With the concept of iteration in mind, let’s turn our attention to gathering the basic information we are going to need as we build the foundations of a B2B startup marketing program.
Information is power, and that is as true in marketing as in just about any other field. If you are new to your company and position, you have the perfect opportunity to ask a ton of questions. Gather information from company leadership, product developers, customers and just about anyone you come in contact with. Use that “honeymoon period” to collect as much information as you can on the company, the product(s) and the market.
Internal Sources for Information
The best place to start is usually internally. Whoever hired you (CEO, maybe, or another marketing leader or executive) has generally been fielding marketing requests on her own. She will be delighted to give you the download you need to start taking the work off her plate. Ideally, she will see it as a win for everyone, and your eagerness to learn will leave a good impression.
If you are able to sit down with company founders, start by learning about the company story. What problem were they first trying to solve? How did they first identify a need? How did they get their first customer? Their second? Their tenth?
Founders and other leaders can answer questions about how the company marketing has been done so far. It’s fairly normal that there hasn’t been much, but they may have thrown up a website or exhibited at an event. Who have they been targeting, and why? What companies do they believe are or will be the best customers? Why? How are they looking at the market potential for the solution? Are there industry or geographical breakdowns they are using?Look at your best customers and find out what they have in common. Then go find more of them. Click To Tweet
Product developers and leaders often have a lot of valuable insights into the product. They are trying to build it to meet the needs of what they believe the market to be. Ask them about how the product/market fit was determined and how that’s working out. Find out what problems they are trying to solve and for whom. One important question is, “How are you listening to the voice of the customer and incorporating what you learn?”
If there are sales leaders or representatives, they usually have the closest relationship with customers and prospects and are a great source for supplying your initial information on problems, pain points and expected results. Listen to what they tell you, and if you can, listen in on sales presentations they are making. Identify what topics they discuss that seem to resonate more with prospects than others. Those are going to be key topics for you to document and use later.
Look around your company to see if there are any employees, advisors or contractors who were formerly in the same position as the personas you want to contact. These people are a highly valuable source of information from the customer perspective (even more than actual customers, in many cases!) and their insights are gold.Look for employees who were previously in roles as your target persona. Their insights are gold! Click To Tweet
External Information Sources
After you have exhausted the internal contacts, look outside your company. Talk to people who have had interaction with your company. Customers are always a very valuable information source. Even better are prospects who ended up not choosing your solution. This is the product manager in me coming out, but talking to prospects who didn’t choose you has the potential to yield volumes of information. You can learn where your product is falling short, where your sales team may need training, and how you can better hone your messaging or other marketing factors.
Other external sources could be consultants or advisors to your company, vendors you work with, your accounting firm, etc. It will be up to you to determine how many people you talk to and who they are, and again, the iteration approach is valuable here. You should be constantly learning about how your company, your product and your marketing are perceived and received from multiple sources.
The learning is the first step, but validating those tidbits of information will launch you to the next level of effectiveness. You can begin to validate responses while in the interview by restating what you heard or asking the same question in a different way. Put an answer into context and reflect that back to your interviewee to gauge their response.
Continue to validate by talking to multiple people and asking them the same questions. Are you getting similar answers? If you are, then you are beginning to identify a trend. If not, it could be that only one person has that viewpoint. That doesn’t mean it’s invalid or that you should entirely discount that response, but it definitely doesn’t carry the credibility that a common answer across multiple people will carry.
You can also validate–and gather–information through market research surveys. A good survey of your target audience is a great way to gather a lot of information quickly, providing you can get people to take the survey. Pro tip: look for publications in your target industry that sell advertising and ask them if they can send 100 respondents (or whatever number) to a survey. I have found that to be very effective.
Survey results are a great indicator of a group’s perceptions, values, issues, etc. By its nature, a survey is less personal and you can’t follow up like you can in a personal interview; it is quantitative versus a qualitative interview. But they can be very useful and should be included as part of your market research.
Finally, summarize your findings and review them internally. They may reinforce what your company leadership already assumed, but now those assumptions are backed by facts. Sometimes, your research will fly in the face of common thinking within your company, and if it does, and you can back it up with factual research, you are on your way to creating some awesome marketing.