What if your brand could be the battle cry, the rallypoint, the symbolic meeting place for your customers?
What if your brand could transform your audience into a community of participants?
That’s exactly what InVision has remarkably accomplished. Their cutting-edge design studio allows users unprecedented creativity. But that’s just the surface.
InVision’s real weapon is the brand they’ve created. Their users aren’t customers—they’re fanatics.
InVision has tapped into the power of community, created an “us” mentality among designers, where each feels heard and listened to and has a stage to share his or her thoughts on.
InVision hasn’t just provided solutions: they’ve understood the problem. They’ve created an elevated surface for their customers to have and share a voice. The InVision brand has built a platform.
Here’s what that means for you.
Today’s Big Idea: Become a Platform—Not Just a Solution
All of us in B2B know we live in a world of stiff product competition.
Building an amazing product is essential to any good B2B business. But our #Exceptions podcast series isn’t about how to have a good brand. It’s about how to be the exception.
To take your brand from good to exceptional, your brand has to transcend your product. Instead of thinking product first, you need to be ruthlessly customer centric; you need to become a platform.
To be clear, I’m not simply talking about creating a solution and opening your API to developers. That sort of platform may be the type of product your company delivers, but I’m talking about something fundamentally different altogether. I’m using Webster’s definition of platform: “A raised level surface on which things or people can stand.”
Don’t underestimate the importance of problem.
Every B2B business exists to solve problems for customers. Tactically, this could take on varying forms.
InVision has a blog where they invite others outside of their company to contribute. They also created a design documentary exclusively for designers. The goal of the documentary was not product promotion. It was simply to give a voice to those within the design industry.
Your goal in becoming a platform is to elevate the entire industry, not just yourself. Fight on behalf of customers. Fix what you can. Invite others to contribute as complementary players.
Remember, the point isn’t to profess to have all the answers. It’s to be a platform, because an exceptional B2B brand is an active participant in their community, championing the problems within the industry.
Ask yourself: Are you more than just a solutions provider or a vendor? Are you a platform for your audience, for their career aspirations, their pains, their companies? Do you constantly and loudly articulate that you understand them, that you are them, and that you will work to elevate them?
Become a platform.
3 Questions to Help You Build Your Brand
Question #1: Do You Love to Hate Stuff?
Let’s be crystal clear: I’m not talking about being pessimistic or cynical. Be optimistic, and be supportive. But the path to this optimism and support is through calling out the problem.
Think about PMs. Many people believe great PMs are phenomenal solutions providers. But that’s not true: What makes a PM great is their unique ability to constantly call out the problem.
Great PMs aren’t just owning solutions; they’re owning problems. They intimately and truly understand the issues of their position and their department better than anyone.
Exceptional B2B marketers are the same. They understand the problems of their industry better than anyone else, and they passionately and loudly call them out.
So, you have to fall in love with spotting problems and rallying others together to fight against them.
Do you love to hate stuff?
Question #2 Are You Finding Small, Recurring Pockets Within Your Projects to Build Community?
InVision does this phenomenally well by constantly sending out content with inside jokes only designers would truly understand. In fact, they have an editor-at-large who takes this on as one of her primary roles.
Another company who nails this aspect is SportsCenter on ESPN, with their “Top Plays Countdown”—10 different top moments of the day.
ESPN does it at the end of every SportsCenter episode. They use the same graphic, same intro music . . . you get the idea.
Essentially, it rallies people. Viewers look forward to it. They’re in on it, and it feels good. Why? Because if you watch SportsCenter, you look forward to the countdown because you are now part of something bigger than just yourself. You are in the community.
I try to do this in my newsletters. There’s an aside character that pops up in my emails named Larry.
Larry will consistently botch seemingly easy and routine marketing tasks, and I’ll call him out by saying, “Ah, damn it Larry!” Sure, this sounds cheesy, but it rallies other marketers around problems they’ve all faced.
It builds community.
Question #3 Are You Collecting Qualitative Feedback?
In today’s world, everyone is collecting quantitative feedback, and there are numbers on every demographic. That data is helpful, but does it capture the emotional aspect of what your audience is saying and feeling?
First off, what is data anyway? It’s simply information stored for future use. If you are not somehow capturing, collecting, and referencing the thoughts and ideas of your customers about your product, the industry, their problems, their joys, their experiences, you are completely missing it.
InVision takes this seriously. Before every marketing meeting, they begin by introducing quotes from their customers, their audience. This drives the meeting and re-centers what they are doing: building a platform for their community.
If your analytics tools don’t capture the emotions of your audience, collect this data yourself, or risk missing out on a thought from a community member that could spark the next big idea.