Ten years ago, as long as you had a great product idea, growing a tech business was straightforward. But today the market has reached a level of noise that even the best products can't cut through. The average person sees 3,000 ads a day. Promotional channels from Google SEO to Facebook to Amazon are saturated and in constant flux. How do you cut through the noise?
Reforge reports that promotion on traditional online channels like Google and Facebook is more crowded and less cost effective than ever:
And even more traditional channels like conferences have long gone the way of the dodo. When's the last time scanning badges ever generated real sales leads?
If your product is verifiably great and all that stands in the way is a noisy market (and they're all noisy), here are 7 ways to cut through:
1. A/B TESTING TO FIND THE RIGHT HOOK
Lots of A/B testing to get the right hook. The goal is to get them into that "must have" experience, reducing every friction point to get there.
Why it's worth the time: Users judge your message in less than 2 seconds. It has to be clear and communicate why a prospect should care more about this ad than the other 2,999 they are going to experience that day. But so often messaging comes from the top and the company is unwilling to change often.
Execution: 1) Lose your ego and put yourself 100% in the customer's shoes. What do they care about? What do they need to know? That's what you put in your message. 2) Use the fundamental growth hacking principle of hypothesis and continual testing. Use A/B crowdsourcing tools and real-world tests to see which messages resonate. Usually the results are binary - most messaging flops at less than 2% response, but when you hit something real you will see a spike in metrics.
2. PARTNER MARKETING
Why it's worth the time: Referrals. C-levels are bombarded with promotions. They are more likely to rely on trusted partners such as consultants, MSPs and trusted vendors who are already established in their ecosystem
Execution: Develop promotional material targeted to MSPs and other advisors, in addition to your direct target customers. Find the CTO of the top 100 MSPs in your market and have your CEO reach out to them directly. Sometimes even being friendly with potential competitors makes sense here. The security space has got this dialed in - everyone is both a partner when it comes to finding referrals (a necessity in such a noisy industry) but also competitors on other deals.
3. C-LEVEL ROUNDTABLES AND OTHER INTIMATE SETTINGS
Why it's worth the time: Direct and intimate. Again because the market is so noisy and channels are saturated, the more intimate approach where you are actually meeting customers face-to-face and making a human connection can produce more real opportunities than blasting a message to thousands of prospects online.
Execution: At a past company I worked for this is how we got the bulk of our enterprise opportunities. It doesn't hurt if your CEO is an engaging speaker! In the security space, check out CISO Executive Network as an example where each local chapter hosts 3 speakers and 20 CISOs a month.
4. TARGETED WEBINARS THAT SOLVE A SPECIFIC PROBLEM
Why it's worth the time: Because everyone else goes broad. Pick a really specific use case that your company solves. It's counter-intuitive to market to fewer people, and indeed there may only be a handful of sign-ups to your webinar. But if they are attending chances are they really have this issue and will want to have a follow-on conversation, and voila!
Execution: If you're in digital health, don't talk about how you're improving care and revolutionizing the doctor-patient visit. That's too broad, and it doesn't speak to a problem either. Try something really specific: "how to troubleshoot new patient intake in rural settings to increase billing by 30%". You'll get fewer attendees, but they'll be real leads.
5. WORD OF MOUTH
Why it's worth the time: Low investment, high conversion. Converting your existing customers into evangelists that recruit more customers on your behalf has long been the holy grail of promotion because it promotes a multiplicative "network effect".
Execution: Start by asking for referrals of course. Loyalty programs, refer-a-friend, tweet about my experience, etc. But that's the easy part. At the end of the day, users will only tell their friends if they have an insanely great experience themselves with your product. How do you know the experience is insanely great? Measure it. In How to Calculate Your Word-of-Mouth Coefficient, Yousuf Bhaijee shines some light on how to set a baseline that you can constantly test against.
6. NEXT-GEN SOCIAL PLATFORMS
The next generation of social media is upon us: Discord, Clubhouse, Chalk, Locker Room, and the like are focused on making the social experience more human. Their primary feature? Audio.
Unlike much of social media, which just shows the highlights—the amazing travel adventures, the huge mansions and cars, fitness influencers, or people with amazing dance skills—audio hits different. Listening to someone’s voice is personal, and hearing unedited audio is the opposite of seeing the highlights. It’s about ideas, not the visuals, so it emphasizes a different kind of content that can often feel deeper and more intellectually stimulating. [...]
Why it's worth the time: A chance to be a pioneer. These platforms are filling up fast, but they have far fewer entrenched players than the traditional social media channels. Moreover, with a focus on niche community groups rather than the whole world, these platforms offer the chance for more businesses to get a spotlight rather than winner-take-all outcomes.
Execution: Capitalize on early-mover advantage by getting started right away. These are a race.
7. ATTACH YOURSELF TO AN ECOSYSTEM
Why it's worth the time: All your potential customers already in one place! Unicorn marketplaces like Shopify and Amazon have built major ecosystems of merchants and consumers. HubSpot has an ecosystem of marketers, Salesforce an ecosystem of salespeople. Vertical SaaS companies in businesses as diverse as home care, pest control, and HVAC are becoming the operating systems for their SMB businesses. And developer communities abound depending on their every changing stacks. Whatever your niche, find the biggest marketplace in the space and you are likely to find an ecosystem you can be part of.
Execution: Be sure to pick a thriving ecosystem that allows for new entrants. Test out the engagement that you get before committing.
8. Q&A PLATFORMS
Reddit, Quora, Medium are all platforms designed to help answer people's questions.
Why it's worth the time: If you can answer your customers' questions better than anyone else. If you have a unique perspective, a differentiator, a new take on your market segment, you may find that spending time directly in Q&A forums can get you the intimacy with prospective customers that you need to address their individualized questions, and drive discovery of your offering at the same time.
Execution: Really take the time to answer individual questions. If you're just looking to post generic answers that link back to your website, it won't work.
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