If you’re a technology company with $10-20 million in revenue, how do you compete with the gorillas in your space?
Companies in growth mode can feel as though they’re always playing catch-up with established competitors, but with the right marketing strategy, you can hold your own—or even beat them.
I like growth companies and turnarounds, so I’ve faced this challenge a few times in my career, and I know it can be done. Today, I lead the marketing team at Digital Guardian, a fast-growing cyber security company that competes directly—and successfully—with some of the largest information security companies in the world.
The key to making the most of a limited budget and finite resources is to get your digital presence right, because digital is where smaller companies can see big wins.
These seven tactics have helped my companies to grow market share and beat the behemoths by being a little smarter about digital marketing.
1. Polish your image and message
Your website is mission critical, and technology has put a world-class website within everyone’s reach. But it can’t just look good. It needs to sound good, too, with messaging that’s designed to entice visitors to subscribe to your content, open a communication channel and ultimately engage in a sales dialog. Yet great brand messaging is often overlooked by growth companies. You can do it yourself—David Skok publishes some great stuff about DIY messaging—or you can hire an agency. It can be hard to find one agency that is as good at branding as they are at web development: we ended up going with two different firms and it was worth the investment to get both right.
2. Trade custom code for a CMS
A lot of companies are happy to completely outsource their website to a development/hosting company. But if every new web page requires a call to that host and custom HTML, it’s going to slow you down and negatively impact your ability to be nimble with content creation and “news-jacking.” I feel very strongly that companies need to take control of their website with a content management system (CMS) such as Hubspot, Drupal, or WordPress and ready access to your marketing team. Being able to update content quickly is an area where smaller companies can gain a huge advantage over big competitors whose sites are usually bigger, more complex and updated by a select few, which creates bottlenecks.
3. Be fearless around analytics
So many marketers—even those in senior positions—are not as savvy as they should be in leveraging analytics to drive strategy. Mention Google Analytics and they freeze. But those metrics about your site performance are too important to ignore. They tell you everything you need to know to refine your programs—who your visitors are, where they come from, how they think, what engages them and where you may be losing them. Using Google Analytics is a no-brainer. It’s free and it’s one of the best tools out there, giving you tremendous capability to learn exactly what’s happening on your site.
4. Get an on-staff web developer
When I join a small tech company, one of my first hires is always a full-time web developer. There’s always resistance at first but for me, it’s indispensable. A junior- to mid-level developer—someone who is dedicated to marketing and isn’t on loan from IT or employed by a web hosting shop—gives me the ability to continually post new content and optimize the user experience. My web developer pushes out hundreds of SEO-focused web pages every year in addition to building new applications that enable us to get out in front of the competition.
5. Invest in marketing automation
Advances in technology have put world-class websites within reach of small businesses and enterprises alike. But that great-looking web presence is only valuable if you have a means of turning site traffic into leads and, ultimately, sales, and without a marketing automation solution in place, it’s not going to happen. Marketo, Manticore, Pardot, Oracle, Hubspot—take your pick. They all enable you to turn a website into a demand-generation machine by adding lead forms, gathering and analyzing user data, and optimizing your lead funnel continually.
6. Make SEO priority #1
SEO is another area where smaller companies can make huge gains against bigger, more established competitors. I’ll usually outsource day-to-day SEO management to a specialist, but I never outsource the initial keyword development. An outside marketing partner will never know all the nuances of your business and your products, so it’s important for your own marketing team to research competitors, generate that initial set of keywords and decide where and how you want to be found. Good SEO can be transformative: when I arrived at Digital Guardian, we were on page 200 of the Google organic search results for one of our core offerings: data loss prevention. Six months after putting our SEO strategy in place, we were on page one and edging out enterprise competitors.
7. Outsource content creation
For years, I fought an uphill battle with people inside the company to get them to create demand-generation content. But as the demand for content intensified, it became increasingly unrealistic to expect all that content to be produced internally. The good news is that there are now so many talented writers and content agencies out there who can do it for you. Outsourcing content is very affordable, and it’s not hard to find content creators who are not only great writers, but people who understand your market and your buyer.
Here’s the bottom line.
Put these seven elements in place, and you have the makings of a world-class digital marketing strategy that’s capable of taking on the gorillas in your space. Then it’s just a matter of getting into the groove of learning, refining and optimizing to maintain and grow your digital presence.
I dig into this playbook a little more in future posts. Here’s my piece on responsibilities a CMO should consider outsourcing vs. keep in house. Stay tuned for more on SEO, required marketing technologies and how to build an effective B2B marketing team.