In the first six months of 2021, U.S. initial public offerings totaled $171 billion, outpacing the previous year’s total of $168 billion, according to data from Dealogic and Reuters. As we enter the second half of Q4, IPO momentum is expected to continue. Taking a company public is a chaotic, exciting experience. With new audiences, professional relationships, and stakeholders, marketing takes on a whole new role. With proper planning and development, the experience can carve out a new opportunity for marketing leadership, one that extends current responsibilities and enhances marketing’s influence within the organization.
From process and content to audience and channel, here are four ways to evolve your B2B marketing initiatives when your company goes public:
4 Ways B2B Marketing Pros Will Have to Adapt After Their Company Goes Public
- Become best friends with the legal team.
- Strengthen the CFO-CMO bond.
- Account for new audiences.
- Don't let the stock price influence marketing decisions.
1. Become Best Friends with the Legal Team
As a newly public company (or during the pre-IPO process), business operations face new regulatory rules. Legal limitations can seem like an insurmountable hurdle to marketers who are used to touting a company’s strengths and benefits in the strongest possible terms. Superlatives that were once commonplace in copywriting may now face constant redline. Further, work projects can require multiple rounds of legal reviews and validation, adding precious hours or days to often already-tight timelines.
But the relationship with legal does not need to be adversarial. Partnering with legal stakeholders to come up with creative solutions within the confines of the legal requirements for a public company is possible, and will allow marketers to continue to tell the company story in effective ways. As a marketer, it is important to remember that the lawyers are not trying to bulldoze your creativity and are focused only on protecting the company. With that perspective in mind, think outside of the box and engage with the legal team as you problem-solve.
2. Strengthen the CFO-CMO Bond
At any company — public or not — it’s a CMO’s goal to ensure that marketing is viewed as a revenue driver rather than a cost center. This is even more important for a newly public company that has to hit specific financial targets for Wall Street.
As a marketing leader, it is important to develop marketing plans that align with the short-term financial goals of the company as well as the longer-term business goals. This could take various forms:
Identifying “trigger items” that can be added to a budget if mid-year performance is going well, or areas of savings to activate if pacing behind a plan;
Sharing data about the financial impact of marketing investments when you can, and also clearly explaining that there are some critical activities, like branding and thought leadership, that can not be easily tied back to specific financial KPIs; and
Swiftly and frequently communicating changes to your marketing budget — either up or down — so that finance can accurately reflect operating expenses to Wall Street.
And always, having close alignment with the company’s financial leadership to coordinate on the business value that marketing is driving is key to success.
3. Account for Your New Audiences
As a newly public company, you now have to introduce your brand and company narrative to a completely new audience: investors. This group likely has a different set of criteria that they value compared to your customers, and often has a different level of industry insight and sophistication.
As B2B marketers, we are used to developing language for specific ideal customer profiles (ICPs) who are often extremely knowledgeable about the nuances of our market or offerings. It’s important to remember that with investor audiences, this may not always be the case. You should consider removing industry jargon and overly technical explanations of your platform or solution and focus on more universal aspects of your business model and differentiation.
Further, as a leader of a marketing team, remember that adding the investor audience to your marketing plans requires the same strategic focus as expanding to a new customer segment. Not only are the narratives unique, but so are the channels by which you are going to reach them. Make sure you are setting expectations and equipping the team accordingly.
4. Don’t Let the Stock Price Influence Your Marketing Decisions
This advice is important to all employees across the company, ensuring that people are focused on the business objectives that will drive long-term value. However, it’s especially important for marketing leaders. Marketing plans should have a mix of long-term value drivers (i.e. branding, thought leadership, etc.) and short-term value drivers (i.e. lead generation, demand generation, account-based marketing, sales enablement, etc.) that is right for the business. Fluctuations in stock price are often unrelated to the strategic drivers of a company’s health, such as customer growth and happiness, R&D and product innovation, or employee recruitment and retention, or even necessarily to a company’s true financial performance. By keeping your marketing activities focused on these business value-drivers instead of solely on its valuation, you will help set your company up for long-term success.