Posted: July 07, 2011
Fatal marketing mistakes for tech companies
Avoid these or risk failureBy Christopher J. Ryan
For all Colorado's diversity of tech companies and entrepreneurs, there is still a small list of marketing missteps that can cause them to limp along far beneath their potential, or worse yet, fold outright.
As veterans who have built and marketed tech-based companies from Silicon Valley to Colorado, our team has seen it all. We've even had the displeasure of being at ground zero for some of these common blunders and fatal mistakes. While no magic bullet can guarantee you success, steering clear of these big rocks greatly increases your odds of not only surviving, but flourishing.
Engineering a Marketing Fiasco
A team of highly skilled engineers rolls out a product that passes beta and actually starts to get some traction. Encouraged by their first few orders, the company promotes those engineers or product developers to fill the marketing and sales roles. Who better to sell the product than the person who built it? Besides, it's so good, it will sell itself, right?
We have seen a few companies luck out and have this scenario come true. But for most tech companies, evolving from the "two guys in a garage" phase into a sustainable enterprise means finding the marketing leader who can turn your technical inspiration and list of features into compelling value propositions that hit the right audiences using a fluid repertoire of proven tactics - all driving quantifiable awareness, leads and revenue. Let your engineers design. Find a marketer to market. It's worth it.
Sales is Not Marketing
Just as marketing is a distinct and vital discipline from engineering, so is sales from marketing. Some tech companies throw a bunch of cash or equity at a sales guy with a huge contact list or give the reins to some cheap cold callers. This seldom works. First, the sales model must proceed from a structure in which your product strategy and brand promise have been carefully forged.
Secondly, that new hotshot sales VP or that boiler room you hired to cold call are going to fail if they don't have enough targeted, qualified leads. And even the best VP of sales won't have the time to be very good at sales if he or she has to keep the top of the conversion funnel filled with leads. That's what a VP of marketing is for.
Asking that of your sales team is a terrible use of their time. If you want results and are focused on growth, bring the right skill set to bear on the endeavor.
Misguided Marketing Strategy: Too Broad or Too Narrow
On the "too broad" end, lots of SMB tech companies, desperate for recognition and revenue, try to be everything to everyone. One of our teammates worked for a company whose small C-level and business development team had dozens of potential deals cooking, not one of them anywhere near the one-yard line. The company's core position changed with every potential new partner. In the excitement of infancy, they were saying "Yes" to anyone who would pay attention to them, rolling out pilot programs whose execution was burning cash and burning out the staff.
Aiming too narrowly is equally fatal. We encountered one software company who based their revenue success on scoring massive deals with partners. If it worked, the company would have been awash in cash. But it didn't, and there was no Plan B. Another marketing CMO focused all of his efforts on winning plaudits from big-time analysts like Gartner and Forrester, but there was no effective strategy in place for generating leads when this approbation didn't materialize.
True marketing leaders take your team to market with a clear idea of what differentiates you and who needs to hear your message. They then direct a multi-dimensional mix of content and collateral, social media and PR, tradeshows and webinars, to fill the leads funnel. They also create consensus with other leaders in the company around how many of those leads they need to get, and how many sales need to close for the company to hit its revenue targets.
Positioned for Success
For the company who has its sights on growth, it is critical to avoid the pitfalls that condemn an enterprise to extinction or mere subsistence levels of revenue. Avoiding these mistakes means seeing marketing as a vital addition to your growth strategy, driven by a B2B or B2C marketing expert whose has the proven, hard-won knowledge to conceive and manage a real, quantifiable campaign for awareness, leads and revenue. Thus armed, you're separated from a universe of talented also-rans who were dragged down by all-too-common mistakes.
About the Author
Christopher Ryan (@CRyanFusionMkt) is president of Fusion Marketing Partners, a strategic B2B marketing and sales enablement consultancy based in Colorado Springs. As both a services provider and in-house marketing executive, Ryan has played a transformative role in driving marketing and sales programs that achieved shorter sales cycles, higher close rates and greater profit margins. His new ebook, Powerful B2B Marketing Strategies to Drive Awareness, can be downloaded free here. For more information, please visit http://fusionmarketingpartners.com.
Christopher Ryan is one of the nation's foremost experts in B2B marketing and sales. Author of How to Create an Unstoppable Marketing and Sales Machine (Fusion Marketing Press, 2009), Mr. Ryan is founder and President of Fusion Marketing Partners (www.fusionmarketingpartners.com). Chris Ryan was formerly a senior marketing executive at noted companies like Stellent, Inc., FrontRange Solutions, PeopleSoft, Sybase, and Group 1 Software. Mr. Ryan's latest book can be obtained at Amazon.com or at http://fusionmarketingpartners.com/get-the-book/.