The MarTech conference this past week at Hynes Convention Center in Boston acted as the live, in-person experience of Scott Brinker’s now famous MarTech infographic.
After walking the vendor hall and seeing lots and lots of overlapping messages and value propositions, you can only be left thinking “Wow, there’s a lot of noise out there.” To witness:
Which begs the question – what’s a MarTech vendor to do to stand out from the pack?
Don't read on for best practices. Don't read on for secrets to success. Don't read on for guarantees to drive XXX ROI.
These are just the things that I've found are key to giving yourself the best shot at meaningful market impact and the illusive "predictable growth engine" the 5,000+ MarTech vendors should all be after.
#1 - Find your movement
Find the rallying cry that has an emotional connection that your target audience can relate and rally around. This is easier said than done. A good way to get to this raison d'etre will be intense customer interviews to get inside the mind of your target audience.
The ultimate example of this is HubSpot creating the Inbound movement (which, interestingly, was how I spent last week in this fall season of marketing technology Boston events). Other recent examples are Drift building a rallying cry around marketing automation vendors having lost their way (and specifically #NoForms), and Terminus with Flip My Funnel.
The criteria for the movement are it needs:
- An emotional underpinning
- Something that audience hears about and “gets them nodding” (see Andy Raskin’s approach for 'the Story is the Strategy' and this Never Split the Difference anecdote from former FBI negotiator Chris Voss)
- Aligns in some way with your product and problems it solves
Finding this movement creates the connection between your marketing programs and your ability to generate demand. It provides a brand foundation that helps you stand out from the crowd. It aligns your content and marketing programs around a purpose.
#2 - Eat your own g*d d*mn dogfood
The first point above is incredibly hard to discover and get right. Few do. The ones who do, will crush it.
Number two though is something that every company must do – it’s essential. And there's no excuse for missing it.
Invest your time and resources in using your own product, and proving out what you do. There’s no more convincing an experience for a prospect than being impacted by a company’s marketing, and then realizing they are practicing what they preach.
On the flipside, the “cobbler’s children have no shoes” argument no longer works – you need to demonstrate the value of your tool yourself.
If you are a targeted account advertising solution, then you better have the #1 targeted account advertising program.
If you are a content marketing resource center, you better have the #1 content marketing resource center.
Many things contributed to HubSpot’s growth (and as I write this today $3.15B market cap), but the tipping point came when Mike Volpe’s marketing team worked with David Cancel’s product team to ensure that HubSpot was using its very own product to the max to drive results.
#3 - Know your customer (talk to them, a lot!)
I have covered this separately here – Arms Tied Behind My Back, If I Could Do Only One Marketing Activity, It Would be This.
These customer interviews are not only going to provide the key insights around identifying your movement, but they are also going to provide the foundational pieces for a content program that can scale.
#4 - Build the right content in the right way
Content is key, we all know that. The differentiator comes in building the right content across the entire buying process, in the right way. Some key points here:
Podcasts can be a great way to bring your brand personality to life, and communicate it to a wide audience. The best podcasts are going to tap into the Movement from #1 so that they can 1) Step outside of your product story but at the same time and 2) Connect back, emotionally, to what you do. For more on this check out the great Jay Acunzo’s Unthinkable.
- Use case driven content can simultaneously fuel SEO and the sales team, while helping your buyer
- Customer stories (in multiple formats, and increasingly audio & video) can authentically help your buyers while continuously reinforcing the value of what you do, and your product’s credibility for having done it
- Build late stage content that answers specific buyer questions. The format here can be as simple as blog posts. The ultimate measure for this content: is it helping your sales team to close deals?
- Apply your content production at scale – transcribed webinars, repurpose to blog posts, package blog posts to longer form content, etc.
#5 - Be as targeted as possible to reach your audience
If there’s one lesson from Account Based Marketing (which I may sometimes poke fun at), it’s to be as targeted as possible to relate to and stand out for your audience. For some, that will be a vertical strategy. For others, technographics is increasingly an effective technique if you can identify other tech communities that you want to spawn off of.
Work with sales to identify the right accounts and the right approach for reaching those accounts with an integrated approach. See my Stop debating Inbound vs. ABM and start integrating your marketing (& that means with sales too) for five specific techniques for doing this that I shared at last month's Engagio user group meeting.
#6 - Affiliate yourself with great brands or partners to scale demand more quickly
This could mean co-marketing programs with larger partners whose users are your target audience. Or if that’s not possible, it could mean featuring those companies or people as part of your content - in depth stories on how they became successful, interviews with influential team members.
#7 - Experiment, measure & continuously improve
The aforementioned Drift team, Jay Acunzo and Mike Volpe are all excellent at reminders at a few key points: there is no silver bullet; the techniques that are effective for you are going to be based on your business, not someone else; and there are no true best practices because you want to do things that are unique and stand out and work for you, not what “everyone else is doing”.
Take a moment to hear it from Mike:
So the real takeaway is – you need to experiment and figure out what works for you. Experiment, measure (so you can identify what has potential, and make bigger bets) and continuously improve.
The pic to start this article was a busy hallway shot to kickoff the show, but there’s also gonna be quiet times like this one here at the morning of Day 3. The vendors that stand out from the crowd are going to do so because they are different and not the same.