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.

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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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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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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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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With social media, let’s take over the world

With social media, let’s take over the world

Pinky: Gee, Brain, what do you want to do tonight? Brain: The same thing we do every night, Pinky – try to take over the world!

This could be a typical conversation between two B2C marketers, anywhere in the world, who are primed and ready to use every weapon at their disposal to reach their audience. This is pretty much what the likes of Coca-Cola, Nike and other giant consumer brands have done –– taken over the world.

But what if this could also be true for B2B companies? You’re probably not buying it – so let me explain.

Since the emergence of Social Media channels, some B2B companies have spotted the opportunity to reach their audiences – LinkedIn, SlideShare and Twitter are examples of where B2B brands have begun to take the space. There seems to be an unwritten agreement that only the so-called “professional” Social Media channels are valuable or – fit for purpose – for B2B brands.

Although this statement probably held some weight when B2B content was limited to serious content, we certainly have the right to challenge this status-quo and question its validity.

Bring your audience where you want them to be

Most people will tell you that you need to be where your audience is, but it is equally important to be able to take your audience to places that they haven’t yet been. On the so-called professional Social Media channels, you can find both serious and story-telling content. But why not use non-professional Social Media channels as a chance to connect with customers on a deeper emotional level?

Many of us would be annoyed by a B2B white paper pop-up promotion on Facebook or a 6 second salesy B2B promotional video on Instagram. But that does not mean that we cannot use these channels to offer something different, something fitting, to connect with the audiences accessing these platforms. It is not to say that we should all-together abandon the so-called professional platforms – but we should complement them with other social media channels. The end goal is to create a strategy that encourages the creation of a personalised digital ecosystem, to further fulfil economic and branded goals.

This no doubt comes with great challenges for B2B companies because you will need to have a pretty strong Social Media strategy to do so. But some socalled “un-sexy B2B industries” have already succeeded.

Social Media is like playing Jazz

Maersk is one of the best examples of a successful brand on social media. Jonathan Wichmann, the Social Media leader has managed to make the shipping industry ‘sexy’ and has created a very strong brand. They have created a fine balance juggling between professional and non-professional platforms, to create different experiences for different audiences. And to avoid straying into the territory of dry, boring and safe posts on Social Media, remember his quote:

“As a jazz musician you respond to the moment and the vibe. Great jazz musicians play a new version every time. You get closer to the audience. Continuing the jazz analogy: There is a lot of improvisation in it. You just need a clearly defined structure. You must not try to control it just as you cannot control the rhythm of jazz. It evolves with the situation and the audience’s feedback, like the most advanced kind of rhythmical music.”

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Zoe MerchantWith social media, let’s take over the world
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To or through Partner Marketing – What’s the difference?

To or through Partner Marketing – What’s the difference?

Guest Blog:  Jacqui Sasserath is the founder of Channeliser, a matching service for IT companies looking for IT partners. In this blog, Jacqui describes the 3 key actions to create a strong and successful marketing partnership.

We @channeliser are frequently asked what is the most effective use of marketing spend?

1. Should we focus on partner enablement and building understanding of our proposition so that they can, in turn take the message to their customers?
2. Or should we be generating demand with direct prospecting and customer marketing?
3. Or perhaps a hybrid of the two – operating a marketing campaign to customers but doing it “through” my partners?

And the answer is simple – know your partners!

Capture the “to partner” value proposition

You know the value of your product to the customer, so now is the time to re-evaluate what is the value to the partner?

It will be something quite different. Try and list the 5 things that could turn a partner’s head and capture their attention about your offering – it may be as simple as incentives, it may be the lack of complexity and ease of doing business with you and it may delve into the technical functionality.

Remember most good resellers have many other vendors vying for their attention and resources so you need to standout and really have an engaging message as to why a partnership is of benefit to all.

Profile your partners

Now turn your attention to the complex matrix that is your partner community. Individual profiling should help you see if they target a specific vertical, do they operate in a niche sector, or focus on small businesses, or only deploy in the cloud and what other vendor products make up their portfolio and proposition.

This vital exercise is something frequently forgotten but is absolutely essential to ensure you are getting the most from the market opportunity. Having partners that sell into different market segments will not only keep them happy as they will not compete too heavily with other partners but will also ensure you are spreading your marketing messages across the widest possible market opportunity.

If you discover you have gaps in your market coverage try Channeliser to find new partners.

If you are truly partner centric – ask the partners!

You are now ready to target your partners with the right questions to the right people with the right messaging.

Ask marketing if they would like to run a joint campaign with a carefully thought through messages? Ask sales and pre-sales what they need to help sell your solutions. Ask the CEO how satisfied they are with your overall performance as a vendor and what you can do to improve?

Embedded in each of these “asks” are the key messages that relate to that target audience and based on your “understanding” of the partner.

This isn’t a blanket email to your whole partner community, this is a well-thought out strategic plan with tailored individual messages and an open format for discussion with each partner.

Their level of engagement will guide you as to who is going to be “with” you over time

And their answers will guide you as to the decision and make up of your marketing budget; to customers and to partners and the mix of through partner marketing.

– Jacqui Sasserath, Founder of Channeliser

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Zoe MerchantTo or through Partner Marketing – What’s the difference?
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Let’s talk about inspiring leadership

Let’s talk about inspiring leadership

Guest blog: Julie Provino, from VeryHR talks about how to be an inspiring leader.

How many of these articles have I come across which constantly strive to make you feel full of energy and motivated about who you are as a leader, company owner or simply as a human being. I’ve personally looked into probably hundreds of different leadership principles, from the work hard play hard 90’s ethos, to the heart centered leadership which is increasing in influence at the moment. Have any of these truly understood and conveyed a definitive rule book around leadership and how to be successful within our organisational cultures? I have yet to see one.

Let’s focus on you

Have all of these principles been enough to truly change who you are or how you act around people?  I, like many others and maybe even yourself have downloaded many apps, subscribed to many tweets, blogs, podcasts, ted talks and magazines to get a constant source of ideas and reminders of what I strive to be each and every day. My bookshelf is groaning from the weight of books which I will read one day, following the latest fads and simply gathering dust, lots of ideas and little action. If you ever do find that definitive book with all the right principles and theories, please let me know.

For me, I have come to a different conclusion in my own mind around leadership and what it involves. In order to define what leadership means to me, I will always start with asking myself about what mark I want to leave on the business world, on my world. I want to be innovative, lead authentically, encourage others to be the best that they possibly can be and constantly push my business to break convention whilst maintaining a work life balance that suits my needs. In my world, this is used to be quickly followed by a “dream on” statement.

So the questions that I started asking myself and that I still ask every day are:

  • “Who am I? “,
  • “What resources are in my hands right now?”,
  • “Who do I want to be?” and
  • “How do I want to leave my mark on the world?”

These are questions that allow me to find the authentic me, the natural leader within me. Not someone else’s expectation of what my leadership should be.

Like many others, I run my own business. I have deadlines, I strive to meet my client’s targets and maintain my own personal goals. I run several diaries at the same time, one for work, one for the family, another for my now non-existent social life. From time to time, I will set some time aside to reflect, plan, and re-organise my life using the questions I have asked above, even then every so often its easy to return to old habits.

And I know I am not the only one? Right? Rings a bell? Does that make me a bad leader or should I say inspirer? Do we not all slip from time to time? As long as it makes us stronger or better it’s a good thing, isn’t it? Because there is no failure, there is only feedback to be the better version of me I strive to be

Where I have come from helps me find my direction

I have found that seeing where I have come from has helped me find my direction and see where I am going. So, who are you really? How have you come to where you are at today? Are you capable of telling your story to others?

Take some time to draw a horizontal line, and start plotting along it your professional career, from how it all began to where you are today, to where you want to be tomorrow and beyond.

Ask yourself those questions “Who Am I?”, “What resources do I have right now?”, “Who do I want to be?”, “What Mark do I want to leave on the world?”

Notice, are there any trends, or people you have met along the way who have had a defining impact on who you are today? Who are they? What was their story? What you experienced in their impact on you is their leadership, the way they inspired you is their influence.

  • Did they feel they were a leader?
  • Did they inspire you without knowing it?
  • Have your defining moments being influenced by someone intentionally leading you or were they just doing what they do?
  • Were they being there authentic selves?

Where are your key achievements and learnings

Looking at your timeline what are your key achievements and learnings, is that not enough to start inspiring others from? Is there going to be a time when you are fully ready or can you inspire now? Why put off what you can already do? I guarantee that today you influenced at least one person without knowing it.

In my role as HR advisor, I see many so called leaders taking on a role: the friendly boss, the democratic leader, the empire builder, the David Brent. Well here’s the breaking news. Like I said before there is no definitive rule book for leadership. Some leadership styles will perform complete lobotomies on people and others will get you running for the hills. What works for one will not always work for everyone.

Understanding who you are and what your story is will bring you closer to being fully authentic and aligned with what you are looking to achieve. Behind your story will be your values and beliefs, what you are seeking to achieve, what your company seeks to achieve is all within you.

What more noble cause to follow than the one that you have set for yourself? Others will be inspired by that. Just think about that for a moment, when you are running from one meeting to the next, picking up voicemails, and creating 30 to do lists, how can things be different for you to inspire others? What can you do in your own leadership that will put you on track to be the leader you want to be? The direction is within you.

My own timeline and asking those questions gave me insight into my own values and beliefs. For me, I value creating win-win-win, situations. A win for me, a win for those I do business with and my team, and a win for the direction I want to travel in. If I do not achieve these three wins then why am I in business in this modern era?

My ethos around leadership is based on this. It is to be “Good, kind and present”, be good in my intention to create these win-win-win situations through my leadership. Be kind in the way I deal with those around me as they are my potential for success, and be Present in the now, because giving my 100% presence to what is before me will give me the 100% presence of those I inspire.

Presence brings with it the energy and ability to innovate, to be flexible, to be creative and to find solutions. Presence also brings the guts to make the tough decisions and the drive to get through and complete any challenge that is set before me. It allows me to foster the right cultural environment to create success allowing everyone to be inspired and authentic in who they are and where they are going.

What is presence? How do you give it? How does it Bring Innovation, flexibility, and creativity? How does mindfulness and presence bring rapport? That is a discussion for another time my friend.

Julie Provino, Founder of VeryHR

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Zoe MerchantLet’s talk about inspiring leadership
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Media outreach to support your marketing goals

Media outreach to support your marketing goals

Public Relations (PR) or media outreach has historically been viewed as an important, yet distinct, part of the marketing mix. In the past PR agencies often worked quite independently from marketing, devising their own campaigns, usually with one eye on the overall marketing strategy (although not always!). However, the arrival of the Internet changed both the media landscape and traditional ways of working. PR is now much more integrated and at Bright Innovation we see it as an intrinsic part of what we do.

A shared goal but a different approach

While PR, marketing and advertising all share the same end goals of building brand awareness, increasing demand and attracting the right talent – the way each element approaches this is quite different.

The value of PR is high because it is what is termed ‘earned media’. This means that the exposure has to be ‘earned’ through strong, relevant and compelling content rather than bought (like advertising where you are essentially paying to be able to say what you like). The flip side to this however is it is much harder to make a direct correlation between a positive piece of coverage, an increase in demand or in good people applying for a role in your organisation.

Social Media: a must for PR practitioners

The value of PR is high because it is what is termed ‘earned media’. This means that the exposure has to be ‘earned’ through strong, relevant and compelling content rather than bought (like advertising where you are essentially paying to be able to say what you like). The flip side to this however is it is much harder to make a direct correlation between a positive piece of coverage, an increase in demand or in good people applying for a role in your organisation.

Today, it is increasingly rare for a PR campaign not to involve at least some element of social media. Having said that it is surprising how many businesses still fail to understand its importance.

If the Queen and President Obama are on Twitter, it’s a pretty safe bet that the CEO of the company you really want to get in front of is too. And in the unlikely event that he/she is not on Twitter, they almost definitely will be on LinkedIn. By failing to consider how to build social into a PR and marketing strategy, businesses may be missing out on the opportunity to directly connect with key business people.

In my experience people working in B2B technology tend to view PR in one of three ways:

  1. We are a fascinating company that does something totally unique and everyone will want to hear about us and our new products (especially FT journalists)
  2. We have nothing to say and can’t think of any reason why anyone would want to hear about us (unless maybe we do a major deal with Tesco or appoint Bill Gates as our Chairman)
  3. What’s PR?

The reality is that PR can be an incredibly effective way of getting your message across if you are both ambitious (every company has something interesting to say, we just need to work out what it is), pragmatic (it probably isn’t the launch of Widget 3.2.6) and you don’t compromise on the quality of what you produce. The most interesting content will be useless if badly written and you would be surprised what you can do with something quite mundane with good imagery and some smart statistics.

What results can you expect from PR?

To give an idea of the kind of results a successful PR campaign can achieve, as part of our work with Red Badger, Bright Innovation recently ran a campaign to promote the launch of Fortnum & Mason’s brand new, fully responsive eCommerce site, designed and developed by Red Badger.

Bright Innovation produced a range of content that appealed to different audiences across key industry sectors including tailored press releases and award entries:

  • To ensure that the content was as compelling as possible, data and imagery from the new site and real customer feedback were used to demonstrate tangible results.
  • Content was also drip fed across social channels and made to work harder by turning it into direct mail campaigns and a series of more technical blogs were produced for the Red Badger website.

The results included coverage in 10 key titles, including a blog style critique of the new Fortnum site on Econsultancy that had a direct impact on new business leads who approached Red Badger after reading it. The award entry drafted by Bright Innovation also led to Red Badger and Fortnum & Mason being shortlisted for Retail Week’s Technology and Ecommerce Awards in the Best Customer Experience category.

Creating a range of compelling content which was disseminated through different channels including traditional media, to an email campaign and through social networks helped to maximise the impact the campaign had on Red Badger’s target audience and led to direct new business enquiries.

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Zoe MerchantMedia outreach to support your marketing goals
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