In these episodes (a 2 part series), Mark Edwards and Neil Cumming who are the co-founders of Outsmart Strategy, a company that helps software companies position and communicate for fast growth share their experiences and thoughts around how companies can build a sustained competitive advantage. Insights they share include:
Some topics we discussed include:
- Why software businesses struggle to achieve predictable success
- How to outsmart and not outspend the competition to build a sustained competitive advantage
- Why developing communication as a skill helps businesses build a sustained competitive advantage
- Lessons learned from examining unicorns (companies with billion-dollar evaluations) in the software space
- Why you need a creative leap in your communication
- The iceberg model – how to communicate with your clients in a brain-friendly way
- Codifying success for software companies through frameworks and systems
- The iceberg model – how to communicate with your clients in a brain-friendly way
- The competitive space framework
- A breakdown of the components in the competitive space framework
- How to get a sustainable competitive advantage when you put the competitive space framework components together
- and much more …
Transcription of part 1 of a 2 part series
Vinay Koshy 0:00
So Mark and Neil, you are the cofounders of Outsmart Strategy, which helps primarily the software sector or companies in the software sector outsmart the competition without spending them. Would that be a quick synopsis of the company?
Mark Edwards 0:19
Good start, you started with that. You've been doing your research.
Vinay Koshy 0:28
Hi, and welcome to the predictable b2b success podcast. I'm Vinay Koshy. On this podcast, we interview people behind b2b brands who aren't necessarily famous, but do work in the trenches and share their strategies and secrets as they progress along their journey of expanding their influence and making their businesses grow predictably. Now, let's dive into the podcast. So Mark and Neil, you are the co founders of outsmart strategy, which helps primarily the software sector or companies in the software sector, outsmart the competition without spending them without beer. quick synopsis of the company.
Mark Edwards 1:09
Good start, you started with our tagline? You've been doing your research.
Neil Cumming 1:18
Mark Edwards 1:19
Yeah, yeah. outsmart not outspend? That's what it's about. Yeah. The very sort of top level and there's a big need for them.
Vinay Koshy 1:27
Certainly. And Mark, you have really come into this with a wealth of experience, as I understand it, both in business as well as through your other company boss equity, which is an international merger and acquisition firm.
Mark Edwards 1:40
Yes, correct. Yes, that's right. And it's it's a combination of skills here on spirit experience, I'd like to say that we designed it that way. There was quite a lot of luck involved. I happened to meet Neil and I've been, I've been 30 years, I've still you know, we still do that boss equity, we we do mergers and acquisitions. So we will take a company within the software sector, we will look at that business, we will look at the potential of it, and work with them to increase their valuation, before we sell it, we will then find the buyers. And that's quite an extensive process. And that can sometimes take nine months, or it could take six years
Vinay Koshy 2:20
doing that. But I think what listeners may not be aware of is the fact that by virtue of your past experience and experience with bus equity, you've had a bit of a an inside Yes. Or under the hood look at a lot of companies to see what makes them tick and have learned from lessons from them, which you now bring to outsmarts. Right?
Mark Edwards 2:42
Yes, I mean, that that's I'm very fortunate in that respect I've been involved in I lose count now. But it's it's well over 120 acquisitions, and hundreds of companies that I've had dealings with, over the years, I owned a software company, I've been shareholder, I've been managing director of a software company, I've sold software in the past, I've done marketing for software companies, I've been very much involved in that world. And being able to, as you say, lift up the hood, and see underneath what's happening within those business, what's really happening, not what they project to the outside world, for sure. And as you would expect, everyone wants to project a very rosy positive image. But I see that there is a big divide. And in the software sector, I mean, Neil and I, we believe in unicorns. And what we mean by that is that a unicorn is a company that reaches a billion dollars in valuation. And that is something that is quite feasible within the software sector, it may not be the target for every owner. Now, I'm not saying to everyone who's in the software tech, they've got this burning ambition to create a unicorn company. But I think the lessons that can be learned from those companies have been very valuable for us, and our research. So I've got 30 years experience of looking at the the companies seeing what really goes on within those businesses, saying understanding software technology, and the business and the markets and the different sectors worked in lots of different sectors within software, but then also doing research and saying, of those companies, the 1% of the 1% those companies and we've seen companies that go from startup to unicorn in less than a handful of years. And when you think about that billion dollar valuation, how many other types of businesses can do that? Very few. And this, I mean, that's a really positive thing. And I want to we want to be able to stimulate that. Because when you have a business that grows that quickly, it's usually about innovation, which means it's solving problems and it's about creating jobs. And it's about creating revenue and bringing in revenue. And all of those things can be very, very positive. So we want to be part of that digital revolution that's happening. But we want to, we want to push aside some of the myths and misconceptions that are out there in the marketplace. Because this part of the world, this digital revolution, and digital marketing, communication software sector has changed so quickly, that it's difficult to keep up. And what we could see was that there was a lot of money being wasted. And there was a lot of potential that was being wasted. And there was a lot of effort from entrepreneurs, who have gone out on a limb, when you start a business, and you say, I've got an idea. And you turn that idea into something, that something a reality, and then you really are gambling, because you know, the stats on creating a business that lasts beyond three years, you're talking about a very small percentage, most businesses go bust. And to be able to do that, and I know I've, I've dealt with so many founders and senior executives, tough job, there's a lot of stresses, and they feel a lot of responsibility, because it's not just them and the money that they may have invested, or their investors money. It's all the people that you know, their income is dependent on it, and their families, it can have a really big knock on effect. And I've seen people suffering from from stress. Because of that, in fact, I've got to do a podcast myself called boss it. And a couple of times, I've brought in sort of experts around, you know, handling stress, because it can be very, very stressful. And it's made even more stressful. If you're not growing, if you're not growing quickly enough. Certainly. So yeah, I mean, that was quite a lot sort of a long intro introduction, it was a little about my side. But I think also important is to sort of talk about the other side, the other half of outsmart, which is new. And I said it's about the combination of our two skills. So mine is very much upon the experience in software sector, the practical experience of just doing this for a long time, being able to see under the hood, what's knowing what's going on with these companies. And that study, which we call the bamboo report, but then we add the science. So it's probably best if Neil was to introduce himself,
Vinay Koshy 7:32
Certainly. And Neil, as I understand this, and correct me if I'm wrong, you have a background in cognitive psychology and a research type background or academics.
Neil Cumming 7:43
Yeah, initially, I was in the commercial wing of Warwick University here in the UK. And in that role, I was given the responsibility to take professorial and doctorate level knowledge and put that into the workforce, Jaguar Land Rover, so you're down on the shop floor. So you got a huge leap in intrinsic knowledge, you know, how much the professor knows how much the guys on the workforce know. So, my background took me that, that that difficult job took me to cognitive load theory, and dedicated a number of years to becoming very efficient and effective in applying cognitive load. And in a nutshell, cognitive load is just how does your brain process information? Right? I just accept it, process it, remember it, recall it, actively using it. And the attraction for me for cognitive load was it's an applied science. I'm not really into theoretical science. I like science that's based on really experiential stuff is derived from mass experiments, etc. So I took that that's a cognitive load, I've applied it commercially for 20 years, across a number of businesses, anything that needs knowledge or information transferred, cognitive load can optimize. It's it's a way of reducing the overload that we're experiencing by actually designing out that overload. So what I felt when I coincidentally met Mark through a client I was working with, we immediately had common ground, there was certain aspects of the approach to communicating and positioning and strategy that we just went, yeah, this is this is, this is good stuff. So Mark was sitting talking to me about the instinctual learning and insights that he gained from Looking underneath the hood of all these companies. And what I was doing was I was going Yeah, well, the science behind that is this. So the reason that that works really well is hard science proves that this is the case. So we've had two years of absolute deep dive, pull things apart. Question some of the normal Tactical behaviors that go in and marketing. And also bringing in this bamboo report, what we're taking of the sort of top one to 2% of these companies, and this is continuing research. So we're still looking at what these companies are doing is we're taking the very best of what they're doing communications, and the way they interact with their customers, their experience of the customers, and using that to actually create something exceptional. And only recently, we've we've decided that it's now made most of the traditional marketing that's going on obsolete. Hmm. Okay.
Mark Edwards 10:39
I mean, this methodology we call competitive space. And it's about working with our client, so that they can create their unique competitive space. And it's about codifying an engineering successful so they can get greater growth. But in at the same time, what we're doing is we're really wanting to quash some of these myths out there that people are following. And there's an illusionary truth about this, because go onto YouTube, and do a quick search and look for advice around communication, sales and marketing. And you could spend your rest your life listening to it. And most of it won't help you at all.
Vinay Koshy 11:26
So let me see if I understand this correctly. If I were to throw a few household names like Richard Branson, Elon Musk, and and say, Mark Zuckerberg, what if I would ask people, what is it that they have in common? Most people would say visionary. Yes. But if I understand you correctly, and if I were to think about this a bit, their ability to communicate, yes. What has helped them and their company stand out from the Yeah, absolutely. Even though they may have had an early mover advantage, but haven't been able to maintain it because of that communication skill?
Mark Edwards 12:08
Yes, absolutely. There's a number of elements that I think that those people have. And I think that some people are fortunate in that they, they instinctively know the right thing to do. I think over the years, they can probably talk about some aspects. But I think that there's probably things that they just do, and they don't even think about it. But it really works. One thing that they've all got in common, they're all three people that you mentioned, are all very different. But they're all a personality that we could describe this is very, very different. Right? Now, that is one of the elements that we have in what we call our competitive space will, which is personality. So when you think of Richard Branson, you you have an image in your head, you have an understanding about them. If you say Elon Musk, it's very different to Zuckerberg, but you have that image in your head. And what it does, is it gives you a certain amount of confidence, whether you like them or not, you know what you get? If you invited Mark Zuckerberg onto this podcast, you know what you're going to get, you're not going to get an extrovert. But you know, we're going to get if you got Elon Musk on there, you're going to get somebody who's going to you don't know what he's gonna say. He can be quite controversial and
Neil Cumming 13:29
drive a truck through your back wall, just to make your point. Yeah.
Mark Edwards 13:35
If you've got Richard Branson on, you've got a very bubbly bouncy character who just goes out there. But I think the other the other. The interesting thing is, I mean, we've sort of discussed it from this perspective. So you stimulated something there. Is that another element within our competitive space? We'll we'll we'll perhaps we'll bring it up a bit later, is truth. A lot of communication is based around lies, unfortunately, or hype, or click, exaggeration. exaggeration. And what that does is it builds mistrust. That's really, really important. You think you think you think of it if you've got a group of friends, and you've got somebody there, that you know, that typically lies? Your attitude towards them is not going to be that great. I mean, we've all had it. You know, you have people who we tend to exaggerate a little bit and we tend to excuse that but if they consistently lied to you, I think it's more difficult to maintain a relationship with them. Yet businesses do that all the time.
Neil Cumming 14:46
Yeah. The ultimate the best they boast, you know, successful. Marketing is full of those hyper balls. In fact, we have a long long list of cliched phrases that people recognize and go oops, I do that. You know, I use those phrases, and people are blind to them, though they no longer see them. They used to stand out when they were first used. But nowadays, everybody claims that, you know, everybody says, we have this, we've got the ultimate in customer service. And I think one of the things that Mark and I love doing is, well, who's going to put on the website, we have really pathetic customer service.
Vinay Koshy 15:21
Yes, you know, that's right.
Neil Cumming 15:23
If you did stand out, because everyone else is claiming the best, you know, the, the interesting thing is, if you follow the hair Do you do not have any competitive space. So if you do what everybody else is doing, words, visuals, interactions, and you copy, you're always part of the head, and it's almost by chance that you're picked and you're, you're increasing the competitive density that you're operating in, what we love to do is just lift them out of that completely, remove them from that very dense space, and plunk them in a new category, a new area with different words, different ways of communicating, that are just simple and effective and science based.
Mark Edwards 16:08
But I think I think at the same time, we're not ridiculing people, because they've done that because I think it's very understandable. Being part of the herd is safety safe. That's what that's why animals instinctively do that, you stay within the herd, and then you're less likely to become prey. But in the business world, you need to be able to stand out, you need to have clarity and understanding. And you need you need to be, you know, I think even more so now going forward. What we've seen in the past is that the innovators have been in a very strong position. And I think innovation is going to be very important. And we're seeing a lot of that at the moment, we're going through the most innovative period, probably in human history. But I think that there's rising importance other communicators
Vinay Koshy 17:06
won't be correct in saying that, behind that this ability to communicate and come across as being fairly passionate about the things that they're doing. And certainly innovation, that's how these companies are making allies an absolute commitment to the overall mission. And cause that they're trying to that they were aligned to and bought into.
Mark Edwards 17:33
Yes, but I'm, I'm tentative about going down that path, because I think that we can, we could end up sounding a little bit cliched and sound a bit like Simon Sinek and the power of y. Now, I suppose I mean, I'm being truthful, I tend to be quite outspoken. And and both of us are very passionate about competitive space and what we've developed, because we're seeing the evidence, what it can do. And it's it shocked us, where you create a methodology. And we've built in the different layers, and we've looked at this from all different angles. And when we've gone, wow, look at this, this really does make what's gone before obsolete, and what people are doing, obviously, but in making that statement, we were in danger almost of, of becoming and sounding like some of the things that we say you shouldn't do about saying we are the best, we are the leading, it could almost sound like bragging remain, we talk about behaving as you would want to behave at maybe a party networking party. And, and if some if you meet somebody for the first time, and they say, I'm the best in the world, and they're talking about themselves and all these sort of hype about, you probably gonna start looking over their shoulder to try and find somebody else to talk to him fairly quickly. You know, or if they just talk at you. We're using technical terms. And at a level that just means very little to you. Again, you're going to be looking around the room thinking how can I get out of this one, we've all experienced that, you know, communication should be two way. So I've got to be really careful there. But I think and I think where your question was leading was, was around finding the core truth. And that's, that is a slice of, of, of the answer. But it's such a small slice might my my criticism, I suppose in a way is and I'm not meaning to criticize Simon Sinek because I think what he did was he took an idea, and he presented it brilliantly. It wasn't his idea. And that's fine. And I don't I don't discredit him in any way because of that, because he just did it better. But that one idea. And the way that he presented it captured the attention of a lot of people in the business world and it's become a little bit of a mantra Now we're seeing people repeating it over and over again. But my question then would be so Okay, so how do you do that? How do you take that idea? And how do you implement it, and then things start to get a little bit foggy? Well, we've done all of that we've looked at those elements. And we actually reverse engineer things, we looked at the common problems, perceived problems, and what we really dug down to say, actually, the cause of problems are this. And then we reversed it back to the solutions. And then the framework or the methodology was built upon that. And that was the best few days work we ever did. Right at the very start. Okay, every, every time we have a new problem thrown at us, and it's very difficult, it's, it can be difficult for us, sometimes you get too immersed into the detail. Neal and I go, Oh, hang on a minute, let's take ourselves back to the core of what this is about, and our competitive space will. And we say, where's the cause of problem? And it's there? It's there, it gives you the answer. So there are lots of things out, and I'm talking specifically because, you know, my, my experience has been predominantly the software sector, I've been in other areas of business before that. And I, you know, I speak to a lot of people in other areas, but that's our, that's our focus. But there are some of these myths and ideas, that they just aren't enough alone, or they just wrong, or they just don't give you anything. It's just a concept. Okay, so what do I do with that? You know, one of them is, I get I get it, I know what I know what our communications got to do. You've just got to differentiate yourself. Ah, the times I've heard that, you know, doesn't help you. And and actually, No, you don't. I could differentiate myself on this podcast, and make myself really differentiated from anybody that you've ever interviewed before, by taking off my clothes and sitting here naked. or do anything
Neil Cumming 22:06
to be naked into these
Mark Edwards 22:09
surprises? Well, it was what? What would that do for me, I would be absolutely differentiated. It's not about differentiation. It's, that's an oversimplification. I mean, one of the other phrases that just drove me crazy, and I hear people repeat time and time again, what you got to do is you've got to work with the prospect feel felt found, ah, you know, and, and it becomes a bit of a mantra, and it's repeated, over and over again, these things. And it becomes an illusionary truth. Because you hear it from lots of different sources, people believe it to be true. And then they act upon that premise. And guess what, they spend money on communication, and it doesn't bring them the results that they want. Any communication will work to a degree. But the majority of the work that I've seen working with clients, and that really affected me, especially when you're thinking about an m&a sale is I'm wanting that company to perform and become more and more efficient and to grow quickly. And I saw my clients were working with their marketing people and their sales people and throwing money at it, or they weren't. And that's another, that's another area we got to cover is a really important one. In the software sector, they weren't throwing money at it, you do need money, but they were doing it internally, or they were going to outside digital marketing and advertising agencies. And a lot of the time it wasn't working. So they're spending money, and it wasn't working. And that hits the bottom line. And so much was not working, that I think that there was a great deal of cynicism with my clients about, you won't need to spend money on marketing. I've done that before. That was just like burning cash. I'm not comfortable with that. And remember a lot of these guys, they're technologists, their computer scientists, they you know, that their tech, they they are their engineers, that that world of communication and marketing, that's sort of fluffy stuff to them. So there's a psychological layer that needs to be thought about here. And we thought, yeah, you don't fight against that. You got to be able to sit from their perspective, they're right. When they're in the computer world and their programming. That's something that they understand and it's predictable. And when it's not, I can go and fix it. When they're throwing money at marketing and it's just not working. The problem is that it's not a zero or one with marketing is any form of communication will work to a degree. Yep. You know, if, if you've got a small company, I could say to you, I can guarantee that I can generate leads for you. We'll just throw five million at it. And even if it was utter garbage, you would you would get some attention because of the volume of but that's not the way to do it.
Vinay Koshy 25:10
Are you saying then that communication should be geared to further business outcomes?
Mark Edwards 25:16
Not sure I understand your question actually. Try again, another way.
Vinay Koshy 25:21
In other words, the the aim of any communication, or bid sales marketing should really be to further a business outcome, as opposed to be more of a creative exercise, which is results, more results focus, then business outcome focused?
Mark Edwards 25:43
No, no, no, definitely, I think one of the aspects that we talk about is you need a creative leap. In in your communication, you do need creativity, unique creatives. And, you know, we we work with a client over a fairly short period of time, typically two months, and we will inject that creativity, and we will set them on the right path. And we will create the structure. And what we will also enable them to do is to be more effective by doing less, the less is more. Yeah. But there's a big element of creativity. As regards is it focused towards business objectives? Yes, it is. I mean, ultimately, it's it's focused upon increasing revenue efficiently. generating leads, you need to be able to communicate to a large number, that's the definition of of marketing is, first of all, gain their attention, communicate to a large number of people to generate leads that can be passed to your sales people or your sales process, and then are during the sales process. And there may be a section in between, which is the nurturing, so sort of marketing, nurturing, and then sales in your sales process, that's more of a one to one process. So you need to feed your sales engine, whether that sales people, or as we sometimes see, there are software companies that don't have and especially at the moment, traditional salespeople are going out to meet people face to face, they may have internal tele salespeople, or internal business development software people, or on a few occasions, there are soft SAS companies that are selling from their website, but there's still a sales process.
Vinay Koshy 27:29
Could you walk us through the process with perhaps an example? So it'd be a little easier to wrap our heads around the concepts? Yes, there's
Mark Edwards 27:39
a there's a lot to throw at us. But it might help is we'll talk a bit about, well, the iceberg, what I've been speaking for, well, for a while, Neil, people get fed up listening to my voice.
Neil Cumming 27:55
That's all. So I'll take us through this iceberg model, which is right to the core of how we have designed the science to allow communication with your clients to be brain friendly. So it basically takes the operational way you engage any person who's unaware of you as a company, and takes them down a trajectory that allows them to really recall and invent who you are and what you do, why they should care, in, in a process of steps across a river of humanity. And so the first thing we actually do with any client is we create a compelling narrative. So we asked them the deep questions about all the stuff that's that's brought them to this point, we actively listen to what's really essential in the core of their business. So those values that drew them to find the business, some of that vision that you mentioned, as well, we don't necessarily agree with mission statements as per se. But the idea of what really drives them from their heart, their passion. And that narrative starts where they formed, you know, where do they start? What was those founding principles that drive that made them take the risky leap, the dangerous step into it. And it takes us through in a, in a story in a human story to where they are now and gives an element of where they may be going in the future. And it's very important to understand a narrative is that because it allows a reader to go, I understand where you came from, I understand where you are now. I will appreciate the direction of travel. And that engages people in that narrative.
Mark Edwards 29:43
I was just gonna say a story as part of that narrative. What we're also doing is what we call painting the VISTA for the prospect. Now, you mentioned about being a visionary. It was a good example, actually, those people is that they do paint a vision but that vision has to Be a vision that your prospects can see themselves or hold on part of Yeah, that's really, really important.
Vinay Koshy 30:08
It's just that I'm queer. Do you start with a narrative?
Neil Cumming 30:13
Yes, yes, we always write well, the process starts with analysis of the sector. As you know, we analyze the sector, we get to know what others are seeing in the sector, because there's no point in writing something, then discovering to your horror that it's actually being done by a competitor close by. So we really put a dot that dot depth in there saying that we don't want to see it. Why do we want to see it because the only way, the only way we can win a battle with the same words, is actually put vast investment behind the words or advertise them.
Vinay Koshy 30:46
So again, just to be clear, let's say I, I was in sales, and had a problem using CRMs. And that serums are a great tool. But as a salesperson, it's just a headache. I've got to do all this data entry, which takes away my time and energy, when I should really be focused on talking to people and closing sales. So I develop a solution where all that data entry, that's been a headache, is salt. Does that mean I should not call it a CRM, but something else? Or do I just position it as this is the problem that I encountered? My serums a bit different, because it's
Neil Cumming 31:33
a really interesting point you're raising there, because we've actually had a recent client that had this issue, they really grabbed on to competitive space, they really were 100%, they were seeing our stuff back to us when they came to us. You know, we want to be memorable, we want to gain attention. They were just fantastic. But one of the things that they were keen not to do was use the phrase decision making, isn't that correct? Mark, they really didn't like the use of decision making. Because it was everyone was using it. And the interesting thing is we called hold them out on it a little bit. Because if you are a CRM system, or a decision making system, you have to say that's what we do. But everything else you see about it. That frame is important to say we operate in this area, this is where our solutions are, these are the outcomes we can generate from that frame. That frame around the canvas. The key thing is, you've got utter freedom on the words you choose to describe that your your version of that I'm out there, and I'm going to use words that don't connect, you can get into a sticky problem because they're like, what do you sell, then eventually you come back to I sell a CRM system.
Mark Edwards 32:45
with Neil and I are very close, we might be having one of our debates that we have, which is always very healthy. Because I've got i and i agree with the points that Neil that Neil was made there. In the specific example that you're talking about CRM. I mean, because it's software. But you know, I've seen the progression of software, particularly CRM, and what's happened, that's evolved. CRM is a very, very crowded market, and the perception, and this is where you've got to be able to get into the heads of your users and the people that are going to be buying your solution. And the perception for most salespeople is, it's an administrative chore that used to check up on me and is often used as a stick to beat me. Because I can then be told that I'm not doing something. And to be honest with you, early versions of CRM were just that, or that's how it was a tool. And that's how it was often used. It started as a database that you have to have your customers and prospects records, how somewhere so it was database. And then they came up with this customer relationship management term. But actually CRM, you'll see there's companies like HubSpot, for instance. And it's sort of morphed into marketing automation, which is is is sort of a broader aspect of this, which means that from the point of somebody first gaining attention, right the way through to they become a customer and beyond, we have one solution that can help make that process easier and faster and more efficient. So if I'm wanting to appeal to the salesman, it perhaps would be and obviously, you know, creating creating a narrative on the fly, fly like this is not the way to do it. It takes quite a bit of time. But to give you an example, would be you know, in the past, you probably hate CRM because it takes time and you just want to sell. What we've done is using artificial intelligence, we've done the data capture for you the Administrative chores are handled for you. So you can make more sales. And you can create, you can win, get more commission. And that's what's really, that's what's really, you know, they want is I want to be more successful. And I, you know, I've been in sales and I've been in sales training. And I think in the UK, particularly not so much in the States, but probably all over the world, to some degree, salespeople are not always seen in the most positive light and being in the sales industry. And I think it is a profession. And there are some superb salespeople that I've come across. And it's a very difficult task. And ultimately, what I'm saying is that all of those salespeople, yes, they obviously want commission, they want to earn money. But they also want to be successful and be seen as successful. They want success, they go to work to be successful. So if this solution, and if it works, we won't call it CRM. Now we're starting to get into the realms of creating your own competitive space around this, then you can come up with a different term is if that's now repositioned, in their mind, as this will help you be more successful in your career. Well, that might gain my interest, I'm starting to think of it in a different way. Whereas, you know, if we've got lots of salespeople listening to this call now, and you mentioned CRM, they probably their shoulders drop may think, Oh, God, you know, it's, it's not always positive. But it could be so much better. And that often, you know, a lot of that I think a lot of the, the, the previous versions of lots of different types of software was not great, because it was written by a lot of techies in a dark room, you know, who watched Star Trek at the weekend. Sorry, guys. I'm just joking. But they're not really in that world. Now, if you have a 20 year veteran salesman, who didn't get involved in creating the CRM, he'll say to you, I don't want to do that, I don't want to spend my time doing that. That's a waste of time, these are the things that really critical and design a solution around that. Now you then you might have something, they might have something a winning formula
Vinay Koshy 37:07
seven. So as you were saying that I couldn't help but think of drift, which is essentially a live chat solution. But if I think they may have followed a similar process to what you were just talking about. And they create a name for themselves by using conversational marketing, which is what they are now known for when they have a bit of a space, or as they call it a category. Yes, wherein they dominate that entire space.
Mark Edwards 37:36
Yeah, conversational marketing. I like the conversational part. I think in, in our world, in the software, tech marketing, is associated with a lot of negative things. So if they were selling into this sector, I'm probably would suggest they drop that part. But I think the idea is, is probably got some merit. You see, we have feelings and emotions that are created by association of, of words. There are lots of words that will create emotion, it may be different in different people, but you can see certain sectors where it will affect people in a certain way. You know, if I was to say, Trump, we're all gonna get a certain emotion.
Vinay Koshy 38:21
Sure, gentlemen, I'm just conscious of time do you? Do we need to do a hand stop fairly soon?
Mark Edwards 38:28
Or we're okay, we've we've we've cleared out we've cleared our diaries for you. So you lead the way know, we could literally talk all day and all tomorrow on this subject, because you laid it.
So I think we were talking about narratives and forming our starting there. Yes. Where would you go? Once you've established that origin story, as I would call it, and know a bit of their history, and have done the research and said before you go any further?
We wouldn't call it an origin story. Sure. The problem is, the problem calling it an origin story is you end up with something along the lines of we start, we started our business in 2002, where there were three employees by 2003, we were up to 15 employees. And we were now starting to think about SAS, then we moved our headquarters to less than and then and then and that becomes an origin story. got no interest in that. It's taught it's all about them. And again, yeah, that's my as that may not be your definition of an origin story. But that tends to be my association. So we wouldn't say that. What remember what we're about is ultimately creating and painting the VISTA for our prospects is all about them seeing through their eyes of what they can have. Yes, it will incorporate some Elements about us. Because, you know, you introduced us. And I spoke about my background and 30 years in the software sector on the m&a side. And Neil spoke about his his cognitive science background and academic background, which is would be different is if we said, you know, we've been running a bar in Madrid, for the last 10 years, and we thought we'd go into this sector because it sounded like fun, you'd have a different perception about us. Yeah. Silly. So. So it's, it's a narrative in order to be able to paint that VISTA. And then from that, you've got to really dig down into the truth of your business to really understand what it is that you do, truthfully, that is of greatest benefit to the target market that you're selecting. And you have to think carefully about who your target market is. Because quite often we've see where people are selling into a sector because of circumstance, but actually they not. They've not identified who are their ideal customers. And as a consequence, you know, if you've got a group over here, that would be if you if you say to somebody who would be your ideal customer, and they start describing them, quite often you say that you're selling to these people? Yeah, well, that's because this, then this, and this happened, well, if you really say that these people are going to be your ideal customer, then communicate in a way that's going to be attractive to them. And that's the important thing. So we we, what we do is we pull out of that to find those key themes that are going to be attractive to that group of ideal customers. And you will have stories around that as well. But typically, what software technology companies and I'd say, probably a lot of other companies do as well, is they lead with the details. They do that to the iceberg.
Neil Cumming 42:10
And then the consequence of doing that is they want people to a lot of customers or quest details, they'll just it's almost part of the traditional dance. Can you send me some more information? Can you send me a case study? I'd like this, I'd like that. And really, what we're trying to suggest is you should more take more control of that process, and ask questions as to why they're asking for that particular thing. And often, you'll discover they're just doing it out of almost a traditional way of doing business. And actually, the question they really want to answer is something else. So taking the trouble to find that out, and avoid creating lots and lots of collateral that doesn't actually advance the sale doesn't communicate any more value to is quite a core part of what we do. So it also hide your value. So this, the real value of you as a company is in the stories you tell about yourself, the messages you land in their head and the long term recall of those messages. And those stories that sit inside the minds of your prospect. And, and sort of drive home the, you're the obvious choice, I like them, I have an affinity to this company. I like what they're about and who they are and the stories he tell me. And it no longer gets into feature lists and details that you're checking off against each other.
Mark Edwards 43:34
It doesn't mean that at some stage, you're going to have to go into more detail. Because I know that if there are software technologists listen to this podcast, they're going to be saying, Ah, we've heard this many times, but our buyers are different. They're very technical. They need to know this stuff they do. Absolutely. At some stage. The things I would say is if you're talking to the very technical people within a large organization, are you talking to the decision maker, first of all? Or have you been passed to the technical person? Because actually, what you're saying is not understandable by the real decision makers, the leaders within those divisions within that business, the CEO, you're sending him information, he's looking at it and thinking, I've got a clue what they're talking about, I better give it to Tom because he's our technical guy and he will get it or is it being passed to him because you're at a later stage in the process. That could be an aspect of it. But ultimately, that technical person is still a human being. And what all of this has been based around is communication to human beings. And even if they he does need to get that that detailed information. So it's the right information to the right person, at the right time. Time. Really important at the right time. It It will also be beneficial to you if he understands that The big story behind your business, you know, why? why they should be doing business with you? And what, what sets you apart. And some of the other key themes and that narrative, he if he understands the detail within the context, then that's that information is going to be more memorable, and it's going to be more relevant.
Vinay Koshy 45:24
Okay, giving the right information to the right person at the right time. Yes, have a lot in there. In my mind, how would you go about unpacking that?
Mark Edwards 45:34
Well, actually, Neil, keep the slides out. Because I think probably just what if we just finished going through the iceberg? And I think we will be able to sort of explain that, which is, so what we're saying there is only give details when they are qualified the right person at the right time. avoid overloading them with a lot of information. Have you got the part of the emotional? Yeah. Okay. Yeah.
Neil Cumming 45:59
So Joseph says, Yeah, yeah. So So
Mark Edwards 46:04
part of part of it is about, you need to be able to gain attention. That's one of the first elements that you need within a busy marketplace, where there are lots of people throughout offering solutions, you've got to be able to gain attention. If you can't gain attention, then nothing else that you do matters. Nothing doesn't matter how you could have the world's greatest piece of software that's ever been written by a country mile. If you can't gain attention, it's it's like the tree that falls in the forest that no one hears. It just doesn't matter. And that's, that is a weakness within the software technology sector, because they will throw more and more money at the development of their software, because the next version is going to make them all rich. Just Just
Vinay Koshy 46:57
make sure that I understand this correctly. Are you saying that when you need to make sure you are able to get the attention of your ideal customers? better, but in fact, you're saying you need to be sure that your stories resonate with them?
Mark Edwards 47:13
Neil Cumming 47:14
Yes. The key messages are punchy shorts, and your five strongest messages and messages reflecting the value that you provide. Straight out of narrative. Yes, exactly. So it comes from that narrative is, as we create the narrative, we're building those strong messages, and we extract them out of the narrative.
Mark Edwards 47:38
And one way that we do that, again, it's sort of another layer, because this is multi layer. I mean, when we're explaining something to you, that's been codify, but it's, you know, there's many, many layers This is is making that communication, make it visual. Visual is so important. And I very rarely see companies do that really well. What people do is that they add visuals, to make the spacing of the text look nice on the page to prettify very rarely to the visuals, aid in communication. And that's what they should do.
Neil Cumming 48:21
And that we call them visual icons, they become an iconic visual, that triggers the memory of that company in cities, you see it. So the obvious one is the Golden Arches for McDonald's. But that's just one item, we actually advocate the use of visuals to enhance your stories. So pick a visual, put it with that story. Keep repeating that visual, so they'll actually go, I recognize that visual as this company.
Mark Edwards 48:51
What the software technology sector does a lot of is what we call word diagrams, is they put a lot of words on a page, lots and lots of words, and then they draw shapes around it. And then arrows connecting the boxes, and the triangles. And and it just is confusing, totally confusing for people doesn't really make a lot of sense. You've got to be able to communicate very, very effectively. I mean, if you go, if you go on to our website, one of the images that we have, just I have this up here on here is about gaining attention. So we wanted to have a visual image that helped communicate that even without words, and people could never look at if you look at outsmart strategy.com. But you will see and I think you can see that on here, because through we've got the cat with the megaphone with the roaring lion, gain attention immediately, very, very quickly, much much faster than you can read those words. But if you've got a compelling image that started to communicate an idea, and you'll probably then take the time to read the words Words are important. But it's the combination of the two that makes that powerful message. And most people, they just don't understand the science behind that. And there is a science. I mean, we again, we were just lucky because Neil is a very talented graphic artist, and I'm an I'm a photographer. I mean, I've always got a camera with me. You know? And, yeah, I've been doing it for years and years and years. And I've been fascinated by what makes a great image. And I really studied that. And we found so many of the learnings from photography and from from graphic design, we combined. And we put that into competitive space, it's really, really important. You will, you can pick up a message, you can interpret a visual 60,000 times faster than you can words, just think about that. 60,000 times faster. But that's an instinctive, that's an instinctive need that's been bred into us. Because, you know, as primitive man, that was our very survival, the fact that we could, in a fraction of a second, be able to identify something that could you know, an animal that could prey upon us. And react meant that we survived, those that didn't have that skill, whether their ancestors or not around today,
Vinay Koshy 51:19
Certainly, I'm sure there's a listener to who'd be thinking I absolutely concur with what you're saying. But here's the challenge. I have my stories. I kind of know what I want to say. Yeah, I'm not a graphic designer. Yes, the graphic designers I talked to just one The instructions are what they need to do. Yeah, yes. There is a lot that's being lost in translation. Yes. It because one that one side or the other doesn't know, the right questions to ask or the right way to communicate. Yeah. How do we bridge that gap?
Mark Edwards 51:55
Very, very insightful question. Actually, it's, it's something that we've been very aware of. And actually, it sort of takes me back to the beginning of this journey of saying, people outsourcing, what they wanted to do is regards their communication and, and working with people that just didn't really get it. So what what we're in the process of doing, if you look at the top, left hand slide here, you'll see chapter five, five, the human ingredient is we've put together a training course. So we are, we've already started, we've got one group, we are training competitive space practitioners. So they are people with the graphic design, who can write articles, who can write copy, who can create videos, who can create PowerPoint presentations, but they understand competitive space. So we will go in and do the strategic work because what we we are is where we are strategic positioning, and we're scientific messaging, people will look at your business, we look at the sector, we look at the market, and we look at your competition. And we say what you need to do in order to reach this ideal group of customers is you need to be positioned like this. This is your your story. This is your process. These are your key key messages or key themes. And then our final part of our competitive wheel, which has nine elements to it is implementation. So we've thought that through I'm glad you asked the question, actually, we've thought that through to say, exactly as you said, it's no good if you just send that out cuz you're gonna get something completely different back. Sure. And we've got it so that we have, you know, qualified competitive space practitioners, who will be able to work with you to implement that separate to us. So we do our strategic work, and then we will pass your over. And as this as this really starts to roll, we will want to have practitioners with a very wide range of skills throughout the world.
Vinay Koshy 53:54
Can you talk us through this idea of evoking emotion either through visuals or through text? I'm assuming that some of it if not a bulk of it would come from the stories that accompany would would tell is there more to it? Well, Neil, this
Mark Edwards 54:11
is probably coupon for Neil, because there's a number of different studies out there and with the one that we're showing you here is by Gerald Saltman. But Neil, probably breathless, there's
Neil Cumming 54:22
there's half a dozen, yeah, Harvard sort of initiator of several papers that have been talking about this emotional decision making. And too often we encounter companies that say, but but my prospects are very detail driven. They're very logical, they just want the details to make the decision on and I'm just sort of saying, hang on before you do that. There is good strong research out there that says no matter who you are, your job title, your role your whatever else. We all as human beings make decisions based on them. Emotional context. So it's how it makes me feel unconsciously? Does it does it trigger positive or negative reactions within me, the other one that we're very strong on is we come back to that element that we're talking about truth, if something rings true, and the person is confidently saying something that's easily understood, and you can understand quickly, and it's compelling, that will trigger these emotional currents to say, I trust this person. And then the trust builds into the exchange of value. And before you know it, you're excluding all the rest, because they're complicating it, they're very difficult to understand the sometimes hide under these sort of exaggerations and marketing terms. And actually, people just want to connect human to human people do business with human each other. So the research says 95% of any decision made, no matter how scientific appears on the outside, is driven by these internal psychological triggers. And we're actually really good at it, we have this, we have a phrase called, I went with my gut, you know, and that's, it's basically an expression it says up subconsciously, I process this. And I went through all the reasons, and I felt this and felt that, and instinctively, my brain went, good. Now, the interesting thing about the research is it says 5% is then rational decision making. And what we're talking about there is once the heart of the unconscious mind has made a decision, you get this retrospective check, is there details to back up what I've just decided, and that that rational decision making is, perhaps return on investment figures, or give me the business case in detail. And it's the rational part of the mind going, I want to do business with Mark is a good guy. He's told me these stories, I've connected and beginning to understand who I'm in business with, potentially, and I like the way he positions himself and communicates. Afterwards, I'll check. I'll go and say, right, show us the details just to back it up. But it's such a small slice. It's not important. But it's a small slice of getting the business in the first place.
Mark Edwards 57:15
And the interesting thing for you is with b2b prospecting is this study was done with b2b decision makers, not b2c. And that's because I've had a lot of people say, Yeah, I can see that within the consumer world, that people are going to buy emotionally. But Business is business, they're going to be based upon logic, no, no, no. b2b? Certainly,
Vinay Koshy 57:40
is there a way to check that you're actually conveying the right kinds of emotions, as opposed to kind of throwing spaghetti out there and hoping that you get the right sort of emotional reaction?
Mark Edwards 57:54
Neil Cumming 57:55
It's a really interesting question, because psychology is chapter five in our training, and it's quite in depth, because you can inadvertently trigger negative emotions. And yeah, but actually, there are times when, and it's been used commercially, as well, you can use negative emotions to drive people towards you, and away from other decisions. So clearly, understanding the motivation or emotions that drive people towards you, the obvious one is being positive and true and good. But also, you can, I mean, often laugh about rainiers attitude towards its advertising, because it sticks to the truth, you're going to fly to Dublin for a pound. But it's not going to be the same experience as Ba, you know, it's very much based on it's not going to be comfortable. And so you know, we're going to make you feel like you're just one of a herd of cattle coming on our plane. But he, it's a pain to get to Dublin, you know, it's that kind of truth. So although you're, you're presenting a negative psychological position, you're nevertheless seeing, but actually, let's look at this in real world and making an emotional judgment on it. I want to fly for a pint. I'll put up with the flight that way. So yeah, anything else to add to that?
Mark Edwards 59:14
Well, I suppose in a way, what we've created is is engineering a methodology and a process here that we take clients through that all the time we're validating that to save, you know, is this going to be the right emotional connection? Each stage is are we gaining their attention in the right way? Is the tagline understandable that they can gain that engagement to go further? Does the narrative stimulate an emotional connection? Are the visuals appropriate for that target market? So I think at every step, we're doing that and then ultimately, I mean, we we have something which we call the cognitive power. Which would be created for a client, which actually reduces the amount of marketing that they need to do, because one of the points that we make is that we don't want to turn our client, our clients into social media slaves, you know, Gary Vee out there, he's created a high profile for himself. And he talks sometimes about 80 tweets a day. Now, talking to my clients about doing that, that would drive them insane. It's just not practical. Would 80 tweets a day? generate more response? Yes, it would, because you're just doing a lot more communication. You see, that's also the the fundamental problem with a lot of marketing agencies, or a marketing department is you go to them, and they say, essentially saying to them, we need to feed our sales, people with more leads, we need more qualified leads, go go do it, guys. And you spend a lot of money with them. And the results are disappointing. And you go back six months later, and you say, That's not really good enough. I need you need to generate more leads. And their answer will be well, you need to spend more money. And if you spend more money, you probably will get more leads. But is the return on your investment good. You see, if you take a bad strategic positioning, you take the wrong narrative, you take the wrong message, or you just send out confusing messages. You're gonna have to communicate with an awful lot of people, you know, I could I could send out total garbage. But if I contact enough people, eventually somebody is going to click through curiosity and go, Oh, that's interesting. I need some of that, even though it's total garbage. But the number of people that I've got to communicate with becomes bigger and bigger. And what we're about is outsmart your competition out really think this through? And don't outspend and that that's, that's really, really important.
Vinay Koshy 1:02:01
Okay, so we've talked about the narrative. And if I remember correctly, on the slide, you had stories and key messages, did those come out of the narrative?
Mark Edwards 1:02:13
Yes, they do.
Vinay Koshy 1:02:14
Yes. How would you distinguish stories from narratives?
Mark Edwards 1:02:20
So if you if you look at the iceberg as a hierarchy of messaging, at the very top line is the tagline. Without smart, we are outsmart not outspend. Everything else that we talk about, actually sits underneath that. Ultimately, that's what we're wanting people to do, is we want them to be able to outsmart their competition, we want them to be able to spend less and get a better return for greater growth. So a narrative sits under that General Theory doesn't mean that there aren't other aspects to this. Other aspects within our our story that we tell. And then there are sort of key messages. You know, one of the key messages about us is that we've we've created a way that you can gain attention, that you can be more memorable, which is important, is no good, presenting a lot of inflammation. I'm seeing this with sales decks, you presented it to people. And I think those people have forgotten it before they walked out the door, because it's just so much, but so many bullet points and inflammation
Neil Cumming 1:03:30
was one example I would draw to attention, which is that they walked in with a greater understanding of the company. Then they walked out of because the slides were so confusing. We walked out with less understanding when they walked in. Yeah, and a genuine example. They went, I thought I knew what your company was about until you presented your deck. I mean, oh, yeah,
Mark Edwards 1:03:51
We also had a really interesting comment, we will work with a company. And we've put together their tagline their narrative key messages, and we put this together in a sales deck for them a very visual sales deck. You know, that, for us is quite wordy. For a sales tech, we use very few words, a lot of the time, typically we see a sales deck, which has got more words, you know, just bullet points, lots and lots of words, they read off the screen. It's crazy, absolutely insane. And people do it all the time. And then they justify why they're doing it. Nonsense. But we'd put together a sales deck for them. And we sent a copy to their, their main investor. And he, he called he called me back on the mobile. And he said, is that what they do? He said, It's the first time I've really understood what this business does.
Neil Cumming 1:04:41
He's there for five years, wasn't it? Yeah. Yeah.
Mark Edwards 1:04:46
He wasn't stupid. He had insight
Neil Cumming 1:04:50
was that the question was, what's the difference between a narrative and see the stories that hang underneath the key messages. So from the narrative which is all about The personality and the uniqueness of the company, and is the overall holder of all this sort of key elements, key messages, or individually the five strongest attributes or characteristics of your narrative. And therefore the accompany that you want to keep telling people. And we've said five, because actually the cognitive limit of four plus or minus one, for new bits of information to get absorbed by the mind and stuck in the mind. And the other aspect of why we don't have more than five messages is, why would you say, if you're playing a five a side football match, put out your first five key messages and then do what people do in the normal tactical sense rate of another five articles about something lesser, by putting out your B team. And then eventually, they end up with a dt, you know, whole bunch of people that pulled out of the pub, just to play for the thing. So the five key messages are your five strongest compelling, you know, aspects of your story. And under those those key messages, the stories themselves are anecdotes, they're bringing to life, that particular key theme. So there's something that exam that says, We will gain you attention for us. And then we'll tell a story about how we gained attention for a company. And then we'll demonstrate some elements of gaining attention a secret inside secret or something like that, but tell it as a story. Right. Everything below that is details. Everything below those stories is detail
Vinay Koshy 1:06:38
With stories would I be right in saying that you would continue to add to your repertoire as you work with clients and, and learn more about the use cases and successes.
Neil Cumming 1:06:53
So yeah, brilliant observation. What we're not advocating is that you go and find another title and another theme, you just keep updating and refreshing those key strengths store the themes with a new story from this week. So one of the things that we actively encourages the Salesforce to bring these stories back from the front line with the clients and bring those into the storytelling you're putting on your website or your social media. So the stories become how you engage people. You know, just last week, we were on site, and we did this for this client. And the result was and you know, make it as natural and conversational. as possible. What we're really against, is there's a very clear division between business language as you write it, and marketing as you write it. And the way you actually explain it conversationally. We want you to use the conversational language. Last communicating.
Vinay Koshy 1:07:52
So I guess another takeaway that I'm hearing is the fact that you're looking to communicate in a way that relates to people, but you're also using the stories that you're either telling internally, or you're hearing from your customers in order to really spread the message.
Neil Cumming 1:08:14
Vinay Koshy 1:08:15
to your potential future customers?
Mark Edwards 1:08:18
Must resonate with them.
Neil Cumming 1:08:20
What you want to actually want and this this happens for three figureheads, that is people tell stories about Elon Musk. They relate his stories onwards. So here's a little art art form of Have you seen what Elan Elan is up to you? Have you seen what Richard saying that they keep it simple on message as part of their overall unique personality. And people tell those stories and what you're getting is free advertising. You know, people communicating that story on words. And the other aspect if you keep it simple, and they actually understand it correctly the first time, they don't become unreliable narrators of your story. So by that, I mean, they say exactly right. No Chinese whispers. Yeah. And suddenly, you don't even recognize who somebody is describing your company. You know, because the complexity you did in the first case, nobody understood it. So they're relating, you know, that confusion.
Mark Edwards 1:09:17
We've got a tool that we use, which is called a cognitive pathway. And that enables you, or it enables your prospect. So it's something that we give to you, which enables your prospect to be able to self service and get to understand your company, you and what it is that you do, and answer the questions that they will need answering whenever you're going to make a decision about buying something. There are cognitive stages that you need to pass through. And that doesn't matter whether you're buying sugar, or if you're buying, you know, a multi million software enterprise solution. those stages are still the same, has travelled through a different pace. And we provide this cognitive pathway in a consistent way. So that they can self service, the information at a rate that they as an individual can digest, and in a way that they want to receive it. Because we're all different. And we've got different senses that we may prefer to absorb information. So this is taking this conversation to a different level, but I'll keep it sort of at a high level is some people are very auditory. Some people are very visual, some people will like to read, some people are very visual in in the way that they will like to sort of create a map, a lot of people do that they sort of create a model in their head of the VISTA that they're now starting to see. And by creating this cognitive pathway with skill, they start to see themselves in the future, with the service or with the product that you provide. To the extent that they no longer one, they no longer just need it. They want it, they want to. And they've made that emotional link they've made made the emotional link with you and your company, it's resonated what you've been saying to them, they've understood, really important. And you can you can see that on that slide. You know, some of the elements that we've been talking about today is literally I can't see the right hand side of the wheel, because we've got our pictures, but it's it's about it's about the positioning, it's about personality. what's the what's the one that's at three o'clock? I
Neil Cumming 1:11:45
can't remember attention. Mark, attention. I can't see that.
Mark Edwards 1:11:49
Yeah, attention. Which
Unknown Speaker 1:11:50
videos are there. Yeah. Yeah, not to be compelling. Yeah, understood is clearly one of the central parts, if you're not understood, there's just no chance, one of the ones who we were when we did this, so just to bring back the history of this, Mark and I wrote a huge long list of all the problems b2b software companies face, communicating with the world, getting the message or getting it stuck. And having looked at all of those, those problems, we categorize it strategically. So out of that, and quite powerfully dropped this thing about credibility, having a sense of being very credible, in a marketplace, particularly if you start to examine relationships with see bigger companies where you don't lose your job if you go and buy IBM. But you feel like you might do if you go with a startup innovative company that happens to have a better solution, but hasn't got quote, unquote, the credibility of the safe bet of the big company. So we splits credibility into two factors. One is borrowed credibility, where you go out and you actively seek companies whose logos you can put on your website. And by that you're seeing, they've bought me, I'm borrowing their credibility, to say you should buy me to buy why would that? Yeah. You want to jump in here?
Mark Edwards 1:13:20
Yeah, I just gonna say that, that we don't say that you shouldn't do that. But I think that you should do that with eyes wide open, first of all, and I'm talking specifically about software technology here. Most, nearly all of your competitors will do exactly the same. And they are having their own set of logos. The potential downside is that if you're doing that, and you're thinking that that gives you the opportunity to penetrate a particular niche sector, it might actually turn people off. We're working with your closest competitor. We've been doing it for years and years. They love us. We want you to do business with us. But actually, because you're doing business with my closest competitor, I don't want to go anywhere near you. Because I've got concerns now. One is I'm just going to be matching what they do. And secondly, you've got a relationship, there might be a transference of information. Yeah. So it could actually turn them off. And you've got to think that one through. But the other thing is, if everyone's doing it, does it make you stand out? Do your own competitive space speak so probably not. Yeah.
Neil Cumming 1:14:27
So the other type of credibility I'll just touch on is the one that's perhaps more powerful and under your own control is your own credibility. And we call that owned credibility or we all w d and Ed owned, and it's, it's about your behavior and the experience of your clients. So if you're true and consistent and deliver the promises, and meet or exceed their expectations at every step of the interaction from first contact to final deal and beyond. You're building your own credibility, they will talk about you in a way that resonates wider than just their own company. That credibility is very, very powerful. It's because you own it, because you manage it, you control it, it's yours to powerfully develop this,
Mark Edwards 1:15:20
Well look at it this way. A lot of companies will put on their website, these bland statements such as, you know, highly professional. If you contact that company, and they take three days to respond, and they send you an email that looks like it's been written by a child, how highly professional Do you experience? Doesn't matter what they say? What am I experiencing with that business? That's much more important. Now, if they respond very, very quickly, and they send me some information, just enough information, really stressed that just enough, don't overload them. That actually is really informative, and gives me a greater understanding, and gives me something of value. It provides me with an insight in some way around the problem that I'm trying to solve. They've just proven a degree of professionalism. And if that level of professionalism is maintained throughout that journey, we call it a bit, we call it the CSF competitive space experience, then you're going to start to believe that they've got they are professional, but just putting the words up on a website doesn't.
Vinay Koshy 1:16:35
So, sorry, just going back to the iceberg model question I had was, at what point do you tackle the tagline?
Mark Edwards 1:16:47
It's a process that evolves. And typically, it comes from once, once we've really dug down into that business. Once we've evolved the narrative, it will percolate to the surface. It's, it's the process that we go in working with our client, it's very interactive with our client, but also between Neil and myself, we've had it, I drive Neil crazy at times with, with, I tend to write the narrative. And it could happen, what we have to do is we have to examine the business, we sort of get all of the elements, all of the information of the business out in front of us is like a giant jigsaw puzzle, and you lay it out, and you get all the pieces turned up the right way, and really boiled down to the truth behind this business about their market, about their competitors, about what they do, what the real value, and where their real strengths are. And you lay that out. And you get to understand why they started the business. But that the truth on what it is that they're able to provide for their customer, you put that narrative together. And then in the process of doing that, you know, we it sort of percolates from our subconscious, it starts to come to the surface, it never takes a few hours, it always takes weeks, sometimes months.
Neil Cumming 1:18:08
Weeks. The other thing I would stress about this is there are any number of websites out, they'll give you what I would call a formula for a type tagline, by his very nature, if you go looking for a template or a formula, you're not creating something unique, you're not creating something very competitive space. And the process that Mark and I worked between ourselves is we don't have rules that you know, we're not looking for, we're looking for three words, or we're looking for this or that within it emerges naturally from the conversations he and I have, when it first emerges, it can be quite long, it'd be capturing the idea in a number in two sentences. But from that, you generally start to extract the words that have the most power, or the most meaning, or will trigger the right emotion. And they go through several drafts. But you know, hardens up. This isn't just guys were brilliant. Here's the genius one, it does take a huge amount of effort to craft the shortest, most memorable, most compelling, attention gating, target tagline that you possibly can for the business. It is perhaps the most difficult thing in any of this to do really, really well. Do you agree, Mark? Yeah. And
Mark Edwards 1:19:22
it's it. That's where we talk about a creative leap. There is a creative leap there. And Neil came up with this phrase, and I immediately identified with it, because we have a process, as I said, and laying all of this information out and we go step by step. And then there's this leap. And actually, we don't know what happens in between. We go from here to here, and we know we've got it when it comes. We both go. That's it. Absolutely. So that's it, that is it. But what happens in between, is something that happens up there, your brain and you have to Pay on the ground, you have to get yourself into the right environment, you have to know enough. And you have to pull together that narrative. And there are elements of the narrative where there's a there's a leap as well. But the tagline and then it goes, and it just comes, it could be in the middle of the night. It could be whilst having a shower.
Vinay Koshy 1:20:16
Do you know with certainty that you've got it by testing it out on customers who have
Mark Edwards 1:20:24
Vinay Koshy 1:20:24
Mark Edwards 1:20:25
Well, we do. But we know it before then. Right? Yeah. It just sort of come. I can't explain why I just can't explain why. But it's, it's part of that creative. I mean, our brains are amazing. I mean, I think the more that you trust your brain, we all have this amazing computer that sits in our skull. It's absolutely incredible. And it makes it what I believe happens. I don't know, you know, how Neil would would describe it is, our brains are amazing at gathering information from lots and lots of sources, from what we're doing now and from our past. And it's great at identifying patterns, and making associations, and it works away while you're sleeping. And it works away while you're thinking about something else. And then it throws it forward. Right. And and we might have we might have some taglines that we say, That's nearly there, but it's not quite right. Or I'll throw something for and I say, what do you think of that Neil? And he go, nope, don't quite like that. But when we get it, we go, that's the one. That's the one.
Neil Cumming 1:21:35
I think that I think the other aspect is, you know, as mentioning these rules, and we never have those rules, we never just, you know, say we need a three word for word, or we need to have this keyword or that keyword. It's organic, and it's intrusive. And the other thing I would say is give yourself the freedom to be a little bit zany, push the boundaries, because there have been. I mean, on one assignment, Mark phoned me up and said, this is going to combine saying completely mad. But what about putting an orange right at the center of this competitive space with a software company? I thought an orange, where are you going with that mark, but it turned out to be some of the best CES we've ever come up with. So giving yourself the freedom to say, I will just come up with anything mad and list it down and be creative and be messy with it. And then slowly horn it back. The reason I brought this slide up is this is a this is the regular behind. So what we'll do is we'll go and look at the whole sector. And we'll actually produce a word cloud of every single key message and tagline that all your competitors doing. And then word cloud shows you the prioritization and the words that are being used. So at least these words should not be prominent, they should not be part of the the main messaging that you're doing. Otherwise, you're just shouting the same stuff that everybody else is.
Vinay Koshy 1:23:03
We're going to stop here for now. That's part one of a two part series with market winds and you're coming from sustained competitive advantage. It's been an extraordinary conversation. There's a lot more to cover with the competitive space framework, which we'll dive into in the next episode. So stay tuned. If you enjoyed this episode of The predictable b2b success podcast, I would love your support, head on over to the Apple podcasts app and give us a rating. And as always, you can catch every episode of The predictable b2b success podcast on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for tuning in.
Vinay Koshy 0:00
Hi, and welcome to the predictable b2b success podcast. I'm Vinay Koshy. On this podcast, we interview people behind b2b brands who aren't necessarily famous, but do work in the trenches and share their strategies and secrets as they progress along the journey of expanding their influence, and making their businesses grow predictably. Now, let's dive into the podcast for listeners. I am with Mark Edwards. And the last time around, we had Neil Cummings, who had joined us. And this is the second part of our two part series, looking at essentially, how we could outsmart the competition without spending them. In other words, if I could put another way, developing a sustainable competitive advantage. And last time around, we we looked at what that entails and introduced the idea of the iceberg model, which correct me if I'm wrong, Mark is basically trying to distill the information that we need to convey to the marketplace. And perhaps when we need to convey some of that information, which then leads us into your framework, which we call competitive space. And if I'm not mistaken, in summarize that, it's essentially looking at how you could position and communicate in order to gain attention without being noisy or expanding the competition. Yes. Okay.
Mark Edwards 1:25
Very good. That was that was that was a very, very good summary there, because I think we last session was 90 minutes. And when we when we finished with you, because I know that we ran out of time. In the end, I said to Neil, we'll see if he liked it or not, because you mentioned about part two, I said, if he didn't like it will never see that invitation. So we just never hear from him again. So fortunately, he says a thumbs up from you, at least, hopefully, the audience will like it as well. But yes, that that, that that will actually was bring that that's what he's about. You know, I was saying to you just before we started part two of this podcast, the biggest difficulty, I think that we have, is not sounding like fantasies, or the people who are exaggerating, this is something that we've researched. over eight years, we've done intensive work together with Neil over the last couple of years, you know, using his cognitive science background. It's also a combination of my 30 years in the software sector. And and Neil's decades in marketing and cognitive science. What this is about is about codifying success for software companies, I think you know that the concepts and the techniques, and what we're talking about as a system will work for other sectors. But that's not what we're about. It's it's about focusing in on the software sector, because I think it's a sector that needs this the most. Because they all know, there's there's massive success to be had, by many, and at the moment, it's being had by very few, and the rest struggle. And and it's not, because your software's not good enough. Forget that. Obviously, there will be examples where the software just isn't good enough. But that's found out very quickly. But I come across hundreds and hundreds of, of software developers that have great software that will solve a problem. It's not that that's gonna get you the success. That certainly thing,
Vinay Koshy 3:34
Mark and war mentioned for the benefit of listeners that it would help to watch the video version of our chat. And I'll include that in the show notes, the website Test Prep with.com. So Mark, perhaps a good place to start would be to look at the competitive space framework. And if you've got that slide, if so, that'd be handy.
Mark Edwards 3:55
I haven't I haven't I haven't got that here. I mean, we can send that across to you. There's there's, there's a number of different slides, I think that we could show you around the framework. Unfortunately, Neil's not been able to join us today, and he would normally have access to that. But let me let me talk about some of the some of the concepts. And I think that it will perhaps help to resonate with people. One of the first things that we spoke about was about what we call strategic positioning. And that is understanding how you talk about your business. And that's not just for the external audience, that's also for an internal audience. And that is so important yet, very few actually get that right. If you get it right. It gives you the solid foundation on which you can move forward. So internally within your organization, people will understand who you are, what you're about. I mentioned about the Simon Sinek why. Yep. And, you know, that created massive attention. And you know what I was saying it's my critique was okay, so he can do what he's what he did. Did he communicated a point? Very, very effectively. And he did it visually. And people got it. And I heard loads. You know, all of my meetings after that I was hearing people repeating back to me what I'd already seen. Simon Sinek, you see that a lot in the software industry. And it goes in sort of fashions and phases. But the the issue with that is, okay, that's true. You do need to understand the rule, why of your business? But how do you do that? And then how do you take that forward? How do you turn that into more sales, and that's what we're talking about. More sales, sales is the engine of your business. Without sales, everything else fails? It's critical. Yeah. And before sales, you need to be able to communicate, you know, if you had, you wouldn't think of opening up a business. And, and, and then hiding the business. That's effectively what a lot of software companies do. They either hide it because they don't communicate, or they hide it, because they communicate it in a way that people don't understand, or just don't care. I mean, there is an there is an issue before that, which is one of the concepts we talk about, and it's one of the phases we go through. And we take our clients through that stage. And and we will be objective in that is what we call hot sector. Have you created something on which there is not just a need, but it's, it's, it's, it's a real want, it has to be something that's not just a nice to have? And unfortunately, you can I think a lot of software entrepreneurs that I speak to, that are struggling, are talking to me, and they can talk about the problem. And, yes, they do have a solution to a problem. But it's either not articulated in a way that gets anybody excited, or really understand it, or it's just really not a big enough problem to spend that amount of money on time on, or that amount of focus. And there's a lot of those solutions. And sometimes that happens because they create a solution, and then go looking for the problem. And that's not the right way to do it. Yeah. And the other. The other thing that I find that again, goes back to a point that we made last time was I don't mean this, I'm not here to beat up software entrepreneurs. I mean, I'm a great fan. But I think too, in order to get to the right answers, you do need to be very frank and honest. And a lot of the software engineer, software industry, they are technologists that love technology, a lot of them are computer scientists, computer engineers, or they've been in the industry for quite some time.
And what worked then doesn't work today. And it's very difficult to let those habits go. If if you if you have approached your business, and the way that you've won business in the past, and it's been successful for you to let go of that what brought you success, and then adopt something new, is very, very hard. And the difficulty is that there is so so many myths out there that how do you cut through the nonsense that you hear? You know, I spoke about some of these phrases that are just repeatedly repeated endlessly. And it becomes an illusionary truth and you and you actually believe it. So what we did is to actually take all of that away, and to look at the problems reverse engineering, and then say, why is that really true? And it has to be, we wanted to look for scientific evidence. And that's what we did. And if we couldn't, or if we felt it was fake science, which honestly a lot of it is, then we just discarded it. And there are some fundamental truths here that you can't be denied. And one of them, which is right at the start, is in order to sell something, you have to get the attention of the market. And getting the attention of the market is not what it was 20 years ago, 10 years ago, five years ago, even three years ago, because of the digital marketing revolution because of the omni channel, and because of what's happening and we have so many other distractions now. And because we've got a new generation that you may be even in b2b, I mean, predominantly, a lot of our work has been b2b software. But the principles apply The same is the lots of other attractions. So without that initial attention, and that's the sort of the first part of that is you've got to position your business correctly. So that it's going to matter to your audience, you do have to have a solution, that when you boil it all down, truthfully, it solves a problem that matters. And that that's that sort of before you even start, Don't even start on your communication. If you haven't got that, right, you got to go away, and you got to find something different if you haven't got that. So that's the hot sector. But then once you have something, and there are lots of software companies out there that do have really good solutions to problems that matter. But they, they struggle, they get some business, and all business out, you know, most businesses, I don't think I've ever had us come to a software company, unless it's a raw startup, where they say we've got no customers, nobody's there. So there's always degrees of success. And that is part of the problem as well. Because if you're getting some success, then it validates you continuing what you've always been doing, we've just got to work harder, and harder and harder. But you get to a limit, you've only got so many hours in the day, you've only got so much cash to spend on this, you know, a really bad proposition, communicated poorly in a way that doesn't have a lot of clarity, you will still get some success. And that's part of the problem here. But you don't want to do it that way. So you've got to be able to gain the attention so that what you have is is is actually seen, otherwise, it will never be seen. But then you need to have understanding and clarity about what it is that you have, so that they should care. And they need to care in an emotional way. And that's partly what you saw in with that with the iceberg is so people buy emotionally, they do not buy logically except for 5%. And that comes at the right at the ends justify.
Vinay Koshy 11:56
So if I understand this correctly, you're the starting point of the framework is strategic positioning. And that's based of all the work that you do in the iceberg or with the iceberg model.
Mark Edwards 12:10
Yes, that's that's is one of the the sort of the core concepts is being able to pull out what's really important to our target audience. So in order to be able to do that, you need to first of all know who your target audience and one of the one of the key mistakes that I make I see made from software companies is that they try to sell to everybody. And in trying to sell to everybody, you end up with this very bland message that is exciting to nobody. And, and in especially in the early stages, you need to be raised like focused. And the the change here is in the early days of software software was being sold, pre internet. And quite a lot of software developers and there was a lot of bespoke developers in those days who were writing solutions for businesses, for their specific needs, their part of their validation of why you should come to them was, we're only five miles from your doorstep. And that that was quite important. Because if I have a problem with my software, I need you guys on site, I need you to solve it. So that was quite important. And that was quite powerful. Nowadays, that doesn't matter anymore. It doesn't matter whether you're next door on the other side of the world. So you've got to think about what is what is really important. And you've also got to realize is you've got 1000s 1000s more competitors than you had before. whereas previously, you may have had two other companies that you were competing with in your region, because 80% of your business, you know, was within a 40 minute drive of where you were based.
Vinay Koshy 14:02
So if in looking at strategic positioning and positioning, what would be I guess some of the tangible assets we would be able to derive through this process? Well,
Mark Edwards 14:16
it's, it's the foundation stone upon which you talk about it's the lens through which you talk about your business, to to your audience, and also to your internal staff. So once you get that focus, it's about focus. You're able to communicate much more quickly, why somebody should be interested in you. And for it to be understandable to more of those people pull more quickly. So tangible benefit, shorter sales cycle, so less competition.
Vinay Koshy 14:52
So visualize what this would look like. Would this be like a one page document where it's Your strategic positioning is outlined in what in what the, our client works
Mark Edwards 15:05
with, yes, something like that they would have a narrative, which is, which is the sort of the longer version, what what about this business is the story of their business, it could be the story explaining the vision that you will be placing into the minds of your clients. And that's very important. There'll be a summary positioning, which is very, very short, is so that people can look at your business and go, I get it, I get what they do. And that's interesting, I want to know more. It doesn't. This is this is this is where a lot of software companies make a mistake, it doesn't educate them on everything that I might ever need to know about that software product. It doesn't answer any every possible question that they might ever want to ask you. And that's what a lot of software companies do. They think that their job is to answer every single question that might be thrown at them. And they put it all up on a website, and it becomes indigestible.
so it's, it's the right information delivered at the right time. And what I may want to know from you about your business, once we've been talking for three weeks, is different from what I want to know, when I first speak to you, you do finally get to the more detailed information. And you as a company, decide when you want to give a prospect that more detailed information. You don't necessarily want to push that out into the whole market, there could be, you know, important aspects of your IP within that. A lot of the software companies, you know, it's it's partly habit. It's partly they just doing what the you know, doing what they've always done. It's it's partly laziness, I think, it's partly just submitting to your clients requests in all in all its facets. So, example, I had one of the things that I did, as part of our research, which we call the bamboo report, which was looking at the most successful companies is I went in as a customer and experienced how they treated a prospect going through what what really surprised me was the degree to which they were able to control those stages that you need to go through in making the decision to buy as opposed to I'd had a call the previous week, and I was looking at some some software that we needed within the business. And I had an initial call, and it was an introductory call. And then the salesman said to you, and I'll send you some information to answer your questions. And I said, Great, okay. And I got 15 different documents attached to an email quite a long email. And guess how many of those attachments I read? None? Yeah, he's just gone. These are the questions I've ever been asked bashe send it over to me. And it's just too much. I haven't got time to read 15 documents. And there was anyone else? Yeah.
Vinay Koshy 18:18
Certainly. So there's an element of personality, which I believe is the second part of the framework, you had referred earlier to the fact that people buy based on emotions, or guess emotions that are evoked, and they're not so much on logic. So really looking at personality and the way you position your brand. But that's a pretty vital component, I
Mark Edwards 18:43
would think it is. Yes, that's right. And it may surprise people. I think some people instinctively know this, and this is the reaction that I've had from people is on mentioned that, and I get a half smile on their face, which is sort of acknowledging the fact that I've never heard it stated quite like that. And there there are scientific studies, a number of scientific studies that back that up. I don't wanna go into too much detail on that side, but the studies there, so I think some people know that instinctively. But they don't behave accordingly. They still behave as though it's just logic. Yeah. You see what I mean? And they will do all of those things, which is, if it's just, it's just logic, and they'll say to, they'll say to me, and these are the, these are the coins we get all the time. Yes, but you don't understand our customers are different. And I say, Well, unless you're dealing with aliens, we're all humans. And this is based upon human behavior. And they're not different. They don't yet but they're technical. Yeah, but they're technical humans. And yes, there will there will be certain logical facts that they need to establish, you know, does our software integrate with you has it got the API gateway? Yeah, sure, you're going to have to fit? Does it work on our stack, you know, does it integrate with our software and some functional things, but before that, and that's the important thing. You need to establish that emotional link. So they want to do business with, you know, I've been on the other side of that. So I've been with an organization, which was making a decision about making expenditure. That was it was over, well over a million, it worked out to about 1.7 million in the end to buy an enterprise software solution. And I was sitting with them, too, as like as a consultant, giving them a bit of input and advice. And I was watching the presentations that were happening to this group of people to make a decision about which solution they were going to buy. So they had a little bit of a preempt work with some of these companies just to make sure that they could see there was a fit, but during the calls, this was a video call, you could see where they were, they were buying into the people that were presenting, there was, there was at the end of each call that we had on each presentation, there was a there was a sort of a Let's gather our notes, and let's talk about what we felt. And then they went through all the presentations. And then they made a decision at the end of it. But I knew after I saw one of these presentations, where it was going to go and it wasn't based upon logical reasons. So they just liked the people. They liked the way they presented it. They presented it in a way that was clear and understandable. And everyone was leaning in. You could hear in the tone of their voice, they liked those people. They liked what they said, they thought that they'd be nice people to do business with. And now they're looking for logical reasons as to why they're going to do business with them. And that's how decisions are made. And I'll argue that point with any of your listeners that's in the software sector and think it's just based upon logic. Give me their names, email addresses, because we've been through that a lot of times, and it's, it's just something to say, Okay, I mean, that is genuine, it is an emotional decision, 90 to 95% of it. And then the rest is logic. Yeah. But then are you acting on the premise that it isn't emotional? Or are you just acting on the premise that's logical, and you're just going through this like a robot, because you're not selling to a robot. So
Vinay Koshy 22:26
My takeaway would be that you really don't need to put up a an artificial facade, if you will, in that you don't need to try and be somebody you're not in the way you communicate. And yes, quite a right to have what you might consider no fluff, matter of fact, personality, yes, it's straight to the heart of the matter. Because at the end of the day, but that's what really matters to some of your customers.
Mark Edwards 22:55
Yeah, I think it's, it's, it's Be who you are. So there's individuals, but you also get a business personality, and, and that, to a certain degree will work to a great degree will be led by the founder, the CEO. And the business tends to be created in the profile of those leaders. And they will tend to recruit people that they fit, feel fit within that mold. But then the entity is together that it creates a personality. But be that and don't be afraid to show that personality. That's important. Because it may not be exactly like them. But they can see it. And we call it is part of what we call the telescope model, which is an I'll give you a simple example of this is that within your network, if you've got some friends that you've known, say, for more than 10 years, you will have quite a variety of people that you know. And if you were going to a particular event, say you had to go and do a talk on stage and you said, I need to bring somebody with me. And you had to think through your friends, you would pick somebody that based upon your knowledge of them and your experience with them in the past, you would think they are probably the best person for me to do this thing that's coming up in the future. You see what I mean? is based upon what I know about them how I've had, you know, experiences maybe you've been in a similar situation with them before, what you know about their history. It helps you to predict what's going to happen in future. Now if I come to a company, and I can start to see it leads on to another point, I can start to see the personality of that organization. It's authentic. The other point that we need to also speak about is is it actually doing it is not just saying you got to do it show people don't tell them which is bad point then gain greater confidence that I'm going to get the outcome that I want. It helps me in making the decision. If you just hide away, like some software geek, who doesn't like it photographs being taken and hides away in a dark room just programming, and nobody can see you. What am I buying into here? But this company? What is it about? Now, it doesn't matter if you're a Star Trek fan, and you and you are the sort that hides away and you into geeky things, that's fine, but just be that and let people see it. And people are very different. You know, it's, it's creating a personality for your business that people get. So when they contact you, oh, yeah. And it helps them to also to remember you don't become the gray man in the industry, which a lot of software companies do. They sort of want to create this bland list, which they see as being very professional. It's not, it's just boring and forgettable. Yeah. So So the other point that's very much related to that is is about telling people things. So everyone, that when they're writing summaries and talking about their business, they send to write things like highly professional, you know, caring for our customers. That's a waste of words, don't even bother using it because it will, things like that will only be of benefit to you, is if if your competitors are saying we're total amateurs, and we don't give a damn about you to any income. If you're gonna create competitive space, you're going to be saying exactly the same as them. The better way to do it is don't tell them, show them. Show them that you're professional, show them that you care. And you do that by how you respond to them. When they come to you, when they make an inquiry by what you send to them by how you listen to them. And that shows that you care, and then by how you help them.
Vinay Koshy 27:03
I'm assuming that there would be some sort of documentation guide and organization through the practice of conveying this personality cross. Yes. Does that take the shape of a tone of voice document? Or or don't do that nature?
Mark Edwards 27:19
Yes, I mean, we don't, we don't, we don't talk about brand, we don't talk about tone of voice, because we're not a marketing agency. That's the important thing is, and, you know, this is me being frank and open is the work that I've seen with software comparable companies from digital marketing agencies, a shocking, most of it is more money has been burned in that area, then then I think any other you have to have really great communication, but marketing advertising agencies, and there are obviously there's always going to be some good examples out there. But if you really want to burn some money very, very quickly, that's the place to go and burn it. You know, and I've had, I've had clients say to me, I'd have been better off taking that money and burning it in the garden, because at least that way, it would have kept me warm. That's how much good it did them. And there's a whole I don't need to go into it, there's a whole host of reasons why they don't get it right. And I don't think that they're deliberately doing it, they just like everyone else, they've struggled because the world's changed. And also because they don't understand the software sector, I think that causes quite a big barrier. It's not as straightforward as some other areas. And if you're, if your clients is a retail, you know, is a retail store one day, you know, you're you're dealing with a physician, you know, a lawyer, a doctor, and then a software company, that that's an awful hard to be able to get really good at all of those. It's like saying, you know, I want to be a professional cricketer, rugby player, and play for England. Football, you know, is not madness, it can't be greater with those areas.
Vinay Koshy 28:57
So what would a potential client walk away with in terms of understanding their personality and putting it in a form that they could communicate internally?
Mark Edwards 29:09
Yes, so they will have festival they have an understanding of competitive space and how it all fits together. Because we have online training, we give training to them one to one, we do brainstorming, we pull out the essence of who that business is. We articulate that with a narrative, we give them a positioning statement. We give them a tagline. And we give them key themes that become the foundation stones in their communication moving forward. But then more than that, we get them to understand one of our other principles, which is stepping stones stepping stones across the river. Yeah. So that is I'm on this side of the river. And one of the issues that you know, when when I said about we reverse engineered things. One of the issues that we saw with a lot of software companies is they Get some sales. And that what that does is it conditions them to continually continually repeat the behavior from behavior that's not very efficient. So if you think of yourself, on the riverbank, looking across, you've got a raging river in between, and you got to get the other gets the other river bank. Effectively, that's what you've got to do with a client is they're on the opposite river bank to you, and you got to get across the river. And what some of them do is they set up a few stepping stones, and then they leave this giant leap. Some don't even give them the stepping stones, they just expect some people to leap across the river. A few people do that. The vast majority don't. So there there was a book written many, many years ago Crossing the Chasm. And it was one of those books that 20 odd years ago everyone was talking about. And everyone was talking about the concepts in it, and it became overhyped, but there were some essential truths within that, which is that you get those people that are willing to take that leap. With early technology. They are, they are the risk takers. And they will also take a risk with a business. They'll say I like it, I like I like what I understand. And I'm going to take that leap, but most people don't. And there are decision stages that you need to go through whenever you're buying, and most stepping stones help them to get across the river. So what we do is we help our clients design those stepping stones, that enables somebody to make a small step to move a little bit further to making the making that to buying. So from where they are, I've never heard of you too. That's interesting. Yeah, I get it. I see how that could help me each one's a stepping stone. This could this could really pay dividends for us. Okay, how do we how would we how would we make that equity? What would we need to do? Great, I'm ready to sign. It's all of those stages. And it's a communication to help make that that journey less frictionless, is to make it frictionless make it easier for them and give you just a simple example, software demonstration. A lot of software companies are very focused upon getting somebody to do a software demonstration. Now we've got a whole section, just about how you do that demonstration from from a psychological point of view, because again, most companies do it very poorly. But if you've got a software demonstration booked, what information do you send to the prospect? Once it's booked, until the time that's booked to keep them interested, and to make that demonstration, go more smoothly, and be more understandable for them? Most software companies don't do anything. But it's a great opportunity. You've got commitment from your prospect. He said, Yeah, I'm willing to spend some of my time to have a look at your demonstration. But the problem with most demonstrations is the person comes away baffled, or not really getting it or not sure. Or one way of helping set up that demonstration is by having communication on the way to that point. So so it's it's one of those stepping stones for your company. And it's it's different for every business. And what do you need to be saying, which is the minimum amount of information, the minimum amount of information to get them to the next step? Because every little step that they make, is a further commitment to you and your company. It's a further step toward you, and a step away from your competition. And that's one way to think about it. Okay, so moving forward, moving across that river.
Vinay Koshy 33:54
Yep. So personality would come out through the narrative, the key themes and the stepping stones.
Mark Edwards 34:00
Here, you have to Yes, you have to you have to bring that out. So it's, it's, it's articulating what your strategic position. And women's, when we're saying about strategic position, it's not just about being understandable. It's positioning yourself in such a way that people see why you're the obvious choice in your market and not your competitors. That's very hard, that is very hard to do. So that's why they have to pay us a lot of money for that. But the whole thing, you know, it's because it is valuable, you know, it is it's more valuable than the money you're spending on developing your software, you know, in, in many, in many instances, I think that there's a very good argument to be doing the communication into your market before you've got your software, because at least that way you can test to see whether there is there is an appetite for it. A lot of companies, they just work on their software, spending hundreds and millions on their software, get to launch it and go No one's interested. Okay.
Vinay Koshy 35:03
Yep. So talk to us about the third and fourth steps, which I believe are attention and compelling. How would you ensure that you incorporate those facets?
Mark Edwards 35:13
Well, attention comes earlier in the process attention in your communication is the first step to get somebody looking your way. Because then you've got the opportunity to have a dialogue with them to communicate with them. Attention is gained in a number of different ways. And I think one of the aspects that we, we mentioned previously was that this is not just about words. And in fact, a lot of it is visual. And that's very important, but it's understanding how visuals work, and how visuals work upon the brain. So you, you can do that with visuals, and you use a combination of words. But there are other senses as well, that you can use in order to gain people's attention, we could write a book on just that subject alone, writing it, you know, gaining attention, but it's, it's, it's using, the way that the brain is structured, in in order to make your messages jump out above the rest. And then compelling is, actually is a number of different things. And with a lot of these subjects that we're covering, they're sort of multi layered, the compelling is communicating in a way that makes the client want to engage with you. Engage with you. And that engagement happens over a period of time. So once you've gained attention, and especially if we're talking about a, you know, a software solution, that costs a lot of money, you know, if it's a 10 pound widget type of software, it's, it's it's the same process, but it's much more condensed. But if you're talking about hundreds and 1000s, then people don't typically go on to a website and go, that's great. Okay, 300,000, no problem, here's what credit card, that's not going to happen. So the compelling part is that you're gaining more and more engagement over the period of your communication. And that can vary from a few weeks, few days, to months to sometimes years. And that happens a lot in a big software enterprise sale. It's gone on for years. And that's the very nature because there's a lot of people involved in that. But making it compelling is a combination of different things. It's knowing your audience, knowing what really matters to them. And using language that they understand and draws them in.
Vinay Koshy 37:44
If I can put this another way, you're saying that you're building trust with them over time to the point where they go, right, this seems like a good logical step to take and follow through on action that you might be
Mark Edwards 38:04
asked is one element. Yes, true, I suppose ultimately, trust is, is probably the the end result of a lot of these things. I think that the understanding through the eyes of your customer, enables you to communicate in a way that makes them say, That's it, that's exactly what I want, even when they haven't probably fully understood themselves. Sometimes. It's, it's enabling, it's enabling your customer to be a better version of themselves. So you're giving them a product or a service that enables them to be a better version of themselves. And for them to suddenly see that.
Vinay Koshy 38:49
Okay, what's a good example of a company that but you feel this is particularly well,
Mark Edwards 38:55
companies that everybody's heard of Tesla. Okay, and they do that they do that in a number of different ways. But first of all, they broke the mold with who they were as an organization, both in their leader but also in your experience of when you have contact with them. So when you go to see them, you if you think of you know, buying a car, what are the the negative connotations that you think about when buying a car car salesman? Would they didn't employ car salesman? They included him, they hired people from the computer industry that went about it in a completely different way. And what they also did was that at that time, they were already companies out there that was selling the green a car, you know, Toyota with a Prius, right? They didn't, they didn't. That wasn't what they focused upon. What they focused upon, was really practical car. Like, goes really fast. And that appeals to a lot of people. It they weren't just solely focusing upon this, this green. So they were they were attracting people. Yeah, I mean, there's a there's a debate as to whether electric car at the moment is greener, I think it you know, it will happen eventually. But the batteries are an issue. they've, they've now got a car, which is it can do half a million miles. And that's what we're starting to see because those cars have been around for some time. And they're aiming to get the million mile car. That's they're saying that the current designs are aimed to get to a car to a million miles. And it's going to cost you a lot less money. And it's going to go very, very fast in comfort with a lot of tech. And they're appealing to all the techie people out there. Because when you get in the car, he didn't he didn't create a better dashboard. Like you traditionally see in a car, he gave you a computer. So he, he made it compelling and engaging for all those people because it was so different. He didn't, you know, like the Henry Ford thing. I didn't create a faster horse, he created something different. Yeah. And that's what he did. He didn't follow Prius, Toyota, which just had a essentially it looked like a normal car. Really? You mean? No, you couldn't hear it. When you get into Tesla, it's very different. I mean, if you look at the Tesla racks, again, it was something very, very different with the goldwings to go up. Yeah, very, very different. And he appealed to all of the people that like all of that, but they didn't, they didn't do that through spending a lot on traditional marketing. They did it by the stories that they told them, and by what was being said about Tesla, you know, there was a lot of PR, and an Elan Musk was very, very successful at that. He stood out, I think you mentioned him last time talking about him, you know, he stood out is a personality, isn't that lovely? You if you had him on this podcast, you would sort of know what to expect, it would be something a bit, a bit outlandish. He's gonna say something, you know, he's gonna, he's gonna do something. And then we're examples. And he's made many mistakes, but people sort of forgive him because they say, well, it's Elan musk. But I'll still buy his car. Now he took a known name, and you know, a company that had never produced cars before. And within a few years, it was valued more than Porsche, with all of the tradition with all of the engineering, and there's a lot of logical arguments as to why you want to buy a Porsche. But he did that. And he created a strategic positioning. And, and he's dominated Porsche, and he did it in a few years. So yeah, that's what that's one example. There are others. And and again, because businesses are unique as a fingerprint, there are different ways of doing it. And there could be several ways of doing it, you can apply these concepts and come up with a different right solution. That's the really important thing.
Vinay Koshy 43:16
I believe the fifth part of the same framework is understood. And by that I'm assuming that the message that you deliver needs to be understood by your future clients.
Mark Edwards 43:29
It Yes, it sounds obvious, but it's, it's or it sounds like common sense. put it that way that no one's gonna argue with. But I find that it's not common. So and even though my experience of that is, I've been in the software sector a long, long time, and I have to let go and look at new businesses, there are new businesses coming along, and I have to go back and look at older businesses, and they changed their proposition. And the number of times that myself not not just myself, we have researchers that gathering information all the time. And you go and look at what they're presenting to the outside world and you go, what is that? What do they mean by that? What's that? And they're using all of these strange acronyms. without any explanation? And yes, there is a small section of the market that probably understands what that acronym acronym is, I came across one the other day, it was d. o. h. And then they had Oh, H, do you know what it means? No idea. I didn't either. And I've been in the software sector for years, and I think there'll be very few people is that I'm not gonna tell you what it means. People can go and research it. But and they didn't have any explanation as to what what that actually means. You know, so immediately, you've got this audience out there that may might they might find that, you know, they need what you've got, but it's now been shrunk down to a very small minority of people. So it's understandable It works in in a number of different ways. It's talking to them. Why use technical jargon? Why use acronyms when you can just talking conversational English and writing conversational English? And that is an art. And I think, actually, for lots of individuals, they're not delicious. Not good at that. And then you need professional help to be able to do it.
Vinay Koshy 45:23
Would you say it's part science as well, in that brands need to be chasing after not just quantitative data, but also qualitative research in terms of seeking out how customers perceive their brand and their product? In order to,
Mark Edwards 45:41
I think, yes. As regards being understand what they mean, I think some feedback can be useful. I think it's, it can also be quite difficult if you're steered solely by your customer feedbacks useful. But you also have to innovate, and you have to think ahead, because your customer, it's not your customers job, to be thinking 24 hours a day, about what your net what your solutions, do, they can give you feedback as to what, you know, if they're using the software. And as an added, you know, I don't like the interface, right? I find this difficult to understand, that's good. But I think beyond that, if you do see companies, and they're just solely using, what they're getting back from the marketplace, as their guide as to how they communicate. That's why you need concepts and principles that you can follow. And and that are proven and based on science, I'll give you I'll give you an example. And this is this is based on my experience, because I worked for a number of years, as a partnership manager, working with partners who were selling our software. And they would be very vocal, and give you feedback about the software that you developed. Most of the time, or a lot of the time, the feedback that you got from those partners to what you should be doing as a software developer, was based upon their effectiveness and being able to sell it, they would not be necessarily the greatest sales organizations, or they should be stronger really, for what they are. Because that was their that was their role. That happened a lot in a few decades ago, there were that that sort of relationship between the software developer who was a very technical, and then your partner's upset with distributors, their job was to be the sales and market partners in different regions and different sectors horizontal and vertical. That's probably broken down to a certain extent, because much more now happens directly. But their key ability must be their ability to be able to sell, to be able to market and sell into that sector. And quite often that they would be given, you know, that sector or that region to be able to do that, where they failed, they would often go back and blame the software developer and say you need to be doing this for us. And it tended to be around, we need more information we're not selling because we haven't given them enough information. And that tends to be sort of a stock answer. And if you go down that road, you end up with like the salesman did for me, his email and his 15 documents for you to read
Vinay Koshy 48:29
Mark Edwards 48:30
I hope that answers your question.
Vinay Koshy 48:33
Okay, so ultimately, we do need a degree of feedback in order to make sure that whatever we craft is, is on this, listen to
Mark Edwards 48:41
your market. Yeah, listen to your market, talk to your market, get to be able to see through their eyes, but you can't take every thing that's fed back to you. Especially, you know, especially when you take it in isolation, I I've heard a few companies that have gone from being very passive to being proactive in their marketing. So they start sending out emails and making calls and reaching out into the market. And then they get three people who say to them, don't ever contact me again. And they go, look, we mustn't do this. And you have to say, hang on a minute, you've contacted 3000 people and three people have said they don't like it doesn't mean you should stop doing it. Just don't contact them again. Yeah. So it's it's taking that feedback, but being unable to do it in a balanced way. Because they say I don't like I you know, I don't like your company name doesn't mean you're going to go out and change your company name all of a sudden.
Vinay Koshy 49:41
Okay, the sixth component is credibility, as most companies tend to use things like white papers, case studies or logos and from other brands to provide the degree of credibility. Is there any other way of looking This,
Mark Edwards 50:02
yes, be credible.
So, you know, I think Neil said last time, yeah, we call that borrowed credibility. And people do that in various ways. Now, different personality types, and remember, you're going to be selling, most likely to quite a wide range of personality types. They're going to focus upon different things to a different degree. For me, when I look at a product or a service, and they tell me, this is great, because I've sold it to X has no effect on me, whatsoever. In fact, the only effect it might have been it has in the past, I was talking to a software company about a solution, which was to do with with the work that we do in m&a. And they said, We sell to all of these other m&a companies. And I thought on that basis, I'm just not interested, you're telling me you've got a close relationship with one of our closest competitors. I don't work with it. But the fact that they've chosen to do it, these different ideas, I think, well, that's their business, I want to make up my own mind about now other people will gain a certain degree of comfort or security to say, you know, we're in the petroleum business, and there's other companies, this is becoming an industry standard. And I can understand that, so there is degree of credibility, but and case studies, and then the logos. But how much is that going to really help you are your competitors saying, we haven't sold it yet. We haven't got any case studies. So we can't put any logos up. But we'll give it a good go. And we might get the right result. They're all going to have case studies. I mean, even startups, like they find a way to get a case study done, they, they put up some logos. So I'm saying I'm not saying don't do the white papers, don't do the logos, don't do the case studies. But I'm saying, gain your own credibility, in the way that you behave when you when you you've got the opportunity to come in contact. And that contact happens from the first time they look at your website, excuse me, I had a client or a number of clients in the past that I've said to them, look at your website, or look at your email, or look at this leaflet that you're sending out. And, and really look at it what what sort of impression does it give and even down even down to the things like the photographs of as a photographer, I tend to look at that the photographs that they've taken up their senior management, you know, if they've been taken by themselves on a on an iPhone, you know, or it's it's them on the beach with the kids in the background, and it's just something that's just not appropriate. You know, and you sometimes see that I'm not saying that you don't show the other side to you that you know, you have a private life as well that can work but the quality of the photo so people look at anything Oh my god, you know, blurry out of focus, just bad it without composed it they make that's not the reason they're not going to do business with you. But it's one small thing yet the Peter Drucker I think I said it last time pitch dog coffee stains on the seat when I get on the aircraft. I'm starting to worry about the maintenance on the engine, if it's sloppy inside. Yeah. What did they do in the maintenance the engine, I've got little worry made. If your photograph looks like it's something you've just done a selfie? You know, he's looking up your nose, how they're saying they're professional, but are they really, and then you contact them and it takes them three that your three days to respond. And then when you get an email back, it's it doesn't help you in any way. And it's been poorly written. All of those things, that's credibility. Or when you have the first conversation with them. They just talk at you. And they never listen. Yeah, that's something else that that you see quite a lot, you know, a good salesman, you have two ears, one mouth, use them in that proportion. And all of that conveys genuine credibility that is your own you you own it. It's not dependent on other people.
Vinay Koshy 54:21
Okay, and that, I guess leads into the next component which is being memorable and ties into this whole conversation around using visuals to to stay top of mind and be a bit hardly,
Mark Edwards 54:35
yes. Yeah, most people are very visual with their memory. And the example that we often use is think of a story that you were told as a child. You could probably still retell that story. You can tell it to your children, but you may not have heard it for several decades. Now, tell me The last sales that presentation PowerPoint presentation that you saw, which may have been yesterday, how much can you remember of it? usually very little. Because it tends to be it's not cohesive, your story's cohesive. And the stories that we was told as a child, as children were very visual picture book, we were showing pictures. Yeah, as adults we create, when we read a book, we create those pictures in our head. And that's why quite often, if you read the book, and then they, they create a film, a lot of people say it wasn't as good as the book. Yeah, it's because will, it will never will be will it because you've created the film exactly as you want it, yeah, you've got that visual image, and then the film, the hero doesn't look quite like the hero you had in your head. Yeah. So the degree to which you can create a true picture in your head, or more importantly, the more that you can help your plan to have that visual picture in their head of what that vision is for the future for them. Once they have your solution, the more difficult it is, or the more memory it will be. And the more difficult it will be for your competitor to dislodge it. How you do that is, again is multi layered. So it's creating that we call it painting the VISTA. So the the, the framework, if you like that we have there is one is one of a frame, funnily enough, you create a frame the frame is is is the the limits of the subject that you're going to be talking about the limits of, of the problem, the solution, you know, we we can sell your software, we can sell our overcoats, you know, it's so what we're talking about is within this frame, but you could also create for them what we call a canvas. So you must allow your client to to draw and sketch out the problem. And then maybe the outcome, but they want, you then can layer on the paint onto that to create a very vivid picture, the VISTA, the vision of what they're aiming for, or what they get with you. So it may be that they've created a sort of a semi clear image of what they want, your job is to help them make that clearer, sharper, more colorful, and more, perhaps, quite often, it can be more, because you've got that problem, we can solve that. But by doing it this way, this will also enable all of these people within your organizations also have this and this is that attractive, you know, it's creating that, that wow, that's far more than I thought I was gonna get. But that's really valuable, that is valuable to me. So he's creating that picture, so that they can walk away with that, and, and be able to talk about it. And maybe it is actually something that you can create with your client and show to them physically so that they can walk away and show their colleagues and what will happen there. And this is just one aspect of this is by them working with you to create that, that VISTA the vision of what they could have in future. they own it. And then they can sell it to other people within their organization.
Vinay Koshy 58:28
So that, in fact, is part of the whole positioning process you're collaborating with, with potential clients to create a very personalized narrative, that in which they're almost the hero in that narrative can be Yes, yeah. And by virtue of that, creating a narrative that prepares them to become advocates for your brand.
Mark Edwards 58:55
Yes, because here I'm talking about the more complex sort of a larger enterprise type solutions. Again, if it's, if it's the 10 pound widget certification, it's slightly different. But the principles, see this is the beauty of this, if you by having the right concepts and principles, it becomes universal, but it's the degree to which you use the different tools here within competitive space. So thinking about the larger enterprise, you know, the longer sell, the bigger sell, the more expensive sale, is that you're working with them to help facilitate their thinking about the problems that they have, but more importantly, the outcomes that they want. And then you're painting that picture in a way that is understandable to them. You're not creating what we call, you know, the word diagrams, where they say, I'll show you all about our software and then they have all these boxes with words inside and people sit down, not no one understands it doesn't create anything in your head. It has to be you have to work with a client and you have to make it there's a visual skill. There's a series of skills You need to, in order to be able to use visuals effectively. And 99% of software companies haven't got a clue of how to do it. That's, that's the really interesting bit. The opportunity is that this can be taught. And it's science. Most software companies create visuals that are poorly, but probably best in this so bad, they actually create confusion. And they, and the worst thing is that they don't know they're doing it. They create these things that they understand. And they go to their colleagues and their colleagues go, Oh, yeah, yeah, it's good. Yeah. And then they throw these things out to their clients. And most of the time, the clients don't say to them, that's just rubbish. I've got a clue what that means. People don't like saying, I don't understand what you're talking about, when they come back with technical jargon. On the whole, I do it all the time. I say, I don't know, I don't know what that means. In fact, the funniest one that Neil and I heard, which was just last week, somebody we were talking to, and he said, they came to me and presented to me, and I didn't understand what they were talking about. And I said to the person, I said, Do you know 70%, of what you said to me has gone completely over my head. And you know what, I've got inclination to learn. And that that, I think, is what a lot of people are saying secret in their own head, is when you get these presentations that are coming at you with lots of words and diagrams, word diagrams that don't communicate, a visual has to communicate very, very quickly if you start putting lots of words in it. Or if you're creating PowerPoints, where it's probably got more than six words on it, you know, row after row after row bullet points with words, that's probably not communicating very well. And people won't say stop, I'm not understanding this, they'll just sit there. They'll listen to it. And they'll probably never want to see another one of your PowerPoint presentations. Again, that's a problem.
Vinay Koshy 1:01:57
So the next two elements of the framework consistency and implementation. On the flip side, they sound fairly straightforward, and self explanatory. There's more to it than then
Mark Edwards 1:02:14
you should know by now. How many sections that we've been through, it's gonna be much more. So there is there is actually so consistency. So what do we mean by consistency? Well, I think you have to be, we spoke about being authentic. And, to a degree consistency is being consistent to that authentic personality consistent also in the fact that we communicate through many different channels. And one of the mistakes that I see is looking at a business through the different channels, you sometimes think you're looking at a different business, lack of consistency, when you have a marketing function or communication function that believes that they need to be coming up with something new all the time. So even if they had the real core essence of what that business is about, in three months time, they feel that they've done that, and now they're talking about other things to do in the business. And then six months from now, they're really talking about some very minor things that really aren't at the core of what this business is, because they think they've got to be talking about something new all the time. And that's a weakness. And you don't want to be doing that. There are certain themes, messages about your business that are the strongest aspects of who you are and what you are. You need to keep consistent to those. And you need to make sure that you are consistent in all of the stages. The dealing with a client, and that doesn't mean that that's all you ever talk about in that because prospect may have a couple of questions if I had an email sent to me that was talking about some software and I think that's really, that's really interesting. I'd like to know more about that.
yes, so. So what I was talking about was, what I was talking about was the consistency, the consistency come in being consistent to who you are, and the key aspects of your business, but also being consistent throughout that customer experience. And the examples that I've seen and happens frequently, is marketing goes out and attracts people to the business, through certain messages and visuals and a certain look, and it's talking. And it's attracted somebody. And then I speak to a salesman. And he talks about something completely different and never mentioned it. They've got to be consistent to understand what is right at the core, what is what makes you special. And you've got to be able to articulate, you can articulate it in different ways. And we're not talking about people becoming robotic. So everyone in the within the organization has memorized word for word parrot fashion, this sort of narrative, but you've got to understand, you've got to be consistent to that. Otherwise, you start to confuse. And if you throw in too much at them, they will get confused over that. So that consistency, you've seen different, different respects, consistent to who you are, what you do, and why it's important, but also consistent throughout the experience, so that somebody who has been attracted to you, they're going to get more information about that. And you're not getting somebody who pitches in a completely different way that they think I don't, I've seen that I I've had many, many times we've seen with our clients that we're working with, where they're saying, I didn't realize that, Oh, is that what we really do? Isn't it? Yes, I've we've, I've never looked at it that way. But that's it. And if you've got, you know, you've got too much inconsistency, it creates confusion, and creates confusion creates doubt. And doubt means that they don't want to part with the money. Okay, yeah. implementation is my I don't like to be thought of as a consultant. We were always dodging round that to say, we're not consultants. And only because I think a lot of people and I have have been bitten by the idea of consultants that they come in, and they ask you a lot of questions, and then they feed back to you what you've just told them, you know, they take your watch, and then tell you the time. That's definitely not us. And I'm not saying all consultants are bad, but there is that association. The key aspect of this is we can create a fantastic positioning for you, we can really boil it down, and, and enable you to be more of who you really are. And to be able to articulate that and communicate it and make more memorable and consistent all those things. But again, if we don't, if this isn't implemented correctly, all that's wasted. And we don't want that. Because we're not, we're not a factory that is going to be working with hundreds of 1000s of companies. Because that's just not possible. This is this is hard work. So anyone we engage with, from a purely selfish perspective, we want to see this implemented, and we want to see it make this company fly, because we're then going to point to that company. And when people say, you know, why won't you say, Well, this is who we are, but can speak to them, they'll tell you why.
And if if, if it was just about and I've seen this, US creating a report, and telling them all the right things, very, very powerful things, and how to do it, but it's not implemented, then we may as well not done it. And so we also do is help them to understand that and help them to be able to implement it with something that's called a cognitive pathway. Now cognitive pathway, I could spend the next week discussing it with you, but in very simple terms. Again, it's something very different. Nobody else is doing it. But it's, it's like a central core hub for all of your marketing that makes it all cohesive. And it means that you don't have to become a social media slave generating hundreds of different bits of marketing that you're sending out into the marketplace that is just transitory. It just is here for a few minutes, and then it's gone. It just disappears into the ether. This is a different way of going about it and a way of marketing making what you say more attractive to more people as well because we deal with all different personality types and people with different skills. So it's a way of overcoming that but essentially, it's called a cognitive pathway, and it reinforces your narrative and story about your business.
Vinay Koshy 1:10:07
Okay, just going back to consistency, if I understand this correctly, it's not about the volume of content, but figuring out the key themes that your brand is associated with. And expanding on that, as well as associating yourself with people or other brands who resonate with some of those themes.
Mark Edwards 1:10:35
I mean, that No, I mean, that the last thing you said that that wasn't something that I said, but it could be, it could be that associating yourself with other brands, I know that there is a movement called B Corp, which I came across recently, which are organizations that behave in a very ethical way within business. And that's something that I've seen growing in strength over 10 years, not that organization as such, but this idea that I think in the past, and we I still come across it, there are there have been not many, I must admit, especially in the software sector, I've met a lot of very good people that I've, you know, become friends, I've come across people sometimes that have said, I know, it's probably wasn't the right thing to do. But this is business. And that term, this is business is a sort of get out of jail card free morally, for them to be able to do things that just aren't right. The way that they behave with people, you know, the the moral, doing things, doing business in the right way, doing it in an unethical way, I think is, is very important nowadays. And I think that's a fantastic movement, I'd wholeheartedly be behind that. So B Corp is about organizations that are sort of come together. And they said that, you know, we believe in this, we're not, we don't just say it, we genuinely believe in it. Because I think there's also been an aspect of that of companies saying, we need to, we need to be more successful. Let's say we're green, and we'll put a page up, we'll tell people how green we are, but they don't really do anything about it, or we'll put up this charity page, you know, get Tom to go and run a marathon, and then we'll put up about him and forget about it, you know, that sort of thing. It's companies that really do on an ongoing basis, do good things. So being associated in that way, is correct. But the the, the part about consistency, is I don't overload your client with too much information. And if you're a uni, you know, I could tell you 100 things, I mean, this podcast, I probably told you 100 things, but you're probably only gonna remember five. But hopefully people can go back and they can have a look at it again. But if you tell somebody 100 things, they're only going to remember five, which five. Whereas if you tell them five things, and you tell them in different ways, and you make it very understandable, they're probably going to understand those five things. So make it the most important five things. Think of it that way. And then the other aspect of that is, if those things are the most important aspects, especially at the beginning of the conversation, I'm not talking about customers who have been with you or people that are just at that final stage, I'm talking about the journey that they have with you. And most companies suffer from not getting enough people to talk to not getting enough leads. So a lot of what we're talking about is the bit that happens before you can call them a qualified lead. Okay, right. And at that stage, you don't need to be talking to them about the detail. We showed last time, you know, the iceberg with with the waterline, the detail stays underneath the water. But most companies, they start with the other way around, they lead with the detail. And because that's where they're talking a lot of the time. So the consistency is, is just keeping to those core messages at the top.
Vinay Koshy 1:14:12
Okay, this is this has been terrific. If I remember correctly, the competitive space framework was arranged in the form of a circle.
Mark Edwards 1:14:22
Yes, the competitive space will Yes, they sort of the key elements of that. Yes, you're
Vinay Koshy 1:14:26
right. So that would indicate each of these elements sort of feeds into the other. It's, it's not something that is sort of done once and done forever kind of thing. It's something that needs to be reviewed on a regular basis.
Mark Edwards 1:14:41
Yes, I mean, what we're, what we're about, and this goes back to the sort of the, the digital agency approach is not us, digital agents, digital agencies, they want to work with a company over a long period being paid on a monthly basis forever. We want to go in, we want to train and educate our clients to understand competitive space, we create it for them, but then we train them on how to use it. And then we back out. And we leave them self sufficient. And that's important for us, we want them, we want them to be self sufficient. We, you know, they can call us back in and they can say, you know, we were making a change when we're launching new products, or we need a bit of creativity, I think we, you know, what we're good at. And part of that is because we come from a creative background, I spent four years art school. Strange, I mean, m&a, but that's useful. And the same with Neil Neil has been a graphic artist. So we even come in and apply a degree of creativity, I think, but also part of the reason why we can do that is we don't work in the business, when you're working in the business, you're too close to it, to get that spark of creativity is difficult. So we can apply that creativity. But essentially, we're giving them tools to say, here are the tools, here's the methodology, here's how you apply it, we create it for you, you can run with it. And you know, I would be enormously pleased if they came back and said, you know, and we've, we've applied it into this new division, or we create a new product, and we apply competitive space. And it's been fantastically successful, we did it all ourselves. Brilliant. Go for it, that's exactly what I want to hear. But if you need to bring us back in fine, but I'm not wanting them to be dependent on us to get them up and running, give them the tools, and go for it, run for it. And then when you when you become billionaires just say these guys,just point to us. That's all I want. Just a few things. I mean,
Vinay Koshy 1:16:54
this has been terrific. And I know we've covered a lot of information. And yes, so our listeners are just going to have to listen to this again, in order to download or to take notes on on everything. But is there an aspect that we haven't quite touched upon? that you feel is important?
Mark Edwards 1:17:13
No, I think you've asked some good questions today. And I thought, I've come away from this thinking, Well, I think Vinnie actually gets this competitive space, because like, when somebody once said to me, and I would apply this to you, actually, we've only done very well. They said, we're going to engage with you, because of the quality of the questions that you asked. And I would apply that to you and this podcast today, we did throw far more information at you than we would normally want to do in a presentation. But maybe people can put this on a continuous loop and watch it. But but i think i think the quality of the questions actually showed that you did your homework, and you were listening intently, which is impressive. So I appreciate your time. And I appreciate the opportunity to be able to speak to you and your audience. It's it's been a good experience. And Neil missed out on their second. I'm just gonna tease him now. I'll say, Neil, it was fantastic.
Vinay Koshy 1:18:12
Question I like to ask before we close mark is, if you were listening to these two episodes, what would be your top takeaway?
Mark Edwards 1:18:28
Good question. Everything's changed your communication. And your marketing, no longer has to be dependent. Just throw money at it. You now can outsmart not outspend your competition, because this is based on science. And it works. Through outsmart not outspend is it ultimately is the thing that we want our clients to achieve, and a greater level of success as well. And that really can be achieved. It's not been easy, I must admit to get to where we are today. And I wouldn't have been able to do it without Neil and Neil's experience and my experience in the software sector. And I'd like to say that it was all done by design, but it wasn't it was a lot of fluke care of just things happen to come together at the right time. But now we've got it remember competitive space, because you will be hearing about it in the future.
Vinay Koshy 1:19:27
Excellent. Mark. If listeners are curious and wanting to find out more or connect with you, where would you recommend the
Mark Edwards 1:19:36
best place go to our website. We've actually been since we launched the business last year, we've been so busy working with clients. We haven't actually fully completed our own website but we're working on that at the moment but go to out smart strategy.com go and have a look at that and there's response forms that you can do or you can find us on LinkedIn. So you can look for myself market would suddenly will come in
Vinay Koshy 1:20:00
Excellent, Mark, thanks so much.
Mark Edwards 1:20:04
Thank you. It's been a pleasure.
Vinay Koshy 1:20:06
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Related links and resources
- Check out Outsmart Strategy
- Check out Boss Equity
- Get additional insights from Remy Blumenfeld – How to Expand a Business: A Powerful 9 Step Process
- Get more insights from Tony Guarnaccia – 6 Keys to The Best Marketing Strategies Used By Companies to Grow Predictably
- Check out my interview with Andrew Tarvin – How to Use Humor in Business Communication to Drive Business Results
Connect with Mark and Neil
Watch part 1 of a 2 part series with Mark Edwards and Neil Cumming
Watch part 2 of the series with Mark Edwards
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