Case Study: Positioning An Innovative Startup For Exit

I worked with a startup in the cross-device customer identity space. The company was under a new CTO and faced aggressive targets for raising revenue from its investors, which included Cisco Systems and Notion Capital. The ideal outcome for the company was likely to be an exit, as many of its competitors had been sold off in the last year.

The AdTech market is highly competitive and fragmented, and customers are loathe to integrate another piece of technology that will only cover a relatively small piece of the stack. Increasingly, they were seeing “cross-device tracking” as a feature, and not a product. This perception was heightened by the likes of Facebook and Google rolling out their own cross-device products.

We wanted to create an improved marketing message that would act as the blueprint for all future marketing materials, promotions and communications, and something that could be used internally as the foundation from which all marketing messages could be derived. These would include the main framework elements of messaging positioning markets and inputs (identification of the target market, description of the business challenges, description of how the offerings address the primary customer problems, specific differentiation against competitors, differentiated high level benefits delivered to customers), as well as a messaging platform (positioning strategy, value proposition statement, key messages by target audience, and elevator pitch).

To achieve this, we reviewed existing business plans, marketing materials and other related documentation, conducted secondary research to review competition, messaging, and market drivers, set up a series of customer research forums to provide rich insights on value proposition, perceived benefits and messaging that resonate with the customer as it relates to desired positioning.

We then facilitated a strategy workshop with key team members. This helped us to gain a better understanding of the strategy, solution and competitive differentiators, and conducted branding exercises to determine “who we want to be” in terms of tone, value proposition and messaging.

We then drafted a positioning and messaging framework document for review and approval. These key messages were tested with customers through our channel sales team and customer forums. We then delivered a framework that included key messages by target audiences, recommended positioning and elevator pitch.

This was a six stage process where we:

  • Reviewed existing marketing material and collateral
  • Reviewed competitive messaging and positioning
  • Conducted research (Surveymonkey, focus groups, analyst reports)
  • Conducted an internal messaging workshop
  • Developed messaging and positioning
  • Tested messaging

This helped us to ensure that positioning and messaging addresses customer pain points and what customers want, minimizes the risk associated with internal stakeholders “guessing” at the compelling messaging, tapped into how actual buyers that are going to purchase the product or service, helped us learn what we don’t know that we don’t know, helped uncover competitive differentiators in the eye of the customer, allowed the company to “speak” to the customer in a way they understand and generate excitement and interest from prospective customers, allowed the company to help determine whether or not the “who company wants to be” matches the market perception, and used trained moderators to say what they might not tell you themselves. From this we produced a defensible market positioning that led to the company being acquired by its largest customer nine months later.