Marketing is hard. When you’re faced with a limited budget or a tough marketplace, your job becomes even harder. But as marketers we thrive on these kinds of challenges, right? Right!
Our agency has built a business on marketing in two relatively challenging verticals: B2B healthcare and B2B technology. Over the past 15 years in business we’ve encountered many obstacles that are common to most companies, and we’ve learned a few ways to overcome them.
Here, we’ve listed five of the most difficult challenges and noted the most effective ways to break down these barriers to achieve marketing success. (Note: This article is written from an agency perspective, but the issues apply to most companies at one time or another. So if you’re an in-house marketer, just replace “client” with “company” as you read.)
Let’s get started!
Marketing Challenge #1: Your client has NO established brand/name recognition.
In our healthcare and technology verticals, we are contacted by a lot of startups with no brand recognition (and sometimes no brand at all!), no big name backing their product, and no foothold in the market whatsoever. You may say challenge, but we say opportunity! How exciting is it to have the chance to come in at the ground level and build an unknown into a big name in their industry?
Tips to earn or establish brand recognition:
- Understand your brand. What’s your value proposition? What is the promise your brand makes to the world? Just as important, understand who your natural audience is, or will be – and who will not be your customer.
- Evaluate your brand. Before doing anything else, ask yourself if your brand identity is working now? Will it work as you grow? If not, this is the first thing to focus on.
- Make sure your branding is cohesive and consistent. All of your properties and materials should look like they belong to the same company, including your website, social media, print materials, business cards, email footers, etc.
- Online marketing is a great way to start building your brand since many people turn to search engines for product/service searches. Start by building a solid SEO foundation with your website. While you work to achieve high organic search rankings, consider purchasing some targeted pay-per-click advertising to get your name in front of the right online searchers.
- Public relations can go a long way to changing your brand perception, but it does take experience and commitment to get it right.
In the end, helping a startup get their first customers or an SMB make the leap from small fish to big player is an awesome, rewarding feeling. Embrace the underdog mentality!
Marketing Challenge #2: Your client has a tiny budget. And I mean tiny.
Your potential client says to you, “We need 60 new qualified leads from marketing, 1,000 new Twitter followers, and a 50% increase in revenue in six months. I can give you $10,000 to work with.”
Step 1: Don’t laugh.
Step 2: Don’t panic.
A limited marketing budget is a common issue, but when the client’s goals don’t match their desired spend, it becomes even more difficult to succeed with limited funds. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to get more money for your marketing efforts.
Remember that the first budget they give you is not always the most they can spend. You have a good chance of getting more money if you do the following in your pitch:
- Convince them of the importance of strategic foundational elements to the success of their marketing efforts and the overall success of their business. Calmly explain that without a solid marketing strategy tied to their business goals, they are wasting their marketing dollars. You have to lay the foundation before you start building the house. With an intelligent plan in place, you can recommend the campaigns that will get them the most bang for their buck.
- Next, show them the ROI they can expect from each campaign. Be prepared with specific case studies and results you’ve gotten for other clients. Make them confident that you have the tools and experience to succeed.
Marketing Challenge #3: No one cares about your client’s product/service.
“No one cares! No one will listen! No one will find us online!” False. False. False.
This one is more of a myth than a challenge. Although if you believe in this myth, therein lies your challenge.
Every vertical – every single one – has a group of people who follow it, care about it, and want it to grow. The trick is finding the right group or groups, no matter how small they are. Try these tips:
- When it comes to trade shows and events, every vertical has THE show to be at. That one “do not miss” event of the year. So go to it, and make it count with great marketing and detailed preparation.
- Find the influencers in your marketplace. This tactic is a lot easier now with Google and social media. Find the bloggers, analysts, early adopters, and evangelists who are talking about your market, and build a network.
- Tap into social networks, groups, and forums to join discussions. Find people with a pain point that your company solves and offer guidance and support.
- If, on the off chance you’re right and no one actually cares, make them care! Get active on social media and promote what you’re selling. Come up with a unique selling proposition and pitch your client’s values/ideas/beliefs to the people you think will be interested. Be passionate about the business and the right people will take notice.
Marketing Challenge #4: Your client has tried it all, but nothing is working.
With so many marketing paths to go down, it’s easy to get lost. We’ve talked many clients “off the ledge” when they are just about to give up on a specific program or campaign because it hasn’t shown results yet. Here’s the thing: many marketing campaigns are long-term plays. Take these campaigns for example:
- Marketing automation: It takes time to create a great content library, build and segment your marketing list, set up workflows, and configure your marketing automation program to nurture leads. Give it time.
- Search engine optimization: “My website has been live for two weeks and we’re not ranking on page one yet. What gives?” Every SEO has heard this from a client at least a few times in his career. The key to combating this disappointment is to set clear expectations from the start. We often say that SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. Make sure your client has the same understanding.
- Public relations: PR requires a lot of work up front to build media lists, compile pitch materials, and generate newsworthy stories. It’s about building relationships with editors and reporters, scouring editorial calendars, doing constant outreach, and delivering consistently. You won’t have overnight success with public relations, but the long-term effects will be instrumental in transforming your brand and increasing your valuation.
While these campaigns require commitment, be careful not to get complacent once they begin producing. Always be evaluating and testing to improve performance.
Marketing Challenge #5: Your client doesn’t stand out and is getting lost in their marketplace.
Don’t be afraid to differentiate your client’s company by helping them carve out their niche. It’s hard to compete against every company in a market – and you need a field of competitors to help build demand and serve the clients you don’t want. Figure out what you do best, who needs it the most, and who is willing to pay for it. Then be the best in the world at it.
Remember how we focused our agency exclusively on healthcare and technology marketing? That’s all we do. We’re known as one of the best agencies in the nation in these verticals; we close deals because of this deep expertise and experience. Going niche was the best decision for our agency, and it could be the right choice for your company too.
Marketing under these challenging conditions can be daunting, but don’t let the fear hold you back. Come up with a solid plan, execute it confidently, and always be testing and improving. You’ll be surprised what you can achieve when you don’t give yourself an excuse for failure.