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.

Six ways to increase your twitter following

Six ways to increase your twitter following

If used correctly, Twitter can be an influential tool for businesses. It can generate leads, enhance branding, and help you to form connections with potential clients or people relevant to your company, within your field. For all of this to happen though, you need to build up your followers.

Some B2B businesses suggest Twitter isn’t worth a company’s time and effort but Kelly Jo Horton’s article 10 Things B2B Marketers Should Be doing On Twitter discusses a study of 500 adults who follow small and medium sized business on Twitter that discovered:

72% of followers are more likely to buy something from a business they follow.

86% of followers are more likely to visit a business if a friend recommends it.

86% of followers feel more connected with business after following them.

With these results in mind, it’s easy to argue that Twitter is a useful tool to add into the B2B marketing mix. Here are six ways to quickly and simply increase your Twitter following.

Follow more people

This may seem obvious, but you might be surprised by how many people just expect others to follow them automatically. It’s a simple equation: The more people you follow; the more people will follow you back. Plus, more people will learn about your business. Even if they don’t follow back, they now know about you.

Optimise your Twitter bio

Users want to know who you are and what you’re about. They want to know what type of content you will be adding to their feed. Keep it simple, professional and ensure it fully represents your businesses.

Join a Twitter chat

Twitter chats are relatively new, but they can be very effective at finding relevant people to follow and communicate with within your industry. They allow you to learn new things and even show off your expertise. If you’re interested in learning more, why not check out The top 13 Twitter Chats for B2B professionals.  

Follow users who follow your followers

Your followers are interested in your content. Therefore, there is a high chance that their followers will be too. So why not follow them?

You can do this manually, but it can take time, so you can also invest in a range of tools which can quickly do this for you. Tweepi is just one example. For a small fee a month, it will search for followers interested in your topic and engage with users by mentioning them in posts.

This can be a lot quicker than doing it manually and, especially if you work in a fast pace environment, it can be a life saver. Tweepi offers a free package for first time users.

Time relevant content

There is a lot of pressure today to relentlessly come up with ideas that result in interesting content. Twitter also helps in this area, as news breaks on Twitter. To achieve great results with your content you need to be able to embrace in an agile way. Don’t stick to a strict plan of content. Respond, engage and adapt to the latest trends and topics on a day to day basics.

Clean out your list!

It may sound silly but it is important. If the number of people that you follow is higher than the number of people that follow you, then it’s time to clean out your list!

This means getting rid of old accounts, and making sure the ones you follow are actually still active/relevant. If they haven’t tweeted in over three months, I would advise you to unfollow. If you have followed an account which is not relevant to your industry, unfollow them. They are no use to you.

Overall, clearing out your list means getting rid of anyone who hasn’t or won’t take interest in your content. It’s also a good idea to unfollow anyone who hasn’t bothered to follow you back after a notice period of about three weeks. If they don’t want you, you don’t want them.

Once you’ve finished, look for new people that may be of interest and follow them. But try and keep the number of followers you have, higher than the number of accounts that you are following.

To summarise my top six tips that will help you to maximise your Twitter following:

  1. Tweet a lot
  2. Follow relevant accounts
  3. Use great content
  4. Unfollow when needed
  5. Time relevant content
  6. Be active.

It won’t take long and will make a big difference. Twitter has been proven to be an extremely useful tool for B2B marketers, so don’t miss out on it.

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

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A value case for agile marketing

A value case for agile marketing

Agile marketing is a pragmatic and adaptable way of taking marketing ideas, testing them and validating fast. It helps to maximise marketing effectiveness by building on what works best in order to deliver the right result.

Agile marketing is particularly effective for B2B marketing, benefits include:

  • Reducing waste by only using the marketing elements that work best saving budget and time
  • Testing innovative ideas in a controlled way
  • Continually improving the marketing mix to drive results that meet the business goals
  • Reducing costs through greater budget control and accuracy
  • Improving speed to market to build market share
  • Allowing teams to work autonomously and have a clearer understanding of priorities
  • Data driven decision making – fact based, not gut feel

Then you can do more of that and less of the activities that don’t add any value. Understanding what is effective is a key trait for the modern marketer, orchestrating the best possible marketing mix by blending the effective components and discarding those that don’t help you meet your objectives.

If you are selling high value, complex products or services typically targeting senior decision makers they will expect a more personal relationship with any potential supplier.

This has to be built with personalised and tailored messaging and supported with evidence of your credentials. This is time consuming and expensive to manage and maintain, so you certainly don’t want to waste your time on activities that don’t deliver the right results.

There is a huge amount of wastage in traditional marketing – with such investment in planning and preparation up front, marketers are often only just validating the proposition and messaging with their audience as part of a large campaign.

Let’s take a typical campaign for an IT consultancy:

  1. The business develops a proposition idea and it’s agreed that this is a priority. A go to market strategy and marketing campaign need to be developed, fast
  2. Go to market preparation and campaign planning begins including defining a full marketing mix
  3. Campaign elements are created including data building, writing content, designing collaterals etc. – this can be time consuming and costly
  4. Big push / launch to go to market – elements executed into market based on a defined timeline
  5. Campaign measured and results analysed

So what is wrong with this picture? Well for a start you have invested a considerable amount of resource and effort before the proposition has been tested with your target audience. Are they in fact the right target for this proposition, did you even check?

You invest budget in creating campaign assets based on an untested message…you wait and see on the results. Of course the modern marketer is always trying to analyse and learn from results but can such a front loaded process really allow for a true understanding of how the proposition is landing with prospects? Or accommodate more creative ideas to be included and tested with a small sub set of the target group before you go for the wholesale campaign to your entire target database?

Whereas a typical agile marketing process is an iterative process right from validating the proposition idea or the campaign theme with a small group; honing it, discarding poorly performing elements such as messages or calls to action that just don’t resonate or interest the target audience.

Then adding more to the marketing mix, extending the audience etc. to expand the successful elements. It constantly measures results and evaluates against the business, marketing and campaign objectives.

Enabling experimentation and fostering curiosity makes agile marketing even more valuable. Giving you the ability to experiment and measure new ideas, this is particularly useful when you want to take a radical new approach but want to avoid the costs of a traditional campaign or the risk of alienating key target segments. Agile marketing can really help at two key stages:

  1. At the inception of a new proposition or campaign, experimenting with new channels, audiences or tactics on a small scale to prove or disprove effectiveness enables marketers to quickly get into market and drive results
  2. To reinvigorate existing propositions or campaigns where marketing impact is in decline. Using an agile approach to try out some new ideas with a sub set of your target audience can give fresh insight and successful elements can be rolled out across the campaign

As agile marketing is data driven and focuses on exploiting the marketing elements that perform best you continually improve results as you move through a campaign.

You can start with a minimal level of activity which helps you go to market quickly, measuring as you go. Adjustments can be made based on the results and new elements added, measuring the impact of each one.

The idea is to gradually layer the marketing mix with high performing elements that contribute to meeting your objectives and business goals.

When you use agile marketing you still have to agree and commit a budget but as you are continually measuring and learning, the return on investment becomes easier to foresee and quantify.

Digital tools lend themselves particularly well to agile marketing such as paid search or online advertising strategies – where a small budget pot can be allocated to validate the approach before a more sustained investment is made once the tactic is proven.

Core campaign components such as content can be expensive but by validating which elements of the messaging, topic or theme resonate most, any further investment is focused on additional content that will drive results.

Marketers should always set up metrics to report and understand the success of the marketing initiatives being undertaken. The difference with agile marketing is the continual learning and improvements mean any underperforming activity can be reviewed, changed and turned into an element with positive return. Budgets can be more accurately planned as you learn more about the value and return from your marketing activities.

Getting to market fast or first can be a key advantage for firms in fast moving environments such as tech consultancy or products. Agile marketing enables a rapid time to market by going to market with a minimal marketing mix and building on it. This means you can start to grow market share and build your brand whilst investing in the marketing elements that work best.

Building a results focused marketing strategy is streamlined by adopting agile ways of working, giving you the chance to innovate and enhance your marketing approach, as well as manage costs whilst reducing your time to market.

Bright specialise in working with high growth consulting and tech firms to help them get to market fast, build strong brands and attract the best talent to grow their businesses get in touch today to build a business case for injecting agility into your marketing.

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In-house vs marketing agency or consultancy

In-house vs marketing agency or consultancy

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.

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Agile marketing in the B2B space

Agile marketing in the B2B space

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/
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Zoe MerchantAgile marketing in the B2B space
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The era of agile marketing

The era of agile marketing

Marketing is changing; business leaders expect measurable results from their marketing investment. Marketeers working to deliver maximum impact and engagement in B2B marketing are facing scrutiny and enormous pressure to get things done quickly, with a small team and deliver tangible ROI. Long gone are those halcyon days of large marketing teams, big budgets and long, slow burning campaigns with months spent in planning and a year of execution.

Pushing the boundaries of traditional marketing

The dinosaurs of marketing may be gnashing their teeth at the erosion of their budgets and long lunches. But the dynamic modern marketer is stepping up and rubbing their hands in glee at the opportunity this presents to push the boundaries of traditional marketing and reach audiences in innovative ways.

There is a new way of thinking and working which combines rapid time to market with continual improvement to create the best marketing approach. This in turn will maximise results and, therefore, return on investment – welcome to the era of agile marketing.

A lean approach to marketing

Agile marketing allows you to get back to basics. It enables you to strip out all the unnecessary bells and whistles and instead focuses on experimentation and validated learning through measuring iterative cycles of activity.

The goal is to quickly build a plan based on content and marketing activities that deliver the best marketing outcome. It’s a common sense approach to marketing – based on testing a proposition, idea or campaign and then building on its successful elements.

Too many times in the past I’ve seen marketing fail due to bloated campaigns, with poorly conceived content, and a badly executed marketing mix.

Agile ways of working really helps you to step up a notch and improve the quality of what you’re delivering whilst producing tangible results. As Peter Drucker said “Doing the right thing is more important than doing the thing right.”

Having spent 20 years working across both corporate enterprise and dynamic start ups, it’s clear to me that by relaxing some of the marketing planning disciplines, and taking ideas from the Lean methodology, marketers can transform how they go about B2B marketing.

Rather than focusing on the full definition and detailed planning of a marketing campaign at the outset – Bright focus on taking a proposition out to a market with the minimum viable messaging and mix of activities, to test, learn and improve.

This iterative approach means that messages are rapidly sharpened, and the marketing mix can be adjusted and scaled until you have a fully-fledged and measurable approach.

So why should you consider agile marketing?

Often companies begin with an idea for a service proposition or product that they think people will want to buy. Spending months perfecting the positioning, marketing launch and campaign planning without ever sharing the marketing messaging or testing the suitability of key activities (even in a basic form) to a prospective client for feedback. Then they launch the product or service into market and don’t see the traction that they anticipated.

This is often because they didn’t speak with prospects to understand whether or not the product, or service proposition, was positioned in an interesting way; or if the potential benefits help to solve a real business challenge and were clearly articulated.

Ultimately, the audience’s indifference to the offering – shown through a lack of results and poor sales – demonstrates that the target audience either did not understand or did not care about the idea in the first place. The proposition fails, the marketing department gets the blame, and the cycle starts over again…

This is particularly challenging (and expensive!) in B2B professional service and tech marketing since you are often dealing with extremely complex products and services that are very high in value and have a long, costly sales cycle. This means you don’t see marketing return on investment from sales revenue for 6 – 12 months, after the launch of a product or service into market, and that you’re still investing in marketing in the meantime.

Communicate your value proposition to prospects and clients

Effectively communicating a value proposition, and ensuring you convey the value that your solution brings, is hard work. You need to show you understand the challenge your prospective clients are facing, highlight how your proposition will solve them, and showcase tangible value through the benefits that it will bring.

This must all then be backed up with proof points via your credentials. Phew! Exhausting, hard to do and expensive to take to market – not just in terms of money but also in the resources required to work out the best way to position, market and then sell.

Using an iterative agile approach allows you to reduce waste by experimenting and then removing, and/or improving, elements of your marketing plan that do not work as effectively as expected.

Agile marketing the chance to experiment, quickly, and discard things that do not work. Not only does this mean that you can go to market faster, with minimum elements of the marketing mix, but you can also use validated learning to examine the data you collect in order to measure the impact of your campaign and build on its success.

Test, learn and improve

You can start off by validating one or two elements of your marketing. For example, you can test the key messages to ensure they are compelling with a small group of your target audience, test design elements on a web page or social channels, and take forward the best performers and continue to build your plan.

Each agile marketing sprint that you go through improves the mix further and informs on what you need to adjust as you move through different stages of product or service maturity.

This is enormously beneficial in competitive markets, and for enterprise, where marketing may find it hard to break out of reactionary mode and be proactive in order to get propositions out to market fast, build market share and then farm demand.

  • Combined with real time marketing, and the speed and measurability of digital marketing, agile gives you an opportunity to work smarter and build a viable marketing plan, whilst experimenting with market segments, messages and the marketing mix.
  • You also have the advantage that, by the time you’ve iterated through a few sprints, you will have added some early adopter clients that can provide you with established case studies to showcase as you mature your marketing campaign.
  • By taking some of the best ways of working from a startup and entrepreneurial culture, and applying it to your marketing in this controlled framework of agile marketing, you can explore more creative and innovative ideas, test them and add those that work to your marketing plan.
  • The focus on being data driven gives you tangible evidence for the marketing investments being made. This means that you know that they are supporting and contributing to the wider business goals. Peter Drucker was right: “What gets measured gets improved”. Otherwise, how could marketing be held accountable?

I can’t stress enough how important it is to test, learn and improve. If there is one thing that makes embedding agile marketing great it’s that it provides a solid framework for marketing to do just that, and to take the best ideas forward.

It is undoubtedly a lot more satisfying to run campaigns that are effective and deliver results. That’s what I set out to do every time I work with a new client or review the work Bright delivers to our existing ones – agile marketing makes that possible.

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Zoe MerchantThe era of agile marketing
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5 Reasons why agile marketing is key to your exit strategy

5 Reasons why agile marketing is key to your exit strategy

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.

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Zoe Merchant5 Reasons why agile marketing is key to your exit strategy
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4 marketing activities for companies looking to grow or sell

4 marketing activities for companies looking to grow or sell

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”

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4 ways agile marketing accelerates company growth

4 ways agile marketing accelerates company growth

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”

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Five key branding considerations to ensure M&A success

Five key branding considerations to ensure M&A success

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.

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Zoe MerchantFive key branding considerations to ensure M&A success
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Three ways to promote your B2B business on LinkedIn

Three ways to promote your B2B business on LinkedIn

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.

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Zoe MerchantThree ways to promote your B2B business on LinkedIn
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