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 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
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
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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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