In my brutally honest opinion, talking about demand gen strategy is usually a waste of time. Most discussions about DG amount to “how do we get more leads?”. The only differences between them are about budget, ranging from “at the lowest cost possible” to “at any cost.”
Most discussions of “marketing strategy” you have with CEOs and founders will not be about marketing and will not be about strategy. They will instead be about demand gen and tactics.
If you’re running marketing, you will still need some strategy. Without making that strategy explicit, you’ll find it incredibly hard to understand or explain how marketing actually delivers any outcomes.
Programming notes: this post is n in a series of indeterminate length on GTM topics mainly for startup people, mainly leadership, mainly coming from non-GTM backgrounds. There’s a list at the end.
All marketing exists within some go to market [GTM] and Product context. What are you selling? Who is going to use it? How will it make their lives better? Who are you selling to? What industry are you selling in to? How much do you need them to spend on you? How many deals do you need to close in a month, a quarter, a year? What is your (real and desired) sales motion? Who are your competitors? How does the market talk about what you do? What are you users and buyers expectations with regards to how products in your category are packaged and priced and delivered and consumed?
If you’re selling enterprise software into hospital groups that costs $250k a year at its cheapest and takes three months to pilot and get through HIPAA reviews with an additional three months to integrate and successfully onboard a customer with the help of sales engineering or professional services once they’ve signed a contract — you will have a very differentmarketing strategy (and tactics) compared to a freemium product for ISRs selling into unregulated industries with initial buy-in for a paid tier of $100 a year with a 14-day free trial and self-onboarding guided by docs and in-app tutorials that takes on average less than 30 days.
Marketing, like every other functional area of a business, should have its own goals which clearly derive from and can be seen to contribute to business goals.
For each of the major areas of marketing — corporate/brand/comms, product, demand gen/lead gen/performance/growth — there should be an overarching goal.
Business Goals might look something like this:
For which Marketing Goals might derive like this:
*Note: The purpose of “Demand” in this case is building up the supply, or inventory, of eyeballs that will be sold to advertisers.
For each of your goals, there will be some strategy that defines how you will achieve that goal.
Continuing from above..
A Marketing Strategy for the above goals might look like:
Tactically, now, you have to figure out what your content strategy will be, what your editorial style will be, what keywords and kinds of searches you want to optimize for, what specific copy to put in the product, how to obtain and amplify user stories, what social mechanisms to test and use, etc.
Bundle Marketing Strategy with Messaging and Positioning into a single document of record, because these tend to serve as the source and guiding materials for everything else — from demand gen campaigns to product launches to funnel metrics. You can find a template to copy here.
If the GTM or Product context changes, your Strategy will need to change. Proceeding with the same Marketing Strategy in a different business context, without revision, is a recipe for failure.
If Tactics don’t work, change them. If all your Tactics aren’t working, your Strategy is probably the problem.
For each of your strategies, aligned to each of your goals, there will be some array of tactics you deploy to actually execute that strategy.
Continuing from above..
The Marketing Tactics for the above strategies might be:
Every tactic has a half-life.
Many have long tails.
Always be looking for signals that you’ve hit the point of diminishing returns for a particular tactic and have in mind how that specific tactic needs to evolve or how it will be replaced.
Next level tactitioning would be to think about why a tactic is losing efficacy.
A tactic that has leveled off is not the same as one that’s on a downslope.
A flatlined tactic may represent something that generates run-rate [but not growing] business.
A tactic that’s on the downslope is not a tactic that’s useless. It may still generate incremental lead volume for a long time to come.
Think about your tactics as a portfolio of investments. Rebalance your portfolio in proportion to results.
Actual marketing work is generally organized around specific events or cadences.
In tech, especially at startups, the events that usually matter are: product launches, conferences (own or sponsored), and business announcements (funding rounds, acquisitions, partnerships, executive changes).
Typically the cadences that matter are are driven by sales: monthly, quarterly, and yearly.
Overlayed on events and cadences, marketing work historically has been organized into “campaigns”. Campaigns are a coordinated set of marketing activities designed to achieve a specific time bound goal. You can get down to the specifics of every week of a particular campaign — who’s responsible for producing what output or executing what specifics.
Campaigns can last weeks, months, and quarters. Never more than a year.
Continuing from above..
Marketing Calendar Template [Fork at will!]
Organizing marketing work into campaigns may be overkill for your team, if you’re an early stage startup. If you find yourself spending more time organizing and coordinating than delivering, then remove process.
Whether you use spreadsheets, project management software, Google Calendar, wikis, or any particular tool to coordinate and communicate work does not matter. Whether everyone on your team uses the same tool and whether everyone on other teams can understand what you’re doing by looking at those tools does matter.
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