Goldilocks Marketing

I suppose that it is human nature to look for patterns in data that we are exposed to: sometimes this is a wonderful thing, other times it is not so helpful.  I want to describe on pattern that I have noticed in my work with early stage companies.  Remember here that I am talking primarily about companies that offer a complex solution to business users.

Companies I have worked with  fall into one of two camps when it comes to marketing their product or service.

First, there are those who can’t spend enough on marketing and are willing to bet the company on their marcomm program.  They see the world as a big pool of leads which, if approached the right way, will buy a product without any human intervention, persuasion or problem solving.  Just keep leads pouring into the sales funnel and, eventually, you will see deals do themselves.  This type of CEO often has a marketing or consulting background: he or she doesn’t actually sell and has had little direct sales experience.

Too Hot

This bowl of porridge is too hot for Goldilocks.   Excitement builds, initial lead traffic mounts but few actual deals get done.  The company’s offering is just too complex to be bought on a self serve basis, or as it addresses a problem in an innovative and unfamiliar way, it is not well understood by the prospect.

Too Cold

At the other end of the spectrum are early stage companies whose bowl of porridge is just too darned cold for Goldilocks.   CEOs of these companies do not believe in marketing or think that it is an expensive extra, a nice window dressing but not important to their sales process.  These companies do generate sales, by dint of the hard work and sweat of their sales teams.  They connect with likely customers one-on-one, solve problems, adapt their solution on the fly to meet real customer needs, sell their product and generate revenue.  These CEOs are often sales people, and are happiest closing deals themselves.

The problem is with this model is that it will not scale: without marketing to make the lead acquisition process economical – having warm bodies cold call their way into enterprises is very, very expensive – they will never grow their sales at anything more than a linear rate.  And, because they have no marketing program, they do not learn to tune their marketing effort to changing prospect needs or vertical focus.

Getting the Right Temperature

So, I think the challenge is to get the porridge at the right temperature for Goldilocks.  Marketing is inextricably tied up with sales and needs to be grown at the same rate as a sales effort grows.  It is also expensive – it is easy to pour a lot of money into marketing without seeing any results.  A hot lead does not a sales make.  You need to have enough marketing effort to validate and refine you message and to ultimately scale your sales effort, but not so much that you ignore the core effort of your sales process, which is to close deals with real customers, adapting your offering as you go and learning on the fly.

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