There is a common misconception that lots of PR is critical for B2B startups to grow. While PR is certainly a valuable marketing channel, and in some cases can be a huge driver of new leads, it’s important to break it down and apply your marketing dollars effectively.
The #1 mistake I’ve seen in PR is getting press in publications not read by your targets.
For example, suppose you sell software for restaurants and your initial targets are fast casual establishments (i.e. Chipotle). Your target persona is the CIO of Chipotle and its competitors.
In this scenario, while it may excite you to be written about in TechCrunch isn’t going to move the needle far. That is “vanity PR” and does very little in regards to demand generation among potential target customers.
In an early stage marketing team that supports a growing sales team, there likely isn’t a separate “sales operations” function. Managing the infrastructure and intake of data often falls on the marketing team. For example, the sales team goes to a conference and comes back with a list of leads that need to be nurtured. How do those leads end up in the CRM and marketing automation system, enrolled in the right nurture campaign and tagged with the right field values (e.g. persona and lifecycle stage)?
While it sounds like a simple process, there are many opportunities to make a mistake when importing data. To ensure it gets done right, let’s break down that process, step by step:
With the right structure in place, interns can be tremendously impactful in an early stage B2B marketing team. A few prerequisites are needed for success when hiring an intern. Specifically, prior to an intern starting, you should:
Have the infrastructure (automation, CRM) in place
The lead in a B2B startup marketing team should be building the basic infrastructure prior to making any core marketing hires. This ensures the lead has an intimate understanding of the machinery that powers an inbound marketing engine. An intern will be most impactful once that machinery is built and humming.
As you map out the B2B demand generation strategy, you’ll find that leads can come from a variety of sources driven from inbound marketing campaigns. These sources might include:
Direct web traffic
Paid (Adwords, display ads)
Generating leads through these sources requires a lot of work. Depending on the industry, you may be able supplement your efforts by leveraging partners. These could be companies that offer complementary services (i.e. you sell to the same persona) or that have an established integration with your product. Let’s break down the benefits for you and the partner:
The startup world is full of visionary and often technical founders. We can stay up all night cranking on code, quickly bring a minimum viable product to market, and passionately pitch to customers and investors, fueling early traction.
Suppose all of that early stuff actually works: we have a product, people want it, we raised some money, and we hired our first few employees. The challenges of building the product, fixing bugs, going through the lean process with early customers and quickly iterating are overwhelming. However, I’ve noticed that the most painful problems for early stage startups more often include:
Unclear goals and metrics
Confusion over who to hire first
Unstable engineering priorities
Miscommunication amongst the team
As I dug into the root causes of these most common issues, two quickly bubbled up to the surface: lack of organizational structure and poor focus.
An inbound marketing strategy typically involves many types of content: PDF guides, ebooks, webinars, infographics, videos and more. Among cornerstone pieces that your team will create to help tell your product’s story are ebooks. Put simply, an ebook is often just a long guide or a combination of multiple blog posts, well-designed and packaged as a downloadable PDF. Just using the label “ebook” packs an additional punch that may intrigue targets and drive downloads.
As your inbound machine starts to crank and you are producing volumes of content (guides, ebooks, infographics), webinars can be useful to provide variety and connect with targets who may not be interested in reading an entire ebook. Depending on your target persona, webinars are surprisingly popular and can generate quite a bit of buzz in your industry. They also require significant logistics and planning, so let’s walk through the process of hosting a successful webinar:
1. Identify the topic
Each webinar should tangentially relate to one of the core points of your story (i.e. your product’s value props). A great strategy to get started is pairing a webinar with a written piece about the same topic. For example, my team wrote an ebook about the future of technology for health clubs. We’ll host a webinar about the same topic that essentially walks through the content of the ebook. That’s effective because some targets will want to read the ebook and others would rather consume that content in webinar format.
Over the last 10-15 years, marketing has become far more measurable and analytical. Using closed loop reporting and marketing automation systems, marketers can quickly zoom in on key metrics that indicate whether they are executing effectively. Here is a breakdown of 9 metrics to consider tracking:
MQLs by source
The key funnel metric that you (and your VP of Sales) will care about is marketing qualified leads (MQLs). As a reminder, MQLs are leads that “raise their hand,” indicating they are ready to talk to sales by filling out a demo request form on your website. The more MQLs you can feed to your sales team, the more swings at bat they have to start a conversation. Additionally, you can segment MQLs by source (e.g how many leads came from your email marketing campaigns versus your paid online ads) This can all be tracked by the marketing automation system.
In most B2B companies, several people are involved in purchasing and using your product. There might be an end user, a decision maker and an influencer. When you are building your marketing story and demand generation strategy, consider how you can reach each of these people and what messages will persuade them to take a desired action (i.e. provide their contact details and become a lead). The key to doing this effectively is using personas.
A persona is simply a detailed description of your target customers, outlining their demographics, behavior and preferences. Consider the following steps to determine your personas:
One of your top priorities for marketing is to generate leads. I don’t blame you… leads are awesome and what your sales team is craving to grow. However, before you can effectively build the demand generation side (i.e. driving leads) of a B2B marketing team, you need to establish the story.
The story is simply the narrative that is used to describe what your product is, why it exists and how it helps targets. It’s the foundation for your messaging and positioning. It is used throughout your marketing world: on your website, social media profiles, collateral, ebooks, webinars and verbally in sales presentations and elevator pitches. The story is a key requirement to align your team and ensure your marketing campaigns are focused on messages that will resonate with targets and thus drive them to convert to leads. Let’s walk through how to craft this narrative.