Last week I had a great opportunity to speak at the B2B Marketing 2016 conference hosted in Miami, FL, by the events arm of global research and consulting leader, Forrester.

The premise behind the talk was to share what it’s like to run marketing for a B2B company experiencing hyper-growth, and what I think about each day as a result. And along the way, I shared answers to questions like ‘why are developers modern-day Michelangelo’s’? What is the only unacceptable type of failure? And what can your competitors can never take away from you?

Given the audience was senior marketers looking both for insight and actionable intel, we broke the story into the three key elements that I believe defines the way we think about high-impact marketing today: demand, brand and strategy. And we wrapped that up with examples and actions.

Slide presentation from B2B Marketing 2016 above 

Demand: Why is it crucial to have a common language with sales?   

When I joined DocuSign two years ago, the sales and marketing teams measured success by the volume of leads. And while we’d surpass that lead number every quarter, every quarter sales would tell us we were not doing enough.

If we just wanted leads, we should have been seen as highly successful. But we weren’t. And it was clear we weren’t speaking a common language about how to measure success. So instead, we pivoted to looking at sales-qualified opportunities. The seller would take a lead, turn it into an opportunity, and then measure their own success based on their conversion rates. This instantly changed the perspective of both groups, and instantly meant we had a new common language.

Brad Brooks at B2B Marketing 2016

Q & A session at B2B Marketing 2016

As we went through this process, we started to see the influence on the enterprise that today’s tumult of B2C marketing was having – and the creation of what I refer to as ‘B2Me’. We know how customers use our products, how they search for our content, and how they engage. But how do we take all this behavioral data and convert it into audience profiles that actually make sense (rather than ones that are vague or clichéd)? The answer is that a lot of B2B companies still don’t. But it’s vital to remember that people are the ones who make decisions about products, not faceless entities.

Brand: How do your customers truly see you? 

Of all the things that come to mind when you think about ‘brand’, more often than not the visual look and feel (colors, fonts, images) are prominent, as is what a company stands for. But brand is so much more than that – it’s the real force multiplier of your marketing mix and when done correctly, creates a meaningful competitive advantage.

So how do you do it correctly? The key, at its simplest, is to tell the truth. Paint a picture and tell a story about your company, your value and your direction that’s absolutely true for existing and potential customers – not a story about where you wish you could be or ought to be.

This isn’t just theory either – we asked ourselves this question when creating the DocuSign and Go campaign earlier this year, the first ever integrated brand campaign for the company. The campaign tells an authentic story by focusing on what our customers actually do, or want to do … DocuSign and Go approve budgets; land a new job; work while on the go (on a run, in the air, anywhere you have a mobile device). While aspirational in tone, these aren’t things that are aspirations in reality – they’re what DocuSign really enables you to do.

Strategy: What’s the difference between good strategy and great strategy?  

We don’t believe in chance or serendipity at DocuSign. Rather, as the saying goes, we believe that luck happens when preparation meets opportunity.

We all know good connections are made by how you position your product or brand, and how your customers experience value. But the real question is how do you make what’s unique about your brand memorable and compelling to your customers?

Competitors can always beat you on cost, or perhaps even on functionality. But what they can’t take away is a customer’s emotional connection to your product.

Given we make so many of our decisions based on emotional triggers, if you can create a compelling emotional connection, it’s not only a force multiplier, it’s sustainable. As an example, we generated more leads in the first three weeks of launching our “DocuSign and Go” campaign than we had in the previous three months. Why? Because it created a simple yet compelling emotional connection with our customers, and it tapped into the “I love DocuSign” comment we get so often.

This connects back to something I mentioned when talking about demand – and that was how you leverage the data that you collect in order to build realistic profiles of your target audience. And then in turn, how do you connect with them?

My short answer is: don’t stereotype, and don’t market in clichés.

My longer answer is that one of DocuSign’s current focus audiences is the software developer. Are they the stereotypical pizza-eating, basement-dwelling types that we always see in movies and TV shows? Not. By. A. Long. Shot. Today’s developers are actually the modern-day Da Vinci. They are the ultimate creative problem solvers – and they’re everywhere, from nascent tech upstarts to age-old businesses. So talk to them appropriately, in a language that resonates, with value that’s clear. And just watch what happens as a result.

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Lastly, wrapping everything together here, don’t forget about speed. It’s one of the most important elements of any business or marketing strategy. Move fast, make decisions with the best data you have on hand, and learn quickly as and when things go sideways (because they will). In fact, the only part of failure that is not acceptable is when you fail to learn. It’s so, so crucial to apply those learnings in order to move your business forward.

Want to take a more in-depth look? Watch the full video of my presentation and Q&A here. 

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