When an established business takes a shot at upgrading its marketing abilities, it can feel like there’s a lot of inertia to overcome. An object at rest stays at rest, and if your business has been idle in terms of marketing for some time—or even if you’ve been committed to marketing, but only in a minor way—getting that machine up and running takes some effort.
One of the first things you want to do is set expectations for what marketing should be doing for you. But once that’s done, what next? How do you start actually doing the marketing?
Many answers are right, and the details depend on your industry, the size of your business, the goals you have for marketing, and a ton of other unique factors. But there are some foundational marketing elements that pretty much any successful team is going to share. The right talent, technology, and tactics are critical to marketing success—here’s how you can make sure you have them locked in.
Finding and hiring the right talent
Again, there are a lot of right answers to the talent question. Your next steps depend, first of all, on where you are right now. Do you have a marketing team in place at all? If so, what’s it built for? If your team structure can handle a variety of different marketing engagements, you might be okay as you are. But, for example, if your team is built exclusively for sales enablement and won’t be able to handle lead generation in the marketplace, you’ll need to add a little firepower to get the job done.
To determine what your team needs, you need to be sure about where you stand on the marketing maturity spectrum. A business that’s just starting out in marketing will have very different needs than one that’s trying to take an existing marketing setup global. If you’re just starting out, building the foundation is the most important thing. You might ask yourself whether it’s better to build the team—that is, hire full-time staff to start or bolster an internal marketing team—or buy it by engaging with external consultants. Some roles are more valuable when they’re in-house. A marketing manager who’s accountable for the success of campaigns, the day-to-day execution of the work—if these people know your brand like the back of their hand, you’re going to be better off. But for things like shorter-term needs, or when you really need an outside perspective (for example, when you’re rebranding), a marketing consultant might be better.
When you do decide a hire is necessary, though, there are two critical things you absolutely have to keep in mind as you go through the process. First, think carefully about the role you want. Don’t make your job description a unicorn—that’s just a route to disappointment on your end. But make sure you have a very clear understanding of what the role is going to be, and how it will fit into your overall hiring strategy. Make sure it’s something you actually need, and not just something you imagine would be part of a marketing team. You might not need designers now if you’re in stage 1 of a six-month rebrand, and you might not need a social media manager if you’re not planning on investing heavily in social marketing.
And finally, think about your company culture and how this role—and the person you hire to fill it—will fit in. How are they going to embody the brand and what it stands for? Obviously you can’t ignore qualifications and role responsibilities, but instead of thinking about that in terms of “copywriter vs. art director,” think about who’s going to be the strategic mind who understands tactics and strategy and marketing channels and knows what levers to pull when, and who’s going to be the person who’s a warrior for the brand and owns it in a practical sense as you execute on your plans. You need both sides for the project to work.
The right technology to get and assess results
After your team is in place, it’s time to give them the technological tools they need to succeed—and to know that they’re succeeding. Marketing technology is more important than ever; as the events of the past couple of years have pushed more and more of our lives online, marketers must follow. Your technology decisions are linked somewhat to your personnel decisions, as you might be looking for talent well-versed in the martech you already use, or you might want to make sure your tech purchases are compatible with your team’s skills. But either way, the first step is the same: figuring out where you’re starting from.
How sophisticated is your current martech setup? Is your CRM just a spreadsheet that you’re updating manually? What do you need your martech to do; for example, are you looking to start tracking your prospects at an earlier stage, or are you trying to build a better lead-capture system? Do you need playbooks to increase consistency in how your sales team interacts with prospects? Does your business have a service component; and, if so, how do you help your service team understand the journey a person has gone on to become a customer before their service issue came up? As you can see, marketing technology can help you solve a wide variety of business problems, so knowing what you’re trying to solve before you start plugging in tech is the way to go.
It’s also important to have a clear understanding of why you’re doing this. It can’t simply be a whim—otherwise it’s very hard to determine what martech is actually going to work for you. Three things might be acting as impetus to change.
- Insights: Are you simply looking for more visibility into your marketing? Are you trying to find ways to close the loop between marketing and sales?
- Efficiency: Are you sick of entering business cards into spreadsheets or collecting leads from random forms, and looking for a smarter way to track prospects?
- Communications: Are you trying to level up the way you interact with prospects? Do you want to know more about the people you’re trying to talk to, and what they want to learn from you?
As you think about advancing your martech abilities, remember that inertia can be an issue here just like anywhere else. People get comfortable with systems, and even if you’re making an unmistakable upgrade, it can take some time to get used to change. Expect medium-term effects after you choose and install your new technology—the human side will take longer than the software side. But it’s certainly worth it, when you do it right.
Marketing tactics for beginners
How do you know where to start if you’ve never done this before? Good question. The tactics that will work for you might not work for your closest competitor, and that’s part of what makes marketing a bit difficult if you’re not experienced. A lot depends on the kind of business you are.
For example, a lot of manufacturers are very sales-oriented businesses, which means that they tend to be very relationship-driven. And that’s perfectly fine—but as you lean more and more heavily on analytics, you can sometimes lose that relationship component. That doesn’t have to be the case. Modern martech allows for unprecedented levels of personalization, meaning that even through online interactions, the experience prospects have with your brand will not be generic. And the more you know about your prospects, the better able you are to build those relationships in intentional ways—and improve the customer experience from start to finish.
The most important question to ask when choosing any tactic is “why?” What are you trying to achieve, and how will this choice get you there? A marketer might decide they want to dominate social media, for example, or that they need some specific channel to improve. But if your customers aren’t using those channels, who cares? Instead of starting at the end, go back to the foundations—story, audience, and strategy. Know who you’re talking to. Know what they want to learn, and how you can help them. Know what your end goals are. Then take what you know and use it to determine what’s most important for you to do, and what can fall by the wayside. Spending tons of money on a Twitter presence won’t do you any good if your best possible prospects hate Twitter, after all.
And finally, you can also use the data you’re gathering to see what’s working and what isn’t much more quickly than would be otherwise possible. Rather than the lagging indicators like sales numbers that you’re used to, you’ll have leading indicators at your fingertips to show you what tactics are working and what aren’t, so you can lean into the good and ditch the bad. As market volatility grows, this is increasingly a very useful tool for marketers and business owners alike.
Don’t dive in until you’re ready
It can be mighty tempting to dive right in and start marketing. But setting the right foundations first can be the difference between rousing success and potential disaster. Before you start shipping ads, think. Determine whether you have the team, technology, and tactics in place that you’ll need to succeed. If you don’t, then you’ll need to lock them in. But once they’re there...it’s go time.
Thomas fills a few roles at E3—writer, editor, and resident European soccer expert—but his chief responsibility is content creation. When he's not crafting thoughtful content for the Element Three blog, he's captaining our kickball team, watching the Mets, or talking up Indianapolis to anyone who will listen.
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