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Thursday, November 8, 2012

VC to Entrepreneurs: Go-To-Market Goal is to Be Lazy

Scott Maxwell, founder and senior managing director of Boston-based Open View Partners, spoke to entrepreneurs at Startup Summit on November 7, 2012, to advise on taking a product to market and crafting an ideal go-to-market strategy.

If launching a new product, said Maxwell, the key is to find and identify a particularly well defined narrow universe of buyers. In other words, "why sell to multiple segments when you can sell to a real narrow market successfully," said Maxwell. Ultimately, an entrepreneur's goal should be to "be lazy," said Maxwell, meaning that the entrepreneur ought to select the conversion mechanism that takes the least amount of investment yet still produces a result in progressing the buyer or potential buyer down the buyer's journey to purchase.

Maxwell's strategy on buyer conversion is simple to remember - think of it as "the four C's," Conversion, Content, Context, Contact.

Conversion

The leverage point is the point in the purchase journey where a buyer or potential buyer gets stuck. You can also think of the leverage point as "the point at which, if we improve the process or solve a problem, it becomes easier for the buyer to make the purchase," said Maxwell. 

As with any comprehensive strategy or sales/marketing initiative, an entrepreneur must begin with the end in mind. You must be able to answer the question: "what is the conversion towards which we are working?" Is it to make a potential buyer within your target market aware of your product? Is it to garner interest (inbound or outbound mechanisms) in your product from the buyer? 

Once you know your goal - let's suppose that your goal is to get a new potential buyer interested in your product - you must define how that goal is achieved, or what buyer action will indicate that they have reached the conversion point. Maxwell listed off many examples of a buyer indicating interest: became a newsletter subscriber, opted-in to promotional/discount emails, joined/accepted an invitation to a private beta, followed you in a social media channel, signed up for a free trial, etc.

The reason you define, exactly, what you want your potential buyer to do is to help you streamline your design process when taking your product to market, and solidify your sales and marketing channels in such a way that you are maximizing your time and focusing your efforts, said Maxwell. It's imperative that you realize that "conversion points can take place throughout the entire [buyer's journey] process," said Maxwell, so that you can create and "string building blocks together to move buyers across the whole cycle."

Content

Our second C is content, or what you can deliver to a potential buyer that will move them towards conversion. The goal in creating content, said Maxwell, is to deliver the information or create the actionable items necessary to move your potential buyer to the conversion point. 

Want Maxwell's quick advice on content? It's simple: "shorter is better than longer, more pieces better than fewer." Your buyer has limited time and limited focus. Create content that results in actions by encouraging brevity and action. 

"Your messages must resonate," said Maxwell, "and your packaging must match the buyer's context." Context, and understanding your buyer, is critical to the success of your go-to-market strategy.

Context

You're probably aware that online marketers, political campaigns, membership organizations, and all kinds of other groups are currently seeing an explosion of customer/donor data. The increase in contextual clues, paired with demographic information, gives organizations an incredibly vast knowledge of market segments, niche markets, and in some cases, individual profiles. 

If you want to successfully bring a new product to market, said Maxwell, it is critical that you build a buyer's profile using the contextual data available to you. Ultimately, your goal in this step is to "really, really, really sharply understand the context in which the buyer makes the purchase decision or the conversion," said Maxwell. 

Some important questions to answer about your potential buyer's profile: What are their purchase priorities? Professional aspirations/goals? Personal aspirations/goals? Their reason for indicating interest? Any reason they wouldn't be interested in your product? Impressions of your company or your competitors?

As you build out a buyer profile, you'll begin to answer these questions. Refining the profile helps you better market and sell to the right people, the right way, the first time. Once you're prepared, you may then think about the fourth C.

Contact

Your goal is to deliver the contextual content through the proper channel, at the proper time, such that your potential buyer goes through a conversion channel. You want to convert the potential buyer into a customer, so ensuring that you are communicating in the right channels is vital. 

One of three things will happen for each new customer. First, you may contact them. Second, they may contact you. Third, others may contact them about you. Do you know your preferred method of contact? Do you have a strategy for each of these types of contact? Those who prepare a strategy well in advance are much better equipped to identify and utilize proper channels of communication, said Maxwell. 

Your ultimate goal as an entrepreneur, launching a new product, is to "be lazy, while still resulting in a conversion," said Maxwell. Why meet in person if a phone call would work? Why use the phone if an email would work? Why email if SEO or word-of-mouth works? 

Bringing it all together

If you had to make one change within your sales/marketing strategy, said Maxwell, "focus on first creating a great content factory." Recognizing that this is entirely a personal opinion, Maxwell noted that this strategy has been successful within his organization and within the organization of his firm's portfolio companies. 

How do you do it all? The answer is relatively simple. "You don't do it all," said Maxwell. "Focus on your best targets. Then, narrow your focus on the leverage points for each buyer target group," said Maxwell. "Finally, focus on the conversion. Execute the plan. Iterate. Try again."

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