent technologies which take off on their own.

Till the time the Start-up or an SME is funded it is important to follow a frugality in approach and measure every spend aspect against an expected ROI. Though there may not be a direct ROI for many of the activities in marketing, still it is good to keep the end result in mind.

Splurging on a media campaign will surely get us the ears and eyeballs but if we are not prepared to capitalize on the attention we generate, the marketing campaign would not yield the desired result. Therefore while planning for a marketing campaign we must include a clear plan for absorbing the results of the campaign and taking it to the next level. For example the advertisement for a patient management software product meant for hospitals could attract interest across multiple cities and if we do not have pre-appointed sales/sales support folks available who could engage with the hospitals for a demo/discussion, the impact that the marketing campaign made, would be lost and the huge investment with it.

A frugal approach would be to go through a restrained campaign through emails and social media, which can be controlled to a great extent. The investments are limited, however these campaigns need to be sustained over a period, therefore requiring a greater degree of planning and sustained efforts in execution. However tactical it may sound, it would be proper to invest in a basic in-house sales+ marketing team which could anchor the campaign.

The preamble of a Marketing campaign would be to clearly know The specific Product or the service that would be considered for the initial campaign (It becomes very tempting to use a single campaign to promote everything that we offer thereby diluting the message and the impact our limited budgets can make )

Since Marketing is akin to show business, there is never a way which could not have been done better with more resources. A first step towards a measured campaign would be to define budgets.

The next step would be to identify the audience and the hangout most frequented by the majority of the audience. This could be Social Media, Office (Office Email), Mobile Phones for FMCG it could be TV and Radio.

The next task would be to freeze on a media (email, Social, radio, TV) or a combination of media to reach out to the audience. Primarily the budgets and volume and distribution of the audience would determine this. For E.g. A combination of Drip marketing and social media presence could do well for marketing a Technology Event.

The objective of Marketing is not just creating an awareness and impact but benefitting from the impact, otherwise it would become journalism. Once the budget, audience and the media is frozen, it is time to plan for capitalizing the effect or impact that we would generate. i.e. we should have a ready list of FAQ answers for possible queries that our targeted audience may have when they call in, after a campaign or we should be prepared with enough resources to handle Demos in various locations quickly if the campaign promised a demo and our targeted audience asks for it.

If you notice, the focus of this Blog has been more on the less expensive means of marketing namely Email Marketing, tele-calling, Social media Marketing, Blogs and Drip marketing.

Typically a combination of vehicles / media used works and there are many more ways of expanding visibility – some are expensive while some or not. Some have great ‘Value for Money’ while some others are just hygiene factors and must be done. If we are into ‘Frugal marketing’ it will be great to explore few other ways to Market ourselves. Few online options

  • Networking (with a significant supply of Business cards) at RELEVANT events is a good way to spread the word,
  • Alliances with eco system partners – both large and small and to ensure that we get a mention in all/some of the marketing material/web pages that they have.
  • Getting featured in few Industry Magazines  and eZines (if the articles are good – they sometime come free)
  • Other options, apart from regular Social media Tools (FB, LinkedIn etc.) is to Blog regularly
  • Participate in discussions and Blogs of others and in groups

The success depends on planning and relentlessness of execution (rather than brute force of being available everywhere and hence visible and therefore making the chances of being recalled by the audience is higher).

Happy Marketing !!!

Needs, Wants and Demands in a B2B Marketplace

Needs, Wants and Demands in a B2B Marketplace

Firms exist to serve other firms and individuals. In a B2B scenario firms serve other firms. Let me consider the requirements that are visible and expressed by Firms to procure new goods and services. It is what is available in structured RFPs and RFQs. Vendor Firms bid for it and at most times the one with the right connections – (Which knows the CEO, Knows the Project Manager, Knows the user) wins. The win is attributed to good connections.

When I really think, what is it, that my good connection gave, which helped me close my deal and I come back to the very fundamentals of Marketing.

The terms  NEEDS, WANTS and DEMANDS.

An RFP is a demand by a Firm (Firm A) which it will like to be fulfilled, because it has an approval to spend so much on a project/product for fulfilling a specific requirement. The RFP is a globally available expression of such desires backed by a financial willingness to buy from the most qualified seller. DEMANDS are important as they have a strategic connotation, where a firm that is floating the RFP adds a cloak around the specific requirement, that make the solution to the requirement unique to the firm.

Then comes the WANT. It is a desire, which need not always have a justifiable correlation with the cost at which this desire could be fulfilled. WANTS are generally posted by middle level managers who wish well for Firm and who collect best practices (Processes/Features/Specifications/User Interface models etc.)  from within organizations and from outside (including competing firms/products). These WANTS could give a One-up-manship to the product/project for which the Firm A is floating the RFP.

Then finally at the root of all this is the NEED

The NEED is a basic requirement at the center of WANTS and DEMANDS. It is as basic as a Human Being’s need for food or shelter. The Firm needs a solution to a specific problem. For example, a software developer in a geographically distributed project team NEEDs to be able to interact simultaneously with multiple of his peers. The basic NEED is to be able to have a crisp and clear multi-location conference like discussion among team members.

The basic NEED gets transformed to a WANT with frills like, Video Presence, File Sharing, meeting reminders, automatic call routers, mute and record options etc. etc. And what translated to the RFP as DEMAND are the basic NEED + half of those frill features (WANTS). The trimming of WANTS happened due to cost, infrastructure, security and other strategic considerations.

Coming back to why Firm X won the deal, is because through its connections, it was able to understand the basic NEED of the Firm A and never lost sight of the basic NEED while proposing its product/service/solution.

The Firm with the connections, picked up the DEMANDed features, met the project managers and negotiated alternate and toned down version of their original WANTS (all of which no longer reflected in the RFP), and made sure it addressed the basic NEED and all this at a cost that suited the bidding Firm. Mind you, the NEED could be something that is not related to the product at all and could possibly be a legal, security related, or simply a long term commitment like warranty and support related NEED.

This knowledge of the NEEDS and WANTS and respect for the various levels of the Firm A, won Firm X the deal, though visibly it was because the Sales guy golfed with the CEO  and dined with the Project Manager of Firm A.

** Of course I am not considering the deals where favoritism in return for other favors swing the deals. I am also considering that the pricing or a perceptible price for the same product or service by all bidding firms was similar. (I have more to say on perceptible ROI, which I will, on another blog)