3 forward-thinking marketing strategies to scale your startup

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It seems there are as many marketing strategies as there are tech startups in Silicon Valley. Marketers are judged on their ability to pick the most effective strategy, tailor it to perfection and implement it on a tight budget. Every move must support revenue goals.

As a result, the expectation is that marketers will shift to become more focused on data than ever. I’ve had the opportunity to speak with a few of my favorite thought leaders in the industry to discuss the latest data-driven strategies that are actually working for them in their startups. Here’s what they had to say:

Wes Bush, founder of Traffic Is Currency

Marketing qualified leads are dead. Like it or not, this is the reality that many marketers face. Simply tracking specific events that a prospect takes on your website and scoring them based on what forms they fill out is not going to cut it. People are tired of jumping through hoops in your marketing and sales process to get noticed and ultimately get value from you.

Much like dolphins, people are adept at jumping through hoops (aka forms) — but we only do it for the treats.

So when the prize on the other side of the ring is consistently a phone call from a sales rep, “BEWARE” and “DO NOT ENTER” signs start flashing somewhere in our subconscious minds and we hit the left arrow.

Although I could go on about why you should stop putting everything behind a form, I’ll save that for another article. Today is about the treats.

If you have a good product that provides a lot of value, you’ve already got “the goods.”

Now, I’m not suggesting you give your product away for free. Obviously, limit some capabilities of the product to entice people to upgrade, but give them just enough value to get them to keep coming back to the product.

Your goal is to help them get immediate and ongoing value out of your product, and then score them based on their behavior within your product.

Once the prospect has received sufficient value from the platform, you’ve got what’s known as a Product Qualified Lead (PQL).

If you’re not familiar with what PQLs are, they are “potential customers who have used [your] product and reached pre-defined triggers that signify a strong likelihood to become a paying customer,” according to Tomasz Tonguz.

Now, when your sales rep follows up with your leads, here’s the difference in the conversations with a MQL (marketing-qualified lead) and a PQL:

Hi MQL, I noticed you downloaded our guide on Blubberfish; let me tell you about how it can solve your problem.”


Hi PQL, I noticed you’ve used Product X a few times this week already and are starting to see some more customers find out about your business. Want me to show you how to amplify that even more?

Take a wild guess which one has a higher close rate!

MQLs can close at rates up to 5 percent, according to Jason Lemkin, CEO of SaaStr. On the other hand, Tonguz asserts that PQLs have been known to close closer to 25-30 percent.

If you’re wondering how you’d implement this within your organization, it depends on many factors. If you’re selling to an enterprise and it might take six months for a prospect to get value out of your product, it will not work. Not to mention that if you have a high number of sales leaders who are used to MQLs, then you will likely only get buy-in from everyone if your first pilot program is a success.

Your best bet is to start this off when you’re a new business and quickly growing.

Saranya Babu, vice president of marketing at Instapage

At Instapage, paid advertising is our most effective acquisition channel, and we invest heavily in advertising programs like search, display and social. Display advertising has been particularly helpful with our audience retargeting.

However, our biggest challenge is attribution. Instapage customers go through multiple touch points, which is why we required a data-backed method to establish the true impact that display makes.

Display advertising lift test

Existing research shows that display advertising has positive effects on purchasing patterns. As such, we decided to conduct our own lift test to establish the portion of Instapage subscribers who are influenced by our display ads (versus those who would have subscribed whether they saw an ad or not), as well as measure the effect that display advertising can have on the total volume of our subscriber base.

We established a control cohort of 27 Eastern US states where all display advertising would be turned off for 30 days. Twenty-three Western US states would act as the experiment group to observe the influence these display ads have on Instapage subscription events in and shortly after the test period.

Our findings reaffirmed our assumption! After the 30-day period, we found a strong association between display advertising and purchase intention. There was a stark change in subscription events between Eastern and Western US states, indicating that the impressions that we pay for are not just shown to people that would have signed up regardless of seeing an Instapage ad.

Putting it into action

Following the positive results from our lift test, we adopted DoubleClick Campaign Manager to further track off-site impressions and ad clicks across Google Display, Quantcast, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

In the future, ROI determination and budget allocation will be far easier for our paid advertising campaigns. This test has given our marketing team the confidence to expand display budgets as a medium for company growth.

Daniel Frohnen, vice president of marketing at Skedulo

In the context of B2B marketing, Account Based Marketing (ABM) is the buzz. Most of the conversation is around sales/marketing alignment, 1:1 personalization and the technology that enables ABM.

There is one core fundamental piece that is the basis for it all — one thing that will set you apart from your competitors and have your teams focused on the right tactics:

Target account selection.

The core of any B2B marketing strategy that touches the higher end of SMB (small to medium-sized businesses), mid-market and enterprise must take into account who they are targeting and get a coordinated effort going with sales and business development.

A few methods I use for selecting targets:

  • The gut method, in which the sales team nominates accounts based on past successes and their market expertise.
  • Building an internal propensity model and applying that to a larger set of prospects.
  • Leveraging a third party to build a propensity model that looks at your customer and applies it to a much larger data set from your industry.

By allowing for the gut method, you’re getting sales buy-in and their deep knowledge. Then, by marrying your internal propensity model with an external model, you are able to validate and expand.

What tactics do I employ?

A combined approach of strategic prospecting and data-driven marketing drives results. We aim to build the right contacts, run personalized outreach campaigns and employ nurture campaigns (such as digital advertising, direct mail and field events). All of these run to the same people with a coordinated method and cadence that win targets over.

How do I measure this, and what results will I see?

Metrics to pay attention to:

  • Account engagement
  • Number of contacts on an account
  • Response rates/conversions by individual tactics
  • Pipeline creation
  • Closed, won deal/cross-sell/upsell

Ultimately, you will see a lift in your opportunity sizes, leading to an increase in sales. I have seen business development teams exceed their pipeline target by over 30 percent, 45 days after beginning a program like this, allowing me to optimize the function and provide more of the right opportunities to the sales team. This increases sales conversion, leading to an increase in sales.

On the marketing side, you can divert marketing resources to the right tactics and eliminate waste if they aren’t getting you in front of your targets.


The three experts above are using these forward-thinking strategies to grow. What data-driven methods above will make sense for you?

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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