How a challenger mindset drives marketing for digital commerce platform
Rare is the chief marketing officer who helps found a software company. But Jennifer Kyriakakis—who in 2008 spotted an opportunity in the telecom marketplace—did just that, collaborating with technologically savvy associates to launch what has become MATRIXX Software, a digital commerce platform company.
Although it wasn't an overnight success, the company grew from 114 employees at the end of 2016 to 268 at the end of 2019, more than doubling revenue in that time frame.
Kyriakakis understands how to differentiate her brand—MATRIXX enables telecom companies to quickly create and test digital commerce applications—while remaining tightly focused on serving one vertical industry. She discusses what it means to be a challenger brand, how to signal to analysts that the product is unique yet still part of a vibrant category and how to avoid muddling the message via multiple personas.
How does the challenger mindset impact your overall approach to marketing?
You must be positioning against the status quo. You must be able to communicate what you are doing differently from an industry/market perspective (not product perspective) and why it matters to your audience. You must continuously teach your prospects something they don’t already know.
Some start-ups establish a new category as a means of differentiation. How do you manage the risks of a being a category of one?
Attempting to establish a new category is a slippery slope as enterprise value is tied directly to overall market value. There is no established market value in a category of one. It’s better to be part of a multibillion-dollar category that you might not perfectly fit into, but one in which it’s clear that enterprises spend and will continue to spend on similar solutions.
So, where does your idea of a “digital commerce” platform fit in?
The concept of commerce platforms existed in the online world, but not within our industry—telecom. There are some basic concepts everyone can relate to in terms of marketing, packaging, monetizing and delivering offerings, but these things had never been brought together under a single solution for the telecom industry. So, while we were redefining what a solution should look like, the concepts aren’t foreign in the retail arena. We picked them up and applied them to the telecom industry as a way to tackle disruption.
On this topic, can you talk about how analysts reacted to the idea of “digital commerce?"
Analysts continued to place us in the category that we were historically in (large and established) but would specifically call out our solution and brand it as digital commerce. It was a good indicator and validation that we got it right. We were also able to establish more analyst activity within the e-commerce/digital commerce category as an industry-specific player, which helped us break out of the status quo mode of other legacy players.
Gartner’s Brent Adamson says B2B marketing is the art of convincing enterprise customers that the “gain of change is substantially greater than the pain of change.” How are you highlighting the gains of change?
I believe that the risk of not changing far outweighs the risk of change when your industry is being disrupted like the telecoms and media industries are. We’ve been able to work with our clients to establish goals around measurable business improvements and then delivered on them within months of launching the MATRIXX solution. This makes the gain of change extremely tangible and measurable. For example, one of our clients experienced a 40 percent reduction in call center calls within three months of launching MATRIXX. The ability to produce significant, tangible results quickly creates an undeniable business case for change.
B2B businesses often target multiple personas. Why are you focused on one persona and how does it help?
For us, it was more important to understand the dynamics and pressures each client was feeling as a whole based on the specifics of their geographic market. IT, commercial, finance—they all have different roles. But, when you look at digital transformation initiatives, they are solving company-wide issues so it’s more about understanding and addressing those than it is about persona-based marketing.
Can you describe your approach to events?
Events are an expensive proposition that can’t be justified by brand recognition only. For this reason, it’s better to pick the most critical and largest events in your space and invest in a larger presence and aggressive meeting targets. This also boosts the perception of your brand as being potentially much larger and more established than it actually is. Additionally, when others see a lot of activity in your booth and meeting rooms, it also piques interest across the board with prospects, competitors, analysts and media.