One of the consequences of not having a marketing strategy is that a business may find itself stuck doing the same kinds of marketing and promotions over and over again, regardless of whether there’s a better way or other options. When marketing is being led by a CEO or President or Owner, that person is being asked to serve in a capacity that likely isn’t leveraging their strengths and experience, while at the same time juggle all of the their responsibilities as the leader of the organization.
That’s OK for startups, young businesses, or when a transition is necessary. That’s not OK for any kind of sustained growth.
And that was the situation I walked into at Sitesell, a SaaS company that helps solopreneurs start and grow their online business.
The Sitesell product was phenomenal. They had a hosting and website building service not unlike Wix or GoDaddy, but that was coupled with robust training and terrific tools for reaching business ideas and aspects, which resulted in a solution that set their customers up for success at incredible rates. But they didn’t have a solid marketing strategy in place and just weren’t seeing the level of growth they’d anticipated or needed.
One aspect in particular was their annual sale. While their content, email and social media marketing worked to build awareness and drive self-serve sales throughout the year, for years they’d finished out the year with a sale that drove most of the business for the year. Structured as a BOGO – Buy One Get One – they’d leaned on their existing customers to either expand their businesses into new topics and websites, or to gift Sitesell to a friend or family member to encourage them to start a business of their own.
But after a few years running that playbook, it stopped working.
With day to day sales flat and a marked decrease in their previous year’s annual sale, the CEO and founder saw that it was time to bring in someone to take ownership over marketing and build plans and processes that would align with the business goals and achieve success.
Marketing Strategy Objectives for the CMO
As the CMO, I was tasked with:
- Determining marketing strategy for the organization
- Implementing benchmarks and reporting
- Managing the team of marketers and specialists on staff
- Coordinating activities among teams
- Ensuring solid communication between the executive team and marketing team
Like most organizations where a department hasn’t had an executive tasked solely with providing leadership for that department and a strategic vision for the work being done, some things were being done well, while other tasks may have struggled or been missed entirely.
But that was just the beginning of my challenges.
Into The Fire From Day One
It wasn’t until I’d started working with Sitesell that their annual sale came up and, at the time, we were just two months away from when it would normally commence in late November. There was literally no time to do anything else but to start working on a strategy to turn that sale around and make a successful period for the business.
Keep in mind that most new employees spend their first few weeks just getting to know their staff, their colleagues, and the intricacies of the business they just joined. I’d barely gotten a new email address and I was setting up meetings with my staff and other key stakeholders to review what we’d been doing in the past and explore what our options were for this upcoming sale.
The team rallied and brought me up to speed fast, but we were still feeling incredibly rushed, and pressured, to pull off something that hadn’t ever been done before.
The New Marketing Strategy
My first conclusion after going through the previous year’s sale and results, was that the BOGO approach was not longer working and needed to be abandoned. While upselling and expanding existing customers is always great, it’s better to do that through additional add-on services, than to expect them to create or gift additional accounts. There are only so many people for whom that approach will make sense.
Instead, we needed to target new prospective customers, so that was the first part of the strategy.
All of our marketing would be adjusted to speak to the individual who has always wanted to own their own business, has a real passion and interest in a subject, and wants to know how to monetize that knowledge.
This was a big deal because one of the crutches the organization had leaned on for years was the ability to leverage and repurpose the previous year’s marketing materials. They had a tremendous library of BOGO assets including graphics, emails, messaging and more, that they’d simply dusted off year after year. (Likely a contributing factor to the steady decline of the campaigns.)
Which meant that what I was proposing wasn’t just a shift in messaging, it came with a hefty task list of assets to be built from scratch with a team that was already facing a tight deadline.
I then took two steps to alieve their concerns and help ensure that everything got done in time, and was successful.
Launch Campaign Plan
First, after reviewing how the team had handled their sales in the past, I mapped out and implemented an entire Launch Campaign Plan. The document spelled out:
- Every initiative and activity that we were going to pursue
- Landing Pages (for customers and for prospects)
- Email Marketing
- Social Media Marketing
- Video Creation
- Paid Ads
- Content Marketing
- Influencer Marketing
- Affiliate Marketing
- Search Engine Marketing
- The complete timeline of the campaign
- Asset Creation
- Sale Teaser
- Campaign Launch
- Weekly Activities
- Email Sequences
- Initial Deadline
- Extended Deadline
- Follow-up & Retrospective
- Every asset needed
- Blog Posts
- Social Media Posts
- Community Posts
- Influencer & Affiliate Assets
- Every objective and report needed
- Traffic & Conversions
- Weekly milestones
Having that documentation proved to be instrumental throughout the entire campaign.
For instance, knowing that we wanted to be able to attribute conversions to each of the various channels we were utilizing required that we think through the best use of UTM parameters and tracking links. Without that insight, we wouldn’t have known in the end where our sales came from and which channels should be developed or even ignored in the future.
More importantly, since we had reports and metrics in place from the start that we were monitoring throughout the campaign, we knew 2 – 3 weeks in that sales weren’t where we wanted them to be. While we knew there’d be a rush at the deadline to buy, and we knew that we’d extend the deadline another week and see a similar but smaller spike, we didn’t want to hope and rely on those spikes to get us over the finish line. Thanks to the channel reporting, we knew that our emails were having a significant impact so we added additional emails and assets into the plan for weeks 3 and 4.
Which leads me to another benefit of having a documented Launch Campaign Plan that includes time spent building assets – it leaves you and the team free during the actual campaign to monitor results and create assets or activities on the fly if needed.
If we weren’t paying attention to success metrics, or had we been creating and distributing assets as the campaign progressed, adding another email or two wouldn’t have been an option.
Do you have a documented launch or campaign plan for your business? If not, I’ve put together an incredibly inexpensive resource for you that walks you through the elements I outlined above, has worksheets to help you determine each activity, swipe files you can use for content, a Trello board for team collaboration, and the actual campaign plan itself that you can edit and use for your next sale or product launch. Download yours today:
Content Creation Assistance
The second assist from me was to jump in where I could to help. While it’s generally a good idea to keep your executives focused on strategy and let others in the organization be responsible for implementation, there’ll always be times, however brief, when all hands are needed on deck. This was one of those times. With a matter of weeks to pull everything together, and one of the most extensive campaigns the company had ever attempted, help was needed.
After we’d mapped out the entire launch campaign and determined messaging and what the sale campaign would actually look like, that’s when I began helping to create content. Clearly, writing is a strong suit for me, so I drafted blog post after blog post, email after email.
One concept that I wanted to test was for us to tell more stories – specifically, stories about how our members has achieved success using our product and services. So I launched an initiative to interview 12 different customers, get their stories and how they’d achieved success (with a little help from Sitesell along the way), and turned those interviews into 12 blog posts. These were being published throughout December so I worked in references to the 12 Days of Christmas and A Christmas Carol throughout to tie it all together, and connect them with our sale. Publishing those case studies, and the subsequent emails and social posts, were a massive piece in the marketing strategy.
Rather than relying on existing customers to see and understand their own success, and therefore want to somehow double it with a second subscription, we wanted to show prospective customers people that looked just like them and who were finding their passions, discovering talents for teaching, and truly finding financial freedom.
I even lent my voice to some of the videos as a voiceover of Santa Claus. Ho! Ho! Ho!
What Were The Results?
And the team pulled off an incredible campaign and sale.
By the time the extended sale deadline passed, the team had brought in over $500,000 in sales – the best sale and period the company had ever seen.
Even better, that amounted to over 1500 new customers and as a SaaS company, those customers equated recurring revenue. That was a significant feat for the business, and the bottom line!
Additionally, that meant that there would be an influx of 1500 new members into the Sitesell community – an important part of the organization and business model.
Not only were the business results phenomenal, the execution of the campaign itself was beneficial as it:
- Demonstrated we could find success targeting new customers.
- Offered incredible data into what worked and what didn’t.
- Provided the kind of win and motivation the staff needed.
Throughout the entire campaign, my team of writers, videographers, specialists and developers showed their expertise and passion for the business.
Setting aside some of the unique challenges of this situation, there are some specific lessons I’d like to call your attention to.
First, always be thinking about, and re-evaluating, your target audience. Taking the time to consider their likelihood to purchase, and perhaps pivoting to target an alternate audience, is critical.
Second, never launch a campaign without a completely documented plan that all stakeholders and team members have reviewed and bought into.
Finally, always identify your main goals and objectives from the start. These must be tied to business objectives, and must be measurable. This will force you and your team to put the systems in place to monitor progress and adjust tactics accordingly.
What’s Next For Your Marketing Strategy?
If you’re a CMO or head of marketing, I hope this case study has helped you prepare for your next launch or campaign! And you should pick up a copy of my Campaign Planner for 6-Figure Launches and Sales – it’s just $7 over on BloggingBrute.com.
But perhaps you’re a business owner and you don’t have a dedicated CMO or head of marketing. Maybe you read about some of the challenges outlined here and that felt a little close to home. I imagine you’re wondering right now what opportunities you’re missing, what sales you’re leaving on the table, by not having a resource who can provide a true marketing strategy and ensure that it gets executed.
If that’s you, I want to encourage you to consider talking to me about helping you as a fractional CMO. We can discuss your business objectives, the challenges you’ve faced with marketing up to now, and explore how I can come in on a fractional basis and lead your entire marketing team. If you don’t have a team at all, that’s OK too – we can leverage trusted agencies to handle the execution of tasks.
The important thing is to stop leaving your marketing, and your business growth, to chance. A strategy-first approach to marketing your business will ensure that only the most successful activities and initiatives will be considered, tested, reviewed, and repeated.
If you want to elevate your business and your marketing strategy, consider how I can help you as your fractional CMO.