Using Strategic Marketing Levers to Fuel Growth

Let me tell you a tale of two B2B companies. The first company is “all in” on everything. They’re writing blog posts, constantly posting on all the social media channels, dabbling in infographics, starting their own podcast, doing the occasional webinar, doing some email marketing, offering whitepapers, exhibiting at conferences, launching paid search, display advertising, and retargeting campaigns, and even engaging in a bit of cause marketing.

They’re busy, constantly working at a frenetic pace to get all these things done.

And these are all good things, right? I mean, we all know that infographics can be an effective way of generating backlinks and that email marketing has a high ROI. And who doesn’t love cause marketing (cue “We Are The World”)?

There’s just one very bad, no good, something-isn’t-right-here problem: the company isn’t generating many leads.

To paraphrase the classic movie What About Bob?, they’re doing the work, they’re not slackers. They’re just not seeing much by way of results.

Now let’s talk about company number two. They’re “all in” on exactly two things: blogging and video. And here’s the surprising thing: they’re growing like crazy, even though they’re doing far fewer things than company number one. Their focus on just two things is producing far more leads and putting them way ahead of company number one.

So what gives? Why is company number one, who is supposedly doing all the right things, not growing, while company number two is going gangbusters?

It’s all about marketing levers.

Strategic Marketing Levers

While most of company number one’s ideas are good, the reality is that they don’t have the bandwidth to do them all well. They’re doing a lot of different things at a mediocre level. And the reality is if you can’t execute effectively on your ideas, you’re ultimately going to be unsuccessful.

If you want to achieve greater results, you should figure out the few things that matter most – the strategic growth levers – and double down on them. If you do this, you’ll grow faster, more reliably and more sustainably. You’ll also be able to compound your results over time, enabling you to establish highly differentiated and more powerful marketing initiatives.

b2b marketing podcast

Let me give an example from Stratabeat. Over the past several years, the media has been hyping podcasting. They cite all the jaw-dropping statistics and talk about how podcasting is the next big thing for companies. They tell you that you absolutely must start a podcast if you want to be successful. As a result, a whole lot of companies have tried to start podcasts.

And the reality is, we could have started a podcast. We could’ve bought all the right equipment and interviewed the right people and even purchased some catchy music for the intro.

But we know that producing a podcast and trying to get followers for it would take a long time to produce any real, meaningful results. Unlike the movie Field of Dreams, where Kevin Costner is told that if he builds it, they will come, getting people to pay attention to a podcast takes a massive amount of time and effort.

So we adopted a different strategy.

Instead of producing our own podcast, we started partnering with companies who have podcasts that already had audiences in the 20K-80K range. We get interviewed on their podcasts and as a result are introduced to their large audiences. This, in turn, helps us to quickly and efficiently expand our reach.

We’ve tipped the advice given to Kevin Costner on its head. We’ve let others build it, we’ve come, and then the audience has come to us.

We adopted a similar technique with webinars. Instead of creating our own webinar series, we worked to get featured regularly on third-party webinars. It was way less work with 10X the results.

Simply put, we realized that appearing on others’ podcasts and webinars was a much more effective marketing lever for us than trying to start our own. And so we doubled down on those tactics and reaped huge results. We focused on doing one 10X initiative really well rather than spreading ourselves thin trying to produce, promote, and profit from our own podcast or webinar series.

Now, we’re not saying that you shouldn’t start your own podcast or webinar series. If you have a burning desire to be a podcast host or webinar host, great. Those can both be fantastic lead generation drivers that are important to your growth.

However, you should be strategic, and being strategic means being selective. It means saying no to a lot of good things so that you can say yes to a few great things.

Where can you completely crush it? Where can you leverage all your skills and assets most effectively? What one or two things can you do with amazing effectiveness to 10X results?

If you try to do everything, you’ll spread yourself way too thin and reap very few results.

You’ll be like Bilbo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings when he says he feels like butter scraped over too much bread.

If you want to have real, tangible success, you need to identify and go “all in” on those few areas where you’ll have the time, resources, attention and commitment to knock it out of the park.

Instead of frantically trying to pull on 15 different marketing levers, you need to find a few, highly strategic ones and pull on them with all your weight.

One more example of a strategic marketing lever from Stratabeat: we focus a great deal on events. From Maine to Texas, Massachusetts to Oklahoma, we speak at conferences around the country. We’ve spoken at INBOUND, Pubcon, LeadsCon, Content Marketing Conference, Click to Connect, State of Search, FutureM, DX Summit, Confluence, Marketing Metrics & Analytics Summit, as well as dozens of WordCamps and meetups along the east coast, among many others.

b2b marketer speaking at industry conference

By focusing on speaking at events, we’ve developed a highly efficient process that enables us to secure speaking spots and deliver high-impact presentations. Additionally, the event organizers often publish video recordings of the presentation, leading to hundreds or even thousands of other people seeing them as well.

This has led to not only a steady stream of opportunities to get in front of new audiences, but it has also resulted in countless new leads and clients. We’ve gone all in on speaking because we know it’s one of the areas where we can truly crush it.

We know that it will produce 10X the results when compared to other seemingly good opportunities. We’ve pulled hard on the “lever” of speaking because we know that we can do it really well and that the ROI will be high.

In contrast, if we only spoke at two or three events per year, it’s doubtful that we would see much or any ROI from the effort.

It’s important to note that marketing levers aren’t limited to just tactics and the marketing mix. You may be able to uncover a marketing lever that will 10X your results simply by looking at audience targeting, changing your revenue model or identifying areas of marketing innovation.

Take audience targeting, for example. At a prior company, my colleagues and I discovered that software company clients were 10X more profitable compared to other clients. And so we took the dramatic step of firing all non-software clients, which was about 50% of our clients in total.

We then began focusing exclusively on software companies.

Yes, this sounds counterintuitive and maybe even extreme. But our extreme action and intense focus produced extreme results. By focusing exclusively on software companies, we were able to become experts and establish a strong differentiation. The result was that we grew by 250% over the next two years.

The lesson? Sometimes you need to take extreme strategic action when it comes to identifying and acting on your marketing levers. Extreme, highly focused action can produce extreme results.

Identifying Your Strategic Marketing Levers

So, how do you determine what your strategic levers are? How do you identify what you should double down on? How do you know whether you should focus on LinkedIn or webinarsContent marketing or events?

I recommend the following steps.

First, put all your big ideas into a spreadsheet. This is essentially a brain dump where you document anything and everything that you could possibly focus on. Podcasting, email marketing, display advertising, webinars, cause marketing, infographics, blogging, video…put it all in there. Get everything out on the table.

Add the following columns for each idea:

  1. Time: the time it would take to get done
  2. Effort: how easy or difficult it would be
  3. Investment: how much it will actually cost to complete
  4. Profit: what the potential ROI is
  5. Projected results: what might you really, tangibly get out of it?

Next to each idea, under each column, fill in the cell with either red, yellow or green, accordingly. In other words, if an idea could produce a huge profit, fill it in with green. If it’s going to take a large investment of time and effort, fill those cells in with red.

Marketing Levers

Once you have everything documented and in front of you, you can easily see which projects will have the best results that you can start or implement right now to accelerate your growth.

Focus on The Few

So what’s the lesson in all this? When it comes to marketing, it’s not about how much you’re doing. It’s not about how busy you can be or how many channels you can use. Rather, it’s all about achieving big results in a way that is rapidly scalable and efficient. It’s about doing a few things really well rather than many things poorly.

Rethink Your Marketing by Tom ShaprioAs I explain in Rethink Your Marketing, dabbling around the edges doesn’t work. It merely keeps you busy being busy. It dilutes your attention and depletes your resources. It keeps you working at a frenetic pace, all while achieving very little. You end up doing 100 things in a mediocre fashion instead of 3 things in a highly effective manner.

Instead, you need to be decisive, selective and go bold. You need to identify what can get you 10X results, double down on those things and let the rest go. To use a phrase from the writing world, you may need to “kill your darlings”. In other words, you may let go of those pet projects of yours that aren’t producing any real results. You may need to give up something you really like if there’s no real ROI behind it.

But really, why would you spend time on things that don’t have a high ROI when you could use that time to go all in on the strategic levers you’ve identified?

Your team will be less stressed and less busy, will get better and become more differentiated than the competition, will be more confident and enjoy their work more, and your marketing will be 10X more successful.

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