Welcome to the second part of Art of Information Security’s interview with seasoned Information Security marketer Heather Deem (part 1 link). In the first part Heather discussed the importance of having reasonable time and resource expectations. In this part we will start off by discussing some low cost marketing techniques.
Erik: Are there any ‘free’ (but effective) marketing activities that organizations can pursue?
Heather: All Marketing activities have some cost in terms of development or execution time, however, the following activities can be considered “free” or low cost:
Webinars: If the company has an internal content expert available to develop and deliver educational presentations (industry or technology focused, not vendor specific content), and if the company has an enterprise-level web conferencing subscription, the marketing team can host webinars for relatively free. Partnering with channel partners for joint promotions can also help both companies educate and propel their prospects through the sales cycle.
By-lined or contributed articles: Developing industry-relevant articles for trade journals can be another relatively low cost activity to gain credibility and exposure. Similar to webinars, this requires an internal content expert to develop the article and either internal PR or an agency to pitch stories to the media.
Erik: What have been some of the biggest misconceptions about marketing that you have experienced in your work with start-ups and growth companies?
Heather: Two misconceptions spring to mind: the value of producing quality marketing materials, and the time and resources required to roll-out a program that has real impact.
I’ve seen companies who don’t hesitate to spend thousands of dollars to attend a tradeshow or who don’t bat an eye at an egregious entertainment bill submitted by sales, yet they balk or refuse to invest in a graphic designer to create a polished looking datasheet or direct mail piece, or refuse to spend time and money on developing the proper marketing materials for moving prospects and customers through the sales cycle.
The second misconception surrounds the required level of strategy, planning and resources required for successful marketing programs. Some executives underestimate the time required to plan a marketing program or what is required for execution in terms of personnel time, media lead time, engineering contribution to whitepapers, etc.
To develop truly integrated and impactful marketing programs, the marketing team needs to work through and understand the challenges faced by the sales team, the needs of the target market and align these key inputs to develop the appropriate campaigns to support the marketing goals. Prior to executing these campaigns, companies typically need to develop new or update existing marketing materials to support these campaigns. The entire process can take a month or more.
Erik: So, how can organizations promote marketing and messaging into the culture so that everyone is involved?
Heather: Establishing clear and effective marketing messaging and materials is the first step. This includes both internal and external websites, datasheets and presentation content. For example, develop a concise positioning and messaging document for sales, channel partners and other company staff.
I would also encourage the Marketing team to take advantage of all-hands meetings and either monthly or quarterly internal email updates to educate personnel on the latest marketing activities and messaging development.
Marketing or corporate executives should also address any marketing challenges that surface and instruct employees on how to respond publically. For example, if a known competitor is using under-handed sales tactics such as falsifying information about your company or product, executives should clearly indicate how sales and marketing is addressing the issue and reinforce that the corporate communication policy does not condone negative messaging or competitive bashing in retaliation. Similarly, if a company is dealing with a sensitive press issue, employees should be educated on the appropriate public response. Even if they are not considered company spokespersons, they need to be educated on what or what not to say.
Erik: What do organizations need to do, to determine if their marketing is effective?
Heather: The two exercises I would recommend are: mapping the marketing programs to the marketing goals for post-program evaluation and soliciting frequent feedback from analysts, customers and channel partners.
Prior to each marketing campaign, map the marketing goals to the campaign or activity and measure the actual results post-program. This will typically require a pre-defined lead follow-up plan and collaboration between sales and marketing. Metrics to include may be Cost per Lead, Response Rates, Website Hits, Lead Quality, Opportunities Developed, Opportunities Closed, etc. Of course these efforts will only be as good as the level of accountability required of both marketing and sales to input and maintain prospect and customer data throughout the sales cycle.
Measuring the effectiveness of messaging and marketing materials can be achieved through feedback from the sales team, prospects/customers, channel partners, and analyst feedback. It is very important to reach out to all of these audiences to gain a fresh perspective on your messaging and content from time to time. If possible, try to incorporate feedback from each of these groups, since each group brings a unique perspective.
Erik: Heather, you have worked with a number of start-ups. How early in the genesis of a new organization should a marketing plan be developed?
Heather: Even if a start-up doesn’t have a dedicated marketing budget, a marketing strategy and plan should be developed before any customer facing activities are initiated. If hiring a marketing professional (either employee or consultant) is not an option, then this effort can be lead by one of the executives. The key is to develop a baseline strategy covering product pricing, positioning, messaging and the go-to-market strategy. Even a rudimentary go-to-market strategy will serve as a foundation for guiding sales and developing marketing materials. As the company goes to market and gains additional intelligence on customers and competitors and as product enhancements are rolled out, this strategy should be reassessed and revised.
In addition to the marketing strategy, an initial marketing plan should be developed. While a marketing budget may not be established, you still need to devise a plan for the development of marketing materials such as the website, collateral (datasheets, solution overviews, technical manuals), presentations, whitepapers, demos, product packaging. Factoring in public relations efforts, such as the development, the out-reach and the response to media and analyst relations should also be considered, even if the company is not planning a formal PR program.
Thought should also be given to how prospect and customer data will be managed. Even if the company has yet to deploy a CRM system, it is important to plan an efficient process on how this data is maintained, how leads and customers are managed and how this data can be ported to a CRM solution in the future. If the strategy for managing customer data is not instituted with the sales team from the get-go, management will never really gain solid data to support the business metrics and marketing will loose invaluable data for establishing and managing marketing programs.
Erik: What are the first steps for companies, especially resource-strapped start-ups, to take in starting their marketing efforts?
Heather: Refer to my answers regarding the top marketing activities and “nearly free” marketing activities. Development of even a baseline marketing strategy, marketing plan and marketing materials assessment will go a long way in laying the foundation to drive effective yet budget conscious marketing programs.
I will also offer a free one-hour “Ask the Expert-Marketing Consultation” to the readers of Art of Information Security blog. During this session companies can jump start their marketing by gaining free marketing advice specific to their website or marketing plan and bounce ideas off a marketing expert who specializes in the IT Security industry. Schedule your free session through the contact page at www.candescomarketing.com
Many Thanks to Heather !
Thanks for taking the time for the interview, and for the offer to Art of Information Security’s readers. I hope that it will help provide a more rounded perspective to folks we are struggeling with organizing or understanidng their marketing needs.
Heather can be contacted through Candesco Marketing.