Software Marketing | Graphic Design | Website Design | Brochure Design | Identity Design | Infographics | Brand Love | Brand Strategy | Accelerate | Campaigns
Software marketing & brand-building is one of the things we love doing most at the loft. We love the excitement of something fresh, the challenge of something new, exploring creative ideas, persuading those first customers and partnering with people who are moving quickly while managing a lot of change in short periods of time.
Over the best part of a decade, we’ve worked closely with an organisation called Altia-ABM, formerly Altia Solutions and ABM Intelligence, they are a fast-growing international group which develops smart software solutions to support criminal investigations and manage covert operations. They are an exceptional organisation with an incredibly capable team and several strong product/service offerings.
We’re delighted to have played a very small part in helping them increase turnover, improve profitability and build a recognisable brand worldwide. A software marketing case study with a difference, this is ‘Altia-ABM, A Creative Partnership.’
Due to the length of this case-study, we’ve broken it into 12 short parts. Or you can access the condensed version below.
Hero Graphics How creative materials on-file can take the pressure off any tight deadline.
How creative materials on-file can take the pressure off any tight deadline.
Creative Exercises How collaborative creative projects are a great way to build up team morale.
How collaborative creative projects are a great way to build up team morale.
Customer Retention How better customer care & increased loyalty will improve the sales numbers.
How better customer care & increased loyalty will improve the sales numbers.
Serving A Cause How a real commitment to the right cause greatly improves brand credibility.
Serving A Cause
How a real commitment to the right cause greatly improves brand credibility.
Being A Human How marketing & brand activities which make people smile are so effective.
Being A Human
How marketing & brand activities which make people smile are so effective.
Sketches How huge amounts of time can be saved by asking creatives to sketch out ideas.
How huge amounts of time can be saved by asking creatives to sketch out ideas.
Values How values can help improves sales & get better buy-in from all stakeholders.
How values can help improves sales & get better buy-in from all stakeholders.
High Impact Images How high impact visuals can be created & used to communicate powerful ideas.
High Impact Images
How high impact visuals can be created & used to communicate powerful ideas.
Numbers How numbers can be effective with different brand & marketing communications.
How numbers can be effective with different brand & marketing communications.
Brand Consistency How consistency with brand messages creates a more professional presentation.
How consistency with brand messages creates a more professional presentation.
Practical Succession How marketing & brand tasks can be effectively handed over to new people.
How marketing & brand tasks can be effectively handed over to new people.
Results Some of the results we achieved with our Altia-ABM collaboration over 7+ years.
Some of the results we achieved with our Altia-ABM collaboration over 7+ years.
Or check out the condensed PDF version which summarises much of the information given below.
Preparation and easy access to high quality creative materials (or hero graphics in this case,) can help those responsible for marketing by saving time, hassle and minimising pressure.
With the on-going quest to build and expand customers bases as well as communicate effectively to employees, suppliers and shareholders; marketing teams are generally kept very busy with lots of different, fast-paced and sometimes experimental activities. Early preparation and access to high-quality materials makes just about everybody’s lives easier – whether that’s photographs of the team, set-piece infographics or relevant copy, etc. This is even more significant when dealing with multiple tight deadlines.
Possibly the most significant part of our work with Altia-ABM was the creation of ‘Hero Graphics’ for the product sub-brand identities of their software packages. Produced almost at the beginning of our relationship, these data-inspired logos captured the imagination, had a relevant underlying message about the product tied-in and most importantly they could be (and were) used in just about every brand or marketing communication for about 3-4 years.
This included sales brochures, tradeshow stands, campaigns, video explainers and even on the packages themselves. From a marketing point of view, just having them available to us was a great help whilst working on several new creative projects, generally to tight deadlines.
The designs have been updated twice since we started working together, most recently in 2019, and they are still used today.
You can see some examples of the sub-brand identities and the different variety of ways they were used over many years with the images below.
The different design and branding processes are wonderful tools for collaboration, creativity and ultimately bringing people together.
Successful software companies have the potential to grow very quickly. One moment there are 4 people in a tiny office – each with their own remit – and just a few years later there can be 40 people in teams as diverse as development, sales, finance, etc. With everybody so involved with what their team is doing, there is great value in having everybody that little bit more bought into what the company is wanting to do.
Altia’s Managing Director Ian Watson, realised this early on and to help facilitate it, we moved important presentations such as re-brands, creation of values, etc, from the relative comfort of the board-room and instead presented them out in the open of both Glasgow and Nottingham offices – directly to their teams. When creating values for both organisations, we spent quality time with everybody – from those in the management team to the people in the sales teams to the technical personnel to admin staff, etc. We became so close with everybody at Altia Solutions in Glasgow, that over several years, we even attended their Christmas night out.
We also realised early on that there can be no substitute for true collaboration – we lost count of the number of times a small gem of an idea or a solution to a particular problem would come from a seemingly un-expected source. We were always able to learn more by speaking to ‘Paul,’ their sales manager, we worked very closely with ‘Chris,’ a developer who was an exceptional copywriter, but our favourite example of this close collaboration was with the MD, Ian Watson himself. During a Christmas campaign, whilst mailing out promotional materials to all of Altia’s customers with a festive theme. The tongue-in-cheek message for the card came from Ian – ‘There is no time like the present, there is no present like time.’ A little tongue-in-cheek nod to the key benefit of Altia’s software solution – the giving back of ‘time’ to investigators.
Each of the pictures below show great examples of our collaboration – everything from the updating of the ‘wee-man,’ the much-loved and original company logo, to the e-mail communication sent to the ABM Intelligence team before meeting them for the first time in Nottingham, to some of the draft results of that ‘meet the team’ exercise to a fun-pic of CEO, Ian Watson and finally our Founder, Benedetto, here sketching out some of the earlier Altia identities.
‘Building on what you already have’ is a big loft principle and one we’re glad we shared with Altia Solutions.
At the loft, we regularly ask ourselves, whether it is easier to deliver something of value to an existing client or to go out and invest energy, time and money on trying to build new relationships for new business. The answer is usually the former.
After having developed relationships with many of the people at Altia, we had learned that most of their customers found great value in the software but were only using around 30-50% of their its overall functionality. There was more they could access and benefit from. With that information in mind, we were delighted to work with both development and training teams to co-produce a simple newsletter system, one which would introduce a new feature of the software to Altia’s users each week. The communication would consist of a simple digital graphic of a software feature leading to a short blog or video with a short 5-minute tutorial. This was tremendously well received as it was short, fast and more in the interests of improving service as opposed to selling. However, needless to say and unsurprisingly so, the greater the operator’s knowledge of the programme, the greater their team’s reliance on the software, the more licenses a department would end up purchasing.
Finally, Altia also re-doubled its efforts with activities such as training seminars which allowed customers to not only learn more about the software but to also become co-developers of future iterations. All actions which were brilliant for building greater customer loyalty, turning customers into partners and as a bi-product – making the work of the sales and accounts teams so much easier too.
You can see images of the customer-friendly e-mail shots (Al and Tia’s Tips) that were sent to Altia users below, some of the graphics created for the software features of the programmes and also the different materials created for Altia Learning – the successful training seminars.
Companies with a purpose, a mission, those which serve a greater cause are those which tend to more easily win hearts and minds in the sectors that they operate. With the law-enforcement community this is especially true.
In 2015, Altia’s Managing Director, Ian Watson, had a wonderful idea to set-up a national forum to bring together some of the most influential people in security, investigations and policing. ‘The Serious & Organised Crime Exchange’ (SOCEX) was born. It was the largest event of its type in the UK and possibly the world, at that time. The first event was even attended by the Rt Hon Theresa May MP, the UK’s then Home Secretary.
We were delighted to work closely with the Altia management team and event organisers to develop the name, brand and communications for the first conference and to continue with the partnership for another 5 years afterwards. SOCEX has been a tremendous success, it has grown into a much larger forum and has helped to give great credibility to the Altia Solutions (and now Altia-ABM) brand in the minds of everybody in law-enforcement.
You can see a selection of the branding and communications work we created for SOCEX over a period of 4-5 years. Once a branding framework was introduced in 2015, it was repeated for several years to help give a more consistent and professional brand appearance.
When all is said and done, we believe branding and marketing activities for software companies can also make people happy as well as communicate customer messages.
With the sometimes-daunting intelligence and sophistication, a new technology can bring – it can be very easy to lose sight of the fact that our customers, staff and stakeholders are all still human-beings. For all of the activities we worked on together – ourselves and Altia were in agreement that everything the company did should be as light and friendly as possible. However, at times, we went one step further and created marketing communications which became mini experiences themselves, giving little moments of pleasure or joy.
Some of the most effective ideas that we developed together included fun stuff like mugs with word-searches, jigsaw-like coasters and even a bespoke newspaper. The ‘Altia Times’ was designed like an actual broadsheet, complete with fun cartoons with messages about policing at that time. Each of these little ideas helped to add a little bit of fun to the daily lives of people that used Altia-ABM’s software.
You can see a wide range of some of the different, and more fun, things we co-created with Altia-ABM – the unforgettable ‘Altia Times’ Newspaper which was given to both customers and attendees of SOCEX, some-user friendly mini-brochures, some earlier concept drawings of the identity update and although the term ‘Humanising Data’ was never used externally, it did inspire some of the thinking behind marketing communications.
The people involved with fast-growing companies tend to be time-poor, we were very aware of this at the loft, and went to great lengths to make our presentations as light and digestible as possible.
One of the little quirks of our partnership was the use of hand-drawn sketches. We had found over many years that these ‘Plans-On-A-Page’ were a brilliant way to quickly present new ideas for launches, campaigns and other marketing activities. We used them to present ideas for everything from websites to explainer videos to company gift boxes. Each of them generally a response to a tight deadline, produced in a few hours and presented to Altia team-members in short spaces of time by different members of our team.
These sketch and idea sheets – of which there were many – were usually presented alongside properly costed proposals of activities where we would highlight the actions which maximised impact. All helping to assist with rapid decision making and generating momentum with the marketing of the organisation.
Shown below, a few examples of the many sketch sheets that were presented to Altia over the years.
Values are brilliant for companies that are getting bigger, when growth is rapid and where leaders have less direct contact with staff, suppliers and customers.
Values make a difference in so many ways and our work with Altia and ABM, when both companies were merging (in 2016,) demonstrated this to tremendous effect. The creation of strong practical values helped with competitive tenders with customers (as prestigious as international governments,) they helped both organisations communicate their culture to new employees and also with technical decisions regarding the software itself. Even the time taken to properly interview staff members, listen to concerns and aspirations was tremendously effective to the organisation in demonstrating to everybody involved that they cared.
What was so effective with the values work we did was that it was done from the ‘ground up,’ it was based on what both organisations were already doing well, and we also included ideas which were practical and important to various teams. One memorable idea was ‘One-less-click’ which was established while working with the developers of ABM and discussing how they could help users to be more productive.
‘As developers, we aim to create software/systems where users make one-less-click. One-less-click when multiplied by every programme every day for every user over a long period of time will makes a considerable difference to the productivity of an organisation.’
Productivity obviously being one of the key customer-benefits of what was being sold, these indeed were values and behaviours that everybody could buy into.
We even went beyond traditional terminology such as ‘values, vision and mission,’ to the more friendly ‘Who We Are and What We Do.’ Again, for greater buy-in from the various teams at Altia and ABM.
An example of the ‘Values, Vision & Mission’ work we created with Altia and ABM. Or in this case – ‘Who We Are and What We Do.’
The importance of powerful imagery can never be under-estimated, nothing communicates a powerful idea like a powerful image.
With all of the brands we worked with throughout the years – Altia Solutions, ABM Intelligence, Altia-ABM, SOCEX, The Keith Hughes Awards and international variants of each – some exceptionally constructed images were used to get across important messages or themes to people as diverse as users, policing chiefs and even government ministers . These visuals ranged from the simple to the sophisticated to the sometimes abstract.
‘Into Alignment’ used as the 2015 SOCEX identity, brochure and marketing communications was one such visual. One of the main themes of the first conference was the significant meeting of decision-makers from three tiers of law-enforcement – local, regional and national. To showcase this, we took 3 inter-connecting circular networks to represent the three tiers and connected them with an X for ‘Exchange’ as SOCEX was facilitating an ‘Exchange’ of ideas.
Tremendously effective, and as mentioned, introducing the main conference theme ‘Into Alignment’ as well as beautifully forming the first SOCEX identity and
There were many such examples, particularly with SOCEX, throughout the years.
Some examples of ‘pictures which cut through the noise’ for SOCEX, used to tremendous effect for both the 2015 and 2019 events.
Different decision makers are persuaded by different types of information – communicating credible metrics, data and numbers, particularly alongside more personable customer stories has a lot of persuading potential.
This was particularly true for Altia-ABM, as the people who would make a decision on purchasing their software included investigators, people in purchasing departments, office-heads, procurement managers, project managers, regional law-enforcement chiefs, etc. So, having as wide a range of communication messages including credible numbers, was incredibly important.
We created a number of infographics and visual representations showcasing the most significant of these statistics. In this case, how many hours of an investigator’s time could be saved, how much budget could be redeployed, how many more documents could be scanned, etc. We presented them in a number of different ways from postcards sent as part of marketing campaigns to website infographics to one-page PDFs that a salesperson could present to a prospective client on their I-Pads.
Some examples of how key metrics were communicated to customers. In these examples as postcards sent to prospective and existing customers. Alongside the sales and marketing teams of Altia, we were always looking for ways to communicate data in a visually friendly way with the software marketing.
Branding consistency breeds brand credibility.
Bridging the branding gap between a plucky, entrepreneurial upstart and credible corporate entity can be quite an exercise. With Altia, we were always aware of pushing the limits of both – we wanted some of the great, spontaneous ideas that traditional companies dismiss as a lot of the time they are incredibly effective. However, we also wanted the company to be taken seriously with everything they communicated.
We did everything we could to ensure that everything that left the studio door was of the highest possible standard and more importantly, that there was a common visual thread between everything the various brands were doing.
We were able to build real consistency into the Altia Solutions, ABM Intelligence, Altia-ABM and also the SOCEX brands over multiple cycles over many years by using common visual frameworks. This included a ‘data-pattern’ for Altia and ABM while each SOCEX brochure would have the circular connections framework as created in the very first communication. Both of these visual structures helped to give the various brands a consistent – and therefore a professional appearance – over many years.
Some examples of the range of branding solutions created for a number of Altia-ABM related brands over the years. One strong example was the re-creation of all brand materials with the data-pattern for both Altia Solutions and Altia-ABM after the merger in 2016.
Harmoniously passing the baton from one project leader to another is particularly important for rapidly growing organisations where people may change roles a little more often than normal.
While working with Altia-ABM, we understood quickly, how important it was to manage the beginning and ending of various cycles in the least disruptive ways possible. Growing organisations will go through more periods of renewal in shorter spaces of time than other companies. Suppliers, decision-makers and people responsible for different parts of the process will all likely change multiple times throughout a number of years. Finally, new people may not have huge amounts of time to get up to speed.
This is where we learned that concise, practical and people-centric design is more important than ever before to ensure smoother handovers from one project lead to another. One document that took this into account was a set of ‘user-friendly’ brand guidelines for SOCEX. Big, bold statements which communicate instructions in a direct, common-sense way as opposed to more awkward, complex and highly technical guidelines.
Whilst speaking of succession, we were also delighted to pick up on our work with Altia-ABM after they re-branded with another creative provider and continue to help them shape their brand to this day.
Examples of the SOCEX brand guidelines, designed so that they can be used by just about anybody (particular focus was on potential stakeholders with limited design knowledge) and some of the communications we created for Altia-ABM after a company re-brand.
When all is said and done, as much as we enjoyed creating different software marketing solutions, learning so much and on many occasions delivering great work to tight time schedules. None of the success of this creative partnership would have been possible were we not working with a company that has an outstanding product offering, exceptional service and most importantly, some great people at its heart. We are delighted to have collaborated with such a wonderful company as Altia-ABM and to see their continued success.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you’d like any further information about our ‘Creative Partnership with Altia-ABM’ or if you’d like to know more about software marketing.
Thanks for reading, the loft team.
For more information on software marketing check out ‘Marketing for Software Companies: 3 Software Marketing Strategies to Use’ or ‘7 Key Marketing Strategies for Technology Companies.’