What’s in a name?


I sometimes find myself helping businesses that use an abundance of naming conventions for their companies, products, and services. Where the target market for all these names is the same, using a large number of names in your marketing simply confuses your customers. Simplification rules. Always.

It’s always worth thinking about differential advantage where your target market is the same. There’s value in using company name alone where your target market is the same and there is no differential advantage. Think McKinsey – which brands everything as “McKinsey”.

Alternatively where your target market is the same but there is differential advantage, consider using the company name to endorse the product brand. Think Cadbury’s Flake and Cadbury’s Twirl. Here the target market is the same: everyone who enjoys chocolate. That’s covered by the company name. There is differential advantage though around the texture of the chocolate. Flake is more crumbly than Twirl. So there is value to customers in having a product name as well as a company name. Product name though gets more attention than company name in these circumstances.

Another example is of Apple iPad and Apple iPhone. The target market is the same: everyone who wants handheld devices. But there is differential advantage based on the location of the user. So company name combined with a more emphasised product name adds value to the customer.

Google offers products that stray across target markets and advantages. Google AdWords and Google Adsense have similar target markets for advertising products but differential advantage. So company name and product name are used together with the emphasis on the latter. Compare that with YouTube and Android. Here Google uses a unique brand name because the target markets are different and there is differential advantage. Or look at Google Maps and Google Apps. Here a company name and grade are used to reflect a similar target market and no differential advantage.

It’s interesting to look at how the most valuable brands in the world apply their branding strategies. Apple tends to use their company name as an endorsement to their product brand (Apple iPad). But not always (Apple TV). Microsoft do the same (Microsoft Office, Microsoft Xbox, Microsoft Windows). Google tend to add company name to product name. But not always (Android). Coca-Cola use their company name on the packaging of different product brands. Samsung use their company name to endorse their product. As does Toyota.

There’s a lot of strategic thinking to put into what names your business uses and how.

Posted in b2b, b2b marketing, brand, Branding, Creativity, customer, marketing, Naming | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Even my blog is asking me for my goals for the year…


It’s the time of year when businesses like to ask for your objectives for the year. How they do this varies from organisation to organisation. Sometimes it’s a tick-box exercise run by the HR team. Sometimes there’s a protracted exercise to ensure that objectives cascade down or up the business hierarchy so that your goals are a sub-set of your line manager’s and your team take a sub-set of your’s. Sometimes it’s a bit more informal with goals scribbled on the back of a beer-mat during the latest team social.

This demand for objectives seems to be catching on outside of business as well. When I booked a venue for a big family reunion at the weekend, the venue organisers asked me for my objectives. My gym trainer asked me on Friday about my goals for the next session. I even received an e-mail last night from WordPress asking me what goals I have for my blog this year.

And I do think that when it comes to B2B marketing, having objectives is pretty important. I’ve worked for organisations where I’ve introduced marketing planning and objective-setting processes myself where there were none before. A good marketing objective-setting process needs to tie marketing back to business goals and integrate marketing team work with that of other departments in the organisation. A healthy business is made up of functions with different agendas but interdependent goals. A good objective will be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, targeted and timed so forcing the marketer to really focus in on what needs to be done and why.

But objective-setting in marketing is a balancing act.

Let’s consider the process of annual objective-setting first. This assumes that you are already aware of all of the things in society, in the market, or in your business that could affect what your objective is, its priority, its measurability and achievability now. But you don’t. Just six months ago, who could have predicted the impact of Extinction Rebellion on public perceptions? Who would have said that the UK would be taking part in European elections tomorrow? Change and uncertainty are part of life. As marketers, our job is not to resist them but to build the capability to take them on board and work with them. So be prepared to adjust your objectives as you go.

Objectives bring a healthy focus for a marketing team, but they can also have an unhealthy impact on your team’s culture. Objectives suggest an acceptable outcome, but we need to be careful that this does not lead to fear of failure in your team. Fear of failure discourages innovation and creativity. Because it’s okay to fail. You’ll never transform or change your business for the better without failing regularly. And that’s fine. And your team need to know that’s fine too. Try stuff out. Learn. I think it’s important to foster a sense of trust in the marketing team around you that it’s fine to try new things and repeat those that work.

Be wary of setting too many objectives. Objectives can be restricting as well as focusing. You need to give space for the unexpected, for learning, for creating.

Finally don’t confuse the inputs and outputs with the marketing objective. For example, creating a better, easier and more efficient process for developing advertising might be a useful activity but the objective is to sell your product.

So, thank you WordPress, I will set some goals for my blog. I want to write a blog that B2B marketers want to read. I think that means writing about great B2B marketing, story-telling, branding, and digital and great B2B marketing teams. Where greatness delivers strong commercial outcomes for business. But I reserve the right to change that if circumstances dictate. And I may sometimes fail.

Posted in b2b, b2b marketing, Branding, Creativity, Story telling, storytelling, Team building | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How I became a Marketer at the age of ten


My story as a Marketer started when I was ten years old.

When I was ten, I got an illness which ate away at my hip sockets and left me in a wheelchair for five years. I was kicked out of my first school because they could not handle having a disabled person as a student. These were less enlightened times. But my parents were brilliant and found me a replacement school that was up to taking on a wheelchair.

Yet this new school came with a challenge built in. It was constructed on three levels connected by steep flights of narrow stairs. And classes were conducted across all three levels. Each class lasted 40 minutes. So every 40 minutes, I needed to get from a classroom on one level to a classroom on another. And do so in a timely way. Otherwise I’d miss the lesson. But I was stuck in a metal chair. I couldn’t make the journey myself because I couldn’t move my legs.

So I had to persuade the children in my class to club together and push my wheelchair to the staircase, hold off traffic from other users of the stairwells, carry me in my wheelchair up the steep stairs, push my chair to the next classroom all in time for the next class to begin. And thus I needed a marketing campaign to populate a rota of teams of pupils to help get me to the class on time. I ran poster campaigns, newsletters, prize draws. I even got the local tv station on board to give my volunteers a chance of stardom.

That’s how my story starts. My first marketing campaign. Today, I tell the story of other businesses so that they can clearly explain what they do, why they are different from the rest, and why customers should buy their products and services. That story uses emotion to engage its target audience and connect them with the business. It needs plot and tension, and a game-changing solution. And it then needs lots of different marketing channels to get that message across. And we need to build up an organisation’s capability to keep doing that in an ongoing and systematic way. Marketers like to call it branding… but it’s really about helping a business better deliver its objectives.

If a business isn’t attracting the type of customer it wants or isn’t standing out from the crowd, it’s worth thinking about branding. Neither of these problems is uncommon. Just 14% of B2B buyers say they perceive a real difference in the B2B supplier offerings they have to choose from.

And branding applies as much in the B2B space as in the B2C. B2B decision making these days is an emotional as well as a rational process. Yet in a recent survey, 31% of prospective B2B customers thought that their B2B brands currently provided an emotional connection with them.

Plenty of B2B companies are starting to do branding. Think a of the HP campaign to launch Sprout that tells the story of hands to market PCs. Think of GE on Instagram telling the story of the people behind the technology. Think of Gusto’s daily personalised emails. And branding can apply to companies as much as products and services and single campaigns.

In fact it’s a good way of getting to the happily ever after.

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Marketing Outside of the Box


Those who have experienced my handwriting will be delighted to hear that I have started to learn to draw. And that’s been a revelation.

I’ve learned that I haven’t been drawing what I’ve been looking at. I’m not seeing what is really there.

Let me explain. From an early age, our brains have learned to assume so much about their environment. We collect models of what things look like, how things behave, how to think. And that means we naturally don’t draw what we see. Instead we draw what we think we see.

My drawing teacher tackles this by placing objects for drawing upside down so that we see its real shape rather than making assumptions about a familiar or recognisable thing. In this way the brain does not impose its model of what the object looks like. Similarly we are taught to focus on the space around an object rather than the object itself. For example we are asked to draw the space between the legs of a table rather than the table itself.

We draw poorly something we know because we know what it is supposed to look like. We have a mental model already, and we draw that rather than what is really there. If we are asked to produce the space between the table legs, it is easier to get the proportions of the table right and the table we draw looks more realistic. The brain has assigned no meaning to the space between the table legs and so does not try to correct our mental model.

The lesson is to see shapes as they are and not as the brain models them.

We make the same kind of assumptions when we try to be creative in our marketing. And perhaps we need instead to let go. We need to trust in our own innate creativity and not jump to our conventional models. One of the best ways of fostering creativity in your marketing is to take the barriers off the traditional ways of thinking about things.

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Are Marketing Agencies bad at marketing themselves?


In the last hour of the working day on Friday, I received 43 e-mails from marketing agencies soliciting work and three phone calls. I’m not sure how representative of a typical hour in a typical week this figure is. Nor am I sure how much of this is the tip of the iceberg: I’ve not checked spam filters, or consulted with colleagues receiving contact directed at me. None of these communications was personalised to my business, my role, or the challenges I face.

Marketing and business development are difficult. I get it. I do the job. But there’s no reason to do a difficult job so poorly. Especially if you are offering marketing and business development services.

Let’s deal with the timing first. 4pm on a Friday is a poor time to contact me as I’m usually trying to finish up a task. And I’m not alone. Most studies suggest mid morning or late evening on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday are the best time to get attention whether by email or phone. And unlike the contacts I had, it’s better to combine email and call rather than doing one or the other. This is classic B2B direct marketing but few businesses seem to get it right.

Thinking of the message next. A good message requires some engagement with your target audience. So messages that focus on agency and not on me won’t get very far. And that doesn’t mean simply cutting and pasting my job title into your email. Think carefully about what your audience is looking for and take time to shape the message for each of your targets. What’s in it for me? When sculpting a message, it’s about quality not quantity.

Once this is done, consider the subject title of your message and make sure the personalisation you’ve done for the body copy is reflected here. If you take the time to work on the message, the reader is more likely to take the time to consider what you have to say.

So far so 101. The real question for me is why marketing and business development agencies are so bad at marketing themselves? Maybe the marketing experts at agencies don’t do the marketing of the agency? Perhaps the marketing departments at agencies have the wrong objectives or metrics? Perhaps I’m looking at a narrow band of cold approaches and I should be taking into account the agencies which take the time to build relationships face to face rather than tarring everyone with the same brush? Or maybe my business is just not valued enough?

What do others think?

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FinTech isn’t about the Tech. Or the Fin. It’s about Marketing.


At a time when Brand Britain is taking a pounding across the globe, it’s rather nice to see a report launched celebrating a Brand Britain success story. This week, the UK Government issues a state of the nation report into UK FinTech.

And the report paints the picture of a sector in rude health. There are more than 1600 FinTech firms now in the UK and estimates suggest that this will more than double by 2030. London has the world’s highest concentration of financial and professional service firms.

And critically rather than just celebrating success, the report gives budding entrepreneurs some guidance on what to do to join the sector themselves.

The report delves into the reasons for UK success in FinTech: connectivity, appetite for risk, emerging tech, the right skills among employees, favourable regulation. But aside from an honourable mention in a piece by Zopa’s Giles Andrews, there’s no mention made at all of what must surely be the key factor in success to date.

The UK is known as one of the world’s leading centres for marketing. For marketing to thrive, you need a clear goal and a strong identity, a culture of honesty and candour, experience of success and failure, an understanding of the invisible and unspoken. You need a strong strategy and you need a clear approach to how to segment and target your market and how to position your offering to the same. The UK FinTech sector has all that.

So look at the good marketing that can result. Think SoFi’s user-friendly web comms, the event programme run by Money 20/20, WePay’s ice cube stunt, the video advertising of Moneysupermarket.com…

I was struck in the foreword to the report by Charlotte Crosswell, CEO of Innovate Finance by the statement that the FinTech sector “is as much about the ‘Tech” as it is the ‘Fin'”. I think it’s about the Marketing too.

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Marketing Week announce their Brands of the Year and not one is B2B…


With much ado, Marketing Week have announced their nominations for 2019 Brand of the Year. There are some brilliant and well-deserved nominations in here: Greggs, Monzo, Nationwide, and Netflix among them. These businesses deserve much credit for responding to new market demand (Greggs and veganism), taking a stand against unacceptable behaviour (Nationwide and online abuse), and disrupting traditional markets (Monzo and banking, Netflix and television) and I’m chuffed to see them on the list.

But I’m mostly struck by the fact that not one of their ten nominations for 2019 Brand of the Year are for brands occupying the B2B marketing space. Not one.

How could this be? Perhaps B2B just isn’t as important as B2C. But that is rot. Just look to the report launched this week on the contribution of B2B to the UK economy. This showed that 80% of all UK firms derive at least some of their income from B2B and that 44% of UK turnover comes from B2B activity.

Perhaps brand is not important in the B2B space? But that is patently untrue. In every job I’ve ever had in B2B, brand has been a key contributor to helping a business to change its story, differentiate itself better, and ultimately get customers to pay for its products and services.

Perhaps the achievements of the best B2B brands just aren’t up there with the B2C stars? That’s just nonsense. You want B2B disruptors? Think SnapCap, Skype, Storey… You want B2B cause marketing? Think IBM and “Girls Who Code”… You want B2B new market demand? Think Instagram…

I can’t help thinking that the Brand of the Year list is just another example of B2B marketing blindness by the wider marketing profession. The marketing industry can do more than market FMCG, but that seems to be forgotten. And that’s a shame because B2B marketing is actually more difficult than B2C and B2B marketing professionals need more support and respect from their industry than many of their well-funded and better-privileged B2C colleagues.

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