Leading Change

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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Zoe Merchant4 marketing activities for companies looking to grow or sell
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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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Zoe Merchant4 ways agile marketing accelerates company growth
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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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Assemble your communication to succeed

Assemble your communication to succeed

Primary school assemblies used to be a forum where you were seen, but not heard; where you were told what you needed to know according to the doctrines of whomever was hosting the assembly.

Primary school methodology

Primary school assemblies today are demonstrations of what has been learnt, they are demonstrations of how enjoyable learning and discovering are and they also demonstrate that some lessons have not been learnt fully – perhaps mistaking continents for countries. But it’s from mistakes we learn.

Today’s primary school assembly is a far better model than that which we children of Thatcher grew up with. I write this guest column enthused by what my youngest and her peers have learnt, I write this knowing what my child has been studying for the last six weeks (despite asking every day – the standard response is “stuff”), but now I know. More than that I know she enjoyed it, does understand it and that as a result her understanding of science, history, geography, mathematics and most importantly communications has been successful and enjoyable.

Assembling and communication

Assembling and communicating as a community is vital not only to a primary school on the North Downs, but also to the modern CIO and CTO. This term’s theme incorporated as I state above science, history, geography, mathematics as well as English and the arts. Any technology project in a business covers all the core subject matters of the business term – profit and loss; order and deliver; payroll, human resources, recruitment, supply chain, marketing; research and development and many more. Many of the UK’s leading CIOs have made it clear to me that there are no such things as technology projects, only business projects.

So with technology and in particular technology change touching all the departments and all the staff, regular assembly and communications are essential. Over the last nine years of daily dealing with CIOs and CTOs face to face I have seen how those that employ communications have succeeded in delivering major change in organisations. No matter the vertical market, communicating and discussing the change ensure it succeeds, whether you lead technology in an airline, NHS trust, automotive giant, retailer, charity or government body.

Methodology and delivery

We humans have developed a plethora of ways to communicate and thanks to technology continue to develop new ways to communicate. All methods are right, it is the context of your organisation and its culture that matters. Whether it is sitting in the staff canteen, having a major innovation event, using social media, bookmarking Friday afternoon as a chance for anyone in the business to visit your team and share cake, coffee or perhaps even a stronger beverage. All of these methods work.

For a transformation project to work; for a business to be able to continually adapt to the needs of its customers technology leaders must continually engage in communications. Effective communications takes time and effort. A continual slew of lists telling people the best things, the worries etc will eventually lead to the channel losing impact. For communications to be successful it must reflect the community it seeks to communicate with.

Good communications cannot exist alone – delivery is critical too. If an organisation is diverse in its services and markets or geographically dispersed then the methods from the world of marketing are essential to ensure the message lands on every desk and device in an engaging manner that triggers a response.

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Alexandra JefferiesAssemble your communication to succeed
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Why effective communication is vital In any change programme

Why effective communication is vital In any change programme

In today’s fast moving world, where the latest trends in technology are transforming everyday lives for both consumers and businesses, many forward-thinking organisations are already fully on-board with implementing digital transformation programmes aimed at encouraging more collaborative and digital ways of working.

However, some of these organisations will have invested significantly in new technology, such as business collaboration tools or video enabled conferencing, but found that adoption levels can be lower than anticipated. That is why many organisations are discovering that working with communications specialists can help ensure that the change is properly communicated to their employees. If people understand why the change is being introduced and how it will benefit them in the long run, the rate of adoption can improve.

Change in traditional organisations

But what about more traditional organisations which are slower to see the value in digital transformation and are more apprehensive towards change generally? Of course, traditional organisations are going to be slower to adopt this type of change programme. Some may be about to embark on a smaller digital project, or could be in the early stages of considering what an enterprise wide digital transformation programme might look like for them.

If the organisation has a strong concern around the privacy and security of its data, it can make the pace of change even slower. Many social collaboration tools such as Yammer and Chatter are cloud-based and have been deemed by some to be vulnerable to hackers. However, there are solutions that can be hosted on-premises which can allay some of these concerns.

Change doesn’t have to be digital

Others may be looking to make changes to their organisation that aren’t necessarily digital. Of course, change doesn’t always have to be digital – it can be related to a change in company strategy, relocation, company restructure or even (in the worst case) redundancy.

Communicating any type of change effectively is important, particularly in situations such as the above. If the majority of a workforce fails to embrace a strategic business change it could potentially have a damaging impact on the organisation’s profitability. It is crucial that you engage your workforce and ensure everyone is working towards the same goals and communication is the key to this.

The same rules apply

Communications should always play a key role in any large-scale change programme. Firstly, it is vital that you understand the mindset of the audience you are communicating to. In a large organisation you will need to tailor your communications to different employees as there isn’t always a one size fits all solution. Give your employees the opportunity to ask questions and to share their thoughts and feedback where possible. When communicating to your employees it is important to demonstrate that you have listened to them i.e. ‘you said x so we did y’.

As in our day-to-day lives, in today’s business environment it is likely that different people have a preference for using different channels. Some may like to communicate face-to-face rather than over email, others may prefer to avoid email and make use of business collaboration tools. In an ideal (albeit time consuming) scenario, you should make sure you are communicating via different channels to ensure that your message has reached everyone in your organisation.

Talk to the experts

Whether it is a digital transformation programme, or a change of strategy which your organisation is embarking on, working with communications experts can add real value in helping to shape your change communications. An effective communications strategy can mean the difference between an employee making a positive decision to adopt that change, adopt it half-heartedly or in some cases reject it entirely.

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Alexandra JefferiesWhy effective communication is vital In any change programme
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