During the last years, Philip van den Berg had the privilege to set up the marketing function at a number of startups with a similar challenge: Building a marketing machine that ‘produces’ from the beginning and brings growth. He used the LIST Marketing Framework, which addresses, how Lean, Insights and Scrum can make your marketing Thrive. At every case on which he worked, it took roughly 25 working days to agree on the marketing strategy, write the plan and start the first implementation. This article describes how LIST got the job done.
The List Marketing Framework uses three building blocks: the ‘Build-Measure-Learn‘ continuous loop from Eric Ries’ well known Lean Startup methodology, the Insights-Based Marketing Method I developed and the Scrum Principles of transparency, inspection, & adaptation applied to marketing. This article discusses each in more detail with the use case of Apilio in Q1 2020.
Apilio is an international Startup in Home/Home Office Automation, that deploys an innovative SaaS solution. The product allows customers to set rules with their phone, tablet, or pc, to control smart devices for lighting, heating, home entertainment, etc., using both external sources (weather information, sunset/sunrise information, etc.) and internal sources, including people’s mobility data. See www.apilio.com.
read more about Lean Marketing
read more about Insights-Based Marketing
read more about Scrum in Marketing
LIST and the 25-day marketing plan
Apilio had a simple request: within three months, provide us with a plan to boost subscribers and start implementation, with a focus on Online & Social Media. Applying the LIST Marketing Framework enabled me to write a first Marketing MVP in 15 days and have it signed off in 25 days, while being completely new to the industry.
In order to determine the marketing strategy and write the marketing plan, I needed more insights about the market, about customers and about digital marketing. I was positively surprised about the amount of syndicated research that was available for free, both publicly and through a collaboration with an Educational Institute (the ZHAW). I could enrich this with free general social media reports (such as Google Trends) and tools (such as Neil Patel) as well as metrics on Apilio Social Media (Google Analytics, Google Search Console, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter metrics) and customer messaging (Intercom).
Marketing Strategy & Marketing Plan
The danger of any strategy is, that it is remote or even disconnected from ‘real-life’ implementation. Therefore I included the full marketing strategy in the marketing plan and made sure strategy parts had ‘building blocks’ part like personas, customer journeys and messaging that could be implemented immediately. Based on new insights that emerged both during the planning phase and during the first campaigns we run afterward, these parts were regularly updated and fine-tuned.
Part 1 – Marketing Strategy 2020 and beyond: Mission, Offering & Positioning; Business Objective & Marketing Goals; Market Opportunity: Definition, Market Size, Competitive Analysis, Target Segments; End-User Personas: Key Personas, General Persona Characteristics, Customer Journeys; Communication Strategy incl. Tactics, Mix, Demand Generation Framework, Messaging, Themes; Metrics; Risks; Glossary
Part 2 – Marketing Plan 2020: Timeline; Campaigns, Programs & Projects; Campaign Template; Budget
Using the collected market and customer insights, combined with knowledge from the team, the following components of Part 1 of the marketing plan were defined:
- Target Segments: Acquisition Customers, Retention Customers & Advocacy Customers + Influencers (journalists, bloggers, forum posters and analysts) + Partners (Smart solution providers)
- End-User Personas: End-users mapped using four dimensions and four use case related personas were defined for four customer journeys
- Strategy: Inbound marketing, low cost, focus on social media marketing and knowledge sharing, around theme-based campaigns, and the three-stage customer journey
- Inbound marketing framework: a visualization of the customer journey through the external digital media and the Apilio digital media to the landing page
- Tactics: theme-based modular text and video messaging with landing pages, quarterly virtual events, multi-channel communication
- Demand generation framework: marketing channels and activities per stage of the RACE-funnel model + communication matrix with media and communication type per target audience segment and three campaign types: full campaign, mini-campaign, communication
- Themes: five themes
- Messaging: Strategic behavioral message, Customer Need messaging (why) incl. Sound Bites, Functional messaging (What) incl. Sound Bites, using Sven Hughes’ Verbalisation methodology
- Metrics: per stage of the RACE funnel
The RACE Framework
The SmartInsights RACE framework divides the funnel into four parts or stages: Reach, Act, Convert, Engage. Each of these steps represents a different level of customer intimacy and therefore represents different marketing activities and often even different messaging. It is comparable to the XoFu-framework with ToFu/MoFu/BoFu to which I added a fourth state for customer up-sell, cross-sell and advocacy, that I call WoFu = Widening of the Funnel. This listed in the below table, to which I add the marriage analogy for ‘visualization’ reasons.
In Part 2 of the plan, a first list of Campaigns, Programs & Projects was made, including a high level planning by quarter. As first Digital Projects were defined a SEO/Keyword plan and the website makeover. Part 2 was completed by sections on the budget, the risk and a glossary to make everyone speak the same language.
Implementation readiness: Templates & Influencer List
The other things I did to make the plan ready for implementation were to deliver templates and an influencer list.
To ensure consistent, fast and full execution of marketing demand generation campaigns, I wanted a simple, one-page template. I took an existing one from SmartInsights with a checklist, that I slightly improved, a.o. by adding a ‘campaign metrics and learnings’ section. The value of the Marketing campaign template immediately paid off during the first campaigns we ran. Adding the results and conclusions not only forced us to analyze the campaign impact, learn from it and fine-tune the marketing plan, but also to document and make it available to the whole team.
To smoothen the execution of digital projects, like ‘SEO/Keyword research and plan’ and ‘Website Makeover’, I adopted and adapted another simple SmartInsights template.
In today’s connected digital economy, influencers are more important than ever. For Apilio this includes Journalists, Bloggers, Analysts and their websites, forums, pages and channels, as well as end-user forums, communities, groups, pages and channels on social media, and smart solution partners. From my first to my last week at Apilio, I built and maintained an influencer list with any person, portal or page I came across, including the number of views and subscribers, and contact details like personal LinkedIn profiles. Rather than leaving Apilio with just a direction to focus on influencers, this gave the company something to act on immediately.
Influencers: Customer Advocates; Press, Analysts, Bloggers; Portals, Magazines, Blogs; Software Review Sites
Partners: Smart Device & Connectivity Vendors; Resellers; Consultants
End Users: General Forums; Smart Home Communities & Forums; Facebook, Google, Linkedin YouTube etc. Groups, Pages, Channels
One of the good things at Apilio was that, besides allowing me to collect insights and write the marketing plan, the team involved me from day one in the operational execution of the existing communication. This way I got to know the marketing tools and could soon conduct first communication activities. Soon after ‘day 25’, I could run the first campaign, followed by new campaigns every one to two weeks. As already mentioned, the learnings from that implementation were immediately shared and integrated into the marketing plan. Developing a campaign always started with a draft that matured during the sprint.
At the start of the marketing project, Apilio had a great product and several useful marketing components. There were a website, social media pages, a customer messaging platform and good but partly fragmented content. Several components for the marketing machine were there, while others were not yet in place.
The LIST Marketing Framework brought Apilio the following benefits:
- Structure in the marketing planning, marketing project and marketing campaign execution
- Direction, content and completeness in the marketing messaging, activities and metric
- Visibility on the market opportunities, the market segments and the marketing personas
- Operational building blocks that could be implemented immediately
Besides that two marketing projects could be completed, the first marketing campaigns could be executed and initial learnings could already be incorporated. Apilio got an MVP of the marketing machine in place, can now move its demand generation into a higher gear and is set-up to accelerate sales.
How about big companies?
Some years ago at a grill-evening, I asked a friend about his job. ‘I am a Scrum Master!’ he replied with a big smile. The rest of the evening he told me all about Scrum roles and rules, as well as being agile and lean, sprints and adaptation.
I recognized a lot of what he mentioned from my own work approach, and I realized that being agile and lean works everywhere. Having worked many years at large ICT corporations, I was always able to build a marketing or sales practice, based on transparency, inspection and adaptation and using the LIST Marketing Framework. This resulted into objectives being met or exceeded, as well as into high adoption and appreciation among stakeholders and management.
In a VUCA environment, one of the key challenges for larger organizations is to be lean. On top of a solid foundation, it should develop flexible capabilities in, among others, insights, marketing, sales and customer service.
By defining the sprints and small enough incremental steps, also in big company, this is possible. And maybe even a 25-day marketing plan can be successfully written and implementation started.
About Philip van den Berg
Philip van den Berg is a Dutch international growth marketing and customer insights enthusiast living in Zurich, Switzerland. He has a Market Strategy Master from the University of Amsterdam and is Certified in Lean Management and Scrum. His expertise includes international and local marketing roles in corporations, SMB’s, and start-ups in IT and other industries.
By building successful marketing practices, he supports entrepreneurship in effectively targeting customers, building client relationships & partnerships, creating advocates and making revenue.