How brave marketing can help you stand out from the crowd, and leapfrog your competition
You’re about to begin a heroic race to one of the last, big goals in the world, the South Pole.
You could follow the lead of the previous expedition that got within 110 miles of the Pole.
Bring modern motorised sledges, ponies and dogs, the latest scientific equipment
And exactly the right amount of supplies needed for the 1500 mile trek.
Or you could choose a different starting point, one that previous explorers have discounted as being too risky.
If you choose this path, you have just dogs for transport, and simple tents and skis that you refine to suit the unpredictable elements while you wait to begin.
So which path do you take?
It seems obvious – follow the expected path.
And yet it was Admundsen who took the risk and made it to the Pole first.
Scott based his trek on Shackleton’s previous expedition, checking progress every evening against his.
It wasn’t enough to win.
It wasn’t even enough to survive.
He did everything the way an Englishman was expected to behave.
Breaking out is very necessary
It’s in our nature to follow the leader and be protected by the herd.
It stems from cave men days when standing out from the pack was literally a life or death decision.
So that’s why, even when we’re talking about growing a B2B or tech business, it takes courage to turn away and head off to a horizon that’s unexplored.
It feels easier - safer in fact - to follow the lead of other successful businesses and match a proven marketing approach...
A tone of voice, or a way of communicating with your customers that you have seen work for others.
There's pressure to be ‘professional’, to project a certain expected image that can keep you hemmed in.
And yet, if you work too hard at following in the steps of giants, you risk ending up in the shadows.
Why being different matters.
Those giants didn’t succeed by staring over their shoulder at their competitors, or those who had found success earlier.
And if you fall into the logical fallacy of assuming there is a template to success...
you could be missing out on those things that will make your business special.
There is proof that brands with meaningful points of difference are more likely to be chosen by buyers, and are more successful.
By taking a risk and breaking expected patterns, you can rise above the noise and start to get attention.
And attention is important if you care about building long term relationships with customers.
Evangelists who will not only like you enough to stay, but love you enough to tell other people.
That’s a tough ask.
No wonder we look around for examples we can follow.
But you can’t do this by watching your competitors, or Uber, or Salesforce or Apple.
Their marketing talks to their audience, not yours.
(Chances are, you know this already.)
Only 56% of B2B marketers feel that they have a differentiated story, or value to deliver.
So let’s split that out. A differentiated story. Value to deliver.
Telling a different story
So often when we talk about points of difference, we default to thinking about our product, or its price.
We know if we can just make people pay attention to everything we want to say about the new features, and the details and the spec sheet and the options and…
Hey, where are you going?
That’s just not the way people are wired, even in business.
We are still emotionally-driven humans who are interested in solutions, not products, and stories, not numbers.
Good stories, that give us confidence in change.
Reflecting your brand’s points of difference though stories will help your customers make emotional connections that stick.
Because a clear, and differentiated brand is pointless, unless it is likable and stays top of mind.
Top of mind matters, because in a very short amount of time the way we search is going to change.
Rather than SEO competition to top search rankings, voice search on your phone and connected devices will mean that the winner is the one who comes to mind first.
Let’s try an experiment.
I want you to think about the first person you’d call…
If you needed someone to drive you to the hospital in an emergency?
To help you assemble a house full of Ikea furniture?
To go on an all expenses paid, kids-free week to Vegas?
You might have that one friend who is sensible and reliable, slow to anger and good with their hands, while also knowing that what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.
Or it might be three different people.
But I bet you didn’t have to think long or hard about who would they would be.
That’s the sort of effect you need your marketing efforts to have.
The first company that comes to mind when a relevant problem is faced, will be the winner.
It's OK to be different as long as it's you.
We’ve done many brand strategies, and one thing remains true.
When it comes to the positioning we recommend, the client is always surprised.
“Yeah, of course we do that. Doesn’t everybody?”
Of course not. It seems ordinary to them, because it’s in their DNA.
Something the business does without thinking, but that is very important to their customers.
So don’t feel that by being different, you have to be something you’re not.
It just has to be something you can talk about from your heart that also matter to your customers.
The side benefit is that by being true to who you are takes less effort, and is easier to keep consistent across all of your marketing.
Which leads us on to...
While you need to get the product right, success also relies on communicating your message in a way that is meaningful, and demonstrates value to your customers.
Ford is supposed to have said, “If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
Meaning, it’s difficult for us to understand ideas unless they are within the context of what we already know.
It’s tempting to anchor your brand to a successful, well know name to give your marketing instant appeal; to become an easy to understand, snackable brand.
The Uber of this, the AirBNB of that.
I am different.
I am a rule breaker.
In exactly the same way,
As everyone else.
You see the problem.
The big tech unicorns aren’t billion dollar babies because they have cool branding, a sweet collaboration deal or an easy to use interface.
(Although that all helps.)
They are successful because they solve genuine points of friction in their customers’ lives and communicate this in a way that makes instant sense.
Now I know I told you to ignore what everyone else is doing.
What you are going to steal is their single-minded focus on continually, and meaningfully responding to how their customers see their world.
This means paying attention to each little touchpoint.
The things that you might think aren’t important enough to care about.
(The things that you think your customers won’t notice.)
It’s looking at each ad, email and message prompt as a chance to make a mini masterpiece, in design, tone of voice, and the message that you give.
The same way that Amundsen spent months modifying skis, boots and tents, and took fast, hardy dogs with him when he made it safely to the Pole and back.
It’s getting each touch point that 1% better each time, so that people notice and begin to connect with you.
So that you become top-of-mind memorable.
Here's to standing out bravely.
Think of the conventions in your industry and how you can disrupt them. Give customers something to believe in, and a reason to look at you a second time.
Stop looking backwards.
It doesn’t make sense to create something innovative, and then rely on tired methods to sell it.
Plus, while you’re looking backwards, you can’t be creating a future which is appealing to your customers.
Talk to just one customer at a time.
There is a real difference between talking to your audience as one, and talking to them individually. Be less formal. Try ‘you’ rather than ‘they’ or ‘I’ instead of ‘us’ and see how much warmer and connected the words become.
Don’t be afraid to repeat a message if you want it sink in. You’ll get bored if it long before your customers do.
Be impossible to ignore.
Keep a low level of marketing activity running throughout the year, so you are always in the decision set. This might be an ongoing media buy or a regular content marketing program.
Be brave, bit by bit.
If you’re feeling nervous about being brave, you can paddle in the toddler pool by testing and refining your marketing offers through focus groups or Adwords before committing to the most effective ones.
And finally, back yourself.
Don’t be afraid of trying something new. The world is full of tech and B2B brands who are happy to stick with tradition, and a few who strike out and try something different.
To the brave go the spoils.
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