examining the whiteboard
The benefit — and the drawback — of marketing technology is how easy it is to take action PHOTO: WOCinTech.com

One of the benefits — and pitfalls — of digital marketing technology today is that it allows marketers to take action quickly.

The allure of speed and the false sense of accomplishment rapid activity gives leads some marketers to push forward without having a strategy in place first.

So it's good to take a step back from the marketing technology from time to time and review the fundamentals of a successful marketing program. Yesterday we covered marketing objectives, persona development and positioning. Today we'll look at branding and messaging, strategy and forming a practical plan to bring it all together.

Memorable Branding 

Positioning defines where you fit in your market landscape. Your brand encapsulates your positioning with the emotion and attributes that your key audience segments associate with your company and products.  

From this you can direct a thoughtful approach to naming and design, but much of it comes from the direct experience your customers have with your company. If you want to be known for superior customer service, you can’t just issue a statement saying that you have superior customer service, you have to actually deliver on it. 

A short note about naming and logo design — while there's clear merits to investing time and money choosing a name, colors and a logo for consumer-related businesses, I strongly believe that it is less important for B2B endeavors.  

I have four rules when it comes to naming a B2B startup:

  • Make it easy to spell
  • Make it easy to pronounce
  • Make sure it is available for use across all social channels
  • Don’t create a clever name for both your company and for your product. It takes time and money to socialize a name — don’t ask your prospects to learn two.

In terms of B2B logo design:

  • If you can incorporate a design element with your company name, do it. Again, no need to make your customer work to identify some fancy design element
  • Choose something that reflects the tone you want to set with your customers. If your communication style is informal, marry that with a playful logo design
  • Pay attention to the logo colors of your competition — you don’t want to be the fifth lime green logo in your industry

Messaging That Sticks

Now for messaging. I find myself frequently saying, “don’t start talking until you know what to say.” Take the time to define the best messages to support your positioning, write them down and share them with your entire team.  

Having everyone singing the same song, particularly in a small company environment, improves the chances that your messaging will stick in the outside world. Maintain a living messaging document that includes press lead, boilerplates, company overview, product overview, key company and product messages, messages about the competition etc. The document doesn't have to be long, but having one is critical to keeping everyone moving forward in sync. 

Once you have your positioning statements and your messaging document, take the time to test both with your target audiences, and refine where necessary.

Marketing Strategy and Tactical Plan

With all the foundation elements in place, the last step before creating the tactical marketing plan is to settle on your specific marketing strategy. How are you going to approach your market?  

Early in my career my CEO asked everyone to read “Marketing Warfare” by Al Ries and Jack Trout. Reading that book taught me how to think about framing a marketing strategy.  

Defining a marketing strategy is all about creating a high level plan for achieving your long-term marketing goals. For example, if you are forced to create a new market category, your strategy might be to first position yourself as a thought leader and educator in the space before moving on to claim market leadership.

Marketing Strategy Case Study

I was part of a start-up whose competitive environment included three well-established, multi-billion dollar companies. 

While it's fun to be the scrappy upstart, it’s not always easy to convince prospective customers to take a chance on a new, very small company when a number of very large safe choices are available.  

We had to establish our company as a credible alternative to the behemoths. Our market environment research showed that the large companies routinely announced products up to three years ahead of availability in an attempt to block other market entrants — and in many cases never successfully brought those the products to market.  

We realized we could create market credibility by only announcing products when they were available. That became an overarching strategy for the company. 

When the company launched, I spent time in every press and analyst meeting talking about our approach to product launch and educating the media about the blocking tactics employed by the large vendors in our industry. I committed to only announcing products within a 12 week window of being commercially available and that any product announcement would include a reference from a customer that was either testing or using the product.  

This strategy served us well. We never deviated from it during the life of the company, from going public to ultimately being acquired.

To me, establishing the right marketing strategy is one of the most creative and rewarding aspects of marketing — and can be a lot of fun as well.

Now Pull it All Together

With the big picture mapped out, it becomes relatively easy to define and create the right marketing campaigns and build the digital marketing program to support the marketing strategy. Priorities become clear and budgets can be rationally allocated.  

The final piece is put in place a measurement strategy to ensure that objectives are being met and that the returns on investment for marketing spend is where it needs to be.

Not everything will work as predicted. And the market environment is always dynamic — your competitors are busy evolving their strategy as well. Create your strategy and plans in a way so you can adjust quickly to changing market conditions and customer requirements.