By Mark Scott, CMO, Apixio
The first hires for a startup or growth company, especially in Silicon Valley, are often engineers, data scientists or UX/UI people. Then comes finance and sales, operations, human resources, etc. Marketing isn’t always dead last on the priority list, but early marketing efforts are not often focused on strategic things. Rather, it’s task or tactic orientated: building a website, press releases, setting up social channels, etc. At this stage, production often overlooks foundational elements that are essential to propelling company growth.
Recruiting an experienced marketing hire early can have a profound effect on the growth curve of your company. Here are four reasons why every growth company needs experienced marketing leadership:
You can’t build a five-bedroom house on a foundation poured to support a studio
Trying to build a five-bedroom house on a tiny foundation would be an utter disaster. It may look ok for a few weeks or months, but as soon as you add the weight of furniture, fixtures, and people, the lack of a sound foundation will soon show. The same thing goes for your marketing execution. If you don’t spend the time to build a scalable foundation, it will eventually end in disaster.
A strong marketing foundation starts with a solid understanding of your company, its offerings, and audience.
Messaging and Positioning: How you talk about your company should be consistent, connected, and relate to the needs of your audience. The problem that plagues a lot of growth companies is that they may have a clear picture of what problem they’re trying to solve, but the reason why, or the value to the potential consumer, escapes them. Using language that explains, educates, and connects is not easy. But when done properly, it ensures your customers understand who you are, what you do, how you do it, and why they need it.
Building a foundation of messaging and positioning doesn’t have to be a week-long retreat exercise. I like to build documents that are crisp on a few key categories like:
- Problem statement
- Vision statement
- User audience
- Value propositions
Having a deep understanding of who uses what you are selling, who approves that purchase, who influences that purchase, and who benefits from your product or solution is key to developing messaging and marketing strategies that connect and grow adoption.
Companies of all sizes can find this depth of knowledge challenging, especially as their product portfolio increases. Building out a “cheat sheet” on your users is a great way to gut-check marketing tactics. Give each persona a name, some relevant demographic data, and then include things like:
- How they receive information (where they research
- If they’re an early adopter (when are they ready to purchase?)
- Concerns and functionality as a user
- Positive and negative experiences as a customer of client
Testing messaging and marketing strategies against personas is an effective way to ramp up campaigns quickly.
Redoing costs time, resources, and future growth
Time and resources are precious things in a growth-stage company. If you are spending a bulk of time rewriting, rebuilding and refocusing efforts, you’re stealing from your company’s future growth.
Spending time to define marketing KPIs that are most important can drive a tremendous amount of downstream value. Marketers are flooded with tools to measure everything from clicks, to social engagement and reputation mining, to funnel and lead management.
With all these “tools” available to the modern marketer, it’s easy to get lost in data and feel like you’re monitoring and measuring everything, while using little to nudge changes in your marketing strategy and tactics. Focusing on a few key metrics can help you easily identify changes in the performance of your marketing programs and make changes that will deliver.
Brand isn’t a thing you print or code – it’s an experience
In a growing company, brand usually manifests itself in the form of an elegant product design, a new website, logo and identity elements, and a treasure-trove of swag for employees. The problem is that isn’t branding at all. Building a brand experience isn’t the same as hitting the print button or confirm on your latest swag purchase.
In a growth stage company, you build fast, sell fast, solve fast, and market fast. Stopping to buff and polish every step could have a negative impact on growth. Identifying primary touch points in your current customer experience journey is a great way of starting off on the right foot.
In the end, building a meaningful brand experience should be about building trust. Consistency in your brand experience breeds trust and credibility over time – and credibility will help make a growing company a thriving company.
Chasing squirrels should be just for dogs
Fighting the urge to “chase squirrels,” and learning to focus, is a tough lesson for a company that’s growing fast. Learning to sacrifice some initiatives can have a profound impact on the success of your marketing efforts, and keep the ship pointed true north. In a growing company, it’s easy to be distracted by a lost sale, feedback, or assumptions about what competitors may be doing.
Bobbing and weaving to find creative solutions is what being agile is all about. But that shouldn’t be the status quo – especially in your marketing efforts. Changing product and company messaging and positioning, or even product names, often doesn’t keep things fresh, or provide a competitive advantage. Instead, it alienates your customers and creates unnecessary noise and confusion about what you do and how you do it.
Teaching your team to better filter responses to internal or external pressures will help break up the winds of change and keep the rowing consistent. The best way to do that is to have your company goals aligned and attached to your customer’s needs.
Marketing doesn’t have to be a company’s first hire. But bringing on marketing experience early to help build a solid foundation can have a profound effect on the velocity of a company’s growth. Having experience to help focus and nurture brand touchpoints will help ensure that that your company builds a meaningful and enduring connection to its customers.
Mark Scott has almost two decades of healthcare marketing and communications experience. Mark’s deep experience covers the complete marketing spectrum, including product marketing, launch activations, brand development, product positioning and messaging, packaging and labeling, public relations, content marketing, website development, and crisis communications.