How to Scale Outbound Marketing — Your Practical Guide for Success
We’re living in strange and frightening times. For many of us, the coming months and weeks will look very different. If you’re working from home, or planning ahead for the next financial year, now is a good time to take stock.
I’ve put together a piece I feel will help revenue / marketing leaders set direction for themselves and their teams.
Please stay safe, look after yourselves and your teams, and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to comment below or contact me via InMail.
Let’s get started!
I regularly get asked the question
“My business is growing but we are entering our ‘next phase’. To date we have relied on our network, the founders network or organic referrals to grow new business. Which is great. However, now we are looking to scale how do we build a repeatable sales and marketing pipeline? What MarTech do we need? How do I scale demand generation? How do we validate whether our approach is correct?
This is such a challenging, change and crucial pivot for a fast growth SaaS organisation. It’s now time to design processes, scale teams and execute marketing carefully to drive impact on the revenue.
Navigation tip — The first part of this blog looks at MINDSET and the second focuses on METHOD. Scroll straight to METHOD if you are here for the phased approach, although I would advise everyone read MINDSET first.
Suggested questions and activities are in italics.
I regularly meet CMOs, CEO’s and founders in Series A to early Series B / C businesses. They all have the same problem:
“We’ve done well so far. The company is growing and revenue is scaling.
But now I’m under pressure to create a scalable marketing strategy.
Where do I start?”
If you’re at the helm of this scenario in a growing business, you probably have a lot of questions keeping you up at night:
What martech should I use?
Which outbound methods are worth the investment?
How do I actually use LinkedIn effectively?
What conversions can I expect?
How many sales reps should we hire?
Do we build an SDR function?
Who do I hire first, CMO / VP Marketing or CRO / VP Sales
Have I hired the right marketing team to handle this?
How should I structure outbound marketing?
How should I be using content marketing?
Is brand marketing an important part of scaling?
What marketing channels are the most effective?
Please bear in mind that there is no silver bullet. Every organisation over time will develop its own marketing blend to suit its own unique proposition and verticals.
I can’t tell you to follow one blueprint and expect results — beware of those who do.
Your company’s approach will depend on your industry, your value proposition, your targeting, your brand narrative and customers. Marketing is highly personalised.
So now, before we do anything, take a step back and do more ground work. Get your key questions answered before you start marketing.
Don’t jump into outbound without thinking of the process first:
What verticals have you sold to already?
What customer stories do you have?
What do people like about your proposition?
Retrieve and examine sales data / metrics
Understand your current sales funnel
What is your sales velocity?
Do you have the right content to support sales?
Are the current workflows manual, or scalable / repeatable? (This eludes to MarTech, campaigns, team and all areas)
Use this knowledge and select clear niches
Then begin to think about launching. I have a fuller list in what’s called Phase 0 planning (ping me to learn more…).
The more you invest in planning and strategy before you begin marketing launch, the more successful your outbound / scaling demand will be.
As you would with any large project, never go straight into selling something before coming up with a clear vision. Think through your long term plan first. Be clear on the workflows but careful not to over-engineer. I learned this lesson the hard way.
Put implementation out of your mind. Instead, take as long as you need to think about your vision. I call this Phase 0, because it’s the work we do before we start:
What outcomes do you want to achieve?
What will your team have to deliver to meet these goals?
Can you stagger your targets to make this vision gradual and achievable?
Companies that plan a Phase 0 always have more success than those who don’t.
Demand generation marketing will not happen quickly. It is vital that you phase your approach. I’d suggest layering different aspects of outbound marketing across a year, setting clear phases.
How will you spread out different priorities?
Here is my suggested marketing plan for year one.
**A small disclaimer: this is what worked for me and may need to be heavily amended for your business.
PHASE #0 — PLANNING (WEEKS 0–4)
+ Quick wins
Think carefully about this — which campaigns would give you the easiest wins? Keeping focus on a couple of channels that already work for you is sensible.
Use only specifically targeted customers. Which verticals are clear and obvious for quick sales?
Pull together use cases linked to existing wins. Generate a series of stories based on customers already sold to, before sharing out to prospects.
+ Planning and strategy
Plan simple workflows to get you started. LinkedIn > Calls > Email. A simple nurturing process is better than an overly complicated flow.
Do not burn through all your contacts too quickly. Use the above structure to slowly nurture contacts — very few will be ready to buy immediately. Design with Account Based Selling in-mind.
Set up your CRM or use LinkedIn sales navigator to create lists, manage responses and put contacts gradually into ‘buckets.’ Separate workflows could list immediate actions, or drop prospects into more of a nurtured process.
+ Set up basic referrals
If you have already burned through your existing sales contacts, don’t panic. Now’s a great time to incentivise customers to refer. Reach out to your customer base and see whether they can help. Think more laterally about a wider network (seems obvious) but lot’s do not do this well.
Companies forget to ask for referrals from existing customers. In my view, this is an easy miss but so obvious. As the marketing lead you need to help the sales team or business create a more ‘refined’ referral based approach. We don’t take ownership for this area as much as we should.
+ Plan for launch
In parallel to the above work, have discovery meetings. What other channels could you use to drive future demand? It’s easy to focus on cold email and LinkedIn, but this will only get you so far.
Plan to layer in other channels gradually. Think in terms of long term strategies: events, referrals, networking, brand, brand narrative, storytelling, digital marketing and PR will all need to be considered.
Think about tech infrastructure and processes that will support this. What martech could you investigate and trial in this phase?
PHASE #1 — MOMENTUM (MONTH 1–5)
+ Launch outbound with a carefully designed process
By now, you should have a basic nurture process in place. This might include separate streams for customers at different stages.
Remember that outbound marketing is carefully regulated under GDPR, so always check with your legal team on best practices.
For me, email sequences (if done right) is something that requires constant improvement but can still deliver excellent results; when blended into the workflows of all your marketing channels. How does email feed of Digital, off events — you get my point.
+ Build momentum in events*
Arguably, now is a challenging time for events marketing. The coronavirus may seriously affect this, so be prepared to have a more digital approach.
But DON’T JUST LAUNCH A WEBINAR — great article on that one here.
With the support of a nurture sequence, now is the time to begin an online events strategy to widen your network. If you’re in B2B you won’t need to invest £100k to get this moving. Start with a light format. Think small live streams or mini group calls. I’ve started event programmes with two guests, building gradually over a series of months. Think about building momentum — repurposing content and value to an audience. It does not need a 6 month planning cycle.
People often overthink events. I believe it’s important to start as soon as you can and don’t worry about being ‘comfortable’ as you scale. Event marketing becomes more sophisticated as you grow and learn, so don’t be a perfectionist. Expect an event with poor turn out. The main thing is to start. Starting helps you to build.
+ Digital campaigns
Think in this phase about how to begin driving inbound marketing. Inbound leads take much longer to develop but are invaluable for scaling businesses.
Use digital campaigns as a testing ground for perfecting your overall process. If you haven’t launched digital campaigns before, don’t expect massive results. Digital can take a long time to perfect.
Aim to launch one or two campaigns focused on a niche industry challenge or a specific part of your brand narrative. The more targeted and specific you are, the better chance of success. Use custom audience targeting with LinkedIn. This period is your opportunity to launch, learn and iterate to a broader digital presence throughout the course of the year.
+ Content marketing
Content marketing takes time to build momentum, but is an essential part of your marketing strategy. Be patient.
Businesses often make a content plan, but never deliver without a huge team. Instead, think about the best way to get started. Blog content around sales objections can help your sales team. Thought leadership should be clearly targeted on your service. This means producing great content pieces on sales objections in a thought leadership frame of reference. This does a few things. But not least it provides sales with a great asset to help them ASAP in sales cycles when facing common objections.
For the first 6 months, it’s completely fine to focus your content around sales objections. Think of it as an accumulative set of FAQs, answered.
+ Sales Enablement
Give the sales team the materials they need. Initially, this may be basic decks and brochures.
Long term, consider creating a bank of content to enable the sales team further. Think about different types of sales content for different layers of the funnel. You need to create an engine to deliver TOFU, MOFU and BOFU content requirements. With B2B buyers consuming an average of 13 pieces of content pre-purchase — you can understand why a full content programme is essential. This will also be a driver for web visits and inbound lead generation.
Sales and marketing must collaborate. Can you create a sales academy to coach the sales team in the proposition? Could sales reps gain a qualification at the end? You should have the intention in this period in building a model that will build sales capabilities for the future.
+ Brand marketing
Think of brand as the key behind truly scalable demand generation. After joining a roundtable discussion I first heard the term #brandgen. Too many marketers and revenue leaders neglect brand marketing. I was one many years ago. I was too obsessed with tactics and the quick wins. If you are serious about company building.
Then #brandgen needs to be top of the list. Your brand will 10x the leverage on all your activities. It is a WIP in this period. And it continues to be that way!
Take your time, plan thoroughly and involve everyone you need to. The more methodical and in-depth your approach, the better.
Get a wide understanding of what the brand means to individuals:
What brought them to work for this business?
What is their understanding of what the brand is?
What are their beliefs about the work they do?
What is the emotional value both internally and externally?
Do people understand persona’s? ICP’s fully?
Plan your attack properly.
Which stakeholders do you need to speak to?
When can you book time with these individuals? Create a timeline
What outcomes do you need to achieve?
When is a realistic and achievable deadline for this?
Interview as many internal stake-holders as you can — see how they pitch the product (it will be different !), what do they perceive as the value, how do they regard the brand, what do they feel is the big challenge you are solving?
When I have updated the brand of companies in the past, I’d look at each area of the business that needed this to be embedded:
- Create a timeline of when assets are being delivered — build a plan of what’s happening when, phasing over several months
- Videos, product launch, case studies, updated website narrative, brand narrative / brand story / horizontal brand layer / vertical brand layers
- Overhaul the brand look and feel — redo everything that needs updating
- New sales decks
- New sales training
- Sales certifications in brand narrative — certifying every salesman
- New corporate messaging deck
- C Suite training
- Customer persona / vision statement for internal use
- External brand message / tone — what are the campaign words you want repeated over and over again
In this initial phase, if you’re hiring 5 to 20 to 50 people you might expect to spend your time focused on recruiting. The imperative is moving fast on hiring. Buld the momentum. Try to get hires onboarded together. Remember, do not sacrifice on quality for the sake of numbers. This will massively affect growth potential.
Good onboarding programmes are vital. How can you bring someone into the heart of the team? What processes have you outlined for supporting and coaching that person through the first few weeks of their role? Design processes up front. This will make or break the productivity gap for new hires and scaling teams.
PHASE 2 — SCALE (6 MONTHS+)
During this phase, your focus should be less around quick wins, more around fine tuning and perfecting the architecture of your marketing.
Your team should be established now. Start to think about building capability and growing resources long term. I think of this as ‘engine building.’ Provide outcomes for the team, create constant growth opportunities but ultimately aim to step back more and more. A great team will build the strategy and processes without you.
Branding is worth significant long term investment. By now, you’ll want to dig deeper into internal and external discovery. What emotional value do you provide to the customer?
Map out messaging frameworks. Test them across different market verticals. In the past I’ve operated separate brand narratives across up to 10 verticals, all mapped with exact sales language.
You should have a clear Go To Market strategy with workflows relevant to your proposition and customer.
Metrics will become an important part of your job now. Analyse how different tactics perform. Understand that you will need to ruthlessly scale what works and re-examine what doesn’t.
+ Events (now more-so Digital Events!)
Could your events strategy itself be phased? What events would target new customers, which would be used to attract referrals?
Build momentum in events, this period is helping to define a new approach to Field Marketing and will be interesting to see the longer term impact! Begin to scale, attracting greater numbers with a more sophisticated process. You should now have a full events roadmap — you must be operating to a well-defined, planned and regular field programme.
+ Continuous improvement
The most important part of this phase is to constantly improve. Once you have embedded a structure, it is your responsibility to build teams that can operate this process. This phase is the hardest in terms of execution. The team will be stretched — ambitious targets will not be met if you do not solve for execution.
You are the architect of the marketing mix. What you’ve built is now running. Just like any process, it must be constantly checked, maintained and improved.
What to look for by the end of this phase:
Completed brand discovery, with a clear horizontal value proposition established.
You understand the emotional connection with your customer.
A full content marketing calendar.
A full digital calendar with clear campaigns.
A defined data-driven marketing process with tracking and tailored workflows.
Clever nurture programs automated from all downloads.
A connected playbook across all channels (at least mapped out) i.e. how do events, digital, outbound, brand and content all work together….
Sales Enablement — the sales team knows where to find content, can articulate propositions and brand narratives.
An established feedback loop with sales to constantly create useful sales content.
As per below you should have a full programme built in Asana (or whatever tool you use to manage the full portfolio!) Here are some of my check-lists!
If you found this useful, get in touch with me via LinkedIn, I’m always open for connections and conversations.