For this chapter, we spoke with Kevin Stewart from Circle Street, a marketing solution for local communities that was acquired in 2012 for an undisclosed amount.
Gunner Technology: Circle Street is an interesting case study for this episode because not only were you a marketing company, but you had to aggressively market your own company.
Kevin Stewart: Haha, you’d think we’d have a huge head start, right? And we did have a ton of incredible people on board who helped get the word out about our company, but honestly, there wasn’t a ton of overlap between the product’s marketing and the company’s.
GT: Right, Circle Street itself was more geared toward local communities promoting themselves using your product, whereas you guys…
KS: We had to sell ourselves.
GT: Exactly. And any advice from your experiences there?
KS: Man. I’d say we could write a book about it, but that’s exactly what you guys are doing. The biggest thing is to track your efforts. That applies to so many things – it obviously applied to our product – but with marketing you have to test out options, see what’s effective, see what converts, constantly refine your message, and just repeat that process over and over and over again until your marketing actually becomes effective.
GT: Marketing is a huge effort, huh?
KS: And there’s no way to avoid it, so you might as well do everything you can to be the best at it. That’s largely the name of the game these days.
There’s a reason Mad Men was the most popular show on television. Sure, it was cool seeing the drinking, smoking, womanizing culture of 1950s Manhattan. But even cooler was seeing the dramatization of the process of selling. Because at the end of the day, how well you market your idea will determine whether it excels or dies on the vine.
The first thing to consider with marketing is what kind of business you’re running. Are you a Business-to-Business (B2B) company? Or are you a Business-to-Consumer (B2C) company?
And then there are further considerations with each kind of company.
With B2B companies, you’ve got to consider whether you’re a niche business (like custom software specifically for car dealerships) or whether you’re a global business (like an automated alert service that could be used by anyone). With niche businesses, you’re going to want to focus on boots on the ground, whereas with global businesses, it’s all about your online presence.
With B2C companies, you’ve got to look at what kind of application you’re building. With something like Todoist, which is based on a freemium model and the user can pay for upgrades, your marketing has to be geared towards showing the utility and benefits of using your product. With applications like Facebook, where you make your money from advertising powered by user data, you’re going to want to show the usefulness of the app and highlight the social functionality that makes your app unique.
As we always say, what gets measured gets improved. Especially with B2B marketing, you’ve got to track absolutely everything. And we mean everything.
How many leads did you generate this week? This month? This quarter? This year?
What percentage of leads led to actual appointments? Which campaign’s leads led to actual appointments? What kind of leads led to actual appointments?
What percentage of appointments closed? What kinds of appointments were most likely to close? What kind of leads did those appointments that closed come from?
You need data on all of this kind of stuff so that you can market intelligently.
For example, you need to know whether your push marketing or your pull marketing is most effective. Push marketing, e.g. cold calls, is when you get in touch with someone and tell them, “You need our product or service.” Pull marketing, e.g. the book you’re reading, is when you make something available and hope that when people engage with it, they’ll like what they see and get in touch with you.
If your push marketing is working, but your pull marketing isn’t, for example, you’ve got to do two things. Leverage the existing success of your push marketing business to further drive business. And figure out what’s not working with your pull marketing and improve it.
That’s why data is so important – if you don’t know why things are working or why they’re not, you’re never going to be able to improve.
B2C marketing is all about your audience. You’ve got to have a good handle on who you’re marketing to. That means, especially, developing your campaigns based on certain segments (your target audiences).
Once you’ve targeted campaigns at your target audiences, you’ve got to be intelligent with how you spend your money. With most campaign tools, you’re going to set prices (meaning how much you’re willing to spend to reach your goal, e.g. $1.20 for every time someone clicks your link) and goals (meaning what action you want people to take, e.g. “I want people to watch my video” or “I want people to buy my product”).
And the prices are always going to depend on how competitive the demographic is. You might pay less just to target to 24-year-olds, but might have a lower conversion rate. Or you target 24-year-old men who live in Florida and play PS4 and have a much higher rate of conversion, but you’re going to pay a whole lot more. (The more fine-grained your segment, the more you’re going to pay.)
The best thing you can do with B2C campaigns is to create a funnel to filter folks down. At the top of the funnel, you’re going to have a high-level awareness of your company, like say brand awareness. You might funnel these folks to the next level where they’re actually clicking to learn more about your company. And then you might funnel them further where they’re picking up the phone and calling you.
Or, for example, you might start with “anyone who plays mobile games” and then funnel them down to “anyone who clicked on this ad for this mobile game” and then funnel them further to “anyone who clicked on that ad, show them this call to action”.
We’re gonna level with you: you’re gonna have to spend money and see little to no return up front. We’re talking a six-month runway where you’re just spending and seeing functionally no return. That’s just the name of the game.
And you’re not going to be effective right out of the gate. Realistically, it’s going to take the entirety of that six-month runway just to learn how to use the tools effectively. Pretend you’re paying that money to get on-the-job training, because that’s basically what you’re doing.
But you’ve got to spend the money. Our rule of thumb is spend as much on marketing as you spent developing your product. Because with how much competition there is and how many choices people have these days, at the end of the day it’s all about marketing.