This article is adapted from Shawn's appearance on the CMO Convo podcast.
Navigating the intricate world of marketing to both SMBs and enterprises can often feel like threading a needle in a haystack, particularly in the fast-evolving healthcare industry.
The diverse challenges, objectives, and growth patterns of these segments require a keen eye for detail and a deep understanding of individual needs.
I'm Shawn McKee, CMO of rehab therapy platform WebPT, and in this article, I'll delve into my firsthand experiences and insights on tailoring marketing strategies to resonate with both SMBs and large enterprises.
- From sales to leading marketing: My journey with WebPT
- The generalist approach to leadership
- The art of marketing to SMBs vs. enterprises
- Understanding your audiences
- ABM and aligning your team and other departments
- Crafting the right narrative: The intersection of audience and product
- Decoding customer growth: Transitioning marketing approaches
- Golden rule of marketing to both SMBs and enterprises
From sales to leading marketing: My journey with WebPT
My journey with WebPT began in 2015, and it’s been a transformative six years. I’ve overseen the entirety of the marketing department, from product marketing brands and ABM to digital communications. We even have an e-commerce wing, which has given me a broad spectrum of roles to handle.
Interestingly, I have also been deeply involved in pricing, a unique responsibility in a marketing role, but I believe it’s crucial for comprehensive understanding.
In my tenure, I've seen WebPT go through many changes. One significant transformation has been our move from catering primarily to the SMB market to expanding our reach upmarket. Many SaaS companies undergo this transition - starting in one niche and then gradually scaling upwards. The journey has been filled with challenges and learnings, but it has been rewarding to witness and guide our growth.
My career began in sales, an invaluable experience that has given me the insights needed as a marketing leader. Recognizing the importance of generating leads and understanding the frontlines is a perspective that many don’t get. Additionally, my expertise in digital and content marketing plays a pivotal role in shaping the strategies at WebPT.
Under my leadership, WebPT embarked on various initiatives. From launching an ABM program to transitioning our customer marketing approach from a single-product, SMB-centric focus to a multi-product, expansive strategy. We've garnered numerous awards and accolades, reinforcing our position as a market leader.
The generalist approach to leadership
When people discuss the need for CMOs to be versatile and adept at multiple roles, I can’t help but agree. My background pretty much spans the entirety of what one might expect in a CMO's portfolio. Before joining WebPT, I was part of a startup where, at one point, our marketing team comprised just four individuals. This situation propelled me to wear multiple hats – from setting up an AdWords campaign to configuring our Marketo lead scoring.
Such experiences, though demanding, provided me with a profound understanding of various facets of marketing. This wide-ranging experience has proven invaluable in leading my current team. While each team member excels in their specialized role, I have garnered enough knowledge to ask the right questions and guide the strategy effectively.
So, a diverse background isn’t just a nice-to-have – it's essential. Especially when you're entrusted with leading a dynamic and talented team.
The art of marketing to SMBs vs. enterprises
The overarching strategy, in many ways, remains consistent regardless of whether we’re catering to SMBs or enterprises. At the core, it's about building thought leadership, fostering partnerships, establishing credibility, and nurturing a community. The goal is to emerge as a trusted partner in the industry. Yet, the tactics we employ underneath can differ vastly.
For instance, in our domain, when targeting the SMB sector, we're often addressing physical therapists. These are professionals who entered the field driven by their passion to heal and assist. While they are experts in their domain, many lack a business background. Our aim here is to offer value by understanding their challenges better and helping them navigate their business journey.
Contrast this with enterprise marketing, where we're mostly communicating with decision-makers who aren't necessarily physical therapists. Their concerns revolve around understanding industry trends, key metrics, and managing large teams. The narrative shifts, but the foundational strategy remains consistent.
Tailoring the channel and medium
With the changing landscape, especially in recent years, we've observed a shift towards more virtual and digital interactions. Yet, the platforms and mediums vary based on the target audience. Exclusive in-person events are more aligned with enterprise needs, while webinars resonate more with the SMB segment.
Currently, we’re exploring the podcast avenue, which interestingly seems to strike a chord with both demographics. Identifying platforms that appeal to diverse audiences is golden, but it's equally crucial to understand where they consume content and how they engage.
Addressing the buyer vs. user gap
In marketing jargon, the key distinction often lies between the 'buyer persona' and 'customer persona'. Especially in B2B settings, those who purchase might not be the ones using the product. This discrepancy can dramatically change the approach.
In the enterprise arena, it’s more about a buying team, where multiple stakeholders are involved, each with their own unique needs. On the other hand, in the SMB domain, the decision-making unit is much smaller, often just a couple of individuals.
The challenge? Crafting messaging that speaks to multiple people across various roles and responsibilities, ensuring it resonates and addresses their unique needs. We meticulously craft our personas, diving deep into their perceptions, challenges, and aspirations, to ensure our messages resonate.
Fine-tuning the message
While the essence of the message might remain consistent, its emphasis varies based on the audience. In the enterprise context, while a therapist might prioritize the efficiency of the Electronic Medical Record (EMR), a CFO or CEO would focus on its overall impact, like higher employee satisfaction, better retention, and data-driven insights into performance. The message remains about efficiency, but the priorities shift based on the target - enterprise or SMB.
Understanding these distinctions is pivotal. It's not just about reaching your audience, but connecting with them in a manner that truly resonates.
Understanding your audiences
In our quest for effective marketing, one intriguing conundrum emerges: how can you cater to diverse targets with a singular message, especially when resources are limited? Here's a breakdown.
Reuse, recycle, and repurpose
The essence of efficient marketing lies in being resourceful. With a holistic messaging framework, you can cater to a wide array of audiences. For instance, a campaign might center around three pivotal aspects - efficiency, patient experience, and ROI. The challenge lies in prioritizing these elements based on the target.
SMBs, for instance, might value patient response and efficiency over ROI. In contrast, a larger enterprise would prioritize ROI, thereby necessitating its elevation in the messaging hierarchy. The key, therefore, is not to reinvent the wheel but to tweak it based on audience priorities. This approach not only saves time and resources but also ensures relevance across segments.
Crafting Versatile Messages
Designing messages that resonate across business stages is no mean feat. So, how can one ensure that their messaging remains broad yet impactful?
- Robust market research: An annual industry survey can serve as a goldmine of insights. Quantitative data revealing industry challenges, preferences segmented by roles, and more can inform the messaging strategy. Since 2017, for instance, our yearly survey, boasting approximately 7000 responses, has been a linchpin in our research endeavors.
- Deep dive with focus groups and data surveys: Engaging with the audience on a personal level – be it through focus groups, individual wind-loss studies, or data surveys – can offer a nuanced understanding of their needs and aspirations.
- Collaboration with product teams: By aligning with product teams, marketers can stay abreast of upcoming features and products, ensuring the messaging remains current and relevant.
- Competitive analysis: Understanding the market landscape and gauging your positioning vis-à-vis competitors can further refine the messaging strategy. This is especially pivotal in sectors characterized by vast variations – from single-person outfits to mammoth organizations.
- Direct engagement with customers: Whether it's assembling an executive steering committee from your top clients or routinely touching base with them, it's crucial to keep a pulse on their evolving needs and concerns. Such engagements can reveal invaluable insights into their aspirations and challenges, ensuring your messaging remains aligned with their journey.
Striking a balance between universality and specificity in marketing messages is a delicate act. Yet, with methodical research, customer engagement, and nimble adjustments, you can craft messages that resonate across the spectrum.
ABM and aligning your team and other departments
When diving into the depth of business operations, especially in the context of marketing and sales, it's evident that insights and data don't function in isolation.
Here’s a reflection of the intricate balance and interplay of research, product development, sales, and marketing.
Sharing insights: A unified approach
Sharing is at the heart of our endeavors. For instance, our success team, nestled within the revenue organization, isn't solely focused on the initial message of value but also on its seamless continuity throughout the customer journey.
Depending on the client segment – enterprise or SMB – the approach changes. An enterprise client enjoys consistent one-to-one contact, with regular touchpoints from a dedicated success manager.
Conversely, the SMB approach is more reactive and generalized. Our operations loop with product, success, and sales teams remains tight. When discrepancies arise, say in message consistency with competitors, we take it as a cue to deep dive, reassess, and recalibrate.
Navigating different business stages with ABM
Navigating the complexities of our six core market segments necessitates an overlap between our ABM strategy and the digital demand generation team. But here's the catch: the dynamics of these segments differ drastically.
The SMB space operates on a high-velocity model, pushing through leads and ensuring quality. The ABM approach, on the other hand, is a more extended game, often spanning 18 to 24 months in sales cycles.
Our ABM strategy zeroes in on our two largest segments, occasionally dabbling in the mid-segment. Their specialization is tailored marketing, understanding the prospect in depth and customizing our message accordingly, a marked departure from the rapid-paced SMB model.
Balancing SMB and ABM in startups
Transitioning between the distinct worlds of SMB and ABM is not a feat for the faint-hearted, more so for fledgling startups with limited resources. However, if one could concentrate on hyper-targeted campaigns that are broadly relevant without getting bogged down in one-to-one minutiae, there's potential.
The challenge is ensuring that any outreach is rooted in meaningful research and context, not just gimmicky outreach like sending branded merchandise.
In essence, the focus should be clear: Who are you speaking to, and what story are you sharing? A narrowed focus here can spell success.
In my journey, the golden thread has been collaboration, staying agile, and always pivoting towards what the audience truly needs and resonates with.
Crafting the right narrative: The intersection of audience and product
Peeling back the layers of marketing, especially in an era of rapid technological advancements and segmented customer bases, it's evident that the message is as crucial as the medium.
Here's a glimpse into how crafting the right narratives and understanding different market segments and their unique pain points can make or break a business strategy.
Navigating high concept narratives
Every story, especially in marketing, starts with the basics: Who is this for? What problem are we addressing? This understanding makes pitching straightforward products simple. But when it comes to newer, innovative solutions, the onus is on understanding the "why" behind its necessity.
For SMBs, it’s about fostering deeper relationships with their clients, ensuring consistent touchpoints. It isn't about occasional interactions but a sustained engagement plan, even when things seem alright.
On the flip side, in the enterprise domain, it’s more about showcasing the ROI. Painting a picture of potential revenue losses due to patient dropouts, and thus steering the narrative towards potential revenue gains is paramount. Essentially, it's about helping the market see their problems and offering solutions.
Decoding emerging technologies: Listening to the market
In a constantly evolving tech landscape, understanding customer needs becomes an exercise in vigilance and flexibility. Mining data, especially from publicly traded companies in the same sector, offers a trove of insights. Moreover, industry surveys become a potent tool, often providing a sneak peek into looming challenges and influencing our product roadmap.
One constant is the shift towards a value-based care model, even as clinics grapple with dipping reimbursement rates and rising costs. The key lies in identifying the game-changers – those willing to innovate and push boundaries. Be it enhancing patient volume, optimizing visit coding, or leveraging cache-based services, it's about partnering with the innovators to understand their aspirations and challenges.
Prioritizing voices: Enterprises vs. SMBs
Indeed, big enterprises carry weight, but the mid-market players can't be ignored. These middle-tier entities often eye the giants, either aspiring to become them or hoping for an acquisition. Innovation isn't just the realm of the behemoths; it often finds its home in the mid-market.
Different businesses carry unique temperaments – while some are conservative, others are willing to experiment. While SMBs might often be engrossed in the daily grind, unable to envision significant shifts, they too have a role to play. Ultimately, the essence lies in recognizing and engaging with the industry's thought leaders.
In this intricate dance of marketing, product development, and customer engagement, it's not about one-size-fits-all. It's about listening, adapting, and delivering solutions that resonate with the unique challenges and aspirations of each market segment.
Decoding customer growth: Transitioning marketing approaches
Identifying when an SMB evolves into a large enterprise can be challenging. For companies with many SMBs as customers, especially those operating single clinics, the transition is subtle.
The majority may expand their operations incrementally, making it challenging to pinpoint when their needs change significantly.
However, when businesses grow beyond a specific threshold, it becomes apparent. In an industry marked by acquisitions, especially in healthcare, there's a continuous need to adjust marketing strategies and approach.
Transitioning the message
Does a business overtly announce a change in its marketing approach? Not always. While significant acquisitions or milestones may be celebrated with congratulatory messages or even tokens of appreciation like champagne, subtle transitions are often made behind the scenes. The challenge lies in determining when to introduce different products, solutions, or messages tailored to their evolved needs.
Leveraging customer surveys
Regular customer feedback can be invaluable. Annual surveys provide insights into changing business needs and growth trajectories. As customers transition to the large enterprise category, marketing strategies also need to evolve into more bespoke campaigns. Engaging in periodic reviews and conversations with clients helps in fine tuning the approach, especially for new prospects.
Predicting business growth
Businesses need to have a finger on the pulse, almost forecasting how their clients are growing. Staying updated with industry trends, especially in tight-knit verticals, can offer valuable insights.
Word-of-mouth, industry chatter, and networking can provide an understanding of where businesses are headed. Timing is of the essence, and tailoring messages appropriately is vital.
Navigating the acquisition landscape
The dynamics of business growth during unprecedented times, like the COVID era, are multifaceted. While some businesses adopt a strategy of aggressive expansion through opening new branches, others might choose the acquisition route, purchasing multiple entities at once.
In such a fast-evolving landscape, the challenge is to position oneself as the platform of choice, especially when consolidations occur. With the potential for businesses to switch platforms post-acquisition, the narrative becomes crucial.
In the ever-evolving business landscape, the art lies in anticipating customer growth, tailoring messages to resonate with their current needs, and continuously adapting to the industry's rapid changes. It's about crafting narratives that resonate, regardless of a business's size or growth trajectory.
Golden rule of marketing to both SMBs and enterprises
In the vast realm of business, where needs constantly change and challenges arise, finding the golden rule to market to both SMBs and enterprises might seem elusive. Yet, the heart of it is remarkably simple.
Each morning, whether a CEO at a top enterprise or an SMB owner, individuals grapple with challenges. For some, it's presenting critical metrics to the board, while for others, it's concerns about employee morale. The spectrum of problems is vast. However, the core of effective marketing lies in truly grasping who you're catering to, discerning what genuinely matters to them, and identifying the precise problem you're aiming to solve.
Once you pin this down, the subsequent steps become clear: deciphering the optimal communication channels, understanding their preferred content format, be it videos or blogs, and so forth. Yet, it's the foundational understanding of their needs that sets the stage.
Building this understanding enables trust. And trust is paramount. Once your audience sees you as a trusted source of solutions and information, you embed yourself in their minds. This position is invaluable. Even if they aren't utilizing your product at the moment, when the time is ripe for a change or an upgrade, your name inevitably comes up.
To me, this is the cornerstone of effective marketing: consistently offering value. It ensures that whenever crucial decisions are being made, you're not just a fleeting consideration but a staple at the discussion table. This approach is my compass, guiding every strategic move I make in the realm of marketing.
How are you tackling marketing to customers of different types? Share your advice, or find some to help you by joining the conversation on the CMO Alliance Community Slack channel.