Marketing is the process of finding potential customers and activating them.
Marketing does not exist in isolation - rather, the main questions of any company are how to create useful innovative products, how to grow them, and, preferably, how to grow them fast. Both marketing and product management play a part in answering those questions.
Research as a topic is covered separately as it relates to not only marketing but also to product management and other areas.
What Is Easy to Get Wrong
Funnels ≠ Loops
Funnels are used a lot in marketing. But thinking in (marketing) funnels leads to several big mistakes:
- You are not thinking through the entire customer journey (for example, recommendations to new users);
- You are not able to measure ROI properly;
- You will have fights with sales over lead quality etc.
Funnels don't model businesses well. Just getting more signups is not enough to build a true marketing machine or good business - you still might have a leaky bucket.
Instead, it makes more sense to think in loops, not in funnels. This kind of thinking also encourages different departments to work together, so, that the customer journey would be uniform.
Hiring Branding People
Another big mistake is in the type of people you hire. In general, marketing people tend to fall into two buckets - demand generation and branding. It's very rare that startups need people who are great at branding but not in demand generation. Putting logos to pens hardly helps with creating demand. It's okay be to be slightly embarrassed the way your product and website look as long as they are bringing new customers.
The incentives for agencies don't align with yours. You want results and want to pay based on results. But they want to get paid a flat fee, an hourly fee, or a percentage based on the volume you're spending.
Another pitfall is that your feedback loops tend to get very long with outside contractors, and you don’t hold much leverage in getting them to prioritize your work.
Hiring Too Senior People
Doing marketing at Google vs doing it in a startup of 4 people are very different things. People who excel at specialized roles (note that being a manager of 100 people is a specialized role as well) don’t usually excel at being scrappy and good enough at everything that might come up.
Not Agreeing on Lead Criteria with Sales
If there are any two departments that tend to have fights, it's Marketing and Sales. Typically marketing says: "We sent you more leads this month," and the sales claims the leads were no good.
Agreeing on what counts as a good lead is the key to making those two departments work well together. Sometimes the two departments are combined under one leader (typically Chief Revenue Officer) to deal with the same issue.
Not Talking to Customers
Marketing needs to have its own feedback loop (research function).
Marketing tools provide you with a lot of data. It's tempting to make decisions based on that data. To endlessly run small AB tests. But insights come from talking to (potential) customers usually, not from running random tests.
Confusing A Fuel Problem with an Engine Problem
You can think of growth loops as engines. An engine needs fuel to get going. And fuel needs an engine to be useful.
So, if you are having problems with growth loops, be sure to distinguish between content and distributing that content. Content in the widest possible sense - from blog posts to templates, calculators, and guides.
Technology Adoption Lifecycle
As is typical with successful startups, products mature. This also means target groups "mature" (or change).
This was recognized already by Everett Rogers in 1962 who came up with the diffusion of innovations theory.
Geoffrey Moore popularized the concept later (in his book "Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers") for the startup world by adding a gap between early adopters and early majority:
While innovators just try new tech out of curiosity and early adopters need minimal features, the early and late majority need way more social proof, integrations, security etc. They probably also don't hang out online or offline in the same place as innovators and early adopters.
For example, the innovators might be very well versed in using technology, reading blogs etc while the early majority prefers to read online portals and get their information from TV. This might also mean that while starting out you start with a marketing team where the marketing do also sales and customer success while in later stages you might want to have separate teams and specialization.
Cialdini's Seven Principles of Persuasion
- Reciprocity – People tend to return a favor, thus the pervasiveness of free samples in marketing.
- Commitment and Consistency – If people commit, orally or in writing, to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment because of establishing that idea or goal as being congruent with their self-image. Even if the original incentive or motivation is removed after they have already agreed, they will continue to honor the agreement.
- Social Proof – People will do things that they see other people are doing.
- Authority – People will tend to obey authority figures, even if they are asked to perform objectionable acts.
- Liking – People are easily persuaded by other people that they like.
- Scarcity – Perceived scarcity will generate demand.
- Unity - People tend to keep a more open mind with the group they identify with (the in-group)
Dr. Cialdini also advises paying attention to timing. For example, it makes a big difference whether the favor is asked to be returned right after the favor is made or later.
How Is Marketing Measured?
Whatever you measure, you are probably interested in change (unless you're just setting reference points). For that, you need to compare two periods.
This usually means comparing periods that follow each other in time such as months (MoM or Month-over-Month) or the same period this year and the year before (YoY or Year-over-Year). The first shows your short-term progress, the latter is better for seeing things long-term and removing seasonality.
Most likely you need to look at both. YoY can hide a bad month (i.e. you're not seeing whether growth is decelerating) and MoM can look off because of seasonality.
How To Choose, Test, and Scale Emerging Acquisition Channels - Reforge
Adam Grenier is an EIR at Reforge. He was most recently VP of Product and Marketing at Lambda School and has spent 16 years running marketing and growth functions for companies including Uber, HotelTonight, and Zoosk, as well as digital media for clients like Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, JCPenney
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