As we head into 2018, so many of us look back and reflect on the year (and what a year it was!).

At Catapult, we helped more than a dozen B-2-B high tech firms create an industry narrative to define a new category space. Our category building framework – Strategic Narrative Marketing – is a new marketing category that helps organizations build a new category. It sounds kind of like a riddle, but when we step back we see that Strategic Narrative Marketing is a case study in and of itself!

Throughout 2017, we discovered new points of value gained from Strategic Narrative Marketing and category definition. Our biggest takeaway was how the benefits of a strategic narrative extend beyond brand marketing to organizational alignment.

Clients who defined a clear industry narrative found employees, partners and investors gained a shared confidence, along with a common purpose to drive all strategies and functions toward a singular goal that rides above “what” a business offers to the market. We think industry narratives are super powerful —  as the approach profoundly changes the way companies approach positioning and messaging.

Build a Narrative = Align the Business

The Strategic Narrative Marketing framework does wonders to help change the thinking and culture of a company. Every company we worked with was able to find a new, fresh “voice” and narrative to lead its industry category. Defining a new or existing category helps position a company, no matter its size, as a true industry leader committed to advancing its industry. However, most every company, from startup to Fortune 500, wants to be the dominant category leader, and this approach provides a huge step in accomplishing that goal.

The following are insights from helping companies large and small develop an industry-defining strategic narrative:

  1. Market Focus: developing and launching an industry narrative helps tech firms sharply focus on an industry beachhead to lead. For many organizations, especially startups, this focus helps clarify what market segment to attack and how to address industry dynamics and disruption.
  2. Company Alignment: having an industry-defining narrative provides a clear roadmap all stakeholders can support and follow. With an eye on advancing and leading the industry category all business functions naturally align — from marketing and product development to sales and recruitment
  3. Elevated Story: companies that have an industry story talk less about “what” they do and more about the “why” they are in business. An industry narrative elevates the company story toward industry mega-trends, corporate vision and its aspirations to lead, not follow. The Strategic Narrative Marketing approach represents a dramatic shift from traditional positioning and messaging that is inward and often too focused on features and capabilities.
  4. Unique Voice: standing out and being differentiated from competitors is very challenging as clients struggle with the “everyone sounds the same” dilemma. Defining a new category narrative creates a 100-percent unique story that industry influencers want to hear, and others can only follow.
  5. Defined Purpose: many technology companies struggle with the question “what do we stand for?” Terms like “innovation,” “quality” and “value” are commonplace and overused. As a company works through the Strategic Narrative Marketing process, it uncovers new opportunities for leadership that ride above the obvious and aims higher than ever thought possible.

We developed Strategic Narrative Marketing based on more than 30 years experience helping technology companies build market-leading positions through public relations strategies and programs. A good example is Rally Software, a Boulder-based startup we helped position as the leader in Agile software development. By focusing on promoting the category, Rally achieved clear market leader status that led to an IPO and subsequent acquisition by CA Technologies (for $500 million). This engagement, among many others, led us to develop formal processes companies can use to define and own a market category as a business strategy.

At Catapult, we provide services to help develop industry narratives, including a one-day Strategic Narrative Workshop. We also help launch the narrative after development and provide ongoing PR/social and content marketing services to promote the category – and we share how to do all of this in our book:  A Practical Guide to Strategic Narrative Marketing. We also offer a free Narrative Assessment for companies to find out the effectiveness of their current messaging strategy.

Through our work over the past year, we have seen Strategic Narrative Marketing evolve and provide greater strategic value than we originally thought. While we start from a PR and marketing perspective, we continue to see more strategic value gained from the category building and narrative approach. It’s not something most companies focus on – but when they do, we see powerful organizational transformations. Looking ahead, we will do our best to make 2018 the year of the narrative!