Launching a Growth-Ready Business
by Kyle Nations
Bill Leake, founder and CEO of Apogee Results, joins the conversation on the Angel Investor’s Network podcast with host Laura Rubinstein, of Social Buzz Club. During this episode of the podcast, Bill shares his personal insights and experiences as an entrepreneur, business founder, and digital marketer. He also explains how his marketing agency is becoming an incubator for start-ups in their Venture Studio. The full interview is embedded here and show highlights follow.
Some early marketing lessons from Bill’s career as a McKinsey Consultant were: 1) the power of brand, and 2) the value of pattern recognition.
Brand is meaningful, always. Direct response marketers underestimate the power of brand, sometimes thinking anything can be sold if it is sold effectively. However, building a brand, (particularly if you are a small business) is not just helpful, it’s critical. Brand is very powerful, and if you can articulate your brand identity from Day 1, it can be extremely helpful in opening doors and helping achieving scale. People will call you back if they recognize your brand. People will respond favorably to you if they like your brand. People are more inclined to do business with a brand that has invested in building trust and relationships.
Pattern recognition is a helpful tool as well. If you are talking to someone about their business and trying to learn more, you can take shortcuts to understanding their assumptions and how their business model works, by drawing from your own experience and looking for the similarities and patterns you have seen before, perhaps in different or unrelated businesses. Essentially it is applying your collective experience to a business problem by looking for similarities and patterns in operating assumptions, models and outcomes, from other businesses. It allows you to test hypotheses much faster – it saves time, and time can be more valuable than money.
Love What You Do
Bill says, that at this point in his professional life, what he loves most is the ability to gather the top marketing talent not just in Austin or Texas, but in the US to work with every day. The team of people at Apogee consistently cultivate a good mix of creative and communications skills, and quantitative ability. For example, our strategists need to know “how to test” and “what to test.” Top shelf digital marketing talent does not have just an agency profile, nor are they purely engineers. They are a hybrid.
Building Business for Our Clients
Although the details of building business through digital marketing vary by market segment, it all starts with “who is the customer?” It’s imperative to understand your customer and how digital helps that customer along the journey. To do this, it is critical to be voracious about data collection and leveraging that data. Marrying customer/audience data with advertising creative and content messaging is the “secret sauce” of digital marketing. That “secret sauce” impacts the types of human behavior you can initiate. Be intentional, not just getting the right message for the right customer, but also knowing the right message for each customer in terms of where they are in the journey. Account based marketing, retargeting ads to a list, is a specific example of that “secret sauce.” In this use case, we are targeting those who have expressed interest and are already having conversations with sales to get customers all the way to the finish line. Influencer marketing is another flavor, so to speak, of account based marketing. If you are trying to reach the masses with your message, it is important to reach the press, online publications. and niche bloggers too. Influencer marketing is the cheapest and best way to do this in the digital world. But whether you’re encouraging potential customers along the path to a sale or engaging the help of influencers, segmentation and targeting are the most important activities in digital marketing.
Rather than focusing on growth at Apogee Results, Bill is more interested in optimizing his business to help launch more successful growth-ready businesses. When we look at the Austin based start-up community, we see a lot of companies that are great at developing products and services, but counting on inexpensive and inexperienced marketing and sales teams to take those products and services to new customers. Building a product is not as expensive as it once was, especially in the digital world. What once took 7 figures to create, can now be done in the range of $50k to $250K. Where most companies fail is not product development but getting that product to market. The knowledge base and experienced marketing talent cultivated at Apogee Results in many cases is more valuable that additional venture capital funds.
What Should Be Invested in Marketing
If you are a start-up what should you be spending on marketing? It is not the traditional 8-10% of revenue – that is an old-school rule of thumb. It’s more like 40% of revenue or more for early stage companies. If you are a start-up, and if you are trying to get the word out and you don’t have channels and don’t have viral you need to be prepared to lose money for a couple of years. Ad agencies understand and focus on paid media. PR firms focus on earned media. If your content/product/service is good, you should do both. You can increase the odds of success and get more people to link back to your business using paid media and realize a good return. If you do well with the earned visibility, pour some paid on it.
Your Baby Is Ugly
For new ventures, it is important to know if “your baby is ugly.” Don’t just evaluate the product and the market for it, also evaluate the process necessary to complete a sale and get it into the hands of customers. Consider the following:
- Is there a market need of more than ‘one’ for your product?
- Is the market large enough to sustain growth?
- Have you tested your product – not just the idea of your product, but have you tested adoption at all levels?
- Do you have the right skills, but also the passion for it?
- Do you know what you don’t know?
- Do you know how to find out what you don’t know?
- Do you have the right investment partners and plan?
- Do you understand the competition?
If you would like to learn more about Apogee Results can help you build your business, please visit our Marketing Consulting page or fill out the contact form here in the blog post.
Kyle Nations has a long career in business development and marketing, He brings both big and small company experience to Apogee Results and our clients. Kyle has undergraduate and graduate degrees in business and two college-age sons he loves to brag about. A lover of sports, he is both participant and spectator and is particularly fond of the water, hiking, and snow skiing. To get updated information about the team at Apogee Results, please follow us on your favorite social media channels.