Pity the poor small company marketer. Like their counterparts at large companies, they face all the challenges of reaching their target market over ever more competitive channels. At the same time, they have to outshout competitors with bigger bullhorns while armed with smaller budgets. Regardless of the quality of their product, it’s much harder for these companies to get noticed.
As Victoria Grey, Chief Marketing Officer for Gridstore noted, “One of our biggest challenges is that we’ve got a great product. And if we can get in front of a hot prospect, we’ve got a good chance of closing the deal. But we don’t have a big nest egg. So we’re not invited to many dances.”
What’s the small company marketer to do?
I talked to a number of marketers at small companies and here are some of their tricks.
1. Start with a unique differentiator
It should go without saying that the most important marketing strategy is having a unique product that solves a real problem. (Although with all the me-too products out there, it’s clear that many companies missed the memo). A product that addresses a new problem in a new way can provide a true differentiation regardless of the size of the company. And these companies earn the right to claim thought leadership.
- Blucarat is an eCommerce company with a twist. It allows companies that sell over the internet to harvest user-generated content from Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and so on and showcase it on eCommerce sites to inspire purchasing. This means companies of any size can take advantage of the same social proof as Amazon.com.
- Gridstore provides backup capabilities specifically for Microsoft’s Hyper-V.
- Druva, established in 2008, was one of the first companies to secure data in the Cloud.
2. Keep costs in line
Smaller companies must be particularly careful to watch their pennies. Luckily, many new technologies give small companies big-company tools tailored to their needs and budgets. Said Kieran Taylor, CMO of Blucarat, “We look at burn rates and maximize every one of our campaigns. Luckily we can do that by relying on lower cost options. For example, we use MailChimp for our email campaigns and Act-On Software, which is a poor man’s marketing automation system.”
3. Produce super-targeted content
With all the new tactics and channels available, many marketers are trying to cover all the bases. They produce content of all types (albeit often through reuse) including white papers, webinars, podcasts, info graphics, and infograms.
Smart small companies take a different approach. They look carefully at their buyer personas and painstakingly match the content produced to their personas.
“To do things cost effectively,” said Taylor of Blucarat, “We need to be extremely targeted in terms of who we send things so we can improve the signal-to-noise ratio.”
Taylor is careful to target not only the right buyer, but also where they are in the buying cycle. “We’re constantly looking at where the prospect is in the nurture cycle and identifying the right offers for that stage,” Taylor explained.
The company also takes care to create just the right content for that audience. For example, one of Blucarat’s personas is the social media manager. This persona acts is an influencer and has a medium age of 27. The company creates more videos for this audience than it does for its personas of older buyers because millennials are less likely to read longer documents.
Druva, in contrast, is a small company that produces data security products for the cloud. Its customers are highly technical, which means that they’re skeptical of marketing of any type. Therefore, the company focuses on creating content for its demand-gen campaigns that’s highly credible. The company works with industry analysts to create research that it can use in thought leadership and reports chock full of new insights. The company also creates content based on conversations with customers in their own words about their challenges, experiences, and successes.
4. Target your social channels
Smaller companies are also more targeted when it comes to spreading the word. Both Blucarat and Druva carefully select the social media they use to get their message across. Blucarat finds Facebook and Twitter to be quite effective in generating traffic and click-throughs because their market of online commerce companies is by nature B2C. Additionally, the CMOs and Vice Presidents of Commerce tend to be fairly social. The company also does geographic targeting to reach the prestige beauty and fashion brands in New York City that are prime targets.
In contrast, Druva focuses on LinkedIn Groups and online developer communities, such as Spiceworks. “It’s less about one-way broadcasting and more about participating in groups and sharing valuable content,” said Jennifer Burnham, Director, Marketing Communications and Content at Druva.
5. Collaborate with partners
Another strategy small companies choose is to multiply their efforts by collaborating with partners. Because Gridstore is designed specifically to complement Microsoft’s Hyper-V solution, the company has the good fortune of being able to ride on the coattails of its partner. Said Grey, “Because we have such a targeted market, we work with Microsoft and go to their events. We’re a big sponsor of Microsoft’s TechEd. We go to the Microsoft worldwide partner conferences. If Microsoft is hosting an event, it’s easy to line up leads. We also do banner ads, advertise in Redmond Magazine and other Microsoft -centric magazines, such as Microsoft SQL Server Pro, Microsoft Windows IT Pro.”
But even when the partner isn’t a behemoth with all that Microsoft has to offer, small companies can still benefit from partner marketing. In addition to partnering with Microsoft, Gridstore also partners with smaller companies. Said Grey, “We weren’t big enough to get our names out there, so we do co-marketing with partners. We’d provide marketing content, expert speakers for webinars and so on. They’d invite their customers and if we sold our software, they’d get a percentage of the sales.”
6. Make the Most of Your Marketing
Any company, particularly a small company, needs to squeeze the most out of everything they do. For example, when Lisa Snyders, Senior Manager of Marketing, Denodo Technologies, embarks on a marketing program, she makes sure she looks at how she can capitalize on her efforts from every angle.
“When I go to events, I plan rigorously,” Snyders said. “I look at: Which analysts will be there? Who should we brief beforehand? Which speakers will attend? Can these speakers potentially reference our technology? If so, I’ll brief them because sometimes they might include a slide about our technology in their presentation. I’ll get a list of companies who might be there and have inside sales try to make appointments before the event to maximize return. After the event, we follow up on the leads as quickly as possible when it’s fresh on their minds.”
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