Marketing is viewed as a core activity for the great majority of the SaaS, cloud and mobile software companies. The rest give marketing activities short shrift at their own peril. But even among those that take it seriously, views on what strategy and tactics constitute “good marketing” varies. Often more importantly, how well a company EXECUTES those strategies and tactics is usually even more critical. What constitutes good marketing, of course, can vary greatly with the specifics of market segment, price points and company developmental stage, to list just a few. But I have seen in my executive career and consulting practice some basic marketing mistakes that tend to occur over and over. Let’s take a look at a few of the most common:
Overly promotional content marketing mistakes
I’ve written extensively on content marketing topics, so I don’t want to go into too much detail here. You can look at past articles for more depth. The point I’ll make here is that the jump from traditional push marketing methods to content marketing is quite large in terms of approach. There is a place for both of these techniques, of course. But sometimes traditional marketing approaches such as positioning and pounding away at explaining your unique value proposition makes it’s way into your content.
Again, this is a longer discussion, but the most effective content marketing tends to be customer-centric and specifically focused on solving problems for the customer. When executed well this tends to position your company as a problem solver and market category authority, providing great advantage in the long run. But if your content is littered with anything more than VERY light promotion, it will detract from your position as an independent authority on the topic. So tread very, very lightly here.
Lack of consistent marketing spend
Sometimes this just can’t be avoided, due to lack of overall resources. But it’s important to NOT view the marketing function as someplace to spend only when you have “extra” resources. As most know, extra resources rarely happen anyway and will leave the marketing function starved. But more importantly, technology marketing works best by far when applied consistently. For most products, it takes a minimum of 6-7 touches before you have a serious chance at a sale. If your marketing spend is inconsistent, there can be serious gaps which will stop prospects from progressing down your marketing funnel. It is far better, in my opinion, to have a steady, consistent level of marketing spend at a LOWER level than to have marketing campaigns occur sporadically, even if the sporadic campaigns add up to more money in aggregate.
Lack of holistic marketing budgeting up front
Another common issue is not even having a set marketing budget. This is of course directly related to the “lack of consistent marketing” discussion above. I find that without a formal marketing budget, a consistent approach to marketing is nearly impossible. So by all means construct a marketing budget up front. If you reached the stage where benchmarking versus industry counterparts makes sense, it may make sense to use these benchmarks as a “sanity check” to see if you’re marketing budget is in the right ballpark. Be careful with benchmarking, however, especially with very early stage enterprises. Benchmarking that doesn’t make sense can really lead you astray.
Biggest marketing mistakes: too much focus on logos and branding
For some founders and C-level software company executive (especially those WITHOUT a tech marketing pedigree), marketing starts and ends at a very elementary level. They think hire a designer to create a logo and some overall visual branding, throw up a website and Voila! – marketing done. As most with any significant software industry background know, this couldn’t be farther from the truth with respect to what’s necessary to create a successful brand. It is of course only the beginning.
It is certainly important to have pleasant visual imaging for your company. But in software and other technology marketing, adequate marketing from your company must go much farther. The brand of your software company is influenced far more by your product’s efficacy, pricing, ease-of-use, customer support, messaging and content marketing that the visual images themselves. And after putting up that pretty website, without well executed PPC, SEO, direct email and content marketing campaigns, your website is likely to sit unused much like a retail store dropped into the middle of a cornfield.
Too many and confusing marketing messages
As mentioned above, marketing messaging is a very important aspect of your brand and overall marketing success. But please avoid the “more is better” approach to messaging. Customers are very busy and inundated with marketing messages these days. It is usually best to have one simple and easy to understand marketing message for your brand or product, which is heavily promoted. This goes against human nature for many founders and product owners who feel compelled to list their product’s 15 greatest attributes in their marketing messaging. Not only can’t a prospect absorb and remember that list, it’s likely that they won’t remember even your #1 attribute as a result. This is one of the most common marketing mistakes that I run across. So pick your strongest position (two at most) and promote the heck out of this strong message in your marketing. You can bore prospects with your complete list when you get to a one-to-one sales situation!
Lack of marketing of integration capabilities
One of the very underrated competitive tactics for software/SaaS companies is integration capabilities. This can be more or less important for any particular software-based company. But I would argue that companies in MOST software industry categories can benefit by some level of integration capabilities with complementary software applications. This is a competitive advantage that can be marketed and is far more important to many users than some companies seem to realize. So I advise folks planning new applications to consider “building in” integration features if there is a market for it. I’ve seen ease-of-integration often become a primary differential advantage in competitive categories with minimal feature differences. A good approach is often “native” integrations with several high-demand, complementary applications coupled with a third party API integration software approach such as ZAPIER for less common integration scenarios. So unless your application really exists well in a “silo”, don’t make this common marketing mistake.
PPC advertising without the necessary expertise
Yes, I know. Above I mentioned PPC (such as Google and Facebook Ads) as a promotional method that should be considered as part of most marketing mixes. The problem comes into play when campaigns are set up by someone without adequate experience and expertise in PPC advertising. Some marketing activities are well suited for someone without experience to “learn on the job”. If you take that approach with PPC these days, it’s a GREAT way to waste money. In the early days of PPC almost anyone could throw up an Ad and make it pay off. But as the PPC marketplace has evolved and matured, it has become very competitive in most market segments. So I recommend highly that only an experienced hand is driving your PPC efforts.
Ignoring or totally outsourcing social media activities
It will surprise many of you (and it used to shock me) but even in this day and age I still run across marketing mistakes such as software companies that give little attention to social media as a marketing platform. Or maybe they outsource it completely. You would think that would be better than nothing; and it can be. But there is a real risk here that your company’s culture and “voice” isn’t portrayed accurately if social media activities are completely outsourced, without a whole bunch of intervention by employees working in conjunction with the outsourcer. Just as bad – or even worse – is when social media is handled internally, but very poorly. Poorly can mean infrequent sporadic posting, overly promotional posting, overtly sales-focused connection activities and little or no proprietary, “authority-enhancing” content.
Not relying on measurements or analytics
I always say that marketing is part art, part science. The art part tends to come “up front”; it’s hard to be scientific about a marketing activity when you haven’t yet used it yet in your particular set of circumstances. So you need to use your knowledge from other experiences to formulate your initial marketing messages and campaigns. This is the art part and there’s really no way around it. But once you start executing your campaigns, you now have experience and should “let the data guide you” from there. To do that, proper measurement and analytics are key. In the old days, this was harder. But with most software and hardware businesses heavily focused on various digital marketing methods, this has become one of our unforgivable marketing mistakes; there really is no excuse. There are great tools out there, even free platforms such as Google Analytics, to help you decide what’s working online and what’s not. No longer should you be choosing the Ads that “the CEO likes”. It is quite easy to make these decisions objectively using analytics.
That’s my list of some of the most common and egregious marketing mistakes I’ve seen in tech companies. Again, this is definitely an incomplete list. Even what constitutes a big mistake can be dependent upon a tech company’s specific circumstances. However, I’ve seen those mistakes listed above all too often. So I wanted to alert my readers against falling into these traps.
What are the biggest marketing mistakes that you’ve either had occur in your own company, or seen in other companies? Please use the comment field below to inform us.
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