12 Steps to Dumping Your Marketing Department - Step 3 Hang Out With Your Market
As a marketer, I don’t really believe that you could or should dump your marketing department. On the other hand, as a former sales person, I can also understand the frustration you feel when your marketing department fails to consistently deliver enough qualified opportunities to keep your pipeline full.
This is Step 3 in a 12 step series showing sales people how they can reduce their reliance on their marketing team. Marketers should also pay close attention as this series can give you tips that you can share with your sales team to help make them more successful and take a bit of the pressure off of you.
In steps 1 and 2, we covered:
Step 1 - Targeting your market
Step 2 – Building your online presence
Step 3, hanging out with your market, expands on that using both traditional and more modern web based methods to “see and be seen” in your target market.
This is nothing new, but in my experience, very few sales people take the lead on this. They may get involved with an association if marketing signs them up for it. But even then, participation is sketchy.
You need to figure out which associations, both real and virtual, your target market is participating in. This is one of the reasons step 1 is so important. It’s hard to determine which associations are critical to a target market without first defining that target market.
Clearly, you won’t have time to participate in associations for very many markets so narrow your choices down to one or two top markets that you really want to become known in.
Again, nothing new. But don’t wait till marketing signs you up to stand in a booth for hours handing out trinkets to people who are collecting them for their grandkids.
You need to go back to your target market(s) and figure out which conferences, large or small, your market attends. Don’t forget to look for virtual shows or conferences.
When I was the Life Sciences Industry Manager for Microsoft’s Business Solutions division, I attended a training class on FDA regulations for pharmaceutical manufacturers taught by EduQuest. I made a few connections at the class, and the “diploma” really added to my credibility.
In any conference, you can get more opportunities by actually attending the conference and having conversations with fellow conference attendees than you can by standing in a booth. Plus, you have the added benefit of getting closer to the issues that your market cares about. (Product Marketers and Managers you should be attending these conferences too and not just hanging out in the booth!)
Look for speaking opportunities at these conferences.
I know what you’re thinking. “But I don’t have nearly enough credibility or experience to be a speaker at a conference!”
I know because I was there too. But, my motto is “you never know until you try.” Plus, I had a great mentor in Mike Frichol who encouraged me.
Most of these conferences want to hear from people in the industry and not vendors. Instead of being the expert yourself, enlist one of your best customers to present a case study with you. Just remember, you will need to shelve your innate instincts to sell. The stage at a conference is not the place to do it.
Marketers, look for sales people who are interested in doing this and do whatever you can to help them get on that stage. Tasks such as handling the logistics with the customer and making sure everything gets submitted to the organization on time will help things go a lot smoother.
The better your presentation (generally) the more business cards you’ll collect. Mike Volpe at Hubspot recommends asking people if they want to be on your mailing list when you accept their card. Let them know that you often produce additional educational information like the presentation they just watched and you’d be happy to let them know about it. You’ll be surprised at how quickly this can help you grow your opt-in mailing list.
When I worked for Mike Frichol at Microsoft, he did a series of presentations on “Lean Accounting” at APICS. He must have collected hundreds of business cards every time he presented.
I mentioned LinkedIn Groups and LinkedIn Q&A in step 2, but this bears repeating. If your market is hanging out on LinkedIn, you need to have a presence. And, you need to engage.
Other Online Forums
Look for other online forums that attract your target market. When I was a Product Manager at Microsoft for their ERP applications in the manufacturing sector, I spent quite a bit of time on IT Toolbox.
Take note, though. If you don’t have anything meaningful to say, don’t say anything at all. “Call me. I can help you solve your problem,” is not a qualified response on these forums. You’ll likely find yourself publicly derided by the members if you can’t keep yourself in check. They want information, not pitches.
At the very least, you should make sure your profile on these forums is complete. Some of these forums have also added the ability to connect with other members the way you do on LinkedIn.
You might also want to check for Google or Yahoo groups that might exist in your industry. If active, these are another chance to interact with a target market that might not have found networks like LinkedIn.
A couple days ago, I wrote a post called Save time (and make more sales) by blogging showing sales and marketing how they could improve the sales process by answering common questions in blog format.
But, for purposes of hanging out with your market, let’s focus on blogs other than your own. You need to find the ones that your market reads. And, you might be surprised to find that these are not usually blogs owned by your competitors.
A good place to start looking for these blogs is to check the publications written for your market. Chances are they have at least one blog associated with their group. You can also research independent consultants whose expertise is synergistic to the products and services you offer. Or, just Google some of your keywords and the word “blog” and see what pops up.
There are blog directories available, but so far I’ve had more luck finding appropriate blogs using those simple tactics than by searching directories. This is especially the case if your topic is one that is not generally mainstream.
Now you need to start commenting to build up your credibility in your market. But, as with the forums, if you have nothing really interesting or compelling to add, don’t bother. “Great post. Keep it up!” doesn’t count as it looks like you probably didn’t even read the post. Not great for your cred.
The other piece of advice I have is one that you probably heard many times from your mother,
“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
That doesn’t mean you always have to agree with the blogger. Your comments can express a different point of view. Just do it in a respectful and thoughtful way.
While you are hanging out on the web looking for blogs and associations, don’t forget to look for directory listings. You have to pay to be in some of these listings, but there are many of them that are free.
The irony is that the better ones, at least from a targeted market perspective, tend to be less expensive. The audience that the directory reaches is probably significantly smaller, but they probably matter much more than the more well-known directories.
Hopefully, you can enlist the help of marketing is providing you content such as product descriptions. Maybe they’ll even take over the maintenance of the directories if you just let them know which ones you think matter.
The added benefit to your organization is that these directories usually allow you to post links back to your website. Some directories like GlobalSpec have numerous ways you can posts links – everything from allowing you to post press releases, to articles and white papers, to product descriptions. All of these links can help you build your organization’s standing in the major search engine results.
This post ended up being significantly longer than I intended, and I’m sure I’m still missing a few things. There’s also a lot of overlap with Step 2 in building your online presence. Everyone of the techniques in step 3 that involves being online will help you build on the LinkedIn profile you built in step 2 – assuming you didn’t have one already.
But, that’s the point of each of these steps. You need to make sure you’ve covered each of them, in order, as the early steps build the foundation for later steps. If you haven’t refined your target market or built your LinkedIn profile, go back and read steps 1 and 2. If you already have those covered, look for ideas you can execute in step 3. Finally, stay tuned for Step 4. I’m still debating which idea makes the most sense to cover next, so I’ll have to stay tuned too.
All the best!