Understanding That Business Hurdle and How to Get Over It
So you've built your business into a fairly substantial success story. Your team is working well, you have won a couple of big clients, your offering is proving to be a hit and you have a steady stream of revenue coming in. In short, you are cruising nicely.
Then bang ... the board meetings start posing more searching questions. How do we grow? How do we attract more clients? Do we need investors? What about potential buyers? How do we get better to make any of this happen?
There is only so far that little black book of contacts can take you. You recognise that a marketing function would complement the commercial team and bring in those much needed quality leads for the sales team. You identify investment in marketing would promote your business and raise its profile. But how? What does that function look like?
You’ve hit the marketing conundrum.
Many tech businesses run lean, so budgets are tight and they can only employ necessary functions. Makes complete commercial sense but also often means that marketing is an afterthought, seen as a luxury, not a necessity. You want to start promoting your business immediately and you need someone to do it for you. The necessity of a complementary marketing function has been realised but the specifics about what that means, in what format and what you actually need, is far less clear.
You're seemingly faced with only three options. Do you hire:
A permanent staff member?
There are, of course, pros and cons with each one of these options in relation to time, availability and cost. Each can be as good as the other so it comes down to what your priorities are at that moment. They will all deliver excellent work. So you select one and regardless of which one you choose, it starts really well. There's a new lease of life in the business. You're promoting some great looking materials, running some engaging campaigns and your followers on social media are increasing.
Then you hit frustrations. Despite having built an awesome product and some great clients, you’ve reached another hurdle in the selling process. You can't quite get the report that you asked for or you're not quite sure what your money is going towards. Or perhaps you're not quite getting the proactive direction you were expecting. This is much more common than you think. You are not the first business to experience it. It happens time and time again when companies start on their marketing journey. And it is so easily fixed.
It boils down to the disconnect at the very beginning of the decision making process. There is a gulf between the expectations of both parties for a variety of reasons (that's a whole other blog topic!)
The disconnect is not in who you hired. You hired highly talented people who deliver excellent results. The disconnect is that they are producing the results that you asked for but not necessarily the ones you thought you had asked for.
It happens because in the haste to get started, the most important part of the marketing process is missed. You’re not a marketing expert, you knew you needed marketing and you needed to get started with it sooner rather than later but you didn’t really know what that meant.
What you wanted was marketing; what you need is commercial marketing. You need to know the sum of the parts before you instruct the activity specialists. Think first, then act.
It doesn't matter how successful the activity is if it isn't the right kind of activity. It's all very well having 100,000 followers on instagram but if none of them is an active member of your target audience, you may as well burn that money instead. The money you're spending making engaging content and promoting your business is being received by the wrong people for the wrong reasons because the commercial stage of the marketing process was missed out at the beginning.
It doesn’t need to be as drastic as the wrong audience at the wrong time. It could be the right audience but the wrong time or the wrong message. Perhaps the message is mixed and the audience isn’t receiving the right information in the right way. Either way, it all comes from the same source.
Without first understanding the market, its needs and how to position your business, you will always be paying for a service where your goods will be expertly delivered at the wrong angle. How do you know if something isn’t working or how to fix it if you don’t know what you were trying to do in the first place? The longer these expectations remain unaddressed, the more the resulting frustrations deepen the gulf.
Developing a commercial marketing function in your business is the only way to bring vision and add value. It is vital the needs are established before the wants so you can translate your business objectives into an effective marketing strategy and give direction accordingly. Everything else is semantics.
Do get in touch if you want to discuss any of this further, we're happy to talk about commercial marketing all day long!
What are your views on the freelancer, permanent head and agency employment? What have your experiences been? Are you a freelancer or from an agency? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.