Guest Column | April 1, 2019

The New Marketing Mindset

By Charles Var

SM_SyncHR.jpg

A seasoned SaaS CMO shares 5 simple moves marketers need to nail.

The problem with marketing is, well, marketers. I can say that because I am one. In fact, I’m apparently the “chief” marketer, whatever that means. As marketers, we often make the mistake of thinking too much like a marketer and not enough like a business owner. We wind up paying attention to the wrong things: website visitors, impressions, webinar attendees, leads, etc. The problem is that those marketing metrics — albeit valuable — really don’t matter. If you’re a for-profit business, the only thing that really matters is money.

The most successful software marketers that I know today have a different mindset. They are business-minded people first, and marketers second. They obsess over revenue and only partially pay attention to all the other stuff. Don’t get me wrong. Impressions, brand awareness, website visitors, social followers, and leads are tracked, measured, and analyzed, but they aren’t the primary focus.

If you’re not sure if you’re more business-minded or marketing-minded, just ask yourself this simple question: “When you look at your marketing funnel, do you start at the top or the bottom?” A business-minded marketer will always start at the bottom of the marketing funnel by looking at the closed-won deals and trace them back up the funnel. Conversely, a marketing- minded marketer will invariably start at the top of the funnel. If you don’t look at marketing funnels or don’t know what they are, then you’re probably a salesperson tasked with doing marketing. And that’s a topic for a whole different article.

Regardless of which type you are, make no mistake that the primary function of a marketer is ultimately to “increase and accelerate revenue.” Whether it’s positioning or messaging, lead generation or PR, the reason marketing exists is to help make money faster and easier.

If you (or your company) are struggling to accelerate and grow revenue, here are a few tips I picked up throughout my 20+ year marketing career.

POSITIONING: DON’T OVERTHINK IT

In my humble opinion, where and how you position yourself in the market is the single most important thing a software marketer can do for a company. It frames almost everything you do, including how you message and how you go to market.

Too often, however, people overthink it. Or worse, they get a room full of executives together and talk it to death. The best and most successful software companies make it simple and easy to understand. Stop overthinking it.

The best tip I’ve heard about positioning is to imagine your company or product as a person walking into a room full of people. Like a marketplace, in that room, you’ll find potential customers and competitors. Where do you want to stand, or “position,” yourself in that room? Do you want to stand in a corner and talk to customers one-on-one, or do you want to congregate in the middle of the room with the rest of the competition and join the conversation?

STRATEGY: MISUSED, MISUNDERSTOOD, AND ONLY TEMPORARY

Strategy is a 10-cent word dressed in a $10,000 suit. When it comes to marketing “strategy” specifically, it’s widely misused and misunderstood. It’s just not that complicated. Too often, strategy is described as an end goal. For example, I’ll often hear people say something like, “Our strategy is to penetrate 25 percent of the manufacturing market with our software.” That is not a strategy. That is a goal.

The strategy is the answer to the question, “Okay, so how do you propose that we penetrate 25 percent of the manufacturing market?” Quite simply, your goal is the “what,” and your strategy is the “how.” Of course, there’s a lot that goes into how you achieve your goal, but it’s critically important to make sure that you (and everyone around you) understand what marketing strategy is and is not.

"The most successful software marketers that I know today have a different mindset. They are business-minded people first, and marketers second. They obsess over revenue and only partially pay attention to all the other stuff."

Also recognize that strategies are temporary. Too often, marketers — myself included — get so enamored with their strategy that they’ll stick with it even when it’s not working. If your “how” isn’t achieving your “what,” then try something different.

MEASUREMENT: TOO MUCH IS USUALLY TOO MUCH

If I told you marketing delivered a million dollars of revenue a day, would you be impressed? Now, if I told you marketing delivered a million dollars of revenue a day, but only three people visited our website, would you immediately start wondering how much revenue we could make if six people visited the website? If you do, you’re like most people.

Measurement is super important. But when it comes to metrics, marketers have to be very thoughtful about two things:

  1. What is meaningful to me: As a marketer, what metrics are key to helping me do my job and drive more revenue?
  2. What is meaningful to others: What metrics are key to helping others do their jobs, like approving budgets or staffing sales teams?

The metrics you use to do your marketing job and the metrics you share with others are not the same. Unfortunately, I see and hear a lot of marketers march into their CEO’s or CRO’s office, or worse, into a board meeting, with a mountain of metrics stuffed into piles of PowerPoint slides. Two things usually happen. One, the people you’re presenting to black out, pass out, or tune out halfway through. Or worse, some relatively meaningless metric catches their attention, and they deep-dive into it, preventing you from getting to the bigger point.

For example, I’ve been in meetings where we’ve spent hours deep-diving on why webinar leads dropped seven percent in the last quarter. We never got to the part of the presentation that showed revenue from marketing increased 200 percent. So just be thoughtful about how you use metrics and how you present them to others.

MESSAGING: WHAT YOU THINK DOESN’T MATTER

If strategy is a 10-cent word dressed up in $10,000 suit, then messaging is its distant cousin. Developing good, effective messaging just isn’t that complicated.

When it comes to good, effective messaging, there are two key things to remember. First, it doesn’t matter what you, your CEO, your board, or your best sales guy “thinks” you should message. What matters is what your customers or prospects think. Second, your messaging should sound like something a real-life human being would actually say — even if it “sounds” wrong to you. Take for example Apple’s famous “Think Different” campaign. The debate still rages over whether or not that slogan is even grammatically correct. Frankly, I don’t know, and I don’t care. I don’t think Apple cared, either. All that mattered was that it resonated with customers.

So, when you’re crafting messaging, do yourself a favor and test it with customers. And don’t give me this baloney that you don’t have the money or resources. I’ve tested messaging using six-figure consultants who do brand studies, and I’ve picked up the phone to talk to 10 or 20 prospects to get feedback. Whatever you do in terms of testing your messaging, just don’t do “nothing.”

In closing, take everything I’ve offered with a grain of salt. These are just suggestions based on my own personal experience. Your experience may be very different. In the end, I’m just another marketing guy trying to figure it out as I go.

CHARLES VAR is the CMO at SyncHR, an innovative payroll and HR SaaS platform. Prior to joining SyncHR, he ran marketing for TrackVia, a pioneering low-code DIY application- building platform, where he helped grow the company from just a few employees to a leader in the space. His experience marketing next-generation solutions spans more than 20 years, 15 of which were spent in Silicon Valley working for the likes of Intuit, McAfee, Symantec, and Intel.