There are a lot of reasons why I felt so strongly about this. Frustration with the industry, empathizing with clients who’d been tricked into poor partnerships, wanting to do our team justice… More on all that later.
I’m proud to say that STRV values honesty over shortcuts. It’s how we approach client discussions and marketing communication, such as the copy and underlying messaging on our web, where we support every big statement with proof or an example.
It’s ironic that a serious differentiator in our business is eliminating BS. Why is this? Honesty comes with so many benefits apart from a clear conscience: Our clients trust us, our team is proud of the way they’re represented and we’re not playing into the stereotypes of this industry.
I’d like to share how exactly we do things differently at STRV and why I believe it is a marketing team’s duty to shine a light on a company’s flaws, not hide them.
Marketing from a Different Perspective
I joined STRV as a project manager (PM), which taught me about clients’ struggles and pain points. I experienced firsthand what makes STRV special, namely how passionate our people are about working with clients and how we run projects, from start to finish.
Eventually, I took on a pre-sales role. Working with the sales team and potential clients, I learned what questions people ask, how they select a partner and the difficulty of knowing whether it’s the right decision, leaving me with a deep-seated empathy for the client’s journey.
I realized that when pursuing a deal, STRV’s role isn’t to force a win; it’s to help reach a mutual decision regarding whether or not we actually are the right partner for that client. When I became the CMO, I was determined to translate this thinking into how STRV presents, and sells, itself.
Establishing a No BS Marketing Approach
Having seen the impact of ambiguity on people and businesses — clients trapped by vague promises and former partners’ lack of expertise — I was convinced that even the slightest distortions of facts in all STRV communication had to go.
And to be frank, exploring the marketing strategies of companies within our field made me feel bad for startup founders even more than I had before.
There are obvious BS strategies, like straight-up lying. But there are also sneaky tactics employed by some of our competitors that are more difficult for potential clients to spot, like using an internal design concept in a showreel, making it seem as though it’s client work.
I refuse to acknowledge this as acceptable. It drives me nuts. And this is far from just my opinion; no one at STRV is okay with playing pretend. We are proud of what we’ve done, and we want the reality to speak for itself.
So, with all of us on board a couple of years back, we began employing what we call a BS-detector (patent pending). Meaning that if anyone at STRV notices a skewed fact, they bring it up and we change it. Period.
Using Marketing to Highlight Flaws, Not Disguise Them
Removing BS is step one. But there’s a step two: Helping improve the organization.
Too often, it feels like a company looks at where it is and where it wants to be, then fills that gap with marketing tactics. This is deceit that can cost clients everything, while also being a missed opportunity for company growth.
I’m convinced that marketing teams can have a much more impactful role. Rather than hiding a gap, my team puts it under the spotlight and makes it a conversation. Why aren’t we where we want to be? How can we address and solve the obstacles?
Marketing is about understanding your customers and what you’re offering them. When you have the luxury of having this insight, it’s your responsibility to use it well. Share your findings with the company and help make the company better.
Does that mean a bit of extra work? Absolutely. But going that extra mile is what STRV is built on. Engineers, designers, PMs… these people are grinding and building up our reputation every single day. The least my team and I can do is the same.
If We Misrepresent Our Team, They Let Us Know
Our team is analytical, opinionated and straightforward. If they disagree with how something is represented, they let you know. So, whatever marketing chooses to communicate externally, it also needs to resonate with our own team — which brings me to another discrepancy: How a marketing team views STRV versus how the rest of the company views it.
In 2021, we began working on our new showreel. The question was: How do we make something that’s both appealing to potential clients and accepted by our people?
Around the same time, our CEO had asked me and our copywriter to put together STRV Values. We decided to start with the values and let them inspire the showreel. We then agreed that the word “values” felt wrong. “Hi team, this is what you value above all else, bye.” That can’t possibly create something true. What our team really shares are principles.
Finally, we agreed that if we were to attribute any principles to a highly diverse team of almost 200, we’d need their input.
We handpicked people from STRV of different backgrounds and seniority from all departments. Our copywriter then sat with each person for hours, asking them to dig deep into why they’re proud to be at STRV, what resonates with them (or what doesn’t) and so on.
Based on these conversations, we were able to indirectly create the STRV Principles together with the entire team. Proud of what we’d written, we moved on to the Showreel, feeling confident in the message because we knew our people could stand behind it.
It Comes Down to Thinking for Ourselves
Just because something is the norm doesn’t mean it’s right. I’d never been a CMO before. It would’ve been easy for me to look at what our greatest competitors are doing and follow suit. My team would’ve had less on their plate if we’d left certain things as they’d been since the earlier STRV years. But isn’t it better to evolve? To create change rather than observing the downfalls of your industry and waiting for that change to happen?
I’m honored to be a part of a company that embraces trying something new and having a voice of our own. And, judging from our client feedback, doing things differently feels like we’re doing them right.