Startup Marketer

Marketing 403 for Engineers: Answering Founder FAQs

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.

In this final post for the year, and probably for this series — here are some very popular questions that I’ve gotten in 2019 from startup founders and others in my role as an advisor and freelance marketing exec.

What’s the difference between messaging and positioning?

Messaging is a statement of value. What value do you provide? What value will the customer experience or realize?
Positioning is a statement of category. What are you like or not like? What products or companies do you want to be compared to from a technical, marketing, pricing, packaging, and every other, perspective?

How do we test positioning and messaging? How do we know if it’s optimal?

Well, there’s no such thing as optimal. There’s just what turns more or less people into customers. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ So the only real test is: is it turning people into customers or not?
  • You can stage out a funnel and see how far they get along in the process of learning about you and converting to tune things.
  • If there are sales people, you can sit in on sales calls and presentations to see what is and isn’t working.
  • If you’re doing email marketing, using messaging/chat services, or running ads — you can A/B test different messaging and positioning to see what leads to opens/engagement/clicks/conversion.
  • You can try it out on people who are in the target audience to get real feedback.
Ultimately what’s optimal for you for now is going to vary depending on who “people” are, what they care about, what motivates them, what they’re afraid of, what your competitors are saying, what they’re hearing from the news and from their influencers and from their friends about your product category, what the cost of your product is, how much friction there is in doing business with you, and so much more that you have zero control over.

When should we hire a marketing person?

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? What is your intended sales motion? Who are your competitors? What will your funnel look like? Is it low-cost-entry, bottoms-up, land-and-expand or is it open-source, community, usage-growth, commercial-support or is it..?
If you don’t have answers to these questions, you haven’t gotten to the part of building a company where you actually go to market. And that’s what marketers do. Unless you’re very clear about finding someone who can help you answer all these questions, you need to make some decisions first.
Why? Because the person you hire to come up with or execute a marketing strategy for GTM A will not be the same as for GTM B. The same holds for sales, by the way.

When should we hire a product marketing person?

If you have actual sales people, you need product marketing pretty much as soon as they exist and preferably before.
Otherwise, it depends on sales’ ability to self-enable and the founders’ or product’s ability to do messaging, positioning, launches, and sales enablement.
Some startups get to 100+ people and large sales team without acknowledging the need for PMM. The work is done mostly by product and filled in by others.

How do we measure product marketing?

Product marketing is essentially a service function, with the exception of when it runs launches and specific measurable programs like Analyst Relations.
So a lot of it is: did product marketing materially add to sales velocity, increase ACVs, get good coverage on a launch, position the company well with analysts so they wrote it up accurately, etc.
A lot of the work of product marketing is qualitative, but you should be able to measure much of the impact quantitatively — even if it’s more like a contribution margin than a direct cause [but what isn’t!].

How much attention should we pay to industry analyst recommendations?

  • Analyst recommendations are severely lagging indicators about what’s going on in the world. By the time they recommend something, it’s been par for years and the run away winners have moved on to new tactics or strategies.
  • If you look at the survey data / responses directly, you might come to different conclusions. Analysts will generally create the most generic recommendations possible to cover the widest audience and answer set and so they can’t be easily proven wrong. Actual insight comes from finding outliers in the data that are matched with success in the market.
That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do analyst relations. If you’re selling an enterprise product, you need to do AR. You just have to build an understanding of how analyst firms operate, who they serve, and how to weight/discount the advice.
There’s a useful amount of effort to put in and a less useful amount that really depends on the maturity of your company/product vs the maturity of the market you’re selling in to. For example, if you’re an “early” startup, you’re not getting into a Gartner Magic Quandrant unless it’s a brand new MQ for a new category. But, you could get into a “Cool Vendors” report or another vendor roundup that’s not a big “branded” piece like an MQ. So the effort you put into AR needs to be calibrated to what is both possible and useful.

What metrics should we use to measure the success of our GTM strategy in B2B market?

As a general rule, it should be in terms of impact on the funnel:
  • Absolute numbers of people in each stage
  • Conversion rates from each stage to the next
  • The change in those metrics week over week (WoW), month over month (MoM), quarter over quarter (QoQ), and year over year (YoY)
For example:
  • A DG campaign that generates more leads is good.. except if those leads are low quality and have bad conversion rates
  • An AR effort that generates a favorable placement or comparison is good for lead gen and shortening sales cycles.. except if no one in your target personas/segments buys, reads, or is influenced by analysts

How is Account Based Marketing different from “regular” marketing?

ABM implies something special when there is, in fact, nothing special going on. If you were, for example, a strategic accounts kind of sales person and did account mapping work, you would customize how you deliver the value props, frame evaluation criteria, state competitive take out points, and do objection handling very specifically in the language of, citing the specific business considerations of, and with deep knowledge of that account, it’s ecosystem of customers and competitors, and the key drivers/pressures for everyone you’ve mapped.
ABM just shifts that traditional high-end sales work to marketing people.

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Reading List and Resources

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