Company billboards shown in New York’s Times Square at dusk

B2B Branding Stripped Down to the Essentials

True story. Many moons ago, I was working at a startup. A new CMO had been hired and he wasn’t really sure what to do with me yet. I wasn’t the model employee, championing the “let’s all get out of the office and each lunch for an hour and a half” cause, and generally uninterested in the mission of the company and false bravado of the CEO. The CMO, we’ll call him Brad, thought that if I built the brand for the company a little bit deeper, maybe I would take ownership over what the company was doing.

He sent me on a mission to execute a series of “branding” exercises he must have found on TheCheesiestAndMostPointlessBrandingExercises.com that had me identifying things like “if this brand were a car, what kind of car would it be? If it were a dog…” You get the point. It’s the same branding BS agencies use to try and bring upon the illusion of deep thought, when really it’s just billable hours and wasted time.

So what is well worth your time when figuring out your brand? Good question. Depending on your industry, it can vary. If you’re in fashion or food, you need to spend the extra cash on the luxurious design, sexy messaging, and build an identity that your target audience will resonate with. But for most companies, you really need to make decisions in the following areas:

  1. Communication
    1. The Why, How, and What of how we conduct business
    2. How we communicate our offering to our hero (the customer) in 7 words or less
    3. The most valuable aspects about us and how they bring value
  2. Visual Identity
    1. Does our collateral match our brand promise?
    2. Do we have a cohesive style?
  3. Creative Campaigns
    1. What is the leading message we are expressing to our hero on how we can guide them differently than the competition?
    2. How do we walk our hero through what his or her success journey would look like with us?

As you’ll see, we have a series of exercises that help companies make the decisions laid out above. They are all a part of what we call “Brand Day,” the day where companies focus on how to build brand messaging and get on the path towards visual cohesiveness. The day also develops two sets of creative campaigns at different parts of the Customer Lifecyle.

We pack a lot into Brand Day, because we believe most branding hurdles can be solved in a day. But making the decisions for how the brand is going to communicate both through visuals and messages is the easy part. Implementing the newfound focus and getting every employee to understand why you do what you do and the three factors that make you unique, this is a greater challenge. That’s why on Brand Day we not only help companies decide on the factors above, but we also create a path to make integrating the new discoveries into the company vernacular a seamless process.

What Goes on During Brand Day

When I work with a company on their brand, one of the first things I say to them is “this is the easy part.” Essentially, we are brainstorming and building our version of Camelot for 8 hours. It’s easy to get swept away in ideas, creative collaboration, and possibilities. That’s why it’s always important to keep our work as pragmatic as possible.

The goal of Brand Day is to walk away with solidified brand messaging, a unified visual direction, and the foundation for our creative campaigns. We have simplified the process into four components that we knock out in just one day:

Communication Strategy

  • Why-How-What Positioning Statement – The paragraph that sells our business
  • 7 Words-or-Less Tagline – How we communicate our business in 7 words or less
  • Value Propositions – The most valuable aspects about us and how they bring value

Visual Identity

  • Visual Identity Audit – Review current collateral and identify needs
  • Style Discovery Tool – An interactive survey to define your style

Creative Campaigns

  • Leadership Message – How will we build thought leadership to attract new prospects
  • The Vision Pitch– How do we visualize the hero’s journey for our customers so they can see what success looks like

Implementation

  • Current Collateral – How will we incorporate this messaging into current collateral
  • Obstacle List – How we begin removing the barriers we’ve identified

I typically find that Brand Day is met with a lot of enthusiasm because it’s solidifying a lot of the messaging a company has been using informally in an elevator pitch, a tagline, and sections for the home page of a website to showcase the company’s benefits.

When it comes to the visual part of Brand Day, things can be a little more contentious. Groups of 3 to 5 people typically have different opinions and aesthetics, so we dig deep to get leadership teams on the same page and find common ground. This is why we begin with the communication. With your Communication Strategy, you are creating a promise for what your brand will be. The visuals serve as your opportunity to fulfill that promise.

Typically, if there’s dissention within a group, we bring it back to the messages we built in the Communication Strategy. “We said that our value proposition was that we accrued 11 certifications that illustrate our quality. When we look at the current website, is this commitment to quality expressed in the design? If not, what changes do we need to make?” This is just a small example of how we get everything aligned. By starting with the messaging, we understand the company’s intent and we make them challenge their current designs to determine if they are backing up that intent.

We end with two creative campaigns that typically jumpstart companies to take action. Sure, it’s nice to hone in on your elevator pitch, have a new tagline to put on your website, and identify “what makes us different?!?!” But when companies create a leadership message to attract prospects and formalize a vision pitch to systemize how they close clients, they begin to gain traction on building out marketing materials they can actually utilize in their marketing-to-sales process.

Lastly, we go over our next Implementation Steps. Often times, we see a common obstacle in the design of marketing collateral. So we build a plan, create deadlines, make sure we understand budget + priorities, and begin tackling any and all design issues we see. Next, we begin building out plans for how we illustrate and disseminate our creative campaigns. At the end of the day, we don’t just have ideas, we have a clear path towards how we will adopt and apply those ideas.

My biggest goal leaving Brand Day is for companies to feel solidified and unified with “who we are.” If we can strip down all of the ideas and concentrate the best of them into these areas, we can build a clear and focused brand in just one day. Sure, other elements may be needed down the road, especially on the design side, but we’ve overcome our biggest hurdles: defining why people should care about us and understanding how we implement this new identity into a system that will help us market and grow the business.

Digital Online Marketing E-Commerce

Why You Should Consider Magento as Your B2B eCommerce Platform

There are more than a few popular eCommerce platforms that B2B businesses around the world rely on day in and day out. Most platform companies claim their software is outfitted with “great features” and “intuitive design” but then come saddled with shortcomings which become apparent much quicker than expected. Many just fail to scale appropriately when the time comes to grow your business.

Enter Magento: the Open Source eCommerce platform with the added benefit of a global ecosystem of implementation partners. With powerful tools and customization capabilities, this Adobe-owned platform allows users to build meaningful, user-centric B2B eCommerce experiences across all devices. Seamless shopping, customer satisfaction, scalability, intelligent operations, important customer and operation centric customizations, and operating with confidence should be your standard no matter what else you prioritize.

Magento can do all of it.

Outlined below are just a handful of reasons why Magento makes for the ideal B2B eCommerce platform.

Rich Native Features Focused on B2B Growth

One doesn’t need to delve into the world of extensions and customized code on Magento to be granted access to an expansive eCommerce toolkit. Out of the box, the platform is outfitted with a robust set of included, intuitive, easy to use features. With its ability to support up to 500,000 products and enterprise-level volumes of up to 80,000 orders per hour, Magento provides plenty of room for your B2B business to grow.

Here are some of the most important B2B features designed to drive growth:

  • Price negotiation and quote request workflows
  • Personalized price-lists
  • Custom catalogs capabilities
  • Buyer levels and custom permissions to simplify sales to corporate accounts
  • Streamlined ordering and reordering to help generate recurrent revenue
  • Marketing, promotions, and conversion tools
  • Site management capabilities
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) features
  • Analytics and reporting features
  • Mobile commerce capabilities

Multiple Storefronts, One Interface

Another strong feature within the Magento platform is the ability to support multiple storefronts and shopping experiences from one interface/administration, with relatively easy set-up.

Multiple storefronts can be incredibly useful in cases where your business operates across multiple or different:

  • Brand Names (i.e. Gap also owns Athleta, Banana Republic, and Old Navy)
  • Domain Names
  • Languages
  • Currencies

By creating a unique storefront for each unique justification, an organization provides an improved user-centric experience to site visitors. At the same time, administration remains efficient because your administrators have to login to only one system to manage orders, catalog and inventory, customers, and customer price groups for all stores.

Magento is Open Source, and Widely Adopted

One of the primary factors making Magento so attractive to brands, especially those with development capabilities as part of their team, is the fact that Magento is open source. Being open source means that anyone with the technical know-how can do some killer custom web development via direct access to the source code of the software, leveraging the platform to a company’s own competitive advantage. ECommerce development teams want control so they can set your online presence apart and customize whatever might be needed, and Magento allows for this.

Magento is so widely adopted, with over 300,000 active online stores and a roughly 8% market share, there are excellent places for teams to find help. These adoption rates result in excellent forums and other online outlets for development teams to learn, collaborate, and find solutions.

Integration with Popular Enterprise Tools + Vast Options for Extensions

The Magento platform was designed to drive profitability at scale and improve the outcomes of your sales and marketing efforts. The Magento open source framework allows for integrations with any major ERP or CRM Software (i.e. Oracle NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce, HubSpot). Magento can be a real efficiency play for a B2B operation, and because Magento is open source, one has more control to customize the feature set to be optimal, whereas one might find themselves restricted with a platform that is not so open to customization.

For B2B companies who are thinking about, or have already expanded into, working with an ERP software such as NetSuite or Microsoft Dynamics, one can connect their ERP to Magento, providing back office reps, customer service agents, warehouse managers, executive management, and your users with real-time inventory and data from across the supply chain (i.e. more accurate shipping costs and delivery times).

Magento has an Active Developer Community

Magento Community forums were created as part of Magento’s effort to bring developers and enthusiasts together in one place. They’re a great source of assistance when a developer is stuck. Whether the developer is greener to the web game or even more seasoned, one is sure to have plenty of helpful individuals and groups willing to help resolve issues. According to Magento’s community page, there are 360,000 forum members in their own Magento-run forums alone, covering topics around security, version control, plugins/extensions, and more.

The Magento Community is quite expansive and includes a global ecosystem of implementation partners who gather from around the globe to offer each other encouragement and insight when needed the most. Software partners, product managers, bloggers, partner agencies, and other critical players in the eCommerce game all come together in these forums and create a powerful compendium of information.

Hundreds of highly talented, independent developers have also come to the table with their own extensions/add-ons/modules (free and paid) one can purchase and install to increase productivity and customer satisfaction. Once installed into Magento and carefully configured to your business rules, these can quickly drive success in many different areas. Why reinvent the wheel when there are premade modules on the market that cost a fraction of the price?

Just a few notable extensions Magento development teams have to offer include:

  • Google Tag Managerby MagePlaza *one of our favorite module developers.
    • Link with Google AdWords and Analytics for improved usability and more metrics.
  • One Step Checkout (FireCheckout) by Templates Master
  • Refer a Friend Extension by Amasty *one of our favorite module developers.
    • One of the most powerful Magento extensions allows one to easily and quickly build an automated referral program with full functionality, turning customers into referral sources.
  • Seamless Payment Gateway Integration: Magento integrates with most of the biggest payment systems currently available, including, but not limited to:
    • net
    • Stripe
    • PayPal
    • Amazon Payments
    • Other
  • Live Chat Extensions from various creators

Long-Term Cost Savings

Magento is an investment that pays off over time. By connecting Magento to an ERP, Amazon, and/or other order fulfillment software/tools ATAK has seen a move to Magento result in a reduction of at least one full-time employee(s). Here is a quote from one of our B2B clients running on Magento:

There are several integrations that have had a substantial impact on our day-to-day operations.  First, linking our ERP, NetSuite, with our multi-channel solutions software, Seller Active, via API changed the way our company functioned from the get-go. When you’re processing hundreds of orders per day, the last thing you want to be doing with your time is facilitating the data to move from one endpoint to another. The manual shift of this data takes away from time that can be used to grow the business. Orders are coming into our system reliably, quickly, and without concern. The productivity savings on this integration alone is worth thousands of dollars every year. Automation is key to future success – ATAK made this happen for us. Further, we utilized ATAK’s expertise to create API links between our new website on Magento and NetSuite. This connection manually populates fields such as price, description, and other important product details. A critical win here is that we can focus on expanding our product line versus maintaining our website. Between all integrations, we comfortably save the time/cost of 2 FTEs.”

– ITMars.com

Conclusion

Both small and large businesses can rely on Magento’s strong eCommerce capabilities to do business day in and day out. Between its ease of use, high scalability, and countless integration options, Magento offers a safe place to land, especially for growing B2B businesses who anticipate some growing pains in the coming years and want ultimate flexibility.

At ATAK Interactive, we believe Magento is an incredible eCommerce platform. Through our work with various clients across several industries, we have the experience to tailor, integrate, support, and scale your Magento website as your business grows.

If you would like to learn more about how Magento can help your business, don’t hesitate to contact us. We would love to chat!

6 B2B Marketing Strategies for 2019

The world of business to business marketing is constantly expanding and best practices are changing rapidly. When was the last time you updated your company’s B2B marketing strategy? We want to make sure you’re staying up to date with the most effective strategies so you can maintain your competitive edge. Read on for some of our top B2B strategies to help your company get ahead.

1. Sophisticate Your Email Marketing by Keeping Your CRM Well Maintained

The first step to effective marketing is to know your customer really well. One way you can achieve this is by keeping your CRM in tip-top shape. A CRM is only useful if you keep your lists well maintained, ensuring all information is up to date, labeling your campaigns accurately and clearly, standardizing your data conventions across the board, and doing regular audits for data quality. With a clean list, you can begin sending much more targeted email campaigns to prospects at all stages of the funnel, in specific regions, industries, etc.

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