When failure isn’t an option, you need a rock-solid business foundation.
What happens when you try to cut corners
Like with a house, if it’s sitting on bad foundations, you know at some point you’re going to have issues. It’s the same in business. Every organisation is racing to stay ahead, and sometimes they think the easiest way to get there is just to come up with a good tagline and the rest will sort itself out. But that’s not how it works; if things come crumbling down on shaky foundations, it takes much longer to build them back up.
We had two clients that were fairly similar in terms of scope. They were both in the data space looking to carve out a niche, wanted to elevate their brand beyond products that could risk ending up commoditised, and needed to create space for growth and expansion.
The first wanted to get the news out as soon as possible after a successful merger, but decided to try to just cut across the field. They chose to skip over the strategic foundation process, not take time to build out proper value propositions, and hire someone to dive straight into creative messaging. And the launch fell flat. The new consultant they hired, the client, the wider team—everyone was unhappy.
Without going through a process that involves the full team and harnesses their shared knowledge, the end result simply won’t hold up. A clever tagline can’t create union behind a complex message alone.
Start by developing market positioning and value propositions
So what is the right process? Start by asking “what is the problem you solve? For who? And how do you do it uniquely well?”. From this, you can develop succinct market positioning and value propositions—that is, create targeted solutions that speak directly to the challenges of your customers.
Getting the right people in a room is essential: you need to pick their brains and distil all their knowledge into something tangible. At Paal15 we follow this process to create what we call a ‘strategic blueprint’, alogical, easy-to-follow, succinct document that clearly defines the strategic direction: defining the customer challenges, market challenges, value propositions, solutions, and unique selling points. We then use this as a foundation to create a tactical go-to-market plan. We do all of this before we start to bring strategy to life with creative.
For the second client in the story—Matillion—the development of their strategic foundation led to a fundamental revelation: their industry category didn’t capture the value they could create for customers.
To grow, Matillion would need to both define and claim a new industry category, one more aligned to the outcomes and value it created (and not just the technology it offered). This is how the Matillion Data Productivity Cloud was born.
Once established, this core positioning could be used as the foundation to amplify messages towards customers, partners, and analysts.
Because the strategic foundation had been fully considered, we were able to create messaging that everyone at Matillion could understand and get behind—many had even contributed to its formation. Paal15 also put a big focus on coaching Matillion executives on how to deliver the messaging: crucial to ensuring the success of the new positioning’s launch event and ongoing press opportunities.
Using a proven process pays off
It’s not that businesses shouldn’t do things quickly, but using a proven process—like Paal15’s—has shown time and time again that building a solid foundation pays off.
The foundation has other benefits. Another of our clients, Pure Storage, had started to build a targeted campaign after working with Paal15 to develop a strategic foundation. During the tactical campaign activities, PureStorage wasn’t getting the results it wanted. While this previously might have meant going back to the drawing board, the existence of a solid strategic foundation meant that we didn’t have to go back to step 0—we went back from step 20 to step 18 to try some new angles. Their Marketing VP was happy with this normal iterative process, and the new angles were in market in just a matter of weeks, performing well, and even sparking Board level discussions around the topics the company should be talking about in the market.
Our process is a proven one, designed to help clients focus on building value—not just materials—and give them the foundation to keep building that value in an agile way.
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