By Kyle Wong
CEO at Pixlee l Forbes 30 under 30 l Building Software for Authentic Marketing
In Pixlee’s earliest days, I had a conversation with one of our first investors and a prominent marketing executive. He told me that at the end of the day, if Pixlee were to be a successful vendor to marketers, it would be because of two things: simplicity and trust. Marketers want things to be simple and they want to work with people whom they trust.
Along our startup journey, I’ve been able to study the Saas sales model and develop relationships with hundreds of marketers. As a result, I’ve developed my own perspective on how to best work with marketers.
Here’s my theory on how to be a good vendor if you’re working with either B2C or B2B marketers:
Do your homework and have empathy for their role
A frequent debate that I’ve had with several venture capitalists in Silicon Valley is how selling to the CMO is different than selling to the CIO. While I’m still crystallizing some of my thoughts on the topic, there is one commonality that we can all agree upon: Researching your prospective customer allows you to “sell the why, and not the what” and will set you apart from your competitors.
The role of marketers within their respective organizations is continuously changing. Previously, I wrote that what makes for a good marketer also makes a good entrepreneur. In-house marketing teams are understaffed yet are expected to wear an increasing number of hats. Marketing today encompasses a myriad of different touch points, platforms, and stages in the customer journey. As a result, you need to be able to articulate how your product can map to a larger business objective. Understanding the ever-expanding role of marketers will help you to offer better solutions for their needs.
Breaking through the noise
Another major challenge in working with marketers is breaking through the noise and fragmentation in the marketing tech landscape to reach them. There are over 4000 marketing tech companies offering solutions to marketers today. US venture capital investments for martech companies reached over $1.2 billion last year and has remained steady over recent years.
“We get cold pitched 50 times a day by people who clearly don’t know or understand our brand” says Aaron Magness, CMO of Betabrand, “and they all guarantee these cookie-cutter ROIs. But those cold pitches really don’t work.”
Magness further explains, “In today’s world, we’re all very connected (thank you LinkedIn). I find the most impactful way for the sell-side to really break through the noise is to ask for a referral, especially if it’s from one of your clients.”
Being a great partner is more than just features and fancy dinners
Vendors need to remember that “checkboxes don’t equal results.” Just because your product “can” do something doesn’t mean it does it well or that it will do it at a price point that’s appealing to potential customers. Today, a three-part bundle of product, customer service, and thought-leadership collectively shapes a vendor’s worth.
A great partner isn’t just about the software, but the people behind the software. Vendors today need to realize that their expertise, thought leadership, and vision can play a significant role in the value of their service. This is not to say that all startups need to create internally agencies to do all of the work for marketers. However, just giving people access to a dashboard doesn’t always equate to success.
“I look at vendors as potential extensions of our company.” says Jamie Braxton, Marketing Manager at US Mattress. “To me, a new vendor is essentially hiring another colleague to help with day-to-day tasks. A good vendor, along with the marketing team will function as a cohesive unit that will aid in helping you move your company forward in the right direction.”
Some of Pixlee’s best client relationships are developed out of our ability to collaborate with and build off our marketers’ visions. While the old adage goes that business of course is built on relationships, I’m a strong believer that relationships are built on merit. Despite the challenges associated with selling to the marketing tech landscape, if you deliver results for your customers, good things will happen.