Once upon a time there was a Marketing professional who planned a 2-day conference for the company. The company was to host their top clients and prospects, industry influencers and active partners. The event required aggressive promotions, rich content creation, creative collaboration, meticulous budgeting and massive logistics wizardry. It was a team effort requiring people outside of marketing to deviate from their daily responsibilities to contribute to the event. It involved all levels of the org chart from admin to CEO. It was a significant financial investment. And if we attendees didn’t see value, the company’s brand would be tarnished. At the conclusion of the event, Marketing, Sales, Finance, Services and the CEO was asked a single question, “Was the event a success?” Each department head gave very different responses.
Marketing: Yes! It was a success because everyone said they had a great time. There was a ton of social activity from the attendees. And everyone we spoke to said they are coming back next year.
Sales: It was ok. It was nice to have face time with key clients. We didn’t get any ink though.
Finance: It was a failure. We didn’t recoup all of our expenses.
Services: That was too much work. Clients were asking us to do things for free.
CEO: It was well-orchestrated. It was great to see the room filled with so many of our clients and partners. Next time, lets see if we can get it done with less cost.
Welcome to Part 1 of my 10-part blog series to prevent startups and small businesses from overlooking critical marketing functions since startups don’t typically have a full-time marketing role. In the opening story, I demonstrated how every function, and even every individual within each function, will have a different perspective of success, and expected outcomes. This could create friction, especially in startups where new relationships are forming. So how should this have been handled? Since the marketer was identified as the event planner, he/she should have met with key reps from Sales, Services, Finance and even the CEO to set expectations. A pre-event meeting to discuss the Marketing’s expectations for all stakeholders will give each team leader an opportunity to understand and align their goals. To set expectations, Marketing could have offered the following goals:
Sales will get a chance to meet with an average of 10 decision-makers per rep. This time could be used to understand any changes to the clients buying process and sniff out any opportunities or threats.
Finance should treat this event as an expense. While the registration revenue should offset 80% of expenses, the remaining 20% will be treated as a marketing expense, which is still less expensive than sponsoring a national tradeshow that we don’t own.
Services will be in high demand during the conference since clients will have full day access to the consultants. The goal is to serve as a teaser for further consulting engagements. We should offer a trackable discount code that will be valid for up to 6 months after the conference. We should expect new work to come within 90 days of the conference.
The conversation with the CEO may be a bit different. As their marketing resource, you should justify the marketing goals assuming they are tied to corporate goals. If brand awareness is important, discuss goals related to the level of engagement (# of attendees, social activity, benchmark against other events…etc.) and talk less about saving money. If the CEO has very specific goals in mind, make sure they are incorporated in the overall event plan.
The point of this opening story is to simply make sure everyone has an opportunity to weigh in on what success should look like at the onset of the project. Everyone should be aware of each other’s goals. They should be incentivized to help achieve each other’s goals. This helps to make sure everyone is rowing in the same direction.
That was a very specific and practical example. Now fasten your seatbelt as we increase altitude to 30,000 feet to apply this more broadly. Begin with the End in Mind is not a new concept. Among countless thought leaders and inspirational vitamins, there are two sources that I will shout out for doing an amazing job of pointing out the powerful impact of ‘starting with the end in mind’. The first is Fortune 500 consultant, Dr. Isaiah Hankel. Dr. Hankel offered a TEDx Talk “Start with the End in Mind” which demonstrated the connection between defining your goals (or, end point) and accomplishing them with ease. He further showed the impact of writing down those goals. Dr. Hankel referenced a 2015 study by psychologist Gail Matthews which revealed “those who write down their goals are 33% more likely to achieve them.” Using meeting agendas, marketing plans and even vision boards are great tools to consider.
Another great source is the classic Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People where the 2nd Habit is “Begin with the End in Mind”.
This resource goes into greater detail on how you can bake this into your routine by beginning “each day, task, or project with a clear vision of your desired direction and destination, and then continue by flexing your proactive muscles to make things happen.” It takes into consideration that sometimes life happens – things beyond your control. So this strategy helps you focus on the things that you can control. By doing this, you maintain clarity and vision with less effort. As a business owner or small business stakeholder, you can execute this by working with your team to build company Mission and Vision Statements. Once you have a version everyone can endorse, make it visible so everyone can see it daily. This is a gentle reminder of the end goal.
In my Intro Post to this blog series, I highlight the importance of identifying and validating market need. I include references to Forbes and other credible articles that point out the #1 reason startups fail is because they did not clearly identify a market need. It should be a mindset that is infused with every strategy and effort. How do you apply Begin with the End in Mind to the importance of Identifying Market Need? Simply stated, the “End” is the “Market”. The ‘End’ are the people who will buy, use and consume your product and service. Beginning with the market means to understand their needs, how will your product affect their environment and verify they are willing to pay for it. There are countless ways to do this including focus groups, reports from industry analysts, competitor research and more.
Be sure to check out the next blog installment that will focus on the 2nd marketing strategy for startups “Maintain a consistent brand and message – even when you get tired of it.” We will focus on the reputation you want to establish and the impact of selecting a visual identity that is consistent across all platforms – digital and in-person. Put yourself in your buyer’s shoes for a moment. There is so much noise in the market that will compete for their attention. Everyone is saying they are the best and they have similar messaging. So make it easier for your target audience. Give them consistent branding and imagery that will make you stand out.
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