As an entrepreneur or marketing professional, having a viable product is only half the battle. Marketing is just as, if not more, important. Exponential increases in the complexity of the marketing world have made it more confusing than ever to figure out where you should be spending your marketing time, money, and resources.
The instinct for some is to try to do everything at the expense of doing any singular activity well. The result is typically poor results, low team morale, and burnout.
A smarter approach is to start with a Minimum Viable Marketing Plan (MVMP); a lean strategy, appropriate for your type of business, that allows for the maximum production of qualified leads (and ultimately sales) for the least amount of time, money, and resources.
Who Needs a Minimum Viable Marketing Plan?
The philosophy of a Minimum Viable Marketing Plan is for any entrepreneur or marketing professional with limited time, money, and resources. If your sales and marketing team consists of one to five professionals (including yourself), it’s for you. This might mean you’re a startup, small business, or even a medium business with a small sales & marketing team.
The MVMP should be manageable within reasonable business hours by this team, with the goal of creating some small wins and building momentum toward an expanded strategy.
The Importance of Efficiency
Having been a marketer for over twenty years, I’ve come to learn the importance of efficiency. Wasting time, money, and resources is the number one enemy of entrepreneurs and marketing professionals everywhere.
It’s becoming increasingly easy to get distracted by “shiny objects” and trying to keep up with the latest and greatest marketing techniques. Marketers… how many times have you received an email from a client or boss with a link to an article or a competitor, asking “Shouldn’t we be doing this?”
Smart marketers focus 80% of their marketing time, money, and resources on a narrow range of activities that are most likely to produce results for the type of business they are in until they grow large enough to widen the focus.
Let’s take blogging for example. Blogging can be a very effective technique for generating inbound leads, as well as warming existing leads; but it doesn’t belong on everyone’s MVMP.
Depending on your answers to the questions below, it might be a mistake to dedicate resources to blogging at first. Yes, having a robust blog might help boost leads and increase sales conversion ratios; but, the time and talent required to do so may not make sense for some MVMP models at first.
On the other hand, your answers to the questions below may point toward a MVMP model where blogging is central to your lead generation strategy. The point is to learn the marketing activities that are associated with the MVMP model specific to your business and focus 80% of your marketing time, money and resources on them until you grow large enough to expand.
Marketing vs. Sales Professionals
Your Minimum Viable Marketing Plan will also help determine the kinds of people you hire. This is extremely important and should not be overlooked. In my career, I’ve witnessed too many companies throw money down the drain by mismatching sales & marketing roles with the wrong people.
While sales and marketing professionals are often grouped together under the “Revenue” department, they are completely different types of people with very different strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. Putting a sales person in a marketing role (or vice versa) can prove to be very ineffective and may lead to poor performance, employee satisfaction, and overall team morale.
Sales people are extroverts. They love to create and foster relationships with other people. They’re motivated by easy-to-define success metrics (like sales), and get discouraged with anything softer.
Marketing people are creative and are often introverts. They’re big-picture thinkers and love to come up with new ideas. They’re motivated by seeing their ideas come to life and feeling a sense of contribution to the overall mission. Putting marketing people in a position where they interact with a large quantity of people can be a mistake.
If you are a solo entrepreneur, it’s equally important to know if you are a sales or marketing person and not waste time in activities that are not a fit.
That means I’m most productive when creating content and coming up with ideas on my own. Therefore, I try to spend the majority of my time on my strengths and minimize time spent in activities I don’t like.
The Four Questions
There are four questions to ask yourself when determining the minimum viable marketing plan for your business.
1. What is The Average Lifetime Value of Your Average Customer (LTV)?
How much does your typical customer spend in the long run? Add up all of your revenue over a long period of time including subscription payments, one-time fees, up-sells, cross-sells, affiliate payments, etc; and then divide by the total number of unique customers.
LTV = Total Revenue Over Time / # of Unique Customers
This factor helps to determine whether you should be focusing on inbound or outbound lead generation. Inbound is when leads find you… for example, by stumbling upon your advertising, running across your content, or using a search engine. Outbound is when you find individual leads through targeted lists or manually prospecting.
If your LTV figure is less than $10,000, inbound lead generation is typically the most effective strategy for a small sales & marketing team.
The idea of inbound lead generation is to set up systems of content such as advertisements, videos, blog articles, etc. that attract leads and move them along a conversion funnel. At any given time, you should have multiple campaigns running so that you can continually compare and optimize them. Once you find some winners, run 80% of your campaigns with proven winners and use the other 20% for experimental campaigns.
In terms of human resources, there’s more of an emphasis on marketing personnel with inbound-leaning strategies (vs. sales). This is important to note when making hires or dividing responsibilities among existing team members. If you are primarily an inbound marketing organization, don’t make the mistake of hiring a bunch of sales people.
2. Do You Sell to Other Businesses (B2B) or End Consumers (B2C)?
If your average LTV is more than $10,000, the next question is whether you sell to the end consumer, or to other businesses. In other words, are you Business to Consumer (B2C) or Business to Business (B2B)?
B2C companies will typically find it most efficient to focus on inbound marketing. Most B2B companies will find it most efficient to focus on an outbound lead generation strategy.
The idea in outbound lead generation is to set up systems for your team to track down individual leads with the job titles at the kinds of companies you want to sell to. This could mean manually researching or buying targeted lists.
Start with a piece of really good content such as an explainer video or a one-sheeter and reach out to these individuals one by one using email, social media, phone calls, etc. The goal should be to get people on the phone for a “discovery call” to get to know each other and see if there’s enough of a fit to continue the relationship.
In terms of personnel, outbound strategies are more sales-focused. This means your fist few hires should be sales people and not marketing people. Don’t make the mistake of asking your marketing people to spend their days outbound prospecting. They’ll be miserable and so will you.
3. How Long is Your Sales Cycle in Terms of Number of Encounters Before Prospects Turn Into Customers?
How many encounters with marketing collateral, sales personnel, or a 3rd party does it typically take a prospect in your niche to make a buying decision? The answer to this questions will determine the length of your sales cycle.
For inbound marketers, the length of sales cycle determines whether they will have a deep or wide content funnel.
As a general rule of thumb, the more expensive the product or service is, the longer the sales cycle, and the deeper the funnel.
If your customers make buying decisions in two or less encounters, your business will most likely fit into a wide content funnel strategy. A wide content funnel has broad reach and a short conversion period.
Broad reach means going after a larger target audience with the goal of getting them to by very quickly.
Content such as advertisements, web pages, videos, articles, etc. is more focused on the benefits of your product and what sets you apart from your competitors.
If your customers need more than two encounters to make buying decisions, you’ll most likely fit into a deep content funnel strategy. A deep content funnel has narrow reach and a long conversion period.
This means going after a smaller target audience, but nurturing them longer to ultimately convert to sales down the road.
The initial goal in a deep funnel is to capture some contact information and build trust over time. Your content should be aimed at helping your leads solve problems even if they don’t buy from you. Save talk about the benefits of your product or service until you’ve built a foundation of trust with your prospects.
4. Size of Advertising Budget
The last determining factor is the size of your advertising budget. How much have you set aside per month to spend on advertising (which could include paid search, social, traditional media, and marketing software)?
If the answer is more than $1,000 per month, then you should focus on a paid traffic strategy and put less emphasis on recurring content.
Paid traffic is much more predictable than organic traffic. The “golden ticket” in marketing is to optimize paid traffic to convert into sales with a positive return on your advertising dollars.
The goal is to create a machine where you insert $1 and take out $5. If you can do this, keep putting money into it until you reach saturation; and worry about content marketing later.
If your advertising budget is less than $1,000, use it for software and focus on an organic traffic strategy. Organic traffic strategies include search engine optimization (SEO), blogging, podcasting, organic social media marketing, viral content, etc.
In this case, recurring content becomes much more important because it’s the key engine fueling your traffic. Spend time getting to know the problems that your prospects are looking to solve and come up with a lot of genuinely useful content.
Growing your Business
As an entrepreneur or marketing professional in a small team, your time, money and resources are precious. It’s important to invest them in high-leverage activities that have the best likelihood of generating a return on your investment.
Focusing on the Minimum Viable Marketing Plan for your specific business can give you the best chance of growing your business.