Reality check: Developing a marketing strategy for a very special target group

07 Sep 2022

Ann-Sophie Winter und Daniel Kranz

One of the downsides of a consultant's everyday life: even the most exciting projects must end at some point. However, it’s the perfect moment to look back and take stock.

Today we are doing so with a project in which the task was to develop a holistic marketing strategy for two products in the B2G environment - i.e. for business relations between companies and the public sector. Our client, an IT subsidiary of a medium-sized public utility in northern Germany, asked us for support in structuring the products and positioning them in the market.

Interviews with mayors and decision-makers

At the beginning, we focused our efforts on three areas: Product, market and target group. We started with an inventory of the products and then identified and analyzed relevant competitors. At the same time, we worked out core hypotheses regarding the target groups of the products and relevant "buyer personas". With these hypotheses, we looked for potential customers we could interview – with mayors and other decision-makers in the public sector being high on our list.

It is typical for TLGG to first use its own contacts and to reach into the network of our partners to reach the relevant target group as quickly as possible for detailed and qualitative interviews. In the end, we conducted more than 20 intensive and insightful interviews, which helped us to create very specific buyer personas and buyer journeys for our client.

Positioning the products in a competitive yet indistinguishable field

We took a close look at the market participants and market trends. It was exciting and challenging to decide where to draw the line: Do you also look at international competitors? Do we consider relevant start-ups? To what extent does a mayor of a Bavarian municipality with 10,000 inhabitants validate a new solution from Hamburg? Pragmatism and experience from past projects help to quickly gain a clear insight into the market.

During the interviews, it soon became clear how the target group enters the buying process and which criteria are relevant: Recommendations from other municipalities, the company's references and, above all, the simplicity of the products. To map these criteria and position the products even better, we sharpened the Unique Selling Point (USP). A challenging process, as the products are hardly differentiating in their functionality, but rather by the holistic nature of the modules, the cooperation with the company and further consulting services provided by the client.

Deep dive into branding strategies

So how do you position products "without" a visible USP for an "unknown" company on the market? That was the core question in the second part of the project. Over two workshop days, we dived deep into the details of branding strategies. How do we want to be perceived? What tone of voice and what impressions do we want to leave with potential customers. A few heated and constructive discussions later, we decided on the brand archetype of the "Creator": a tonality that is used by brands such as LEGO (more information on brand archetypes can be found here). This decision had an impact on many project outcomes, such as pitch presentations or website presence.

Next, we needed product names, a clear framework for corporate design, a new logo and exciting content for the social media channels. Decisions for or against a certain appearance were - as so often - subjective and quite emotional. But above all, this shows that the teams truly care about their products.

Operationalizing the strategy

The next step was preparing the implementation of our strategy: What should a sales roadmap for this year look like? Which trade fairs should we consider and why? How do we target which customers? How do we design our content plan for the channels?

We had to decide whether we wanted to focus on brand awareness or audience behaviour (convincing the target group of products). The interviews had shown that personal conversations with the target group work best. Therefore, the decision was clear: we build brand awareness via social media and coverage but focus primarily on direct contacts in the network and at trade fairs. To measure the success of our efforts, we defined new target values.

So now we are at this crucial moment: How can the strategy and the first tests be transferred into reality and the daily work of the client team? Will all the tools, templates, and processes work? Certainly not. Still: The first contacts have already been made, the weekly sales and marketing checkpoints are running successfully, and the customer approach has been sharpened. We will of course follow along – and we’re sure that the team will do a great job!

So, what did we learn?

1. You only understand target groups if you talk to them: the best way to get to know a target group is through direct exchange. You get insights that are crucial for the strategy. Example: We have learned that words like "LoRaWan" are rather off-putting for some mayors and are associated with "delusions", for example.

2. Strategy must be tangible. Let's not fool ourselves: We are a strategy consultancy and love to think visionary. However, the best strategy is of no use to the client if it’s not tangible, if the deadlines are not in the calendar, if the content plan is not adopted or if the teams on the ground cannot get on with the tonality. It takes time to set up processes together - but the investment pays off.

3. Emotional project results bring the discussion to life: as soon as logos, branding and tonality are discussed, everyone involved has an opinion and takes time to be a part of the process. However, be prepared for the fact that the speed decreases in these phases and dependencies arise that might have to be solved with a lot of empathy.

4. It’s better to have an uncomfortable moment in a physical space than a lack of emotion on the screen: Presence is not just about getting to know each other or brainstorming on the flipchart. It is the moments when you can look each other in the eye or perceive subtle changes in body postures that steer projects in other directions. Even if it is sometimes unpleasant, meeting in person makes a difference – and saves both parties unnecessary loops down the line.

5. "Expertise is Queen & King": Clients notice when expertise is available in an area. We are glad that with TLGG Agency we have quick access to experts in the field of search engine advertising (SEA) and content creation and can benefit from their wealth of experience.