(As appeared in Forbes.)
In working with founders and high-growth executives, ‘brand’ and ‘marketing’ are sometimes dirty words. Especially when the investors are at the table.
Marketing consultants and agencies have a lot to do with this negative association. Perhaps you’ve worked with ‘those firms,’ the ones that don’t understand revenue models and what job the company needs marketing to do.
Do your marketers understand the language of the C-suite?
Modo Modo Agency CEO Moira Vetter, and client Carol Godfrey of Southwire Company, gave a presentation to ANA Business Marketing Atlanta on the topic of marketing performance and thinking with a ‘revenue brain.’
Before any marketer talks to you about your audience and your call to action, they should ask you about the stage of your business, your revenue model, and your competitive situation.
Did they ask you whether you’re trying to generate revenue or profit? Do they know the difference?
If you’re generating new revenue in a new space, they may focus on thought leadership and brand awareness. If you’re focusing on profit, they may help you isolate your most lucrative customers, do analytics on them and better target those customers with account-based marketing.
If they just asked you what you want to say or how you want to be perceived, get them out.
They’ll just waste the money no one wanted you to spend with them while they are wasting your time.
What job do you need marketing to do?
If you are in a fast growth category, talk to the agency about goals like:
- Net new revenue – how many new accounts is a win? Does profit matter or does all new, and as much as you can get, matter?
- Revenue from enterprise business – Are you building your book of business and your ‘logos’?
- Rapid increases in growth (market share) – What’s your compound adjusted growth target? Are you hitting the 3-year mark and shooting for the Inc. 5000?
If you’re in the mid-market and growing, talk to the marketing team about goals like:
- Increases in recurring revenue – Are you a SaaS business? Are you targeting annual recurring revenue (ARR)?
- Faster revenue vs. longer revenue – Some account takes longer to close and may require more coaxing and engagement. Do you have strategies for pushing accounts that close faster when you have a higher revenue target to hit?
- Customer retention and expansion – Are you releasing new versions of your product or new capabilities? Are you effectively marketing to the customers you have, to generate more revenue and increase your customer lifetime value?
If you are a market leader and perhaps planning to acquire your smaller competitors, have you talked to your marketers about:
- Positioning the value proposition of a new combined entity
- Diversifying into new markets – Are you raising visibility in new markets that don’t know you have a solution to their challenges?
- Expanding into mass markets – are you moving up or down-market to expand your market share? Marketing has a different job to do if you are moving up versus moving down.
Good marketers may dress weird, but they understand business
One of the most important things marketers can do for a business in growth is push you in the right direction. I’m not talking about pushing your prospects and customers; I’m talking about pushing you and your executives.
Agencies worth a damn, or consultants, or your new CMO (in the 18 months you’ll probably give them), need to figure you out before they give you a prospect or customer strategy.
Are you funding the right activities? Are you giving them an innovation budget to test (and perhaps fail) in order to push the needle in the right direction?
Are you too caught up in your logo design to understand that your message to buyers about a value-added offering is more important?
Are you as a CEO still approving creative concepts? I was recently horrified to hear that the agency for GEICO has a direct line to Warren Buffett who approves their advertising concepts. I really hope that’s an urban legend for two reasons:
- Warren Buffett surely has better things to do with his time
- Have you seen those ads? Can we thank Buffett for the IQ points we drop while watching them? I shouldn’t kid. They must be effective to keep GEICO in the top 2 or 3 insurance providers. And, the GEICO ads do the most important thing that advertising (not marketing because they aren’t the same thing) has to do—they get remembered.
Spend wisely on marketing with people that understand your unit economics
Unlike GEICO, you don’t have more than $1 Billion, yes that’s a ‘B’, to spend on advertising.
You likely don’t have $1 Million. That means you have to get smart, surgical, or both. Don’t just ask your marketers or agencies what ROI they deliver. Ask them if they understand revenue generation. Particularly the kind you want.
You may not always love the stats they report, but you’ll know you are both on the same journey to grow and monetize your vision. If your brand is doing that, it really doesn’t matter if you love your logo or the field of aqua in your latest campaign.
Tell your agency what kind of growth you want where, why your customer should give a damn and let them do what they know how to do. Then you (and your investors will love this) can focus on what you do—expand a thriving, competitive business.