This is a recap of the AMA June Signature Luncheon event, Linking Entrepreneurial Marketing with Innovation and Performance. Really great event with a rock star group of speakers. And, being a startup centered group, the feel was slightly less formal than the typical Signature Luncheon. A lot more laughter, and even some cut-up jeans!
Question 1: How do you focus on sales? What’s the importance of sales and marketing in a startup company?
Brooke: Be in the weeds of sales: demos, calls, and being everywhere you need to be. You have a sales organization, not just a sales department, that’s growth-oriented. Set periodic milestones to hit your long-term goals.
Devon: Conferences. Attack people coming out of the bathroom. Whatever it takes! Sales and marketing are really meshing into one thing, with different subsets of attributes. A successful sales tactic today is to educate with influencers. Insightpool has been killing it this way lately, hosting webinars with the likes of Brian Solis. Devon also reiterated that people typically don’t know they have a problem until you show them.
Brooke: [People are] 45% less likely to buy if first contact is strictly sales. So your messaging and activities must gravitate towards education: eBooks, white papers, influencers, etc. People do their own research these days and will eat up your educational content!
Question 2: Uncomfortable corporations with startups. How do you deal with this?
Eric: Terminus is a data provider — cookies for display ads, etc. Basically, they are putting ads in front of every decision-maker; self-titling it “creepier retargeting,” where the targets don’t even have to hit your page to be served your ad! Corporations see the value, however, and are generally ok with the practice (it is totally legal, after all).
Devon: It’s so fragmented. There’s no one touch point.
Question 3: Word association game. Match the process explained to one word of your choosing… What if you couldn’t change the marketing plan of your company for 12 months?
Jeff explained this is how large corporations generally run. They fall into this budget allocation trap, which in turn creates an organization that is not agile. Jeff then discussed The Innovator’s Dilemma, which really struck a chord with me. Basically, this concept is derived from Clayton Christensen’s book, suggesting that “successful companies can put too much emphasis on customers’ current needs and fail to adopt new technology or business models that will meet their customers’ unstated or future needs.”
Side note: I really liked this style of moderating; super creative.
Question 4: What advice would you give to corporations to breakout from this trap?
Brooke: Big money is spent at decision-time, so it’s great for vendors and service providers!
Devon: Budget allocations don’t really make sense. For example, say you want to win the Super Bowl. How do you get there? It requires agility and the ability to restructure any processes and tactics. Set short-term goals to visualize where you stand in the company, jot down long-term goals in pencil, and work backwards.
Brooke: A big annual budget to spend typically results in doing the same thing year in, year out. There’s no A/B testing, no ROI implementation. It comes down to intentionality. For example, startups measure and analyze a lot more, because they inherently have to. Every dollar counts!
(Brooke wrapped up by recommending the Justin Mares book, Traction, with the takeaway that testing is a necessity.)
Devon: Large corporations typically don’t factor in that things will change. For example, with employee advocacy being all the buzz these days, organizations aren’t prepared to implement these systems that ultimately allow for huge successes like 10X content reach!
Eric: Set up test/experimental budgets that are more open-ended. Have an allocation on the side to use for R&D.
Question 5: Startups (even with upwards of 50 people) can pivot relatively easily. How and why is this?
Eric: Terminus had no idea what to do at the beginning of their journey. They knew the B2B space was underserved, with a huge opportunity, and the market was moving towards automation. They jumped in to the advertising automation space and are confident it will stay at their core, but zig-zags are still to be expected.
Devon: Insightpool began as a lead generation B2B social tool that’s now more enterprise level, chasing the big guns.
(In his words, “It’s nerve-wracking,” but a lot does not matter so long as you have a great product. Devon also said that pivot is a strong word when all you’re really doing is changing. Everyone, in every industry, is doing small changes constantly. Again, the key is to remain agile.)
At this point, Affordable College‘s Sean O’Brien offered his story to the audience. Sean’s spearheading efforts that will help create a clear path for students to an affordable, recognized bachelor’s degree; amidst hardships in affording the massive tuition payments and also transferring schools. He told the story of his complete pivot, following the realization that college presidents don’t care about college transfers and the issues with their credits transferring, a cause I can definitely get behind.
Audience Question: “Startups must see opportunities everywhere. How do you focus and know which to chase?” – Joe Koufman
Devon: If you operate quickly and can absorb it, and have “that opportunity gun guy,” go for it. You need an opportunity spotter and a person to implement and plan. These should not be the same person or you’ll likely end up on some extravagant, albeit exciting, divergence.
Brooke: Jeff specifically wanted to ask about the influence of David Cummings, the founder of Atlanta Tech Village, while Brooke’s been at Kevy. She said that he’d had some influence but not an overwhelming amount. He stressed that it’s important to be agile, but not too agile or everything will be left half done. You need that priority and process-oriented person to complement the ideas person. There also needs to be a process to vet opportunities.
Question 6: On transparency…
Eric: Open book policy at Terminus, minus salaries and equity. Eventually compartmentalize a bit more as they grow, but they’re just not there yet.
Devon: Humans are really adaptable when given the information. Otherwise, employees will spend too much time asking “what if” and trying to learn what’s going on. Everyone is more productive when they know where they (and the company) stand.
Brooke: Transparency builds trust, and decisions are easier when the team understands the “why.”
Eric: Hiring process is transparent as well. That could ultimately be the edge over other companies for new talent!
Jeff: Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh, recently implemented a Holacracy alternative management system, letting self-governing teams get their work done through tactical meetings. It encompasses a non-hierarchical organizational structure and has been adopted by various companies around the world, Zappos being the largest. Being a somewhat new manager myself, learning and studying new management styles like Holacracy is very insightful.
Question 7 (more of a prompt): Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) spend more than Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) on technologies and softwares.
Brooke: “MarTech” is the new buzzword these days. In 2012, experts stated that by the end of 2017 CMOs would be spending more than CTOs, but it’s happened already in 2014! This isn’t necessarily a strategy, spending money on technology, but a tool. Technology today is becoming more and more enabling for marketers. Also, we’re seeing more agency partnerships with SaaS startups for educational purposes. There’s so much out there that it’s important to stay plugged in and keep learning.
Devon: Casually coined the term, SWaS. Software WITH a Service. Think, Client Success Managers. Many get addicted to the results, before truly learning and loving the software capabilities.
To wrap it up, Eric addressed SalesLoft’s thought leadership expertise. When you create educational and instructional content, it lives online for the lifetime of your web property, there for people to use and reference. You’re building a library of helpful content that becomes mutually beneficial, as consumers will begin viewing you as a go-to source and subject-matter expert.
Jeff played one last word association game: “If you were the CMO at a large corporation, what would you immediately change?”
Eric: The way we measure.
Devon: Setting priorities.
Brooke: Enabling time to make decisions.
Really great answers from all the speakers. And thanks to Rocket Fuel for sponsoring my ticket today!
For more of my AMA Atlanta chapter posts, click here.