How We Use ABM to Target Competitors’ Customers [2 – Tech and Tools]

This is a series about a recent ABM challenge and campaign we had with a client. If you just landed here, I recommend you start with Part 1 where I explain the challenge, the ABM Framework and the process plan.

Building The ABM Target Account List and Tech Stack

Building the target account list is one of the most important foundations of a successful ABM campaign. There are different ways to achieve this. Using your CRM or popular data providers are the most common. In our project, since we were targeting customers of competing solutions, this was not enough. Our client’s CRM could not be the main source of target accounts as, while they may have accounts that overlap, it would not provide a comprehensive source of the customers of competitors. 

We also found that the most common data providers rarely had what we needed: In-depth technographics data. Technographics data is the analysis of the technology stack a company uses, and in our case, we were looking for Threat Identification and Access Management solutions. We had to check various data providers before we found one that had the data we were looking for. One last comment regarding using intent data to build account lists — yes, intent data is super important and there are some very good data providers for intent data (Bambora, to name one), but in our case this was not necessary since we were dealing with accounts that had a competing solution, and that was more than enough to establish intent.

Pro Tip: For targeting competing solutions, first identify a list of 5-6 competitors, and then start testing different technographics data providers. You should aim to have at least 800 accounts to target, with at least 2-3 roles in each account.

ABM Setup: How we Chose Our Tech Stack, Platforms and Tools

Each pillar requires different tools and services. Pillar 1 requires technographic and intent data tools for list building and accounts prioritization, paid media, and content syndication platforms (for target accounts outreach). Pillar 2 and 3 require data providers for leads enrichment, marketing automation, and SDR service (which, in some cases, have their own tools).

There are some highly advanced tools that will handle an ABM campaign end-to-end. Demandbase is one such solution, but after looking into it, we felt it is geared towards long-term campaigns and, hence, requires a high level of commitment and the need to rely on their paid media capabilities. So, it’s not right for every ABM campaign. In our case, as it was this company’s first ABM campaign, we decided it was too early to commit to.

We put lots of effort into finding the right technographic tools. Some solutions are able to provide insights only for major products and technologies of known brands like Salesforce, Microsoft and others. They fail when it comes to less common technologies — which are the majority. You should check and test each tool you’re considering, if the products and technologies you’re looking for are actually covered.

In our search to build the right tech stack, we found that some ABM platforms have a minimum ad-budget spend, which was too high for us and not needed in this campaign. Instead, we invested our budget in content syndication, where we believed we would get more and quicker exposure.

Pro Tip: In a campaign targeting competitors, make sure you check where your competitors spend their marketing budget — there are many tools that provide this kind of data. You should consider a similar approach to their channels to attract the same customers.


Interested in learning how we manage, qualify and monitor accounts? Stay tuned for Part 3

How We Use ABM to Target Competitors’ Customers [1 – intro]

Approaching the ABM Challenge

We received an intriguing challenge from one of our clients, a leading Threat Identification company — generate sales-qualified leads targeting the customers of our competitors. This was a dream project for us. We’ve done ABM campaigns in the past, but this one allowed us to hone our skills even further.

Since ABM is a term widely used, here’s how Forabilis defines it: ABM is account-based targeting for sales, focusing purely on accounts — not on individuals. To achieve this marketing and sales have to work closely together. Using ABM, we zone in on the quality of the accounts we target, instead of the traditional marketing approach which focuses on the number of leads. Essentially, what we try to do is to focus on accounts that have displayed interest in the solution category (in this case, through usage of competing solutions) rather than simply delivering MQLs.

Now, here’s what’s cool about targeting competitors’ accounts: These accounts have the budget, they know what they’re looking for in a solution, and what’s not working for them in the solution they are already using. So, they are well past the awareness phase. Because they are unique in that sense, we knew we had to rethink our channels, our messaging, and the content we serve them.

How We Look at the ABM Framework and Why

We look at ABM holistically, as a 3-Pillar process. It starts with marketing as the sole owner, then transitions to marketing playing the leading role while working with sales, and, finally, with marketing moving to support sales in their efforts to generate opportunities. Each phase is aimed at driving the accounts down the funnel. Each phase has its own goals, targets, tactics, and KPIs.

Sample ABM 3-Pillar Framework

Pro Tip: Shortcuts don’t work. While there is lots of pressure from management and from sales to deliver the accounts faster, and skip, for example, Pillar 2, your role as a marketing leader is to push back. Remember, you should deliver quality, not quantity. 

What an ABM Process Plan Looks Like

An ABM campaign takes a while to plan. We started with a short discovery process to be able to better define our target personas and target accounts, as well as understand the competition. We were looking for “hooks” that would enable us to create specific messaging, based on unique value compared to the competition. Together with the planning phase, we’re looking at 4-6 weeks.

Setting up Pillar 1 would take 4-6 weeks, and that would include finding the right tech stack for the project, building the account lists, defining the content and creating it. You need to run the awareness campaign, which is Pillar 1, for at least 12 weeks to get the results you need to move to Pillar 2. And while it’s running, in parallel, you can prepare for Pillar 2. The same goes for Pillar 3 — you prepare it while running Pillar 2. At some point, all three pillars run in parallel, with continuous optimization. Pending budget, of course.

General ABM Process Plan

#1 Discovery: Target audience, definition of target accounts, personas, messaging, marketing and sales content audit (2-3 weeks)

#2 Planning: Funnel, KPIs, channels, martech stack, tools, timeline and budget (2-3 weeks)

#3 Execution Pillar 1: Setup, execution and optimization (12 weeks)

#4 Execution Pillar 2: Setup, execution and optimization (*12 weeks)

#5 Execution Pillar 3: Setup, execution and optimization (*12 weeks)

#6 Campaign summary: Evaluation, post mortem

*Partially in parallel with previous phase

Pro Tip: Don’t be afraid to toss aside existing marketing and sales content for fresher, more appropriate content for each pillar. Remember, you have a highly targeted account list that has a competing solution already implemented. Tailor the content per the competition’s weak points. Tell them a new story, based on what they are lacking in their current solution.

Interested in learning how we built the target account list and the tech stack for an ABM campaign? Read on Part 2 

Every Startup’s Success Starts With The Right Messaging. Here’s How It’s Done

Let’s do a quick and dirty exercise: Go to your office’s kitchen. Wait for the first person on your team to come along. While he or she innocently make coffee, ask them:

What does our product do?

Then ask – if our customers buy and use our product, how do their lives change? What do we promise them?

Got your answers? Great. Now, repeat this process with two more people.

Our guess is that you got three different answers. Surprised? We’re not. It is very common, especially for startups, to have messaging misalignment. We have watched three co-founders, who have been sharing the same desk for over a year, wrestle with disbelief as they realize each of them is actually working in a completely different startup.

Reaching consistent messaging is difficult

The way you communicate about your product is critical to your success. Eventually it’s about sales and how you project your value to your potential customers. But there’s no way you can conquer marketing and sales without internalizing your messaging. Your team should be speaking in one succinct voice before they can project it. That voice is unique not only to your product, but to your company’s DNA. Achieving this voice, and having it shared across the company, is not easy, to say the least. In this article, we’d like to offer a methodology we developed that helps startups define messaging. It’s called the Messaging Hierarchy.

What is a Messaging Hierarchy?

Essentially, a Messaging Hierarchy is a method that helps crystallize the company’s positioning. The Messaging Hierarchy is the foundation for all content written – whether a website, a brochure, or a sales presentation. If you get the Messaging Hierarchy right, you have a document that supports any marketing or sales effort. It is your true north.

Here’s the structure – and an example – of a basic Messaging Hierarchy:

Why is it a hierarchy? The idea is that the more you move up the pyramid, components are more flexible and tend to change. At the bottom, there is the product or service description. In some cases, below the product description, there is a company description and the company’s values. But for startups, the product description is usually a good place to start.

What’s a good product description? Here’s one for a product most of us know well:

Cloud-based applications for sales, service, marketing, and more.

That is Salesforce’s product description, taken straight from the Salesforce website. The interesting thing is that this description hasn’t changed for years.While the product evolved tremendously, the core and purpose haven’t changed. That’s how you should strive to define your product. It sounds easy, but in truth – it rarely is.

Defining Your Value Proof

Next, you define your value proof. Value proof is what makes your customers trust you. For a startup in seed, this is a bit harder. But you can talk about the great team you’ve assembled, patents pending, or the testimonial from your design partner. You would use this section for all your marketing and sales. And don’t be shy.

Back to the Salesforce example, here’s what they say as their value proof:

The world’s #1 CRM platform with 150,000+ like-minded companies and a massive community of experts and evangelists committed to your company’s growth.

You can’t really argue with 150,000+ customers. If they trust them, you can too.

Finding Your Differentiator

Now, that’s a bit tricker. Startups, especially the more technological ones, tend to talk about product features instead of talking about a real differentiator. Ask yourself – what do I have that my competitors will have a hard time replicating? That’s why your customer will pick you over the competition. It’s rarely about the technology. It’s something that touches your customer’s pain or need.

Salesforce say: We don’t require IT experts to set up or manage.

Overtime we get to know our customers really well. And as we get to know them, we understand what troubles them – and how we can support them. And our answer to “why us?” may change. We should be able to convey the answer to where we are right now based on what we know.

The Elusive Value Proposition

So much has been talked about the term “value proposition.” We want to simplify what it means. The value proposition is your promise to your customers. It should essentially answer one question: If your customer uses your product, how would their lives change?

It’s a big question, and not lightly answered.

What the value proposition is NOT is a tagline.

Before everything else, it is a clear explanation for your reason to be. We help our customers discover new trails to success using the #1 CRM platform is how Salesforce project their value proposition in their marketing materials. Two years ago, it was:

We empower companies to connect to their customers in a whole new way. What made sense then, does not make sense today.

What the Messaging Hierarchy is and is not

It’s not copy – or it doesn’t have to be. It’s the documentation on which great copy can be developed.
It’s a marketing brief. Give it to anyone who writes for you, and you make their job easier and more effective.
It can be tailored and adjusted per product, or per persona. The initial work is just the basics.

And what’s most important: It should be created by your entire team – and then shared with them. It’s not a painless process, but it’s worth it. We’ve seen many startups thrive on their messaging hierarchy. Oh, and the right time to create it – was yesterday.

Need a hand getting started? We should meet.

When To Pivot

In the search for product-market fit, for a repeatable and scalable business model, for traction, start-ups need to be open to the option of a complete detour. Call it Plan B turning to be Plan A; Pivot; or a significant shift. Sometimes it is the only way.

Take Instagram, for example. Before Instagram launched in October 2010, the founders had built a location-based social network called Burbn. It was a very early example of a browser-based mobile app, developed using the then experimental new markup language HTML5. Instagram, based on Burbn, was mostly about mobile phone photos. That feature, uploading photos, turned out to be the most-used feature in Burbn. The location part proved to be a secondary appeal led the founders to the pivot: the creation of an iPhone app exclusively focused on photo-sharing.
And so, a $1 billion acquisition was actually based on Plan B. Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom explained at Disrupt 2010:
“I’ve heard that Plan A is never the product entrepreneurs actually end up with. I didn’t believe it…in many ways Burbn was getting a bunch of press, but it wasn’t taking off the way we thought it would. We found people loved posting pictures, and that photos the the thing that stuck. Mike, my co-founder, and I, sat down and thought about the one thing that made the product unique and interesting, and photos kept coming up”.

According to Eric Reis in “The Lean Startup”, a pivot is  defined as a “structured course correction designed to test a new fundamental hypothesis about the product, strategy, and engine of growth.” Other great examples of successful pivotsare flickr, YouTube, Twitter and Paypal. Each of these successful companies started as something else, and successfully shifted.

We were fortunate enough to be part of three start-ups and their pivots. The first one had to switch from a vision of a complex, expensive, and on-premise deployed product, to a lighter, consumer-facing, affordable online product. Six months into the process, the new product is getting real traction with investors and customers, in a way the old product never did. Another founder had to admit that there is no real problem to solve behind its platform, and together we are now defining a direction that is a better fit both for the market and for the entrepreneur’s core strengths. And another start-up brought us to consult on sales infrastructure, only to discover that in order to get there, there needs to be a complete shift in the offering to be able to reach product-market fit. After a product change was made, this start-up is now having for the first time successful discussions with venture capital firms on raising Round A.

These three CEOs showed courage and strength to be able to go through the humbling experience of admitting they were wrong, and seek a new direction, which proved to be successful.

But how do you know if it’s time to pivot? entrepreneur Bernard Moon, recommends you watch for these four signs:
1. You are constantly in a need to educate the market: You may have a great idea, but if you constantly in a need to educate your target audience and trying to create a market, you may be too early, and you should consider a pivot.
2. Your Beta users don’t like your product: Only Steve Jobs can say that focus groups and user feedback are not important. And you are not Steve Jobs. So listen carefully to what your users are saying, or what they are not saying.
3. Investors you meet aren’t buying it: If it’s repeated feedback that your product is not compelling, you should consider a pivot.
4. You’re being everything to everyone: Some startups develop products that are bigger than they should, instead of focusing on one core competency that is a problem solver to a specific market. Going after everyone might confuse your users, and will burn expensive  R&D resources.

Do you balance your vision and execution with flexibility and the ability to listen? check with yourself and with people that know you well.

Have thoughts on how to successful pivot a start-up? we’d love to hear them.

The First 6 Months of Your Cybersecurity Startup’s Marketing:
Creating the Marketing Plan

Congratulations! Your cybersecurity startup just got funded. You’re as excited as you are probably stressed. And rightfully so: You have about 18 months to make enough progress to get to your round A funding. That’s a blink of an eye. Now – what do you do with marketing?

In this blog post we will focus on the first six months. Whether you or another founder take ownership of the marketing, you bring someone in-house, or outsource it, here’s a plan to help drive the first six months of your marketing efforts.

Step #1- week 1-4

You need to move fast, but you must cover the basics first. That means aligning product, marketing, and sales to make sure you all talk about the product in the same language. It’s a fast positioning process that involves the key people in the company, with an end-result of a written document that describes the following:

Product Description – what does the product do?
Company Value Proof – why should you be trusted?
Differentiators – what your product has over the competition?
Value Proposition – what is your promise to the world?

For more information about creating a messaging hierarchy, check out our blog post about it.

Step #2- week 2-4

Understanding what your competitors are doing is crucial for building your marketing plan. Keep in mind that your competitors are (probably) established companies, and you really cannot compare a young startup to a competitor that’s been around for 5-10 years; you can easily check what they are up to lately, but not what they did when they just started. Don’t get discouraged – they were once just like you. Still, there’s a lot that you can learn:

  • How they position themselves – what they say about the company and product, and who are they targeting?
  • What are their most important marketing channels – what do they invest their marketing budget in?
  • Keywords
  • If and how do they use analyst firms?
  • Is press relations an important factor in their mix?
  • How are they using content?
  • What events do they attend and sponsor?

Tip: There are many tools that can help you do the research, some are free and some have free trials. Similarweb and SpyFu are good places to start, but there are others.

Step #3 – week 5-8

Start with the goals. Ensure you are in line with sales and management, and be realistic. Ideally, there is a marketing budget frame. Marketing can become very expensive, so it is better to know in advance the budget you need to work with.

The marketing plan should include a detailed 6-month plan, and then a high-level plan for the following months.

Here’s a sample marketing plan structure we work with:

  • Goals
  • Competitive research – insights and conclusions
  • Plan overview – aligning each goal with main marketing activities
  • Month-by-month detailed plan
  • Events calendar (link to events folder with additional information)
  • High-level editorial calendar (link to a detailed content plan)
  • KPIs
  • Budget
Tip: You don’t need to wait until week 8 for execution to start. Remember it’s a short runway – 18 months! You can’t afford to lose 2 months just planning. There are some activities that can start right away, like certain sales enablement pieces.


Want more on what should be delivered in the first 6 months of marketing?  Check out our blog or talk to us  

Take Action Now to Align Your Startup’s Positioning for Post-Corona Days

We are witnessing a dramatic restructure of the business and social order in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. “It is increasingly clear our era will be defined by a fundamental schism: the period before COVID-19 and the new normal that will emerge in the post-viral era: the ‘next normal’”, says a recent report by McKinsey & Co.

The next normal is here. It’s not only Travel, Healthcare, Education and the Retail industries. We are seeing the shift across the board for technology products and companies – cybersecurity, AI applications, and Cloud infrastructure and services.

Business and cultural changes that have been established during the COVID-19 pandemic will remain. This presents opportunities for companies that will adapt and realize how to manage the consequences and the effects on the markets.

How can startups seize this opportunity and quickly make the transition? By having an actionable roadmap that realigns their positioning.

Forabilis is offering startups “THE NEXT NORMAL WORKSHOP” , with the goal of enabling startups to define alternative GTM strategies aligned with various market change scenarios.

What you will get out of the workshop:

  • How Your Market Has Already Shifted
    Reevaluation of the market you’re operating in
  • Possible Scenarios for Long-Term Effects
    Formulating alternatives for how your market will shift
  • GTM Strategies for Each Scenario
    Go-To-Market plans to accommodate the market shift

To schedule a workshop click here, or drop us an email at

Farewell, Segasec! Here’s what I learned while being your VP Marketing

It’s not easy letting go of Segasec, a cybersecurity startup acquired by Mimecast after only two and a half years of existence. I’m thrilled for the founders, Elad and Gad, but for me it’s mixed feelings – it’s time to say goodbye.

For the past year, I served as Segasec’s VP marketing in a part-time position, a service we at Forabilis provide to startups. There are only few startups I can handle in this position. The level of involvement and responsibility it requires makes me very picky about where I choose to place my effort. Putting my face on a startup’s website as VP marketing makes it about me rather than about a service my agency provides. It is totally personal.

The funny thing is that if I do my job well enough, I can count on being replaced – either by a full-time, in-house VP marketing, or by an acquiring company with its own marketing leadership. Which is what happened in the case of Segasec. And while this is the business model that we created and it’s working well – it is still making me sad. Because for me it’s all about the people, the personal connections, and the cool things I get to do and learn. Earning the stripes of “it ended with an exit” is just a bonus.

It’s been a short and sweet ride. Here’s a bit of what I learned while leading marketing in a cybersecurity startup that had a fast exit:

  • It’s a play of “from nothing to something” – it needs to be good enough, not perfect. Marketing has a certain pace, even when it moves fast. As a marketing leader, you are constantly going to be pushed and sometimes compared to the competition, expected to perform as well as they are. You can’t, because they’ve been around for eight years and you’re around for a year, and you’re small. So focus on creating and executing as much as possible, even if the results are not perfect. Get something out and then optimize.
  • Marketing leaders must get close to the product, because no one will do product marketing aside from you at the beginning. It will be painful. There will be endless revisions for each collateral, hours spent with the product people (in my case Elad Schulman, the CEO). And at the beginning, no one can do it but the marketing leader. Bringing in a writer is a waste of time at this point – save it for later.
  • To be fully accountable, marketing leaders must own the marketing budget. I owned the marketing plan and the marketing budget. It may sound obvious, but it doesn’t always work like this, and founders have a hard time letting go – even after approving the overall marketing budget. The result is that marketing needs budget approval on every activity that requires a spend. The fact that I could build a plan that ties different channels and campaigns, and move the budget around without constantly seeking approval, made me think broader, be more strategic, and more accountable for the results.
  • Startups don’t really need a full time VP Marketing in the first two years. At the beginning, startups need fractions of different marketing skills. The first hire should be not a VP marketing but a full-stack marketing manager (and if you’re lucky enough you get someone amazing as Orly Bar-Lev).
  • Marketing’s top priority in the beginning is to provide sales with what they need in order to sell. It’s that simple, and in marketing we don’t like hearing it. Because as marketers we think about our goals in a different way, and there is a tendency to spread across too many different efforts. Sales need tools, and marketing should provide them before attending to other tasks.
  • The “Aha!” moment. Marketing can be very generic, there’s a playbook and it can be followed and be somewhat successful. For marketing to be both exciting and effective, you need to crack the code of the specific product and company. I felt we cracked it at Segasec when we learned how to utilize the product to generate data we can use for marketing, which turned into valuable content marketing and press opportunities. Having only one year, we only scratched the surface of what can be done with it.
  • “Not enough leads”. Really, are there ever enough? Never. There’s so much to write about this constant complaint from sales, but I am going to try to be quick about it: Marketing can create “workarounds” to bring leads fast, just to take the pressure off. But the chance that these “fast leads” are ready to buy is close to zero, and warming them takes time. The ways to bring qualified leads that are ready to buy before there’s a fully-running marketing machine is either through direct sales outreach, or through conferences’ sponsorships and speaking opportunities. This may sound a bit depressing, but there is really no magic way to do this. We have only started seeing marketing leads become qualified and move down the funnel in the last month or so, after about 4-5 months of lead nurture. How I wish I had 6 more months to really be able to optimize the lead nurture process.
  • Differentiation is tough, especially in cybersecurity, and as a result, the messaging suffers. So much competition, so many products. Everyone sounds just about the same. Once sales got in front of a potential customer, it was easy to show value. But what works well in a sales pitch, doesn’t necessarily translate into a marketing message. And while our messaging did change and improve, I must say that I feel we were far from done. My plan was to do a serious branding process this coming year to really make a leap in the messaging.

There is so much more to think about, such as – what’s the right timing to start marketing (hint: as soon as possible, no need to wait until there’s a working product), when is the right time to bring PR into the mix, what’s the role of social media in the cybersecurity space and when do you decide to pay the big bucks for Gartner.

There were so many things that were on the marketing plan for 2020 that I never did before – and was looking forward to experiment with Segasec in the coming year. I am really grateful for all that I learned this past year, and the trust of Segasec founders, Elad and Gad, for letting me hop in and join their awesome ride. I am sure this is not the last time we share a journey. Farewell, Segasec!

The Forabilis Six Pack: What We Learned and Taught in 2019

2019 was quite a year at Forabilis. We loved it. We have amazing clients that we did some pretty nice stuff for. We’ve grown together, and as cheesy as it may sound, it’s true. The work we do is so completely entwined with that of our clients, so the lessons are learned together. We look forward to 2020, to up our game and deliver more wins for our clients but before that… 

Six marketing stories from our work in 2019, the things that made us proud and our clients successful.

Using Product Data for Content Marketing

Marketing and Press Around A Product Pivot and Round A

Creating Winning Product Experience in Conferences

Achieving Thought Leadership through Content and Social Media

Strategizing a Business Pivot

The Event That Never Happened

1. How to Use Data for Content Marketing and Press Exposure

Segasec, recently acquired by Mimecast, is a cybersecurity startup with a platform that protects organizations from phishing attacks that target their end-customers. One of their unique capabilities is to perform quadrillions of scans in order to detect suspicious activities all over the web.

Our first task was to ‘educate’ Segasec that their ability to produce focused data on specific niches/industries is a marketing goldmine. Once we achieved that and got their agreement to setup dedicated monitoring for us, we were in business.

We decided to focus on industries Segasec were targeting as potential customers. The most high-awareness one, and the one with the most potential for wide exposure, was online retail. 

We wanted to gather data on phishing attacks around specific crucial dates for online shopping, like Mother’s day, Prime Day, Black Friday and so on. Together with Segasec’s analysts team, we set up dedicated monitoring around these dates for mega-retailers like Amazon, Best-Buy, Walmart and Target.

The results were incredible, marketing-wise. We had concrete data in our hands that showed major spikes in phishing attacks right before and during those dates. This was a solid validation of Segasec’s true value to eCommerce brands and the online press loved it. We’ve got tons of press and quotes from leading industry publications, like this one, that significantly increased awareness of Segasec.

2. The Story of an Amazing Product Pivot and Round A

We’ve been working with 3DSignals, a startup that helps manufacturers digitalize their machines to become an industry 4.0 “factory of the future” for over two years now. 3DSignals is unique for us in the sense that it operates in the ‘real world’ – yes, there are still companies that do that! It’s a special pleasure for us to be involved with physical machines, with actual moving parts, closing the loop from the original industrial revolution to industry 4.0.  

As their marketing arm, we helped them pivot and fine tune their offering and messaging to better answer the needs identified in the market. 

In the past year 3DSignals raised over $20M, a truly remarkable fit for any startup. We coordinated the global press around the A round and quickly prepared a new website to accommodate both the product pivot and 3DSignals’ new, stronger status as a well-funded company.

As they continued to grow, 3DSignals hired an in-house VP Marketing, Danya Golan, a move we cheered and welcomed. It was definitely the right move – and when it happens, we know we did a good job. We continue to act as the marketing arm of 3DSignals, running their day-to-day operation hands-on.   

3. How to Create a Winning Product Experience During Conferences

If you’re not familiar with Outgage, well, you should be. Any B2B company looking to up their ABM game can benefit from Outgage’s singular service – harnessing measurable direct mail for lead generation. Confused? Read on.

Outgage lets you send branded gifts to prospects. One really fun feature allows you to lock the gift, with an actual lock that can only be unlocked online. For example, a cookie jar with a lock on it, opened by entering your email online – now that’s lead gen like no other.

We had the pleasure of taking Outgage on their very first conference, a big deal for a young – and promising – company. Considering that this was a MarTech conference, and marketers are the hardest nut to crack, the stakes were high. We planned and executed the entire package, from pre-communication campaign, to onsite visual and collateral strategy, a speaking opportunity, and post-event email.

But that was not enough for us. In order to make the biggest impact, we devised an on-premise campaign simulating a direct one. We wanted the marketers attending the conference to get a feel in the flesh of the Outgage experience.

The engagement metrics were off the chart. Outgage ‘went home’ with a fat list of leads and sales opportunities, leaving after them a distinct scent of the new-kids-on-the-block of direct mail marketing. 

4. Combining Unique Content Creation & Social Media Focus to Achieve Thought Leadership

Take a deep breath, because this next client’s product scope can be quite overwhelming. Ex Libris develops creative solutions for higher education institutes that increase library productivity, maximize the impact of research activities, enhance teaching and learning, and drive student mobile engagement. They have a long history and strong presence in the library sphere, and we were brought in as they moved into a new and unexplored market of research in higher education. 

The first step of our work was an entire positioning and messaging process for a comprehensive suite of products dedicated to high-ed research. The target audience of the research and discovery tools are not the researchers themselves, but the research offices in universities.

We crafted the messaging and updated the website accordingly to reflect this new product positioning. This was done in 2018, and in 2019 we rolled up our sleeves and implemented it.    

We knew we wanted to make a splash, to make Ex Libris an authority in the convoluted space of high-ed research. So when Ex Libris commissioned a BIG study (when in Rome…) covering more than 300 researchers in the U.S., UK and Australia, we helped manage the process and produce a report on the findings. Around that we created a whole lot of content to be utilized in a massive marketing campaign. 

Another interesting realization we had during the planning of this campaign was to focus entirely on Twitter in the social media realm. The common thinking with social media is to spread your reach to as many channels as possible. But after a close examination of high-ed research on social media we’ve concluded that the most effective one is Twitter, so why waste your ammo on a battles already lost? Focusing our social energy exclusively on Twitter paid off big time. It created a substantial following for ExLibris and combined with the results of the study, is rapidly turning into a true thought leader in their target market.

5. How Strategic Positioning Can Lead to a Major Business Pivot 

With PerfAction we had our first entry to the medical device field; that’s already exciting, venturing into uncharted waters.

PerfAction is an established company with a high end device, the Enerjet 2.0, of treatment modalities for aesthetics and dermatological applications. What was needed was a renewed strategic planning, to devise from scratch their go-to-market. 

We always start our strategic planning with the market, not with the product. By analyzing the market we are able to recognize the need and according to that, how we’re going to introduce the product. The same principles that worked for us so well in the high-tech and software markets proved to be as efficient in the medical device market as well.

With PerfAction we realized they were casting their net too wide. Their Enerjet 2.0 device was positioned as ‘one for all’ solution, a position that is very hard to push in specialized fields as medical device. Together with the PerfAction team we focused their position to one specific niche, scar treatment. This new product position allowed us to construct a lean and focused marketing strategy.

Learning an entirely new field, and needing to strategize and act forcefully in it, was a great experience for us; we would like to thank Dafna Katz for being a valuable source of knowledge for us in this process. As we are known for our expertise in the high-tech / software field, it was important for us to prove – to ourselves mostly – that we are capable of applying our experience and skill-set in other industries as well. And once we’ve ‘opened’ a new market, we are now looking to expand further in the medical device market and utilize our new-gained knowledge and understanding for the benefit of other companies.    

6. The Event That Never Happened

We’ll sign off with an anecdote, a funny-little-tale about how things don’t always work the you planned. The saying goes that the TLV high tech bubble is practically unaffected. Well, we learned better. For this tale we’ll introduce innogy Innovation Hub in Israel, the innovation arm of innogy, a leading European energy company. 

innogy Innovation Hub in Israel invests and accelerates startups in a few areas, with a focus on Proptech & Contech, Cyber Ventures, and an overarching arm of Energy of the Future. 

So here we were, planning and executing innogy Innovation Hub major event of the year, bringing together VCs, selected global partners, and a lineup of startups. We’ve orchestrated the entire production of the event, down to space setup and catering. More than 250 attendees registered for the event, including some Europeans that flew in especially.

And then, on the day of the event, just before 8am, a single missile was fired from the Gaza Strip to Tel Aviv and the Home Front Command issued a total lockdown on the greater Tel Aviv area; schools and workplaces were ordered to shut down, citizens were instructed to stay in their homes.

It could have been a great event and for us, it will always be. But we were taught a once-in-a-life-time lesson – that outside the marketing bubble there’s an actual world that keeps spinning on its axis, and no value proposition will stop it. And hey, isn’t that a great lesson to learn on a Tuesday morning?

Why Branding Is Worthless Without Positioning

“The rebranding Itch”

It usually happens before a significant company milestone or event – an important conference, a new product launch, a merger. It’s called “the rebranding itch”. Someone, usually an executive, scratches his or her head and decides it’s time for rebranding. We know it because it is at this point that we at Forabilis usually get the call. When we dig a bit deeper to try and understand the need for rebranding, we usually find that something isn’t working out – something bigger than the logo or the tagline – it usually has to do with challenges related to business objectives which tie directly to the company’s go-to-market strategy.

Rebranding as a painkiller

So, why do highly intelligent, talented, often experienced executives ask for new branding at this stage? It’s a bit like insisting on getting your teeth cleaned while what you should really get is root canal.

And there lies the answer. Going deeper, searching for misalignment, finding true answers to what should be done to fix it, what we call “repositioning” – that’s just as painful as root canal, maybe even more. It is much easier to go for the painkiller – the rebranding. If you go for the painkiller, you’ll soon find yourself fighting over colors, fonts, tagline, and the right words to package your product or service. Question is, would that save you from yet another visit to the doctor just a few months down the line?

Wait, so is branding not important?

Hey, we’re in marketing. Of course, we love branding and believe it’s important! We love it because it’s the fun part that comes after the root canal, assuming you survived. But here’s the thing about branding: It’s about telling your story. At the beginning of the branding process, you’ll be asked to tell your story in your own words, so that the branding agency or consultant you hired for the job can package it creatively, tightly, in a precise manner. And, if you were lucky to hire someone good, you’ll be asked all the right questions: Who are your competitors? What are your differentiators? Etc.

But what if you get your story wrong? That’s when it gets tricky. Because your branding consultant will rarely know to tell you so – the underlying foundation of the branding process assumes you have the right answers – they just need to be packaged by a branding pro.

For brand positioning, doubt is a necessity

When the challenge runs deeper – examples may be low product sales, marketing and sales misalignment, low customer retention, or event market trends which make your product irrelevant – that’s when we at Forabilis come in for the root canal. It’s not always a popular role, it’s hard to be the people that doubt your answers. Because you may think that all you need is branding. We may think differently. We may not accept your answers as is. We may search for answers in different places. This is a long, highly demanding process. It’s not for everyone. The outcome is a brand positioning document, which is the foundation for a plan and other activities such as branding. Branding works best when it comes after positioning. Otherwise, it holds little value, and the same problem will continue to haunt you.

How do you know if you should do branding or start with positioning?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I sure of what I need? If you’re not sure, usually this means you probably need positioning.
  • Why do I need rebranding?
    • Does the current brand speak my product or service language?
    • Am I expecting any major changes to my product or service offering?
    • Am I planning to go to new markets?
    • Is my company under merger, acquisition or reconstruction?

If the answer for one of the above is “Yes” – you probably need positioning

  • Do you really know how to answer the following questions, and is there a consensus among team members and company stakeholders on the answers?
    • What is it that you offer?
    • What is your promise to your customers? (no, it is not the same question)
    • What is your market or markets?
    • Who are your customers, users and buyers? What are their pains and needs?
    • What are your clear differentiators? (being better is not a good answer)
    • Why would your customers buy from you?

If you are not sure about the answer to one of the above, or there are disagreements among team members and company stakeholders – you probably need positioning.

If you’re good with the answers, then good luck with your branding process. We look forward to seeing your new logo.

Ensuring Trade Shows ROI : 7 Rules To Live By

Trade shows and conferences season is right around the corner. Summer is the time for decision making and quickly start with the very rigorous process of preparing everything that you need to ensure this substantial investment in time and budget materializes into real results. Here are a few things to keep in mind while planning for your presence at a trade show:

1. Which one? choose wisely

In every industry there are many relevant conferences and trade shows, with one or two that are the biggest, and then all the rest. While it would make sense to choose the most prominent one in your field, there might be a few reasons why you should reconsider. The first reason is price. The biggest trade shows are the most expensive ones, not only because renting a booth space is more expensive. Yes, that would also be true. But it’s more than that: It’s about how much you would need to invest in order to to raise the awareness to your product or offering above the noise. So if this is your first time, experiment with a smaller trade show first. Check to see where your competitors are exhibiting, and where they started exhibiting a few years ago. Go for a more niche target audience than a general audience. What you learn on a smaller scale, you can take with you to your next trade show, and over time go bigger.

2. Define your goals before you start the planning process

What would you like to achieve? Is it awareness, leads, trial users, or sales?
Put hard target numbers for your goals. These numbers will help you plan accordingly for your budget, resources needed, and marketing tactics. For example, if your main goal is to present your product to 20 decision makers in your chosen industry, you may need to target them before the conference, which requires an additional budget and dedicated resources for over a month prior to the actual event.

3. Cross-company planning process: A must for a trade show success

This is an outcome of the previous rule. Since a trade show integrates marketing and sales goals, it is not only the marketing team’s planing process. The objectives should be defined by the marketing and sales team leaders, and sometimes – for smaller organizations – involve the CEO.

4. Trade shows planning: The three-legged stool

Your trade show success will not be based on a brochure, a pull-up banner, or a demo. These are all deliverables and tactics that can help you, but they are only outputs of your plan. Think about your trade show as a three-legged stool: Pre-conference activities, in-conference activities, and post-conference activities. Essentially, your trade show is a campaign with three parts, each leading to the next in support of your goals. One will not be successful without the other.

5. The basics: Your pre-conference activities

How you plan your pre-conference activities can very much determine your success in the conference. There are the basics, of course, like letting your customers and prospects know that you are going to be exhibiting, but you can do much more. You can use social media to reach trade show participants way before the event. The Twitter hashtag makes it relatively easy to find people who are attending. Some conferences and trade shows have their own internal networking tools that you can use. You can also do online advertising to target the audience that might attend. Think about what you would like to achieve if you engage with the trade show conference participants beforehand: would you like to direct them to your booth? Would you like to schedule sales meetings? Or maybe you would just like to get their email addresses? Your marketing tactics should be carefully planned to meet your goals.

Note that pre-conference activities should start at least a month before the conference. Your marketing team is going to be deeply engaged with planning and delivery for at least six weeks before pre-conference activities. For small companies or startups, this is a burden, since all other marketing activities will take a hit for quite some time. Plan accordingly.

6. Your in-conference activities: It’s more than about the booth sweepstake

There used to be days when giving away an iPad in a sweepstake is all you needed to do to drive people to your booth. Those days are gone. Consider Dreamforce, one of the biggest tech conferences in the world. Over 100,000 attendees and over 400 exhibitors. Giving away cars is not even enough to drive engagement and booth attendance. If you have a small booth and a small budget, what do you do? For one thing, you should treat the booth as only one touch point – an important one, but definitely not the only one. Your on-the-ground team should do lots of work outside the booth. Your sales team should have the tools they need to engage – whether a demo, a good elevator speech, or a giveaway (consider something useful, not your typical tchotchke).
Take careful consideration of the venue’s limitations and use it for your own advantage. For example, if it’s an extremely big conference, your playground expands way beyond the conference floor and the expo hall. The hotels, bars, and public areas surrounding the conference are also your domain.
Each trade show and conference has a certain flavor – character, if you will. Some are just big parties. Others are more formal. Play the game accordingly, and invest time in figuring out the right creative hook that would fit that specific character.

7. Your post-conference activities: Don’t leave the planning for the last minute

The follow-up is where it’s all coming together. And just when you thought you’re done with all the work, the heavy lifting has only just started. This is where most companies fail – the ability to take the momentum created on the trade show floor and  carry it forward and up the sales funnel. This, again should be planned ahead. There are different lead nurture and sales processes that should follow, depending on the pre-defined goals of the trade show. For lead capturing, a well-orchestrated lead nurture should follow a few days after. Sales should follow individual leads with very specific messaging. If pilot users were obtained during the conference, ensure you have the customer success processes in place to support them.
Because everyone comes back exhausted both from the travel as well as from the adrenaline rush of a trade show, it is important to not leave the planning of this phase for after the conference.

Do you have any other tips to add? Have you seen any specific successful campaigns for conferences and trade shows? You are invited to share them with us.