Most AdTech companies continued their search for meaning in 2017—looking for crumbs missed by Google, Amazon and Facebook – or how to work synergistically with or on top of those platforms. There surely were some hot categories this year, including cross-channel attribution starting to take shape; content marketing and related formats gaining traction; influencer marketing becoming a large niche; and the cross-device and personalized user journey – including Programmatic TV and mobile – becoming mainstream.
Behind many of the successful companies in those categories, and others from across the LUMAscapes, were strategies that the rest of us can learn from. Take note as these steps will be key to ensuring organic growth as well as creating attractiveness to future investors or martech acquirers.
Specialize Your Sales Team
Software companies have discovered the power of specializing their sales functions to achieve new levels of growth. AdTech companies aspire to be software, but few have started thinking like software companies, especially when it comes to sales. The guiding philosophy of specialization is that sophisticated sellers, or AEs, should focus on closing rather than prospecting , and should leverage a specialized “sales development” function to find qualified prospects that match their target criteria. Similarly, AEs, or, “closers,” should pass account management and growth to specialized teams with skills, incentives and focus on growing accounts to ensure their own time is spent driving new business.
Develop a SaaS Model
To attract investment or acquisition, AdTech companies need to evolve or supplement their media models with SaaS business models . There are different flavors of AdTech SaaS – including flat fixed pricing and minimum spends—and while transitioning from lucrative media margins is painful, start ripping the band-aid if you have aspirations of raising outside capital.
Build Your Brand-Direct Business
To enable your SaaS model, you’ll need a brand-direct sales strategy, as agencies can’t make commitments on behalf of their clients. This doesn’t mean ignoring agencies—treat them as the important influencers and stakeholders they are. Most agencies are starting to wrap their heads around their new role as a collaborator rather than the gatekeeper of technology , and marketers are overwhelmingly embracing their own role in building their tech stacks.
Clean & Build Your Own Sales Tech Stack
As passionate as most AdTech vendors are about their prospects’ technology choices, many don’t apply the same concern for their own sales or marketing tech stacks. As with AdTech, a few great components that work well together outflanks a junkyard of unwieldy products. There are some critical elements including sales automation, marketing automation, CRM and a couple of key data sources that you won’t want to skimp on or dismiss—B2B attribution may make the list next year as it matures. CRM governance and hygiene are increasingly critical for garnering insights over long sales cycles and with increased cross-functional account involvement from specialization.
Know, and Segment Your Customers
As AdTech markets mature and become increasingly competitive, knowing your Ideal Customer Profiles (ICP) and how to speak with each becomes critical. As previously mentioned, mining your now-clean CRM and well-tracked sales activities to understand what works with which targets is powerful for finding these answers. Technographic datasets like Pathmatics and Bombora can help you find more of those targets and inform your messaging to give you an edge. Identify those accounts who are truly the best fit for your company, not just the same top 50 accounts that everyone in our sector targets due to their size.
Define Your Sales Process
Moving from an agency to an enterprise sales model is a big shift—you’ll need to evaluate if you have the right people , and if they have the chops to adapt to a new mode of selling. Even experienced enterprise sellers are most successful when they have a roadmap that reflects well-defined selling stages, each with proof points that allow them to advance to the next steps in the process. As important as defining these stages is consistently adhering to them – from top down.
Own Your Niche
By this, I don’t mean succeed in a small market, but rather have a clean and compelling story, with lots of examples, proof points and testimonials about the problems you solve for companies resembling your prospects. Inherent in nailing your niche is having abundant clarity about your ecosystem positioning – how do you reconcile, work with, or differentiate from the walled gardens and clouds, for example. Using these artifacts to educate, and getting feedback from your prospects along the way, are important aspects of the defined sales process discussed above.
Consider a Channel / Partnership Program
Channel programs can be hit or miss, usually dependent on organizational commitment to making them work , which is why I’m less prescriptive on this one. If you’re a business that can benefit from ecosystem credibility or important integrations, a partnership program could be a third important leg of your sales strategy (in addition to direct new account and existing account growth initiatives). They take more investment than you’d like to think in order to be successful, so be self-aware and deliberate about your strategy here.
B2B sales is getting more sophisticated in general, and AdTech is no exception as buyers are becoming savvier and doing their own research before even speaking with a seller. Investing in these tools and mechanics will help your teams spend their time in the right places, and win more in 2018 and for years to come.