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Small Business Profile: Heinz Marketing

To follow up on a previous post requesting feedback on topics and offering to highlight members of the community, I learned of Heinz Marketing. Matt has held positions at companies such as Microsoft, Weber Shandwick, Boeing, The Seattle Mariners, Market Leader and Verdiem. In 2007, he started Heinz Marketing to help clients focus their business on market and customer opportunities. For more info, check out his blog.

Problem Heinz was solving for?Many companies approach their go-to-market strategies via separate departments that don’t always talk to each other or work together to form and execute a cohesive strategy for taking great products to market.  The Opportunity?To help fast-growth companies, especially those early in their development cycles, build a strong, actionable go-to-market strategy from the ground up, incorporating all the right elements from sales, marketing, business development, channel, etc. that make sense for their unique business. More on Heinz.

Here is a bit from my interview with Matt… 

When or how did you know that this is what you wanted to do? 

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Funny question, I actually studied journalism and political science in school, then found myself in a PR job soon after graduating.  As I worked through PR, then tactical elements of marketing, then learning sales and business development and beyond, I kept realizing more and more that a complete picture of a company’s go-to-market strategy – not just individual components – was necessary to truly understand and capitalize on growth opportunities.  I wanted to be able to see that entire picture, and help my employer – and now my customers – take advantage of market opportunities in the most leveraged, successful way possible.

What is your passion? 

I love learning, discovering new things, and applying those ideas to both my business and to my customers.  There are so many sources of great ideas all around us every day – the trick is finding enough time to listen, filter what’s important, and taking the time to apply those ideas in a testable, measurable manner to foster growth.

hat’s the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome to start your business? 

It’s probably a similar learning curve to many small businesses – balancing the need to 1) work with existing customers; 2) constantly look for prospective new customers, and 3) run my own business.  Over time I’ve figured out how to balance these more effectively, but doing these three things while still prioritizing my growing family (first child was born April 29th) is an ongoing challenge.

What would you do over again, if you could?

I absolutely would have started actively networking as early as I did, if not earlier.  Over two years ago, I figured I would start my own marketing agency some day.  I immediately started better tracking and keeping in touch with everyone I met professionally.  One of the tools I’ve used is a monthly newsletter, Heinz Marketing Insights.  It started with just 60 or so recipients, but now goes out to ~1,700 recipients each month and growing.  It’s been a great way to stay in touch with a lot of people at once, and now also keep Heinz Marketing’s name in front of them whenever they’re ready for help.

Any regrets? 

None.  I love what I do, love working with my clients, and love the freedom of running my own game.

How do you define success? 

For Heinz Marketing, I have specific goals for annual revenue and client retention.  But with clients specifically, I define success by how well I’m able to help them grow revenue.  Sometimes that’s by increasing customer loyalty and purchase frequency.  Sometimes it’s about accelerating new customer growth, opening into new markets, researching and launching new products, etc.  But if the client is happy and growing their business, that’s success for me.

What are your sources of inspiration? 

In life, it’s my family and my faith that underline everything.  For the business, I’m constantly inspired by people I talk to, read about and hear from every day.  Sometimes it’s industry leaders such as Seth Godin (permission.com) and Andy Sernovitz (damniwish.com/).  Oftentimes, it’s fellow entrepreneurs, business leaders and innovators who are taking risks, trying new things, and achieving their own success. 

What’s the worst thing about running your own business? 

Anything that takes me away from focusing on my customers, which basically means the operations of running the business.  As a small agency, I can run things pretty lean which is nice, but I still have vendors, taxes, legal things to attend to, etc.  Those are all important, but I’m happiest when I’m wrestling with a customer problem or opportunity.

What’s the biggest dream you have for your business? 

It’s too early for me to accurately define that.  I know what I want the business to look like at the end of this year, and have a few different visions for where it could be in 2-3 years.  The methodology I use for helping customers think about, define and execute their go-to-market strategies has been relatively consistent across different customers – size, industry, etc. – so I’ve been exploring ways to better productize and expand the impact of that methodology.

What’s the happiest moment you’ve ever had in your business? 

I wake up every day so excited to be doing what I’m doing.  That may sound cheesy, but I love my job and the impact it has on our customers.  The happiest moment may have been my earliest, literally waking up that first day I was making Heinz Marketing my full-time focus.  The freedom and unpaved path in front of me was exhilarating.

Do you ever think about giving up and getting a job? 

Not really.  There are days when I wonder if the steadiness of a regular job might be less stressful and more predictable, but those moments are fleeting and infrequent. 

What can large businesses learn from a small business like yours? 

I think any business – big or small – needs to be able to constantly listen to customers, re-evaluate their business, and make nimble, quick decisions that can quickly drive greater innovation and growth.  This is often organizationally harder for larger organizations, but there are plenty who do it and do it well.

Every company who gets big has, at some point, done the right things organizationally to be nimble enough to listen to and respond to customers, and do the right things to cross the chasm from small to large enterprise.  Those who stick with the values and culture that got them big typically continue to grow and thrive.

If someone who was about to start a business asked you for advice, what would you say? 

Make sure you have enough cash and/or funding to operate without revenue for at least 6-8 months, likely a year depending on what you’re trying to do.  Cash flow is the single largest problem for most small businesses.  Beyond that, I’d recommend creating a plan for at least the first year, but keep your eyes open to the opportunities you hadn’t anticipated that could help you deviate from the plan, but still maintain focus on your overall vision for the business.

Have you ever failed?

Absolutely.  I actually think failure is a requirement for innovation.  I’ve written about it many times.

“Look over your past month of work.  How often have you failed?  What have you learned from that failure?

If you can’t come up with many examples, think of things you might have done, or tried, but were afraid to do so.

Are they worth trying now?”

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About the Author: Christine Haskell

Christine is a Senior Program Manager at Microsoft with several years experience in the .com industry. She recently started social venture labs, an idea incubator for those leading small mission-driven businesses or organizations looking to create relationships, share ideas and [...]

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