The Main Reason Why Small Marketing Teams Fails

Marketing experts will give you any number of reasons why marketing efforts fail. Blame will be placed on the tracking, the offer, the copy, the follow-up process, the sales process or even the product being sold.

In our early marketing experience at Ximble, the main culprit was actually a lot more strategic, and it went down to the core DNA of what we were going to achieve. We weren’t failing as a marketing organization because we weren’t doing a great job. We were facing delayed success and significant amounts of frustration due to a lack of alignment. It came down to the fact that our executive team, our marketing team and even our sales organization were not on the same page in regards to whether we were deploying and expecting a market share strategy or a profit-driven strategy.

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In our hyper-competitive business-to-business (B2B), software as a service (SaaS) workforce optimization space and with so much capital funding new startups, we had to quickly decide if our objective was to go out and acquire as much market share as possible as quickly as possible to become a market leader or to to be a profit-driven organization where our primary goal is to turn a profit month in and month out as soon as possible.

Something Has To Give

In any business environment, especially in a tech startup, there is more placed on marketers’ plates today. The demands are higher, the expectations are higher — they’re asked to do more with less. As a result, we realized that in order to achieve our goals as an organization, we had to answer this fundamental question before giving marketing a clear directive as to where to focus their attention: “Are we, as a part of our strategic path, going to task marketing with demand generation or brand awareness or both?”

Intrinsically, we understood that in marketing there really isn’t a silver bullet. There’s no single thing that’s going to push us over the edge against our competitors. Marketing is really about building an ecosystem and making sure all of the pieces are firing together instead of identifying one singular approach to getting wins. To make a military analogy, it takes the entire armed forces to win a war. It is only when the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and special forces engage and work in unison that the enemy can be defeated. Our main problem was that, in our “war,” our armed forces were not very large, so every resource was precious and had to be applied exactly according to the strategic plan or it would be wasted.

“Be Hungry For Profits And Patient For Growth” — Clayton Christensen

We realized from the onset that on our path to becoming a market share leader, we were going to come across organizations that were deploying a market share strategy, where they’re spending 50%, 60% or even 70% of their revenue on marketing alone and that was simply not something that resonated with us. Our mission was to build the best product and be recognized as an organization with the best customer experience. Both of those pillars required a significant investment, so we decided that fiscally responsible growth focused on achieving profitability and balanced investment in all areas of our operations was the right decision for us. We adopted the “it’s all about growth, but not growth at all costs” strategy.

Execute And Measure

Making a decision to focus on profitable growth, rather than engaging in an “arms race” to simply capture market share, meant that some of our competitors would have 10 or even 20 more opportunities to close sales every week. We simply had to find a way to have a high win rate against those organizations. Here are the areas we paid a special attention to:

1. Having A Better Product

Building a better product than our competitors’ will undoubtedly build a deeper trust with our customers, leading to less churn and more referrals. Another side benefit will be an ability to over time raise prices, as well as upsell on additional functionality.

2. Having The Proper Resource Allocation

Are we putting the right people in the right place, doing the right things? Is our budget in alignment with what we’re trying to achieve? In order to ensure we were allocating our resources properly, we first leveraged our judgment and experience systematically to predict how our actions would affect consumers. Then, we split tested different marketing actions on a cohort and compared how that group responded with the responses of a different control group of customers. Finally, we analyzed historical data looking at the ways customers have responded to various marketing actions previously. That allowed us to predict how new or existing customers would react in the future.

3. Being Realistic About The Desired Outcomes

How many initiatives can we simultaneously manage and still know what’s going on, collect the data and make informed decisions? How do we set the right key performance indicators (KPIs) to help us define and measure success?

4. Becoming A Technical Marketer

As marketing evolves and becomes all-digital, the amount of things that we can track is growing exponentially. We had to not only have the right marketing mindset but also become a technical marketer and begin dealing with large datasets.

5. Never Forgetting The Brand

Since generally, brand awareness precedes demand generation, it was also important for us to continuously invest in our brand in a way that’s geared towards the profitable growth. Once we establish that brand awareness and that relationship with the customer base, it becomes a lot easier to do things like request information for lead generation. At the same time, it continues to be really tricky to show a direct correlation between brand building and ROI.

Marketing continues to be a combination of art and science. The most important fundamental accomplishment is that we are finally in alignment with our priorities.