Zoe Merchant

Zoe Merchant

After 20 years delivering B2B marketing strategies in the IT industry, Zoe founded Bright to help tech and consulting firms get the most from their marketing investment. Using agile marketing to test, learn and build on success. Zoe leads the team in delivering results through continual and focused improvements in order to support client’s business goals. A huge foodie and committed turophile – Zoe counter balances this with gymming, running and walking.

2020 B2B marketing: 5 trends to watch

Ensuring a bright 2020 by keeping pace with market change

If you’re active in B2B marketing, you know that change in the tech and consulting industry is nothing new – and nothing to fear. Within the past decade, we’ve seen digital disruption and transformation drive market change in service and product delivery and impacting how we go to market and reach our target audiences effectively.

In B2B marketing, we’ve dramatically changed how we plan, manage and run campaigns – whether it’s putting data insights to work by injecting agility or using personalisation to keep up with shifting markets. The rise of digitally native audiences has also forced B2B marketing to move much of its activity online.

Now, as we enter a bright new decade, we’re about to see even more changes – our ways of working need to evolve to maintain pace and engagement, and use data and insights effectively to build relationships and convert the right people at the right time.  To help you prepare, we’ve gathered the top five trends in B2B marketing this year.

1.    Agile marketing will take charge

Centred around collective, cross-functional and collaborative working in which projects are completed in short periods called sprints, agile marketing lays the foundation for continually testing and iterating your marketing ideas – proving what works and what doesn’t to ensure better marketing results, business outcomes and overall ROI.

But agile working isn’t just about process and technology – there are cultural considerations to bring your organisation along on the journey. McKinsey research found that companies who adopt agile ways of working simultaneously achieve greater customer centricity, faster time to market, higher revenue growth, lower costs, and a more engaged workforce. Learn more about B2B agile marketing.

Why it will matter in 2020

B2B marketers are under more pressure than ever to demonstrate results from marketing investment, and this is expected to drive a rise in agile marketing adoption in 2020. Firms will need to understand and apply new ways of working to align and meet business goals whilst keeping up with ever-changing markets. Agile marketing brings the best of entrepreneurial thinking, start up ways of working and allows enterprises to innovate at scale.

If you aren’t already, this is your chance to really understand your buyer journey and make sure your marketing is driving revenue at every stage of the client lifecycle. By becoming more agile in your approach, you’ll take advantage of the latest trends and market changes to place your customer at the centre of your business.

2.    Partner experience comes of age

Partner experience (PX) has long been a neglected area of marketing. If you want to continue to grow and maximise every revenue opportunity available, then looking at your channel strategy is crucial. The key is to treat your partners as a proper audience – understand their user journey and what they need at every stage.

With an enablement perspective, you can exploit new market opportunities and unlock revenue through your channel. Injecting agility into PX is a great way to start small, such as a partner accelerator or incubator for select partners to supercharge their sales and marketing efforts; or territory specific partner acquisition campaigns to onboard more partners where you need them most. You can test, learn and build on success to create a solid and scalable PX experience.

Why it will matter in 2020

Forester predicts that marketing decision makers will rank improving partner experience on par with improving customer experience in 2020, and both will rise to more than 50%. That’s a significant shift that matches the speed of change we’re seeing in the tech industry. Injecting agility is critical if organisations are going to keep up with competition and build more channel share.

Give your partners the experience they need to support and sell more of your tech and services, and don’t be afraid to stand out and make better use of video, immersive and social prospecting to accelerate traction within and for your channel.

3.    Personalisation at the heart of B2B

Personalisation has been a marketing buzzword for years and the concept of creating personas to form better buyer journeys shouldn’t be new to you. However, we’re about to see increased personalisation in B2B, specifically with a fresh look at how we’re maintaining continuous communication and opening up meaningful dialogue with our key audiences and clients.

Why it will matter in 2020

Gartner research shows that organisations that have fully invested in all types of personalisation will outsell companies that have not by 20% in 2020.  B2B marketers need to step back and think about how they can become more relevant to their key audiences to drive engagement and build relationships for the long term. This must be approached strategically with a willingness to rapidly test and learn in order to be credible and authentic.

Often, marketing can be heavy handed – rushing in with a sales message on a first communication (no one likes a pushy first date!). By using data and insight about the organisational state and target audience, you will be able to craft and deliver relevant, timely and engaging comms. Don’t rush building a credible relationship – be authentic. Senior decision makers have no interest in continuing dialogue with shouty, salesy firms that don’t effectively demonstrate that they have something of value to offer in exchange for their attention.

4.    Predictive analytics will become a key driver to success

One way to support your personalisation techniques is with better data insights from predictive analytics. Predictive analytics is the concept of using your data insights to measure marketing activities, identify trends and predict opportunities to create unique, tailored experiences across each stage of your client buyer journey and throughout their client lifecycle.

You probably have data sat within your existing systems and tools that isn’t being effectively used to identify intent and accelerate your buyer journey. Gartner predicts that profitability will replace customer experience as the CMO’s No. 1 strategic priority in 2022. Using data and insight to make strategic decisions and to drive agility and pace in your go to market strategies will be key to understanding marketing performance and contribution to business goals and profitability.

Why it will matter in 2020

Forrester says that 89% of marketers will use more predictive analytics in 2020. To keep up with the competition, the best thing you can do this year is to make your marketing more data driven.

Evaluate how you’re obtaining, measuring and analysing your data and most importantly, if you’re making the most of your data insights. Then, adopt an AI and predictive analytic tool to deliver insight that will support driving marketing effectiveness and align with business goals to demonstrate success at a business contribution level through marketing performance.

5.    Automation and integration will start to drive autonomous marketing

Automation tools help marketers schedule and publish content, manage teams and analyse data from multiple sources in one, centralised place. With the proliferation of marketing tools, more streamlined integration will enable better insight and allow marketers to focus on maximising the client experience at every stage of the buyer journey.

Manual tasks are starting to become more easily automated, giving you more time to devote to value-adding activities, such as writing longer-form content and offering greater customisation of your services. Find out more about B2B marketing automation.

Why it will matter in 2020

Evaluating and integrating your existing toolset will create quick wins and allow automation to run sequences autonomously to improve conversion rates and engagement with your key audiences. And, automation isn’t just for external marketing – internal comms will benefit from applying the tools, tactics and automation internally to drive and measure employee engagement.

Marketers need to adopt new ways of working to make the most of your marketing technology. With an agile approach, you’ll zoom in on areas of underperformance to drive improvements, and overperformance to understand and repurpose successful automation into other areas of activity.

In summary

2020 will be the year for progressive transformation within B2B marketing. Traditional marketing just won’t make the cut going forward. By understanding how best to adopt agile marketing as a new way of working, streamlining processes and combining the right tools and tech, you’ll be able to adapt and drive change whilst putting your data insights to work to build stronger, clearer marketing strategies for an ever-evolving market.

Want to understand how to get started with agile marketing and transformation? Get in touch with our marketing experts.

 

Zoe Merchant2020 B2B marketing: 5 trends to watch
read more

Leading or lagging: Is your marketing fit for purpose?

No comments

When marketing in a dynamic space, such as tech products, subscription, or consulting services, you have to find ways to stand out and differentiate in order to engage your target audiences. Common sense indeed, but often hard to achieve when markets move at pace. In such dynamic environments, business leadership need to understand how marketing is; and can contribute to achieving business goals. What questions need to be asked to explore the real value of your marketing investment in order to determine if your marketing is fit for purpose? Is your marketing nimble enough to take advantage of ever-shifting markets and different audience needs? Can traditional techniques help you rapidly exploit new opportunities before your competition does? Does your marketing team measure, learn and improve in everything it does?  And can your operating methods balance these competing demands at scale?

B2B marketing now hinges on your ability to execute with agility and pace. This means you need to deep dive into the data to understand performance across a number of dimensions. What’s more, you have to be strategic enough to use that knowledge for driving improvements.

Transform marketing and drive business goals

Forward thinking organisations are looking at how they work more effectively as well as the outcomes they deliver. Agile marketing is a whole new way of working. Well-deployed agile marketing is a thing of beauty; with continually improving harmonious messaging and outreach integrated via the right tools and channels to engage your audience. It’s measurable and results focused to align and contribute to business outcomes, build pipeline and sales. It also builds reputation and strong brands that attract the right talent to your team and creates really compelling (not yawn-worthy) propositions that engage your key audiences.

The best part – it’s data-driven, not fluffy, not led by gut instinct, and not ambiguous. Agile marketing allows you to test hypothesis and is based on measurement and KPIs that inform every action taken.

Mobilising agile marketing

Let’s examine what it takes to move your marketing towards a more agile model, how to avoid some common mistakes and what it means in reality:

Measure and be smart

B2B marketing needs to be personal and relevant. It also needs to be measurable there is no room for fluffy ill-defined marketing tactics that don’t show a business outcome. Your starting point is to focus on persona development and user stories for your target audience. Combined with clearly defined and understood sales stages and understanding what a buyer needs from your organisation at each stage. You also need a good understanding of what’s trending in your markets, what’s important to your decision makers and this has to be continually updated. Bring all this together (prospect, market and sales stage data) to inform and iterate your messaging, tactics and content generation to engage your audience at pace.

You need to map your product or service lifecycle, set benchmark KPIs and establish triggers so you can quickly take actions to either replace underperforming products or services, or repurpose and reposition to maintain growth. Understanding your client satisfaction and behaviours will help you to pivot successfully and tap into new seams of opportunity. You can do this via data analysis, or qualitative research. I cannot stress enough the importance of building strong relationships with your clients; a closed feedback loop will provide you with the insight you need to flex your position, quickly (and help with retention).

Harmonious business development

To drive marketing at pace, you need a strong and symbiotic relationship between marketing and sales. You need to know what good looks like for your organisation and set targets that align sales and marketing to support the business goals. To do this you need to have a good handle on your pipeline and sales funnel. Having a clear end-to-end lead management process, with defined stages to track conversion and KPIs as prospects engage with marketing campaigns and journey through the sales funnel allows you to quickly address areas of underperformance and take action. Your team need to be agile in the way you operate and deliver marketing campaigns to focus marketing efforts where they will make most impact.

Sales and marketing need to be unified and collaborative to continually improve conversion and maximise the contribution of marketing investment. Common mistakes include not involving sales stakeholders in marketing campaign inception, lack of internal communication regarding marketing activities and poor collaboration to understand impact and steer optimisation to improve results.

Sales and customer facing feedback is a key competent when understanding how marketing messaging, tactics and outreach can be sharpened. The result – greater client and prospect engagement, to improve retention and ultimately sell more stuff.

Establishing agile marketing in your organisation

Pace comes through optimising your working practice, and agile ways of working have provided a strong catalyst for growth in the tech industry with continual deployment now the norm.

Marketing can adopt agile ways of working by redefining its marketing operating model in order to execute at pace whilst maintaining control and mitigating risk to deliver results that will drive business growth. Agile marketing gives organisations a significant edge over competitors giving you the ability to go to market quickly without the cumbersome and expensive trappings of a more traditional approach. You start with an idea, test, learn and build on success. Working iteratively and driving execution via sprints scaling as you increase momentum and build on success.

A critical success factor is being data-driven, so it’s evidentiary, which means you aren’t working on ‘gut feel’ alone, you use data at each stage test your hypothesis and prove your instincts are correct. Instead you’re putting effort into iterating and improving to increase performance whilst ensuring you align to your business goals. It’s a model that can rapidly transform your marketing performance in many areas. For example, the ability to rapidly develop and test propositions, deliver always-on agile campaigns that evolve to maintain engagement whilst building pipeline; craft content strategies that are mapped and validated against your buyer journey, and reverse-engineered to ensure the sales interface is supported at every stage to maximise conversion.

Getting started can be hard, start small test, learn and expand. Ideally work with a partner that knows what it is doing to get you up and running effectively.

Marketing as a business driver and competitive advantage

Marketing practice needs to evolve to take the best of agile forward to continually adapt and drive results at pace whist demonstrating marketing contribution through measurable KPI.

Only by working in this way will organisations be able to demonstrate the agility and pace needed to remain competitive in uncertain times. Critically everything is measured and aligned to your business goals which ensures businesses remain relevant to target audiences while maintaining growth.

Zoe MerchantLeading or lagging: Is your marketing fit for purpose?
read more

Ideas to value in 8 hours

No comments

The Bright team love a challenge, especially when it delivers value to us and our clients! That’s why we decided to host a hackathon on our very own website. Because if you’re going to experiment, we’d rather experiment on our marketing before rolling it out to you.

The day was spent turning ideas into business value at super-speed. That was eight hours focused on building a strategy to boost UX, tapping into our content to make it more relevant to you and having a complete rethink about how our website looks and feels.

The day consisted of group ideation sessions, smaller break-outs and bringing our ideas to life. Here’s some pictures from the day…

These agile ways of working are rapidly growing in popularity, particularly with small and medium-size businesses, where resources are limited, and time is valuable. Want to know more about how you can adopt agile methodologies in your marketing? Check out our Minimum Viable Marketing eBook.

Zoe MerchantIdeas to value in 8 hours
read more

In-house vs marketing agency or consultancy

No comments

To compete in today’s markets, businesses need to be more adaptable than ever. Becoming a fast-growing business is the result of a range of factors, of which marketing plays a significant part.

(Check out our Marketing as an Accelerator eBook to find out exactly how significant marketing is for growth.)

But, is it better to have an in-house marketing team or outsource to a marketing consultancy or agency?

1. Marketing experts Vs subject matter experts

In this instance, we would consider those in an agency or consultancy to be holistic marketing experts, with internal employees more likely to be subject-matter experts, specific to their businesses.

Working on a variety of projects and executing marketing plans for a whole host of clients is what marketing agencies do best. The experience gained from working in such an environment is invaluable.

Agencies and consultancies will naturally have a broader understanding of the market from exposure to other industry partners. This visibility can help shape and build strategies that make a client stand out from their competitors.

Having access to a wide network also provides agencies with flexible skills and a fresh perspective, whereas in-house teams often have funneled knowledge.

Arguably, internal employees are subject matter experts, establishing a deep-rooted understanding of the business as a whole. This in-depth knowledge can make for better business understanding and learning, but it has its limitations.

2. More creativity, better results?

In-house, a team will be focused on complying to core business strategies and delivering results. However, this internal focus can often cause teams to become shielded from external macro factors.

Through hiring an outsourced marketing team, it is possible to gain fresh perspectives, which can lead to invaluable insights into the latest trends within your industry. Agencies and consultancies can provide a level of creativity that you simply may not be able to achieve internally – they can be your ‘creative thinking hat’.

Results drive business growth. It is important to ensure that your agency understands your business strategy in order to align marketing plans. When this is done well, an outsourced partner can become an extended part of your team – which drives results!

3. Time is money

In most cases, having an internal marketing team means your approval process will be better streamlined. Fewer emails and more face to face conversations allows for greater visibility and reduced lead times.

On the other hand, by outsourcing to a marketing agency or consultancy, a business is able to free up internal resources to focus on other business tasks. An agency allows you to sit back and focus on other business-critical activity, enabling your existing staff to become more efficient.

Some may argue it is more cost efficient to have an internal marketing team as there aren’t any rush or overtime charges. But, it has been found that agencies provide an average 9% monetary saving and a 15% average time saving precisely for those reasons. When there is a financial penalty for delays, you’re much more likely to move the project along rush faster than when you have all the time in the world.

4. Give your business space to grow

Growth, specifically fast growth, is a key strategic approach for many businesses to maintain competitive advantage in their industry. Why do some businesses grow quicker than others? Marketing.

Marketing is important for getting to those clients you don’t know.

The focus should also be on developing networks and building relationships with external stakeholders. Marketing consultancies have a large network extending to functions that may not be available in an in-house marketing team. They can provide stronger relationships with fewer suppliers.

The real result and key importance of using a marketing agency is freeing up your time to grow internally and externally.

So, what’s better, an in-house or outsourced marketing set-up?

The merits of in house are employees are subject matter experts, fully aligned to their business strategy. Not only this, but activity can be turned around quickly because teams will be working closely and managed by one senior management team. On the flip side, if you’re looking for an agile team, experts within marketing with a full resource behind them including content, creative services, strategy, lead generation and more, then a marketing consultancy is the way to go.

In reality, the sweet spot is somewhere between the two, and that’s what the Bright’s agile marketing hub model achieves.

Agile marketing hub –  bringing together the benefits of both internal and external experts

Bright is a strategic marketing consultancy we’re different to an agency as we focus on using agile ways of working to rapidly drive results by understanding your business, aligning to your goals and making sure marketing is working towards achieving them, at pace. We use our Agile marketing hub model to support high growth and dynamic businesses. This provides clients with a cross functional team combining in-house, Bright’s agile marketing strategy experts and supporting resources – such as creative services, content, data and lead generation– as and when required.

We shape and execute marketing strategies designed to optimise and plug in-house gaps and support business goals. We also focus on driving as much business value as possible for our clients by setting clear KPI that align our projects and campaigns with business goals.

Using our agile marketing we experiment and fine tune each and every go-to-market message, tactic and martech use and execution process to get the best results possible for you.

Read more about how marketing is key to high growth and exit strategies in Bright’s new eBook: “Marketing as an Accelerator” – including commentary from business leaders and investors.

Zoe MerchantIn-house vs marketing agency or consultancy
read more

Agile marketing in the B2B space

No comments

There are over 3 billion social media users around the world*. That’s 40% of the global population.

And whilst the majority use social channels to document their own lives, more and more are using them to build their professional and social networks, find inspiration, do research and, more often than not, for entertainment.

The businesses winning in this space

The B2B businesses prevailing are those actively tapping into this trend. Rather than relying solely on their website, they create a social media marketing strategy that focuses on driving the right content at the right time to the right people.

I know. You’ve heard this before. Surely this is just marketing?

Yes. And no.

The reason certain marketing strategies prevail over others is because they use an agile methodology. They understand that there is no longer a beginning, middle or end to a campaign. Agile marketers are in a constant loop of producing new content, testing, learning, optimising, then repeating the whole process all over again.

And it’s this loop that allows them to find the optimal execution. Because let’s face it, consumers are fickle. What is trending today might very well be last year’s news tomorrow. So rather than planning for six months knowing these plans will be out of date in a week or so, produce a whole host of new creative that can be reworked, retagged, used across different platforms in different mediums. Not only does this stop you chasing your tail when something new hits the market, it means a more comprehensive feedback report specific to your brand and your market – meaning more informed decisions at every stage of your campaign.

Creating a suite of marketing assets can also help when creative fatigue hits, enabling businesses to release new assets even when the momentum of campaign kick-off begins to wear off.

And we’re talking about more than a handful of banner images and well-constructed tweets.

What content should you include in your campaign portfolio?

According to research conducted by Content Marketing Institute, the top six content used by B2B marketers come down to:

  • Social media posts (excluding video)
  • Case Studies
  • Videos (pre-produced)
  • eBooks/whitepapers
  • Infographics (we all love an infographic!)
  • Illustrations

According to a recent study by Magisto, more than one-half of the 545 small, midsized and global businesses surveyed reported creating new video content at least once per week. 26% noted creating new video content daily.

This is a huge step up for a lot of companies who would usually produce one video per quarter.

Thinking creative content

Other content that has huge potential in the B2B space are Podcasts. Done right, podcasts are a valuable piece of long-form content that can earn the time and attention for busy decision makers. eBay, Slack and General Electric are but a handful of companies already demonstrating the value.

Whilst one of the biggest barriers to adoption is a lack of training or knowledge of agile approaches**, this doesn’t seem to be slowing down momentum of businesses introducing agile marketing practices.

A new 2018 State of Agile Marketing Report delivered by AgileSherpas and Kapost finds that an impressive 36.7% of marketers have adopted some flavour of agile marketing. And out of the marketers who haven’t yet adopted agile, around half of them expect to within the next 12 months.

Another deterrent can be a lack of internal resources. Creating a variety of content needed to compete to the speed of social channels today doesn’t need to be expensive, but it does require time, creative juices and a black-cab driver’s knowledge of the Adobe Creative Suite.

Grab an agile partner!

Partnerships with consultancies such as Bright who live and breathe creative are often a cost effect way to get the most out of your content budget. Not only do we have a full-service internal team comprising of wordsmiths, design wizards and expert consultants in virtual marketing and change comms, our capabilities stretch from the trustworthy infographic to video, podcasts to unique customer experiences and embedding agile ways of working.


  

Our marketing methodology also has agile at the heart of it, meaning we pick up all the testing, learning and optimising – leaving you with a suite of assets and one monthly report full of the information you care about and none of the fuss in between.

If you would like to learn more about agile marketing and our approach to content marketing in the B2B space, get yourself a copy of our Minimum Viable Marketing eBook. Or if you’d rather ask us some questions instead, ping us an email instead: hello@brightinnovation.co.uk

*https://mashable.com/2017/08/07/3-billion-global-social-media-users/?europe=true
**http://www.agilesherpas.com/state-agile-marketing-2018/
Zoe MerchantAgile marketing in the B2B space
read more

5 Reasons why agile marketing is key to your exit strategy

No comments

Marketing may not be the first thing that comes to mind when looking at selling your business, or at buying one, but it should sit firmly alongside commercial and financial due diligence. In the same way that a marketing strategy is key to any business looking for rapid growth, it is also a good benchmark of the business’ strength and its potential to deliver a return on investment.

A good marketing strategy will underpin and complement the key elements that business investors look for: strong financials, potential to grow and a competitive position in the marketplace. Mike Altendorf, a London-based advisor and investor, observes that “marketing plays a big role in the value of a business. Buyers will often look for businesses that have an effective and proven marketing strategy and delivery – but it’s also key to attracting the attention of the buyer in the first place.”

So, what are the top five reasons why marketing is key to your exit strategy?

For further insight into why agile marketing is a critical driver for growth , download our eBook: “Marketing as an Accelerator”

1. A strong sales pipeline

Marketing is key to every aspect of a strong sales pipeline. It plays a big part in generating leads, securing repeat sales and turning prospects into new clients.

Organic growth can only take you so far, so a strong pipeline –  created by strategic agile marketing – is a key element of fast growth. It indicates the ability to adapt and capitalise on market change, resulting in a higher potential profit, a better return on investment and therefore a better valuation – making the difference between a mediocre sell price and an excellent one

2. Sharp, consistent messaging

A sharp, consistent message comes from a strong value proposition and expert marketing. Being able to wear your brand on your sleeve means potential buyers know exactly what your business stands for and what you’re selling, giving a good idea of what they are investing in. Marketing ensures that the value proposition is front-of-mind and never wavers; it cuts across everything that potential customers, buyers or investors, see, hear or feel from the company.

3. A clear brand and effective website

Brands sell. They sell products and they sell businesses; they generate superior leads and attract high-quality investors. And websites are often the first point of contact with a brand. When done well, they are an opportunity to showcase the best that the company has to offer and an asset to the sales pipeline. But when done badly, they are detrimental to fast growth. Investors are unlikely to consider a company if little effort has been put into its brand, of which a good website is a key element. It’s important to make that great first impression – then carry it through to closing.

4. High brand awareness

As important as a brand is, it is absolutely worthless if no one knows about it. And this is where marketing comes into its own. A great marketing strategy is essential to high brand awareness and the best strategy combines creative ideas, partnerships, great content and leveraging customer referrals. Data-driven metrics are also essential as they provide a constant review of the marketing components in play.

If the above factors are implemented, the application of the strategy should, in theory, catch the attention of potential customers, but it’s the metrics that will catch the buyer’s or investor’s eye. You can’t argue with the hard numbers, and if they show a growing, profitable business and a busy pipeline of new clients, it puts the seller in strong stead with those wishing to buy.

Learn more about branding for Mergers and Acquisitions in this article.

5. Capitalising on the potential of social media

Out of the 3.5 billion internet users around the world, 3.03 billion are active on social media, giving businesses two important opportunities:

  • the chance to build a greater brand awareness on platforms specifically aimed at target groups, and
  • the potential to give customers, prospects or investors a deeper, more personal connection with the brand.

The reason it works so well is because companies can show personality, and interact with potential customers, clients and industry leaders on a one-to-one, more personalised level. It builds brand awareness through thought-leadership and content-sharing, as well as building an emotional connection with competitions, giveaways or referrals. A strong marketing strategy will ensure that it’s a tool that leads to potentially lucrative relationships and sales

Marketing maximises the value of your business

A strong marketing strategy is one of the core elements of any exit strategy. Combined with its ability to enable high growth, it is something all leaders should be encouraged to implement at the beginning of their business journey for the five reasons featured above.

This can be achieved by partnering with expert marketers in-house or bringing in outside consultants. Either way, aligning your sales and marketing, and establishing a clear brand are essential to the longevity and profitability and, ultimately, saleability of your business.

Read more about how marketing is key to high growth and exit strategies in Bright’s new eBook: “Marketing as an Accelerator” – including commentary from business leaders and investors.

Zoe Merchant5 Reasons why agile marketing is key to your exit strategy
read more

4 marketing activities for companies looking to grow or sell

No comments

Anyone interested in buying your business needs to know that it will continue to grow without you

As well as showing your business will continue to grow, buyers want to see that your sales and marketing teams are fully integrated, key stakeholders are invested, and you can successfully generate new interest as part of an overarching growth plan for your business.

Whether you have an internal team or work side-by-side with a marketing agency or consultancy, you need a clearly defined marketing leadership team driving ideas forward, with their full attention on growth activities.

The next four points look at how agile marketing can bolster business growth – making you more attractive to consumers and potential acquirers.

To hear exclusive insights from industry experts on how to leverage marketing to enable high growth, download our eBook: “Marketing as an Accelerator”

1. Plan for growth

Marketing plans are unique to every business.

The first step to developing an effective marketing plan is conducting a market analysis. This not only studies the dynamics of a specific market within a particular industry, it looks at evolving opportunities and threats that relate to your business’s own strengths and weaknesses. For a business looking to sell in the future, part of this is determining who potential acquirers might be.

To get the full benefits of a market analysis, we use this approach:

Performance diagnostic and market perception

First you need to understand your current customers, how they behave, how you are marketing to them and what seems to be working best. It’s also advisable to look at what your competitors doing, and if there are any trends likely to disrupt your efforts.

Objectives

Once you’ve completed your research, the next step is to look at what you need to achieve vs what you want. Optimism is never a bad thing, but we recommend leaning on the side of pragmatism when setting your objectives. Keep in mind the people you are competing with and establish a differentiation between your strategies and theirs. It’s also worth noting what you need to be doing to appeal to buyers in the long-term. You also need to consider how your marketing operation works and if it is agile and adaptable enough to support your business growth plans?

Plan of action

You’ve set your objectives, so now you just need to work out how to make those objectives a reality. If you have a marketing team or agency, use them to create a plan that is agile and focuses on: driving more of your successful activities and introduces new marketing activities in line with your objectives to support growth.

Kick-off:

There’s no time like the present! Brief your marketing and sales teams to implement the new strategy, and off you go – remember to set clear KPI and use data to understand performance by testing, learning and improving as necessary.

As well as optimising your marketing strategy, another benefit of a comprehensive plan is to give buyers confidence in your business. You’re not just thinking about growth, you’ve put in place a structure that allows it to happen – which is far more appealing. And regular reporting and analysis show that marketing efforts are an ingrained part of the business, not just a side show.

2. Stakeholder buy-in

For too long, marketing has been considered the ugly and costly step-child of the business, falling short of the bustling sales and innovative technology departments.

Yet marketing actions have been proven time and again to increase sales, promote and retain customer loyalty, and enable businesses to talk to people who have a genuine interest in their product or offering.

And still, it’s not uncommon for companies to leave marketing and sales to operate as entirely different entities. Which is peculiar, when both are set on the same goal: securing business and driving growth.

To have a successful growth plan, marketing needs to be feeding the top of the funnel for sales to convert further down the pipeline. Having a strong alignment between these two elements can bolster sales efforts by:

  • Generating more leads
  • Shortening sales cycles
  • Retaining more customers
  • Improving conversion rates
  • Forecasting more accurately
  • Implementing continual data driven improvement fuelling growth plans that work.

To achieve these results, both teams need to come together using an agile marketing hub approach to work towards aligned objectives, have complimentary systems and processes, and have strong communication and support from key stakeholders.

This buy-in from stakeholders is not only good for growth, it is also vital from a buyer’s perspective as harmony across the company is significantly more prosperous.

3. Build a pipeline to align your sales and marketing

Research today suggests that the majority of a buyer’s journey is complete before the sales team is engaged. This means there is more onus on marketing to influence a buyer’s decision earlier, especially as individuals are conducting more of their own research. But that doesn’t mean sales is out of the picture.

For customer acquisition and retention, sales and marketing need to become one force. The reason this works is because it responds directly to how the buyer journey has changed. Rather than regurgitating the same tactics, businesses are looking for fresh ideas to drive growth in their sales. Adding value comes from implementing real change, and sometimes this means introducing new processes that align teams that have historically not seen eye to eye.

Clear understanding of the buyer journey, lead management and defined qualification within your pipeline stages does just that.

By instilling the right culture, engaging your people work collaboratively and putting in place a strategy that influences people far beyond your personal network, you are automatically making your business more attractive to not only to prospects and customers, but also to potential buyers.

4. Make music, not noise

There’s a big difference between making noise and making music.

Whilst making noise is a traditional way of attracting attention, when there are over 2 million blog posts published every day, it won’t be enough. This is where marketing can help.

As mentioned above, understanding who your potential acquirers are can greatly impact how you approach your business objectives. Any market analysis should detail your investors’ profiles, identifying the content they read and where they read it, their interests and, in some cases, their dislikes.

To make music that gets the right attention, you want to become visible to possible investors in an authoritative sense. Wherever your investors are reading, that’s where you want your content featured. Whatever they are reading, that’s where you want your name mentioned. You want to get people in their close circles talking about your business, your offerings and the solutions you provide.

In the words of Nate Redmond, managing partner at Rustic Canyon Ventures, “the best companies are bought, not sold. We believe it is important to keep the focus on the long-term horizon until buyers come calling.” This means focusing a small percentage of your time on an exit strategy, but the majority building a real business that can scale.

Putting agile marketing to work to drive growth and acquisition

The above looks at just four ways marketing can help you plan for growth and make your business visible and attractive to potential acquirers. But marketing doesn’t stop there.

Using our unique capabilities and agile marketing methodology, Bright helps build integrated plans that drive success and growth for your business in both the short and long term. We collaborate with key stakeholders, building that bridge between sales and marketing to ensure you can roll out a growth plan that bolsters your business.

For more in depth analysis on how you can leverage marketing to enable fast growth, download our eBook: “Marketing as an Accelerator”

Zoe Merchant4 marketing activities for companies looking to grow or sell
read more

4 ways agile marketing accelerates company growth

No comments

Networks help businesses survive. Getting the clients you don’t know, that’s how businesses thrive.

From generating a pipeline of quality leads to creating a more attractive package for buyers, marketing acts as a business accelerator by bolstering sale efforts and influencing the tens of thousands beyond your personal networks. If you’re still not convinced, check for yourself why agile marketing is so important to your business’ growth:

1. Uncovers your value proposition

Choose Uber and you’ll get a ride at the touch of a button. Use Mailchimp and you’ll not only build your brand, you’ll sell more and send better emails. Head to the Colonel, and you know you’ll leave with a finger licking good meal.

Nobody wants the first thing they read about a brand to be a long-winded evaluation of something unrelated to the core offerings. People want to know how you’ll save them time or money, or where they can find some tasty chicken. And that’s why the brands mentioned above have thrived.

All of them have spent time clearly defining their product or service offering. They have developed a unique value proposition, branded it, marketed it and capitalised on it. All things that fall into a marketer’s remit.

In the words of Kevin Hochman, brand president and chief concept officer for KFC: “When Kentucky Fried Chicken was at its best and growing the fastest, the Colonel and his values were at the centre of everything we did. … Those values are critical to what makes Kentucky Fried Chicken so great”

But what happens when your business has a little more meat on the bones and can’t be served deep fried in a bucket?

It shouldn’t and doesn’t matter what your offering is. A value proposition is a promise of value and is arguably the most important part of your overall marketing messaging. It is a clear statement that tells prospects why they should invest in you.

“Marketing is invaluable in helping businesses to explain their services concisely, so that someone easily understands what you do and why they should buy from you – which is of course key to helping your business grow” – Steve Anderson, Managing Partner at Capitalise.

In short, take time defining the values that make your business such a tempting service – it’s what separates you from your competition. Once established, amplify your value proposition to targeted prospects in a way that resonates with them long after they’ve engaged. In doing so, you’ll remove unnecessary hurdles and instead, give them every reason to invest.

Hear more analysis from industry experts in our eBook: “Marketing as an Accelerator”

2. Builds a pipeline

Less is sometimes more – even in the world of business.

Forrester – a market research company – found that 99% of leads never convert to customers. So, whilst high numbers look impressive on paper, sales need revenue, not thousands of cold leads in the top of a funnel. This shift from quantity to quality in the B2B space is what prompted the evolution from lead generation to pipeline marketing and now maximisation of customer lifetime value.

Rather than focusing on generating new leads, pipeline marketing concentrates on delivering customers. It does this by aligning marketing and sales’ decision making and goals with revenue generation – not campaign diagnostics.

For Paul Beaumont, Growth Director at Equiteq, the pipeline is an extension of the value proposition; “once you’ve defined the value your business offers, you can be clear about the clients you’ll market to, and your messaging”. The pipeline approach is about specifically targeting the customers you want, and those who will benefit from your offering, rather than exhausting your efforts on everybody who owns a computer or email account.

It’s also worth noting that when it comes to lead prospecting, the more successful businesses don’t buy their fuel from the pump. They also don’t rely solely on personal networks. Instead, they build and nurture a pipeline to maintain a velocity in their sales stream. They keep their database up to date, too.

According to LeadGenius data, more than one-third of a business’s contacts become outdated each year, with data becoming dormant at a rate of more than three percent each month. Whilst GDPR gave companies a good reason to audit their database, cleaning data is a necessary evil that needs to be completed regularly. Not only does it keep marketing and sales efforts meaningful, it allows you to effectively monitor the health of your sales life cycle and tweak where necessary.

3. Establishes your brand –  inside and out

In a recent Channel 4 documentary ‘Inside Dior’, a view was expressed that you need to ‘exploit your past to cement your future’. While Dior have certainly evolved with the times, their approach to fashion has fundamentally remained the same: absolute elegance and creative audacity.

The same thinking can, and should, be applied to any brand. It’s about recognising the foundations of your business, building a brand on those values and remaining true to these as you grow.

As Mike Altendorf – advisor and investor – recognises, marketing is more than just attracting new clients, “it also helps to establish your brand, builds your reputation and, as you get bigger, ensures your brand is as strong internally as it is externally”.

Whilst consistency in external-facing work is self-explanatory, internal marketing is just as important when it comes to sales. Why?

  • It establishes a powerful emotional connection between your team and your products/services
  • It creates staff loyalty, as you’ll give them a reason to buy into the company vision
  • Without that connection, it’s likely your employees will undermine the expectations set by your advertising

It is often easier to live and breathe certain company’s values when these have remained mostly unchanged during a company’s history. When a company experiences a fundamental change (new management, acquisition, new team structure…) however, most experience some form of internal resistance.

Nobody likes change, and during this time, employees will be seeking direction from senior employees. Seniors on the other hand will be hoping to squash unproductive rumourmongering. These turning points are ideal opportunities for an internal branding campaign to direct people’s energy in a positive direction, to harbour a consistency of thinking across the business and to vividly articulate the value proposition.

Royal London seized such an opportunity last year when they decided to evolve how feedback was captured across the business. They created a culture pod as part of a companywide internal communication campaign, canvassing the views and opinions of more than 50% of employees from every level and area of the business. The goal was to resonate with the hard to reach, establish a shared vision amongst staff and deliver a great experience supported by the core values. It worked: new business growth was up 28%, and morale was boosted, too.

4. Attracts buyers

In the words of Mike Altendorf, “buyers will often look for businesses that have an effective and proven marketing strategy and delivery model – but it’s also key to attracting the attention of the buyer in the first place.”

If your company is already making the right noise in the marketplace, it is likely buyers will come to you with interest. But this is just the first hurdle.

Buyers often make judgements based on first impressions and gut instincts. Expect this and ensure the complexities of your business’s “story” are captured in marketing materials – not just the financial statements. Without presenting a strong narative, buyers are unable to understand that last’s year numbers were down because a squirrel caused a company-wide blackout, costing the company in downtime –  it happens more than you think.

Another important factor for buyers is the longevity of the business they are about to buy. This includes having confidence in revenue streams and staff retention.

A company is far more attractive to a potential buyer when their bottom line doesn’t depend on only one or two large clients. Having a holistic marketing strategy in place shows that you have considered activities that drive growth and new business opportunities. Using an agile marketing approach shows alignment between your marketing and sales team –  a task your new investors will not have to orchestrate. A healthy pipeline is equally influential as it will demonstrate movement in the sales stream and pinpoint successful tactics to build on.

Strong internal branding and communication can also bring confidence to investors, as employees are more likely to be loyal to the brand rather than simply individuals. This is important because potential buyers need to know that key employees won’t jump ship after a sale, and that the business is capable of growing with new management or in your absence.

Fast forward with agile marketing 

Using our unique capabilities and agile marketing methodology, Bright helps build integrated campaigns and marketing transformation projects that drive success for your business in both the short and long term. We enable businesses to accelerate growth quickly and profitably — triggering a positive impact, without the disruption.

For more in depth analysis on how you can leverage marketing to enable fast growth, download our eBook: “Marketing as an Accelerator”

Zoe Merchant4 ways agile marketing accelerates company growth
read more

Five key branding considerations to ensure M&A success

No comments

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) play a key strategic role for organisations looking to maintain a competitive advantage in their industry for many years.

However, there are some key steps that must be taken to give these deals the best chance of success, particularly around marketplace positioning and stakeholder engagement. These two factors are heavily influenced by the way an organisation positions its brand.

With this in mind, we’ve identified five brand considerations that an owner or founder should develop as part of their M&A plan in order to support a successful outcome.

1. Develop a brand roadmap

Critical to the success of a merger and acquisition, the fundamentals of a brand transformation must be in-place as early as possible during the process. The best way to do this is to create a clear plan that so that you know how, what and who you need to manage and communicate to during the process. This doesn’t necessarily mean communicating as early on in the process as possible – because that might unnecessarily unsettle staff – but there should be a roadmap that indicates when terms of agreement are expected to be signed and how internal and external stakeholders will be managed at this point.

2. Consider your competitors

An often overlooked, but key consideration to any M&A process, is the reaction that both you and your partner’s competition will have to the news of your merger or acquisition. Not only are you expanding your business offerings and capabilities, but you’re also increasing the competition that you face in your market.

  • How will the competition react?
  • What do you need to do to prepare?
  • Are there any negative aspects of the deal that a competitor might highlight?
  • How will your new offerings compare to theirs?

It’s important to preempt any issues that might arise and proactively communicate the strength of your offering, demonstrating its strength to both your clients and the wider market, whether through media outreach, digital marketing channels, direct marketing campaigns and events.

3. Consider your clients

No matter its size, audience, history or demographic, a company will always be defined by its actions, not its words. How a company engages with its clients shows what it truly represents. You must think carefully about how you communicate with both existing and future clients. There are often many different segments within a client base, and communicating with them all individually demonstrates sensitivity to their specific needs. The M&A process affords you the opportunity to make a statement with your new brand and enhance the service you deliver, creating new and unique value. 

4. Define a vision for your employees

During the M&A process, it’s vital to establish a position about the new brand that gives employees something to engage with and believe in. When it comes to defining your brand vision, remember that for employees, a brand is often an emotional trigger. If you’re asking them to walk away from something they helped to build, you need to give them something to walk towards that is equally, if not more, compelling.

5. Communicate your message

It is important to create a consistent narrative to help your stakeholders understand what a deal means to them, both in the short and long term. You need to have clearly defined messaging for all of your audiences, from your future and current clients, to your investors and your employees. For example, both your employees and clients will be concerned about consistency and disruption to the business, but perhaps for different reasons. Employees will be primarily concerned with job security and culture, whereas clients are more likely to be concerned about quality of service. Your messaging will need to reflect these nuances.

Branding plays an undervalued role in the success of the M&A process, and communication is key to brand success, both internally and externally. This falls under the scope of a skilled and experienced marketing team, something that is often beyond the capabilities of most in-house resources. By working with a strategic marketing consultancy you gain access to a wide range of skilled industry experts, allowing you to focus on building your business and becoming an attractive M&A opportunity.

Zoe MerchantFive key branding considerations to ensure M&A success
read more

Three ways to promote your B2B business on LinkedIn

No comments

LinkedIn is by far the most important social network for reaching out to prospective clients and connecting with professionals. Therefore, one needs to have a strong process in place in order to establish thought leadership, conduct market research and build online communities.

According to the ‘State of B2B Social Media Marketing 2015,’ not only do 91% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn, but 80% of all B2B social media leads come from the social network itself. It’s important that businesses keep these statistics in mind, and give LinkedIn the attention it demands. But what is the best way to promote your B2B business on LinkedIn?

You will need to have created a separate business profile in order to showcase your company (rather than just a single employee). Your company page represents your organisation as a brand and helps in building and establishing your credibility – it is also vital for talent requirement.

Having tried and tested various methods over the past 4 months, I have chosen my favourite 3 top tips to promote your B2B business, which I think are the most beneficial:

1. Update frequently

I would recommend using your company LinkedIn page more frequently than expected, I suggest posting 1 to 2 times a week. Any special news or completions of projects should be shared with the LinkedIn network as soon as possible to display that your business is moving forward.

Keeping potential customers updated with the progression of your company will help to reassure them that you are worth putting their money into.

2. Encourage employee interaction

There is nothing worse than spending time and energy creating a LinkedIn post that gets minimal likes, comments or shares. In order to increase the influence of your company page, you need get your staff members on board.

It is very important for employees to interact with the posts that are being sent out each week. They should share the articles and push them out to their own connections.

If a potential lead sees that your company page is followed by professionals with skills and experience, then your credibility will become more solid, increasing the potential of a new client.

Ensure that your team know how important their engagement is and encourage them to like and share relevant content.

3. Build a multimedia profile

Have you ever looked at a LinkedIn profile and lost interest the moment you laid eyes on it due to the huge chunk of text the user expects you to read? To instantly stand out, you need to build a visual profile.

Your personal page is just as important as your business page, LinkedIn allows you to include photos, videos and even presentations to set you apart from your competitors. Add in any projects you are currently working on, or, if possible, publish the work you have written to show off your talents. This will provide prospective clients with visual examples of what your company has to offer.

Not only does this tactic showcase your business, it also makes your profile look far better and makes you seem like a more approachable person. Win win.

The example is from our very own, Zoë Merchant, Managing Director of Bright, she displays a good example of how to engage your prospects through LinkedIn.

There are many ways to promote your business using LinkedIn, the three methods mentioned are tips to get you started that will not take long.

Contact the Bright Team to see how we can help you further optimise your social platforms for best results.

Zoe MerchantThree ways to promote your B2B business on LinkedIn
read more