AMA: Growth + Marketing Technology

Shadow Ventures’ ‘Ask Me Anything’ series shares conversations between industry experts and our Labs startups.  

Anand Thaker is an advisor focused on marketing technology and growth leadership. He is the CEO of IntelliPhi. Recently he had his fourth successful exit with an IP acquisition of their core Apollo platform to a top management consulting firm. He has also led product and growth groups at enterprise firms such as Siemens, Silverpop/IBM, Microsoft, Blackstone, Capgemini, GTRI, Salesforce, Fidelity, NYSE, and eBay. Anand is an active mentor in several local and global startup ecosystems, including TechStars, Y Combinator, and Atlanta Tech Village.

Anand recently spent half an hour with founders of Shadow’s member companies, answering their questions on making the most of product marketing with limited experience and resources. Here is their conversation, lightly edited for flow and clarity.

What are the core criteria that makes a successful inbound marketing campaign?

There’s usually four I like for a campaign… Goal, Content, Audience, and Alignment.

1) Goal – what are you looking to achieve with the campaign? It’s amazing how often we mistake activity for accomplishment.

2) Content – Pretty obvious, but does the content/subject match well with your post-conversion dialogue (sales, landing page, buy transaction)?

3) Audience – the best audience is one you can cluster into groups where there are specific interests or timing of an event. That also requires you have a deeper knowledge of them than your usual segmentation.

4) Alignment – How are your teams (marketing, sales, operations, customer services) ready to handle incoming inquiries.

Those are extremely helpful. Do you have a document/paper with this these?

I’ll send you over to Hubspot’s content marketing machine. They have a good cadence of useful material they churn out faster than I can. Speaking of love/hate, consider adding Neil Patel. While more focused on search, he has usually some more practical advice from his learnings.

These folks are great for the early start efforts; when you’re looking for deeper help, I’d suggest diving into SiriusDecisions (on the B2B side) who was recently acquired by Forrester (the analyst firm).

What have you seen startups do well, and where do they go wrong, in early-stage product marketing?

The biggest mistake has been in trying to do too much all at once. Many tend to mimic later stage startups on every aspect of their campaign efforts. Focus on one or two elements and use them to hone your message and/or pivot conversations.

Are marketing efforts best focused on select, high-value engagements or playing the numbers game to engage with a broader message?

It’s always tough to generalize, but let me try breaking it down into two categories and expand…

First, if you have a complex sales cycle, worry less about the niceties of marketing. As a matter of fact, your first hire between sales or marketing should absolutely be sales. Your sales person along with you as a founder should use all your energy in securing the right value-prop and validation of the product. Use the broader messaging when you’re running light on people to talk to, but do so incrementally… think concentric circles of your network. Don’t be afraid to ask for a referral.

Next, if your product is closer to transactional, keep the messaging light and go broad. Your inbound efforts should have a very clear and efficient process to qualify and appointment set. There’s also a need to budget to try different channels with different messages.

In both instances, maintaining relationships is critical, just depends how close you need to be with each prospect as they become customers.

Oh, and I’ll say again. don’t forget to ask for a referral. Empower those happy customers.

What books would you recommend to the CEO of an early stage product company?

Performance Partnerships by Robert Glazer – really shares the story and evolution of affiliate marketing and the future of developing good partner relationships.

Permission Marketing by Seth Godin – Actually anything you read by this guy is gold, but this one really reinforces the “How to win friends and influence people” mantra in the digital age.

Hacking Marketing by Scott Brinker: Considered the “Godfather of Marketing Technology,” he and I have been working on his Martech 5000 Landscape project for the last couple of years. There is a blend of marketing, technology and management that’s emerging.

And the last one… Duct Tape Marketing by John Jantsch. Great for early stage marketers… Think of the guy as the Clark Howard of marketing.

Thanks, everyone, it’s been great interacting with you all and I hope something spilled over that is worthy. Follow me on Linkedin, Twitter or my blog (a collection of things I”m writing) at AnandThaker.com.