Dialing in your Marketing: The Levers That Impact Results – Audience & Positioning | Episode 57

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The key to effective marketing is making sure your programs are dialed in to the behaviors and needs of your target market and the strategic objectives of your business.

Beginning in this episode, GrowthMode Marketing introduces how we define 12 marketing levers that impact your initiatives and bottom-line results. They are:

  1. Audience
  2. Positioning
  3. Strategy
  4. Budget
  5. Scale
  6. Contact Database
  7. Brand Identity + Awareness
  8. Content
  9. Marketing Tactics
  10. Marketing & Sales Alignment
  11. Sales Processes
  12. Measurement

Listen in as we dig in where all good marketing should start, with audience and positioning. We talk about important considerations for each lever and how to dial in and adjust what you need to succeed.

Watch this space for upcoming episodes that will cover the next 10 levers and how they’re important individually and collectively—so you can tune in the right settings for your business.

02:20 –   Lever 1: Audience—market validation, research and audience personas to ensure you’re aligned to behaviors and needs
05:10 –   Conducting audience research via surveys, focus groups, interviews and data analysis that helps validate your assumptions
10:56 –   Lever 2: Positioning—clearly and consistently communicating your value proposition
14:25 –   A clear and distinct positioning statement to differentiate your company and solutions
18:37 –   The critical link between positioning and revenue goals
19:14 –   Exploring each lever and how businesses can use this helpful philosophy to uncover actionable insights to adjust marketing strategy and improve performance
21:50 –   A review of the 12 marketing levers and what’s coming on upcoming episodes

(00:00:01) – Hey, everybody, it’s Jenni from GrowthMode Marketing. You’re listening to Demand Gen Fix, the podcast where our team of GrowthModers and our guests discuss the ins and outs of demand generation, and why we believe it’s the key to long-term sustainable growth, especially in the HR tech industry.

(00:00:20) – Hello everybody, we are back for another episode of The Demand Gen Fix. Deanna and Greg here, and today we’re going to talk about dialing in your marketing and the levers that impact the results. So, effective marketing has a lot of components to it, and the key to success really is dialing in all of these components to optimize your programs. When your company is not hitting the revenue targets, which I think we’ve probably all been there before, there are things that we need to take a step back and look at because sometimes the answer is not obvious, but may be like, well, we just need more leads; that’ll solve the problem. But there are 12 levers that we’ve identified that you should explore to determine where to make adjustments to improve outcomes.

(00:01:05) – Because I think the reality is that just one lever can have a major impact on how your marketing programs perform. Sometimes it’s more than one lever that needs to be dialed in. So, when it comes to really understanding what may be amiss, it’s important to look at everything individually. We’re not going to be able to cover all 12 levers today. That would probably be a four-hour conversation, so this is going to be a series. We’re going to break these up and talk about a couple at a time, but first Greg, let’s tell our audience what are the 12 levers.

(00:01:38) – Yeah, so the 12 levers that we’ve been thinking about, and working on here at GrowthMode; first one is: audience and then positioning; obviously, your strategy, budget, scale, contact database, brand identity and awareness, your content, marketing tactics, marketing and sales alignment, sales process and measurement.

(00:02:01) – Yeah, so there’s a lot there. Today we’re going to talk about the first two, which are audience and positioning. We will do follow-up episodes, like I said, to dive into the other ten levers to eventually cover all 12, so stay tuned for those upcoming episode, but first let’s dig into the first two levers. So, audience.

(00:02:20) – There’s some things with your audience that may be an issue that you haven’t realized you have, or could be something that your audience is too broad. You’re addressing a really wide audience. In order to do that, you have to water down your message a little bit to make it fit everybody. So, maybe one of the problems could be for some people, the audience is just too broad.

(00:02:41) – Yeah, I think there’s a lot of potential issues or indicators that will tell you you need to address this lever. When we are looking at audience, like you said, if your audience is too broad, we see this happen all of the time in the HR tech space. These platforms are designed and often capable of working really well for companies that have 50 employees or have 50,000 employees, which makes the marketing message broad for everyone. And so, audience really is important because if you’re trying to be everything to everyone, it’s hard to really resonate with anyone.

(00:03:19) – We’ve said it before, we’re going to keep saying it because we see it so much in this space. And it happens not just in the HR tech space, but for anyone that’s listening in other industries, it’s pretty common for that to happen. Other issues are red flags that tell you it’s time to look at your audience is if you don’t have a clear understanding of the buyer. And I would actually say most organizations, most marketers, if you’re going to talk to them, will say, oh yeah, we totally get our buyer, but sometimes I think internal perceptions misalign with buyer perceptions. It shocks me how many people we talk to leaders and marketers and companies, who they don’t actually go out and talk to the market directly. They’re listening to sales calls and customer service calls, and they’re going out to conferences and things like that and having those conversations, but there’s no like, intentional, let’s go out from a marketing perspective to really understand your audience. Some organizations do really well at that, but there’s a lot of organizations that don’t.

(00:04:27) – And you can’t assume that those internal perceptions of your audience are what your audience is thinking. You’ve got to at least go out there and validate it, and sometimes you’re going to find out that it’s different.

(00:04:38) – Yeah, and I think that’s always evolving too, right? Like technology changes so fast and the buyers want different things because things are changing fast and they have to do different things in their business, so your ideal customer profile and your buyer personas could be out of date. It doesn’t take long to have those things get out of date. It could be two years, and all of a sudden this new technology is here. We won’t say those two letters because everybody’s sick and tired of hearing them, but you know, everybody changes everything, right? So like, people have different ideas than they did two years ago.

(00:05:10) – Yeah, well, I’m not afraid to say the letters. Greg, I know you’re talking about AI. That has certainly had an impact in the HR tech market, and that’s changed the way buyers are thinking about solutions too, right? It’s not just the vendors that are going out there and talking about it. Buyers are looking at it.

(00:05:28) – And even if you look at the state of managing a workforce over the last four years, like Covid came into play, well, that certainly changed the way that teams were looking at the solutions they needed and how they were managing their workforce. And then you had the great resignation. Now that certainly changed it. And then you had quiet quitting. Like, all of these terms and phrases that get thrown out in HR, it’s for a reason, right? It’s because the needs of the workforce are constantly evolving, which means the needs of the buyers out there are constantly evolving. With one of the things with ideal customer profiles and buyer personas that I think can happen, a lot of times at organizations, when they do them, they do all this great work, and then they set those documents aside and they collect dust. You really need to be looking at those often. They’re supposed to be driving your marketing and helping you focus, and you need to keep them up to date. So, you really do need to dust them off more than once every 5 to 10 years.

(00:06:35) – You really do need to look at them on a regular basis, and continue to keep an ear to the market to understand, like what is changing. And another thing, when it comes to buyer personas that I’ve seen is when your buyer persona only reflects the view of current client. Where I see that as a challenge is I’ve personally, when I worked on the corporate side and in the agency, have done a lot of interviews with customers and with people out in the market. And what tends to happen if you’re only talking to individuals that are current customers, they’re going to give you a different perspective than if you went out into the market and talk to somebody who has the problem, but doesn’t know your solution, hasn’t worked directly with it, because the current clients, they’re going to talk about their experience and their problems based on what they’ve experienced working with your organization. So, it’s going to be very tilted and influenced on what they think you want to hear, what their experience has been, and that’s still really valuable feedback, but if you’re trying to understand your audience, you’ve got to understand how the person is thinking about it who hasn’t used your solution yet, because you have to convince them to use your solution. So, I think that’s something that can be a potential issue or an indicator that you need to look at your audience and dial that lever.

(00:07:56) – Yeah, absolutely. And that kind of ties into with if you have a new audience. And it doesn’t make sense what I just said, but it kind of does, right? If it’s a new audience that you’re trying to go after, right? A new target audience and a new area, or new type of business that you’re going after, you need to go back and do that research that we were just talking about, so that they can’t just say, we’re going to go after this new type of business, or we’re going to go after this new audience without doing that homework to get there, right, so they have buyer personas for that new audience.

(00:08:24) – I totally agree with you, Greg. Yet we see it happen all the time. I mean, we’ve worked with companies where against our better advice, they just run with it, right? Where they’re like, you know what? We are currently working with organizations in the construction industry, and that’s going well. You know what? Now I think let’s go after the automotive vertical. And they just go out and they’re like, we’re going to start selling to them. They don’t have any background in that vertical. They haven’t gone out and talked to any individuals in the market and kind of conducted that research. They’re just making assumptions. Maybe they did some research online to learn about that audience, but they’re missing an opportunity to really, truly understand that audience. if that’s happening, you need to dial in that lever to optimize your marketing result.

(00:09:20) – Yeah, otherwise you’re spending time and effort and money on something, and it’s not really a fully baked idea.

(00:09:26) – Yeah, yeah. The question then becomes, okay, what do you need to do or work on if any of these potential issues or indicators are present?

(00:09:37) – You have to go back to the strategy. Kind of things that we were talking about. The voice of the customer research; the voice of the market research, not necessarily your customers, but from the market segmentation research. Look at your ideal customer profile. Revise it if it hasn’t been touched in a while. Same with the buyer personas.

(00:09:56) – Yep, you absolutely do. And just in case anyone’s wondering, yes, there is a difference between ideal customer profiles and buyer personas. Ideal customer profiles are about the ideal type of companies and the characteristics of those companies that you’re going after. Buyer personas are those individuals within those companies within different roles, whether they’re the CFO, or the chief HR officer, or any other role that might be involved in that buying decision.

(00:10:26) – So, the other thing we wanted to talk about today was the positioning on some potential issues, or indicators in that area as well. We’ve seen a lot of times where companies will have a product and they give it this creative name and they try to almost create a new category for themselves, but in essence, what they’re doing, unless you have a ton of money to create a new category, you’re getting yourself out of the established lane, like people are going to be searching and looking for the certain type of solution they already have in their head. And if you’re positioning it so differently that they can’t find it, they don’t know what it is by the name of it. That’s a problem.

(00:11:04) – And I think this is a problem in the HR tech space because we do see it quite often, like we’ll compare competitors, for example, and they’ll call themselves different types of platforms. And it’s like, that’s interesting. You all actually do the same thing; you’re the same type of technology. And at the end of the day. It may not be how the prospects are thinking about the problem and what they’re going out on Google and searching for. When you’re not defining your product in an established category, you do either need to create that new category. And like Greg said, it’s really expensive because now you have to educate everyone that there’s a new category that exists, and here’s why it’s different and better than the other options out there. And that’s not going to be cheap. Or you have to really think about what category that exists that people in this space know about and that they’re going to search on, do we actually fit into?

(00:12:05) – And that can be tricky because as you’re creating a platform, a lot of times that have a lot of different capabilities, you start to be in different product categories, right? Like, how do you merge three product categories together? The answer is probably not inventing a new category unless you have the budget to do that. You know, another potential issue is a lack of a clear value proposition. And what we mean by this is when someone comes to your website, if they can’t tell within five seconds what it is you actually do, you’ve got a problem. It’s got to be really easy, straightforward and clear to people. What is the problem they have, your solution, and how it solves it to create that outcome that they’re going for.

(00:12:50) – If you think about it right, like, people that go to your homepage or your website, probably not your customers, right? Your customers, if they go to your home page, they’re just going there to find the button that says log in, right? Or they’re going there to contact us, so that they can answer a question or something like that.

(00:13:06) – So the people that are going to be going to your home page are most likely prospects that are starting to do some homework. And if they go there and they can’t even figure out what the heck you’re doing, then they’re going to leave, right? They’re not going to keep digging down and digging down and digging down to try and say, what do these people do? It’s like, I don’t even know what you do, bye.

(00:13:26) – And I don’t think anyone’s gonna say, yeah, it’s not clear what we do when you look at our website, but I could tell you, I look at HR, tech company websites, different ones all the time. And sometimes I am looking at it, and I am reading the information. I’m like, I’m pretty well versed in this space, and it’s not totally clear to me what you do. I can ascertain based on like some of the things you’re saying, but nowhere on the site can I find like a clear, straightforward description of this is what you do. And when that happens, that’s where you lack a clear value proposition, at least in what you’re putting out there publicly on your storefront.

(00:14:07) – Another thing we see is different people telling, or different parts of the business telling the story differently, or talking about the product differently. And that creates confusion for the prospect or the buyer. Obviously, if they are hearing it differently from marketing or from the salesperson or from product, it’s like all those things need to be aligned. That helps to build the trust and credibility too if there’s continuity, right? Like if that continuity is broken, then you start to go, oh, what’s up with this? This something’s not quite right here.

(00:14:40) – Yeah, when companies are doing this well from a positioning standpoint, everyone in the company, regardless of their role, knows how to tell the same story. And a lot of times that requires training everyone; having tools available to help them understand, because a lot of times what happens in organizations, not intentionally, but it’s very common, is for people to come in and they get trained differently, or maybe there’s no formal messaging around it and stuff starts to sound different. Maybe on social media it said this way. And then I talked to a sales rep and they say it this way. And then I talk to customer service, and they say it differently. And everybody is just interpreting how to talk about it versus having that consistent elevator pitch across whatever touchpoint you have with an organization. Some other issues with positioning that should raise flags that you need to dig in and dial that lever in is if you’re positioning was never clearly defined, or it’s not intentional. This happens a lot of times that organizations. We see it where a startup happens, the founder, the original employees, they come up with messaging on the spot, and they’ve never actually done a formal message positioning exercise where it’s documented. It just kind of evolves over time. And sometimes when that happens, what happens is because it wasn’t like super intentional, clearly defined messaging, it gets a little kludgy, especially as it continues to evolve. And what ultimately happens is the positioning is not resonating in the market.

(00:16:24) – Like if you feel like, hey, we’re having trouble getting traction in the market. Positioning is one of the first places I would look to understand, like, do people jive with this? How are they reacting to it? Are we on the right path, or do we need to do some additional refinement to really make this stand out more to prospects?

(00:16:47) – Especially in that example, you just used Deanna, is we helped a client with positioning product, or positioning their company at the same time they were developing the product. So, we were doing all of these interviews and all of this analysis, and in the meanwhile, they were changing the product, so when it got closer to the end, it was like, hey, this doesn’t really make sense, but it made sense when the whole thing started. But then as it got closer to the end, it was like, hold on, we changed the product, and that doesn’t really align with this positioning or persona that we were originally started with. It’s always changing, so you have to keep on top of it or else it isn’t going to be resonating.

(00:17:23) – Every company evolves, offerings change, value propositions change. So, messaging is also one of those things that you should never set it and forget it, because you have to make sure that that messaging evolves with your product evolving as well, and also to address the current challenges within the market, which are always evolving. So, it should also be a living, breathing document. By no means am I saying your positioning should change every month. You’ve got to put a flag in the sand and stick with it and give it time to see if it resonates, but at least once a year, like evaluating it and saying, okay, are all these factors still true? Are we hearing from the audience? Because we went and we did our market research and talk directly to people in the market and our clients, does this still align, or do we need to evolve it a bit and keep massaging? If you have any of these potential issues or indicators that you need to address your positioning, some of the things that you can work on, your brand story, your message positioning, and your unique point of view are all things from a positioning standpoint. They’re important to make sure that you get that right. And I have seen organizations where they have really smart marketing programs that are not as engaging in the market and throwing more budget at it won’t fix it. Running more marketing programs won’t fix it because there’s a foundational issue and that’s your positioning. So, I think it’s really important to look at those things and make sure that they’re in a really good spot because that very well could be part of the challenge that you’re having if you’re not hitting your revenue targets.

(00:19:14) – There’s a lot of levers to dial in when it comes to marketing. We talked about 12 of them, and we went into little detail on two of them today, but if you’re having trouble hitting those revenue goals, it’s always good to just take a breath, take a step back and then start looking at these 12 levers individually. Try to figure out where you can make some adjustments and tune them in, so that you can get some better results.

(00:19:36) – Yeah, and so as Greg said, there were 12 levers. We went through two today, so tune it in again to future episodes, and we will continue to talk about the 12 levers to look at.

(00:19:49) – Thanks for joining us on The Demand Gen Fix, a podcast for HR tech workers brought to you by GrowthMode Marketing. I sure hope you enjoyed it. Don’t forget to subscribe for more perspectives and demand generation in B2B marketing strategies. Plus, give us a like, tell your friends. We’ll see you next time.

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