Three Things You Can Do When Your Product’s Behind
There are three things the marketing organization can do in this situation. This case is not unusual and happens more often than not. That does not make it any easier, however at least it means you’re not alone.
The marketing organization, leader, group or whatever needs to take the lead by paring, eliminating, and focusing. Pare down the prospect list with the sales team, eliminate extraneous marketing activities that are not directed towards making a difference in the immediate future, and focus on the two or three marketing strategies that make the most sense to penetrate those on the now shorter target list.
Many companies can achieve early success if they have a really interesting product and if a right audience is convinced that it is unique or at least better than what else is out there. These companies can also get some good private financing if there are private financiers looking to participate in a particular technology segment, particularly one that is hot. Current examples are information security products and medical devices. Many times, however, the financiers will not “look under the covers” to understand if the product line really is any good. The same may apply for a large customer who wants to get in at the ground floor with a company with an interesting technology.
Surviving in this mode can work for only so long and usually will only work if there is a passionate, focused individual at the helm. In technology, these individuals are often either software developers or hardware engineers who built the products. Many times, they have momentum from an early sale to a medium or large client or an early funding win from a curious angel-funding source. If handled correctly, the momentum can go a long way.
The problem arises when the marketplace catches up to the company and quickly surpasses it. Unfortunately, when this happens the company may have already hired a sales vice president, a few good salespeople, tech support and a marketing team. Even if the sales and marketing team is any good, taking a less functional product to market against more formidable competitors is a daunting task, especially today.
The Internet has tipped the market greatly in favor of larger more stable companies in this arena. For example, an aggressive sales person may be able to use his skills to get a meeting with a client. Perhaps the marketing team opened the door with an effective telemarketing campaign. The prospect may accept a meeting but will usually go to the Internet to learn more. Within seconds, a prospect with even the most minimal search engine savvy will be able to put the product up against the competition. If the product is behind the market, it will be found out immediately and will not stand a chance of success.
So how do you solve this dilemma? Here are three approaches to take from a smart go-to-market approach.
Pare down the prospect list: Since we know that the sales team will most likely hit a lot of dead ends during this period, marketing can lead the way by building a true prospect data base. This does not mean finding every company within a 1,000-mile radius that buys technology. This means identifying the most likely companies in select verticals that are inclined to purchase technology from riskier sources. This process usually entails building the list and then meeting with sales to get deeper into each specific prospect. Now instead of trying to go after a few thousand companies, the list is pared to perhaps a few dozen.
Eliminate wasteful marketing activities: Now that we have a specific target list, we can put one-to-one programs in place to influence each likely buyer, instead of trying to influence a market that does not have any interest in what we’re offering. There is often a tendency to do a number of broader activities during this period to compensate for lack of sales. More often than not, these activities will not sustain themselves and will have no impact. There is more impact to doing two marketing things comprehensive and well than ten things weakly.
Focus on the one or two right marketing activities: Now that you have your most likely buyer list, you should be ready to pinpoint your marketing activities to the companies on the list. Each prospect should get its own marketing plan created. High-touch activities at this point may include targeted telemarketing, in-office seminars, and high-end sales support. This is when marketing and sales need to team tightly instead of independently.
The net of this is that there really only are a handful of true prospects available to your company when you are in this mode. You need to work smart enough to figure out who they are and do the specific things necessary to get them to the next step in the sales cycle.