Gradients Kill Go-To-Market Effectiveness

Sonja Keerl
Focusing on superficial aspects of visual discovery can cause teams to miss out on the real drivers of growth and efficiency

Gradients Kill Go-To-Market Effectiveness

Gradients, the gradual blending from one color to another, are a funny thing in the B2B marketing world. ‘We’ spend a lot of time debating them, don’t we? Most people have at least one opinion about gradients - usually it’s a firm one. Shocker: I do not, it’s Gradient, Schmadient in my wheelhouse. I was merely getting your attention. Gradients don’t kill go-to-market, how could they - they are a matter of taste. Tastes differ, tastes change: With time, with geography, with the target audience.

The real point is that if you and your team spend a lot of time discussing gradients and other superficial aspects of visual discovery, then you may be missing the levers for growth and efficiency that will actually and measurably move the needle.

Three questions that need answering before talking gradients

If you have the feeling that your ‘brand falls short’ or that your brand awareness isn’t where you know it could - and should - be, then it is the right time to revisit your go-to-market fundamentals. Brand is not about colors and what pictures to use - that is visual identity. Brand is also not something that you can ‘create’ anymore - rather, it's your customers who build your brand based on how they experience your company and your technology. So if you want to build brand, work with your customers.

Here are a few fundamental questions that must be answered clearly for any new branding strategy to be successful.

Who is your audience?

It is so obvious isn’t it, and so simple? In theory. In practice, experience has shown that identifying the ideal customer profile (ICP) for a B2B tech provider can be quite hard in the early stages. Because tech startups don’t like to say ‘no’ - and in many cases that flexibility and adaptability has been a driver of the initial growth. So may have been a good thing - then. 

When you come to the point of a brand awareness investment however, you can no longer postpone making decisions about who your best customers will be going forward. It may be arduous, but seeing  “everyone in a remotely technical role across the globe in any industry at any size company with any maturity level” as your future customer, will make it impossible to find a tone and the messaging that both hits the mark and is remarkable. At least not without your CFO’s stress levels staying within appropriate parameters.

“Your brand is what other people say about you
when you're not in the room”  
- Jeff Bezos

If your brand is what other people say about you when you are not in the room, defining your target audience will help you to narrow down WHO exactly the people are that talk about you. And diving further into the research of your addressable market and its personas will begin to give you a good idea about what room they may be in.

What is in it for them today?

When you know the people you want to talk about your offering, the core question is, what is in it for them. What VALUE do your platforms, products and services offer them?  And whilst this too looks like such an obvious question, defining a value proposition, value drivers and a product message that resonates with people, is still the most exhausting part of defining a Go-To-Market strategy. For everyone involved, for many reasons that we will dive into in later posts. 

“What got you here, won’t get you there.”

The single biggest hurdle to crafting a value proposition that is true and enticing is: the past. 

Most B2B technology companies are founded by brilliant people in technology. Abstract thinkers, developers, architects - geniuses who see through technological complexities that 90% (or more) of the world just does not get. 

With the first customers being Innovators, who often share the technology affinity of tech startup leaders, a curious feedback loop develops that builds out an organic messaging full of concepts and acronyms. 20 years ago it was the JCRs and XSDs, today it’s MLPNN, DSSM and friends. And the ‘our A(P)I is better than their A(P)I’ story is not worth repeating.

But on the surface, it often feels to tech founders that this technology sophistication is the reason behind their success. And that may well be true for the initial customer segment, but for 90% of the world (and likely the future audience) intentionally translating technology into business value is critical for growth in later product maturity phases.

What is your vision for tomorrow?

Equally important to the value of today, is your vision of the future. People like to talk about great things they have today (like your offering) but they also love to be perceived as visionaries - and borrowing yours may just be their option for the next cocktail party. 

Take Elon Musk as an example. There certainly are a lot of topics to discuss about what is happening right now - and most of us do. But even people outside of the tech space associate Elon Musk with the hope of interplanetary travel in general and Mars in particular. And they talk about it, at least in my Sci-Fi-StarTrek-Affinity circles. (My friends in academia not so much, which brings us back to the importance of target audience.)

“I would like to die on Mars. Just not on impact.”
- Elon Musk

Sharing your innovation priorities and beyond that, your future vision for your technology or the space as a whole, will earn speaking time with ‘the people in the room’. That can be a little uncomfortable, because innovation can go sideways, because you wouldn’t want to make bold claims and then not follow through. But vision and thought leadership articulating it, are not binary - and with a well crafted brand message, you have the room you need to navigate the roadmap. 

How would you like to be remembered?

Most of us have a hard time remembering WHAT someone said, and much more easily remember how we felt when they did. The same goes for your message and your branding - how do you want people to feel, what tone do you want them to talk in when they share your story in that room? Happy, smart, serious, clever, fun? 

Your tone of voice, the way your teams behave, your technology is presented - it all contributes to the way people will talk about you. Articulating your company culture and values through all your interactions, requires deliberation and consistency.

The hard work will show, even if it isn’t visible

You know, I don’t mind gradients. I actually think they are pretty. Let’s just make sure that before anyone invests significant amounts of budget into visual identity exercises, you are clear on exactly who it is you want to talk about you, in what room, what they should say and how they should go about it. Strategy over gradients. With the right strategy magic happens.

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
                                                                                                                                                                 -- Maya Angelou

If you’d like to discuss your brand strategy and your vision for tomorrow, get in touch. We’d love to talk!

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