Ep. 123 – How to Create Good B2B Brand Narratives w/ Joe Zappa

How to Create Good B2B Brand Narratives

Playing it safe is the easy and predictable route, but this approach won’t make B2B Martech companies stand out in the sea of competition. They need to have a unique perspective that’s relevant to their target audience and position themselves strategically in the market.

Join us as we talk to marketing expert Joe Zappa (Founder and CEOSharp Pen Media) as he unpacks how B2B MarTech companies can develop a strong brand narrative. Joe also talks about the pitfalls to avoid and how marketers should adapt to the changes in the B2B Martech landscape. He elaborates on the importance of conducting customer research to develop the right narrative, and how companies should go about niching down.

Play Video about Episode 123: Interview with Joe Zappa How to Create Good B2B Brand Narratives

Topics discussed in episode

  • Joe elaborates on the challenges B2B MarTech companies face when it comes to building brand narratives [1:51]
  • How to come up with an idea to expand and improve the brand narrative [7:04]
  • Some mistakes and misconceptions regarding brand narrative, and how marketers can address them [11:40]
  • Joe shares his thoughts on the topic of ‘niching down’ [17:20]
  • How to conduct research to get the narrative [21:20]
  • Actionable tips: What can marketers do immediately to craft a better brand narrative [32:18]
  • How to get B2B companies to buy in to the importance of a brand narrative [36:57]

Companies and links mentioned



Christian Klepp, Joe Zappa

Christian Klepp  00:03

Welcome to B2B Marketers on a Mission, a podcast for changemakers where we question the conventional, debunk marketing myths, provide actionable tips, think differently, disrupt industries, and take your marketing to a new level, from improving your campaigns to making you a better marketer. These are the inspirational stories that will help us change the way we think and approach B2B marketing, one conversation at a time. This podcast is brought to you by EINBLICK Consulting, helping you to stand out in the market and drive revenue to your B2B business. And now your host, Christian Klepp. All right, everyone, welcome to this episode of B2B Marketers on a Mission. This is the show where we help you to question the conventional, think differently, disrupt your industry and take your marketing to new heights. This is your host Christian Klepp. And today I’m joined by someone on a mission, hold on to your seats, to help B2B MarTech business leaders drive revenue with marketing strategy, content and PR. So coming to us from Brooklyn, New York, Mr. Joe Zappa. Welcome to the show, sir.

Joe Zappa  01:12

Hi, Christian. Thanks so much for having me on.

Christian Klepp  01:14

Great to be connected. Joe, I really enjoyed our previous conversation. And I’m really looking forward to this one, because we’ve got quite a bit of ground to cover.

Joe Zappa  01:17

Yeah, sounds great. Let’s get to it.

Christian Klepp  01:18

All right. So on to the first question, so you’re clearly no stranger when it comes to narrative building. But for this conversation, let’s focus on a topic that has become part of your professional mission. And that’s where brand narrative falls short for B2B MarTech products and how to solve that. So let’s kick off the conversation with this question. Why do you think that’s such a challenge for B2B MarTech?

Joe Zappa  01:51

Yes, so one of the main challenges in B2B marketing, especially for the companies with which I work, which are AdTech and MarTech firms is commoditization, everyone who is in this industry thinks about it in terms of categories, right. So you, we love our three letter acronyms. So you have CDPs, customer data platform, CRMs, DMPs, whatever it is. And the problem with those acronyms is, they’re great because they help us make sense of the industry at a glance. But they also necessarily lead to commoditization, because when I think of a bunch of different companies in the space, I just like, Oh, they’re a CDP. I know what they do, right? They help a company sort through their first party data and activate it for marketing purposes. The problem with that, though, is that then everyone in the industry just thinks you’re the same as every other CDP. And while you might think, Oh, well, we’re like the CDP for enterprises or whatever it is, whatever your niche is, it’s very hard for people to remember that. And remember the distinctions among all the companies in the category. And this is where marketing in general, and especially narrative marketing comes in, is allowing you to differentiate not just on products, but on some broader mission, very apropos for the name of the podcast.

Christian Klepp  01:55

Absolutely, absolutely. And  I tend to agree with you there and ponder me this Joe, like, why do so many B2B MarTech firms and you know, we’ve all seen them, we’ve all jumped on somebody’s website, you know, that’s selling some kind of like, SaaS software, or, or some MarTech service or solution and whatnot. And after scrolling through the homepage, maybe three to five times you still can’t figure out what it is they do. Why do you think that that’s such a recurring trend in the space?

Joe Zappa  03:40

Yeah, I think one reason is that companies are very immersed in their own business. So they are describing what they do, like they’re speaking to an expert, or like they work with someone, they’re working with someone else who is as immersed in the product as they are, which is almost never the case. Because even if you’re a marketer, and you’re using, let’s return to the idea of a customer data platform, you might understand pretty well what that product does. Maybe you’ve worked with others before, but it’s still not your entire work, like your entire 40 hour week is not sorting through this technology, right? You want to go to that technology, you want to get your insights quickly, and then you want to get on with your job. So all, like all B2B tech companies just need to remember that. Even though you live and breathe the details of your product, your customers do not. And so the challenge is twofold. The first thing is to focus on the pain points of the customer and not the details of the product. So what is it going to help them do not like what are the products intricacies? And the second, like the higher level to B2B marketing. This is where the mission thing comes in, is ideally you don’t even just solve pain points for your customer, but you’re part of a broader movement in business culture that they can latch on to. So for example, one of my collaborators who does strategy for my clients is Mark Johnson, who was for seven years, the CMO Bombora, which is a B2B intent data company, and Bombora stick was sustainable marketing. So their idea was like, they sold B2B intent data, they helped companies marketing and sales, understand who were their buyers, and what were their buyers interested in and how to message to them based on their interests. And not just you know, product alignment with their needs. And but Bombora didn’t go out into the market, and they grew from like zero to 60 million while Mark was there and say, just like we have this amazing intent data, let us tell you about how amazing it is. What they did is they said the entire industry of marketing and sales, B2B marketing and sales as moving toward sustainability and sustainable marketing. The idea being we’re all sick of getting spammed with messages, how do we have an approach to targeting our customers, that is not going to piss them off. And that is going to allow us to build these long term sustainable relationships. And they were able by focusing on that idea, to A) position their product as what would enable that movement and B) get a lot more people interested in it and interested in talking to them than if they were just talking about how good their product was. Because when you focus on an idea, like sustainable marketing, you can have, you know, journalists come and industry influencers, more people can get involved than just the people who are in the market for your product right now.

Christian Klepp  06:35

Absolutely. Absolutely. And I have a follow up question for you, Joe, just based on what you said in this these past couple of minutes. But the idea of focusing on an idea, right, to expand and improve that brand narrative. And I know you can go in several directions with this one, but how do B2B companies come up with that idea that not necessarily will stick but that idea that will resonate with the target audience? How do they how do they do that?

Joe Zappa  07:04

Yeah so I think it’s a synthesis of what resonates with your customers, and what do they already love about the product? And then where is the industry heading. So like, when we do this with customers, we’re doing one today, like we have a two hour call, where we talk to the leaders of the company, and usually someone from sales and someone from marketing. And we think about like, Who is this company? Why does it exist? Why is it important to the industry? Where’s the industry going? And how are we going to take it there, then we go off, and we talk to a handful of customers. And that’s essentially a reality check. Like because the we hear from the CEO, and the head of marketing, and so on, like what, who they think they are and what they think is valuable, valuable about the product. And then we hear from customers? And then we find out really what do customers think is valuable about this product? And what are their aspirations and how does the company fit into it? And then we synthesize that, so then we look at what are the trends and what we’re hearing from these five customers, like if three or more of them say the same thing, then we’re starting to see some qualitative evidence that okay, this, this resonates. And then we take that to the original team, CEO, CMO, and so on. And we try to figure out, okay, based on what our customers care about, and what they love about our product, plus, where we think the industry is going, what is an idea that would captivate our customers and also influencers and so on. So if you think about Bombora, and the sustainable marketing example, what I would imagine, like Mark discovered when he was talking to Bombora’s customers back in the day is like, okay, it’s not just that, like we help them target more effectively, it’s that the product is a relief for them, because they’re sick of getting bombarded with messages that don’t resonate with them. And their customers are sick of that. And they’re sick of as sales and marketing people of sending people DMs or cold calling them and being told to go away. And so. So that’s how you land on that kind of idea. I think. What do you think? Because I know you do similar things with your clients.

Christian Klepp  09:20

No, absolutely. Absolutely. No, I agree. And we do similar things. It’s fascinating to me, at least from my experience. And this isn’t… I mean this in the nicest way and no disrespect to anyone out there. But it fascinates me how sometimes. What the client says, the client’s team says about their product and the market isn’t necessarily a reflection of what the customers say and think. And when that happens. I mean, when that happens, people tend to say, oh, there’s a problem like yes, there’s a problem but I also see an opportunity in that. Because you know, So it’s very easy to go down the negative slope of all but the market doesn’t say that right. But, you know, the, I suppose you do this as well, right? So it’s, it’s about also testing out some of the ways that they want to approach the market. And so internally, they have a consensus and everybody high fives each other. And then we’re like, Okay, well, let’s see what the market says and how you know how the market perceives this, right? Because that, for me will be the most more important take.

Joe Zappa  10:27

Yes, I Sorry. Yeah. No, I just want to say I totally agree. And the other thing I wanted to say is that, because we don’t want to, you know, offend our clients, the same is true of us. It’s true of every business. Like, I’m sure you’ve done this with your clients. Like, in the spring, I interviewed five of my clients to find out the same exact thing I do for them, like, what did they actually like about working with us? And what do they want from us and all of that. And some of the findings were really surprising, right? It’s like the stuff sometimes that we obsess over as business owners or marketers. We talk to our customers, and we’re like, oh, wait, they don’t care about that at all.

Christian Klepp  11:05

At all. Yeah, yes, yes. And there you are internally stressing about it, right, like losing to a certain degree. I mean, I’ve been there, right, like losing sleep over it. And then when you talk to the customer, they don’t even they don’t even bring it up. Right? Yeah, no, it’s incredible. It’s incredible. All right. I’m gonna move this on to the next question. And you brought up some of them already, but highlight some of the top mistakes and misconceptions you’ve seen out there, specifically with regards to brand narrative, and what are some simple steps that marketers can take to address those?

Joe Zappa  11:40

Yeah, so what are some of the main mistakes people make with B2B Marketing, especially the narrative part. One part, one really common mistake is they’re very afraid to talk about anything that doesn’t directly relate to the product. Right? So for example, in AdTech, some of the big trends going on are like retail media, like companies like Instacart, setting up ad networks, or CTV or privacy. And I once had a client where they weren’t directly doing any of these three things that the industry is obsessed with and that everyone is talking about. But we thought that they had an angle where we were like, Okay, this isn’t your exact product, or what exactly what you guys do. But we do think that you have insights to share on this, because we’ve spoken to you and it’s tangential to your product. And they were, they just were super resistant to saying anything about those topics, because they don’t directly solve for them, even though that they are topics that their audience cares about. And so I think that’s one of the big mistakes is this unwillingness to talk about anything that doesn’t directly relate to your product, because that’s how you get attention from both influencers, and journalists who are not going to buy your product, but can like bring attention to your company, and to the 90 plus percent of your actual target audience that people who may one day buy your product who are just not in the market for it right now. Like if someone is interested in your technology, like it’s relevant to them, but they’re not buying right now. They don’t want to read a case study of how your technology increase someone’s ROI as by 30%, or whatever it is. They want to engage in broader discussions about problems in the industry and where it’s heading.  Another big mistake that happens is a failure to differentiate on anything other than product details. So when we are working on our products and marketing then, like again, we are living and breathing the product, we’re obsessed with it, We’re like these companies are our competitors are under serving our target audience and XY and Z ways that we built these features to deal with it. And as we mentioned in the beginning with the CDP example, it’s very hard for customers to remember those differences. Maybe you can get away with it, and it has an impact. If it’s like bottom of funnel content for that small percentage of your audience that’s deciding right now, should I buy product X or product y. But for anyone else, you’re much more likely to reach them and earn their attention. If you’re talking about an engaging idea, and less like the minute differences between products.  I’ll add a third which is I think, like thought leadership is a long term proposition. I was talking to a company called Adalytics. They’re like an advertising transparency platform. And they recently basically achieved a marketer’s dream, and that they produced this thought leadership report on YouTube, serving ads on made for kids channels, and this report was covered by the New York Times it was covered by virtually every advertising pundit and publication And companies would, you know, kill for that sort of awareness. But when I spoke to the CEO and founder of Adalytics, Krzysztof Franaszek, what he said was, you know, we’ve been producing these reports for years, and the vast majority, like, most of them, barely make a blip. Or they get the attention of like, you know, a small number of people. It is through constantly iterating on your thought leadership and narrative strategy by pushing out insights that are based on exclusive data, figuring out what resonates, and then constantly getting closer and closer to what the market really cares about, that you have that big success with Thought Leadership, you should see leading indicators along the way that it’s working, and that you have people’s attention, and you’re starting conversations. I’m not saying like, keep doing that if you’re getting no response. But you know, the New York Times story does not come in month one, or even two or three.

Christian Klepp  16:03

Yeah, and those are some really great points there. And, you know, like, to your point number three, thought leadership, like a lot of other things is a work in progress, a continuous work in progress. It’s not it’s not something like you said, it’s just like, straight off the bat, and you get you get the attention of like, The New York Times or, or NBC and what have you. I remember what I was gonna ask you earlier, Joe, and I want to know, your take on this, because I keep hearing advice about this flying all over the place. The concept of asking your clients to niche down? What are your thoughts on that?

Joe Zappa  16:42

Asking your clients to niche down? So you mean, okay, that’s interesting, because I’m used to… Yeah, go ahead.

Christian Klepp  16:52

Okay, let me elaborate a bit further. So what I mean by that is because, you know, when you’re creating brand narratives, and messaging, and the positioning and all that it has to, obviously target audience or audiences, plural, and that there’s always this advice going around. Well, yeah, in order to do that, effectively, you’ve got a niche down, but in my experience, niching down, it’s not something you just do like that, and then bam, you already know who your niche is. Right? It’s, it’s something that happens over time. But I mean, over to you like, what’s your take on that?

Joe Zappa  17:20

Yeah, so I guess first there’s the question of niching down, and then even within niches, there’s, there are personas. So in terms of niches, I think it depends on how nascent the company is, like in the beginning, you’re… yeah, you should have an idea of like, who might be interested in this product. But it’s probably too early if you’re working with like a seed stage or even pre-seed company, for them to niche down too much, because they haven’t tried their product out with enough customers to figure out who their ideal niche is. So when you’re talking or when I’m talking to early stage startup leaders, be it like CEO, CRO, the way they usually go about as they have some inkling about who their first like ideal customers would be. They try it out with them, once they find a niche with whom that resonates like they go to an adjacent niche. And I think marketers should work with sales to identify that ideal audience and sort of iterate along the timeframe, that makes sense. So you don’t want to like force a niche at the same time. We all know that speeding everyone is not an effective marketing strategy. So I think it’s about striking a balance. Another thing I would add, and this is where I think the whole narrative thing can be really powerful, is oftentimes you have companies who even might be quite successful, like they might be working with some big brands or something. But they haven’t yet really fleshed out personas on a level where they understand like, what makes this person who’s going to use my technology tick, and therefore why is my product better for them than all of the other products in the category. An example I like to use here is our other in-house marketing strategist, Paul Knegten and who was the CMO for Beeswax, which was a DSP and Bidder-as-a-Service that sold for nine figures to Comcast. When Paul was at Beeswax, he, they were having trouble closing deals, and their sales cycle was very long and they couldn’t necessarily figure out like, who are the best customers like we know we’re, we’re, they had great awareness. They had a great CEO Ari Paparo who’s getting tons of attention. So they had a lot of big brands and agencies coming through the door, but they couldn’t figure out within that set of brands and agencies whom should we really be speaking to, to accelerate deals and you know, forge happier customer relationships. And what Paul figured out was that their most successful clients were what he called control freaks. And this was a great term, because like many marketing innovations, as you can probably survive, it actually turns away the majority of potential customers, right, because if you say, like, We are the ad buying platform for control freaks, tons of buyers are gonna see that they’re gonna be like, I’m not a control freak, right? Like, they might almost be offended by it. And they’re like, clearly I don’t want to work with this company. But the 20%, or whatever it is, of the buying population, who, with whom that did resonate. They loved it, it clarified the proposition to them, they were like, This is the DSP for me in an extremely crowded and commoditized market. And they, you know, grew revenue very quickly on the basis of that intuition.

Christian Klepp  18:25

Great explanation. Thanks for that. And that’s a beautiful segue into the next question. And we’re gonna stay on this topic a little bit about: Well, for you, it might seem painfully obvious, but like, the importance of conducting research and having a deeper understanding of your target audience, to get the brand narrative, right, because you and I have probably both seen companies that didn’t get this part right.

Joe Zappa  21:20

Yeah, for sure. I think two things go into this. One is collecting the data or doing the research. And the other is having people on your team, whether it’s in house or at an agency, who can analyze it and package it for the market. So let me return to the Adalytics example. You know, they put out these extremely rich and rigorous thought leadership reports, like 200 Page reports on for example, the YouTube Advertising made for kids situation. And I spoke to Krzysztof, the CEO. And I was like, you know, Krzysztof is a PhD. He did, he was a computational biologist. And I was like, you know, do you need a tons of companies would love to produce thought leadership that is this rich and rigorous, and they would love to get the attention of the New York Times and other publications. But they’re probably wondering, you know, is Adalytics only able to do this, because they have a Cambridge trained computational biologist, as their CEO. And he has a network of, you know, PhDs and serious data scientists who can pour over this data. And Krzysztof actually said no, like you don’t necessarily need an MIT scientists to be pouring over your data, what he and I settled on is that you do need three things. You need exclusive data, and research. So you need to look at what your own clients are doing. If it’s quantitative data, that’s great. But it also might be qualitative, like, it might just be a survey. You take that original data, you look at them you say, what are the surprising patterns, and then you take those patterns to a brain trust, of, say, 5 to 10 people could be customers, industry experts, and you say, is, is this unusual pattern that we’ve detected actually worth sharing with the market. Like if you sell to CMOs at big brands, you want to be thinking, would this pattern or an analysis of this pattern we’re seeing in our customer data, help big brands, CMOs do their jobs better. And if it would, then that’s worth diving into, which then gets to the you’ve got to analyze it piece, which is probably a combination of data oriented people, especially if it’s quantitative data. And then marketers who know how to take that analysis and package it so that the 99% of people who are not going to pour over a super long research report or even the white paper can appreciate it. So I think it’s those three things is the exclusive data or insights, ability to analyze and ability to package and distribute.

Christian Klepp  24:13

Pretty much, pretty much. I mean, like even with some of the research we’ve conducted, it does boil down to exactly those things that you said, and especially, and I’m sure you’ve done this more times than you care to count,  sitting in a meeting with the board of directors or senior management. These are people that are pressed by time anyway. So they genuinely just want you to get to the point and tell them, tell them what it is that the data is telling you that they should be aware of.

Joe Zappa  24:43

Yep, exactly. And that’s where, you know, even something like Krzysztof’s super technical, that’s where they appreciate marketers because that’s where we come in.

Christian Klepp  24:52

Yep. yep, absolutely. Absolutely. Okay. And you’ve probably seen a lot of things out there, but if you could summarize how has the B2B MarTech landscape changed from your perspective? And so that’s the first question. And the second question is, how should the brand narrative that B2B companies tell be adjusted, reflect that change?

Joe Zappa  25:15

Well, there’s some changes in the industry. And then there are changes in the way that information gets distributed. I was talking to a second time MarTech founder the other day. And what he was saying was that, you know, when he was building his last company, 5 to 10 years ago, it was really the golden age of performance marketing, where like, you could figure out, you know, Facebook, especially if it’s a cheap SaaS tool, you could figure out Facebook, or Instagram, or whatever it is, and just crush it on that platform. And you could grow to, you know, eight figures in revenue solely on the basis of that, it’s just gotten harder, like, everyone has figured out that how useful like not just social advertising, but also organic social is, and with third party data deprecation, with the cookies going away, and mobile identifiers going away, like ad targeting is getting harder. So it’s no longer the case that you can just crush it at one platform or one marketing tactic and grow on the basis of that. So the result is that you need to have what this guy, Aaron Weiche of Leadferno, called a tentacle approach. Like, you’re probably going to do like, five plus things. And the key, especially in the beginning, is just to focus on like what you’re good at and go from there. Because that’s the path of least resistance. So that’s the first thing is like, if you’re a founder, you’re a small marketing team. And you’re great at storytelling, you love writing good, go, do you know, organic, social, or write on the blog or whatever. If paid ads is your thing. Maybe that’s where you’re going to try earlier on, though, like the economics that are harder for early stage companies. But that’s the first thing in terms of how the information environment has evolved. In terms of the actual market of technologies, I think, like they’re over 10,000, I think over 11,000 MarTech tools now. It’s just like, very commoditized, anything you’re doing like someone else is doing. And that just speaks to the importance of what we’re talking about here, which is, you need to find ways to differentiate, what would you say?

Christian Klepp  27:29

Yeah, absolutely. Differentiate and stand out. For sure, for sure. I mean, maybe my answer is going to be a bit biased, because I’m a branding guy, too. So of course, I’m gonna say, yes, absolutely, you should do that. But on another level, and I think you’ve alluded to it previously, coming up with that idea that will resonate with customers, you know, being part of this movement. But I think it’s also, you know, beyond the product, it’s also the overall experience that your company and your brand hopes to deliver to said customer. Because we all know that it’s more than just the product and the features, right? There’s many companies out there that are selling, I wouldn’t say exactly the same product, but it comes pretty close. Right? But what differentiates your company from the others, and especially if you’re, you’re answering an RFP, and you’re up for like, like a contract renewal, and the buying group is reviewing contracts or proposals even right, so what would make you stand out? Right? And on that note, on the topic of tools, Joe, I’m gonna throw this at you. And I don’t think it’s a controversial question at all, because I think it’s everybody’s dealing with it these days. How has AI and machine learning and all these types of tools impacted the brand narrative landscape and B2B?

Joe Zappa  28:53

Yeah, first, I just want to say I think your take on how MarTech has evolved is great. I saw a tweet the other day that a lot of people were commenting on that said, essentially, SaaS is dead, which was, you know, a polemical way to put it, but what they meant was that you can’t get away with no service anymore. Like it’s too competitive. So yeah, like your software can be great. And it should be easy to use and all that stuff we learned from like the SaaS era, but also you’re going to need some level of service and like human touch, and marketing can also help with that right by humanizing the brand. And especially, I think that’s where founder brands can be very impactful is like getting in getting the company out there. But as for ChatGPT and generative AI I think the amount of attention ChatGPT and generative AI have gotten this year has actually been outsized. I think that ChatGPT as exactly as you said is a tool. It is a useful tool, it will allow you to pump out basic content quickly. It also as good for research and inspiration, for example, if you have a writer who’s never written about a topic, you could say, hey, like to get like a basic education on this topic put into ChatGPT, you know, write a blog post about X, like for Y. And that will probably do a pretty good job of priming the writer on that topic. And then if you’re an expert or someone else in the network is an expert, they can sort of fill in the gaps. But the problem with ChatGPT is that it’s drawing on everything else that’s out there. So it’s necessarily commoditize content. And we just were talking about how really the point of content is to do more than that, right? Like, we are not in the era anymore, where you’re going to win by just doing like, you know, we’re a CTV advertising company, and we’re just going to do blog posts, like, what is CTV advertising? Right? Like SEO is still valuable, but it’s not SEO like that. So yeah, by all means, like use ChatGPT, or similar tools for efficiency, or to do first drafts or whatever it is, but you’re going to need to tailor it to your specific brand and your customers and what makes you different for it to be fully effective.

Christian Klepp  31:11

Absolutely, absolutely. And I mean, you know, I’ve, I’ve given like, like many others, like, I’ve given ChatGPT a whirl and I do find that it produces very well, it’s vanilla content, essentially, right? Because it’s aggregating, it’s aggregating all this data that it finds online was, you know, probably a content piece that was written by somebody else, like a while back. And it does have its limitations, as you well know, because there is a time there’s a time limit in terms of like, the month and the year, like it could it can aggregate data up to a certain period. And that’s it.

Joe Zappa  31:42

Yeah, I mean, that’s another limitation, of course, is that it won’t be as accurate as a skilled human writer, and it won’t be as up to date. Correct?

Christian Klepp  31:51

Correct. Okay, Joe. So a big part of the show is talking about actionable tips. And so give us something actionable here, but I’m gonna throw in this caveat. And let’s appreciate that not everything that you do can be done in a day. Right? But if there are folks out there listening to this conversation that you and I are having, what are some immediate steps that they can take right now to craft a better brand narrative?

Joe Zappa  32:18

I think following that process that I laid out before, would be hugely impactful for most brands. So like, let’s say you’re a marketer, you’re listening to this. At some point, you probably did that strategic work for your company of figuring out who are we? Who do we want to be? Where are we going to go? and then interviewing customers and finding out who do they think we are, what resonates with them, and synthesizing that into a brand narrative. If it’s been, you know, a year or more, since you did that, or if you never did it, and you don’t have the answers down on paper, it’s time to re up because the market evolves and your customers perceptions of you evolve, and you have new competitors. By doing that process of figuring out who you are, who your customers think you are, where the industry is heading, and articulating the synthesis of that. You can create content that better resonates with your customers, get their attention, get them in the funnel and ultimately create sales opportunities. And that’s what we’re in the business doing.

Christian Klepp  33:22

Absolutely, absolutely. And on that note, I’m curious to know, Joe, and I know it depends on the company and the vertical. But how often do you recommend clients going through this exercise of reviewing their brand narrative and possibly updating it? How often should they do that?

Joe Zappa  33:40

I think once a year, which is just like, if you just did it a year ago, and you did it thoroughly, you might discover that you don’t need to iterate a ton, but I think it’s worth taking the time once a year to say, Okay, this is what we came up with last year. Is this still true? Have we released new products that change it significantly have our has our customer base change? And what do our customers say? Because I think things internally sometimes don’t change so much. But the way your customers view you may have changed. So that’s where I’m checking in on.

Christian Klepp  34:14

Yeah, no, that’s absolutely right. That’s absolutely right. Okay. Get up on your soapbox here. What is the status quo on the topic of brand narrative that you passionately disagree with? And why?

Joe Zappa  34:28

I think the status quo is a lack of action, actually, I think like the biggest problem is that a lot of B2B tech companies struggle to invest in any form of marketing that cannot easily be measured on a dashboard, which is totally understandable especially in the current economic environment. But if you you are only investing in things that can be easily measured, like performance advertising, or maybe even SEO, let’s say, you’re just missing out on a ton of conversations that you could be having with your customers on, you know, on social, via media sites and influencers and podcasts. There’s just like, your customers are online. They’re having conversations about your industry every day. And tons of B2B tech companies are just missing out on the opportunity to have those conversations and then not just to have them, but to have them in a very systematic way that reinforces an agreed upon brand narrative. And that moves people down the funnel. And I think, undergoing that strategic work of figuring out, what is the narrative? How are we going to reinforce that narrative across the channels where our customers spend their time? And then how are we going to measure the impact of that those activities? Those are basically the three components of marketing strategy? And, you know, don’t miss out on them.

Christian Klepp  36:15

Absolutely, absolutely. And I have one last follow up question for you, I promise. I’m sure you deal with this every now and then I know I have… how do you get folks in the B2B MarTech space to buy in to the importance of a brand narrative? Because every now and then, as I said, I hear this from people, I have conversations with them, they’re like, well, Christian, that’s all well and good. But that sounds like more of a nice to have rather than a must have. And so they don’t really see the importance of it, partly because they don’t quite understand what you’ve alluded to the amount of work that actually goes into it. But yeah, over to you.

Joe Zappa  36:57

Yeah, to be honest, usually, it’s companies that are struggling with some form of stagnation, that do buy into this. So like, we have two personas of customers, we have customers who want like tactical content support. And then we have more strategic customers who want this like strategic exercise and want to figure out what they’re really about and how that’s going to inform all their content and where they’re gonna put that content. And generally, the customers who fit persona to who want the strategic help, they might have just fired a CMO, or they’ve been stuck at a certain revenue level for longer than they want to, and they don’t understand how to break through, or they’re having trouble with the sales velocity thing that I mentioned earlier. It’s usually from that kind of holistic commercial pain, that the desire to invest in a new marketing vision comes.

Christian Klepp  37:52

Yeah, no, I 100% agree with that. If they don’t feel that the pain is too great, they’re never gonna buy into it. Fantastic. Joe. Thank you so much for coming on and for sharing your expertise and experience with the listeners. So please quick, introduce yourself and how people out there can get in touch with you.

Joe Zappa  38:10

Yeah, please find me either at podcast@sharppenmedia.com. Or you can look for Joe Zappa on LinkedIn founder and CEO of Sharp Pen Media, and I’m sure you’ll find me easily. Thanks so much.

Christian Klepp  38:24

Fantastic. So Joel, once again, thanks for your time. Take care. Stay safe and talk to you soon.

Joe Zappa  38:29

Thanks, Christian. Great to be here.

Christian Klepp  38:32

Bye for now.


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