The best leaders spend more time listening rather than talking. After they listen, they provide feedback. One of the key traits of high-performance startup teams is the frequency and quality of feedback. Feedback is an essential currency in team management — it is how we optimize performance, keep people engaged and ensure that the entire team is aligned.
Like many aspects of people management in startups, feedback is often undefined and lost in the shuffle of product development and sales chaos. First, let’s define 3 types of feedback:
Positive feedback: “You did an amazing job here — very well done!”
When you start building an inbound marketing and demand generation program, every lead feels like a huge success. When I started, I had every MQL emailed to me, and I would click through their source detail to see the exact journey they took from target > lead > MQL. That is awesome when you have just a few leads.
As you successfully build a pipeline of qualified leads, you’ll quickly find that (A) you don’t want an email alert for every one and (B) not every lead is created equally. A real lead pipeline mandates that you begin sorting and scoring your leads, only delivering the most qualified to your sales team. Lead scoring is simply identifying which leads are the best leads and delivering them to the sales team first.
You should start lead scoring when you:
Generate more leads than the sales team can handle
Get feedback about “bad leads” from the sales team
Every startup has rituals, from chiming a gong when a sale is made to the CEO writing a weekly email newsletter to the team. An important part of a startup’s weekly routine should be the All Hands Meeting. This is the primary staff meeting and likely the only time that the entire group (especially as we grow) is together, focused on the same thing in one room. It is an incredibly important opportunity for leadership to communicate directly with the team in order to:
Share important updates from each functional area
Praise successes, highlight individual achievements and areas to improve
Get the team excited about the mission, vision and strategy
For a modern B2B startup, it almost seems taboo to consider advertising in print. After all, digital is more cost-effective, easier to measure and the way of the future. However, print can still be an effective part of a brand building and demand generation strategy. Let’s break down when it is appropriate to consider print:
When you need to establish your brand
Brand recognition is this hazy, nebulous “thing” that CFOs often despise because it’s so difficult to measure real ROI. However, there is no doubt that if you are a startup, targets recognizing your brand is going to create more trust and accelerate conversion on content downloads and demo requests. Being seen in widely read industry print publications helps to build that trust and recognition.
Two ingredients are needed for a killer inbound marketing strategy fueled by content: writing and design. While in the early stages some startups outsource design, as you scale it becomes far more effective to have designers as an integral part of a B2B marketing team. Design is exceptionally important because marketers use it to:
Connect with a target persona
One of the first things you need to do in B2B marketing is define your personas: a detailed description of your target customer, outlining their demographics, behavior and preferences. The persona helps guide you on how to best interact with your target customers to motivate them to take desired actions, such as exploring your product. Design is a critical tool you can use to visually appeal to your persona. According to designer Kimi Yamamoto, “design shapes both the conscious and subconscious experience.” In other words, it has a tremendous impact on how a person feels.
In the very early days of a startup, there are typically two founding roles: technology and business. The technology founder is architecting and building the product. He is essentially serving as the head of product and engineering. At the same time, the business founder is selling and supporting the product. She is essentially serving as the head of sales, marketing and customer success. Both founders are likely contributing to administration, fundraising and hiring, so they are both essentially serving as head of operations and in some cases, sharing CEO responsibilities.
There is a specific moment in a startup’s growth when it becomes clear: the founders can’t do everything anymore.This is a pivotal point in a startup’s lifecycle because it mandates some structure and organization to scale. Specifically, it requires hiring a functional leader for each operating area of the business. While the founders had to be generalists and constantly context switch between areas of the business, functional leaders (often Director, VP or Head of X) are domain experts that are highly specialized in making one area of the startup crank. Most technology startups have the following functions:
Modern B2B startups look at sales and marketing as one cohesive unit responsible for generating revenue. Marketing owns the top of the funnel (generating leads), sales owns the middle of the funnel (converting leads to opportunities and customers) and, in the SaaS world, customer success owns the bottom of the funnel (retaining and upselling customers).
Successful organizations understand that in order to convert leads to customers, and retain them, each stage of the funnel must work in unison.This requires tight alignment between sales, marketing and customer success. Marketing must generate the right number of qualified leads, sales needs to provide adequate pipeline coverage to close, and customer success must properly onboard, deliver on sales promises and prevent cancellations.
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: