Takeaways From Marketing Flight School 2018

Our Flight Schools began in early 2017 and to-date, we have hosted 6. Flight Schools are an exclusive opportunity for our portfolio companies to come together to share learning and collaboration between companies, fully leveraging the benefits of the High Alpha network. On January 25th, marketers from across the High Alpha family gathered for a full-day of networking, learning, and collaboration. The day was jam-packed with lessons and insight, but I’ve tried to condense all of the day’s content into 6 takeaways that most resonated with me.

1. Act Like a Category Leader, Even If You Aren’t One Yet

“How do you market like a category leader when you aren’t there yet?”
Scott Dorsey —Managing Partner, High Alpha

Customers want to buy from category leaders, employees want to work for category leaders, and partners want to partner with category leaders. Scott Dorsey emphasizes that no matter the size of your company, you should be striving in every aspect to market as if you are the absolute #1 in your category. Some ways to do this:

  • Understand your digital footprint: What do people find when they search your company? What content are you promoting and why? Everything public about your company informs potential customers, investors, and partners.
  • Showcase a top-notch website: Monitor your web traffic. Consider your voice and what your customers will assume about you based on all content on your website — from the product descriptions to the “about us” page.
  • Map the prospect journey: Be everywhere buyers are and follow their purchase path. What does your brand look like through the stages of that path?
  • Stand on the shoulders of giants: Develop a partner strategy and let the “magic” of bigger brands rub off on you.
  • 3rd party experts: Make industry analysts love you.
  • Be unique.

2. Collaboration + Transparency As You Grow Is Key

“One of Quantifi’s core values is transparency. With sales and marketing, that means speaking up when something isn’t working.”
Despi Ross — VP CX & Marketing, Quantifi

Despi Ross, Justin Keller (VP Marketing, Sigstr), and Tyler Hinkle (Director of Demand Gen, Octiv) have all collectively experienced the growing pains of fast-paced startups. Though all in marketing roles, all three unanimously expressed the importance of strong collaboration with sales, especially as you grow. Some key suggestions to keep collaboration and transparency strong between your sales and marketing organizations:

  • Create a quick feedback loop between sales and your marketing team’s messaging and positioning.
  • Focus on accountability between departments — ask how each can contribute to company success and hold to that.
  • BDRs and sales dev. can live successfully under marketing or sales—it’s primarily about empowering them to do good work.
  • Find a cadence to meet consistently with one another.

3. Determine Your True Identity

“Whatever ‘boring’ category you think you’re part of, don’t try to fight it, instead — anchor on your category and dominate it.”
Tim Kopp — Partner, Hyde Park Venture Partners

With prior experiences ranging from marketing cloud software and CPG products to the US Army and the Statehouse, Tim Kopp and Mitch Frazier (CEO of Reynolds Farm Equipment and Former Chief of Staff and VP of Global Comms at ExactTarget) are two of the most talented minds when it comes to messaging and positioning. At our Marketing Flight School, they dug into a fireside chat to discuss why your company positioning is the cornerstone to your marketing and company as a whole.

Positioning goes so much further than just branding as well—you need to have a deep understanding of your company’s mission, why you exist, and what makes you different. And if you are leading marketing at your company, it’s your responsibility to take the ownership for your positioning and messaging and define “who we are”, “what we do”, and “why we are different”. You may not have the final answers, but it’s your job to get the conversation started and own the process of getting feedback and determining what those are.

Some quick tips from Tim and Mitch:

  • Your positioning statements (who we are, what we do, why we’re different) need to fit on the back of a business card —they need to be bullet points, simple, and universally easy to articulate.
  • Even if you consider your category “boring”, it’s a category—anchor on it and dominate it. By leaning into the category you currently fall in, you will be able to better message and position yourself instead of seeking to create a category that the industry isn’t looking for.

4. Start a Movement

“Category building is having a mindset of ‘anything is possible’.”
Sangram Vajre — Co-founder + CMO, Terminus

Sangram Vajre also walked us through a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the #FlipMyFunnel movement and community. To learn more about the movement itself, check the video below from their #FlipMyFunnel conference in Austin in 2016.

This movement sparked a wildly popular conference and a new approach and thought process to marketing. Although Sangram, a leader a Terminus, built this idea and brand, he didn’t center it around Terminus. The idea of starting a movement is bigger than your singular organization, but can have bigger implications AND in turn benefit your organization. A few of the biggest takeaways:

  • Category builidng is having the mindset that anything is possible.
  • Consider where you stand with your competitiors. “We don’t want to compete with 5,000 customers. We want 5,000 customers to compete with us.”
  • Remember that your community is both online AND offline — consider this when building a movement. In-person events can be critical to your success.
  • Central your movement around a bigger idea — FlipMyFunnel is all about building the largest and most engaged community of B2B professionals on the planet and helping them to look at their marketing funnel and strategies in a new way.

5. Treat Contract and Agency Relationships as an Extension of the Team

“Build the relationship around aligned incentives and trust.”
Liz Prugh — Owner, Kitsune Consulting

Liz Prugh, Justin Zalewski (Director of Product Design, Studio Science), and Dodge Lile’s (VP, Raidious)companies have all collaborated with many High Alpha portfolio companies as they have grown. Depending on where a company is and how quickly they are scaling, the need to hire freelance marketers and agencies ebbs and flows. Balancing the relationships with freelancers can be tricky and the need for these relationships will change as your department grows and your organization changes. The most important thing to remember when working with agencies and marketing consultants and freelancers:

  • Treat them as an extension of your team — they are doing work to improve your business. Know that you have aligned visions in the work you do because when you succeed, by default, they do as well. Trust is key and although you may not utilize that relationship forever, it’s a testament to their work if the content they produce or the designs they deliver assists in the growth of your company and team down the line.

6. Successfully Managing Resources + Personalization = Successful ABM

“You have two levers for ABM orchestration — resources/budget and personalization.”
Eric Martin — Director of Marketing Programs, SalesLoft

Eric Martin from SalesLoft closed out the day, diving into the topic of building out account-based marketing programs and sharing some insights from their successful programs at SalesLoft. Some key takeaways:

  • Size up the market: Analyze with both a bottom-up and top-up approach. Consider your ideal customer profile, geography, and the technology stack needed for your specific product.
  • Utilize your two key levers when tiering accounts: personalization and resources. Personalize the message to be as account-specific as possible for your highest-tiered accounts and work yourself backward accordingly for Tier 2 and Tier 3. Consider the people, time, and money dedicated to working on each account in the same way.

Look out for more High Alpha Flight Schools in 2018. In the meantime, you can learn more about High Alpha here or learn more about current job opportunities at High Alpha and our portfolio companies.

#haflightschool hashtag on Twitter

Special thanks to Drew Beechler and Jackson Troxel for taking detailed, helpful notes throughout the day!