How does the business growth cycle influence your marketing needs?Jon Mitchell, Chief Technology Officer
As your business progresses through the growth life cycle new challenges and problems arise. Here is how your marketing needs change at different stages of growth.
It’s probably not a great surprise to hear that businesses generally follow a broadly similar growth life cycle. It is common for these demands to place additional emphasis and complexity on the marketing team function. There are three main phases of the growth life cycle
Understandably the main driver for a start-up’s marketing team is to acquire new customers; making the jump from zero to one is crucial and often paves the way to gaining tens and hundreds of new customers. However, this first step can be incredibly difficult to crack and is the cause of many start-ups failing right out the gate. Retention is tomorrow’s problem in a start-up phase; besides there’s little point in working on a retention strategy when you don’t have any customers to retain.
Executing marketing in a start-up environment is very different to that of a more established company. The job of the marketing team is to get your brand name out there and recognised, people need to know you exist in order for them to buy from you. It all comes down to making noise and getting your brand noticed. The more people who know you exist, the greater the probability of creating sales. You’ve probably got an idea of your ideal customer, but it’s unlikely to be 100% accurate so targeting may be relatively broad and simple.
The marketing technology used by a start-up will be disparate and channel orientated. Building the marketing machine to get your message out is more important than personalisation and targeting; you might even find that your message resonates better with people outside your ideal customer profile. If you are doing anything clever, it’ll be because the technology you’re using has it out the box. So, just like an infant learning to walk, you need to find your feet before you can run.
If your business survives the hustle and bustle of the start-up phase, it’s time to grow. The world has changed significantly, you know have paying customers who are enjoying your product. At this point you should have a defined idea about who your ideal customer is, which provides new opportunities for personalisation and targeting.
As the company grows, so do budgets, whether it’s through self-funding or investment, you’re no longer a cash-strapped start-up. The marketing team should be able to afford to invest in people and technology. Having an extra pair of hands helps to keep the machine working, but it also brings new challenges. As the team grows, planning and communications become vital. Everyone needs to be on the same page and working together to be effective. Better processes and checks make sure your messaging is aligned and consistent. All the while the need to demonstrate value and deliver reporting increases.
Now that you have a solid customer base, you’ll start to see the benefits of segmentation. A new goal should be converting first-time buyers into repeat purchasers. Although customer retention is exciting you shouldn’t lose sight of attribution as expanding your customer base is still a priority.
Your technology needs will start to change as you grow. The need to do better segmentation and reporting will be hampered by the data silos in the various channel-specific platforms. Intelligent segmentation is likely challenging or not possible at all. Reporting will typically result in a monthly exercise of data extraction, followed by the overly manual task of copying and pasting to create a combination of excel spreadsheets; before pulling out any key metrics for inclusion in a PowerPoint deck.
When a company is established, it doesn’t mean they’re not still growing. It means that their place in the market has stabilised. The majority of your target customers will be brand aware, knowing you exist and what you sell. . Now, you’ve got to keep them engaged with your brand(s), consider up-sell or cross-sell strategies and defend them from the competition. This requires a much more personalised marketing approach.
This phase usually comes with bigger budgets, but they’ll be scrutinised more closely, and ROI will become an important metric to manage. A more mature company may even operate multiple brands with each brand serving different demographics or niches in the market. Segmentation and reporting have become increasingly complicated and absolutely essential.
The need for flexibility in a more mature and budget rich organisation tends to lead the technology choice down one of two paths: either implementing an “enterprise” marketing platform or building a data warehouse. The latter requires developers (internal or outsourced) to manually integrate business intelligence platforms which has the common downside that as a project of considerable potential to the entire business, all business functions have skin in the game. These projects can take years to deliver and oftentimes can lead to becoming a “white elephant”. The former generally involves protracted sales cycles, bespoke development, and a host of expensive consultants.
Both options will be a hard slog and expensive. However, if the project is successful, the benefits of bringing the customer data together will give you a great set of capabilities to empower your future marketing.
As you can see the demands on the modern marketing team differ significantly as a company transitions through these phases. In addition to this, as the demands changes, so does the technology needed to support them. Buying the right products at the right time can make a world of difference to your abilities to deliver great marketing.
Where does Hive Marketing Cloud Fit In?
At Hive we specialise in making your data work for you. So, if you’re in the hustle and bustle of a start-up, you probably don’t have enough data yet for us to exploit on your behalf. However, if you’re in the growth phase, we’ll give you most of the power and flexibility of the data warehouse for a fraction of the price. If you’re an established company, we can deliver a lot of the enterprise capabilities at a reasonable price. While you build the data warehouse. Although you might find you don’t actually need one.
If you want to further investigate how we can help your business, don't hesitate to get in touch.
About the Author
Jon is the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at Hive. He has over 20 years experience in software development, with the majority of that focused on creating fit for purpose Marketing solutions, with companies such as Occam, Alterian and Experian. From architecture and design, development and testing, to deployment and cloud hosting, Jon leads our R&D team to ensure that clients and end-users can put their trust in our Hive Marketing Cloud platform.
Connect with Jon on LinkedIn.
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