It’s just over five years since our niche expert team came together with a ‘not the norm approach’ to business. We are very focused in what we do with a nerd-like passion, we have an unintentional female bias to the team and, we are 100% virtual. Reflecting on our award success made me realise just how much we’ve learnt about running a virtual business. We are really slick as a team and that’s down to a few key learnings which I wanted to share for anyone else considering running a business this way.
First, let me tell you a little bit about our business. We are a specialist team of 10 full-time people dotted across the UK and the globe. Supported by a virtual team of 20+. We have team members in Yorkshire, Kent, the Cotswolds, Oxford, London, Australia, Paris and New York and work with global tech brands. We deliver value proposition and partner marketing – in fact over the last five years we have developed over 300 technology-based value propositions, and 120 go-to-market plans with 60+ global brands. In order to do this at scale we needed to be super slick and agile. What has this taught us that we can share with anyone wanting to grow a virtual business? Here are six insights as a starter:
1. Make the most of enterprise cloud software, it will transform how you work.
What we do would not have been possible 10 years ago as we rely on a range of software which has step by step digitally transformed how we work. We use HubSpot for CRM and marketing and Active Collaboration for project management and workflow, Huddle for secure storage, Xero for accounts and of course, Microsoft Office 365 and Skype for business. All this rich industrial software allows our virtual team to work collaboratively and professionally in a secure and complaint way regardless of where they are based. It saves time and money every day and stops us being reliant on individuals.
2. Digitalise your IP
Businesses like ours typically are full of ‘big brains’ but you need to scale and give customers consistency. So, it’s key to digitalise your IP (Intellectual Property) which goes beyond using off-the-shelf software. To achieve this our latest initiative is to build an end-to-end digital work flow for our methodology (Discover, Build, Activate, Measure) . This will ensure consistency regardless of location or marketing consultant delivering the proposition or go to market plan. We believe this is critical for any IP-based virtual business to truly scale.
3. Create a virtual version of a ‘real office’ structure to ensure best practice
We have a virtual CFO, virtual HR Director and a virtual accounts team. These ensure our physically disparate team get the same level of support as in an office, such as health and safety checks and meet the necessary GDPR compliance and working regulations. We run monthly 1:1 reviews, all have objectives and personal development plans; all the good stuff you’d expect. Just because you are physically dispersed doesn’t mean you should stop these best practices. Governance and tracking is also critical to keep any team, especially a virtual one, focused on business priorities.
4. Daily video ‘scrum’ with your team to stay emotionally connected
Even though there are hundreds of miles between us all (sometimes 1000’s) we all see each other pretty much every day (on video). We make sure we have time for social chat before getting down to the business priorities of the day and ensuring we deliver what our customers need. When this doesn’t happen, people lose that connection and aren’t as aligned. Seeing people is so important – so even if you are wearing your running kit or pyjamas, it’s video on!
5. Work extra hard to listen to your customers
We spend face-to-face time with all our customers but many work with us virtually – in the US, Australia South Africa and across Europe. For any business, but especially a virtual one, it’s important to listen. We are continually listening to our customers informally and formally. Last year we ran our first annual customer listening and have developed our business based on this. We are massive believers in continuous improvement and for any virtual business you have to work extra hard to keep your ear to the ground.
6. Prioritise face-to-face time
We spend time with our customers regularly in person and as a team every eight weeks. We love the flexibility of being virtual but we love it most as it means we can dedicate our face-to-face time with our clients, on their sites, understanding their businesses and stakeholders – be that in London, Paris, New York, San Francisco, Stockholm or Mumbai. We also need to have fun and stay connected as a team.
Fresh thinking is one of our core business values and as we continue to grow, we continue to learn. I’m sure in another 5 years I can add to this list but for now I hope you take some insight from our journey so far and thank you all the people that have helped us get where we are.
With 75% of world trade now going through the indirect sales channel, partner experience (PX) is fast becoming just as important as customer experience (CX).
When we surveyed some of the leading global technology brands, in conjunction with The University of Huddersfield, we found out just how important the experience and maturity of partner marketers was related to their ability to develop successful partner relationships. Being able to pull on a wide knowledge base and understanding really was key to being able work effectively with partners, yet this is often an area that is overlooked or under-resourced.
Take customer experience for example – we all know how important delivering the best CX is and businesses across the world are investing heavily in CX champions. But the reality is, they only have one strategy to develop and manage (albeit a very important one!). A partner marketeer, on the other hand, needs to consider two strategies when it comes to PX; how they manage this in their own organisations AND with their partners. And don’t forget, most partner marketeers will be responsible for multiple partner relationships.
A PX champion needs to be passionate about every single one of their partners. They will need to invest significantly in getting to know them, what makes them tick etc, to understand how best they can work together and create the most value for both organisations.
There are a number of character traits that make a successful partner marketeer:
What do you need to do to make sure your partners really value you?
Step 1 – understand who your partners are
Once you have completed all these steps, you will be able to outline your PX strategy and set about creating the very best experience for your partners and helping both organisations achieve your sales goals and business objectives.
To find out more about the tools and methodologies we have to help speed up this process, contact Jo.
Part of our role as partner marketing experts is to support IT and technology vendors and their resellers with their partner marketing plans and tactics. Digital is now very much part of any suggested strategy from us.
Often, in the planning stage of a partner marketing plan, we have found that vendors and/or their resellers do not have a good digital presence. This means prospects struggle to find them during a search. In fact, our research shows that 53% had either not displayed or claimed (and updated) their listing in Google’s branded or local search facility.
It just doesn’t make sense to invest in lead generating marketing tactics if your target customers are going to struggle to find what they need quickly. After all, we know that during the awareness phase of the buying journey, one of the first things they will do is a search in Google.
If customers can’t find what they want, the sales cycle can just stop. Often simply because they haven’t got the time or confidence to investigate further.
This spurred us to commission an independent report in partnership with Sharp Ahead, experts in digital marketing, into the digital health of the top 100 UK VARs. These VARs (value added resellers) are promoting vendor solutions so we believe it’s important that any joint marketing investments start with the digital basics. This way you can ensure every opportunity is made to get the very best return on MDF (marketing development funds).
The findings of our research make for compelling reading, with over 61% of the top 100 UK VARs missing at least one basic digital marketing best practice.
Take a look at our report. Are you confident that you tick all the boxes? Are you confident that your partners tick all the boxes? Are you really addressing the basics before diving into tactics such as email marketing and events?
Like what you see and want to find out more? We have 10 FREE digital health checks up for grabs to evaluate your current digital footprint and measure the effectiveness of your online spend.
Get in touch to request your health check via email email@example.com or Twitter @CoterieMktg or call us +44 (0)113 292 0945.
Sharp Ahead are coterie’s digital marketing partners, working together to integrate digital best practice into our partner marketing campaigns.
To download your copy of this digital marketing guide you will be asked to complete your name and email address.
Please click here to get your copy.
With limited resources and budgets, partners are looking to their vendors to go the extra mile with relevant, targeted marketing content.
Whether you are creating content for partners, or wanting content support from your vendors, there is one message coming out loud and clear from our research. For marketing content to drive positive actions and create leads, it must show a real understanding of the intended audience, be crafted specifically for their needs and weave together the expertise and USPs of both vendor and partner to create differentiation. This can only be achieved through the development of close partner marketing relationships and a structured, collaborative approach to joint go-to-market campaigns.
Vendor-produced content has always played a significant role in partner marketing. With massive pressure on resources and budgets, many partner marketers view good vendor content as an efficient and effective way to differentiate themselves – but the reality is slightly different.
Our recent survey of partner marketers looked at the true opinions around vendor content. Whilst the appetite for content is clearly high, partners are only really going to use it if it is targeted, relevant, and personalised.
So, how do you get more partners to use the content you produce? Here are our recommendations:
Think about: working with proposition development specialists and market experts can help ensure your content starts with customer needs first.
Think about: engaging a 3rd-party agency to help create tailored content and doing a ‘final-mile’ spin to personalise it.
Think about: aligning your messaging with your partners is critical; developing content that matches joint go-to-market themes to get the best results.
Think about: developing the right type content AND the right ways to share it. 70% of respondents said they would prefer to have content emailed directly to them (70%) and also wanted support to discuss and understand the content.
There is no doubt marketing content plays a hugely important role throughout the end-to end customers buyers’ journey. Investing the time and effort in creating powerful, differentiated content that can be tailored with partners and personalised to your joint customer’s specific needs, is worth its weight in gold. Not only will it help bring in leads quicker, it will also go a long way to you help you in developing profitable long-term relationships with your partners.
To find out more and access the full survey results, click here.
Director & Head of Value Proposition Development
Transformation, Cloud, Digital...all sound a bit familiar now? Once again, the technology industry has some new themes to latch on to and once again we feel a little bombarded by them. So, what does Digital really mean for our businesses, and how do we really take advantage of it and ride the wave?
Without a doubt, the revolution is upon us and significant change is happening right now. Gartner (Hyperscale Cloud Providers to Increase Market Dominance April 12 2018) predicts, “By 2021, hyperscale providers will account for nearly 70% of the market, up from 50% in 2016.” Forrester (Forrester's 10 Cloud Computing Predictions For 2018) adds, “Amazon Web Services, Google, and Microsoft will capture 76% of all cloud platform revenue in 2018.” Who would have thought a mere 10 years ago that the world’s major corporations would be putting critical workloads in the public cloud and increasingly relying on the Internet as a means of connecting to it?
So, what does this all really mean? CIOs see the opportunity, the business wants the agility to deliver modern user experiences, end users are demanding modern workplace experiences, and customers have more choice than ever before. Indeed, Jeff Bozos recognises that “Our customers are loyal to us right up until the second somebody offers them a better service.”
However, the utopia of DigiClouds is not without its challenges. The marketing machines of the tech industry are in top gear and would have us believe that it’s a straightforward shift to transform our workplace, workloads and, ahem, work, in their cloud. Indeed, if you are just starting out, it’s great. A brilliant idea can steal market share in weeks, but for established businesses a little more is needed.
In this world of Big Data, surely we can be a little more precise and understand the real value a bit better? Reputation, relevance, growth and even survival are the real business focus, as competition can come from anywhere in this world of cloudification and it comes fast.
The ability to transform is well recognised, but the reasons to do it go beyond cool tech, ability and limitless scale. Understanding customer requirements is the key, as is the motivation to serve customers better and deliver a meaningful user experience that is of direct relevance to their requirements, that consumes Digital and consumes Cloud, but that applies the tools to their exacting requirements.
Once we understand the customer, the pieces fall into place, and we have unprecedented access to the technology to make truly unique customer experiences happen. Addressing your customers’ ambitions, understanding the end customer and generating unique personal interactions, be they digital or good old analogue (the art of interacting!), can position you in conversations that generate tangible, valuable outcomes.
The ecosystem to “do” things is immense. The partnerships we can pull together make most things possible, but just “Digital” is not the answer. Our approach is to generate meaningful engagements that help organisations understand their customers and help them apply their unique and powerful capabilities to address those needs.
Guest Blogger, our newest Associate.
How the traditional AIDA (attention, interest, desire, action) model has shifted in the post-digital era and what this means to B2B marketers.
In a post-digital world, a new customer path is being defined, it moves from being a very personal path, where individuals determined what they thought about brands – to those people being much more heavily influenced by the ‘community’ surrounding them. Not only that, but loyalty has shifted too – once defined as retention and re-purchase, in this new model, it’s now defined by a willingness to be an advocate – for example leaving a TripAdvisor review, or tagging a favourite brand in an Instagram post.
Like AIDA however, it’s nice and easy to remember - it’s the 5 A’s; Aware, Appeal, Ask, Act, Advocate. The trick for us marketers is to create impact at every stage. For example, using interesting thought leadership content to get on the buyers long list of brands at the AWARE stage, creating WOW factors that APPEAL on a personal level and ensuring relevant information is easily available for the ASK stage. Engaging customers at the ACT stage and make sure their user experience is positive and memorable. And, finally encouraging and incentivising them to become ADVOCATES who tell your story for you. Something which is often more powerful than any other marketing tactics.
Think about: Carefully consider the channels you use at each stage linked to the buyer’s preferences. Use a combination of digital and physical – for example social media and blogs are great for AWARE but your buyer might want face-to-face contact with sales at the ASK staff.
Director & Head of Value Proposition Development
The importance of not forgetting your buyers are real people. Top tips on how to bring humans into your B2B marketing.
It’s so tempting to talk about tech – be it IoT, Botnets, cloud, AI – as it’s all very cool. We see lots of examples of where the marketing story is very technical, and that’s fine if you understand it. But more than often we are talking to C-level or senior technical people, who know the principles and buzz words, but can’t necessarily make the connections between the tech and what it makes possible; how it saves lives, how it protects the environment, how it enables people to serve customers better. It’s all about real life people.
Plus, when all is said and done, even when we are selling businesses, the most complex innovation, we are still just talking to humans. Humans who have lives outside of work, humans who have aspirations, passions, dislikes and values – all things that consciously or subconsciously, affect their decisions and behaviours.
It’s interesting to look at some of the marketing classics such as Kotler who said:
In human-centric marketing, marketers approach customers as humans – minds, hearts and spirit and this is where it touches ABM and profiling. But it’s not just about functional needs but also emotional needs, addressing anxieties and desires. A great starting point is to listen deeply to clients with empathy and immersive research. This could be looking at online communities such as CSO’s or cyber communities.
We hear lots of businesses say that they do customer-centric marketing, but not many do human-centric – the reality is that much of it is really product-centric and paying lip service to customer-centric. So, what do you need to do about it?
We’ve worked on a project recently that has really brought the power of this to life. It was great because these clients had a clear view on what they wanted, and were willing to try something new. We were looking at workplace technology – we hardly talked about technology at all. It was all about the individual’s happiness at work. We still made the important connections to the product, but we brought it to life with stories. It was a great balance between human-centric and product-centric.
Think about: Firstly, always make sure you are clear on who you are talking to and put yourself in their shoes. This is a great leveler and enables you to sanity check if your content is slipping back into being product-centric. Then, take it to the human level. Really get under the skin of what is happening for your targets – both work and personally. This will instinctively shift you to a new level of conversation that is more relevant and appealing to customers.
Director & Head of Value Proposition Development
Connecting with confidence. How to make sure your sales teams feel confident speaking to customers about solutions.
Over the years of doing product marketing the challenge has always been making sure your sales team feel confident talking to customers about your solutions. Helping them connect from a business challenge to a solution or product without feeling uncomfortable or out of their depth. So, how do you help them make that connection and bolster their sales efforts?
It’s all about creating a great story for them to tell in order to create more meaningful conversations. A story which, in really simple terms, tells what’s happening in the customer’s world, how it is impacting them and what your business can do to help. This means not bamboozling sales teams with technical solution information or complex PowerPoint, but instead providing the story in bite size chunks – conversation starters – that they can relate to and easily learn.
Also, think about what the “golden thread” is for your story – the one thing that connects everything across your business, and make sure this sits at the heart of all your content.
Think about: Creating tools for sales to help them bring the story to life without having to spend time interpreting it, for example interactive presentations, videos, case studies and sound bites.
Director & Head of Value Proposition Development
How to address the need for customer personalisation in a world full of B2B marketing content
For those of you that missed our first ever Instagram Live on Monday with the inimitable Catherine (Cat) Howard from Atos, do not fret, you can view it here.
We’ve also captured the chat in all its glory in this article, but first, time for a little introduction.
As VP of Marketing at Atos, a global leader in digital services, Cat knows all too well about the shift in buyer expectations and the resulting headaches this gives B2B marketers. We picked Cat’s brains about the growing trend for personalisation, how it’s impacting marketing teams and what she thinks our industry needs to be doing about it.
For starters, we know personalisation is a growing trend in marketing – 42% of those surveyed by the CIM last year said it was a key priority for them. We also understand that 50% of all marketing materials that are sent out are totally irrelevant to the recipient. So, we asked Cat what her take was on personalisation and she was flabbergasted it was only 50%!
“I think we’ve all seen examples in B2B and B2C where personalisation has been non-existent” said Cat. “I think personalisation is key for marketing in really making a difference for an organisation. The human aspect of marketing is becoming more and more important – we are not just business individuals we are people at the end of the day. It’s not just B2B or B2C, it’s about interacting with individuals and getting across what is important to them.”
“We have incredible technology, professional marketers and a real understanding of our target market so we should all embrace this and be leading above B2C. We’ve got no excuse any more”.
So, what’s stopping B2B marketers embracing this approach? We see loads of content and great insight available with all our clients. What’s the hold up?
Cat’s view was simple – it’s because we are essentially all in sales-led organisations. She explains “Business priorities tend to be around showing a quick return but personalisation takes time to implement effectively. Also, we are positioning really complex solutions which is different from B2C – we have lots of layers of complex messaging and different groups of people, different personalities that we need to reach which makes it tough.”
We hear you! So, how do you make sure you get that right bit of content to the right person at the right time? There certainly isn’t a shortage of good content in this industry!
Cat believes that technology can be a real enabler here. Having the right tools available to get the content across and spending the time to map out the processes against the customer journey. Hmmm… is that expensive Cat?
“I think everyone’s budgets are limited but there are a vast amount of tools out there that are free. I think it’s really about having that focus and strategy behind what you are doing. Picking the target accounts you want to go after and making the investment in them. In my role in Atos we are very targeted, we know the accounts, we know the individuals and so it’s about mapping out their customer journey and being really smart about who and how we market to people.”
And finally, we were keen to get Cat’s view on the risk for marketers doing nothing. Her message was clear.
“Organisations risk becoming irrelevant in the market, particularly if you don’t get personalisation right. I think the days of generic content are long gone. It’s about really personalising the message to individuals because it is getting harder and harder to reach people.
We couldn’t agree more. There are 5 key things we took away from our chat but we would love to keep the conversation going so please do share your experiences with us:
To watch the full interview between Cat Howard, VP Marketing at Atos and Helen Curtis, MD of Coterie, go to https://www.coterie.global/news-actual/insta-live-chat-its-all-about-us-as-people.
Partnerships are great, aren’t they? Gin & tonic, apple pie & custard, Prince Harry and Meghan, there is one thing they all have in common and that’s balance. The ying to the yang, if you will. This is also true when it comes to crafting the best joint partner value propositions. It’s all too easy to try to merge two separate stories together – we do X, our partner does Y but the problem being, customers can see straight through it – or be left totally confused. That’s why the story needs to be told properly, if it’s to drive sales results. It’s also a really good way to make sure both sales teams see the collective value and can position the complete offering.
For joint propositions to really fly, the focus must always be on the power of the joint solution – how, by two (or more) companies coming together can you help meet the customers’ needs better/faster/more cost effectively than the competition. It is less important who technically does what but it’s essential that the customer can understand what the offering can do for them. At the end of the day, they don’t care who delivers it, just that it works.
Here are a few simple tips to make sure you achieve the perfect value with your proposition:
And one final point, it can really help to involve a third party when developing joint partner propositions. An independent view can ensure all your value statements are properly tested against the customer ‘so-what’ question and that there is no bias on either side.
SUGGESTION! A great joint value proposition doesn’t come easy! You must ask – so what, so what – over and over to get them beyond feeling technically bamboozled. Don’t rush them, take the time to do it once and properly.
Director & Head of Value Proposition Development
In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “the best way to predict your future is to create it.” In an ever-changing digital world, I think this sentiment is even more applicable.
Being able to not only pre-empt what might be the next big thing but being able to drive it is something many of our clients are striving for. And it’s probably one of the big reasons we have seen an increase in demand for ‘futures papers’. Value propositions that don’t just show customers what you have to offer now, but set a path for the future, based on an in-depth knowledge of their mid to long term strategy and demonstrating how your own innovations and developments will help them achieve this.
By creating a clear vision that is centred on the evolving needs of your customers, and the wider impact the future may have on them, you can position yourself as a long term partner to guide their strategy – rather than just react to it. This will create competitive differentiation and secure revenue growth and up-sell/cross sell opportunities in the long term.
SUGGESTION! Can you give your value proposition a future gazing angle? 3, 5, 10 years out?
How we helped our customer reach new levels with an account-based proposition.
A common situation - our client was struggling to get traction with a major global business. They had sold in a solution at the network level but were finding it hard to elevate conversations beyond that, especially at c-level. They wanted to provide the CIO with a reason to talk to them – and a way to position themselves as a digital transformation partner for the future.
Looking at things differently - we started by first considering the customer. We researched their industry to find out what the major trends were and how these were impacting on the IT decisions being made within their business. We used these trends as the basis for interviews right across our client’s organisation and crafted a bespoke value proposition with an executive summary and 10 individual papers on each trend.
The impact - the Account Director had not just one reason to get face to face time with the client’s executives but ten! We were able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of how the trends linked to the ongoing strategy of the customer and showed not just what our client could do to help them now – but how they could help them evolve over the next 2-5 years. Every step of the way, linking it back to their business and the outcomes it would deliver for them.
TIP: How many customers do you need to target with your value proposition? If it’s only a handful, consider doing them one to one.
Director & Head of Value Proposition Development
Value is an interesting word. In the world of value proposition marketing, it is very much centred on the value you can demonstrate to the person you are selling to, whether that be a customer, a partner or even your internal teams. But what about the value it brings to you?
Miller Heiman reports that only 53% of salespeople make quota, which means 47% of your salesforce is not hitting their number. And the #1 reason, according to SiriusDecisions, is the sales teams’ “inability to articulate value to the customer.” I would therefore say, the value of a knockout proposition should be pretty high but what does that actually mean?
The process of creating a value proposition can be fairly involved but do it correctly, and you will end up with a base-line of clear and compelling messaging, centred around the needs of your customers and linking your solutions specifically to how you can help them. Is that where it ends? Is it just another tick in a long list of projects and on to the next? Nope!
The value proposition messaging is just the start. One of the reasons we create such in-depth propositions is to provide ‘one-truth’ if you like – saving a LOT of time as you move forward. It’s something that can be referred to continually when creating campaign, enabling your sales team or driving thought leadership. I often think of it like the omni-channel experience. Customers want to get a consistent experience no matter how they interact with you – whether via your sales team, your website, social media, events etc.
By having your ‘one truth’, you can drive greater impact across all your channels. Plus, when it comes to creating assets, you can simply spin the messaging. For example, to create bid copy, infographics, video scripts or use cases and digital content. You can also spin your propositions for specific verticals, tailor them for individual accounts or even personas – without losing the essence of your top line message. It’s something that is becoming much more common in a new digital world that thrives on personalised marketing.
How we helped our customer get up close and personal with persona value propositions.
When you have really cool technology, creating value propositions may seem easy. But how do you make sure you come up with the right messaging to hit all your target personas squarely in the face? Our client faced this challenge and came to us for help in really understanding the different types of people they were selling too.
Going beyond the basics (challenges, needs etc) we took a deep delve into each of the role types they wanted to target; getting under the skin of what made them tick, what kept them up at night, what they were aspiring to in their careers and, crucially, how they liked to consume information. We then took the solutions value propositions (which incidentally we also developed) and created tailored versions for each persona.
As we used the ‘one-truth’ proposition messaging as our starting point, our customer was confident that when targeting multiple c-level roles within one organisation, that they would receive a consistent top line message (business benefits based) but it would resonate more with each of them personally – as it would also talk to their specific needs, wants and concerns. It would also appear in the channels they turn to most – whether that be LinkedIn, Twitter, face-to-face events or in the press.
TIP: Try and take your value propositions and make them work for specific target groups. We know that targeted marketing is always performs best.
IDEA! Next time you’re looking to embark on a value proposition, take the time to work with your teams to plan out how you’re going to use to bolster your tactical delivery as well as your strategy. That way you ensure you get the most “value” possible.
Director & Head of Value Proposition Development
In a study by the CMO council, 85% of respondents viewed partnerships and alliances as essential or important to their businesses. Yet, almost half reported high failure rates (failure rate of 60% or more).
In today’s more complex world, where customers are demanding solutions to their many IT and business challenges – not just point products, this is a rather grim statistic. Partnerships nowadays can be make or break for so many vendors and systems integrators. So how do you make sure the investment you put into your relationships is seen through all the way to the fruition of pipeline and closed sales?
Let’s start by looking at what things can go wrong during the lifecycle of partnership:
Whatever the reason, the pathway to a successful partnership is often a rocky one. In my experience, without having the basic foundations in place, any of the factors above will be enough to stop a relationship in its tracks. Once that happens, it can be a hard slog to get it back to where it was – with faith lost on both sides.
In our research carried out with the University of Huddersfield, we discovered just how important human factors were: rapport, proactive communication, honest conversations. Being able to establish and maintain a solid relationship, even when things do change, is essential. Committing to a joint plan, with shared objectives and having the right governance and controls in place to deliver that will go a long way. If people move on, or the business shifts, you always have something solid to refer back to and adjust as you go.
Likewise, culture. Establishing a top-down, as well as bottom-up approach to partnering, will ensure the whole business is behind the relationship that is not dependant on a single person to keep the partnership afloat.
And finally, strategy. Ensuring your marketing strategy supports partner marketing will ensure plans are realised and executed, as they will form an essential component to you hitting your KPIs and delivering your numbers.
Partnerships and Partner Marketing are here for the long-haul and can bring untold benefits to your business if managed correctly. This means having the right processes, plans and regular communication in place across all levels of both partner businesses. By doing this you will be able to catch issues early on, work proactively to overcome them and ensure you see an increase in your pipeline as a reward for all your hard work and investment.
Have you experienced stop-start in your partnerships? How have you overcome these problems? We would love to hear from you, join the discussion and have your say firstname.lastname@example.org or @coterieMktg.
I’ve been working in the IT sector for more years than I care to remember, and it’s never been short of jargon.
In fact, I have to confess that like most marketers, I love the buzz words! In this article in BBN Times we discovered about the top 5 tech buzz words for 2018 – Quantum Computing, Dark Data, Microservices, Digital Detox, and Actionable Analytics.
Just recently however, I’ve noticed it’s stepped up a gear. With the speed of innovation and digital transformation becoming a reality for pretty much every business, the industry has gone into overdrive.
Do we need to put a health warning on these buzz words? Probably.
The layers of change which organisations are now going through, and the demand that this has placed on vendors and systems integrators to respond with the very latest services and solutions, has brought about a whole new language. Virtualisation, SD-WAN, agile cloud, hyper converged infrastructure, function as a service, I could go on forever. What does it actually all mean?
Every business I speak to is after the same thing – they want to be able to show their end-customers that they can help them meet their needs and achieve their goals better than anyone else. So why don’t they just say that? It’s really tempting to pop in a plethora of buzz words but they don’t help the customer clearly understand the value they can get from all this cool tech and innovation.
The most effective marketing I have seen speaks directly to the customer in very plain English (not quite Yorkshire), telling them what value they will get from whatever service or solution is on offer. A customer doesn’t care about how powerful your containers are or the robustness of your APIs – they want to know how it will help them do what they want to do better, faster and / or for less money.
Stand out from the crowd by declining buzz word bingo. Keep it real. Keep it focused on the customer. Tell them what impact you can make on their business.
Join in the conversation. Let us know some of the best / worst buzz words you have heard recently, and we will share them on our Twitter feed @coterieMktg.
A top trending fad or the future of marketing? Whichever way you look at ABM (Account-Based Marketing), the reality is that in the new digital world, you can’t ignore the buyer’s expectation for a more personalised, tailored experience, especially given how good B2C marketing has become at personalisation. We work with a lot of large IT vendors and systems integrators, helping them build value propositions centred around customer experience: Big Data analytics providers promising to make creating real insight about your end-customers easier, contact centre providers offering new personal ways to interact with customers through Chatbots and AI… it’s all there in black and white. So, if that’s the future for the services market, isn’t it about time marketing caught up?
As Forrester says, ‘Today’s buyers control their journey through the buying cycle much more than today’s vendors control the selling cycle.’ Account-based marketing has been around for some time; initially it was the smaller, more agile businesses that were able to take this approach, developing their marketing strategy for specific accounts. But big businesses are catching on now. As the legacy big marketing budgets of the past continue to be squeezed, all marketing departments are faced with the challenge of getting more bang for their buck. A lot of teams are actively training in ABM, with the understanding that a more tailored approach will reap greater success and ROI.
So, the big question – is it going far enough? Is creating a single approach for a specific business, where there are multiple stakeholders, buyers and importantly, influencers, all with their own personal challenges and reason to succeed, enough to stand you apart? Or could persona marketing be what ABM strategies are really missing?
To understand the people to whom you are marketing can be a daunting task - to get under their skin, learn what makes them tick and keeps them awake at night - but the rewards certainly outweigh the effort. And, if you don’t have the skill set or resource capacity within your teams, there are lots of people out there with the capability to help.
For example, we now include persona development within our value proposition creation. By understanding who you are trying to reach and why, you can build a more compelling VP that resonates not just with the IT buyer but across the business, to all the influencers that your solutions may impact or help. This approach also goes a long way with sales teams, getting them to elevate their pitch above the traditional IT manager contacts, out to the C-level and other heads of business such as CFO, CMO and the less familiar CDO (Chief Data Officer).
By making this investment upfront, it becomes much easier to flow your value proposition into your go-to-market strategy. Understanding what your personas want to read, how they consume content, where they go to get information or share their insights, what events they attend etc., can make sure you make the right choices and investments when it comes to the marketing mix.
But persona marketing is not just about understanding more about your end-customers. Last year we worked on a project with an engineering company to create a portal for their internal teams. Rather than just create ‘one-size-fits all’ content, we started first by understanding the different groups of users that the portal was addressing. We interviewed people from each of those groups to find out what they did day-to-day – how they accessed content, what type of information they needed, how often they were in the office, or whether they accessed data from their mobile devices out on the road. We asked them if they preferred words or pictures. PDFs or word documents. We even understood what types of interfaces they preferred down to the use of colour and icons. The end result? An Amazon marketplace-style portal where people were free to search and select information in the way that worked best for them. They could even leave star rating reviews of the tools – something incredibly important to them yet not something we would have thought about, had we not taken the time to develop the personas.
So, if you are looking to make a splash with your value propositions and create real traction with your ABM, or simply want to engage your teams more effectively, persona development could be just the ticket.
We would love to hear from you about your own experiences with persona marketing and ABM. Get in touch with email@example.com.
Talking about GDPR to your customers is fast becoming second nature for technology marketers, as everyone rushes to demonstrate how their solutions and services will make it easier for businesses to adopt the regulations when they come into force in May. But how much do you really understand about how GDPR will impact your own marketing and that of your partners?
The truth is GDPR is a meaty – and somewhat dry subject. Its primary aim is, ‘to give end-users more control over their data – what they see and receive, improve security and make steps towards stopping unwanted communications’. For marketers, it’s a bit of a headache. However, technology – combined with some preparation – can help solve the majority of the problems, leaving you with a cleaner database of people who want to hear from you.
This is a massive subject – and there are lots of experts out there who can really help you understand the nitty gritty of the regulation and what you need to be doing for your business. In the meantime, to give a helping hand, we’ve pulled together some handy tips from those in the know.
Don’t panic! Chances are your business will already have made investments to ensure you’re compliant – you just need to take the time to understand the facts and make sure you have all bases covered.
Audit your data
Communicate new privacy notice to those with legitimate interest
In the case of legitimate interest, you will need to communicate to your current database the fact that you have a new privacy notice and give them the opportunity to object to direct marketing. You will need to record what you sent, to whom and when. You should only use data that you have permission to market to, so choose the right channel to reflect the permissions you have.
Seek consent of those without
In the case of consent, there is no getting around it: you will need to get your existing customers to opt-in. This means communicating the specific detail relating to the use of the data, so the data subject can be fully informed before they opt-in. You can use a layered approach to this, where the communication content, or the webpage they land on, has the summary details of the processing undertaken, linking through to greater detail on further pages.
You must ensure that the individual is presented with sufficient information to allow them to be, ‘said to be informed’. You will need to record who opted-in, what they were told at the time and have some form of verification, such as double opt-in, to show an audit trail.
Know your geography
Data protection rules have long been bound by recommendations to store and access information within the EU only. However, this requirement has certainly come into the spotlight as a result of the GDPR hype.
Many marketers think they’ve already ticked this box, especially if they have UK servers or domestic-only operations. But many marketing professionals have overlooked the fact that partners and suppliers often transmit / have access to data.
Take a marketing automation provider and their support team, for example. If that vendor – or its contact centre – is based in the USA, the data is pinging its way back and forth beyond the boundaries of the EU. This is not permitted under GDPR!
Identify the external threats and internal errors posed to data management processes
Have you used a third-party agency to create a data capture device, website or landing site? Maybe you have got data from one of your partners or vendors? Make sure they are GDPR-knowledgeable and can write programmes and privacy notices that comply with GDPR. Internally, your organisation needs to mitigate errors by ensuring staff are appropriately trained, and records of training are kept.
Do you feel ready for GDPR? We would love to hear your own experiences and top tips for making sure data regulation doesn’t keep you awake at night Contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org.
With thanks to the following articles for content:
I’m always so impressed by just how much talent and knowledge sits within the customer organisations we work with. Which beggars the question why so many are still spending a fortune creating opinion pieces with the big gun analysts. Now don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for IT analysts and I think their insights still play a hugely important part in the overall marketing mix but there is also so much information being held within internal teams. Gems of market knowledge, golden nuggets of customer insight, and, quite frankly, a shed-load of innovative wizardry just waiting to get out.
So, what can you do with all that wonderful talent within your organisation? We’ve been working with several of our customers recently on creating opinion pieces. These papers provide the organisation’s view on a specific market or industry trend, including future predictions, pulling in insight gleamed from right across the business. By extending our remit outside of the sales and marketing organisation, and interviewing groups such as product management, corporate strategy, innovation and R&D, we have been able to collate a much more rounded view and access information that otherwise is held in silos.
Based on the foundations of what we are really good at (value proposition creation), the end result is powerful, differentiated information that can then be given a bit of zing and tailored for specific markets, customers or even persona types. Really relevant, compelling stories can be taken by sales and marketing to build trust with customers by demonstrating relevance, expertise and forward-thinking.
Of course, we still use analysts and the like to help us validate our customers’ opinions and provide an independent viewpoint - but it’s part of a much more integrated approach that importantly, doesn’t cost the earth to create.
To find out more about how we do this and what it could mean for your business, contact me at email@example.com.
So much money, you don’t know how to spend it. Sounds good, right? Maybe not when you are a partner marketer.
Maybe you’re an SI with partners knocking down your door with marketing cash to spend but no idea how to spend it. Or a vendor, trying to manage multiple funds with many partners. Or you simply don’t have the visibility to even know what budgets you can access. Spending MDF effectively and getting a good ROI is one of the biggest challenges facing partner marketing teams.
I speak to customers all the time that are struggling to know what to do with their MDF and as a result, money is left unspent and opportunities unfulfilled. Many people are simply not aware that their funds are expiring. Others don’t understand the often-complex rules and management to access money in the first place. And for many, they just don’t have the people or expertise to get the right plans in place and executed to spend it.
Managing MDF can be a bit of a fine art – but that shouldn’t put you off; there is another way. Using a third party to bolster up your internal teams and run your programmes is a great way to deliver quick returns. It might be going out to vendors to secure funding, and develop and execute joint plans. Or an extra pair of skilled hands to manage multiple partners and make sure they are making the most of your budgets.
We have recently worked with a global customer that was losing several hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of MDF provided by a single vendor. They had been going out to their regional teams to find out what it should be spent on, but the responses tended to be tactical, not tied to any strategic plan and therefore never executed. The funds expired and the money disappeared.
We helped them develop a strategic plan with the vendor to be executed centrally. As a result, they have seen 100% utilisation of available funds – and have clear directions on its management.
If you would like to find out more about how we can help you secure funds, manage existing funds and create joint partner marketing plans to support your strategic objectives, contact Jo@coterie.global
Imagine, if you will, how easy life would be if your brand did all your selling for you. Marketers around the world would be sat supping cocktails on the beach, watching their sales teams frolic playfully in the waves. But hold up. Before you book your first-class flights to Acapulco, it might be time for a little reality check.
As a propositions marketing manager working for a global communications provider, I often found myself pondering why, after all the zillions of pounds spent on brand re-invention, snappy straplines and endless above-the-line advertising, were sales teams still not hitting their targets. Why was I building massive sales enablement programmes and creating endless value propositions for solutions that customers never got?
With experience and the power of hindsight, it’s much clearer to me now. No-one is taking the time to connect their solutions to the brand. Comms, marketing and brand teams are operating in silos. And perhaps, most importantly, the end-customer is all but forgotten. The solution they are buying just isn’t living up to what your brand is selling.
Customers need to have a consistent experience if they are to really connect with your business and what you sell. They don’t want to be having to interpret multiple different messages coming from the same company. They want a clear articulation of your brand values all the way down the line to the service or solution you are selling. And they want to know something quite simple: why you are better than anyone else.
By creating a ’golden thread’ that connects your overarching brand messaging to your go-to-market themes all the way down to your portfolios and individual solutions, you can present clear value to them throughout the chain. No matter how or with whom they interact, they will be able to understand just what it is you can do for them – increasing the chance of them buying from you and staying engaged afterwards.
Put simply, this means translating your brand value to a solution level – what element of your brand does it relate to, what brand promise does it deliver on, what are the USPs and what value does it really create for the customer.
Do this, and not only will you have happier customers willing to part with more cash, you won’t be wasting all that money on catchy brand names and mission statements.
To find out more about how we can help you connect the dots between your brand and solutions using our simple methodology – and what this could mean for your sales enablement as well as campaigns – please get in touch.
Growth is king again
We have spent the last five years writing about how technology will help businesses consolidate solutions, increase efficiencies and ultimately reduce cost as this has been the highest priority for organisations across all industries. We are not saying that this need will disappear but rather, we expect to see value propositions focus more around driving digital growth rather than simply saving money. This will give vendors and partners a great platform to showcase digital innovation and really differentiate their offerings based on how their technology will support revenue and customer growth.
Gartner’s CEO Research found that growth (#1) and technology (#2) are the top CEO priorities for 2017-2018.
So how are you approaching this shift towards digital growth in your business? Are you able to be more granular in how your value propositions will support this trend? Do you need any help in realising the potential for your growth?
If you’ve got a story you’d like to share with us, then use the hashtag #growthnotcost.
Shift to micro-market segments
Throughout 2017, we saw a shift in focus to smaller and smaller market segments. No longer are we asked to write either standalone or joint value propositions for a broad market.
Emphasis is placed on a distinct, and often clear-cut set of customers – a geography, a sector, a sub segment, or sometimes just one solitary customer. We fully expect this trend to continue to grow in 2018 as ‘micro moments’ become increasingly more important.
These micro moments – when a person turns to a device or source such as a blog, app or smartphone – are happening every second of every day now. And, so the need to market effectively to them becomes more targeted, so that they’re engaged and more likely to respond.
In 2018, these micro-moments will transform the digital B2B arena as more people will hunt for information via mobile and make a purchase decision after a few touchpoints with the brand.
Take a closer look at this article for more in-depth detail.
Businesses need to be prepared to know the exact key characteristics of the customers they want to target. How will you be refining your value propositions or partner marketing plans to focus on these micro-segments, and what they need?
Are you digitally different?
2017 was the year of digitalisation with most major IT and telecoms companies focusing on this as a key business theme.
This was not surprising as many businesses have either embarked on or are setting out on their digital transformation journeys. But, as we see with many marketing themes such as cloud, with so much noise in the market, it is important to be clear about how your version of the digital story is different.
According to the survey data, 93% of CIOs at top-performing organisations* and 78% across the entire global sample (3,000+) lead adaptable and open-to-change IT organisations, thanks to the ongoing transformation to digital business.
Have you thought about your digital story yet? What is your differentiation and how can you back this up? How can you get this story out into the market – and make sure your sales team is speaking from the same page?
Focus on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics
We expect a continued focus in value propositions on AI and robotics. This is being fuelled by the media and headlines from the likes of Elon Musk trialling driverless trucks and AI-based space rockets.
However, we will be treading carefully as this subject is in hype mode. As it becomes a reality over the coming years, the promise for 2018 will be that every move is subject to close critique. As a result, marketing teams really need to think about how they speak about this subject and how they position their story and developments.
AI is listed as one of the most hyped technologies in Telecoms.com intelligence annual industry survey 2017:
How do you position the promise of AI and robotics as part of your value proposition to tell both your today and future story without over-hyping it? You need to make sure it’s exciting, but always make sure you bring it back to reality. Showcase how your technology is a key part of this infrastructure and the importance of making investments now to have the right platforms in place later to really embrace AI.
Connecting customer pain to product becomes a Must-Do
Driven by a more complex market and increased customer choice (with platform / as-a-Service models), it will become even more important this year to be able to demonstrate a firm connection between customer needs / pain-points and the end solution / product. This will apply to both end-customers and partners as both need to see not only the value in doing business but how specifically it will help them achieve their goals. Helping sales connect this from end-to-end, for example mapping customer pain-points not just down to the solution and product level, but also back up to your business or go-to-market themes, will be essential to achieving revenue growth. We expect also to see more digital tools being used to help enable sales in this more consultative selling approach.
Do you have a clear journey which connects the customer’s business pain all the way down to the product? Is the story simple and clear to communicate? How can you use digital tools to make telling this story easier and differentiated? How can you build your technology partners into this flow?
Telling the eco-system story grows in importance
Customers are consuming technology in multiple ways – as-a-Service, in the cloud, public and private, on-premise and as hyper-converged infrastructure. The reality of this can often mean a solution comprising multiple technology vendors and partners. Together their combined business value is higher than ever before – as the services they provide are more critical to businesses than before. Being able to tell this complex, yet very important story will be increasingly important in 2018: organisations will need to work hard to build good partner relationships and manage all stakeholders across the wider eco-system in order to develop a consolidated approach to the market and clear single message.
Consider: Are your most valuable technology partnership stories being clearly articulated. Are you communicating this across the stakeholders within your business and your wider eco-system? Have you got the right programmes in place to build and execute joint go-to-market plans with your partners?
Helen Curtis, Managing Director, coterie
Is it possible that the hipsters have got it right? Are ‘real’ interactions what customers really want?
Oh, how we scoffed at their funny craft beers, their wildly expensive artisan sourdough breads and their ‘slow food’ revolutions. But, as I sit and stare at the ever-growing stack of “actual” books by my bedside, I do ponder whether the resurgence of ‘real’ is what we are all craving as an antidote to our digital, and increasingly automated, world?
Working in the technology sector, digitalisation is everywhere we turn. From banking to utilities, healthcare to travel, companies are fast adapting their business models to respond to the growing needs of the digital customer. But hang on a moment – we’re all still the same people, aren’t we? Customers with needs to be met. Yes, we want to do things more efficiently, yes, we want to be able to access all the things we need faster, in whatever way suits our lifestyles but let us not forget ‘people buy from people’.
I recently saw a fantastic ‘Dear John’ break up letter to the advertising community. In this, the creative business leader, Nadya Powell berates her own industry for its over reliance on data – “you just do what she tells you without thinking twice”. She concludes, rather poignantly that data is in need of therapy so she can “learn about people and not just numbers”.
Interestingly a lot of articles that I have read lately about GDPR, are also making a similar observation. With predictions that up to 75% of customer data currently being held will be unusable once the legislation comes into force next year. This creates a great opportunity for businesses to have a fresh start and re-build customer relationships, in a more open and trusted way.
And for us marketeers, this means getting more creative in how we engage customers, and creating much more personalised, targeted campaigns that encourage human interaction in a way that works for everyone – not just going with the majority because it’s the easier thing to do. Quick, low cost and agile digital channels will absolutely be part of this but used at the right times for the right outcomes and in a highly personalised and authentic manner.
What do you think? Is there a place for real alongside digital? What tools and techniques are you seeing in both the B2B and B2C markets which you think are working well? You can get involved at https://twitter.com/Coteriemktg.
Hilary Fenn, Marketing & Strategy Director, coterie
Using our proven methodology of Build, Activate and Share we assisted CityFibre in creating a sustainable marketing model for their partners after dramatic growth.
Take a read of the case study we’ve written together, which describes in more detail the challenges CityFibre were facing and exactly what we at Coterie did to help.
If you’d like more information, or if you’d like to see how we could help you and your business, get in touch.