Interview with VP of Marketing at +$50m revenue manufacturing firm: how to break into new customer segments. MJ Peters tells us her strategy from customer discovery through to running marketing experiments for generating inbound demand.

Hi everyone,

I recently chatted to MJ Peters, VP Marketing at Firetrace ($50m+ turnover) and ex-employee of inbound specialist Chris Walker.

I learned so much from her, so I’m really keen to share the insight with you.

MJ has a lot of experience launching her product into new customer segments, and we talked about that in detail. I think it’s really relevant for anyone starting a company too, because the process of finding out your customers needs and setting up a “demand generation engine” around them is the same.

If you get some value out of the below, you can listen to the full recording here or subscribe to get insight like this weekly.

Summary of the interview

Research and strategy

Every customer segment has unique features. So when breaking into a new segment, it's essential to focus on strategy before jumping straight in.

Your business model could be completely wrong, for example, MJ noted that in one of the segments there's just 50 customers in the whole of the US, whereas, in another, there's 2,000 in California alone. Very different tactics work in a consolidated market vs an unconsolidated one, and you must adapt your approach.

Here are the main steps to follow when entering a new market:

Step 1: Research your customer

Getting to know your customer intimately is always crucial to marketing. Here's how:

  • Cold call anyone working in that segment
  • Ask them for 20 minutes of their time to discuss things like their job role, the industry, where things are heading, what their pain points are and what's going well for them at the moment.
  • Take a blank word document and write down WHAT you want to learn from this person and WHAT you plan to do with that information. This will help you maintain a focus.
  • Repeat for 10-20 stakeholders across the industry Uncover trends among them

Step 2: Analyse your results

Based on your customer insight, you must ask yourself:

  • Does my existing business model make sense?
  • Does my existing go-to-market strategy make sense?
  • Does my existing product solve their problems entirely? *Are they aware of the problem we solve yet, or will education be needed?
  • What is the customer's worldview? And, how is it different from my other segments?
  • What is important to stakeholders in this segment?

Step 3: Hypothesise your new marketing strategy

Understanding the way the new segments buys product usually is key to your new business model.

MJ noted that using a reseller network made sense in an unconsolidated industry, but less so when there's only 50 customers.

Make changes like these based on the insight:

  • Make necessary modifications to the product
  • Make changes to your positioning, so you're comparing against your true competitor for this customer. (Learn more on product positioning in our interview with April Dunford)
  • Work out your messaging: what do you need to say about the product to resonate with your new segment?
  • Work closely with your sales team to design a centric sales process. MJ suggests getting their discovery solid (are they asking the right questions? Do they have the right facts to answer customer questions in the right way?)

Hypothesise how you can generate demand using digital marketing techniques:

  • What content do you think will work with this audience?
  • Do they value long-form articles, data insights, short articles, podcasts, video?
  • Do they need content to build their awareness of the problem you solve, or are they fully aware and need to know more about the solution?
  • Where is this segment most reachable? Don't hesitate to brainstorm a 'strategy' for every channel that may be a growth avenue.

Experimenting and testing your marketing strategy

Whatever approach you're using, starting with small experiments is important. You don't want to blow your marketing budget on one channel to realise much later than you've generated zero inbound deals.

One approach I came across recently was The Bullseye Framework. You can use the framework to hone in on the most effective growth channels.

With MJ we talked about experimentation across two variables:

One: Audience experimentation

  • On most social media, you can tailor-make an audience based on factors like job title, interests, gender, location, and more.
  • Try building different audiences within your segment and see which work best to get leads.
  • MJ warned us to look at audience expansion. The Facebook algorithm finds more relevant people based on the first few people who engage with your advert. If you've done your targeting correctly, expansion works well. However, if your content is interesting to just 50% of the customer segment, then that 50% irrelevancy will get multiplied by the algorithm. Read more about audience expansion on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Two: Content type experimentation

  • Try multiple types of content (video, podcasts, long/ short articles) and see what gets the most engagement.

Don't forget to measure

Marketing is very intuitive. You get to know your customer well, and you begin to feel what they like. However, the best intuition is backed up with data.

Qualitative: two important qualitative measures of content success are comments and page dwell time.

  • In the comments, you can make judgements based on factors like whether they are positive or negative and WHO is leaving those comments.
  • Using Google Analytics, you can look at the average time spent on the page by a visitor. Are your visitors there long enough to read the full article, or do they bounce after 10 seconds? Either way will indicate whether the content was well targeted (or if it was not interesting).

Quantitative

  • There is a ton of quantitative measures you can analyse. But the most important will always be the revenue generated thanks to your marketing. It's also good to look at time-to-close and deal size by source so that you can double-down on the most effective channels.

There’s now 7 podcasts in this series of interviews with marketing leaders.

Check the summaries out here if you liked this one

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