paul berney discussing startup marketing on the market mentors podcast
May 30, 2023

Why Fundamentals Matter More Than Anything Else When Marketing for a B2B Tech Startup

By Matt Dodgson

Co-Founder - Recruiter & Marketer

Introduction

New tools, strategies, and tactics are readily available in today’s marketing environment, making it easy to become distracted. Throw AI into the mix, and it’s clear to see why a lot of B2B marketers see focus as their number one challenge.

And those challenges are particularly heightened for marketers who work for B2B tech startups. These jobs, by their very nature, are incredibly hard. High expectations, limited time, and stretched resources mean you have to spend your time wisely; otherwise, you risk making no impact at all.

Which is why marketing fundamentals matter more than anything else. And in this podcast episode, it’s something that I dig into with someone who’s been in the trenches numerous times, and who has been instrumental in the growth of his latest company, Anthropos.

Let’s dig in.

Today’s Guest

Who they are: Paul Berney is the Chief Marketing Officer of Anthropos, the creators of a connected care platform that is transforming social care. 

A bit of background: Paul has spent the majority of his career working in, or advising, B2B technology start-ups and early-stage companies.

Previously, he founded a connected marketing education and advisory services company, The Connected Marketer. During that time, he worked with over 175 brands, agencies, technology companies, and investment companies to help them better understand how to make technology work in marketing.

Where you can find Paul:

Connect on LinkedIn with Paul here

Prefer Video? Watch a full video of the podcast here…

The importance of marketing fundamentals

Being involved in marketing for a B2B tech startup is exciting, but it’s also tough. There are so many elements involved in building a tech startup that it’s easy to overlook some of the most critical steps. One of the most overlooked areas of tech startup marketing is the fundamentals. However, when it comes to B2B tech startups specifically, focusing on these foundational elements is absolutely essential. 

When Paul joined Anthropos, they had created a prototype, secured some initial funding, and started to test the product with one customer. There was no brand, no company name, not even a website. And it was Paul’s remit from his CEO to ‘go and do his thing’.

Rather than jump into demand generation or buy marketing tools, Paul focused on the fundamentals first.

He goes on to explain.

“The starting point is the most basic thing is understanding people’s needs. Because if you don’t do that, you cannot do the rest of what is in the marketing role. So who is your audience? What do they need? What do they want? How do they currently meet those needs, or not? What alternatives are available to them to meet those needs? What works and what doesn’t?

You have to do all that first, and then you have to have some sense of scale – what is the size of that problem, and is it a market that’s worth going after? Is it big enough? And can you forecast a future market where this technology will have a role, and is the size of the opportunity worth the effort you’re going to make?”



Key steps in developing a proposition

Developing a value proposition is a critical step in achieving growth and product-market fit. It is the foundation upon which your marketing and sales efforts will be built. Your value proposition should clearly communicate the unique value that your product or service brings to the market and differentiate you from your competitors. Paul took these steps to create the Anthropos proposition:

  1. Build an initial proposition based on research 
  2. Test the proposition with customers, prospects and industry experts 
  3. Feed ideas back into the business to support the product road-map
  4. Rinse and repeat  

These steps won’t be anything new to marketers. Similarly, for marketing fundamentals – it’s the unglamorous work that needs to be done, yet some marketers find it hard to resist jumping into the more exciting aspects of marketing. 

Paul has some advice here.

  • “I urge any marketer who wants to understand their market better to be brave enough to go and do the discussions with the potential buyers themselves. Don’t have an agency do it for you or at least don’t let them do all of it for you. Do it yourself because what you want to see is how your words land. You want to see that in the whites of people’s eyes.” 
  • “Often you find, if you say to someone, tell me everything that’s wrong with this, you get a better set of answers than saying, what do you think of this? And then, you give them permission to tell you it’s wrong and people will give you much better quality feedback.”

How to test the proposition in the market

After developing your value proposition, you need to test it in the market. This is a crucial step in the process of bringing a product or service to market. Testing your proposition will help you identify potential problems and refine your messaging to better resonate with your target audience.

In Paul’s case, he describes this further.

“So I had a whole series of conversations with each of the different types of people in the market. Then we started to go to live events and exhibitions where you get the chance to tell your story 20, 30, or 40 times a day. And again, you’re kind of crafting it and honing it.”

Subsequently, after selling into each market, this process helped shape the go-to-market strategy. And instead of Anthropos being responsible for all of this, they identified key partners who could support them and help drive growth within specific markets.

Now that the proposition had been tested, it was time to move on to creating the sector itself. 

Marketing tips to build a new sector

Building a new sector or creating a new category from scratch can be a daunting task, but it’s also an opportunity to carve out a unique space in the market and help you differentiate your solution from existing companies.

To do this, Paul explains more about one key initiative.

“The easiest way to do that is to get involved in a trade association; they’re really good at supporting companies in the marketplace. But there were opportunities for me to be involved in the market shaping work that they were doing that would have a direct positive effect on my business. So why wouldn’t I do it? I mean, I recognise that some of the work supports and helps my competitors, but my constant mantra with both the trade group and my competitors when I sit down with them is, I want a bigger cake. I don’t want to argue over the crumbs. Let’s work together to get a bigger cake, and then we’ll rise or fall depending upon how good the product is that we’ve got.”

During this time, Paul, the trade association, and his competitors worked collaboratively on a few different projects, not the least of which was coming up with a common description and set of terms for what the sector is and how it works. By using the same terminology, it helps your buyers, because people cannot buy what they don’t understand.



Wrapping Up

In conclusion, while it might be tempting to jump right into the latest trends and tactics in marketing, it’s important to always remember that the fundamentals are what create a strong foundation for success. By developing a thorough understanding of your target audience, crafting a compelling value proposition, and testing your message in the market, you can establish a clear path for growth and success for your B2B tech startup.

A few other highlights to look out for in this episode:

  1. The impact that this work has had on the success of Anthropos
  2. Paul’s most important bits of advice for anyone wanting to refine or create a proposition
  3. What Paul would look for if he was hiring a B2B tech startups first ever marketer