1. Admit you don’t know what you’re doing.
This one I’m borrowing from one of my favorite LinkedIn posts called “90% of Social Media Marketing is Being Told What You Did Sucked.” This message is oddly comforting. The main idea is that nobody really knows what they’re doing when they begin marketing at a new company, especially when you’re B2B.
The important thing is that you’re religiously paying attention to analytics. To let actual data, instead of a tea party of one, inform your decisions.
Startups tend to put all the tools in the toolbox (with a minuscule budget) and take a “test-and-learn” approach. We’ve taken a test-and-learn approach at NOW Diagnostics. It’s our job to try something on a small scale and make the argument to scale it up, only if the ROI makes sense. This has led to some unexpected tactics taking prominence in our sales and marketing plan. See #2 and #3 below:
2. Direct mail makes a comeback.
I told a friend that direct mail was one of our best ways of generating and nurturing leads and they genuinely thought I was joking. The explanation for this begins with email fatigue. We’re all bombarded. With a proliferation of purchased email lists and finding ways around SPAM filters, it’s nearly impossible to land new B2B leads via email. I think everyone keeps some semblance of email campaigns going, but if you’re selling a new technology that takes some effort to implement and your sales cycle is longer, email may not be your best bet.
I’m not talking about generic letters with no personal touches or creativity. I’m talking well-thought-out, personalized pieces. Real life example: it was the week before I was traveling to a Radiology conference in Chicago. A print vendor was trying to meet with me at the show. As per usual, I ignored these requests. But then, I received a small box with an image of a cup of coffee with my first name on it. It definitely captured my attention enough to make me open the box. Inside was a Starbucks gift card and a request for a meeting. I took the meeting, and now I’m working with that same vendor to send out these mailers to our customers.
3. Trade Shows Get Creative
More and more people I speak with at shows say the big shows are in decline. Sure, the big players are still investing huge dollars because they can. But when you’re a small company, it’s easy to feel like a minnow out at sea (because you are). And especially in the healthcare industry where budget cuts are rampant, companies are spending less on sending their staff to travel to these events. Many have begun switching to remote learning opportunities like webinars.
I’ve written before on the switch to smaller, more regional shows. But some of the larger shows are taking creative measures to remain relevant. Groups like the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) have made strides to match vendors with potential customers. They have called this event the Market Exchange in the past, and they’re still improving it for 2018. Instead of a vast expo floor with little help in showing attendees which booths to visit (and vendors scrambling for ways to grab attention, not knowing who is their target market) they plan meetings in advance. There is a portal with profiles of both vendors and customers and they can request meetings with one another. The meetings are short, so it forces you to be succinct with your message. Basically, the 1:1 meetings are long enough for a customer to asses if they’re interested enough to have another meeting.
If you’re a growing startup, you’re probably also perpetually raising money. We attended an interesting event in 2017 in Nashville called Health Further. Leave it to a hip town like Nashville to make a trade show cool. The event was a combination of matching startups with potential investors plus educational events, entertainment and networking. The organizers matched our company in advance with potential investors who were looking for healthcare-related investments. In a half day, we met with six potential investors and have had follow up meetings with three of them. Certainly worth the trip.
Look for more of this highly efficient matchmaking style of trade show in the future. I’m not sure anybody really enjoys the sprawling expo floor anyway. It’s been an amazing 2017 and we’re as excited as ever about next year!