* Startups Need A Balanced Marketing Portfolio

17 Seconds #70 – A Publication For Clients And Other VIPs.

In the spring of 2001, when I was planning the marketing launch of my (then solo) law firm, I wrote a 35-page marketing plan, with sections covering each of “the four Ps of marketing.” Excerpts from that plan include:

  1. product – “I am planning on branding LOEJH with a beaver theme. The beaver is MIT’s mascot, nature’s engineer, works at night, and changes its environment. All of these apply well, I believe, to how to market a patent law firm. In other words, I believe that my clients will want a patent attorney who works like a beaver for them.”
  2. price – “‘The real issue is value, not price.’ – Robert T. Lindgren”
  3. promotion – “‘If you think advertising doesn’t pay – we understand there are twenty-five mountains in Colorado higher than Pike’s Peak. Can you name one?’ – The American Salesman”
  4. place (distribution) – “All local attorneys and all patent attorneys and agents in New England will receive my direct mail piece announcing LOEJH.”
  5. people (sometimes called “the fifth P of marketing”) – “When I expand and hire personnel, I will need to apply the same discipline to my hiring processes as I apply to other processes. For all employees, I must provide the tools, tasks, team, and training to retain them.” (Emphasis added.)

When it was time for the actual marketing launch that fall, the timing could not have been worse. Clocktower launched on the week of 9/11. Friends lost loved ones, fortunately all I lost was money.

In the late 1990s, when I was working at Verio, I earned the nickname “crazy direct mail guy.” We had a very small marketing budget and very high sales targets. To meet those targets, I instituted “phone blitz Tuesday,” where each sales associate made 100 phone calls and tried to schedule 5 meetings. The calls were warm because the previous Thursday, we had sent direct mail pieces to 100 prospects per sales person.

Today, when I mentor for Techstars, I chuckle that some of the cohort companies struggle with making 1000 calls – over the 12-week course of the program! I called 100 prospects every week at Verio! Uphill! Both ways! I made those calls to challenge the sales associates who worked for me to do likewise, giving the meetings that I scheduled to whomever finished first in each week’s contest.

“Phone blitz Tuesday” was scaled up regionally and then nationally, and I ended up sending millions of pieces of direct mail during my 4-year tenure at Verio, hence my “crazy direct mail guy” nickname.

Fast forward to the launch of Clocktower. I was able to use direct mail to recover from the 2001-2002 recession. But over time, the ROI of direct mail kept decreasing, and it eventually went negative.

Every marketing channel has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Remember yellow pages? (See also the 2012-03-23 infographic “The Rise And Fall Of Online Empires – Will Facebook Survive?”)

But if you have a balanced marketing portfolio – with your marketing dollars and time divided over multiple channels – then you are far more likely to recover from whatever challenges arise.

In the early days of Clocktower, I had a lawyer friend who swore by in-person event marketing. “What if you break your leg?” I asked. “Then your only source of marketing would be gone!”

Another friend, circa 2008 during the Great Recession, swore by the (then relatively new) Twitter social network. “I get all of my clients from Twitter,” he bragged. “What other marketing activities do you do?” I asked. “None!” he replied.

A self-fulfilling prophecy.

If you rely 100% on direct mail, then that’s a formula for failure.

If you rely 100% on event marketing, then that’s a formula for failure.

If you rely 100% on Twitter, then that’s a formula for failure.

But if you have a balanced marketing portfolio, then at least you have a chance.

During the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, all of my in-person events (including Treehouse) have been suspended. I’m going to say that this is much worse than a broken leg.

I believe that Clocktower has a balanced marketing portfolio. Clocktower launched a promotion during the last recession, Clocktower will launch a promotion during this one.

Stay safe, stay tuned.

Peace,

Erik


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