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How to Build a Perpetual Motion Marketing and Sales Machine

April 27, 2012

What if your Marketing & Selling efforts did not require a payroll and worked 24/7/365?  That’s the audacious vision with which we are obsessed and that drives the New

image from triggerandfreewheel.com

Market Entrepreneurs we work with and admire.   Followers of this blog have read posts like these that make the argument that today’s web-based offerings are capable of being self-marketing and self-selling machines thanks social media and Facebook’s open graph.  We call it ‘Building-Social-into-the-DNA-of-Product”, or – to put it another way- The Perpetual Motion Marketing and Sales Machine.We recently discovered a post that compellingly covers this phenomenon –  “Growth Hacker is the New VP, Marketing” that’s packed with insight-gems we are eager to share in our quest to evangelize the concept:

The new job title of “Growth Hacker” is integrating itself into Silicon Valley’s culture, emphasizing that coding and technical chops are now an essential part of being a great marketer. Growth hackers are a hybrid of marketer and coder, one who looks at the traditional question of “How do I get customers for my product?” and answers with A/B tests, landing pages, viral factor, email deliverability, and Open Graph. On top of this, they layer the discipline of direct marketing, with its emphasis on quantitative measurement, scenario modeling via spreadsheets, and a lot of database queries. If a startup is pre-product/market fit, growth hackers can make sure virality is embedded at the core of a product. After product/market fit, they can help run up the score on what’s already working.

This isn’t just a single role – the entire marketing team is being disrupted. Rather than a VP of Marketing with a bunch of non-technical marketers reporting to them, instead growth hackers are engineers leading teams of engineers. The process of integrating and optimizing your product to a big platform requires a blurring of lines between marketing, product, and engineering, so that they work together to make the product market itself. Projects like email deliverability, page-load times, and Facebook sign-in are no longer technical or design decisions – instead they are offensive weapons to win in the market.

While the piece makes the strong argument that, ideally, Marketer/Coder must share the same brain, we have seen this scenario play out just as well in small teams consisting of web-savvy marketers and marketing savvy coders.

What we appreciate most about this post is its explanation of the contextual factors that make this audacious vision possible (we highlight in red to concepts we find most powerful):

These skills are invaluable and can change the trajectory of a new product. For the first time ever, it’s possible for new products to go from zero to 10s of millions users in just a few years. Great examples include Pinterest, Zynga, Groupon, Instagram, Dropbox. New products with incredible traction emerge every week. These products, with millions of users, are built on top of new, open platforms that in turn have hundreds of millions of users – Facebook and Apple in particular. Whereas the web in 1995 consisted of a mere 16 million users on dialup, today over 2 billion people access the internet. On top of these unprecedented numbers, consumers use super-viral communication platforms that rapidly speed up the proliferation of new products – not only is the market bigger, but it moves faster too.

Before this era, the discipline of marketing relied on the only communication channels that could reach 10s of millions of people – newspaper, TV, conferences, and channels like retail stores. To talk to these communication channels, you used people – advertising agencies, PR, keynote speeches, and business development. Today, the traditional communication channels are fragmented and passe. The fastest way to spread your product is by distributing it on a platform using APIs, not MBAs. Business development is now API-centric, not people-centric.

Whereas PR and press used to be the drivers of customer acquisition, instead it’s now a lagging indicator that your Facebook integration is working. The role of the VP of Marketing, long thought to be a non-technical role, is rapidly fading and in its place, a new breed of marketer/coder hybrids have emerged.

The piece goes on to offer a case study example of the Sales&Marketing into Product DNA or “Hacker Marketing” by describing how Airbnb leveraged Craigslist to come out of nowhere and both define and dominate a new niche market (that’s moving toward mainstream).  The passage excerpted below is insightful:

Let’s use case of Airbnb to illustrate this mindset. First, recall The Law of Shitty Clickthroughs:

Over time, all marketing strategies result in shitty clickthrough rates.

The converse of this law is that if you are first-to-market, or just as well, first-to-marketing-channel, you can get strong clickthrough and conversion rates because of novelty and lack of competition. This presents a compelling opportunity for a growth team that knows what they are doing – they can do a reasonably difficult integration into a big platform and expect to achieve an advantage early on.

Airbnb does just this, with a remarkable Craigslist integration.   –read the rest of the case study-

Admittedly, the audacious vision of  Perpetual Motion Marketing&Sales seems too good to be true.  Like the fountain of youth and cold fusion, many will seek– but few will find.   We also recognize the vision is likely better suited for consumer plays than it is B2B.  In any event its a vision worth striving for or at least considering.   Its our view that the best executions of this vision will have the following in common:

  1. As the Airbnb case study illustrates, great executions will leverage and seamlessly integrate with one or more massive pre-existing platforms (with a bias toward social platforms although Airbnb pulled it off initially without social).
  2. Great executions will offer a product or service that is novel, unique, and highly remarkable– so powerful, in fact, that people will want to share it with their friends and family
  3. After surmounting the product design and engineering mountain- which many will not-  next challenge is just as massive:  pump-priming the 24/7/365 Sales&Marketing machine.   Successful executions almost always find creative means to share their new babies with the world, rather than spend gobs of money in an attempt to attract attention.  The riddle that must be solved is who to put your shiny new offering in front of and how to get it there.  This is the essence of the pump-priming process.   Successful executions put great effort into identifying key influencers and the offer/packaging of recruiting influencers to adopt.  Influencer counts can be in the hundreds or even thousands.   Its’ hard, tedious work.

When step 3 succeeds, the hard and tedious work completed in steps 1 and 2 kick in and the “Perpetual Motion Marketing&Sales Machine” roars to a start.   We’d love to hear about your examples of great Perpetual Motion Marketing&Sales.  Please share them!   We’d also love to hear your views on the list above.  What other successful execution musts are missing from the list?

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