There are companies out there – very successful ones – that have never had to think too hard about marketing.
Maybe their product is designed for such a small group of potential buyers that an outbound sales approach covers it.
Or maybe it’s a service so specialised that customers are actively seeking it out themselves, no outreach needed.
Or maybe the company does think about marketing, but it’s the same old, rinse-and-repeat tactics that have worked for years.
But things are changing. Younger, nimbler startups with a marketing mindset are nipping at the heels of their established competitors, leveraging digital channels to get in front of the modern-day buyer.
This isn’t hyperbole. In 2020, 80% of the average B2B sales journey took place online. And those buyers are getting younger – 74% of 21-40 year-olds are involved in the purchasing decisions for their companies.
You know what I know about this age group? They use social media. They over-index on online research. They’re time-poor and permanently online.
They need to be entertained and educated by B2B brands, whether they’re buying enterprise software, commercial metal brackets or robotic equipment.
And all of this puts pressure on companies who have never taken marketing seriously to… start taking marketing seriously.
But building a strategy for this kind of business is a whole different dynamic to joining a startup. There’s politics and ways of working that must be understood and navigated through – all while getting some quick results on the board to justify your existence.
This article is a blueprint for marketers who find themselves joining a company that’s already well-established, never had a marketing strategy and in need of a fresh approach.
Step 1. Set Your Objectives
Your company has never truly leveraged marketing to drive business success. It’ll stay that way unless you prove the function’s value – and quickly.
Aligning on how to measure success with your CEO should always be the first step. These metrics should almost always be revenue-based – contributed pipeline, influenced pipeline and/or revenue – for the best chance of establishing credibility.
Avoid fluffy objectives at all costs. Your boss may be tempted to task you with establishing the brand as the ‘market leader’ or to ‘grow awareness’ of your product. Not only are these goals non-quantifiable, they also fall outside of your direct influence.
Stick with goals you can control and speak the language of a sales-orientated CEO.
Step 2. Run an Audit
Despite what you may think, there will almost certainly be people in your business who are already ‘doing’ marketing in one form or another.
- Sales are almost certainly creating pitch decks, surely?
- Perhaps you have a CFO who’s super active on social media?
- Someone must have built the website, right?
Draw a list of all the things that are being created that touch the outside world, combine it with all the new ideas you have, and categorise everything into four buckets.
- Things that need to stop
- Things that need to be started
- Things that need to be updated
- Things that can be left to continue
At the end you’ll be left with an actionable list of tasks that you can get to work on straight away.
Step 3. Build the System
Perhaps the most important step in this process is building the engine that will allow you to reach potential customers, capture demand, and accurately measure the impact of your efforts.
In the early days, you just need to focus on these three parts – your marketing channel(s), your website and your CRM. Let’s break these down.
- Marketing Channel(s). This is where you publish content to educate and entertain your buyers. LinkedIn, podcasts, Twitter, webinars, micro-events, all of the above – it should be wherever your customers are spending the most time doing their research.
- Website. This is where you capture the demand for your product or service. All that promotion you’re doing up at the top should be geared towards driving traffic of high intent buyers to a website that articulates your value proposition.
- CRM. This is where you store the details and track the lifecycles of your marketing contacts. Where possible, invest in platforms that can also be used to build and run your marketing channels and website , like Hubspot and Salesforce.
For the best results, sales and marketing – and even customer success, further down the line – should be using the same CRM.
This can be tough to pull off. Likelihood is that your sales team already are comfortable with a platform that suits their needs but not yours. Or they may not even have one – I’ve come across plenty of businesses that track everything in a spreadsheet. But it has to be done.
Not only does it make sense from a practical point of view (who wants to spend age integrating a bunch of different systems?) it also enables both departments to better understand the full customer journey and how to optimise spend.
Step 4. Find Your Advocates
You’ve got your objectives. You understand what marketing already exists. You have your system. Now it’s time to get to work.
Half the battle of establishing the credibility of marketing as a business-driver is working with people who already believe that marketing has a role to play in driving growth. These are the people need to look for to help get your strategy off the ground.
- Maybe it’s the salesperson who is super active on social media?
- Maybe it’s the engineer that’s been sharing blog ideas in a team Slack channel?
- Maybe it’s the product owner desperate to announce new features to the world?
These are the kinds of people you don’t need to convince. All you have to do is work with them to channel their ideas into something real.
Help the salesperson create a LinkedIn video series breaking down the main challenges your customers face.
Work with the engineer to repurpose their technical documentation into posts for your blog.
Build a webinar around your product owner who interviews a client on how they’re beating down their competition with your tool.
The key is finding someone who is invested in the results that your strategy can provide. I GUARANTEE that once you start getting some wins on the board, you’ll be fighting off requests from colleagues you want your help in doing the same for them.
Step 5. Shout About Your Success – And Create a Solid Feedback Loop
In the early days, the more you can communicate your successes to the business at large, the higher your chances of embedding the fact the function is now a critical part of the business in the minds of your team.
This can be as simple as a message in the ‘General’ Slack channel each week, to a full breakdown of your Hubspot dashboard. Work with your leadership team to figure out what people need to know and the best format/frequency in which to share it.
But remember – the best marketers are the ones that engage in a dialogue, not a monologue. Always provide a forum for your colleagues to ask questions and share ideas in a safe, ‘no judgement’ setting.
One thing I like to do is set up monthly focus groups with different teams from across a business – sales, product, engineering, etc. – to break down what marketing shipped, what it’s working on, and to gather feedback on any improvements to the approach.
This helps colleagues feel heard and invested in the process.
This list is by no means exhaustive. Every individual in your company has at least one content idea inside them, ready to be let out when given the chance and safe space to explore it. Colleagues in finance, product, design, customer success, engineering, operations… all will have something to say, and you just need to capture it.