Marketing That Finally Drives Growth of Your Portfolio Company
How a B2B Marketing Audit Can Help Your Private Equity Firm Grow Portfolio Company Sales
Congratulations on your most recent portfolio company investment!
Now that you have a company with excellent growth potential, how will you create the B2B marketing strategy to achieve the aggressive growth targets you've created? At GGC, we work with several PE firms that find this to be a particular challenge in the manufacturing sector. Prior owners often have an engineering or technical background, and in many cases in the middle market, the marketing operations of these new acquisitions can be "behind the curve" in terms of ROI performance. At times, they're engineering-driven companies rather than marketing-driven.
How to turn this around? Your first step is a marketing and competitive audit that will uncover the steps you need to take to boost lead generation and quote volume to the levels you need to meet your new post-acquisition revenue goals.
Why Do You Need a Marketing Audit?
Let's say your portfolio company has developed an innovative material for solar panels. This new material has advantages that help overcome one of the biggest hurdles in the industry—upfront investment.
So, if you recognize your new portfolio company has the potential for double or triple growth due to the market size or proprietary product, why weren't they growing before the acquisition? What are competitors doing in marketing to grow that you should consider as well? This is what your marketing audit is going to answer.
Here are some key elements to your marketing audit that will determine why your portfolio company is not selling to its potential.
What is your company "Best in the World" messaging?
Message Architecture and the Battle Card
Ask a salesperson at your portfolio company why a prospect should buy its products, and you'll probably hear, "We're the best." That's great, but that has little persuasive impact in the market, with so many other companies making the same claims. You can't just say you're a leader. You have to SHOW why you're a leader. You can't just say what you do. You have to say what you do BETTER.
Here is where the battle card comes in.
The battle card is a company-wide document with proof points, sales messaging, and comparative positioning. It keeps everyone on the same page. For marketing, it will guide website text, press releases, advertisements, sales collateral, and more. Here are some of the essential messages:
- Only – What is it about your product or service that ONLY you can offer? What sets your company apart from the competition? Get into specifics; back up your "onlys" with proof points.
- Trigger message – What triggers someone to start their search for a solution? What pain point was so crucial that it sent someone to Google to search for a solution? Those triggers are important to build content and search strategies around.
- Switch messages – This is typically the hardest message because it’s the highest bar to overcome: what would make someone switch from a competitor to you? Think about what challenges customers might be facing that your competition isn't able to solve.
Let's look at our solar panel material manufacturer and how their messaging may turn out.
- Only – We produce the only solar panel material that addresses the most significant barriers to purchase – purchase and installation costs. Our material is the most cost-effective material on the market to work in all types of weather.
- Trigger message – They need to find a lower-cost option or a solution to heavy solar panel materials. Our prospects are looking for ways to grow their business through the barriers that have kept customers from purchasing in the past.
- Switch messages – Our competition isn't able to offer the price point, efficiency, all-weather performance, and ease of installation our product has. Their customers will switch when they are looking for performance traits the end user is looking for and will help grow their business.
Under each of these categories, you'll add proof points – 50% less than traditional solar panels, 1/3 the footprint space, etc. So now you have the real reasons why your portfolio company "is the best."
At Goldstein Group Communications, we use a proven methodology for building a messaging architecture. It includes interviews with stakeholders, customers, and group exercises. Then we put it all together with recommendations for a brand position that is relevant, unique, and believable. You may read more in our message architecture white paper.
We can't tell you the number of times we hear, "we're getting traffic, but we're not getting leads." This could be for a number of reasons—your website is slow to load, it's not mobile friendly, it doesn't have good navigation, it's hard to find forms, there isn't enough enticing content, it looks out of date, or any other myriad of issues.
You don't invite guests to dinner while the house is still under construction, and you shouldn't advertise or promote until your website is ready to host visitors.
Here are some of the items covered during a website audit:
- Key metrics. Does the site meet the critical digital marketing benchmarks on lead conversion (2%) and conversion to quote (10%)?
- Website performance. A report on the performance (page speed, redirects), SEO (indexing, meta descriptions), mobile (font size, responsiveness), and security (SSL certificates, secure libraries).
- Competitor positioning. Why does it matter what your website looks like against a competitor's? People looking for a solution do their research online, reading 5-7 pieces of content before reaching out to a salesperson. If your competitor's website is more user-friendly and has more helpful information, where do you think your prospects will go? You should also look at the navigation of competitor websites. What types of content do they have?
- Web design best practices. Is there a call to action (CTA) on key pages? Are there internal links to lead visitors from one page to another? Are there easy-to-find points for visitors to request more information, talk to an application engineer, or get a quote? Is it easy for visitors to find what they need?
Don't make visitors hunt to find the information they need. Read our blog post on how website user experience drives B2B marketing success.
- Messaging. When visitors visit the page, what is the first thing they see? Is it a message tied to your "Only-Trigger-Switch" message priorities described above? Or is it that your company provides the industry's most innovative and best solar panel material? Well, that's a little self-serving. Instead, put the solutions to pain points "above the fold."
One of our most successful websites is a client that has immediate solutions with buttons to go directly to those pages. So, your solar panel company could have immediate links to – lower panel costs, small footprint installations, or quick installation. Now think of how many solutions you offer a prospect in the first three seconds they are on your website!
A website with easy navigation, CTAs and easy-to-find solutions.
Search Engine Optimization Audit
SEO is one area where changes have a significant impact on attracting new prospects. The downside—it takes three months to see the effects of SEO efforts. So, get started now!
Here are some of the things reviewed during an SEO audit.
- Backlinks. How do you rank against your competitors regarding backlinks (websites linking to your page)? Backlinks help in raising the "authority" score of your website. If your authority score is low compared to competitors, their sites will appear before yours in Google search results for shared keywords.
- Gap analysis opportunities. Which keywords are your competitors using? Could your portfolio company steal some of this traffic? Are you successful with branded or unbranded keywords? In other words, are you attracting people to the site who have never heard of your company?
- Keyword analysis. What are the high-volume keywords for your industry? Are these showing up in your keyword ranking report? Are competitors successful with these keywords?
Remember the 5-7 pieces of content mentioned earlier? Prospects want to research solutions before they fill out a contact form. Does your website have enough content? We're not talking about product pages. We're referring to blogs, white papers, eBooks, thought pieces, webinars, and more.
During the competitor audit, check what competitors offer to ensure your B2B marketing strategy is benchmarked against industry standards.
Make a list of the content that you offer, especially content that is gated behind a registration form. Do you have content for each stage of the buyer's journey?
The content you need serves multiple purposes.
- Expertise. While you claim your company is an industry leader, how is it demonstrated? What industry pain points have your engineers recognized and addressed? How do your products address these pain points? Are top managers recognized as thought leaders in the industry?
- Gated content. When you have thought-provoking and useful content, visitors give up their content information to gain access. Think white papers, webinars, or buyer's guides. Now those assets generate leads that you can use in your B2B marketing efforts.
- SEO. In the SEO audit discussed above, we mentioned needing to find keyword gaps and opportunities. The keywords will be incorporated into your content, even PDFs.
- Campaign assets. Let's say our solar panel material company wants to create a 7-touch campaign to nurture leads in the office building channel. Each of those seven emails will need to point to some content asset like a white paper or video. Does the current site have the material to support an email nurture campaign? Remember, not every lead is ready to ask for a quote. You'll need to nurture these leads down the sales funnel, and your content is the material you need to support these campaigns.
- Amplification. There's no way you can tackle videos, webinars, blogs, white papers, industry presentations, or buyer's guides every single month. Not only would this take a large number of resources, but it would also take engineers and sales representatives away from their jobs. Instead, take one of these items as the "mother content" and repurpose it into other formats.
- Transparency. Does your website have examples of solving problems? Company-specific projects you've completed? Let's say that solar panels material from our company was installed on a retail complex in the Northeast with the problems of small space and a limited budget. A case study with the background, challenges, and solutions that only our solar company could solve would show proof points and gain trust.
Paid Search Advertising
We're amazed when clients say they have no strategy behind their paid search and other PPC advertising. They monitor how many clicks they get but don't know what happens once visitors get to the website or if they fill out a form. And they don't know if they are using the right keywords.
Say our solar panel manufacturer had been doing its PPC campaigns based on searches for "solar panels." But is that the best keyword? Could it be getting people interested in residential solar panels? Other manufacturers looking for solar panel material? Let's go through some other options that would work better:
- Solar panel material(s)
- Solar panel raw material
- Raw material for solar panels
- Best solar panel material
Do you see what we did there? We looked for the keywords that would target the right market. You can also set up the tracking that will follow your PPC visitors and set up landing pages for the gated assets (content like a white paper located behind a lead form or "gate") we mentioned above so you know when they become leads for your sales team. Finally, look at the relevancy of other results on the page, negative keywords, your budget by ad campaign, and more.
Other B2B Marketing Audit Items
There are more marketing items to audit, such as your media planning, style guide, logo, imagery, emails, digital advertising, PR campaigns, and more. If your PE firm is truly looking for double or triple growth for one of its under-performing portfolio companies, then a full marketing audit is the best starting point. Contact us to discuss a B2B marketing audit or sign up for a free competitive audit.