Surely all companies are interested in growth, but what makes a ‘ high growth’ company different? Is it the internal and external pressures that abound, whether from investors or market pressure or new management or rapid acquisitions? Is it the expectation of exponential growth today, while trying to build a scalable business for the future? It’s often all of those things and more, and it’s time to recognize the strategic impact of marketing in companies with high growth goals.
Companies that consider themselves in a period of high growth typically fall in one of two camps:
- Newer companies on their initial growth trajectory, who are finding it hard to scale.
- More mature companies who need to jump-start growth to maintain or reclaim their position in the market.
For companies on their initial trajectory, they often find that what brought them this far is not exactly what it will take to get them to the next horizon. In the past, it may have been scrappy teams, full of energy and drive, adopting technology to help fill gaps, and driving more and more volume into the top of the funnel. But even if these teams are meeting goals and objectives now, leadership is beginning to see how this cobbled-together approach doesn’t do enough to support growth as goals get more and more aggressive with each year’s objectives.
As for companies that may have plateaued or need to shift gears to support different growth plans, the need is similar, but the drivers are different. Traditional marketing is typically the hallmark of these companies, with well-established campaign structures and marketing teams, but when the business needs change, it’s hard to drive the change necessary to meet the evolving business needs. Team skills, technologies and processes may be well-aligned to previous paradigms, but high growth will demand great change.
Savvy business leaders and demand marketers in both types of growth stage companies recognize the need to lay the groundwork for a more scalable approach to drive predictable, sustainable sales growth. But first, they’ll need to overcome some common hurdles.
Hurdles to Achieving Strategic Demand in Growth-Oriented Companies
Right place, right time
Reaching buyers at the perfect moment is the Holy Grail of demand marketing. While all marketers want to achieve it, too often the pressures of high growth objectives lead to a state where they are more likely trying every place, all the time, in the hopes of getting it right sometimes. When there is no understanding or acknowledgement of where the buyer is in their journey, this type of marketing is highly inefficient and increasing the scale of it will only irritate buyers and have the adverse effect of driving negative buyer sentiment for the brand.
Understanding and responding to where buyers are in their journey is achieved by incorporating real-time buyer journey insights into targeting and triggering strategies. This ability to target and trigger – which is part process, part content design and part systems approach – avoids the situation where the messages tactical marketing teams send are unlikely to reach individuals in the right place at the right time. It’s not simple to engineer and execute, but the rewards in customer experience, continuity of message and, ultimately, higher qualified leads that convert to sales is well worth the investment.
Impact over activity
Strategic demand marketers know how important their efforts are when it comes to driving increased sales, and they recognize that this is where the marketing has the most strategic impact in companies with high growth goals. But while they may understand the importance, they aren’t able to actually measure and optimize their impact. Most marketers have institutionalized activity-based metrics like clicks and page views over the years, but vanity metrics don’t measure business impact and are nearly impossible to relate to revenue. Marketing that focuses on activities instead of outcomes is unable to analyze successful buyer journeys. Without identifying and repeating the patterns of content and engagement channel combinations that lead to more wins, tactical marketing will only increase activities – not drive real growth.
For businesses to understand what is working, and what is not, teams must implement a closed-loop reporting system. Only then can they measure the real impact of marketing initiatives, including every content and engagement channel interaction in-between first touch and win. This is crucial in reporting on marketing’s contribution to pipeline and isolating specific elements that had the greatest impact.
With start-and-stop, time-based campaigns, tactical marketers are stuck in a never-ending activity loop where they are only as successful as their last campaign. There is little continuity between campaigns, and any recipients who weren’t in an active buying cycle at the time are ‘misses’; more fodder for the next outbound activity focused on the company’s current message. If marketers are not addressing and anticipating buyer needs at each stage of the buying process, they are missing the opportunity to connect with a prospect in any stage and manage an ongoing conversation.
Strategic demand engages buyers by addressing their pain points and information needs at every stage of the buying process. When the whole story is mapped out, it becomes possible to manage this two-way flow of information via Conversation Tracks. With buyer insights, strategic demand marketers can provide valuable resources that answer key questions buyers have, creating opportunities to continue a dialogue between solution provider and solution seeker on the buyer’s terms and timeframe. Because all the steps and feedback loops are framed out and enabled by technology, there is no need for the frenzy to create the next campaign. The whole process is always on, and always listening for buying signals to serve up the next resource, which could be a salesperson, when the time is right.
Strategic demand marketers spend more time analyzing and optimizing for better outcomes, rather than dreaming up the next campaign.
Hallmarks of Success
When growth-oriented companies search for solutions that will help them scale demand to meet their high growth objectives, they should position their marketing programs against three key guiding principles:
1. Programs should be built around the buyer journey, not the campaign schedule, to enable right time, right place interactions. To do this, strategic demand marketers must uncover the buyer’s pain points, what he or she needs to make a decision, and where he or she finds that information.
2. Next, a Demand Process is necessary to establish a framework. This process includes:
- Content to answer buyer questions
- Lead management to gauge qualification
- Technology enablement to optimize, evaluate and respond to buyer insights
Just as importantly, a Demand Process requires organizational alignment along the buying process. This change management is not to be underestimated as it’s often the most difficult barrier to successfully shifting to a Strategic Demand state.
3. Finally, a Perpetual Demand Generation program is enabled as the sum of all other parts. It aligns systems and conversation tracks to create a reactive environment that can then observe buyer interactions and contextually react to those signals. With this ability, demand marketers at growth-oriented companies can finally drive well timed, relevant conversations across engagement channels, optimizing for outcomes to drive sales lift.
Making the Shift to Strategic Demand
While shifting from tactical to Strategic Demand is critical and highly ROI-positive, it doesn’t happen overnight. In growth stage companies there often isn’t an appetite for long initiatives that don’t also drive short-term results. For this reason, a staged approach involves moving quickly with a larger guiding vision and investment that encompasses several work streams to ensure that broader outcomes are met while also delivering rapid returns on the investment. When this happens, the strategic impact of marketing in companies with high growth goals is realized. For more information on staging a shift to Strategic Demand, read Making the Critical Shift from Tactical Demand Generation to Strategic Demand Marketing.
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