Introducing new high technology and green technology products or services or getting an acquired company’ products sold through an existing sales team is a challenge for entrepreneurs in early stage companies and sales and marketing leaders in more mature companies.
We have had both as clients, however I’m always astonished to see smart people doing really dumb things with their own and their investor’s money. There are a few telltale signs of a struggle going on inside an organisation. This is a struggle to find new prospects and to improve sales and marketing performance, accompanied by lots of hand-wringing and pointing blaming fingers at each other.
The first clue that there are problems is the corporate Web-site. The company’s Website, which is without a doubt the company’s most valuable asset (after its people), very often looks like it has been written by the product management team. Often densely packed, with no white space; or sparse with nothing to engage the accidental visitor other than “product-speak”= meaningless features and benefits and gobbledygook. Pay-per-click is used to generate inbound leads and is fast burning investors cash.
The second clue, is that the sales team is tasked with making cold-calls to generate their own leads; and the company is wasting money on external telesales teams to generate appointments that hardly ever convert. We are marketing and selling in the Internet age and in 2009, buyers don’t want cold calls and junk email from suppliers to introduce them to their latest widget….yet strangely we see telemarketing companies thriving and a die-hard group of cold calling sales trainers and promoters who are championing an obsolete way of doing business.
I believe that in all high-tech and green-tech companies, sales and marketing should be united and aligned under one leader. A sale starts with an inbound visitor and it’s the role of marketers to generate inbound visitors that convert into leads. Sales and marketing teams need a universal way of defining leads and engaging prospects around their buyer-persona; one language from the Website to the sales person's lips that engages buyers around how their products or services are used by their customers to create value; the messaging reinforced by high value video testimonials, keyword rich blogs, case studies, Webinars and sector relevant white papers and E-books that pull in prospects.
If there was one budget for marketing and sales performance and that budget was fully appropriated to generating leads in the most effective manner, we might see something like this and I don’t mean after 2-3 years of fumbling, I mean right out of the gate;
1. A structured approach to aligning sales and marketing messaging in the form of a Messaging Architecture and Buyer-Relevant Messaging. The cost of developing this messaging architecture and the consulting effort to tune and maintain it with feedback from the field is minimal compared to the fortune-wasted on often poorly written PR, advertising, pay-per-click and obsolete telemarketing campaigns.
2. An Inbound Marketing platform (we use HubSpot) from day 1 to host and integrate the Website and all lead generation, blogging, conversion pages, SEO, social media and link-building activities. The leverage gained from the power and productivity of this integrated toolset is phenomenal and make it compelling for early stage companies at a price that is difficult to argue against.
The graph is our inbound visit/lead chart since we began using Hubspot. The jump in leads is the publication of our white paper.
3. Creating compelling content in the form of blogs that engage and white papers that inform and E-Books that spread your ideas is a far more effective means of dispersing your message than a telemarketing firm and paid PR placements. To quote Dharmesh Shah in his post entitled How To Build A Barrier To Entry With Inbound Marketing “If you produce things that are useful/interesting to your target customers — you win. You win by drawing people in to your business not because you had the largest marketing budget, but because you created something of value.”
4. Used in combination, these three methods create great content that engages your target audiences via search engines and social media and make it easy for your message to be shared with interested parties and create a barrier to entry for followers.
There is no more powerful way of creating competitive advantage for early stage companies. Start-ups can be building mindshare and generating highly qualified leads from interested prospects within 2-3 months. If you are generating mind-share, then you are generating differentiated value in the mind of your target audience…and isn’t that the goal?
You can read more about the methods and process in our white paper “Converting Inbound Lead Generation into Better Sales Performance”
You could also read my review of Dharmesh Shah’s book “Inbound Marketing” and of course I recommend that you buy the book.