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How to choose the right marketing strategy and get leadership buy in
So your B2B SaaS company has a great product and has decided to use marketing to facilitate its growth. That’s a fantastic idea! We think that getting a great marketing department up and running is pivotal in facilitating exponential growth for your company. However, for your marketing department to be successful, its goals have to closely align with your company’s strategy. This concept may seem obvious but it can be very difficult to implement if you don’t align the two early.
In our interactions with clients, we’ve seen that a lot of this difficulty stems from poor communication across verticals or assumptions that are made on what each division knows. So we’ve set up a process to push the right information to the forefront and to transform it into actionable goals and bold but attainable results. This process incorporates Ansoff’s matrix, Objectives and Key Results, and the Theory of Constraints. Our combination of frameworks focuses our clients' attention in the right areas and ensures that we can build our marketing departments quickly and in lock-step with our clients’ business priorities.
Aligning the leadership team on short and long-term priorities
First up, leadership alignment. In order to move forward and grow the way you need to, the leadership team needs to be completely aligned on the company’s goals and vision for the future. This gives the rest of the organization’s leader the tools to make clear decisions about the work they pursue to support that vision.
To help with this, we suggest having a discussion with your leadership team to hash out the following questions as a group. Setting aside time and energy to really focus on answering these questions is crucial to facilitating the growth of your company and it allows everyone a voice in the matter. What comes out of those discussions can be incredibly meaningful and gives everyone a clear view of what the goals are and how to achieve them.
What are we doing?
Why are we doing it?
What are the pain points of your customers? What is your company's story? Do you still uphold the reasoning behind why you do what you do? What are the benefits of your product (gain)?
What are our marketing goals?
What do you want to achieve? Higher ROI? MQL and SQL specifics? Customer specifics? SEO ranking?
How are we going to achieve them?
What marketing strategies are you going to implement? How many and what campaigns will you run? What will your inbound and outbound teams focus on?
Now that you’ve aligned your leadership team, you need to figure out what’s next. Where are you now? What industry do you serve, what customers do you have? Where would you like to be? Are there any new markets you’d like to dive into? Any new customers worth touching? To help with this, we use Ansoff’s matrix.
Ansoff’s matrix was developed in 1957 by Igor Ansoff, a notable mathematician. The matrix provides a simple way to visually gauge both development and risk assessment, making it a useful tool to analyze and plan your Go-To-Market strategy. It breaks down the expansion process into 4 main areas.
- Current Markets & Current Products (Low Risk)
This is the “comfort zone”, focusing on market penetration in areas in which the business already operates.
- Current Markets & New Products (Medium Risk)
The focus in this area of expansion is product development.
- New Markets & Current Products (Medium Risk)
In this area, businesses focus on market development, reaching out to new types of customers.
- New Markets & New Products (High Risk)
This is the most dramatic move businesses can make according to the matrix - venturing into both product and market expansion.
Though there’s room for interpretation (some “business moves” may be subjective and difficult to place in only one section), the matrix illustrates that growth out of the “comfort zone” involves risk as well as reward. Moving into a new market, or developing a new product, brings medium risk. Making a leap into totally new territory (new market/new product) brings with it the highest risk - and possibly, the highest reward.
Using the results
Now that you’ve solidified your go-to-market strategy, it’s time to put your planning to use! It is crucial that your entire team is completely aligned with the new strategies and understand what actions need to be taken to help deliver on them – the initial time spent on ensuring your team understands what the next phase of the company is well worth the investment, this ensures that they can execute on appropriate tasks to get there.
It is beneficial to prioritize the results of your matrix and tackle the low hanging fruit. Acting on your current market and current products – market penetration – is the easiest way to get started and can be used as a short term goal. This quadrant will specifically focus on developing your marketing and sales strategies to help achieve those goals. Consider working on redeveloping your messaging with another matrix focused on product features.
The other quadrants would require a more significant lift from the whole team as well as a significant investment of time and money into R&D for products and markets. As a result, these would likely be your longer-term strategies, so carefully thinking and planning about the next steps will ultimately lead to greater success in your strategy.
Consider tying in your strategic goal setting initiatives. A successful one commonly used by countless B2B SaaS companies is Objective Key Results (OKRs). Consider developing new OKRs around your new-found strategy to help keep the team laser-focused on actions to help support your strategy – that way, every action from the team has a purpose. It can also help remove distractions when faced with a dilemma between multiple options.
Marketing Management: Theory of Constraints
The Ansoff Matrix is a strategic planning tool, and like most tools it is better used in conjunction with other strategic planning tools, like the SWOT analysis (which we will be talking about next time) or the Theory of Constraints, a business management framework that focuses on systematically resolving small constraints to improve outcomes. While the Ansoff Matrix helps you define your goals and outline how to achieve them, the Theory of Constraints helps you achieve those goals more effectively and more efficiently by focusing on the constraints, i.e. the smallest problems that have the biggest impact.
Every goal is a series of interlinked activities. In theory, given that each of these activities has an efficiency rating, one of them will inevitably be the least efficient, i.e. be a constraint, a bottleneck, the weakest link. Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints is a methodology that aims to systematically pinpoint and resolve the current constraint, which will make another activity the new constraint, etc.
To prevent limiting factors from inhibiting goal completion, the Theory of Constraints comes with a set of tools:
- The Five Focusing Steps (a methodology for identifying and eliminating constraints)
- The Thinking Processes (tools for analyzing and resolving problems)
- Throughput Accounting (a method for measuring performance and guiding management decisions)
TOC is great in environments that require rapid and perpetual improvement because it inherently focuses on improvement activities by making each current constraint more efficient.
It can result in:
- Increased profit (the primary goal of TOC for most companies)
- Fast improvement (a result of focusing all attention on one critical area – the system constraint)
- Improved capacity (optimizing the constraint enables more product to be manufactured)
- Reduced lead times (optimizing the constraint results in smoother and faster product flow)
- Reduced inventory (eliminating bottlenecks means there will be less work-in-process)
In a B2B SaaS context, successful TOC implementation can have positive impacts on the development, marketing, and sales functions:
- Improved product/software and service
- Improved sales and marketing funnels
- Improved lead generation, scoring and nurturing
- Improved communication paths and processes
TOC can work alongside Agile and Lean methodologies as well. With that in mind, it’s important to not fall into the trap of improving every problem, including those that are not constraints because improving every problem won’t necessarily improve the system
The Five Focusing Steps
The Theory of Constraints uses the five following steps to identify and resolve the bottlenecks:
- Identify the current constraint, i.e. the single part that limits goal completion
- Exploit the constraint by making quick improvements using your current resources
- Subordinate all other activities by making sure they are aligned with the needs of the constraint
- Elevate the constraint if it hasn’t budged yet. The goal here is to keep making changes and improvements until the constraint becomes another part of the chain or process. Additional investment (whether it be financial, physical, or human capital, etc.) may be unavoidable.
- Repeat this cycle by addressing the newest element that has become a constraint, then the next. Every time a constraint is resolved, a new part of the process becomes the constraint, which you will have to address immediately. This process is a continuous improvement cycle, and your business should be continuously perpetually improving.
The Theory of Constraints touches on a lot more, including Lean, Gemba, Kaizen, Kanban, and a lot more, which are all worth reading up about for more information.
Learning about the Theory of Constraints along the Ansoff matrix is useful because using multiple tools in combination allows for a more holistic approach, which is less prone to blind spots and more rigorous in its attempt at achieving optimal outcomes.
Especially for marketing, keeping a keen eye on potential constraints can have huge and immediate positive impacts on your marketing function.
Building your marketing strategy from scratch can be a daunting task. You must not only closely align your strategy with your company’s current and future goals but you must also create a strategy that can be quickly implemented and gives your team the ability to make a sustained impact for your company. Using Ansoff’s matrix in a brainstorming session with your executive leadership team is a fantastic way to prioritize your Go to Market strategies and align marketing with the rest of the company.
However, it’s one thing to build a good strategy and another to successfully implement and manage it. Consider using frameworks such as Objectives and Key Results as well as the Theory of Constraints to build a management system that gets results. These frameworks will ensure your team is laser-focused on driving the results that matter, while you can focus on removing blockers and increasing the efficiency of your team.
If you are interested in learning more about the best ways to kick-off and manage your new marketing team, please take a look at some suggested readings below:
- Introduction to Ansoff’s Matrix - Facilitating a strategy journey for the executive team
- A strategy is not the perfect path, it’s a series of choices, each of which brings its own implications. - Michael Porter
- Thrash early. Prioritize. Ship - Projects always suffer when project managers lack the discipline to make important decisions as early as possible, or if they revisit them for political reasons. ShipIt-Journal download and audio
- Constraints drive efficient and profitable production. Finding scarce resources or fixing the constraining process can streamline or amplify the desired outcomes. [Eli Goldratt]
- You can work in your business or on it. [Michael Gerber]
- Strategy and tactics matter. The Art of War is about choices. Game theory is not about games. Interactive tools are here.
- Edge cases: Almost all successful startups seemed like a lame idea at first [What Microsoft Is this the Altair Basic of?] and [Stephen Johnson]