From Startup to $100M Exit: An Electronics Company’s Marketing Success Story

Boston – a great place for a digital marketing agency and a high-tech company to create a case study on best practices for growth

Over ten years ago I took on the best B-to-B agency gig working with a couple engineering and operations experts just north of Boston in Chelmsford, MA who spun out of a MMIC (monolithic microwave integrated circuit) company and started designing custom semiconductor chips for the military. (My agency, Strand Marketing, was also near Boston in Newburyport, MA at the time). They first called themselves Custom MMIC Design Services, Inc., and they funded their startup from US government small business innovation research (SBIR) grants. Due to their incredible microwave circuit design expertise and semiconductor foundry knowledge, they delivered unprecedented solutions that quickly became commercially viable. Having extensive experience and examples of marketing these exact products and several other types of high tech electronics, hardware, and software, Custom MMIC’s investment team provided me and my digital marketing team a modest budget and we architected a strategic marketing and sales foundation that was used to implement an evolving and progressive marketing communications and digital advertising plan. The ride lasted over 10 years and the result for the company this January was an acquisition by Qorvo for over $100M.

Marketing Success Webinar





Recently, I hosted a webinar on this exciting case study of Custom MMIC’s marketing success, and you can find a recording of it here for review at your leisure: www.nowspeed.com/resources_posts/from-startup-to-100m-exit

In this blog, I’ll provide the highlights of the integrated traditional and digital B2B marketing and advertising strategy and the tactics that lead to their success.

Build a Believable Brand and the Leads will Follow

Our first project for Custom MMIC was to help them create and build a recognizable brand name. By dropping the “Design Services” from their name we focused on creating an identifiable icon and font treatment that clearly depicted the world in which they excelled. Among a sea of formidable and well-known semiconductor Goliath’s around the world, this David needed to stand tall and standout. And that’s exactly what we did.

How Many Customers Won’t Visit Your Website?

I asked this question of the Custom MMIC leadership team early on with obvious intention. As they looked around at themselves for consensus, founder Paul Blount confirmed, “Well…I guess zero. They’ll all visit the site at some point to learn about us and download data sheets and such.” This was the groundwork for establishing a commitment to developing their most valuable marketing tool―their database-driven and content managed website. While the content has now been blended into the Qorvo website, what you’ll see by watching the webinar, is a journey through their site that tells the evolving story of an engineering-prospect-driven website that didn’t need to lean on a fancy parametric search or a costly content management system (CMS) to do everything necessary to be found and to create engagement with incredible routine. Originally launched with sortable tables of products and links to PDF data sheets, the site took on new life as we added over 150 new, search engine indexable HTML landing pages of their devices.

Put the O in SEO and the C in PPC

Over the course of my career I’ve been fortunate to be able to work with several of the most innovative high-tech companies around the world both large and small. As a result, I’m provided the opportunity to witness several common denominators of customer behavior that persist year-over-year at company-after-company. One of the most consistent pieces of data I’ve observed, is that the best digital marketing strategy will drive approximately 50% of a high-tech company’s web traffic. Furthermore, the traffic will be highly qualified as it usually represents an engineer during an evaluation period of key components of his/her design. This is the critical hour for any high-tech sales team. For these reasons, I preach the critical commitment that is required to devote time and marketing budget into a content-driven SEO strategy.

Here’s a short list of my best practices and tips for SEO success:

  • Focus on content-driven SEO fundamentals and today’s white hat best practices – create a “keyword cluster” .
  • Create content. Be resourceful. Syndicate via PR and social.
  • Be sure “landing” pages are SEO-rich and on your root URL.
  • Name .pdf files with intention to be indexed and found. “.pdf” is frequently included by engineers in their searches.
  • Be sure your external and internal backlink strategy is integrated with your PR and social media.
  • Use a naming convention for all internal URLs that are readable and meaningful. Bots and humans alike appreciate this.
  • Don’t forget about all those images on your website. Engineers often use the image search function on Google as a way to see physical examples of things on the search engine result page (SERP).

When it comes to digital advertising, or more specifically, Google’s AdWords pay-per-click or “PPC”, my advice is simple―crush your SEO strategy and use digital/PPC advertising to augment your web traffic results from search engines. There are exceptions when competition for keywords is so fierce you have no other choice than to ante up a hefty budget for PPC, but in most cases, a modest budget of $500 to $3,500/month on Google will garner the additional traffic you’re looking for. This presumes, of course, you have someone managing your PPC that really knows what they’re doing. Google doesn’t make it easy for the novice to navigate. The stories are endless of AdWords overspending because of inexperience in managing the dashboard and cost-per-click budgeting mistakes. Additional miscues include not separating your branding ads (created and displayed for people who are simply looking for you and forgot your URL) from your content-driven ads so your analytics are clear; and not focusing enough on the quality and depth of the content on the pages that your PPC ads link to. Google’s quality scoring system gives higher rankings to ads that lead to pages that hit all the check boxes for the visitor.

Content IS King

Like steel is to a magnet, content is to a successful prospect and customer engagement campaign today. In an age in which we are equally concerned about how well we communicate via words and pictures to human consumers as we are about how these digital particles are sniffed out and uncovered electronically, we have to be hyper-focused on the tactical implementation of superior content. This comes in many forms. But my recommendation for high tech and industrial companies is to be resourceful and tactical. Turn your data sheets, applications, and catalogs into html, create an approach to spotlighting products, even if they’re not new, in your news, blog, or “updates” section. Case studies are super, if you can get them approved, but a spotlight featuring a described but nameless company’s challenge and your non-proprietary version of the technical solution, might be just the end around you need to create a 500-750 word story that can garner the attention of search engine robots and prospects alike. One silver bullet piece of content I can recommend is the “Tech Brief”. These 4-6 page “Light Papers” do not require the same intensity of research and scrutiny of many team members, they thought leadership tutorials that any engineering and technical customer or application engineering team ought to be to conjure up a handful of meaningful topics on. They’re gold to every aspect of your digital marketing campaign from lead gen, SEO, and PPC, to social media, PR, blogging, and email marketing.

Other topics covered in the webinar include:

  • How to choose your digital media partners (and your marketing budget) wisely
  • What is the best way to use email marketing today
  • How to approach social media on LinkedIn and Twitter in 2020

(Catch this webinar from my team if you’re looking for the best way to advertise and do non-paid social media on LinkedIn today: https://nowspeed.com/resources_posts/whats-new-on-linkedin-in-2020/ )

  • Trade shows in the era of Covid ― Now what
  • What’s the best integrated marketing communications mix for B-to-B tech companies today
  • How to stay focused on your most meaningful digital marketing analytics

Custom MMIC is just one of many examples of  high-tech manufacturing and software company digital advertising campaigns my team and I at Strand, and now Nowspeed (we merged this February), have helped to grow at a tremendous pace. I look forward to bringing you more insights in the weeks to come.

All the best,

Dave Strand, Brand Director

P.S. If content marketing is another B-to-B marketing tactic you’re looking for answers on and best practices for, you might like to download my recent eBook “How to Product the Ultimate Tech Brief”.

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