Building an Authentic Brand: Defining the Building Blocks for Brand Success.
It was great fun working with B2B Marketing colleagues Sue Mizera and Darren Coleman and the interviews were with marketing executives from Atos, Deloitte, Ideal, The IET, Kalibrate, Pension Insurance Corporation, and PwC.
This is the opening chapter; “Branding’s journey from logo to message to authenticity”.
“Even as B2B marketers become more precise and targeted up and down the funnel, brand strategy is still the starting point for many companies’ overall go-to-market approach. Why? Well, B2B companies that do not take an active role in crafting their brand are leaving perception up to chance. Having a defined brand allows companies to guide their narrative and the public’s opinion.
Branding is much more than building awareness; it establishes and maintains credibility with prospects, customers, employees and partners.
I well remember leading a multi-year project back in 2002–2005 helping the software giant SAP to understand how they won, or lost, their more important deals. For each deal, we would interview the customers about how they came to their buying decision. Every deal involved partners like business consultants and/or system integrators, and it was clearly important to SAP that we record not only what their customers were thinking, but also how those partners were communicating SAP values and their offering. Although the word ‘brand’ wasn’t used (B2B vendors did not talk about brand then; I am not even sure if the client worked in marketing), they were really checking on their brand consistency throughout their sales channel. Simply put, were the partners telling the same story as SAP?
Branding begins with consistency of presentation across all channels of communication, whether that’s digital or human, direct sales force, or business partners. But it’s not just the messaging about the product or service being offered; branding should also reveal a consistent value system that a business wants to present to the world. Not only what a company offers, but also what it believes in.
With that in mind, we held extensive interviews with several senior B2B marketers to help us obtain deep insight into the topic of brand authenticity – what it means to marketers, how they approach it, the value it can deliver, and the challenges they face. These interviews serve as the basis of this report.”
The report will publish to B2B Marketing Propolis clients next week and a shortened version to the non-premium members later in March. Contact me if you would like to get more details.
Always keeping you informed! Peter
Imagine: One Product, with Many Different Buyers
Your challenge: How can you present the drill so that it appeals (and is bought by them) to each of these audiences? How can you ensure that your products are even displayed wherever these quite different buyers are looking for their tools?
You are a maker of machine tools such as a high-end power drill, a real heavy-duty one with high torque and impact wrench. A tool needed by various professionals such as construction workers on the building site, car mechanics in a garage or repair shop, or even carpenters in their workshop or onsite installing something.
Or: One Website, with Many Different Visitors
You’re a large retailer of pet accessories with thousands of products for all types of pets, and most of your customer traffic is digital and international these days. One day, your website could be visited by a US-based owner of a somewhat unusual pet, say, a skink lizard. Another visitor, from Asia, has a more standard family pet like a cat. Yet another visitor lives in South Africa and disabled with a service dog.
How well can you present your offerings to each digital visitor in the context of their per-related needs and their environment? How can you even personalize the content as much as possible for each of those visitors?
Customer Centricity moves from Analog to Digital Interactions
The final translation from standard product to customer-specific solution used to be accomplished by great sales conversations hosted by field sales staff visiting or hosting customers. Or by showroom sales staff who ask the right questions before presenting and pitching the products they would recommend. Great product companies would even distribute printed sales materials where the seller selects the correct illustration and use cases to match the customer’s profile. Customer-centricity was essentially analog and people-driven.
However, the world is now digital and global. Most buyers browse across multiple channels and websites to inform themselves on solutions they would like to leverage, not visiting showrooms or taking visits from salespeople. That customer-centricity that was provided by well-informed sellers now needs to be part of the digital processes and systems that support an eCommerce world.
Manufacturers like the power drill supplier above want to present product information in every potential customer’s exact context. Plus, in this digital world, they also need to render that product presentation through their trading partners or retailers and probably on their own website. The pet-goods retailer cited above has a multi-language eCommerce site that must cope with product files sent by thousands of different suppliers – but it also wants to maintain consistency of its own brand and provide added value services like educational content and promotional bundles that are customer-centric.
Digital Buyers Expect THEIR Experience
Digital breeds impatience. The challenges faced by marketers involved in the above scenarios, and all similar, is increasing in intensity, as buyers quickly click-away from any e-commerce site that does not make them feel welcomed and understood. Whether a consumer or a professional B2B buyer, they are unimpressed with digital experiences that imply that the business they’ve visited knows little, or cares nothing, of their needs and background. Conversely, they will stay longer on a site which does present relevant and contextual information.
Ideally, those marketers want to be able to anticipate and meet all buyer expectations. Not only when displaying helpful content, but when presenting the products themselves. Much of this data is available in modern digital marketing systems and can be used to tune content.
To go back to the example of the power drill manufacturer, their marketers need a platform that would allow the same tool to be rendered (one picture of a common product) within different picture backgrounds depending on the context of the website visitor: a building site, a garage, and a carpentry workshop. It would also provide a suitable text copy matching the picture directly into the digital channel, regardless of which digital experience system is used. Similarly with the pet products retailer.
Brand AND Product Content Provides the Customer Experience
In each case, this requires more than just “tuning” a digital asset though, many traditional Digital Asset Management (DAM) systems are just that, asset management systems. The brand experience must be managed as well as the product experience. The brand experience is sustained through digital assets like educational or thought leadership content, including rich media such as pictures and videos. Many manufacturers even create a memorable brand experience through innovative packaging, creating emotions for consumers when they unpack their products.
Managing the total of all brand and product content is also much more than the traditional definition of “content marketing” or what is done by most content management systems (CMS). That is because brand content is part of all communication that any business distributes, so the management processes therefore involve working in tandem with many other parts of the company and external partners. It is also a balance of enablement and governance. I have started to use the term Brand Content Management (BCM) in my research and I recently surveyed 1,500 companies about their BCM needs and the vendors they work with – here is that report. Note that nearly one quarter of the respondents have more than six different systems in place (and we asked “vendors”, so the number of systems could be even higher) and that this has increased dramatically since our 2018 survey.
Most of the vendors named in the BCM report still prefer to call their offering an enterprise DAM platform, but companies like Sitecore, Censhare and Wedia are, indeed, helping organizations to manage, customize and deliver all marketing assets for more relevance, impact and overall business success. They also power personalized customer experiences on a global scale and gathers insightful data from the customer journey to fuel content production and better engage audiences.
This blog was commissioned and sponsored by Wedia. I was particularly impressed with how Wedia’s Digital eXperience module supports the rendering of personalized and engaging content across all channels. Their clients can truly deliver a personalized customer experience.
I am in the middle of updating my research report on how marketing organizations are automating their Brand Content Management family of process.
BCM is increasingly important to Marketers
This is an important business process set which I see maturing through these three stages in many marketing organizations:
STAGE 1: There is a basic desire to manage all digital-branded content files and digital assets in a central repository to ensure consistency and maintain a “single source of truth”.
STAGE 2: The marketers are actively leveraging content into all marketing programs, including those rendered through third-party channels where they need to offer these content assets for through-channel marketing programs.
STAGE 3: Due to the increasing criticality of brand (more than just the logo), marketers care deeply about managing all brand messaging across the company, from corporate brand to the individual messaging statements around products.
Companies working in a more distributed (called local in some industries) marketing environment deploy Brand Content Management systems to manage content across all their internal organizations, subsidiaries, and/or all business partners.
Managing brand and content is now a major business pain point in marketing organizations that seek a consistent process from content creation, through delivery, to attribution. The recent explosions in content marketing and digital channels have increased both the complexity and volume of content assets. Plus, the transition of the classical sales cycle to what is now recognized as a buyer-led research process means that marketers must obsess about the brand message carried in all the channels. Many of them also serve an ecosystem of subsidiaries, distributors, resellers or even franchisees.
Consolidation is the name of the game
Most companies use several software tools within this process as there are few vendors who cover the complete lifecycle for content and brand. But companies want to consolidate their software platforms – our survey highlights and underscores the need for consolidation across the brand and content management stacks. Nearly one quarter of the respondents have more than SIX different systems in place (note: we asked “vendors”, so the number of systems could be even higher). Also, the proportion with 6-10 vendors has increased dramatically since our 2018 survey.
So, it is no surprise that the market for this software is active and growing. I found nearly 50 active software and SaaS vendors globally generating an estimated total revenue of around $2 billion but it is still quite fragmented across many vendors – the top 15 vendors selected by buyers in this survey generate less than 40% of that total. This list includes established software giants but there are several innovative solution providers, who talk much more about marketing than technology.
And the winning vendors are ….
The report draft is currently out for fact-checking with the vendors, who must review their profiles and provide me with feedback. Of course, some will push back that I should score them higher – but I then remind them that the report is primarily informed by the market survey (63%) and there is little that I can do. If they only got 3 out of 5 for their Price/Value Ratio, perhaps that is important market feedback they should note (and there is one here with that score). It will publish in early August on the Research in Action website.
The vendors reviewed in the report will be: Acoustic, Adobe, Ansira, BrandMaker, BrandMaster, BrandMuscle, Bynder, Capital ID, Celum, Censhare, MarcomCentral, OpenText, Optimizely, Sitecore, and Wedia.
Always keeping you informed! Peter
Through the last year in my work with Research in Action, I have discovered many separate vendor landscapes – ALL LISTED BELOW FOR EVERYBODY TO READ. I interviewed thousands of marketers on their business processes automation and talked to nearly 200 marketing software vendors – as discussed in this blog. I was briefed by many more vendors in 2020 than in 2019, when starting out as an independent analyst, which was gratifying but also made the projects longer.
The vendor-marketers often remark something like: “strange, there are vendors on your list that I do not see in deals or think I compete with”. Well, that’s because I first describe a marketing process in my interviews and ask respondents which vendors they work with on that process. I try to avoid category terms invented by other analysts or product managers because the chances are: marketing people don’t think in categories (that’s more of an IT-centric trait). We also survey companies from mid-market to enterprise and across the globe, while many vendors are very specific about their target market segment.
But the challenge for marketing software marketing professionals remains: Do you focus on shining in a category; or do you ensure you are found by marketing professionals when they seek an answer to their automation challenges. Sometimes, these objectives and tactics may even be mutually exclusive.
Here are the vendor landscapes discovered in my global process-oriented surveys. I have taken the liberty of listing the vendors in order of their ranking in the Vendor Selection Matrix graphic.
Channel Marketing and Enablement (Nov 2019). ”Channel” being business partners not marketing channel. I also wrote reports focused on Partner Relationship Management (PRM) and Through-Channel Marketing Automation (TCMA) based on this list. This topic is often also called Local Marketing. The most dramatic feedback I had for this report was a threat to be sued by one vendor who, firstly objected to being lower than #1 and, secondly, claimed that they had not given me (nor their 124 customers) permission to talk/write about them.
IMPARTNER (#1 Overall, #1 Price/Value), BRANDMAKER ( #1 Customer Satisfaction), TIE KINETIX (#1 Customer Satisfaction), ZIFT SOLUTIONS, CHANNELEXPERTS, BRANDMUSCLE, ELATERAL, ANSIRA, SPROUTLOUD, BRIDGELINE DIGITAL, NETSERTIVE, CHANNELKONNECT
Marketing Lead Management (Mar 2020). MLM processes are deployed in marketing and/or sales operations departments to support the collection of unqualified contacts and opportunities from various sources such as: Direct mail or email responses; Database marketing programs; Other multichannel marketing campaigns; Offline interactions such as seminars and tradeshows; Social media contacts; and web pages.
MARKETO (#1 Overall, #1 Customer Satisfaction), ACT-ON (#1 Price/Value), HUBSPOT (#1 Customer Satisfaction), CREATIO (#1 Price/Value), ORACLE, SAP, ADOBE, SALESFORCE, RIGHT-ON INTERACTIVE, PEGASYSTEMS, EVERGAGE, SALESFUSION, SUGARCRM, ZOHO, CRM NEXT
Sales Engagement Management (May 2019). Marketing plays an increasingly active role in enabling the sales team, collaborating with their colleagues in Sales Operations with a robust set of sophisticated tools in an all-in-one platform in order to engage productively with knowledgeable buyers and customers.
SEISMIC (#1 Overall, #1 Customer Satisfaction), CLEARSLIDE (#1 Price/Value), SHOWPAD, BRAINSHARK (#1 Price/Value), HIGHSPOT, SALESPHERE (#1 Customer Satisfaction), BIGTINCAN, SAP, , MEDIAFLY, PITCHER, SALESLOFT, APPAROUND, ZOOMIFIER, PROLIFIQ, ACCENT TECHNOLOGIES
Digital Marketing Service Providers (Aug 2020). We wanted to ask marketing practitioners about the service providers they work with on their digital marketing projects. But what do we call this beast?
Marketing Agency … Marketing Consultant … Marketing Systems Integrator (SI) … Media Agency … Full Service Agency … Digital Agency … Digital Experience Agency …
Then I remembered posting a research report back in 2011 called “The Emergence of the Digital Marketing Service Provider (DMSP)” based on a consulting project I had just done. My Forrester colleagues didn’t like the term, but it led to many new engagements with both creative marketing agencies, who wanted to add more IT skills to their offering, and traditional IT-centric SIs wanting to expand their creative offerings. It worked for the survey and produced great results – but we also learned that these companies do little or no marketing about themselves, so the report had little traction. I was particularly pleased to see the provider that I based that 2011 Forrester report upon (I’ve known Valtech since they were a HP hardware reseller back in the 1990s) topping the survey results.
VALTECH (#1 Overall), R/GA, HUGE, MERKLE, 10PEARLS, CAPTECH, ICFNEXT, MPHASIS, EPAM, PROXIMITY, PUBLICIS SAPIENT, CRITICAL MASS, MULLENLOW PROFERO, PERKUTO, LEADMD, KIN & CARTER, CI&T, PEDOWITZ GROUP, THOUGHTWORKS, DIALEXA
BTW – the above research revealed this: DMSP are absolutely awful at marketing themselves (“cobblers children”).
Marketing Resource Management (Oct 2020). Marketing executives, as with any business executive, should have full visibility for the planning and effectiveness of all the business resources they deploy. The Marketing Resource Management (MRM) process manages all marketing assets and supports plans and budgets for marketing initiatives. As the topic is not fully deployed, we found a vendor landscape with a mix of vendors managing some asset types, those that manage projects resources, plus those vendors who do manage the full range of digital assets, talent, budgets and projects.
BRANDMAKER (#1 Overall, #1 Customer Satisfaction), PERCOLATE BY SEISMIC (#1 Price/Value), APRIMO, WORKFRONT (#1 Price/Value), CONTENTSERV, ALLOCADIA, BRANDMASTER, SITECORE (#1 Sitecore), ELATERAL, WEDIA, INFOR, SAS, BIZIBLE, SAP, BRANDMUSCLE
Customer Data Management (Dec 2020). The vendor landscape for Customer Data Management (CDM) is a broad mix of vendors with a wide variety of claims: data consolidation, collecting entire clickstreams, creating a “golden record” through identity resolution, enabling intelligent engagement, and identity tagging. The CDM challenge is different across the B2C and B2B spectrum, which we analyzed in the report at length.
TEALIUM (#1 Overall, #1 Price/Value), AQUIA (#1 Customer Satisfaction), EVERGAGE, SITECORE (#1 Price/Value), CXENSE, ACTIONIQ, ADOBE, REDPOINT GLOBAL, EULERIAN, BLUECONIC, COMMANDERS ACT, SALESFORCE, NGDATA, ORACLE
Feedback and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org please.
Always keeping you informed! Peter
Marketing Resources Need To Be Managed As A Business
As some of you may know, I do market research on software vendors and products through interviews with marketing practitioners. I always approach my topics from the business point of view – instead of a technology category/label only familiar to product managers in software companies, or analysts at Gartner or Forrester, I name a business process (or family of processes) that I know marketers are thinking about. After all, marketing executives don’t sign cheques for software because they are collectors, they want to make their processes more efficient and expect an automation project will help.
So one of my more general ice-breaker questions has always been a flippant “So, what do you manage these days as a marketing manager?”. And the ice is usually broken by the marketer listing things like “leads”, “spending”, “agencies”, “people”, “digital assets” (they used to say “literature” way back), and, of course, “The brand”.
Over the years, their list has become longer but also more business-centric. Way back when, marketing was only about sales support, lead generation and literature. Thankfully, modern CMOs or Marketing Directors are now responsible for a more extensive operation, some of them even measured on revenue contribution. And so, as with any business executive, they should have full responsibility for the planning and effectiveness of their business resources.
For a marketing executive, those resources fall into these categories: money, people, content assets and brand. And the process to manage these resources is therefore being called “Marketing Resource Management” (MRM).
MRM is still in its adoption infancy — If you google MRM, you’ll be informed about Magnetic Resonance in Medicine or guided to the marketing agency MRM/McCann. Capterra does have 28 MRM Software offerings in its directory though. And my esteemed ex-colleagues at Forrester produced a Forrester Wave on MRM in 2019 that focused on the needs of enterprise B2C organizations above $1 billion in revenue and identified eight vendors with more than 25 such installations.
I would propose that now the time has come for many more CMOs and Marketing Directors to acquire their own “ERP system” and implement a serious MRM project, taking full control over what can make a marketing organization successful.
Clearly, content and brand resources are already marketing-specific and many CMS and Brand Content Management systems include resource management for those resource types. But using the corporate ERP software to manage people resources is no longer sufficient for a CMO because team managed increasingly includes external contributors (agencies, freelancers, analysts). These cannot be counted as a project but must be seen as ongoing marketing people resources. Lastly, the spending of marketing budgets is now so dynamic and digital that marketing executives can no longer rely on monthly or quarterly financial reports with historical data – if anything, they need a dashboard.
By definition, the MRM system should be marketing-centric – one that has the right language or terminology, reporting structure and cadence. Marketers think in terms of campaigns, not financial quarters, and they need a planning calendar. It should provide marketing professionals at all levels in the hierarchy with an ideal experience and support decisions about marketing investments. For that reason, the ideal solution would often be one that is grown out of an existing management system used within marketing.
But a relevant MRM must be more than just a planning/budgeting system: database plus reporting. It needs to able to be state of the art in that it can:
- Take inputs from all players in the marketing ecosystem – for many companies this can include geographic entities or subsidiaries and even business partners
- Collect live data in real-time to support decision-making
- Provide recommendations and insights based on AI.
I am currently fielding a global survey of marketers and their experience with MRM solutions, so watch this space.
Always keeping you informed! Peter
I presented at the Online Marketing Rockstars (OMR) Festival last week.
OMR started in 2011 as a small event on online marketing held at the prestigious Bucerius Law School, Hamburg. It is now the leading conference for digital marketing in Europe and OMR 2019 hosted 50,000 visitors over two days to meet over 400 exhibitors including some 1,500 executives from the national and international marketing scene.
I was a guest of the vendor BrandMaker– we’ve been working together for many years: I was at their HQ in Karlsruhe 8 years ago to do a workshop on through-channel marketing automation (TCMA) back in my days as an industry analyst at Forrester Research. Earlier this year, marketers around the world scored them highly in my research on Brand Content Management. I was engaged to present in their OMR19 Masterclass and we had over 300 applications to attend but could only admit 150 people – I expect that BrandMaker will set up a webinar to make the same presentations to those who lost out.
I had initially discovered BrandMaker when I was researching innovative marketing automation vendors from Europe– a report I then published to Forrester clients each couple of years. It was a sort of hobby project (Forrester didn’t really care about doing European research) where I could champion local vendors and also make clear that marketing in Europe is so very different to the marketing challenges faced by an American firm selling to American customers. You’d be amazed at how few American companies export their products – especially compared to the economy here in Germany of course.
Unconsciously, I think I also probably used Brandmaker as a method to educate many of the analysts in my team (as Research Director, my team of 11 B2B marketing analysts were all based in the US). Understanding how BrandMaker worked and what it offers, helped them to understand the true complexity of business marketing, especially in an international context. As they always admitted, this was beyond what was being offered in the so-called leading marketing automation systems coming out of the US.
The exhibitors at OMR19 included new and established software vendors in all aspects of digital marketing. I had many productive meetings and could finalize my upcoming reports on Web Experience Management, as many of the leading vendors in that report were present (I’ll publish both a global and a Germany-specific Vendor Selection Matrix later this month). I was also prospecting for vendors to include in my planned research on Customer Data Platforms later in the year.
The “Rockstar festival” modus was also an education for me as a marketer. When I was first invited, I must admit that, at first glance through the agenda and the set-up, it seemed a little strange for a serious business event. But it is being deliberately presented and positioned to our younger generation of marketing colleagues. And there is a lot of wisdom in that plan. BrandMaker had clearly recognized that as well.
Many of us talk of how we need to market to Millennials and recruit Millennials into our teams. But the point is: Millennials are those born between 1981 and 1998. They are now all over 30 years of age and some of them are approaching their 40thbirthday.
So, it is now time to consider targeting the generation after that – they are going to be our buyers very soon, and they are the new employees that we will be recruiting. For vendors and buyers of marketing technology, this generation has one very clear characteristic.
IF THESE PEOPLE DO NOT LIKE SOMETHING, THEY WILL IGNORE IT
My last survey across 1500 business professionals had “adoption” among the top 3 project success factors and I am therefore considering a new set of criteria in my market research about software applications. One that indicates how likely is the system to be adopted by the staff you are trying to help and motivate by investing in the software.
I’ll call it something like “Employee Experience” and it is about much more than the design or ergonomics, which software engineers call User Experience. The EEx is influenced by how:
- Accessible the application is, especially if the employee is a casual user
- Integrated or even embedded it can be (did you know the average business employee already opens scores of applications each day?)
- Does it communicate back to the employee – one who is now in the habit of using voice activation, read quickly, consume pictures and videos and so on.
If anybody has suggestions about to measure these factors, feel free to contact me.
Always keeping you informed! Peter
Here is my next Vendor Selection Matrix – the top twenty vendors named by business users who have automated their Brand Content Management process.
Managing brand and content is now a major business pain point in marketing organizations that seek a consistent process from content creation, thru delivery, to attribution. The recent explosions in content marketing and digital channels have increased both the complexity and volume of content assets. Plus, the transition of the classical sales cycle to what is now recognized as a buyer-led research process means that marketers must obsess about the brand message carried in all the channels. Many of them also serve an ecosystem of subsidiaries, distributors, resellers or even franchisees.
Most companies use several software tools within this process as there are few vendors who cover the complete lifecycle for content and brand. But companies want to consolidate their software platforms – a recent study showed that business users typically switch applications over 1,100 times per day. We found that 76% of the 1,500 buyers we surveyed will invest in brand content management software in the next 1-3 years, over half of the 1,500 for the first time.
So, it is no surprise that the market for this software is active and growing. I found nearly 50 active software and SaaS vendors globally generating an estimated total revenue of around $2 billion but it is still quite fragmented across many vendors – the top 20 vendors selected by buyers in this survey generate less than 40% of that total. This list includes established software giants like Adobe and OpenText but there are several innovative solution providers, who talk more about marketing than technology, enjoying annual growth rates of 100% plus. Vendors like Brandmaker (the global leader in our survey), Brandmuscle, Brandsystems and Bynder plus MarcomCentral.
As I did with the marketing lead management report, here are the highlights I noted for each of the top ten vendors on their scorecards. Remember, the ranking is based on their total scores: an aggregate of the scores assigned by their users plus my assessment.
Always keeping you informed! Peter
I’m almost there with my next Vendor Selection Matrix. I’ve been researching the top twenty vendors named by business users who have automated their Brand Content Management process.
This is an important marketing process which matures from 1) a basic desire to manage all digital branded assets in a central repository to ensure consistency; through 2) actively leveraging content into marketing programs and channels; to 3) the management of all brand messaging across the company, from corporate brand to the individual messaging statements around products. Companies working in a more distributed (sometimes called local) marketing environment deploy Brand Content Management systems to manage content across all their internal organizations, subsidiaries, and/or all business partners.
We had presented the users with a list of 36 possible vendors. I have now collated the respondents’ scoring and user feedback on the twenty vendors named the most, spoken with many of the vendors and written profiles for each of the top ten vendors in the matrix. The last phase is that of fact-checking – giving the vendors one last chance to review my commentary and correct me if necessary.
The top ten list is really interesting. Just as the VSM for Marketing Lead Management mixed up marketing automation vendors with business process automation tools, users have named several software vendors (three with “Brand” in their name) but also the software tools provided by a couple of marketing agencies. There are several European vendors highly listed in this global survey.
The twenty vendors reviewed in the matrix are as follows: Adobe, Ansira, BrandMaker, BrandMuscle, BrandSystems, Bynder, Capital ID, Celum, Censhare, Code Worldwide, Episerver, IBM, MarcomCentral, Northplains, OpenText, Pica9, SAS Institute, Vya, Wedia, plus open source solutions. I plan to publish in December.
Always keeping you informed! Peter