I always jump at any opportunity I have to learn from Scott Dorsey or hear him present. In planning our Q1 Marketing Flight School, I asked Scott if he would present to the marketing leaders across the High Alpha portfolio on “Marketing Like a Category Winner.”
His presentation focused around what category leadership looks like from a marketing perspective and why it’s so important for enterprise software companies. In a nutshell, Scott noted, “Customers want to buy from category leaders, employees want to work for category leaders, and partners want to partner with category leaders.”
“Customers want to buy from category leaders, employees want to work for category leaders, and partners want to partner with category leaders.”
How do you become a “category leader,” though, and what does a category leader do that sets them apart? Scott shared six keys to enterprise B2B marketing that you should be thinking about when looking to become the dominant leader in your space.
1. Your Website
Scott noted, “Your website is your window to the world and how everyone experiences you.” Your website is the lens into your company, yet most of us don’t spend enough time thinking about and working on our website. We put a lot of energy into first designing and writing the website, but after it’s live, we often will set it and forget it.
This goes much farther than just your homepage. Your “About” page should also project the strongest possible image of yourself. Think strategically about how you display company values, culture, employee photos, etc.
You also need to think about the other constituents on your website beyond sales prospects — think about how investors, prospective employees, and prospective partners will interact with your website and what they’re looking for in your company.
Showcase PR and news in a prominent section to build energy and show the life and vitality of your business. Build a drumbeat and show a cadence of progress.
It’s also vital for you to up-level how you display customers on your website. You need to highlight more than just local, SMB logos on your website. It’s a marketer’s job to use the power of persuasion to get your big enterprise customers on your website. Salesforce has done an amazing job of celebrating their customers and making their customers the heroes, from showcasing them in keynotes and on their website to covering downtown San Francisco with customer quotes during Dreamforce.
The good thing is that your website is something you own. It’s a brand asset you can easily control!
2. Build a Big Digital Footprint
How does the world experience your brand outside your website? This manifests itself across many different channels and properties: your content, social properties, search, third-party sites, reviews, Glassdoor, etc. Marketing should own every digital footprint your company is leaving, and it shouldn’t just be solely focused on generating leads. Marketing is much more than just demand generation—as Scott noted at our Flight School, “You make poor long-term decisions when your primary metric for marketing is just generating leads.”
“You make poor long-term decisions when your primary metric for marketing is just generating leads.”
When thinking about your content, you need to have a steady pipeline of high-quality, persona-driven content. Yes, generally the argument can be made for quality over quantity, but it’s also vital to make it a habit of writing and producing content on a regular basis. When they made the decision at ExactTarget to create a team focused specifically on Content Marketing & Research and go from publishing a few posts a week to a few posts a day—I published over 1,200 articles/year from 100 different authors across our global blogs while I ran this at ExactTarget—our traffic, brand awareness, content leads, and new revenue generated from content grew exponentially.
If you want to be a category leader, you also need to have a search strategy. Define the 5–10 terms that you’re going to own and own them. Enterprise buyers may not necessarily come to your site through PPC ads, but it does leave a massive, unmeasurable brand impression with your buyers when you own these terms.
What does your presence on review sites like G2 Crowd and Capterra or inclusion on other third-party sites look like? Are you contributing guest articles to industry or trade publications and blogs on a regular basis? What does your Glassdoor presence look like? Marketing should see it as their responsibility to own every element of the digital footprint for your company.
3. Map the Prospect Journey
Ask yourself how a prospect would engage with your company and find your solution? Follow that path and be everywhere your buyers are.
How does a prospect find your website? Where do they land when they click on a PPC ad for your site? When they get to your site, is it hard for them to find an email address, phone number, or a human to talk to? Don’t make it hard for someone to get in contact with your company.
A good exercise is to “be a secret shopper”—call the phone number on your website or send an email to your contact email. Who replies to those inquiries and what is that conversation? Think holistically and intentionally about your prospect’s journey with your brand.
Think holistically and intentionally about your prospect’s journey with your brand.
4. Stand on the Shoulders’ of Giants
Your partner strategy can be one of the most impactful areas to your business. Highlight your partners in a big way and leverage these relationships to look bigger than you are—to stand on the shoulders’ of giants.
You should draft off the industry leaders in your space and let the magic of their bigger brands rub off on you. Push for co-marketing and co-selling opportunities with partners. Be a part of their partner events and summits. Make your partners’ employees love your brand.
Many successful software and tech companies will point to a specific partnership, integration, or alliance that was a pivotal moment in their company’s trajectory.
5. 3rd-Party “Experts”
Scott noted to our audience that they should “make industry analysts love you.”
As I’ve said previously, “Even if you don’t fit squarely into a Gartner Magic Quadrant or Forrester Wave report, find a way to get on the relevant analysts’ radars.” When starting out, your analyst strategy doesn’t have to rely solely on Gartner or Forrester either—look for more niche firms that fit better with your product offering. You should be building these relationships early and often.
Scott shared that at ExactTarget, analyst reports would affect millions of dollars of investment. Hire an analyst to fly in for a half day and get them bought into your strategy.
In the early days, your analyst relations (AR) strategy doesn’t have to be focused on the “pay-to-play” options. Most analyst firms offer free briefings or other creative ways to engage or learn from them without a full-time engagement. Many firms also have smaller engagement packages and offerings that are more conducive for startups or host a number of events that might be a good stepping stone to a deeper relationship. Even a small investment can pay off huge dividends.
6. Be Unique
Be a pioneer. Write a book, host a podcast, start a user conference, own industry events—look for ways you can stand out in the crowd of software startups and do something meaningfully different. Do something that others can’t do or provide insight and value that your competitors simply can’t provide.
If your industry is full of “me too” solutions, begin to define a new category or term like Terminus did with ABM and the #FlipMyFunnel movement.
Your customers are not building a one-year relationship with your company. You are selling a 3–5 or 5–10 year relationships with your customers. Cast a unique and differentiated vision for your customers that is exciting and worth a 10-year relationship.
Many startup marketers will immediately ask, “When should I start to implement and think about these tactics and strategies?” The answer is simply as soon as possible.
You should start thinking about these when you are still a tiny startup huddled around a conference room table. You may not be able to execute to the highest degree on all of these yet, but you need to be thinking about them and starting early. Many of these areas are not just one-time investments or set-it-and-forget-it strategies—they are strategies that provide compounding returns for your marketing team and category leadership for the long-term.