Have you ever heard of a Spalax?
They’re these goofy little rodents with big teeth and no eyes — you might know them as blind mole rats. Based on what you’ve watched on National Geographic (and Daredevil reruns), you probably assume their extra senses are heightened, or they have some hypersonic squeal, right?
Nope. They basically just find their way around by ramming headfirst into things and sniffing them to see if they’re food or not. Somehow, that’s all it took to survive 5 billion years of evolution.
If you’re like 95% of the companies I’ve worked with, you’ve probably felt like a Spalax at times when it comes to your marketing strategy. For some reason, unlike other areas of product & business development, marketing specifically lends itself to running blind.
To avoid this, you need to take a step back and answer a few key questions to establish a marketing strategy that scales.
Question #1: Who do you wish to serve?
The simplest, most fundamental question of a business’s value is often the one that stumbles my clients the most: who are you trying to help?
There are 2 answers to this question the vast majority of people give, and both of them are wrong.
The first answer, is something rather vague along the lines of “my customers are small business owners” or “my customers are enterprise tech companies”.
The second usually comes from over-indexing on personas. You’ll hear something like “well, 25–36-year-old women in b2b marketing agencies making $10–50m in annual revenue”
Both of these answers are wrong in similar ways, boiling down to a single thing being left unaddressed: what pain point are you solving?
You can wax poetic for hours about all the demographic traits that make up your ideal consumer, but all that matters at the end of the day is the pain point. The pain point is what ties all of your customers together — that’s the only trait that matters.
Your customers are customers who experience that pain point, regardless of who or where they are.
Your marketing channels, your targeting, your ad spend and unit economics — all of it depends on your pain point. If the pain point you’re addressing is “I wish I had a private jet in the next 10 minutes” vs. “I wish I could try out different wines affordably”, your answer to every marketing question changes dramatically.
It doesn’t really matter who your customers are. What matters is what are they struggling with?
Question #2: What is your process?
The selling journey is essentially: who do you want to target, where are you going to find them, and how are you going to convince them to buy?
We’ve already answered the first question, and the second question is solved by asking: what are people currently doing to solve this pain point?
That’s where you go sell.
Usually, it comes down to experimentation with different channels: paid advertising, content marketing, Other People’s Network (OPN), referral marketing.
Which ones you pick depend heavily on the next step: how do you get each of them to buy? What’s your journey?
If the journey a potential customer from paid acquisition goes through is the same as that of content marketing, you’re sunk. Applying a one-size-fits-all marketing journey to customers coming in completely different stages of interest, brand awareness and buying tendency is lazy and ineffective.
So, to really make it work, you need to come up with individual strategies for different channels — again, what’s the pain point, why is the pain driving them to a particular channel, how resistant are they to buy at that stage, and how many more touch points do you need to make the sale?
You don’t need to make decisions on these right away — in fact, you shouldn’t. These decisions should be made organically, through a process of rapid experimentation and data-driven decision making.
You need to have a process in place for that.
How are you going to design your experiments? What’s your selection criteria? Where are you organizing past and present criteria? Are you sourcing organizational buy-in on these experiments? Where and how are you setting hypothesis to test? How are you measuring (more on this later)?
A strong, set in-stone growth process will drive the insights you need to scale marketing, and is essential to long-term strategy.
Question #3: How will you measure and react?
Your competition is measuring everything — who their visitors are, how they found them, what they’ve done so far, what the outcomes were, what their journey was 3 months later, etc.
There are even companies that are adjusting the buyer journey after measuring how emotionally excited you are about the brand at any given point. Seriously.
So if you’re feeling good about setting up camp on a Google Analytics dashboard with some UTM links haphazardly thrown in, you’ll quickly find yourself collapsing under the weight of any kind of real traffic.
To bring your entire strategy together, you need a clear cut plan of what you’re going to track, and how you’re going to make decisions based on those metrics. This needs to be uniquely tied into your organizational goal-setting paradigm, like OKRs.
If you don’t have a clear acceptance and decision-making process, your marketing process is going to flounder. For every campaign you run in your process (see above), you need to clearly know what you’re measuring, what your acceptance criteria is, and how long you need to run it to make a conclusion.
Not only that, if you’re a product-driven company, your marketing analytics must be intimately tied to your product analytics. You need to easily answer questions like:
- What percentage of my Q1 cohort from x channel have bought from me recently?
- Which channels need the most touch points to convert to a sale, and how expensive are those touch points?
- What’s my payback period for a channel, and how does that scale?
Products like Amplitude mean you don’t necessarily need a dedicated data analyst to answer these questions anymore.
A good marketing strategy doesn’t need bells, whistles or brilliant advertising. Good marketing is about the fundamentals: figure out your audience, create an automated & scalable way to test selling to them, and make robust decisions using the data. That’s it.
As ex-76ers GM Sam Hinkie would say, “just trust the process”.
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