When it comes to our own products, we think we know everything (and maybe we do). When it comes to selling those products, however, that confidence may be your downfall. Sales is about the customer and listening to and delivering what they want and need. Thinking you already know everything will only cause your company to suffer.

On Day 3 of Grow Camp — a six-day growth marketing series at MaRS — our amazing speakers shared some common mistakes companies make when trying to scale.

1. Creating content for everyone

You might think that all of the content you create should go to everyone. You worked so hard to create it that everyone should see everything you’ve produced, right?

Wrong. Your content can’t possibly serve everyone and you can’t create content that only interests you. The key questions you should be asking are: What does your audience want to read? Which section of your audience is each piece of content for? Generic, unfocused content just won’t keep people engaged anymore.

So how do you tailor content at scale? Randy Frisch, president and chief marketing officer of Uberflip, uses the following process.

  • Audit existing content: What are your existing assets? Tag your assets based on industry, customer persona, stage etc.
  • Create your own content experience: Who needs what type of content and when? How can you segment your content to be most relevant?
  • Personalize the delivery: Content creation doesn’t end at creation. From the moment your customer clicks on a link, every piece of content that follows should be targeted to that particular customer.

Creating and personalizing engaging content at scale can be a lot of work. Sue Varty, managing partner at Headstart Copywriting, emphasizes the importance of establishing processes and maintaining efficiency. Have a process for quality control. Use voice-recognition software and transcription services to speed up your production. Learn to let go and guide your marketer, rather than trying to control them. Above all, understand what your audience wants.

2. Using vanity (meaningless) metrics

Some metrics land on the superficial side — they may make the company feel good, but they don’t translate into benefits for the customer. Ask yourself whether these types of metrics are worth the time and effort they take to collect and analyze if you can’t actually act upon them.

We’re all familiar with the processes of design thinking and experimentation. Why do companies struggle when it comes to executing these processes? Unfortunately, fuzzy key performance indicators, poor metrics tracking and bad instrumentation plague sales analytics and limit the power of iterative experimentation.

“When it boils down to it, your metrics should be understandable, comparative and behaviour changing.” — Kareem Azees, Autodesk

Take a hint from Kareem Azees, analytics guru at Autodesk, who suggests that you find metrics that matter to your business, measure them and compare them to your baselines. Fundamentally, analytics for sales boil down to one core metric: your customer life-time value (LTV).

All of the metrics you gather throughout your funnel — from first introduction to acquisition, activation and retention — pool into those three letters. In fact, a quick test of your financial bottom line is your ability to acquire many high LTV customers. In other words: being customer-centric = being LTV-centric.

So, what story does your data tell?

3. Selling only to customers and forgetting about talent

Remember the people who work with you? You can’t successfully scale without them, yet so many companies don’t even know their employer value proposition (EVP).

An EVP is a proposal of why people should work for you. Talent acquisition is akin to customer acquisition and potential hires will want to know what sets you apart from the rest. What do you have to offer them?

As Daneal Charney, director of talent at MaRS, and Mark Evans of ME Consulting emphasize, it’s important to think about what makes your company special to work for and how you can show it off. Meet your potential hires where they are. Talent — and even your own employees — will be talking about your company online and on social media, so be there to engage with them.

4. Being who you want to be

You know how your parents always told you to be whoever you want to be? That doesn’t work in sales. Adopting the mindset of your customers is key to growing your company.

What do your customers want? Who do they trust? For this, let’s look at some sales tips from David Priemer, the scientist behind Cerebral Selling.

  • Inertia: Why should people make the effort to switch to your product, when a product they already have is adequate? An article from Harvard Business Review indicates that your solution has to be substantially better — specifically, nine times better — for customers to be willing to switch to your product. To disrupt inertia, invoke the power of reciprocity and provide value to your customers first. What might they need that you can provide?
  • Advocacy: Customers turn to their peers as credible experts. Try this: Google “[your company name] + reviews” and see what the “credible experts” say about you. Today, customer engagement (ensuring you have happy, satisfied and engaged customers) is the new marketing.
  • Belief statements: What is the purpose of your company? And no, it’s not the product that you’re selling. Determine your reason for being. Go back to the core of your business. Pinpoint your purpose and make it stand out loud and clear when you first engage with customers. Oh, and test it first to make sure it actually resonates with your customers.

You don’t want your customers to feel like you just want their attention. And yet, we’re often so engrossed in scaling and scaling and scaling, that we start forgetting about who we serve.

Getting your customer’s attention is important and (relatively) easy. What’s more important (and tedious to achieve) is retaining this attention. If you don’t retain your customers’ attention, all your efforts to captivate them in the first place is for naught. Take the time to understand your customers’ needs and wants. Speak their language (rather than your internal language). Track metrics that translate to customer benefits. Personalize content at every touch point, even at scale. It’s time to dial up authentic personalization and dial down inauthentic automation.

“You don’t need to be everything for everyone. Think about who you are for.” — David Priemer of Cerebral Selling

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Want more information on growth marketing? Check out some key insights from scaling pains and how to build a good foundation for growth.

Thank you to our incredible speakers from Day 3 of Grow Camp 2018 for contributing to some of these key insights.

Tannya Cai

Tannya is responsible for the planning, execution, marketing and development of experiential programs and workshops within Regional Innovation Centres and Campus Linked Accelerators in the province of Ontario. See more…