I’ve been talking with a lot of companies lately, and here’s what I’ve seen going right
During my job hunt I’ve had a chance to get to know a lot really interesting companies. Doesn’t matter if I was the right fit or not, that’s not the point here. Part of my process when applying and through the various interview stages, is to learn about the company. First a look through the website to understand the business. Then for the next set of interviews, look deeper. What do I see that I like. What do I think could be better. These are standard questions for most companies when looking for a marketing person, so I come prepared.
In my months doing this I’ve found the companies that look like they are heading in the right direction are doing a few simple things to level up their marketing to the next stage. Here’s what I think matters…
They already have a solid foundation
There isn’t a single company I talked to that didn’t have the basics covered. Good, modern website. Value props and pain/gain statements front and center. Talking to companies they have a sense of who they are, what they are doing, and who they are selling to. This is the foundation. If you don’t have this base, moving marketing to the next level will fail. You have to be clear who you believe your top customers are and aren’t. You have to have some sense of what you fix and why it’s important. Simple as that. That’s the start.
From side of the desk to front and center
You have to give people credit for all their hard work. Most people I’ve met have a good sense of marketing, but don’t think of themselves as marketers. They were the ones building the foundation after all. They had to have some sense of what was the right path to take.
Now they want to step things up and marketing by committee isn’t going to work. You can achieve a lot when everyone pitches in, but when everyone has other primary jobs, marketing will slip through the cracks. Smart companies see this and the first step is to bring in someone to manage marketing. Maybe not run it per se, be responsible for the strategy, budget, and such, but at least have a single person who’s single job is to make marketing the company a priority. That person might not be in the role forever, they might be a transition person, or they might grow into a head of marketing role. You don’t know at this point, and that’s the point. You just need someone to get the train moving in the right direction and start making headway. Tackle a few easy things, build on the foundation. What’s after that will work out in the next phase, right now what important is that marketing isn’t off the side of anyone’s desk and now someone else’s complete focus.
Sales is hitting its stride
It might still be early on, but the sales team has its act together and are reading from the same playbook. What does this have to do with marketing? Sales and marketing intertwine. Marketing gives the words to sales. Sales feeds back into marketing what is working and what isn’t.
Companies who are ready to level up have this symbiosis going. Or if they don’t have it going, they know it needs to happen. Sales can’t just promise anything. Marketing can’t launch campaigns without input from sales. Maturing companies make this a priority.
The product is well beyond version 1
How far beyond version 1 doesn’t matter here, the product has been in the hands of customers and the product has evolved. For a lot of companies the initial product is essentially the same, just better. A few companies have done a pivot or changed focus. All great strategies crumble in the face of the enemy. The best products are better in version 2 than they were in version 1. Those that aren’t don’t make it to version 3.
The companies I’ve been talking to, the ones that look promising are moving to version 3 (and beyond). It’s impossible to market a product that doesn’t have a niche or a clear(ish) value prop or a sense of what it fixes. I’ve been there. It’s a painful thing to try to sell something (even if it’s free) that just doesn’t have a clear place. None of the companies I’ve talked to have this problem.
Which is why I was talking to them in the first place.
They know things need a fresh perspective
This is the most crucial part. All the companies I’ve talked with know that to move to the next level not only does there need to be a single person focusing on marketing (and possible a growing team), but they need a fresh perspective on things. An outside view to make sure things are on track. This doesn’t mean someone who will come in and say “This is all crap! You’re idiots! I’m going to trash all this and start over!” I’ve seen that done too and it doesn’t end well either.
A fresh perspective means just that. Look at everything with fresh eyes, fix what needs fixing. Make good enough great. And what is already fine, keep it. Maybe test a few things if there is a question if something is working or not. Chances are some of the marketing initiatives had supporters and detractors. Want an answer? Great, test it. The new person only has a stake in making things better. That’s the only way to decide it.
This fresh perspective is the most critical factor of the five. It’s a willingness to accept that not everything before was bang on. Some things were done quick and dirty because they had to be, and now they can be better. Every company I’ve talked to lately has directly or indirectly said they are ready for a new person to come in and shake things up a bit. Just enough to get rid of the bad stuff and keep the good.
Ready to level up?
If you’re not able to check off all these buckets, you’re not ready to level up your marketing. None of these are optional steps. You have to have all of them or your marketing won’t take off like you hope. Simple as that. Check all these boxes and you’re ready for the next level.
Skip one and you’re not going to get what you want.