Why marketing isn’t marketing anymore
When it comes time to hire a head of marketing, many of the tech entrepreneurs I’ve worked with and advised imagine bringing on someone who’s a master of SEO and A/B testing, who will drive millions of new visitors to their website. They may see a role for the CMO beyond this — perhaps they’ll ask their job candidates “How will YOUR marketing take advantage of big data?” (here is some guidance, by the way).
But the role of a CMO today isn’t what it used to be. So, in the New Year, if you are planning on bringing marketing talent into your startup, let me suggest you consider these two things:
Marketing = Product
If you were to look at CMOs’ top initiatives, you would likely find that “company re-branding” has a high priority. Typically, re-branding takes the form of discussions around website design and colors that appeal to the target audience senses. I’m being a bit facetious here, but you know what I mean: the creative aspect of marketing.
The new marketers care about creatives in a different way. They are obsessed about the infrastructure under their website before they worry about the website itself. They start with applications like Bislr, Salesforce and Google Analytics and focus on reading their visitors’ digital signs and habits first. They don’t pollute their website with their own thinking, more content or new taglines they came up with in their conference room. In my humble opinion, the best marketers are the ones that recognize that they are a poor representation of their audience and they need to get “outside the building” to find the answers (more on that topic from Steve Blank here).
The new marketers also think of their website as a “product,” a place that visitors come to “to do something” rather than to “read about the space.” This is a drastic departure from what traditional marketing used to call “Thought Leadership”. This is the idea that, while you’re nurturing a relationship with prospects, you should first engage with them at the “philosophical level.” If you are a startup, I’d suggest that you leave this task to IBM or the gorillas of your industry. At an early stage, focus on your differentiated approach and prove it. Don’t just prove it with more content or whitepapers. Prove it with your product. Prove it with resources that help your prospects solve their problems.
This approach has an impact on the types of talent you decide to hire into your marketing team. I hire product-centric people who have deep experience with customers’ pain. These marketers are technical and can easily work with data scientists and engineers. My marketing team operates following an “Agile Marketing” methodology, whereby we inspect data religiously and move our bias out of the decision process.
Our off-sites take the form of what I call “Mark-athons.” Borrowed from the engineering concept, these sprints give us the opportunity to get together, analyze data and challenge ourselves to complete specific “hacks” in record time. Following this approach, my marketing team was able to build an analytical backbone under our website in less than 30 days. We skinned our website down to its most necessary content based on data, and increased traffic while focusing on giving visitors faster access to what they needed: for instance, you can now start advanced analytics models using Alpine live product in less than 2 mins, directly off of our website.
Bottom Line: The new marketers don’t just behave more analytically. They believe in product before content. They understand that the products they build — website included — are engineered to solve customers’ real problems.
Marketing = Sales
Another “capital sin” I sometimes witness in marketing is the lack of connection with sales. The old model of marketing has people worry about running more programs and measuring success in lead volume growth. More leads sounds good, but it’s the process of how sales engages with leads that marketers should obsess about in my opinion. I’m not just referring to the standard conversion metrics or inside sales processes here. I’m referring to a marketing accountability for Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referral and Revenue from leads (see how to internalize Dave McClure’s “Metrics for Pirates” work here).
The best marketers, in my opinion, understand “Deal Biometrics”. They work with customers, across the company and with partners to define what constitutes a deal. They identify how marketing can influence and empower the major actors of each transaction. Marketers have traditionally used long drawn documents to accomplish this: “the buyer process maps,” “pain chains,” and others. These documents often take a long time to develop and by the time they are completed, they are too watered down to be actionable (sometimes, they are so detailed that the sales organization doesn’t have time or patience for them either).
Look for a simpler methodology that you can adjust rapidly: Mark Suster, one of my great heroes, offers here a way to think about it from a sales perspective (I’ve developed my own methodology, which I explore in more details here).
Bottom Line: Look for marketers who breathe and understand the sales jungle. Conversion metrics, A/B tests and SEO tactics are great, but they won’t matter much if your team doesn’t have a clear sense for what a deal and a “no deal” means.