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Amidst the laundry list of existing threats to your business, lazy marketing rarely comes to mind as a top concern. Things like competition, market demand, security, and team dynamics often get the most attention. But just because they rarely enter the conversation, marketers should not feel immune from being a potential hindrance to business growth.
By lazy marketing, I’m not necessarily referring to sleeping on the job or showing up late to work. Rather, I’m talking about negligence. Are you proactively seeking ways to improve your marketing efforts, or reactively patching up holes along the way?
In this post, I’ll discuss some of the vulnerabilities associated with reactive-only approaches to marketing. Overspending. Lucrative opportunities missed. Falsely believing in product-market fit. Shortcomings like these can seriously expose your product, and in some cases, your entire business.
So whether you’re a marketer looking to improve, or a product manager who needs to check in with marketing more frequently, I hope these suggestions help. First up, let’s discuss why lazy marketing teams unnecessarily spend too much money.
This first case of laziness is especially relevant for startups and SMBs. And it has to do with paid programs (i.e. Google Adwords) and reacting (or not reacting) to the competition.
For just about any emerging market, competition is guaranteed to follow demand. If the market is healthy, more and more players appear over time. The paid search landscape on key platforms like Google is affected by this pattern, which can be visualized here:
At the beginning, we see a “land grab” phenomenon. Advertising real estate is cheap, and the few existing players enjoy affordable lead generation. Think of this as the “Wild, Wild West” phase.
As the market matures, it’s not unusual that bigger players enter. Maybe a few venture capital firms have taken notice, and some new competitors are now backed by investment…and the increase in sales and marketing budget that comes with that. In order to continue to compete on your group of keywords, you must raise your bids. This is the “Squeeze.”
At a certain point during the squeeze, a threshold is met. For some campaigns—maybe even all of them—the cost to acquire leads starts to exceed your targets. You’re overspending, and fighting the good fight simply means bleeding money.
So maybe you’re no longer meeting your ROI targets. Don’t beat yourself up. The good news is that spending itself is not always the primary problem for companies in emerging markets. Rather, the problem is the untapped opportunity.
For most marketers, the metric that really matters is not total spend but rather cost per acquisition (CPA). Lazy product marketers spend too much money per lead, per trial, per customer, etc. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s your job to discover new, more efficient ways to generate business.
By pursuing new marketing channels that yield cheaper leads (untapped opportunity), your aggregate cost per acquisition will begin to decrease. And the earlier you commit to these alternate channels, the more reward you’ll see over time.
It’s no secret that ranking highly in organic search can be a major game-changer. Organic search marketing can be very effective because if done right—and more importantly, worked on consistently over a long period of time—results will compound. It might take a while, but as you continue to post content (i.e. videos and/or blog posts), you’ll appear in more search results, receive more links back to your site, and capture more leads. Oh, and you’ll spend less per lead!
One word of caution: Don’t cut corners here. Google is getting smarter and smarter, and they care A LOT about user experience. If you’re going to commit to improving your organic search rankings, commit hard to consistent, high quality content.
Establishing partnerships with vendors in your market can be extremely effective. For example, think co-hosted webinars and events, or co-written gated assets. The best part—you’ll get to split the costs and resources required to execute!
If you’re a paid advertising junkie, not all hope is lost. While a large chunk of your traffic may come from Google, there are always lesser-known places to advertise. Embrace the long-tail. Traffic from multiple lower-volume channels also adds up. Have you checked out the advertising landscape on Quora? Bing? LinkedIn? Feedly? Stack Overflow? Capterra? Facebook? The list goes on and on…
Also, consider industry-specific opportunities. Sponsoring newsletters or advertising on blogs in your space is a great way to get advertisements in front of your buyers (as long as you can measure the effectiveness of these campaigns).
Beyond offsetting your marketing spend, branching out into new channels has risk aversion benefits as well.
Fundamental to investment 101 is the notion of diversification. Experienced investors know they are at the mercy of uncontrollable external forces. As a means to avoid risk, they invest in various stocks, bonds, markets, and industries. This way, if one market suddenly crashes, only a portion of the portfolio suffers.
Think of your marketing mix as an investment portfolio. The forces that affect marketers may be different from those that affect investors. But make no mistake—they certainly exist. “Single-channel exposure” is real, which is exactly why relying solely on paid advertising is risky. Again, if you’re in a hot market, competition on paid channels will likely heat up quickly, and in the blink of an eye, you could be spending significantly more than what makes sense for your business.
Note that while these posts advocate for diversifying beyond just paid channels, relying exclusively on unpaid channels is just as risky!
To illustrate the difference between key channel types, notable digital marketer Russell Brunson breaks down traffic into 3 categories:
I don’t necessarily agree with Brunson that organic traffic is “out of your control.” With a commitment to quality content and smart SEO optimization, we can actually “control” organic traffic to a significant degree.
A more accurate label for this first category might be, “Platforms You Don’t Control.” Organic search is fueled by platforms that can change how content is displayed at any point. What if Google makes a major change to the way they rank organic results? Or what if Facebook decides to display your organic posts to even fewer people? (Is that even possible?). If you focus all of your marketing resources here, in theory, you could lose everything overnight.
While it’s prone to its own vulnerability, paid search, or “traffic you control” can be managed to a greater degree. Increasing budget or target costs are things we can do to improve advertising visibility, even if it means spending an arm and a leg.
And finally, “traffic you own” can be contacted with the highest degree of certainty. For this reason, Brunson views this as the most reliable audience for your marketing efforts. It’s also why subscription forms and newsletter lists are so common today. If you can create ways to obtain email addresses (i.e. through gated assets) then you’ll begin to build a network of easy-to-contact leads.
All of this is to say that a sustainable marketing mix capitalizes on all three of these categories, however much as possible. If you’ve cracked the nut on one of them, congratulations. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to kick back with your feet up. Start thinking of ways to diversify, so if something happens to your favored channel, you’re not left in the dust with a broken funnel.
“But I manage a huge marketing budget for a large enterprise company. We dominate PPC channels. What to I have to worry about?”
Welcome to Big Budget Blindness (BBB). Definition: The phenomenon by which leads are generated thanks to a large budget, causing a (lazy) marketer to believe product-market fit has been achieved.
BBB can be dangerous because too often it slips through the cracks. And it’s easy to see why. On a high level, the marketing funnel is designed to generate leads. If it’s successfully doing this, great. But the story never ends there.
Are the leads qualified? Do they convert to paying customers? Do they try the product once and abandon it forever thereafter?
Just because someone clicked your high-ranking ad, it does not mean they are the right prospect for your product. In fact, they probably did what most people do: click whatever shows up first.
No matter how big the budget, promoting a product that isn’t ready for the market can have a lasting negative impact. You might be frustrating trialists or users who expected something different. Or maybe you’re missing opportunities to improve more worthwhile products. Or maybe it’s just a bad look for your company’s brand (most of the time, it is).
Before I discuss some ways to defeat BBB, note that product-market-fit is not just a problem faced by startups. If you’re managing a large marketing budget, you’re likely part of an established organization. Even still, when it’s time to launch a new product or revisit the drawing board for existing, struggling products, achieving product-market fit is pertinent as ever.
Fortunately, you can defeat BBB quickly. Here are some suggestions, specifically geared towards those working in the SaaS arena.
This is less of a solution, and more of a great way to validate taking action. Look into whether or not leads are converting to paid customers. If you’ve properly set up lead tracking, you’ll be able to see if some campaigns convert better than others, or if there is simply a problem across the board.
Consider teaming up with a product manager to really get to the bottom of the problem. What about the FTUE might be driving people away? Maybe you need an in-app tour to better communicate the value of certain features. Or perhaps there are bug fixes that should be prioritized higher on your roadmap.
Analyzing FTUE is just one step you can take in forming a healthy relationship between product management and product marketing. We believe the two teams share a responsibility to ensure that iteration continues, even after a product launch.
A major pitfall with PPC channels is that they are unidirectional. You create the ad, send it out into the world, and hope people click. If your product isn’t a fit for those who click through, it’s not as if they can return to the search ad and leave a comment letting you know.
This brings us back to the topic of diversification, and here we see yet another reason it’s so important. Marketers must embrace at least one bi-directional communication channel. Because if nothing else, these channels provide an easy platform for users to reach out and provide valuable feedback.
Social media is great for this. Experiment with platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to discover where the discussion lives for your space. Over time, engaged followers will offer up tips and pointers that help you improve both your messaging and your product.
The good news is that lazy marketing habits can be broken relatively easily. You can start making changes as early as today, to improve your process tomorrow. After all, the essence of proactivity is anticipation and preparation.
Do you have any additional tips for lazy marketers? Please feel free to share in the comments below.