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Growth Oriented Marketing Begins with Strategy


Over-Reliance on Traditional Sales Techniques Are Hurting the Bottom Line By Karen Hayward

Many CEOs have been with their mid-market companies since before the Internet age and while they may run fantastic companies, they often struggle to grow with the economy. Their companies are typically structured to deliver operational excellence but lack the growth strategies required to accelerate revenue. They keep moving, trying to find the answer, but they often feel lost.

That’s because when you want to get somewhere, you don’t just get into your car and start driving. You need a plan since there are many roads and only a few—perhaps even just one—that will get you to your desired destination. Once you’ve identified where you want to go, you must develop the strategy that becomes the road map to your destination.

Systematic Roadmap for Growth

Every CEO must have a systematic plan, aka a roadmap, to grow their business. They need a clear path for sustainable growth based on the systematic use of data and market insight. This plan will lead to execution, i.e.. getting into the car and driving with a purpose.

But the reality is that most CEOs don’t respond in a meaningful way to the opportunities identified in their marketing plan. In a dash for results, the initial activities and bypass the required steps of insight gathering and development of a roadmap. Before a company starts advertising, doing tradeshows or sales presentations, it is important to know if the messaging will resonate with target audiences. The plan must be based on market insight and the voice of the customer.

Marketing and Sales Strategy

Archimedes once said, “Give me a place to stand, and a lever long enough, and I will move the world”. In today’s mid-market B2B world, CEOs have access to a sales lever and a marketing lever, but most mid-market companies allocate significant time and resources to sales, often at the expense of marketing. Naturally, they emphasize the importance of the sales cycle, which is a series of sales steps used to win business.

In many scenarios, the marketing lever is given some thought but is still not positioned optimally within the business. Mid-market CEOs have an immediate opportunity to bring this picture into balance with a clear strategic plan. After all, both marketing and sales are essential business drivers, but it needs to be understood that sales are the execution of a marketing strategy and hence a subset of marketing.

What’s more, if they want to win in a market where the power has shifted to the buyer, their focus needs to be on the “buyer’s cycle” versus the “sales cycle.”

Market Research and Insights

Meanwhile, many CEOs are so focused on operations and achieving quarterly sales results that they struggle to see the competitive landscape, the customer’s point of view and emerging market trends.

When they launched their companies years ago, marketing outcomes were fuzzy and less measurable, so CEOs scaled by growing their sales forces and expanding channels of distribution. Prospects got all information from salespeople and all feedback to the company came through the sales force.

But times have changed a lot in the past quarter-century and CEOs must adapt. Only by understanding how their product or service (and those of their competitors) is perceived by the marketplace, the options available to buyers and how they actually go through the buying process, will the mid-market CEO realize the criticality of needing to first optimize marketing.

And only then can they make their sales initiatives scale more effectively. So why don’t mid-market companies strategically set up their marketing first? Why do they keep moving full steam ahead with most or all their focus on the sales force, while doing random acts of marketing? The answer is that they haven’t innovated the way they do business.

Bottom Line

Today, virtually all prospects are well informed, having conducted their product or service research online prior to seeing or communicating with a sales representative, or clicking on “Place your Order”. With access to full information, often gleaned from a company’s website, competitors or other online sources, customers control the buying process. This digital transformation has significantly impacted the way prospects shop or chooses vendors with whom they want to engage for further evaluation.

These mid-market companies’ long-standing habit of direct sales continues to impact the way they run to this day. And it’s impeding their strategic growth. They must step back from their traditional approach, or else they will not be able to scale cost-effectively with how the marketplace operates today.

Karen Hayward is a Chief Outsiders Managing Partner and CMO based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She helps technology companies accelerate growth by building and executing strategic marketing programs while driving sales and marketing alignment to deliver breakthrough revenue. More info at

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