22 Feb CMOs – Why Aren’t You Hiring A 500lb Silver Back?
As part of my training for the next big adventure in tech I’ve been reading and re-reading a number of business books, blogs and also news stories about success, failure, hiring, firing and scalability. Throughout all of this reading, one of the common themes cropping up is Guerrilla Marketing, and this got me thinking “why don’t all marketing teams have a 500lb Silver Back in their team?”
Guerrilla marketing is often seen as risky, and sometimes misunderstood to be all about ‘dissing’ the competition. In reality it’s about maximising opportunities you just can’t engineer, albeit often at the expensive of your competitors. Competition is what drives us all as a species, hence our love of sports, and the desire to achieve greater things than our business competitors.
Overall, the marketing function is the ‘swing vote’ in business success. Your product can be 10 times better than the competition but if it’s not presented in the right way or reaching the right audience it’s a white elephant. Look back through some of industry’s greatest success stories and guerrilla marketing is the momentum behind that swing, not to mention the success of most political campaigns.
In the 80’s & 90’s when Apple was in recovery, they embarked on guerrilla strategies, first by taking on IBM (remember the 1984 commerical?), and then the cheekier “I’m a Mac/I’m a PC” commercials poking fun at Windows (risky given Bill Gates’ investment lifeline to Apple). Even today, the mild mannered Tim Cook will often take a cheeky swipe at Samsung during Apple product keynotes, and purposely disrupt competitor news opportunities during events like CES.
In the fledgling days of SaaS in the late 90’s Mark Benioff was not afraid to use guerrilla tactics in order to gain a step on their main competitor, Seibel. Most would recoil from these tactics for fear of reprisals, but I recommend reading “Behind The Cloud” as some of them are pure genius. Even more recently plenty of tech startups are turning up the volume on their guerrilla channel during these golden days of the blogsphere and social media. Duane Jackson of KashFlow, andhis rise against the goliath competitor Sage is great example of how guerrilla marketing can be the difference between ‘also ran’ and winning.
The more I read about it the more I’m becoming to understand that it’s not a skill you teach to your team, but marketing channel that requires a champion, a leader – a silver back (to play on words). Many of the great CEOs are themselves silver backs, not afraid to fan the flames of a competitor in order to provide a little warmth, and equally adept at spotting opportunities to leap frog the opposition.
True, nobody wants a maverick guerrilla on the loose. It’s not all about fanning flames that surround your competitors to gain attention, but a blend of channel opportunities. This strand of marketing is a cocktail of strategy, PR, content creation, lead generation and logistics, which is perhaps why it requires a special operative with creative intelligence.
From it you also seem to gain valuable insights; about your competitors; their view of you; the marketplace; what the marketplace responds to, plus you usually end up with highly qualified leads at low acquisition cost.
Looking back analysing my career I’ve managed to identify a number of guerrilla opportunities, some that I grasped, some that slipped quietly by, and even one that provided the ultimate momentum to carry me forward to a successful exit.
What I still haven’t figured out is, why isn’t there a silver back in every marketing team with a special ops remit? All of the ‘real’ disrupters in tech would seem to have a guerrilla on the payroll.