All posts tagged: Driving results

The three pillars of marketing

The three pillars of marketing

My 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!). It got me thinking about whether it was possible to boil what we do at Bright as a B2B marketing consultancy 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, we’re all about agile marketing, pace 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 B2B marketing strategy – demand generation, talent acquisition/retention and brand building.

Demand

The first element of the modern B2B marketing mix is demand. Generating leads 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 B2B 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

As the third pillar of marketing, 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 we believe that these three pillars should be the foundation of every B2B 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: Demand, Talent, Brand and Growth. If you get the first three right then the fourth follows.

1 comment
Zoe MerchantThe three pillars of marketing
read more

What successful business events really look like

What successful business events really look like

‘Let’s do an event.’ Four words that often send a shiver down my spine. I have worked in the marketing for more years than I care to mention. From supplier side to client side, there is nothing quite like the buzz of seeing something that you have been tirelessly planning for months, come to life. I’ve been involved in planning almost every type of event – sell-out club nights, corporate team building, extravagant weddings, even more extravagant barmitzvahs, concerts, residential conferences and private dinners. But still, when a client says to me ‘let’s do an event,’ it unnerves me.

Don’t do an event for the sake of it

Firstly, business events should never be done for ‘event’s sake’. Without a clear, measurable objective, they run the risk of being an expense with no real demonstrable benefit (I’m sorry but profile raising is not enough).

Do you want to make new connections and cultivate warm prospects? If so, then a well-thought out recruitment plan needs to be laid out before you even set a date.

This will give you the best chance of getting the type of person that you want there to actually attend, and in turn, make the investment worthwhile.

What are the takeaways?

Holding an event to demonstrate your expertise is ultimately the reason why anyone goes to any event. I don’t go to see my favourite band at a concert because they’re average, I go because I think they’re great at what they do (I have deliberately not named them to prevent any weakness in my logic being attributed to personal taste).

However, for a successful business event, there has to be more than just telling everyone how good you are at something. Whilst some people will turn up to the opening of an envelope, the ones that you want to meet probably won’t.

So there needs to be a draw: an easily identifiable, well-positioned message that explains what people will get out of attending. This message will vary, depending on the type of person you want to attract.

  • Are you aiming to teach them something? If so, make sure it’s something they don’t already know inside and out.
  • Are you going to introduce them to their peers? If so, think about whether they will actually want to meet their peers in your chosen setting.
  • Or are you simply going to ply them with free food and drink in the hope that it is enough to make them want to part with their money, and give it to you?

Do it right or don’t do it

All this boils down to having an iron clad business objective and creating an event that is pitched at the right level, to the right people, in a setting that will appeal to them.

Once you have this down, and everyone who needs to be has been included in the concept (which is another blog post altogether), it’s time to plan.

This is the part that makes me happy –a thorough plan, a strict timeline and a smooth project flow. I like a good 12 weeks to plan an event to ensure that all logistics have been covered – venue, catering, invitations, AV – but all too often, the most important part is overlooked.

If you don’t have the right people there, it doesn’t matter how good your canapés are.

No comments
Lydia KirbyWhat successful business events really look like
read more

Leading or lagging: Is your marketing fit for purpose?

Leading or lagging: Is your marketing fit for purpose?

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

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

Transform marketing and drive business goals

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

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

Mobilising agile marketing

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

Measure and be smart

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

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

Harmonious business development

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

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

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

Establishing agile marketing in your organisation

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

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

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

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

Marketing as a business driver and competitive advantage

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

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

No comments
Zoe MerchantLeading or lagging: Is your marketing fit for purpose?
read more

Using agile marketing to drive rapid results

Using agile marketing to drive rapid results

Agile marketing is a methodology based on continual improvement to maximise results and return from marketing effort and investment. Bright wanted to share our experiences of working in this new way with senior executives from tech firms and get their perspective on how marketing can underpin business growth, so we hosted a dinner in July 2015.

How tech and consulting firms are using agile marketing to drive success

The dinner was attended by business leaders and entrepreneurs from various consulting and tech firms including TCSBCGCommonMS and Attenda.

At the event, held in a private dinning room at Jason Atherton’s beautiful Berners Tavern restaurant, Bright introduced how agile marketing is designed to explore ideas, create marketing messages, establish tactics and execute fast, so each element can be validated, measured and improved in market.

Mike Altendorf, investor, columnist and non-exec & advisor

Mike Altendorf – guest, investor, columnist, non-exec & advisor commented “These days effective marketing is critical for businesses of all sizes but the pace of change is so fast these days that to be effective it has to be agile. The days of five-year plans and 12-month product launch timelines are long gone. These days it is about speed, responsiveness, relevance and accountability.”

Richard Poole, Founding Partner at Fluxx

Bright Innovation invited clients to join the dinner to talk about their experiences of MVM in action. First up was Richard Poole, Founding Partner at Fluxx, a leading innovation consultancy talking about the heritage behind agile, explaining how Minimum Viable Product and lean methods has changed the manufacturing industry and how effective it can be to apply those same ideas to marketing services to get the best outcome and reduce wastage.

Richard highlighted how Fluxx has benefited from rapidly consolidating its market position through a robust marketing mix with each element being proven and built on to support ambitious business growth. Fluxx has had excellent results through the consistency of communication and original content that is a key part of the marketing programme combined with exclusive events that underpin it’s brand building with the right audience.

Barry Hayes, Executive Director of Flo Group

This was followed by discussions with Barry Hayes, Executive Director of Flo Group, a global logistics consultancy, who have transformed not just their brand but also its approach demand generation and how they work with Alliance partners.

Through working with Bright and an agile approach to marketing Flo Group have created a strong and differentiated brand, established successful demand generation campaigns that support its sales pipeline and growth targets plus built a strong event presence at key trade shows and conferences across EMEA.

Flo Group has also benefited from improvements to its strategy to Alliance partnerships and has secured significant funding for marketing through its proven approach to demand generation.

Lively discussions accompanied the dinner and explored how agile marketing can support business goals with key focus on how high growth consulting and tech firms can exploit this new way of working.

The three key pillars of marketing

The combined focus on the three key pillars of marketing a modern business should focus efforts around to quickly brand build, create demand and secure talent into ambitious firms was supported by the results of the marketing investment Fluxx and Flo Group have achieved.

Izzy Fox, Head of Venture Capital Investments, White Cloud Capital

Izzy Fox – guest and Head of Venture Capital Investments, White Cloud Capital commented “The start-ups we work with are coming out of an environment in which there is no distinction between digital and non-digital. They expect to be able to take their story out across any channel, at any time and to be continually responding to feedback in the market to adjust and rework products and services and how they market them. The old segmented, inflexible and siloed approach just doesn’t fit into the world we now operate in.”

Agile marketing brings a fresh approach that firms can take advantage of to secure results from marketing and gain a greater understanding of what works best with key audiences.

No comments
Zoe MerchantUsing agile marketing to drive rapid results
read more

The SMART guide to building successful Alliances

The SMART guide to building successful Alliances

Organisations of all sizes often find it difficult to get the most out of their alliance relationships. A productive relationship is one where your marketing strategy aligns well with your alliance objectives, and you can work together towards a common goal. Where you are clear on your target audience, and your marketing activities are integrated into a strategic plan that supports both your organisational objectives and those of your alliance partners.

Strategy

Share a common objective for your marketing activity that satisfies the alliance goals – and your own.

When you bring up the topic of alliance marketing it is always met with a whole range of reactions, but a common thread that seems to be present in many of the conversations I have had, is the difficulty in aligning an alliance marketing plan with that of your organisation’s. Frequently, co-marketing is seen as a parallel activity to your strategic marketing plan, with the two streams very rarely integrated into a cohesive plan of action.

This doesn’t have to be the case. Marketing teams should work closely with their alliance partners, share their business plans and jointly identify ways in which they can collaborate to achieve a common goal. This may be a simplistic view, and I can already hear the nay-sayers heckling at the back …

“You try selling product to a business audience”; “All they want is licensing, they’re not interested in services”; “They don’t understand my business” … But it can be done, and working together to identify your common objectives is a key step towards building stronger alliances.

When Mavenwire wanted to strengthen their relationship with Oracle, they engaged with Bright Innovation to manage and execute a range of marketing activities to generate revenue and build brand awareness. A joint campaign approach combined Oracle products with Mavenwire’s delivery expertise to offer prospects a complete solution, enabling them to identify new sales opportunities and win new business jointly with the Oracle sales team.

Messaging

When working with most alliance marketing teams, they will be able to provide you with a wealth of material to use in your marketing activity, such as collateral, competitive information, product features and benefits. Every other partner will also have access to the same information.

It is important that you go to market with messaging that clearly differentiates you.

If you are reselling product, what value is your organisation adding to the process? If you are a systems integrator, what experience, frameworks, methodologies can you offer that others may not be able to. It is your key differentiators that your messaging needs to communicate in order to stand out from the hundreds of other partners.

Audience

On occasion, your alliance partner may work with you to develop a plan and even provide you with a database of contacts ready to market to.

At this point, you must assess whether this fits in with your target audience, and carefully evaluate whether you proceed with the newly gifted database you have just acquired, or invest in building your own data set that matches your target profile perfectly.

Often, a little time and investment here can save a lot of pain further down the line when the results are not as expected. It is important to have clarity in who your target audience is, and why.

Reporting

Communicating effectively with your alliance partners is always a difficult balance between over-communicating irrelevant details and not sharing the results of your marketing activity at all.

If you are churning out a raft of activity each quarter, your alliance partner may not necessarily need to know every single detail about the tactics you’ve deployed, what articles have been published, client engagements, down to each technical detail.

However, a regular flow of concise and relevant communications can be a hugely effectively way to market to your alliance partner. A one page summary of who you’ve targeted, using the same terminology (and acronyms), who you’ve engaged with, revenue generated, and key messages is often sufficient enough to keep your key alliance contacts up to date, without inundating them with detail.

Tactics

Another theme that’s often arises is marketing teams being driven to adopt tactics that may not necessarily prove effective for their business. For example, webinars can be a great way of engaging with your audience, raising your brand and profile within certain communities and building a wealth of content that can be distributed across multiple channels. However, they are not appropriate for all messaging and audiences.

If your organisation is trying to position itself as a market leader, perhaps some value-driven thought leadership would be more effective? Maybe consider a highly-targeted digital campaign?

When planning which tactics to use in your co-marketing plan, you need to make sure these support your brand and positioning in the market and are consistent with your marketing activities.

Our Minimum Viable Marketing™ approach allows you to quickly identify which tactics will be most valuable by experimenting and then removing, and/or improving, elements of your marketing plan that do not work as well as expected.

Marketing can be highly effective when structured as an integrated campaign, incorporating many different routes to market. The key point here is that each element of the plan must work together to increase momentum. A poorly executed tactical campaign will only serve as a distraction from core activities and yield below average results.

With over 20 years experience working with alliance partners, the Bright Innovation team understands the challenges involved when working with alliances, and some of the most common pitfalls made by organisations.

We have taken this experience and knowledge, and developed a set of services that enable our clients to overcome these challenges and build successful alliance relationships.

No comments
Zoe MerchantThe SMART guide to building successful Alliances
read more

A value case for agile marketing

A value case for agile marketing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No comments
Zoe MerchantA value case for agile marketing
read more

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.

No comments
Zoe MerchantThe era of agile marketing
read more

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.

No comments
Zoe Merchant5 Reasons why agile marketing is key to your exit strategy
read more

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”

No comments
Zoe Merchant4 marketing activities for companies looking to grow or sell
read more

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”

No comments
Zoe Merchant4 ways agile marketing accelerates company growth
read more