I was recently asked by our digital marketing partner, SPEC Digital, to talk at an event aimed at the Tech and SaaS sector here in London. The event was largely focussed on SEO and PPC for lead generation, but Nick invited me to say a few words about what happens once you get traffic to your site. How do you convert visitors into leads and customers?
The knee-jerk reaction to that question would be to focus on User Experience and techniques to optimise journeys through your site, but that’s really only one part of the story.
You could picture it this way:
Nicely over-simplified, but the point here is that whilst UX and conversion is important, if you haven’t got your brand and messaging nailed down, you’re unlikely to resonate with the right audiences in the first place, and there will likely be a disconnect between your digital marketing campaigns and your website (not to mention other touch-points).
I’ll cover UX + Conversion in part two, but first let’s dive into Brand + Messaging.
A new B2B environment
First , a little context. A few things have happened over the past few years.
- Business customers don’t want to be sold to any more and will explore all options available to them way in advance of reaching out to your sales team.
- They have also brought their consumer buying habits into the workplace – meaning they buy into you as a company as much as the product or service you offer.
This tells us that we need to be engaging early, and doing so in a genuinely meaningful and consistent way. To help us do this, we need to address your purpose, value and messaging.
I can hear the groans, ‘not another rant about brand purpose’. I’m afraid so, but bear with me.
Simon Sinek’s TEDx talk about brand purpose and his Golden Circle has been quoted at length by many marketeers for some years. And I get why (no pun intended).
It flips the outdated notion on its head, that companies should be promoting ‘what’ they provide and ‘how’ they provide it, and not be too concerned with ‘why’ they do it (i.e. your purpose).
Sinek’s premise is that companies and brands that focus instead on their underlying, unchanging purpose (or ‘why’), strike a chord with customers better than those that don’t.
This has since been backed up by research, not least by Havas Media Group who surveyed 1500 brands across 15 industries and 33 countries. They found that brands with higher purpose increase their marketing KPIs by up to 137% and outperformed the stock market by 206%.
It’s not an easy task though, especially for B2B brands. It’s fairly easy to point at Apple and understand how they might focus on the spirit of creative thinking … or ‘Thinking Different’. Or perhaps Nike and its consistent sprit of competition and human endeavour – but what about a B2B Fintech service or product? Don’t customers just want to know if the product will do the job or not?
Well partly, yes.
My (slight) issue with Sinek’s mantra is that it can sometimes undermine the importance of clearly communicating your value proposition and your other core messages (more on that soon).
Yet finding that underlying truth about your business will help to differentiate your offer when (shhhhh! sometimes our products and services aren’t that different to our competitors). It will also help to create an emotional (and therefore memorable) connection with key audiences.
Goodness knows the tech sector could use some brand differentiation:
This is a little bit of a cheat, and I don’t mean to single out any company in particular. But it helps to make the point. Tech brands of all sizes are doubling down on what makes them the same rather than different.
Contrast that with Mailchimp. Mailchimp started out slightly kooky and independent. But as the email marketing platform grew into one of world’s largest marketing platforms, they brought in Collins to evolve the brand. At this stage, Collins could have played down the weird (‘we’re a grown up company now you know’). But after some qualitative research and immersion in Mailchimp’s culture they identified what resonated with their audience:
“Mailchimp demonstrated to entrepreneurs that levelling up your business doesn’t mean erasing your peculiarities. In a world of templatized sameness, Mailchimp’s success told a story of growing up and staying weird.”
Mailchimp knows who it is and how it relates to its customer base. Its content marketing is equally in tune with its brand ethos. ‘Mailchimp Presents’ for example, offers a window into the lives of fiercely independent entrepreneurs and trailblazers.
So it’s important to think about what makes you different, beyond your product and service. And to do that, you will need the C-Suite in the room (your product is likely to be their baby so the source of your difference may lie with them) as well as someone from Sales (who know your customers and what makes them tick) and HR (who know the team, past present and future). There are a number of Frameworks to help you have that conversation. And of course, you can always hire the professionals (ahem).
Remember to be relevant and appropriate for your audience. Depending on the service you provide, and your stage of growth, you may need to dial certain values up or down to create the right balance for you.
Take our Insurtech client Azur. When we originally helped position them as a start-up we explored a spectrum of options, balancing values that were important to key audiences such as trust, disruption, human and so on. The result was a trustworthy mark with a support language that can provide other values as required.
Whether you’ve taken the team into the forest to discover your brand purpose or not, it is still crucial to be able to articulate clearly and succinctly, your value to your customers.
In truth, this has more relevance to your SEO / PPC strategy than your brand purpose.
Your value proposition should be your core message and it should be entirely customer-centric. Stop thinking about what you sell and start thinking about what really matters to your customers.
It’s an easy mistake to focus on your product or service features (they are great by the way). But instead, make sure you put yourself in your customer’s shoes and articulate the problem you solve for them and why they should buy from you.
Words are king here. It’s a skill to get the right balance between:
- Communicating clear and succinct customer benefits
- Including the right keywords (to align with SEO / PPC)
- Striking the right tone
We tend to work with copywriters early on in the brand process, who are adept at getting this right, providing options for the team to consider and rally around.
Keap is a CRM and marketing automation platform for small business. Their value proposition is benefits focussed:
After spelling out what Keap actually is in their site title, they use this value proposition for their site description. Providing both clarity and incentive within their standard Google search return.
But it doesn’t end there. Keap’s value proposition is reinforced by great copywriting and branding (by Pentagram), focussed squarely on small business owners. This is carried though the site and beyond, encompassing all stages of the buying journey.
Now it’s likely that your business has more than one audience to communicate with. Typically our clients will need to balance the concerns of customers, employees and investors. To complicate things further, your customers will also come in all shapes and sizes.
There will be those that need hand-holding and those that would prefer not be patronised. In B2B, you’re likely to be dealing with a range of people and roles in the same company that need to buy into your product or service for varying reasons.
It’s essential to map out all of the audiences for your product and service and identify what matters to each. For a tech or SaaS brand, that may look something like this:
Identify the goals and motivations of each audience. This will help you create key messages to help structure your website (as we’ll see in part two) but also to create relevant engagement through social channels, events and beyond.
Now far be it for me to imply that this is a simple process. It’s why companies like ours exist. But hopefully you get a sense of how these steps can help you create competitive advantage in a crowded marketplace. Doing this well will help you to make waves early in your customer’s buying process, as well as provide a framework for continual engagement.
Find your difference and dial it up to 11. Be distinctive, memorable and appropriate. This is the unchanging soul of your business.
Establish a clear and own-able customer-centric proposition.
Understand your audiences and what matters to each.
In part two, we’ll look at how this groundwork should inform and underpin your website and content plan.