Our Chairman Dave Webster is a memorable character. You’re never far away from a bold statement, a fascinating anecdote, or a bit of banter. But one thing is for sure with Dave – spend more than five minutes with him and you’ll quickly discover that one of his biggest passions at work is marketing. He’ll be the first to say he’s never studied marketing before, but he’s also the first to say how crucial it is to his company.
In my short but extremely eventful (and outrageously fun) tenure with the company, I’ve quickly learnt that the four company leaders – the three Webster family directors and Natalie, our CEO – have strong business instincts. Some of those instincts you just can’t ever learn in a book, you either have ‘it’, or you don’t. Those instincts have put brand and marketing at the forefront of their business from the days of the family working out of a box room above a shop to the global enterprise we are part of today.
They’ve instilled some important information very early on that will be music to every marketeer’s ears: we (the company) focus on brand to sell our business, not the product. We celebrate the people doing the work, not the work itself. We tell stories, we don’t make pitches. If we get the message right, the business will come organically.
It’s a bold move in a solidly B2B environment, working with some very corporate industries, but hey, these guys never did anything safe in their lives. They insisted on sticking their neck out, doing it differently, and being authentic, whether they were getting it right or wrong. It’s a marketeer’s dream. And it’s working.
(Dave Webster & his two sons, Curtis and Jake)
Navigating digital marketing in a growth company
I’ve worked in companies of twenty people and twenty thousand people, and it’s safe to say I’ve never worked anywhere that touches every single corner of marketing there is to touch, the way this company does.
Since joining the Seventy Ninth Group, I’ve had to review and reposition our entire digital strategy to allow our social media manager and our digital agency to have a holistic approach to our growing digital comms. Many companies make the mistake these days of thinking that a Facebook and Instagram page will cover your audience engagement. For a large part, they often do, if you’re happy to maintain what you’ve got, or if your business is booming enough in other areas that your audience grows in spite of you.
But if you truly want to leverage your momentum, you must be looking at the full digital picture: SEO, data/performance, CRM, web, blog, video, audio, paid media – I could go on. Anyway, if it exists, we’re looking at it, and to be successful (and not slowly lose the plot) you have to invest in a strategy that supports such a dynamic, fluid and volatile content output.
So digital was now mostly covered – as much as digital can ever truly be covered in its never-ending, never-finished form – and we had PR resources, but I needed something to pin it all together.
So, again, I was very lucky in my first few days joining this immeasurably fast-growing company to discover that I had almost a free reign on identifying, defining, and building the marketing team. Aside from building up our graphic design resources, as we produce a LOT of literature if anyone wants it, and getting to grips with our digital reach, I knew I needed a brand manager.
(The Websters with TV Presenter, Kate McIntyre, when she visited their UK HQ to film for an upcoming project)
The importance of brand in marketing
I read a report on LinkedIn recently that pitted marketing and brand against each other and explained the differences between the approaches as though they were on some sort of opposing line of thought. It struck me as odd because I’ve always seen brand as a core segment of marketing, intrinsically linked in the process – the strategic front end of creative, design and copy. I see marketing more broadly and collectively as building blocks on the business foundations – the business strategy informing the marketing strategy which in turn informs many areas including brand, digital, PR, events, and so on.
We know brand is crucial because it confirms a company’s external identity: its positioning in its industry and amongst its peers, its values and of course its tone of voice. A constantly evolving personality which influences all communications. And with digital becoming the uncontrollable beast it is these days, brand’s role as the anchor that protects consistency, continuity and clarity is becoming more and more essential.
Everyone has their own perspective on marketing’s function, and it can take on infinite different guises, but I think we can all agree that the role of brand in the B2B buying decision has increased significantly in recent years, particularly in a crowded or competitive market – the need to stand out is paramount. It used to be said that a brand has a 5% influence on B2B buying decisions, but B2B international’s 2019 ‘State of B2B’ study₁ found that having a strong emotional connection with a brand accounts for 56% of the final B2B purchase decision.
A recent study from WSJ intelligence² about the top factors driving B2B buying decisions revealed how emotional connections – particularly those feelings of trust and confidence – played a significant role in B2B buying decisions. Business news and trade media were seen as highly trustworthy sources of information about brands, as well as brand websites and social media platforms. It’s not just consumer marketing that hits these spaces anymore – wherever your business lives, you need to ensure you exist across multiple touchpoints. The team here understands this because everything we say and do puts brand first, before any of the detail and information. It’s engrained in this business, and I just inherited their philosophy. Again – business instincts.
Why you should invest in marketing during a crisis
I don’t have to remind anyone that we’re currently experiencing a cost-of-living crisis and going through a global recession. And in these circumstances a lot of businesses look for ways to reduce spend and tighten their budgets, with marketing often being one of the first things to go as many see it as non-essential. But the Seventy Ninth Group actually does the opposite. They’re investing in content and brand awareness as a way of protecting the growth of the business, enabling us to communicate harder and better with our existing and new audiences, reaffirm our message and keep the brand fresh and present.
Forbes³ says that those companies who continue to invest in marketing during a downturn actually come out better in the long run. Recessions are often short-lived and followed by long periods of growth, so those that continue steadily with their marketing often benefit further when things pick back up. At a time where many businesses are acting cautiously and reducing marketing spend, those that continue to invest in marketing and develop strategies to effectively tackle it are the ones who reap the rewards.
Companies that survived the dotcom bust and the Great Recession went on to become some of the largest and wealthiest companies in history, including the likes of Facebook, Apple, Google and Amazon. During the 2008 credit crisis, companies that started to invest more in marketing during the crisis performed better in the post-crisis period and experienced an average growth in market share of 1.3% after the recession. This just shows that while all your competitors are cutting back, it presents opportunities for you to grow and increase your market share, so investing in marketing at these times is absolutely essential.
As a growing business, this company truly understands the importance of marketing and they have no intention of slowing down or cutting budgets. The Seventy Ninth Group has the most incredible ambitions and they’re well aware of marketing’s role in helping them achieve these goals. It’s growing so fast that you spend most of the time updating facts and figures. Five-year plans? Try quarterly and hope for the best. But I never stress, because I’m working with people day in day out who recognise, support and champion marketing and the role of the brand within it. I’m the luckiest CMO I know.