The Three Pillars of Marketing

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My nine year-old daughter asks me on a fairly regular basis what it is that ‘mummy does’. I don’t think I have ever come up with a satisfactory answer (evidenced by the fact that she keeps asking!). She is too old and too smart for me to get away with trying to simplify it too much but at the same time ‘marketing’ means nothing whatsoever to her. It got me thinking about whether it was possible to boil what we do at Bright Innovation into a few words that she would understand and eventually I came up with this:

We help organisations find people who want to buy from them, work for them or get to know them.

What is it that we do

Trying to work how you might explain what your organisation does to an eight year old is actually a very worthwhile exercise. At Bright Innovation we are all about speed and simplicity so finding a fast, simple way of explaining what we do is an important part of our own marketing.

It also served another, equally useful, purpose however in that it got me thinking about what it is that organisations want from marketing today and what it is that we do that makes our services valuable.

The three pillars of marketing

For the modern high growth organisation there are three key pillars of marketing that rely on each other, work together and combine to create an effective marketing strategy – demand generation, talent acquisition/retention and brand building.

Demand

The first element of the modern B2B marketing mix is demand. Generating demand for a company’s products and services is what most people think of if you ask them to define what marketing is.

It sounds simple and in some regards it is – find people that want to buy what we sell and convince them to buy it from us. Of course it isn’t that simple, especially not for intangible, complex and expensive products or services.

As well as finding people who might want to buy now you also have to find people who might want to buy later. And even people who don’t know that they want to buy anything at all but who may decide that they do after they have seen what you sell and how it fixes a problem they are experiencing.

A short-term approach to creating demand creates significant problems. A pipeline that is either too full or too empty; a focus on the tactical rather than the strategic and the problems associated with having to start from scratch every time the pipeline empties.

Generating demand requires consistency and a longer-term view that ensures that you are finding, developing and nurturing a community of interesting people who will drop into your pipeline over time.

It requires the ability to know not only who these people are but what they like and how best to reach them – and a constant stream of activity focused on identifying new people to add to this community.

Talent

The second element of a successful marketing strategy is talent. In the technology industry where we operate, finding good talent is a big problem for many companies.

Talent and demand have a symbiotic relationship. Success in one area will usually mean that focus switches to the other. Companies are constantly trying to balance work and resourcing the right people to ensure they have just the right amount of both.

The problems are being exacerbated by the fact that the old methods of finding and keeping good people no longer work as effectively. Again this is a particular issue in the tech sector where much of the talent is part of a generation who operate almost entirely digitally.

They don’t engage with the media in the same way that they used to; the traditional recruitment consultancies don’t understand their skillsets so they can’t find or place them effectively (and most businesses want to avoid agency fees anyway if they can help it).

Organisations therefore have to look at new ways to find and connect with prospective employees and to build a community that they can draw from when they need to.

Brand and position

The word brand means different things to different people. Broadly speaking brand marketing is the activity that you do to build profile and positioning in the market.

Brand work is often the hardest to quantify and notoriously difficult to set effective metrics around but it is an essential part of the marketing programme. Brand sets expectation. Expectation around service, products and ethos. Companies like AppleVirgin and John Lewis are examples of companies that know brand and market position is king.

The hard thing about brand marketing is working out what is valuable and what isn’t. Marketing consultancies have made millions out of confusion on this and the belief (erroneous belief) that there is no point trying to measure success.

So what is good brand marketing? It is different things to different people but fundamentally it is the communication of who you are not what you sell. More often than not the reason for failure is that companies don’t know who they are or are trying to be something they are not.

At Bright Innovation we believe that these three pillars should be the foundation of every marketing plan. You can dial each one up or down but the reality is that you have to ensure that they are harmoniously working together.

If you ignore talent to focus on demand, you may win business but how will you retain it? If you focus on demand and ignore brand then you will find it far harder to drive sales because there will be no existing relationship between your company and your target audience. For any one element to be successful it cannot happen in isolation.

We have a motto at Bright Innovation: Demand, Talent, Brand and Growth. If you get the first three right then the fourth follows.

Emma SindenThe Three Pillars of Marketing
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Do Business Users Understand Tech?

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We often hear that ‘the business users won’t understand our tech messaging – we need to talk business benefit; we need to talk solution’. To some degree this is true. However, dumbing down the decision makers is dangerous. Times have changed, and we are more tech savvy than we have ever been.

In everyday life, the average Joe uses cloud storage to back up photos from smart phones and access documents; uses apps to get better deals on everyday items (such as Costa or Sainsbury’s), and gadgets to monitor heart rates, how many steps you have done in the day, and what to eat.

This involvement of technology in our lives happens before we have even stepped into the office – so to dumb down people that don’t sit in the IT department is wrong. The game has changed.

I am not saying that you need to go into the depths of point to point integration, java code or application development. But we can attribute a certain level of knowledge to our business users – and this bar needs to be raised. The expectations of decision makers are changing: what they get at home, on the iPad, smartphone or smart TV, they now expect at work.

This is not specific to Generation Y. Generation X and baby boomers have had to adapt (often having more disposable income to spend on gadgets and tech) and have high expectations of what tech can do. However, these are often matched with years of experience in dealing with projects that haven’t delivered and with that comes the expectation that work related systems are slow.

Let’s take a step back.

Understand people’ skills rather than job roles

you should complete a brief audit of your own skills, merge your technology knowledge at home and at work, combine this with your approach to solving IT or application problems (usually Googling) and you start to see the patterns, and expose the characteristics of real people rather than job roles.

You could further segment based on Geoffrey Moore’s technology adoption lifecycle – we all know those people who have the latest and greatest tech as soon as it’s out (early adopters) and the laggards who are the last to upgrade their feature phone to a smart phone.

Map out how you would like to communicate

It is also important to map out how we most like to be communicated to – this may be slightly truncated at work versus at home. Of course, the time you have to look through email marketing, or twitter feeds, will determine your bias towards one communication approach over another. To be successful we need to understand people, in a holistic view, rather than just a job role, or decision maker. The way decision makers deal with technology in their personal and work life is similar regardless of their current job.

Don’t tell granny how to suck eggs

So how can we benchmark decision makers for assumed knowledge? My advice: don’t tell a granny how to suck eggs. It is probably best to assume they know the basics of enterprise architecture, integration, cloud and applications – especially the senior level decision makers. If they have been responsible (even in part) for signing off large IT projects, they will understand what they are agreeing to. It may only be top level (so Google your terms to make sure the right definitions come up. If not, make sure to include them in your communications).

Get the message right for the right person. This may be the business benefit, it may be cost efficiencies, but the supply chain director will appreciate your delving the level below to explain the cost efficiencies gained by integrating his two key systems, or by adding bespoke reporting, or implementing a new tracking application. Otherwise it is just smoke and mirrors and can often be perceived as a lack of understanding when it comes to the customer’s problems.

Chris PetherbridgeDo Business Users Understand Tech?
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