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‘Remain authentic’: B2B brand building lessons with Vista Australia’s Linda McDonald

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‘Remain authentic’: B2B brand building lessons with Vista Australia’s Linda McDonald

Vista Australia

With more than 20 plus years of experience supporting small businesses with their printing needs, the team at Vista Australia certainly know a thing or two about marketing strategy and brand building. Marketing Mag sat down with Vista Australia’s director of marketing, sales and CX, Linda McDonald, to find out how businesses can best invest in marketing during economic downturns. McDonald also shares her top brand building tips for B2B companies and how to create loyal customers.

Marketing Mag: Historical evidence suggests that businesses investing in marketing during recessions often see higher sales. How has Vista Australia approached its marketing strategy during economic downturns?

Linda McDonald: It is no secret Australians are feeling the pinch at the moment against the backdrop of the ongoing cost-of-living crisis. Understanding our customers and what keeps them awake at night has been critical to ensuring Vista’s marketing strategy is aligned to help our customers during tough times.

MM: What specific tactics have you found to be most effective?
LM: We have found that it hasn’t been about changing tactics in the face of economic uncertainty, but it is about ensuring that Vista’s messaging and activity have been as relevant as possible when the tides shift. 

MM: How can marketers ensure their branding triggers the right emotional cues and differentiates itself from competitors in times of economic volatility?
LM: Marketers need to remain authentic and transparent in their branding efforts in both prosperous and challenging economic times. Understanding your customers and what resonates with them, will stand brands in good stead and set them up for success to ensure the most appropriate emotional cues are utilised in their branding efforts. I also believe consistency is key when using emotional cues to market your products. 

MM: How can marketers effectively manage the balance of brand building and achieving commercial success?
LM: It is a fine line but the balance of brand building and achieving commercial success can be achieved by marketers when they maintain the balance between shooting for the stars in terms of a long-term perspective, while building the brand to address and accomplish your short-term commercial objectives. Once a balance is struck, great marketers are able to simultaneously achieve brand building and commercial success by being able to adapt to shifting consumer preferences and market dynamics, keeping the customer and what they want front of mind.

MM: How should marketers incorporate authenticity and evidence in their B2B marketing campaigns? How has Vista achieved this too?
LM: At Vista, we have worked with and supported Australian small businesses for more than 20 years. This has enabled us to understand the challenges and opportunities that are unique to them. It also ensures we maintain a level of authenticity in our content and messaging. 

Through Vista’s Ambassador Program we work with small businesses to tell their stories, amplify their presence, and make sure they can spot businesses similar to theirs and compare their unique marketing. 

MM: Differentiating niches to attract specific audiences is critical for B2B businesses. What strategies can marketers use to identify and target these niches effectively?
LM: This type of work encompasses a combination of research, analysis and strategic planning. Implementing bespoke strategies to connect with the audiences you deem aligned to your strategy can successfully attract and then capture the attention of that specific audience. Strategies may vary from business to business, but I believe understanding the mindset of these niche audiences effectively from the get-go will set a business up for success down the track.

MM: How has Vista Australia leveraged technology to enhance its marketing efforts during economic downturns?
LM: Being an online business, we are always available to our customers. Vista’s customer care team is available seven days to help people with their design needs. This is extremely important to the small businesses we help in a busy world when marketing may not be their forte. 

Vista provides small businesses with an easy-to-design solution for all their printed marketing needs. Our capabilities onsite make it easy and simple for our customers to create and print off all their requirements at a time that suits them. We also pride ourselves on our ability to be able to print just about anything that our customers need to market their businesses. 

MM: Having worked across various sectors, including retail, consumer and healthcare, what unique marketing lessons from these industries can be applied to B2B marketing strategies?
LM: I believe that as long as the customer is at the centre of your strategy and you can align your business requirements with their needs or wants, it doesn’t matter who the customer and/or business is, the same marketing principles and philosophies apply. 

MM: Looking ahead, what trends do you foresee as being critical for B2B marketing, particularly in the context of economic volatility? How should marketers prepare to embrace these trends?
LM: The marketing landscape in today’s digital age is constantly shifting and trends relating to B2B marketing come and go. This digital shift means marketers should be willing to embrace and focus more on digital channels like online advertising and the relevant social media channels to successfully reach B2B buyers who are using the internet to purchase products and services online. 

It’s also no secret that AI will continue to grow in its ability to aid efficiency in the world of marketing. However, it is our responsibility to understand how we leverage AI in our everyday roles without losing the human element of our marketing.

MM: What metrics and KPIs do you prioritise to measure the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns during economic downturns?
LM: Our metrics don’t necessarily change based on the times we are in. What does change is the objectives we are trying to achieve. During economic slumps, many organisations will prioritise short versus longer-term goals, and in those cases, understanding how to measure your return on investment (ROI) to ensure others in the organisation understand the benefit of the activity can be crucial.

MM: What advice would you give to marketers working in B2B sectors to help them thrive during economic recessions?
LM: Stay true to your purpose and value proposition and remain authentic and transparent when trying to engage with your target audiences. The customer should be at the forefront of everything you do and when you remember this, and adapt to their shifting preferences and habits, you are setting yourself up for success. This will help you to both attract and retain customers even in the face of significant economic uncertainty as people want to engage with and use brands they can trust.

MM: How do you see the role of marketing leaders evolving in response to economic challenges, and what skills do you think will be most important for future marketing leaders to develop?
LM: Strong leadership, commercial acumen and the ability to understand your customers are core skills that are essential for any effective marketer to embody. In times of crisis, team members will look to their leaders for guidance and support. Being adaptable and agile to shifting consumer preferences, changing market dynamics and external factors beyond one’s control are key skills for any future marketer to develop. 

Also, read AI isn’t about automating tasks, it’s about transforming them.


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