Don’t forget the importance of B2B brand strategy

During my monitoring and my participation in B2B marketing / sales virtual events lately, I have gathered rich and abundant information, especially on the importance of B2B brand strategy.

Many industries have been experiencing content saturation  for several years. The current crisis is pushing us to create more (somewhat ironic) in response to the loss of so-called traditional business development activities.

It goes to say that the choices are sometimes difficult to make between prioritizing the management of our time and the value of the content (articles, webinars, videos, Lives, rich content, etc.) that seems to answer our questions.

Similar findings

Through all this content, I found a study by ON24 and NetLine Corporation pretty relevant. These two agencies interviewed some of the world’s leading B2B marketing experts in their study: “2020 B2B marketing trends report: Brand, content and sales-marketing Alignment.” They discussed the most important lessons they have learned since the beginning of the crisis.

Unfortunately, the findings are very similar to what we notice at ExoB2B. The lack of clarity of brand strategy is the biggest challenge to be addressed if we are to succeed in amplifying the reach of our brand.

The amplification of the scope of a brand is a necessary step to achieve certain goals precisely because of the saturation of content that only increases exponentially! This strategy can significantly expand your audience, establish your brand in a sustainable way in your market and create new opportunities to generate leads and sales.

Few B2B companies in the world have understood or are putting forward a brand strategy built on a viable strategic positioning that allows the marketing team to align its amplification strategies with it.

From this strategy it is possible to establish a game plan, the creation of content and its dissemination. But also, the measurement instruments and performance indicators, having faith that the work done upstream is solid and that it will allow us to produce gains.

Going back to the ON24 and Netline study, the topics covered obviously include brand building, the use of one-off events for digital experiences  and  marketing-sales alignment.

All are topics that we consider highly strategic in B2B and that we have been dealing with since 2009 on our blog. Quickly, here are some highlights from the report:

“Never forget the importance of building the brand.”

Despite the inherent need to generate new short-term sales opportunities, CMOs should never forget “The importance of building the brand” (longer-term benefits) as a necessity and a priority.

For them, it’s all about building an emotional bond with customers and prospects while helping them solve their problems.

Although 56% of marketers surveyed say they have a fairly strong brand, there are still 43% of respondents who say they cannot do their job properly because their brand growth strategy is not clear or understood.

As ON24’s vice president of marketing, Tessa Barron said, “I don’t know how you could be a marketer today and fuel a sales funnel regardless of the brand.”

Client-centric assets and actions.

Okay, but we still have to agree on what a B2B branding strategy is. In our view, the elements contributing to the growth of the brand are customer-centric assets and actions. Improving brand recognition (perceived value) is an essential step in increasing market share.

This recognition or perception is created through the experiences of marketing, sales and customer service (which evolves towards customer success).

This research of ON24 and NetLine highlights the obstacles to amplification of the brand’s reach:

B2B brand

Let’s remember that 43% of the specialists interviewed say that an unclear strategy is the biggest obstacle to amplification of the brand’s reach!

If the brand development team does not understand its growth strategy, how can we expect results?

In 23% of cases, the fault lies with decision makers, therefore on the CMO or VP of marketing, who do not see the long-term value of implementing a brand strategy.

In conclusion, 37% of marketers do not know how to measure the performance of their brand due to the lack of strategy clarity.

Is your B2B brand growth strategy unclear?

So, it’s time to fix it and take advantage of the crisis to identify opportunities.

Moreover, amplifying the reach of your brand, as well as creating content, is not an option. We will not hide it: content creation has become the “farwest” of marketing, where everyone shoots everything and without precision.

But as with many confusing situations, there is light at the end of the tunnel. There are strategies, tactics and tools (in order) that you need to implement to drive your growth and in the medium term, your digital marketing transformation.

Want to discuss it? We’re here for you.

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Don’t Kill your B2B Marketing

Today we’re facing a lot of uncertainty and this inevitably affects the companies and B2B marketing decisions we make. Let’s try to find, in all this chaos, a time for opportunity.

Let’s stay active!

Our decisions will have an impact on our entire ecosystem, starting with the people who make it up. From the outset, activate your internal communications with your world and with your community. Show leadership in your communications and demonstrate that you are present.

That’s why I’d rather talk about slowing down, rather than stopping all together, with my team. We will take this moment to review (actions, attitudes, processes, technologies, etc.), move away from them a little and, think about other ways of doing things that can be more beneficial. We can even think about this with regards to our customers, our suppliers and the community. We’re not on vacation!

At ExoB2B, we live this situation with the belief that we can only do better. This is also why we choose to slow down some of our B2B marketing “activities” in order to better create others that we believe are more relevant to the current situation and will have a tangible impact over time. We want it anyway!

More concretely, the objective of this post is to share an experience with a company that preferred to put a brake on its marketing.

Here’s the short story:

We are developing a new account. The potential client is a very good SME in the IT field and will need to deploy a significant international growth strategy. This growth strategy includes adding a new product to its current service offering and, better penetration of the natural market.

In short, the planned work covers several important issues, including delays in launching this new product in new markets (diversification = higher risks). As you will have understood, all this requires a fairly careful preparation if you want to be ready for the beginning of summer.

As a result, the digital strategy must also align itself with this diversification.

Meanwhile, the Coronavirus crisis “landed” on Monday morning, March 15th. Some projects are being carried over to a few clients, which is normal. Surprisingly, this particular and very strategic project, is put on hold instantly and all marketing is “off” too.

I understand what is going on, I have a business and I have experienced several empty passages.

Moreover, I also understand with 30 years of practice, that one of the first functions that is put on the bench, is marketing. So, we should leave the client on ‘ice’ and go on the offensive with them. In the long run, the defense is able to do little, and everything will collapse.

More importantly, let’s go back to this company… During our exchanges, we understood that this was a growth strategy necessary to address short- and medium-term challenges. Something that cannot be improvised.

In an ideal B2B marketing world, everything would have gone according to plan. In a disaster scenario, everything stops. This is not the case at the moment.

Here’s what I would advise this company in a situation as it is now, that gives us the opportunity to do what we never have time to do. Even though we know it’s important!

Start by doing an analysis of your entire digital ecosystem. Then, you can correct the situation according to the expected growth strategy and your results.

Your website, blog and rich content

Take the time to analyze your reports and/or performance dashboards: SEO, where your traffic comes from, visitor behavior and conversions, etc.

Is your content aligned with the needs of your new markets?

Your CRM 

When was your last “housekeeping” done: bad entries, duplicates, oversights, dubious configuration, unnecessary reporting, non-existent marketing process (hahaha!).

Thoroughly analyze your funnels and pay attention to your opportunities, contact them. Stay close to them more than usual, even if they’re not a client.

It’s hard to talk about CRM without talking about marketing and sales automation. Do you have “scores” developed based on the progress of the purchasing process and the activities of your contacts/accounts? If so, they should point you to which short-term actions to take.  If you don’t have one, this is a great time to do it.

As everything slows down and is uncertain, we strongly suggest that you do “surgical” marketing. Your resources need to be focused and you need to stay alive.  Be precise and agile!

Your digital channels

  • Social networks and directories:  

Update your corporate profiles on all platforms where you are present and don’t forget Google My Business. Look for and analyze the platforms that are used by the target markets in your diversification. Start creating your profiles and gently integrate communities where you’re not present (listen then talk).

Look at LinkedIn for your north American natural market, especially Sales Navigator.  Let go of the futile!

  • Digital campaigns (Ads)

Look at your results. The competition will be fierce in the coming months. Analyze and take the time to understand your results and the changes that are taking place. Then, also analyze the actions of your future competitors. Get ready! You don’t run campaigns? Doing so can bring you a lot of information by analyzing your statistics and allowing you to fine-tune your strategy. This advice applies if your market is not in full shutdown

Transforming the offline (traditional) component

First thing: your budget. What do you plan to invest in the next 90 days? Will the money you usually invest in networking and trade shows be reassigned to telecommunications tools?

Reassign part of this budget in activities that will allow your sales force to be as efficient as it would normally be (e.g. Webinar).

Down with the silos between sales and marketing:  talk to each other to be agile and optimize your processes by integrating them.

Make sure you’re more present in video.

I only address the short term and elements that can be “operated” quickly and that do not require too much juice. This takes the form of a 90-day plan, reviewed every two weeks or as needed.

We could add elements to that list, but we have to take into account the bandwidth required to operate the plan. Stay practical and rely on data. Be vigilant and agile.

Stay well and share your ideas with us!

B2B Marketing in 2020: Here are 9 predictions from our specialists

Can you believe that 2019 is already over?

I love this time of year, when we are in a rush to leave it and begin a new one. To end this decade, we gave ourselves a small office challenge in order to begin 2020 on the right foot. Each of us has identified one or two trends that should mark 2020 in their respective fields.

As a B2B digital marketing company, knowing what lies ahead and sharing it with members of our community is a must. Knowing how to prepare and what to expect becomes an asset!

Alain Thériault

Conversational marketing

New chatbots using more and more AI are able to have a sufficiently advanced conversation with the customer/prospect, enough so to choose/suggest the most appropriate content in the interlocutor’s buying cycle.

In addition, if the conversation resumes in the buying, testing, demo etc. phase, the chatbot can collect information the same way a form would, while adjusting to the current situation.

David Lepage

The employer brand

While there has been talk of labor shortages for some time and the catastrophic recession announced by the prophets of doom, the problem will only get worse. The economy is rolling and, so is production. Contracts are still signed, and the development of new technologies is well underway. We need skilled workers.

As a result, employers will have to redouble their efforts to sell themselves to potential candidates, which will translate into large-scale marketing efforts.  The employer brand will become a crucial issue for all companies, both in B2C and B2B.

More authentic content

Generic corpo texts are already outdated. But the trend towards authentic content is snowballing and will further change the way companies communicate and convey their messages.

Since Familiprix’s famous “Ah HA!” several years ago, we feel that the typical humor of Quebecers now permeates even the offices of content creators. Indeed, one can think of Maxi’s humorous advertisements or Hydro-Québec’s delusional community management on social networks to realize that the tone and content are constantly changing.

It will be even more crucial, in 2020, to stand out from the others by (re)defining the voice of companies. How can you stay authentic in corporate values while being inspired in your marketing? That’s going to be the challenge!

Vincent Cloutier-Naud

Rise of the machine

Ta-da ta ta-da… Ta-da ta ta-da (Terminator’s theme song)

I’m not talking about Facebook or even Amazon, which are already operated by machines …

I predict that in 2020, we will see even more artificial intelligence in the world of marketing. If the largest companies already benefit from it, PME’s would now be able to access it more easily.

This technology will be democratized through various tools used by marketing teams, for example, CRM, live chat (chatbot), web analytics tools, online advertisements, etc. Predictive tools could help you reach new marketing targets… oh, but wait, everything I just mentioned here already exists!

Ta-da ta ta-da…

Jean Gougeon

Creating websites with CMS

If the trend continues in 2020 (it will be perfect vision), more and more websites will use a CMS (Content Management System) to begin with, compared to sites that will not. As of November 2019, 42% of new sites launched do not use a CMS compared to 37% of new creations that do.

WordPress alone holds the largest share, with 35% of the market for all sites developed in CMS and 22% for others.

This is not at all surprising, because we see this trend at ExoB2B, customers are asking that sites be built with a CMS and preferably using WordPress. They will have the flexibility to add new content quite easily on a regular basis, which is essential for optimal search engine referencing. Content such as blog posts, new products and services from PDF documents.

Lynda St-Arneault

Personalization

A real message! Not just: “Hello Lynda St-Arneault, here’s our latest e-book.”

Technologies are within our reach, if they are integrated into the right processes and aligned with company strategies with carefully and rigorously collected data for humans to make decisions, personalization is possible.

Personalization, as we want it and see it is “total”.  It’s a marketing vision that has been present for decades and has been perfected with technology. We can think of its ancestor, catalogue shopping and direct mail marketing, with which several companies have made a fortune (but have not been able to adapt).

Finally, a study published in MarketingCharts  last November reveals that personalization is the No.1 marketing and sales strategy in which respondents have an interest in 2020.

Organizing data to deliver better CX customer experiences

The role that the CMOs will have to assign themselves or to be assigned to, based on their ability to handle it.

The good news is that we will be able to focus more on data rather than applications. However, ways will have to be found to break up data in organizations. Something that separate teams don’t always want to share. Again, there are ways to do it.

Does it mean that no data decommissioning = no optimal CX?

Yes, although we may desire or be sold as ideal in terms of customer experience, if we do not have real-time access to the data that allows us to make the right decisions, it’s a bit like swimming with a rope tied at our waist 😉

In B2B it is crucial to offer good customer experiences because sales cycles are complex, sometimes long and there are also several possibilities to identify players through the buying cycle. Expectations in terms of CX in B2B  are high. Very high!

Claude Malaison

Experiential marketing

While the technical characteristics of products or services from different companies may be virtually identical, what are the factors that motivate a buyer to choose one supplier over another? Or to forge a long-term relationship based on commitment and trust?

It’s all about the social satisfaction that the product or services will provide to the customer and allow them to live an experience that brings emotions, discoveries and pleasure, to obtain a higher level of commitment from the buyer. In both B2C and B2B, it will be necessary to distinguish itself from the competition by an approach that is no longer transaction-oriented but rather the satisfaction of human needs.

“Customers no longer compare you to your competitors, they compare you to other positive experiences they’ve had,” Shep Hyken, author and seasoned expert in customer service and experience, said recently. “Satisfaction is a rating. Loyalty is an emotion. So, we have to find a way to create a lasting emotional bond. »

Video content

It may seem a bit trivial, but in marketing, another way to stand out from the crowd and give potential customers a different experience, especially compared to all the content that is offered every hour, every day, every year on the Web, which has become “infobese”, is a video!

And in all its forms… Whether it’s on YouTube, on your personal live streaming video channel or podcast in RV format, real or virtual images always have the potential to differentiate your content from the mass of content published daily on the web.

Some will say that it is not very trendy. Don’t get me wrong, after reviewing all the blogs and sites of marketing experts who also take advantage of this time of year to make predictions for next year, a vast majority put video content in their predictive lists.

In conclusion

There are certainly other B2B marketing trends that are likely to become more important in 2020, such as ABM, automation, podcasts, influencers (micro, nano or macro), immersive events, virtual reality and well, still others!

Lots of technology or “martech” if you prefer.

But there is a constant in today’s marketing that no one forgets when it comes to looking to the future. This constant is the ‘human’.

It is and always will be part of the equation.

That’s why we’re hearing more and more about “human centered marketing” or customer centric marketing, customer experience or, as the subtitle of Mark Schaefer’s latest book Marketing Rebellion  – “The Most Human Company Wins”

The challenge ahead of us next year will probably be to bring together humans and marketing technologies, as demonstrated in this quote from a PDF on the future of B2B, produced by raconteur.net

With this in turn, we wish you an excellent end to 2019 and if you would like to share your predictions for 2020, I invite you to continue the conversation with us by making a phone appointment or by writing to us.

How do you increase B2B brand awareness so it pays off?

If you show your brand in a specialized trade show in your industry, will you get the reaction you want from the person you’re trading with?

If a client is looking for a solution to an important problem that he regularly experiences in the course of his work, will he think of you or will he easily find you by doing a Google search?

Is your content relevant and easy to find for your different customers, who are often sorted by personas and are expecting to find answers to their particular problems?

Brand awareness and  credibility are some of the most important aspects of running a business and these two elements can be a real challenge in B2B, especially if you consider that most of the brand strategy literature focuses on B2C marketing.

Two questions to ask about the brand

The first question to ask is: “How is B2B marketing different from B2C?”

I will answer candidly that B2B marketing is fundamentally different from B2C marketing in many ways, and that all these differentiating elements start from your target’s purchasing process:

• B2C marketing is for consumers and typically involves one decision maker. As a result, sales cycles are generally short and the risks associated with buying are often lower than B2B.

• B2B marketing involves dealing with multiple people and services. You must convey the value of your brand through your tools but also to several stakeholders with different perspectives and needs. In addition, these decision-makers and influencers are in contact with several departments and people in your company. Does it make you think of creating a good customer experience? Me too!

• Since B2B is typically longer than B2C, conversion between a brand and a customer can take (quite) a while.

The second question is: “What tools and tactics are most relevant to increase the reputation and credibility of a B2B brand? Here are a few:

1- Have a custom website and lead generator

Creating or redesigning a B2B website is a process that begins with analysis and research needs. It must align with the company’s strategy and business model while being designed to generate leads to the sales force, or to a smaller extent, to be sold directly online.

The creation of a successful website is the cornerstone of any effort to “raise awareness” of a B2B brand. Almost every time you meet a “prospect” for the first time, tell yourself that they have already been to your site before your meeting or that they will go immediately after. Make sure your site is easy to navigate and is perfectly usable on all media platforms. 

It should also communicate your value proposition through its different types of content and address your persona appropriately.  Every opportunity must be taken to encourage the visitor to take further action.

2- Attending industry events

In business-to-business marketing, face-to-face communication is still important despite the increasing use of digital tactics. Buyers want to know that they can trust your business, that there is a fit in culture, a mutual understanding because they are risking a lot. To be able to represent “your brand” in person at an industry event, demonstrate your knowledge and the value you can create in this sector.

Also, an event like a trade show has three lives: before, during and after. You can incorporate several tactics into it to create a synergy that will help you get the most out of your investment.

3- Stay active on social networks

B2B companies that are not active on social networks miss a huge opportunity to increase brand awareness, generate qualified leads, increase sales and position themselves credibly, for instance, as a thought leaders in their market.

Of course, LinkedIn is the go-to network in B2B. However, for this network to perform for you, you need to give it love and time and know your segmentation or selection criteria. LinkedIn is a rapidly growing ecosystem that deploys tools tailored to different goals. It’s also good to know best practices before embarking on campaigns to avoid “looking bad.”

4- Don’t ignore email marketing campaigns

While there are new ways of digital marketing, email remains a first-choice tool for building and especially maintaining relationships.

The e-mail persists and shows no signs of slowing down. It is constantly evolving, thanks to technology and this is how we develop very sophisticated content strategies, such as marketing automation or supporting sales with nurturing.

5- Blogging for relevance, not just for the sake of it

Creating content is a crucial aspect of any marketing strategy. The blog is one of the tools that is generally preferred and is used by a considerable portion of companies in B2B. It is still at the center of all content marketing strategies. However, it’s not enough to write a blog just for the sake of writing one. Blogging is about telling and sharing experiences and expertise.

If you want to make a profit from your efforts, there are rules and good practices to follow. There are simple tricks to put in place and ways of doing things that can really make you known and credible.

6- Pick up the phone

Although not all consumers respond well to cold calls, this is different in the world of B2B. Sometimes talking to someone over the phone can foster a business relationship rather than making online contacts.

With good intent to the right targets and preparation, the direct telephone approach can be a pay-as-you-go experience.

7- Networking

Sending a few “representatives” or brand ambassadors to an event relevant to your development allows you to establish warm ties in a social context. Humans still have a place in the business relationship.

8- Making videos

A recent study by Hubspot found that 96% of B2B companies already use video in some form and that 73% of these report generating a positive ROI. Knowing that 75% of executives watch work-related videos at least once a week, would you be surprised to learn that it is expected that by 2022, 80% of internet traffic will be video!

Your landing pages, social media platforms, online demonstrations and even your e-mail marketing, whose effectiveness is already greatly enhanced by the integration of video, will require the increasing use of It. Get used to the camera, it will become unavoidable!

Conclusion: why is B2B notoriety important?

People can’t buy from you if they don’t know who you are. That’s why your first job in marketing is to make sure that other companies in your industry know and recognize the name, logo and value you generate.

Brand awareness and credibility can really differentiate your business. However, it is even more important to ensure that the brand you are promoting is rooted in key aspects that make your business unique.

Be sure to focus on what sets your business apart from the start to avoid fundamental branding errors that would reduce the value of this important aspect of B2B marketing to your business.

If you want to develop some topics with us, contact us!

This post covers the outlines of generic tools and tactics that can be used in B2B but you and I know that each market has its characteristics and that everything adapts to each situation.

New technology, new products. Which marketing strategy to adopt?

Today we are launching new products in environments that change at full speed. Whether it’s new technology, competition, ecology or legal, everything is moving, and our companies are witnessing it and have to adapt and, adapt their marketing strategy to survive.

The launch of new products or services is one of the strategic ways to ensure the sustainability of an organization, provided that it is well orchestrated to deliver a return on investment (ROI). If it does not, it can cause significant damage to a company and its funders.

Launching a new product based on new technology in a new market has already been described as a suicide zone. Yet, at the speed at which society and technologies are evolving, the situation is increasingly happening. I suggest looking over this post and note the three scenarios based on marketing strategies that can be used depending on whether we master two or three variables (technology, product, market).

If we control at least two of the three variables in these first two examples, what can we do in terms of marketing?

(We do not deal with all the strategic and tactical possibilities. In this blog, we propose elements which we are certain will be performing).

1-The technology/product couple; The case of a CRM

In this case, there is only the market you need to know about. You control your technology and your product. The market already knows what a CRM or customer relationship management system is, but it does not know yours. You are developing this new market with something known in your other markets, but not for this particular market.

Here are some potential marketing actions to develop your TOFU. Not the one on your plate but, your top of funnel or the middle of your funnel or MOFU. in order to generate leads and to make you known in this new market.

Develop a value proposition which of course, has to be validated. Each new market segment contains a lot of expected gains, special challenges and of course, work to be done. If your product is undifferentiated, it is about challenges and how to help your client do his or her job that will find the leverage needed to successfully enter the market.

Develop notoriety for this new market: with a content marketing strategy based on your DNA, i.e. your strategic positioning. From there, you decline in different axes and you put in place your tools (blog, newsletters, case study, etc.) as well as your promotion content campaign (this is where we generate leads) with mix medias.

There’s a lot to say about content promotion since we’ve been around since 2013 in content saturation on the web. This strategy of mix medias requires that you put in place processes and indicators of performance and, put in order sequence, steps and measures to know whether we go to the next step or not. When content promotion is well realized, it offers impressive results on the notoriety, the credibility and the generation of prospects.  In this case, if you benefit from a known “brand”, you are beginning with a head start. Remember that you are aiming for a very large market and you need to know the target with much more precision to perform.

2 –The product/market couple is known, however the technology behind it is not

(for example, a video production tool from blog posts such as Lumen 5 or Raw shorts).

The market knows similar products and you know the market. We then need to educate the market on technology. We are therefore in incremental innovation: a product that already exists but is being improved with new technology. The market already has a frame of reference. It’s an improvement on what they already have. In B2B, the element of reliability is crucial, and the argument will be at the heart of the process. There will be significant resistance based on the “Why Change?”. The strategy becomes clearer: you must educate yourself about your technology.

You have different choices to articulate your competitive advantage:

  • The “value proposition” for this market already exists and is validated, however;

Where does our innovation bring the most value?

  • The work to be done by the customer becomes faster, more reliable, cheaper?
  • The gains from using your innovation are important?
  • New problems are addressed?

If the new technology-driven features are on a different element than the current market value proposition, this element will make your sales much easier, and will truly become a distinctive advantage. These benefits will allow you to develop new customers.

Your current customers, who should also be your first target:

  • Marketing efforts will focus on the middle and bottom of the sales funnel (consideration / evaluation / selection) and the modified content accordingly.
  • Vendors are particularly important in this context. It’s a shortened sales cycle. Knowing their customers, sellers are in the best position to argue for the “incremental” value that is based on innovation. We must therefore equip them with support material; demos, data sheets, white paper, videos.
  • Effective sales-marketing alignment will increase sales “velocity” by implementing a more efficient account-based approach (ABM).
  • Sharing customer testimonials on efficiency will offer a quick impact.

Your strategic positioning should be reinforced by incremental innovation or allow you to attack the “position” occupied by a competitor in the minds of your customers and prospects. Normally, your “brand” will also be strengthened, provided that the customer experience offered by this innovation is consistent with what you have always offered.

It’s necessary to review the personas and determine whether the “evaluator” is always the same.

3- A little complex: your innovation is “ground-breaking”

This breaking technology will significantly change current products or generate a whole new product category. To develop a competitive advantage around breakthrough innovation, what should be done? (Source: Forbes May 2018).

  • Develop a “Thought leadership” strategy: convey a simple vision of what will change and one that everyone will understand.
  • Work on the Value Proposition (validated) will focus on the element that will create the most value in a context of increasing the likelihood of rapid adoption of the technology (typically through a new product integrating design thinking)
  • Uncover business influencers (attacking a market niche that will demonstrate the final proof of concept and “sell” reliability).
  • Have a figurehead, spokesperson for the brand (Apple: Steve Jobs).
  • Quickly integrate into the ecosystems that will use your techno (find your early adopters and do quick iterations or even product co-development to move faster to commercialization).
  • Provocative content strategy; you have to stand out and get “Earned Media” (illustration above).
  • Expect a large public relations budget.

In the end, our strategic positioning can be called to change. A search will then be necessary to redefine the axes. Watch out for the brand, to avoid the old perception harming you, it will undoubtedly need to evolve, as does your positioning!

The importance related to the reliability of the new technology can also change the balance of power on purchasing committees. Revisiting personas will become inevitable. In any case, you have to be agile and ready to change any activities – or even revise the strategy in the months following the launch.

To learn more contact us.

Strategic Positioning in the Era of Digital Transformation

Strategic positioning is the DNA of a brand. To get to know it, it’s necessary to study it so that it does not become the only result of a communication exercise. Strategic positioning is the foundation for the success of brands (companies and products) and, should precede the reflection and creation of “branding”.

Marketing evolves and transforms, and we see the changes accelerate at high speed, sometimes in a somewhat incoherent way. Fortunately, some foundations still exist and allow to generate a profit quickly or even costly losses if ignored.

The strategic positioning of the company or its products and services is for me, the most important.

Digital transformation is not a new buzzword

I have been in marketing since 1987, made the leap in to Web as early as 1995 and did the planning and strategy of the first e-commerce site for Birks in 1999.

Later with ExoB2B, I had the chance to create complete digital ecosystems marketing/sales and integrated them into traditional ecosystems to meet a B2B and B2B2C demand.

Since then, I have seen and lived through the transformations of both marketing and digital.

Transformations that have provoked profound innovations and changes among buyers and sellers of products and services by changing their ways of shopping and procuring them through the Web and mobile (m-commerce) but, also changes in our relationships with them and the companies that market them.

Today, artificial intelligence is applied to marketing and sales from the data it collects and exploits.  We are at the beginning but the cycles of marketing innovation have become so short that soon it will take its place. 

With everything jostling, keeping pace requires daily dedication.

What does this have to do with strategic positioning?

This new world which has evolved since the penetration of digital in the sales and marketing functions, allows to further push the knowledge of companies in markets with data and some form of marketing automation that is not perfect, but promising.

The trap that several managers fall into is this mirage of ease or shortcuts to operate marketing when in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Marketing is complex with:

  • The opening of geographic markets;
  • Competition that is no longer just direct;
  • Innovative business models in distribution and, sales and purchasing processes;
  • The addition of web-based channels that increase contact points between sellers and buyers;
  • The multiplication and sophistication of digital tools that support sales and marketing functions.

Choose, Occupy and Defend

Companies that manage to move to their next level of growth or stand out by taking advantage of threats often have one thing in common. They took the time (yes time!) to choose a strategic position, to occupy it and to defend it.

Choose, Occupy and Defend, three words that are easy to remember and that make sense in creating and maintaining a unique and sustainable strategic positioning in the long run.

All the means and functions carried out by the company, be it R & D, marketing, finance, communications and sales, will have to work to build this positioning in the spirit of internal and external target customers to make their DNA live.

The company will be able to defend the positioning it has chosen to occupy.

But a company must first know themselves from the inside out before expressing its identity, a mistake that many companies make! There are no savings or gain acquired by not carefully choosing the positioning.

When a company is aligned with its DNA, it is authentic. It establishes a role and relevance in its market. It can create its brand and its marketing strategies and then, create a momentum towards the domination of its market.

The principles of strategic positioning

Who are we as a business? What are our concerns? Two of the most important questions that any leader should be able to answer. To answer it thought, you must understand what our company does (its “core”) of course!

But equally important, what it generates as a benefit to its most important customer segments through its value proposition. In addition, how does it position itself in front of its competitors?

To answer these questions and to be firmly anchored in the market, it is strongly advisable to question it and not to assume any perceived or desired profits in its place.

Still recently, a company I worked with did not want to research its target clientele to understand the axes on which it had to position itself. We went around in circles for a few months and changed axes several times only to not be “reassured” about the choices. What for?

Strategic marketing is not a crystal ball. The choice of a position should not be an exercise based on our perception of what it should be but rather, of the methodological rigor established for this purpose to fully understand who we are.

Two definitions of positioning:

Ries and Trout, the creators of the 1969 positioning concept defined it as follows (my translation):

“Positioning is not what you do to your product, positioning is what you do in your prospect’s mind. This is the position, the place the product occupies in the head of the prospects”.

As everything evolves, here’s a newer one from Andy Cunningham,

“The concept of strategic positioning is the rational expression of the unique role and relevance of a company, product or brand in the market: The final Statement of what you are and why you make a difference”.

Two things to consider when you do the exercise:

  1. Your competitors
  2. Your target clientele

Two tools that will help you choose your positioning:

  1. Marketing research and its methodological choices
  2. The positioning maps and its choice of axes (from the benefits and benefits seen by the target clientele)

In conclusion, positioning (rational expression) works in concert with its complement of branding, whose role is the emotional expression that is transmitted in the logo, the color palette, the voice, the language and the customer experience that it wants to live.

Several specialists treat the positioning and branding in an equal way. Let’s keep in mind that positioning precedes branding. We must know each other (our corporate DNA) before expressing who we are.

Once these strategic elements are defined, the tactical choices and tools to be put in place will be aligned with the performance at hand.

If you want to continue the conversation, I invite you to contact us.

Elka Suspension completes a successful digital transformation with Exo B2B

To adapt to a changing industry, Elka Suspension, a manufacturing company in Boucherville, collaborated with Exo B2B to transform its business model and embrace the digital age. The results went beyond Elka’s expectations and the numbers speak for themselves. In less than four months after the transformation, the investment already proved to be very profitable!

Elka Suspension was founded in 2000, with the mission to provide the fans of off-road motorized sports vehicles (ATV) the ultimate driving experience with shock absorbers already adapted and calibrated to the geometry of their vehicle. Not too long ago, their non-transactional WordPress was generating less than 5% of their monthly sales of high quality suspensions for snowmobiles and quads. Three-quarters of orders came from the United States, where the major market trends come from.

Elka also had a more traditional distribution network, through which distributors would order products to be sold in store by dealers. On Elka’s previous website, you could ask for a price quote by filling out an online form. However, following the financial crisis in 2008, the industry was severely affected and transformed. Numerous retailers had to close their doors, while some distributors consolidated their forces to take greater control of the market, increasing their margins and even going as far as producing their own line of performance pieces.

Facing this new paradigm, Elka was one of the first manufacturers to react and adapt to the trend. Especially since their products are customized for each order and are not stockable, there is little interest in continuing to go through several channels. Elka therefore took the strategic decision to better meet the needs of end customers through e-commerce. However, with no marketing team in place to face such challenges, Elka decided to call on Exo B2B to assist in the development and implementation of an effective strategy.

The analysis

Analyzing the sales process highlighted several weaknesses. Elka realized with this analysis that their conversion rate was oscillating between 5% and 18%, which is more than disappointing. A very high volume of customers would not complete the sales process. The close collaboration between Exo B2B and Elka also highlighted the weaknesses of the old website and helped identify the bottlenecks (speed, page display time, etc.).

So, rather than just showing their product line, Elka opted for a B2B2C web strategy. The new ecommerce website would educate the consumers and guide them to the product they really need, inform them on the availability of the product, and ultimately get them to make a purchase online. By talking directly to the consumer, Elka would then convey the right message.

The results

Online sales now represent 30% to 40% of their total monthly sales. Elka has fully leveraged its investment in less than four months. Even their retail sales and profit margins went up as a consequence, while seasonality stabilized across their market segments.

On the other hand, Elka’s sales network is still in place, but it has improved. Some retailers use the site to guide their own customers in the purchase process. The site has become an educational tool to generate sales in stores. Retailers have even asked to be able to buy directly on the site themselves as the process is simple.

Elka’s new site is under WooCommerce, a WordPress ecommerce solution, and offered in three languages. A separate site is especially adapted to its main markets: Canada, the United States and, in a pilot project, France.  As a result of this digital shift, Elka now has better control over its sales network, as well as the image of its company, in addition to pushing its turnover to new heights.

To find out how the developed strategies have brought this company to new heights and to get all the details, download our case study here.

And if you want to discuss it with our digital marketing specialists, contact us!

THE IMPORTANCE OF PERSONAS IN B2B

According to a survey conducted by ITSMA, currently 44% of marketers are using personas in B2B. We believe that in the next 12 months this number will climb to 73%. This trend is quite logical and profitable when personas are developed with method and rigor.

Personas are a result of refinement of “profiles” developed in B2B, using certain marketing research methods, which are still used in the development of personas to this day.

The evolution of a profile to a persona is made possible, among other things, by the exploitation of digital data from several sources. The IT tools that allow us to process data are more efficient and specialized. They’ve enabled us to become more specific.

Why create personas in B2B?

The reason is simple: to understand and truly address the expectations, goals, needs and objections of your buyers, their role in their company’s buying process, the interactions that they have with other stakeholders (influencers, users, policy makers, etc.), factors that influence them, as well what keeps them from buying your product, service or solution.

Why be so rigorous and detailed?

An effective persona gives you the answers you need to influence the buying decision in your favor at every stage of the customer’s buying cycle.

Also, an effective persona is studied within a set of activities and interactions known as the ‘Customer Journey’. In other words, the person you are targeting isn’t alone on the road to deciding to buy or not to buy your product or service.

They are working within a shopping environment that has its own rules, processes and control systems that cannot be ignored in a competitive environment. Moreover, your potential buyers are highly educated when they begin to interact with their suppliers.

 

60% of the purchase process is already done*

when a potential buyer encounters you and your competitors.

Your customers have therefore already come a long way without your help. You must make sure that they find what they are looking for at the beginning of the process. This also goes for those who will influence him along the way.

The risks related to the purchase

The importance of having personas is closely related to the risk levels of purchasing and using your products, services or solutions. Frankly speaking, not all products require this type of tool and planning.

It’s therefore understandable that developing a persona for 3D drawing software for an architectural firm makes more sense than creating a persona for the architect’s pencils.

The levels of risk perceived by your personas are part of the elements that you must quickly integrate into your knowledge of them. The higher the risk, the more decision makers you’ll have to positively influence, therefore, the more educated they are and the longer and more complex the purchasing cycle will be.

 

48% are more likely to make a purchase**

if they were solicited with a well-adapted marketing message that took their risks into consideration.

The more research done on your persona, the more your marketing will help reduce this perception of risk among your prospects.

Characteristics of good personas in B2B

 

L’IMPORTANCE DES PERSONAS EN B2B Exo B2B

A good persona is above all, a representative persona. If you decide to create a buyer persona, you need to ensure its characteristics were considered in different contexts. For example, are these personas at your customers? At your ex-customers? Or your prospects?

At Exo B2B, we organize them this way:

  • “identity” dimension

Contains the general and relevant characteristics of the persona profiles. Data on age, academic background or career path taken may be noted.

  • “identification of a primary need” dimension

This dimension must define the reason why your persona considered you in the first place. It must answer the “why?”

  • “sought-after value” dimension

This dimension goes beyond the notion of need and includes the values or benefits sought in the purchase.

  • The “Product relevance” dimension

Less factual than the preceding ones, this dimension must explain the relationship, the story between the persona and the product such as the trigger.

To identify the relevant elements to put forward in a persona, you must first step back and think about the solution or product in an overall context. Just like a detective, you need to gather facts from the different departments within the company and investigate these elements, which will be integrated with different dimensions.

A guarantee of efficiency

Finally, remember that creating personas will undoubtedly increase efficiency. They are the building blocks of your content strategy, sales pitches and promotional tools.

This just an overview of the subject. If personas are important you, we can offer customized training.

Click here for more details on the “Personas in B2B” Training (French only)

*CEB-Gartner study 2015 page 3

**According to an ITSMA study 

 

When in the face of change – grow or decay

Change is a permanent state; an uninterrupted succession of events that occur and are linked together, stimulated by the internal and external environments of organizations.

Change is inherent to the growth and survival of organizations. It also stimulates innovation at various levels and within the different functions of the company.

I’m not referring to change as if I were a specialist on the subject because I am not. I am, however, an observer and an active participant in many changes over the course of my 30 years in business. I’ve witnessed or have had to negotiate many changes. The reasons I am invited to participate are: growth, new product development or new markets, adoption of IT for sales and marketing, new orientation and strategic positioning and, helping organizations cope with a paradigm shift in their marketing.

Communication to manage change

I have witnessed unsuccessful changes and many that have succeeded because, over and above their healthy “management of transformation” and all the strategic and operational aspects, proper communication had been implemented beforehand and had remained a constant throughout.

The decision makers requested advice from their specialists on the “view” of what they wanted to change or transform and, continued this exchange throughout the transformation by adopting the comments or opinions along the way. These were selected based on relevance. Egos were in service of the project and not the reverse.

Changes are possible when they are executed with respect, and through a clear vision and leadership that listens, and that allows mutual assistance and collaboration. Dialogues of the deaf are unfortunately the way some managers work. These lead only to frustration and power games with self-serving interests.

An ecosystem ready for change

Important company issues are the driving forces of change and are far from being only financial imperatives. A company’s ecosystem creates both its strengths and weaknesses. All functions in a business must be questioned as to whether they are called to play a role in the change and how it can be played. It is imperative to involve people not only to get them to come out of their silos but also because they hold a lot of information. From their vantage points, they have unique and valuable suggestions for optimization.  It would be a loss for the company to be deprived of its own knowledge!

As our organizations are constantly challenged by change, we need to be:

  • Informed: research and monitoring on a systematic basis, with methodological rigor. This requires the right tools and performance indicators;
  • Alert and agile: ready to adapt to changes. As you have internal and external data, you will be more confident in your decisions
  • Open-minded: the road may be quite different from what was expected
  • Surround yourself with the best: common sense.

I’ll stress communication again because it helps stay on track and maintain focus. If it is absent or deficient, it can generate a lot of conflict.

Essentials for successful change

In order to maintain or create harmony and balance, here is my best definition of the communication characteristics that I find effective:

Integrity, it helps eliminate doubt

Attention to the time of others, they are as important as you;

Honesty; speaking without a hidden agenda.

Don’t take advantage of others. It’s weak and ultimately,  it will do a disservice to the cause. It is a self-serving dead end.

… and trust, not mistrust, should be the basic premise.

Here at Exo B2B, we are currently going through a crucial period of change, and it is very exciting.

I wish you all the same!

 

Exo B2B’s blog recognized in the United States

Imagine our surprise and delight this past weekend when we learned on Twitter that B2B Marketing Academy, has recognized Exo B2B (that’s us) for the quality and relevance of its blog! Here’s the article : “5 Brainy Blogs for the Curious B2B Marketer”. The two heads of the Academy are Christine Viera and Peg Miller, two important influencers in B2B marketing, south of the border.
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