Marketing is Saying What You ARE and What You’re NOT

Posted Posted in Startups, Strategy

In order to be successful, it’s critical to clearly define your offering, your market and your ideal buyer. It’s also equally important to state what you’re not. What industries do you not want to do business with? What types of clients don’t align well with your company culture or products?

One of the exercises we like to take companies through is one where we look at your current customers and identify commonalities in the most successful cases. We look for industries of specialization and try to identify any intellectual property or unique industry items we possess. This helps these young start-ups to work through targeting the right kind of profitable business. Invariably someone will say, “Well we have experience in XX industry but we’d take leads in YY industry. While there’s nothing wrong with targeting more than one industry, it’s important to remain tightly focussed on businesses where you can best compete and offer significant value.

Defining What You’re Not

A mistake that a lot of start-ups make is getting into a mode where they are chasing after any business, rather than focussing on industries where they can provide the most value and have the highest likelihood of success. This is understandable. You’re trying to become profitable as quickly as possible and cash flow is critically important. But this can be quite shortsighted and counter productive.

One of the most important tasks a start-up can undertake is deciding the industries that they want to focus on. Right behind it, in terms of importance, is deciding what business you don’t want.

One of the reasons it’s important to identify what you are and what you’re not is that its very hard to compete in industries where you lack experience and insight. Not to mention areas where you lack interest and/or passion. You’re much better going after one highly profitable industry than chasing after four where you have little chance of beating the competition. So here are 4 questions to ask yourself when determining what you don’t want your company to be when it grows up:

  1. What are the industries where you don’t enjoy working?
  2. What are the attributes of a company that makes it a deal killer for you? (e.g. lack of senior level management commitment, lack of resources or personal, etc.)
  3. What industries do you tend to not be competitive or typically struggle to maintain profitability?
  4. Is an industry worth investing in to win potential business, or are you throwing darts at the wall and hoping they stick?

How do I Know if I’m Chasing Bad Business?

There are a few surefire ways to tell you’re working in the wrong industry and need to opt out of working with companies in a given industry of vertical

  • Difficulty consistently winning business – if every time you go head-to-head with a competitor in a given industry, it may be that you lack the knowledge/experience/insight to add sufficient value to be competitive.
  • Lack of profitable engagements – if you are consistently loosing money on a given vertical it may because you lack sufficient differentiation or fit for that industry.
  • No viability in an industry – You may really know the typewriter repair business well, but how viable is that business? Go after industries that are viable and will remain viable.
  • You hate doing the work – There are certain industries that you just don’t enjoy working with. It may the type of environment you have to work in, or maybe industries in the vertical just lack sophistication. If you hate doing it, DON’T DO IT! Life is to short to do work that you hate!

Do you need help identifying your ideal clients and target industries? We can help! Let’s talk!

4 Reasons Why Strategy Must Drive Tactics

Posted Posted in Marketing Best Practices, Strategy

You’ve sent out dozens of email blasts. You’ve allocated an impressive budget for PPC advertising. You’re blogging. But you’re not seeing the results that you expected! BUT WHY?!!!!

We see this a lot. Organizations study marketing, they learn the latest techniques. They spend countless thousands of dollars towards marketing activities, but somehow never get the type of results that they read about on marketing blogs.

The problem isn’t a lack of enthusiasm. It’s not even necessarily that their tactics aren’t executed properly. In most cases where we see this, we observe that there is no real strategy. No systematic, strategic approach to creating a lead generation engine to feed leads to sales/

This is one of several reasons, we see, that strategy must drive tactics. Here are our top 5:


  • Inconsistent Effort – Without a cogent strategy with clearly illuminated goals, deadlines and a calendar to drive the strategy, marketing tactics tend to be scattershot and inconsistent. You have to have a strategy that contains a editorial calendar spelling out the deadline for campaigns and content generation. Having a calendar instills a discipline on an organization to work hard and focus to meet deadlines. In marketing, the formula is simple: Consistent, smart effort = Consistent results.
  • A Lack of Clarity Around how Discrete Marketing Activities  Should Work Together – Blogs, videos, podcasts, PPC ads, blogging, calls-to-action should all work together to draw in website visitors and convert them into prospects and leads. All the pieces must work together to produce meaningful results.
  • Marketing Activities are not Focused Around the Buyers’ Journey – All marketing strategy and tactics should be built around your targeted buyer personae. Marketing workflows and nurture campaigns should be married to the buyers’ journey. From the top of the funnel (general awareness) down to the bottom of the funnel (closing time.) Most people buy on emotion and then substantiate their decision based on facts. For this reason, top of the funnel offers should appeal to the emotions related to their pain. Bottom of the funnel offers should assure prospects that they have arrived at the right decision, so case studies can work well.
  • A Lack of Visibility into ROI – Strategy should be tied to campaigns, and campaigns should be tracked to ensure a positive Return on (Marketing) investment. If the strategy is off, campaigns will be off and it will be difficult to establish an ROI. To track the ROI, its critically important to track all expenses related to campaigns as well as tracking all marketing-generated leads through to closing. Whenever possible, accurate revenue data is helpful as it will ensure a clear ROI picture.

In the absence of a clear strategy, marketing execution can look like the embodiment of “fire, ready, aim.” It’s important to maintain a clear cogent strategy and have that strategy inform all marketing campaigns and tactics. If you’d like to learn more about developing a marketing strategy, let’s talk.


Branding your acquisition

Should you Rebrand Your Acquisition?

Posted Posted in Startups, Strategy

A rose, by any other name, would still smell as sweet! What’s in a name? Do names matter? In the world of branding, a name may matter more than you think!

Are you thinking about acquiring a competitor or a company with a complementary offering to your own? One of the most difficult decisions is whether to rebrand the company and/or its products.

While there are a no hard-and-fast guidelines, there are some good rules-of-thumb that may help you think through this process

  • Changing their Name to Your Own – When should you fold the new company in under your current name or brand? In general, if your company is larger, with better name recognition, then you should change the name of your acquisition to your own. The exception being if the acquisition is a largely unrelated industry, with few over-lapping customers; in which case you may want to wait a period of time before rebrandingYou must also evaluate the degree of good will the brand has accrued in the market. A popular, well-loved brand may have more value in its name than the value of the customer base.
  • Keeping the name – If the company is larger; has great brand recognition and/or greater brand loyalty or a significant portion of the marketshare you may want to consider keeping their name or possibly combining names (you frequently see this with accounting, attorney and financial services firms.) This can be a good compromise to make newly acquired employees feel welcome and valued.
  • Creating a new name – This works well when two smaller companies merge to become a fairly significant player in a market. This is a good option when you are entering new geographic markets and one or both of the companies have a brand name with a negative connotations.
  • Other considerations – The name may be negotiated as part of the acquisition process, which settles the situation quickly. If you are financing the acquisition, your investors may have a great deal to say about the name. As they say, “Everything is negotiable.” and the name can be contested regardless of what the investor(s) want.

Names can have strong emotional meaning to consumers and employees alike, but getting a company or product name right is critical. If you’re not sure what to do about your next acquisition, let’s talk!


3 Reasons why Bad Marketing is Worse than none

3 Reasons Bad Marketing is Worse than No Marketing

Posted Posted in Marketing Automation, Startups, Strategy

Marketing done poorly is worse than no marketing at all! How do I know? Because I’ve witnessed it first-hand. Marketing done poorly can irreparably damage your brand.  There are a lot of reasons why this true, but we’ve narrowed it down to 3.

  1. Bad Marketing Sets the Wrong Expectation – If your marketing is inconsistent and unreliable, prospects will expect the same thing about your company’s products and services. For example. if you say you’ll be sending out a weekly email newsletter and you send one out and then another 6 months later, what does that say about how you keep your word?It’s incredibly important that your marketing is a consistent, planned effort that makes your company look reliable, dependable and competent. We recommend using a content map and editorial calendar that maps out your marketing plan and sets deadlines and keeps you on point.
  2. Bad Marketing can be Unrecoverable – An improper marketing strategy or bad branding can destroy your product. An example of this that you see with some degree of regularity is companies that take a product or brand to a new geographic market without knowing what your brand or product name means in their language. There are entire websites dedicated to this concept. But sometimes it can be a simple type that can ruin your brand. Once you put out your marketing piece, it belongs to the internet. Nothing will go viral faster than an embarrassing gaff or typo. Some errors are embarrassing and laughable others are fatal.
  3. Bad Marketing Wastes Time and Resources – You have a limited number of resources and a limited number of hours in the day. Time and resources wasted on bad marketing can be better spent on other activities that drive sales or improve operations. Time is the most valuable resource and once it’s gone it cannot be recovered. The opportunity cost of resources wasted on marketing that unproductive (at best) and damaging (at worst) is incredibly high because not only are resources not put to their best and highest use, but the negative effects of bad marketing can irreparably damage your brand.

So how can you know that you’re not engaging in bad marketing? It’s simple:

  • Be consistent with your marketing. Don’t allow dates to slip and introduce new marketing materials when you say you will.
  • Strive to only create marketing materials that add value for your prospects. If you can’t readily and immediately answer the WIIFM (What’s in it for me?) question from your prospects’ point of view, chances are you’re missing the mark.
  • Only release marketing materials that are worthy of your brand! This can be a little tricky. Some think that everything that’s produced must be perfect and highly polished. For many businesses, a short, impactful marketing piece may be sufficient. For example, you don’t need to rent out a production facility to create a promotional video. A decent video with good content and good quality audio and clear visuals can go a long way.

If you’re worried that your marketing is getting off-track, we’d love to speak with you about it. We even offer a free, no-obligation consultation.


3 things every board should know about marketing

3 Things Every Board Needs to Know About Marketing

Posted Posted in SaaS, Startups, Strategy

When a board of directors meets to discuss the organization’s performance, too often they speak about marketing like it’s some sort of dark sorcery. They do not know how to talk about it, measure it, manage it or optimize it.

What you need to know about marketing boils down to these three things:

  1. Measure What Matters – If you are not making your revenue numbers, there’s a very good chance that your marketing isn’t getting you enough leads. Simply stated: If you don’t have enough going in the top of the sales funnel, it’s highly improbable that you’ll have enough coming of the bottom of the funnel. It’s simple math – if you close 10% of your sales leads, and 40% of your marketing qualified leads become sales qualified leads…it’s a simple equation.Make sure the metrics that you track are the metrics that matter. Revenue, total number of sales qualified leads, total number of marketing qualified leads. Tracking items such as website hits and email open rates can get you off into the tall weeds if you’re not careful.
  2. Develop and use Service Level Agreement (SLA) – Getting both sales and marketing on the same page. An SLA should set goals for the number of marketing qualified leads, sales qualified leads. It should also provide a feedback mechanism so that marketing knows the relative quality of the leads they are providing and are assured that all leads are being followed up on. If you don’t know what this means, we can help!
  3. Measure the ROI – Track your leads through to the point they become revenue. Track them back to their source so that you can provide feedback on how marketing budgets are being spent. If you can’t trace revenue back to its source, you need to improve your tracking and integration between your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system and your marketing automation platform.

As a member of the board of directors, your job is to provide high-level guidance on matters related to strategy and operations. Try not to get bogged down on minutia and fine points related to individual tactics. If you find yourself spending too much time managing the organization’s marketing efforts, you may need to hire a CMO.

Future Proof Your Marketing

Future-Proof Your Marketing

Posted Posted in Marketing Automation, Marketing Best Practices, Marketing Trends, Strategy, Uncategorized

There has been a great deal of buzz lately about “Future-Proofing Your Marketing.” The articles have fallen somewhere in a range between unhelpful and “intriguing.” The reason these articles have been largely unhelpful is because they have: A) Lacked any meaningful insight on what the future of marketing of will be. B) Lacked any type of actionable steps to prepare to “future proof” your marketing

So why have these articles been, by-and-largely, so unhelpful? How can you provide advice on how to future-proof against future threats most lack the vision on what the future will hold?

Artificial Intelligence

The future of marketing will be all about predicting and influencing consumer behavior via Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI will be used for predictive analytics. Being able to anticipate consumers’ behaviors will separate successful brands from dinosaurs. Some companies are doing this very successfully, Target comes to mind. They were on the bleeding edge of this trend more than 6 years ago, and the anecdote of their success became stuff of legend when they predicted a pregnancy. Having the ability to predict behavior will enable you to tailor offers to shape consumer behavior and choice.


Imagine having the ability to create real-time, on-demand user driven content that provided searchers and consumers with EXACTLY the content an information they are seeking. Today, creating content is a time-consuming, labor-intensive process that requires content creators to come up with content ideas, conduct research, create the content, edit and optimize the content, publish the content, promote the content. Imagine if AI and marketing automation could do all of it providing exactly what the user wants…that’s the future of marketing.

Omnipresent Marketing

As wearable and smart devices become more and more intelligent and integrated with consumers, they will provide an invaluable way for companies to track, monitor and even shape consumer behavior. Knowing an incredibly personal information about a person’s behavior will enable marketers with access unprecedented insights into buyer behavior and new and unprecedented ways to communicate with and influence consumers.

Virtual and Augmented Reality

Imagine test driving a car from the comfort of your home. Not just a tour of the vehicle, but interacting with it. You drive, steer and control the car and car reacts as it really would if you were driving it. That’s the potential of Augmented and Virtual Reality. You will be able to interact with brands and products in as-to-now unimagined way.

So How Do You “Future Proof” Your Marketing?

Know Your Market

To stay ahead of your competitors, you need to know your market better than they do. Studying your customers and prospects and learning and knowing everything you can about their end-customers will keep you in the driver’s seat.

Collect Data

If you’re not already doing so, you’ll want to begin collecting as much data as you can. Sales data, and client behavior, product preferences, etc. You should also start collecting and analyzing website data. In the short-term you will learn new insights about your customers and prospects’ behaviors. In the long-term, with enough data and the right AI technology, you’ll be able to predict their behavior and the content that will draw them to you.

Embrace Technology

The use of marketing automation can improve your ability to outpace your competition. Used correctly, marketing automation allows you to test different approaches and tactics to determine which ones work best.  The use of CRM systems will allow you to track client transactions, track client preferences and help grow your business.

No one knows precisely what the future will bring, betting closer to your clients and better understanding of their pains, preferences and buying habits will always pay dividends. We’d love to hear from you! What are your ideas of what the future of marketing might look like and how you plan to future-proof your marketing.



6 Things You Should Have Before Financing

6 Things You Should Have in Place Before You Look for Financing

Posted Posted in Startups, Strategy

If you’ve ever watched the TV show ‘Shark Tank’ you know that is a scripted show that is designed to play on the emotions of anyone with an of entrepreneurial blood in their veins. The show features several investors (“The Sharks”) who listen to sales pitches from people with business startups. A lot of the folks that appear on the show trying to sell their business investors are on the show because they are eccentric and make for good TV. Many make outlandish valuations on their businesses and are countered, in some cases, with ridiculously low counters. While not entirely true-to-life, the show offers inspiration to young and aspiring entrepreneurs.

One of the things that does ring true is: If you do not know the value of your company/brand/products you’re going to lose. When you’re meeting with potential investors, you have to have your act together, and you need to be prepared. Here are 6 things you’ll want to have before you start conversing with would-be investors:

  1. A Business Plan – Not just any business  plan. A cogent, comprehensive and well thought-out business plan. One that takes into account a variety of scenarios that tell a story about what you can/will do with the money.
  2. A Marketing Plan – The marketing plan can be part of the business plan, but it should be able to stand alone as its own, as a valuable asset. The marketing plan should include branding, messaging, positioning as well as the go-to-marketing strategy. It should include a SWOT analysis for all major products or services.
  3. Legal Protections – Prior to “opening the kimono” it’s critically important to have secured any applicable patents, trademarks and copyrights. It’s incredibly important to protect your intellectual property. Without a patent your billion dollar idea may not be worth anything. You need to protect yourself from competitors, but you also need to protect yourself from unscrupulous investors who may “borrow” your idea.
  4. A Good Handle on Costs – If you’re producing a product, know your cost of goods manufactured and cost of goods sold. If you’re selling a service, make sure you know your margins and have a good handle on revenues and expenses. There is no excuse for a business owner to not know this vital management data.
  5. A Good Cashflow Model – In addition to current and historical revenue figures, investors will want to see good a good cash flow models. It’s usually a good idea to provide a best case, worst case and likely case. The best case should illustrate what you will do with an additional infusion of capital and how you will use it to drive revenues and cashflow.
  6. A Realistic Valuation – You may not want to tip your hand on what you think your company is worth, but it’s important to know, realistically, what your company is worth. The VC or Private Equity will have their own idea of what your company is worth and what they’re willing to invest. Investors will allows try to structure any deal and its terms in their favor. Knowing what your company is worth can help you readily counter any lowball or unrealistic offers.

Do you have all the pieces you need to grow your business? Are you ready to go after investment dollars? We can help! Let’s talk! 


5 Questions to Ask Before Your Next Acquisition

Posted Posted in Process Improvement, Strategy

If you’re in the process of acquiring a new company or considering it, there are a lot of factors that you must consider prior to pulling the trigger. Much of the emphasis around the due diligence involves evaluating a company’s financials, intellectual property and securing key personnel. One area that is frequently overlooked is marketing.

There are key areas of an organization’s marketing efforts that should be evaluated. We’ve distilled it down to the 5 that we view as the most important:

  1. Is your branding/messaging/positioning correct for your target market(s) – Are the company’s offerings correctly positioned? Are they maximizing margins by cross-selling? If a company’s marketing message is off, this can be an area of serious potential value-add.
  2. Are using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system? If a company isn’t using a CRM system and doesn’t formal systems and processes, you may be at risk of key personnel walking out the door with the entire customer list. Additionally, if the company isn’t using a CRM system, this is another area with a good potential for improved efficiency and improved revenue streams.
    The important thing is to know what you’re buying!
  3. Are using a Marketing Automation platform – A properly implemented marketing automation system can be a game changer. Particularly if you are using workflows to create nurture/drip campaigns to nurture prospects through the sales process. Marketing automation cannot only help you have more consistent, predictable marketing activity, it can also produce more predictable and stronger results.
  4. Is your marketing budget correctly allocated? Can the company’s marketing department point to the key areas of marketing spend and identify the areas that are producing the best return-on-investment (ROI?) Unless they’re using a closed-loop reporting system, it’ll be difficult to determine if you have a proper allocation of your marketing spend.
  5. Do you have the right personnel in the right seats in your sales and marketing departments? Having the “right butts in the right seats” is critical to a successful marketing effort. High level vision must drive the strategy and the strategy should drive tactics. Tacticians are rarely great strategist; and strategists will become bogged down in the minutia of low-level tasks. It’s all about the right person for the right job? How do you know if you have the right person in the right role? When you do, you’ll see efficiency and results.

Are you preparing to acquire a new company? Do you need to know more about their marketing? We can help! Contact us! 


10 Things Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Startups, Strategy

Great! You’re starting a business! You’re making your idea a dream, and your dream a reality! The sad reality is the majority of new businesses fail within the first year. So how do you keep from becoming another statistic?

Having helped hundreds of start-ups I’ve noted a few commonalities in the most successful businesses. I’ve distilled it down to a short list of 10 Things:

  1. Time is not your friend – I never knew what being crunched for time was, until I started my own business! Time is something we can’t regain once we’ve lost it. The key is to maintain a sense of urgency and keep on task. There are a million distractions that can keep you from the most important priorities, that’s why you’ve got to create a plan and stick to it. Prioritize your to-do list with emphasis on mission critical items (what I like to refer to as “the big rocks”.)
  2. Get and stay organized – This goes along with the first item. Use a calendar. Block off time to do the major items on your t0-do list. Use your calendar and keep track of every appointment. You think you’ll remember them, but once you’re under a time crunch appointments can be easily forgotten. Use task lists to keep track of your priorities.
  3. Delegate – Believe it or not, even as a early start-up or solo-preneur you can still delegate your work. If you don’t have family or friends to help you, consider using a low-cost service like or to handle tasks that you aren’t equipped or have time for. Just remember, it’s critically important to accurately and thoroughly explain your requirements.
  4. Invest Where it Matters – Cash flow is always an issue when you’re starting out. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend money on things  things that matter to your long-term success. For example, hiring a virtual assistant may feel like an extravagance, but if they can help free you up to work on important items it may be worth. When deciding if an expense is worth it, consider where you’ll be with/without it. If it’s a high priority, you’ll find a way.
  5. You’re Never Really Off – The thing about owning your own business, it can provide you with flexibility to work when you want. But just know this, the work HAS to get done for you to succeed, so avoid indolence and procrastination.  When you start your own business, you’ll have to put in a lot of hours and effort until you get established. Vacations will be rare at first and you’re going to want to take your laptop and smart phone so you can keep on top of things. Don’t feel guilty about trying to keep on top of things, if you can’t relax you’ll be defeating the purpose of the vacation in the first place.
  6. Don’t Think Profitability, Think Cashflow – As the saying goes, “Cash is king!” When you’re starting out, cashflow is critical. Margins may not be what you’d like them to be in the short-term, but if cashflow is sufficient you can stay afloat.
  7. Get a Mentor – The great thing about really successful people, most want to see others succeed too. That’s one of the reasons I recommend that every entrepreneur have a mentor. Preferably someone who has done something similar to what you’re intending. Mentors are great for getting ideas, insights and motivation. Time invested learning from someone who understands how to build a successful enterprise is never wasted.
  8. Stand Out or Get Out – Build a brand worth remembering. Make sure that what you’re building is remarkable. If you’re not sure how you are different from your competition, you need to do more work on your branding, messaging and positioning. If you’re not sure how to do that, contact me. And if you’re not willing to invest the time and effort to stand out, you might as well get out now and save yourself stress.
  9. Work ON Your Business, Not Just IN Your Business – It’s very easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day responsibilities of running your business, but it’s critically important that you carve out time to think about the bigger picture. Schedule time to work in seclusion away from the business so you can focus on the big picture. Spend time thinking about the major challenges that you need to overcome in order to progress your business.
  10. “Done is Better than Perfect” – There are facets of your business that you absolutely have to get right – articles of incorporation, regulatory compliance, accounting, your brand idea. But there are a lot of tasks that you have to get done quickly. Again, time is not your friend! There are some things that you just need to get off of your to-do list, so you can focus on your big rocks. As General George S. Patton famously stated, “”A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”