Podcast: Organic Growth vs Marketing

Organic Growth vs Marketing


Audio File: 2014 Feb 24 – Organic Growth vs Marketing.mp3
Audio Length: 15:19 minutes

Hello, my name is Montie Roland. I’m with Montie Design in Morrisville, North Carolina.

I wanted to see if we could spend a few minutes chatting about the role of organic growth in the growth-year product versus the role of marketing.

At Montie Design, we develop products for a variety of clients from electronics packaging of electronics and applications like high reliability rack mount applications, such as a data center, all the way down to wearable electronics. So we get to see a lot of different products go through.

We also have a mix of products in our portfolio which some are B-to-B (or business to business) products and the others are B-to-C (or business to consumer) products. The B-to-C portion of our portfolio has grown. And so that’s a something that originally didn’t push for. That’s kind of just the way that portfolio has changed over time as the opportunity mix changed. But, so, we also have a lot of products that we design and manufacture ourselves. And they’re called Montie Gear. So, the Montie Gear products are consumer products that we sell directly to outdoorsmen. And they may relate to slingshots; they may relate to camping equipment; shooting; or archery.

We have an approach to our marketing in Montie Gear that has changed over time. For the first four years, we relied almost exclusively on organic growth, and fueled that growth by using a test-and-evaluation program where we identified writers and bloggers and folks and we got products in their hands so they could write about it; make videos about it on YouTube, what have you.

So now what we’ve tried to do is to supplement that program with marketing and advertising. So, it’s very, very important to remember that, as far as it goes, bang for the buck, sending out a press release with some images and getting a magazine to write about that – there is no better bang for the buck, period. It’s just . . . it just works. Advertising is a long term commitment. You’ve got to stick with it. And you’ve got to tweak it. So not only are you paying for those ads, you’re also trying to develop some sort of metrics to gauge the response so that you can actually have those ads pay for themselves and give you a return on investment.

And by selecting good venues that apply to your product, you can definitely find that return on investment. But it takes a good bit of work.

There’s a failure on the part of a lot of organizations, especially small, to rely too heavily on the concept of “I’ve the greatest products in the world and people will beat down my door to it”. Even if you have the greatest product in the world, and people are beating on the door, you’re probably going to still have to put a lot into commercializing that product – getting it out in the market; getting it in a format the market will accept. If you have the greatest product in the world, you may have this very broad patent, but now in order to get someone to write you a check, you still need to have that product in a format or commercialized so that the customer will say I want X-number of units. And that takes a lot of work. There’s a common misconception in smaller companies that once we get it to a point, someone will just buy us and go on. And that does happen. It happens a good bit. You get your product to a point and at some point a company buys you and maybe you can go retire.

Now, the value of your concept and later product and later manufacturing goes up almost exponentially as you get farther along in the process. So the value of a concept is pretty close to zero. The value of a concept with a prototype and a patent goes up dramatically. And then the value of a concept plus a patent, plus manufacturing, plus sales – and brisk sales, growing sales – then all of a sudden, that takes another leap in value. So, what you want to do is figure out where you want to be on that curve. And it may be that you want to be in it for the long term and you want to manufacture and you want to go work and have trucks show up at the shipping dock and ship product; and that may be very gratifying; have some number of employees and even with the headaches – if you have good employees you have less headaches, by the way – you end up with, you know, something you can do for the rest of your life. On the large company side of it all, large companies traditionally have really not pushed organic growth; they’ve pushed marketing-based growth, because they need results quickly. So if you’re Chevrolet, and you have a new car, they’re going to do a mixture. They’re going to provide press releases and pictures and press days. And then they’re going to advertise the daylights out of it. So for a small organization, you spend, maybe, seventy percent towards organic growth, and thirty percent towards traditional marketing and sales (and I’m kind of pulling these numbers out of thin air); and then your counterpart, who’s a larger company, may spend five percent on organic growth and ninety-five percent on marketing.

The problem with organic growth is that you can’t control it. You can push it a little bit by getting product out there for people to write about. You can have events and other things. But it’s still . . . you got to have the right products at the right time in front of the right people, as far as to write about it, to talk about it, to grow. Whereas with marketing, if you do a good job with sales and marketing, then you can drive that growth in way that you couldn’t with just organic. So that is an important distinction because it relates back to what your goals are. If you need to be selling two million cars a year, and you need to be up at that rate in three months, then you need to do everything you can to get the word out about that car. You need to have an organic component. You need to have press days. You need to have a valuation unit out for press and editors and drivers and everybody to test. And you need to be spending a whole lot of money on advertising. If you got time to let it grow more organically and wait on these things, then maybe you spend less on advertising. And maybe you’re happy with a much lower growth and a lower return on your investment.

And this is especially true if you’re a small shop; you have a lower capital investment. And your cash requirements are, you know, small, then maybe that’s perfectly the way to go. And there’s probably something in-between for everybody’s company. You know, where do you fall? We’re not, obviously . . . very few companies the size of General Motors. So, you know, they’ve got a mixture that works for selling cars. But a smaller company’s going to have a slightly different mixture. But I think it’s important to understand that you’ve got to push out in multiple directions.

Now, when you think about marketing, there’s large scale marketing and then there’s guerilla marketing. Guerilla marketing is something that has been pushed by a guy by the name of Jay Levinson. So, there’s a book called Guerilla Marketing. And one of his concepts is that one out of three times an ad passes your face, you actually see it, at some level. And then it takes seven times of that ad passing your face before you make a buying decision. So, what that means is that you’ve got to see that ad twenty-one times, or have it pass your face, before you’re to the point that the average person is ready to make that buying decision. So, depending on the venue of the ad, then that may mean months, or even years. Now, if you’re buying commercials on Hulu or NBC and they are flashing past your face the same commercial ten times during a program – okay; then you watch it for two-and-a-half weeks and if you’re going to buy, you’re going to buy. But, for the most part, most advertising is much slower paced than that. So, you know, magazine ads come out; other things. So, even your organic growth push, just because someone sees something once in a magazine that’s got a glowing review, it still may take twenty-one times before someone sees a review about your product before they actually go buy. So, I think there’s a similar approach. I think now I do think that it’s slightly less if it’s a trusted source. So, if an author they trust greatly says you should have one of these, then maybe that number’s significantly less than twenty-one. And of course it’s graded on a curse, so . . . you know, there’s some number of people that are going to go, “Yeah, oh, I like what this guy’s saying about this; love the product. Let me call and order it first time.” But I think the bulk of your sales still is going to come from that similar curve where someone sees it twenty-one times before they buy.

And at that point, it’s twenty-one times before they start researching to buy, maybe. Because one of the trends that has happened over the past few years is there’s much, much more of an emphasis placed by consumers on checking reviews before buying.

So I hope this has kind of explained some of these differences between an organic model and an advertising-based model, you know, where you’re looking at marketing as something you spend money to do, or directly spend money. Because if you give out samples of product you’re still spending money because you’re losing the ability to sell that and you’re giving away that product – the cost to manufacture it, the cost to ship it, the cost . . . figure out who to place it with; the cost of developing that relationship with that writer or editor. So, either way you’re spending money. The question is it’s just the magnitude and how you go about it. And I think it takes a good mix. I think smaller organizations tend to push way too hard on the organic portion and then larger organizations look a lot harder to find the mix between sales (which is actually someone going out and selling that product), marketing (which is exposing that product to the world), and then organic marketing (which is relying on others to expose it for you). So, it’s definitely a mix. You want to consider that mix. If you totally abandon part of that mix, then you may be not getting the best bang for your buck. And that’s the same thing, too. If you have an idea that you’re turning into a prototype and a patent; and then you want to get that idea to where you can sell it, a lot of time you need a reference design. And a reference design is where you’ve got a product that’s buildable, that you can give someone as a template for them building their own product based on your technology. And so at that point what you’re doing is you’re marketing your technology, and even if you’re going to license it, having that reference design is a big help. Because you’re giving the person’s licensing the ability to go out quicker, or more quickly, and promote that product, because they’re got something that they’re going to . . . it’s more of a product and less of just some piece of intellectual property. So the farther you can get along that curve of concept, prototype, patent, manufacturing, sales – then, the easier it is to license or sell that concept or that product, or that patent.

So, I hope this has been beneficial. Hope y’all have a great day. Montie Roland, signing off.