Nov 9, 2017 1:20:38 PM
Is your marketing program stalling out, and you’re not sure why?
Your team has spent years crafting an amazing app that helps businesses improve workflows and manage data, and you’ve invested all this time and money into telling the world about it online.
But no one seems to be listening.
That’s frustrating, but it can be fixed. Most marketing programs fail because a few key fundamentals are misaligned with the strategy, and with a little course correction, you can turn things around.
[Editorial Note: For our purpose here, the following tips are meant for helping SaaS companies implement inbound marketing strategies. If you worried about tactical stuff -- like social media, blogging, or Google AdWords – we can help you, but not with this article.]
Buyer personas are the most critical piece of the marketing puzzle.
It doesn’t matter if you have an airtight strategy executed with perfection – none of it matters your content does not strike at specific, critical points in the buyer’s journey.
The biggest mistake people make with personas is they focus on the roles people play in the organization, rather than the buying process. If you want to attract new customers, you need to understand how they invest in a solution like your app provides.
Let’s say your company offers business intelligence for the healthcare industry, facilitating easier communication between doctors, patients, and insurance companies. Your sales team has identified the CEO as one of the key decision makers, so you ask them to create a buyer persona profile. This is what you get back:
Role: Cindy leads the organization, managing department heads and answering to senior corporate executives.
Goals: Her goals are to show quarterly growth while controlling costs.
Challenges: Despite her efforts at building a shared sense of purpose among her managers, various communication and collaboration issues persist across the organization.
Age: 40-60 years old
Education: BA, MBA
Location: United States
Story: Cindy uses blogs and podcasts to find new strategies for team building. In her spare time, she enjoys biking, yoga, playing the cello, and spending time with her husband and kids.
Does this look familiar? I really hope not. This profile (all too prevalent in broken marketing strategies everywhere) is pretty much useless.
It’s completely generic, for one thing. CEO Cindy's profile could be used by any B2B company that targets chief executives. Waste disposal, corporate law, landscaping -- fill in the company type and CEO Cindy fits the bill.
There is no insight here telling us how a solution like yours becomes a priority for Cindy, or how her staff researches, evaluates, and invests in a BI solution.
Your marketing team needs real buyer insights. That means interviewing a sample of people (both customers and non-customers alike) and finding out what goes on behind the scenes.
Let me finish this point with a word of caution about using CEOs in your buyer persona research. We all know they have the final say on every important decision, but rarely do they participate in the process until the very end. Most of the time, they delegate another manager to look into the options and make a recommendation. Even though we all want to influence the "big cheese," I would focus my energy on other employees who feel the pain and lead the search for solutions.
One of the biggest misconceptions in the marketing community is the belief that a content calendar is the same thing as a content strategy. It’s not.
In a recent article on the CMI blog, Michele Linn said managing an editorial calendar without a strategy is akin to building a house with no architectural plan. I couldn't agree more.
A content strategy is a documented plan that answers the following questions:
These insights garnered from your buyer research will determine what people are looking for.
You need to categorize these needs into two or three core business challenges, and articulate why your organization is uniquely qualified to help them. As you document the reasons, make sure you keep your USPs (unique selling propositions) aligned with success criteria people shared in the buyer persona interviews, which will ensure your promotable qualifications matter to customers.
Lastly, you to create foundational content pillars that address the core business challenges. These content pillars will form the basis for your marketing campaigns, which your topic clusters, or individual pieces of content (blog posts, podcast episodes, videos), will support. Only then should you work on an editorial calendar that plots out which pieces of content you will cover, when they will be published, who will create them, and what type of content it will be.
If Marketing is flying the plane alone, without assistance from ground crews or air traffic control, a crash is inevitable. No matter how capable your team is, they will always need scheduled meetings with other stakeholders to review progress and get insights from customer-facing employees, especially salespeople.
Tactics will change, new tools will emerge, but a sound inbound strategy will stay the same. It’s a matter of making sure the fundamentals are in place.
Create buyer profiles that actually help your marketing efforts; make sure your content strategy acts as a strong bridge between your goals and editorial calendar; and make sure your content creators are not working in a vacuum. Soon enough, your sales will come back to life.