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A Five-Point Checklist to Turbocharge Your SMB's Marketing

By Vivek Vadakkuppattu, VP-Product Management & Marketing, Azimuth Systems

Vivek Vadakkuppattu, VP-Product Management & Marketing, Azimuth Systems

As a small high-tech B2B in a relatively specialized area of wireless testing dominated by some entrenched giants, we found ourselves in a classic David-and- Goliath situation. Instead a slingshot and five stones, however, we armed ourselves with the five steps we share below. We managed, in six months and with a small team, the following:

"Whether for lead nurturing or shortening your sales cycle, you need a rich pipeline of great content, not just product photos and specs"

• Increased the number, velocity, and diversity of leads
• Grew our leads by ~15 percent, an order of magnitude higher from previous years
• Increased website traffic by 53 percent in the first two months and 5–10 percent subsequently
• Built a brand in segments where previously we had no presence—and generated real business

Five Stones to Use Against Goliath

1. Embrace a Marketing Platform—Regardless of the kind of marketing you do (B2B/B2C, low/high volume, simple/intricate), select and maximize your use of a marketing platform so you can run your campaigns, generate and nurture leads, and track your successes. While you might initially save some money using separate apps for automated emails, lead tracking etc. there are long-term practical and financial benefits to using a single solution. There are many platforms out there— Marketo, Pardot, Hubspot, Eloqua—differing in ease-of-use, setup effort, scalability, and cost. Choose one that meshes with your plans, resources, and budget, but that can scale to meet your evolving needs. The right platform will help you plan, implement, and tweak your campaigns gradually, yet consistently, rather than burning through the bulk of your resources and budget all at once.

2. Metrics, Metrics, Metrics—At the very least, you need to track such basic metrics as the number of leads, the quality of leads, and ROI. Some platforms offer an extensive list of every imaginable metric, but we got our best results by determining the minimal set of metrics necessary for a clear picture of how each campaign performed. Why minimal? Goliath may have unlimited resources, but we wanted to work leaner and smarter. We knew we could scale up if necessary, but trying to monitor every metric that some marketing platforms can track would make our heads explode, with only marginal returns. Don’t overcomplicate things. Metrics are not an end in themselves, but a means to an end: they tell you what worked well (or didn’t), why it worked (or not), and how you can improve next time.

3. Don’t Just Generate Leads, Nurture Them—Like metrics, leads are not an end, but a means to an end. It doesn’t matter if a million people learn about your idea or product if none of them do anything with that knowledge. You need to nurture leads until they can be handed to sales as warm leads. This may sound like Marketing 101, but many companies ignore this important follow-up. Here are two things that helped us nurture cold leads into hot prospects:

• Follow up with Relevant Non-product Information. While it’s tempting to respond right away with tons of technical data, it’s often more helpful to share information relevant to your product’s context—that is, a reminder of why someone really needs your product. (Of course, if they specifically request product information, open the floodgates!) Respond with information that explores the challenges your product addresses— then include a call to action, like a link to your specific solution or to another source that links to your products. Remember: leads are people with problems they want to solve. Our job is to connect the dots between their problems and our solutions.

• Personally Engage Leads. This won’t be feasible for every lead in every campaign, but whenever possible, pick a campaign/customer area to focus on—say, a new customer segment where you want to gain traction—and reach out, perhaps with a personal email offering help with what t hey need.

4. Generate Awesome Content. Whether for lead nurturing or shortening your sales cycle, you need a rich pipeline of great content, not just product photos and specs. You need contextual information, related trends, and customer stories. Two things that helped us here were:

• Embrace Different Mediums. Different people absorb content differently, text works well for some, videos for others, and so on. We use a variety of mediums for our content depending on the kind of content, the audience, the geography etc.

• Build Engineering-Marketing Teams. To ensure that everyone from users to buyers was getting the right mix of detail, feature/benefit summaries, and real-world application info, we established engineer-market ing teams. This helped marketing tap into individual go-to sources for particular technical expertise, and helped engineering contribute content that each audience could read, listen to, and understand.

Be practical, though: don’t try to be Pepsi or Apple. Make sure your content is professional, polished, and effective, but also doable, given your time and resource constraints.

5. Don’t Be a Slave to Convention. Sometimes “we’ve always done it this way” comes from common sense and best practices, but it can also trap you into traditions that are outdated, inefficient, and unnecessary. We made a drastic shift from a primarily outbound approach to a more inbound approach. This meant fewer print ads, tradeshows, and other things that we, and customers had grown used to, in favor of more videos, targeted online ads, and planned campaigns. The shift worked. But don’t underestimate the amount of pushback you might get from your own people when you propose change. If you can improve things, go for it, but have a well thought-out strategy for implementing dramatic changes, back it up with numbers, and follow up with metrics that confirm success.

We’re still not Goliath (nor do we want to be). What we are is better prepared to face marketing challenges. What has helped you improve your marketing? We’d love to hear from you.

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