May 4, 2022 / Marjoram
Imagine that feeling in the pit of your stomach when a pitch you’ve sunk considerable time and resources into has just crashed and burned. Maybe you don’t have to imagine. If you’ve been a part of a marketing pitch gone wrong, you remember the experience viscerally.
The reason a lot of product marketing strategies fail to pass approval isn’t because they’re bad ideas. In many cases, it’s because they’re presented to internal decision makers in less-than-optimal ways.
The fastest way to earn buy-in from product stakeholders is by bringing your campaign concepts to life. You need to deliver a polished, comprehensive presentation of your campaign idea, replete with all the visual design elements necessary to take your concept from abstract to real. Product stakeholders are typically literal-minded people. They favor tangible, detail-oriented perspectives and have trouble visualizing abstract, creative ideas. Expecting this audience to grasp a creative concept from a simple messaging framework is an unreasonable ask.
In other words, you need to help them see your concept clearly by showing them.
Getting Approvals Wrong
A large amount of effort goes into creating B2B marketing campaigns. The process is labor- and resource-intensive, with high stakes.
Internal marketing teams spend weeks fleshing out campaign concepts. Unfortunately, not all ideas are created equal, and approval is never guaranteed. Some ideas are just plain bad. But in most cases, the concepts are fine (maybe even great) — it’s the strategy and execution that are wrong. Many presentations that struggle to win over executive decision-makers feature similar flaws:
- They neglect to convey a cohesive campaign idea that can be applied to a diverse customer base (made up of sometimes divergent audiences), and
- They do little to help the approval team visualize creative concepts
Why do internal product marketing teams struggle with these issues? In many cases, it’s due to a lack of available or effective creative help. A failure to invest in the required time, resources and energy prevents many B2B marketers from taking their campaigns ideas to the next step.
Lack of Creative Muscle
Product marketing teams constantly worry about turning out effective product messaging. But messaging is much more effective when paired with the right visual elements.
As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Unfortunately, creative help is not always readily available to product marketing teams to provide that picture. Corporate creative shops are frequently booked out months in advance and cannot be relied on to provide timely assistance. Without that creative support, product teams lack the confidence and vision to translate their campaign concepts into visually captivating narratives.
Effective product messaging can be captured in a messaging framework — often documented in a spreadsheet. But this is not the best way to capture the attention and win the support of product stakeholders.
Faced with a dry messaging document and no visual elements to drive the story forward, approval decision-makers have a predictable (and unhelpful) response: They start picking the messaging apart, showing the different ways it can’t work. Even if the concept does eventually pass approval, with no creative glue holding it together, campaign elements often end up looking disconnected and visually distinct from each other.
Outside Agencies Don’t Always Do Better
The lack of available internal creative help — the right resources, expertise and mindset — is why product marketing teams look to outside agencies for help. Unfortunately, this doesn’t automatically lead to better results.
Many agencies excel at campaign ideation and message concepting work, but many also struggle to extend their creative ideas to the visual language and narrative of the brand. For example, an agency might be brought in for a day-long information gathering workshop. The workshop involves the right people and covers the right topics, but still fails to produce one actionable campaign concept. Why?
In many cases, these agencies place too much value on the novelty of their concept and too little on the fit with the brand, the product, or the audience.
Planning for Product Campaign Approval from the Get-Go
Whether you tackle product messaging concepting on your own, or bring in creative agencies, your pitch should include two critical elements:
- A complete visual mockup of the creative concept, and
- A consistent story to explain how the concept fits into the brand narrative and connects to key audiences
It’s imperative to tie your concept to a complete, cohesive campaign idea. If you want to arrive at a go-to-market strategy that’s consistent across every audience and channel, you must set the stage for it from the beginning. It must feel easy to replicate and implement.
Tailor Campaign Concept Presentations
There is a formula for success to deliver the information product stakeholders look for in a relatable and easily digestible way. Following this process increases your chances of approval and quickly moves your projects from concept to active campaigns.
That formula favors in-depth information sessions with key product stakeholders at the outset of the process. This helps to establish trust in the critical opening portion of your pitch.
1. Reflect Understanding of the Brand and Audiences
The best way to avoid Monday morning quarterbacking by the approval committee — concept death by a thousand edits — is to earn buy-in right away. After all, who wants all their hard work to be left on the editing floor? You achieve this approval by reflecting the committee’s words back to them, which establishes your understanding of the brand and the product’s diverse set of audiences. This makes it more difficult for your product experts to argue with themselves and helps communicate that you’ve been listening to what’s important to your product’s stakeholders.
2. Introduce the Campaign Concept
Present your main idea and extend it to the product’s various audiences via a messaging framework. This is where the use of the framework (spreadsheet) is appropriate. Just be sure to leverage this tool in the right way. In framing the messaging, walk your stakeholders through the inputs, challenges, and your rationale and recommendations. Get through this information quickly and succinctly to minimize your internal audience’s instinct to nitpick. If you have to, ask them to hold their questions until after this next step.
3. Show a Polished Visual Mock-up
Showing the decision makers what your concept looks like in real life — after walking them through the product messaging strategy — resolves many of the questions that might have been bubbling up. Your visual mockup can be anything — a digital ad, a landing page, a billboard or a display wall for a trade show — whatever is appropriate for the proof of concept in relation to campaign tactics. Creating these items validates the concept and pressure tests the main campaign theme against multiple audiences and applications, making it look easy to apply more broadly.
4. Apply the Concept to Showcase the Possibilities
Once you’ve established proof of concept, take it over the finish line by providing an actual roadmap easy enough for anyone to follow. Wrap up your pitch with examples (similar to blueprints) that can easily be interpreted by the internal resources who will be executing the campaigns.
A Stress-Free Product Campaign Approval Process
No one wants to see hard work go to waste. Give your internal decision makers the visual tools they need to see your ideas fully. Leveraging just the right amount of messaging and design expertise will lend your campaign presentations an air of confidence, authority, and effectiveness — and take the stress out of the campaign approval process.