“We are struggling a bit with the optimization of our marketing activity,” said the CEO of a three-year-old startup that had just raised almost $10M in funding. His marketing manager and self-described growth hacker was nodding in confirmation from behind his shoulder.
It didn’t sound right to me. “You mean that your marketing is profitable, but not profitable enough?”
“No, not really, I wouldn’t call it profitable,” he replied.
I started to understand the story. “So, you still haven’t found the audience for this product, and your methodology to finding it is ‘optimization’?”
“I guess so,” he replied indifferently as I tried to conceal my disapproval.
It’s hard to tell why high-tech managers like to optimize things. Maybe it’s because optimization sounds more technical and familiar to engineers, or maybe they just don’t yet understand how this marketing thing really works. The fact is that terminology matters, and many times they actually spend their time optimizing things that don’t yet work.
And things do have to work first: You cannot optimize your archery skills before you know how to operate a bow and arrow, and have a target set up. There is no hack or optimization algorithm for it. You have to start with experience-based targeting and intelligent insights BEFORE you reach optimization stage: It’s a qualitative stage, not a quantitative one.
Here is where the second part of the problem lies: Tech executives tend to overrate hard marketing skills such as SEO and funnel analysis and underrate the importance of softer marketing skills like the understanding of consumer psychology and creativity.
It’s understandable — we all tend to overvalue the skills that are similar to our own and undervalue skills that we don’t know as much about. But this is detrimental to our success, and we have to overcome it.
Every marketing process should start with people who have impressive soft skills in marketing and solid experience in persuasive communication.
Stage 1: Gain an in-depth understanding of the psychological needs of your target audience
It all starts with the customer. This is the target for you to shoot your arrows at. You need to get deep into your customer’s perceptions, motivations and predispositions.
Stage 2: Develop a story and a visual language
Stories are shortcuts to persuasion. Without a clear narrative that involves your customer as a hero, you have no chance of hitting the bull’s-eye. At this stage, though, I recommend that you don’t finish the story. Leave it open-ended so you can explore together with your customer in stage 4.
Stage 3: Find your audience
You need to understand the best channels to reach your customers, the best time to do it and the ideal state of mind for embracing your offerings. You need to understand his/her decision-making process and build funnels accordingly.
Stage 4: Start telling your story in many different ways
It’s better not to jump in with large advertising budgets before you know what works. Test various iterations of your story, until you know you got it right.
If things don’t work well, and you can’t come close to your target numbers, go back to stages 1–3 and see what you need to change there.
Only when you start reaching your target numbers can you start
optimizing and growth-hacking your way forward.
Need help with any of the above mentioned stages? You can contact me directly at [email protected]