Client research and insight to articulate the cxpartners brand story and fuel sales conversations
Marketing insight and storytelling for this independent consultancy firm
Project dates: June to September 2018
A Valuable Content Customer Story
cxpartners’ founding partner and CEO Giles Colborne wanted to capture the message at the heart of all they do, in a way that would resonate with clients, prospects and staff. But how?
Here’s the approach we took to help cxpartners uncover and articulate their brand story, putting their new website and marketing drive on firm foundations and opening up valuable sales conversations.
How this project started
cxpartners is a fast-growing digital consultancy firm, with clients all over the world. They’re a brilliant Bristol success story – founded in our home city, now helping the world’s best companies to reimagine their products and services and become ever more customer-centred.
We’ve long been fans of cxpartners. The founders’ books are on our shelf and we know and rate a lot of their consultants. So when the call came in from CEO Giles Colborne we jumped at the opportunity to help.
Their challenge? Like many firms, they struggle to tell their story consistently in a way that really captures who they are and what they stand for. This makes it harder to connect with the type of clients and consultants they’re looking to attract.
With a website refresh looming and a new marketing director arriving in a few months time, this brand positioning exercise was vital to get right but articulating the message at the heart of all they do was tying them in knots. Outside assistance was badly needed!
“When you’re inside a company, trying to articulate who you are is a real challenge. It’s so easy to lose sight of the customer, even if you’re in touch with customers every day. Even though that’s what we help our clients with, we needed some objective advice.”
– Giles Colborne, CEO of cxpartners
Founders Giles and Richard knew that if they could get this foundation story cracked it would help them differentiate, put their marketing and content strategy on firm foundations, and get the word out more widely to drive future expansion. But what was it they wanted to say to the world? That was the challenge we set out to help solve.
“We were looking at our sales and marketing strategy and we realised that what we needed to do was to create better content in order to drive customer conversations. There was no point in talking to people if we didn’t have anything to talk to them about. So what was our message and story? That’s where we needed to start.”
Conversations with clients to help cxpartners find the right story
The best way to begin to uncover an authentic brand story is through conversations. Not just with the founders, sales and client leads (although this is of critical importance), but also with clients that know you well.
External research is one of the most useful exercises you can undertake to ensure you are creating a message and content that connects with your intended audience. The aim is an outward-focused brand with warmth, relevance and empathy. A meaningful message is not something you can conjure up in a boardroom. The story is out there. You need to go on a quest outside your company and listen hard to your customers, testing ideas using evidence from research, not assumption. What story are they telling about what you do? How does this connect with their world? What value do you deliver, in their words?
cxpartners immediately understood the value of our research-based, customer-centred approach – it’s how they approach their projects too. All their work begins with a deep understanding the customer point of view.
“Being a user-centred, ‘people first’ organisation, we are working with our clients to help them align themselves more closely with their customers. It all starts with really understanding your customer, and we wanted to follow that same process. To differentiate yourself you really have to understand which differences your customers value.”
So having run story discovery workshops with the cxpartners team we set out to interview a selection of their best clients and contacts. From experience we know that telephone interviews work best in terms of eliciting useful feedback, and they take up less client time too.
We transcribed each call verbatim, with full transcripts for the cxpartners team, and then set about analysing and compiling the valuable insights gleaned.
From insight to action:
Research -> Insight -> Messaging -> Web copy -> Action
Using the insights from the research with clients and the team allowed us to reimagine and rewrite the cxpartners story.
We delivered detailed recommendations and copy that laid out:
- A clear picture of the ideal cxpartners client and their challenge, desires and needs.
- Web-ready copy for the Homepage and About section of the website to describe who they are and what they do.
- A new and warmer tone of voice for their website and marketing.
- A manifesto to communicate the beliefs behind the business.
- Recommendations for the website design, visual tone and content hierarchy and structure to reflect the brand.
- Recommendations for valuable content to help educate clients and pull in prospects.
- Feedback on how to package their products and services in a customer-focused, jargon free way.
- A more natural way to talk about cxpartners in customer conversations or sales situations.
- Client case studies and high impact testimonials to evidence this story.
“We’ve struggled to articulate what it is that we do. We’d struggled to package what we do in a way that is interesting and attractive to market. The client interviews married up what we do with how our clients see us – their words and testimonials. And this has enabled us to productise our offering a little bit in a way that’s client centred.”
Outcomes for cxpartners
This work has given cxpartners a customer-focused proposition, an emotive brand narrative and more people-focused website, with new case studies that communicate that story. The team is clearer on how to articulate what they do in a way that connects and differentiates.
Early benefits include better sales conversations and inbound enquiries, a renewed sense of confidence, mission and purpose in the team and a wider desire to contribute to the marketing effort.
“The work with Valuable Content enables us to talk about ourselves in a much more audience, client centred way. It’s a very different language and much more appealing to those people we’re trying to target.
The client feedback interviews are hugely valuable and will help us shape our stories moving forward. We now have a strong, unique offering and a narrative and a new focus for our content marketing strategy. There is a keen appetite across the business to develop blogs and content.”
– Sarah Newman, Marketing Director, cxpartners
The foundations are set for an exciting new way of talking about and marketing cxpartners to the world.
“The best day I’ve had at work this year was sitting down with all of the transcripts and going through them, creating a ‘key quotes’ document that we can use in pitches and client conversations. Each of the transcripts is valuable and helpful. But being able to pull out those key quotes is really powerful.
It’s all been really valuable in helping us tell our story. Hearing our clients say, ‘this is what we value about you, this is why it’s valuable’ has been tremendously important to us in improving our level of self-confidence.
We’ve always known we can do a really good job and we’ve always known that we do great work. I think having senior clients saying ‘this is a really important thing; this is why there’s always going to be a place for an organisation like you; this is what the secret sauce is’ is amazing.
Valuable Content has provided a far better articulation of our story than we could have on our own. We’d have always been looking over our shoulder, looking at our competitors, thinking ‘what would they say?’
I think being able to say to a client ‘our customers tell us we’re amazing at collaboration’ is far better than ‘we’re collaborators.’ Everybody says they’re collaborators. Our customers saying we’re like this, saying our work takes them to new heights, shows them ways of working that they didn’t understand – now, that’s strong, that’s powerful.
Of course, this has all played into our overall website redesign as well. It’s solved communications problems there. It’s helped us sharpen the way we talk about our proposition on the website.
This has turned out to be not a copywriting task, it’s turned out to be an understanding ourselves task.
Sonja and Sharon are smart, strategic communicators who will hold up a mirror to your organisation and help you understand who you really are.”
Lessons for other businesses
What can you take from this customer-focused approach to brand storytelling and marketing?
- The story comes first. This is the starting point if you’re looking at a new brand or website project – put your marketing on firm foundations by getting clear on what to say.
- Ask your best clients for feedback. This will help you crack the eternal ‘who are we, what’s our value?’ challenge. They’ll come up with the gold (and asking them for feedback forges deeper relationships).
- Involve the team from the start if you want the new brand to stick. How do they describe you now? What challenges and opportunities do they see? Playback the client feedback. Talk about it. Conversations fuel change.
- Share the story behind what you do. Why you do what you do and how you got started. Real-life stories are compelling.
- Make your client and customer the hero. On your website, throughout your marketing, in your case studies. A very different tone of voice.
- Focus on what to say on your website. Copy and content is a practical application of all this research and thinking – what will you say, where, when and how will you connect.
- Get an outside view to give you clarity. It’s so hard to see clearly when you’re inside the vortex of your own business. An outside expert will help you identify the patterns and communicate the important stuff with impact.