A Survival Guide to Marketing: The Basics & Trends of Today


This post is by Kelly Watkins from Openview Labs


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Marketing is one of those disciplines that covers so much territory it can mean very different things to different people. It’s also an area that is always evolving in order to keep up with the constantly changing shopping and buying behaviors of both consumers and B2B buyers. Amidst all this transformation, there are some larger trends that stand out as well as some foundational basics that never change. One major trend that’s been gaining traction for a while now is a shift away from the tried-and-true (and now tired) gated content model. While this transactional approach—you give me your email, I’ll give you content—worked well in the old world where the marketing funnel was optimized for unit economics, it doesn’t stand up in today’s more crowded and competitive market. Where once all you needed was persistence and volume, you now need to figure out how to succeed in a market
end-user advocacy is playing a disruptive role, prospects aren’t willing to jump through hoops and your audience cares way more about what their peers say than anything your marketing department says. The days of the dog-and-pony show are over. Customers want substance. This new paradigm presents plenty of challenges to B2B marketing professionals who are trying to adapt on the fly. It was easier when you only had to find and convert one decision maker to ensure everyone else in that organization would fall in line. Now you not only have to recruit individual end users, you also have to turn them into loyal advocates. You need to change the way people interact with your brand. You need to beef up the back end tooling and analytics of your operations to support your new data-driven strategies. You need to be able to create and drive viral, grassroots growth. Nervous yet? Thankfully, there are some key foundational marketing tenets that never change. While I’ve worked for some of the most innovative companies out there, including GitHub and Slack, I have always been able to apply certain core strategies to good effect. For instance, it’s always helpful to drill down into your true marketing mission, and it never hurts to get super specific about your audience. What I find most exciting is that as customers become more sophisticated, marketers have a unique opportunity to up their game in really interesting ways. Take some of the key insights I uncovered at GitHub and iterated on for Slack. We realized we weren’t just selling a product, we were combining a product with a workflow to sell a new (and better!) way of doing something. Both these products also gave us an opportunity to look really closely at how end users, rather than decision makers, could drive our growth. And we also recognized the growing importance of brand voice and the role it plays in developing EQ (emotional quotient) around your marketing. In order to think productively about what’s next in marketing and which best practices will never change, we need to step back and survey the larger landscape. As I said, marketing means a lot of different things to different people. Understanding the different kinds of marketing and how they are evolving is a great place to start developing your own strategy.

Marketing Flavors and Trends – A Survey of the Landscape

Each aspect of marketing is about different dynamics within the brand/user base conversation. Combining the wide variety of marketing tactics with the countless variations on companies and audiences means there is no universal marketing solution—no one-size-fits-all strategy. That said, there are some overarching trends that affect all kinds of marketing. For one thing, prospects crave more substance and personalization. They want to feel seen and understood. They are also savvier and more skeptical when it comes to marketing. We’re long past the days of wearing people down until they’re finally willing to talk to us. Instead, the question today is how are you going to provide value in a way that earns you permission to take the conversation further. No matter what kinds of marketing you’re doing, the next era is going to be much more focused on users and value.

Account-based Marketing

People have been talking about ABM being the next big thing for a while now, but whether it is or isn’t depends on how and in which ways you’re executing it. It has potential in the right situation. For instance, if you’re building a more enterprise-oriented company that’s landing six- and seven-figure deals, has a long sales cycle, and a complex buying process, then ABM might be the most appropriate approach for you—find your influencers, your decision maker and create champions inside the company to drive conversion at the buyer level.

Growth Marketing

Growth marketing is tricky to pin down because the definition shifts depending on who you’re talking to. Sometimes, it’s mostly about data-driven automation. Other times it sounds more like a rebranding of a traditional customer acquisition team. The real potential in this area is to focus on user-first customer acquisition that’s built on an intimate knowledge of your audience, what matters to them, and all the details of the user journey. This approach allows for personalized assets and materials and is almost anti-ABM in the way it seeks to treat each prospect as an individual and create delightful, personalized experiences that inspire viral sharing and creative collaboration between the brand and the prospect. Companies that want to take on growth marketing in the most effective way need to be prepared to answer the question, “Why does this matter to me?” at the user level.

Conversational Marketing

This is a really interesting area that is gaining traction thanks to companies like Drift. Like growth marketing, it’s an approach that requires a high level of commitment. If you do conversational marketing halfway, it will fail completely. Anemic automation won’t do the trick here. Prospects need to feel like they’re engaging with a human, not a script.

Brand Marketing

Brand marketing is the components that help increase the credibility of your company and your product. Brand marketing plays a pivotal role by helping influence people’s impressions in a way that shapes their sentiment. It can be a bit of a challenge internally because, traditionally, it’s the aspirational part of every marketer’s career while also being perceived as an expensive luxury item with poor ROI. Because of this dichotomy, a company needs to take a firm stand when it comes to brand marketing. You either really believe in it, or you don’t. Optimally, a company takes on brand marketing only when that approach is somehow connected to the larger growth strategy. As an example, at Slack, brand marketing was a really important part of our strategy. It helped us boost unaided awareness and shape brand sentiment, both of which were required to get website visitors to get started with the product right when they arrived on the site. To achieve this immediate engagement, we needed to make sure that by the time someone got to the website, they already had not only a pretty significant level of awareness about the product, but also had to be in consideration and have intent. To create this scenario, our marketing needed to 1) influence people early on to see Slack as a credible communication/collaboration solution in a work environment, and 2) make sure that they were able to recall the brand in the moment at work when there wasn’t a Slack ad staring them in the face. Whatever your motivations for engaging in brand marketing, it’s important to remember that this is a long-term game, not a way to a quick win. Brand marketing is all about laying the early foundational components that help shorten the time to activation by setting the right expectations. This strategy is about consistency and commitment. For anyone interested in pursuing brand marketing, I highly recommend the white paper, “The Long and the Short of It,” which is all about how to think about the difference between measuring brand marketing efforts versus other, more qualitative marketing campaigns.

Product Marketing:

Like brand marketing, product marketing is, in part, a strong foundation upon which you can layer other kinds of marketing. Also, like brand marketing, it’s about shaping the conversation, using a more educational tone. Product led growth (PLG) is a ubiquitous trend that’s flipping the script on the old, buyer-focused approach to growth. Today, growth depends a lot more on winning the hearts of individual employees who have a lot more sway now than ever before. As consumers, employees are used to using great products. They don’t want to settle for anything else at work, so product companies need to take their UX to the next level, removing as much friction as possible and paying attention to all the details of the user flows. Product marketing is the heart and center of the marketing organization because it’s a very complimentary and necessary partner to product and because it allows you to deliver so much more authenticity and value. Because product marketing is embedded in the product, it has the potential to take the customer conversation to a deeper level that’s not at all superficial. Product marketing is also an area that can deliver a lot of ROI even in the very early stages of a product, even in beta products. And, in most cases, your first marketing hire should be someone who is a really strong product marketer. And once you’ve found that person, it’s important to put them in a position of influence. Product marketing isn’t just about website copy, email campaigns, and blog content. To get the most out of product marketing, you want to bring the team in on conversations about user flows and pricing and everything else that’s core to your product. Your product marketer should become a unifying force across all aspects of both product and marketing.

Demand Gen Marketing:

While this label feels very dated, it does still have a potential role to play. Demand gen marketing is the invitational aspect of the customer conversation. It’s about inviting prospects to come on the journey with you, and then—as I’ve already said—earning the right to take that conversation to the next level and, ultimately, grow it into a relationship.

Non-negotiable Marketing Basics – Foundational Elements

With all these different kinds of marketing and all the different ways to execute them, it’s no wonder that marketers often suffer from shiny-object syndrome. Marketing is called a discipline for a reason. It’s hard and it takes focus. Marketers are under a lot of pressure from sales, the executive team, the board, funders, etc. They get a lot of praise when things go right, but they also shoulder a lot of the blame when growth stalls. This is why, as marketers, we’re constantly on the lookout for that one new weird trick that will solve all our problems. That doesn’t exist, of course, and we do a disservice to ourselves when we promote abstract programmatic notions as the Next Big Thing. Instead, we need to start with the big questions and get back to basics with a crawl-walk-run mentality.

Crawl: What are we trying to achieve?

Marketing is a means to an end, for it to be successful, you have to know where you’re going. At Slack, our end goal was getting people to think about work differently, to give them a sense of hope and optimism that there was a way to eliminate the friction that comes with cross-functional teamwork.

Walk: Who, exactly, is our audience?

A lot of companies really struggle with this piece, and the biggest mistake I see is assuming everyone is your audience. Trying to be everything to everyone is a recipe for disaster because it dilutes your message and can easily spread you too thin over too many (and wrong) channels. Get down to the nitty-gritty. See how detailed you can get. You can always pull back if you need to, but start with the highest level of specificity you can muster.

Run: What can we build from here?

Only once you know what you’re trying to do and who you’re trying to help can you start testing things like creative and channels and so forth. At Slack, we had a big a-ha moment when we realized that rather than trying to segment people by their functional areas (marketing team, sales team, engineering team, etc.), we were able to gain more traction if we focused on how Slack makes communication easier when people are out of the office. By realigning our messaging around that moment of highest friction (trying to be productive while commuting, traveling, or working offsite), we were able to easily identify the best opportunities to reach our audience. We did radio during morning and evening drive time, ads in airports, and in magazines that people tend to pick up while they’re traveling.

The Bright Future – Full of Potential

This is a really exciting time to be in marketing. We’re in the early innings of a pivotal transition, and it’s going to be fascinating to see where things go from here. I’m lucky enough to have a front-row seat because of the advising work I’m doing now, and I’m already seeing that things are evolving along multiple tracks. I’m looking forward to staying on top of emerging strategies and tactics while at the same time working to get more clarity around my beliefs about what marketing and should be. Even as things are hurtling along at breakneck speeds, I have some pretty strong views about the importance of preserving and elevating some foundational aspects of the marketing craft, particularly around storytelling and brand. There are a lot of questions to be asking as companies start figuring out where they want to go with their marketing. What kind of team and organizational design do they need? How do they think about their programs? How do they think about marketing? And, how can marketing become an accelerant in partnership with product to really get them moving toward where they want to be? Yes. It’s a really exciting time to be in marketing. The post A Survival Guide to Marketing: The Basics & Trends of Today appeared first on OpenView.

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A Survival Guide to Marketing: The Basics & Trends of Today


This post is by Kelly Watkins from Openview Labs


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Marketing is one of those disciplines that covers so much territory it can mean very different things to different people. It’s also an area that is always evolving in order to keep up with the constantly changing shopping and buying behaviors of both consumers and B2B buyers. Amidst all this transformation, there are some larger trends that stand out as well as some foundational basics that never change. One major trend that’s been gaining traction for a while now is a shift away from the tried-and-true (and now tired) gated content model. While this transactional approach—you give me your email, I’ll give you content—worked well in the old world where the marketing funnel was optimized for unit economics, it doesn’t stand up in today’s more crowded and competitive market. Where once all you needed was persistence and volume, you now need to figure out how to succeed in a market
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