The Difference Between Marketing to Companies and Marketing to Markets
I’ve learned a great deal from small business management consultant Dave Haviland of Phimation, but one of the points he makes often rings particularly true for me as a branding consultant.
Dave aptly points out a significant shift in marketing approach that occurs when a company evolves from an entrepreneurship to a budding enterprise. That necessary shift in thinking is what makes crafting and maintaining a brand so vital to marketing success.
By way of illustration, think back to when your company first started out. Chances are, your business development efforts were focused on selling to a finite and known set of companies or people. Whether you were tapping the clients you had at a former position or company, or merely starting a small retailer of some kind, you began with known resources. Family and friends. Colleagues. Vendor relationships. In other words, you marketed to companies and people specifically.
Stage 1 Marketing: Selling to Companies and People
Within the entrepreneurial environment, you really could be all things to all people. If Person X needed you to be the fastest solution, you could find a way to be the fastest. If Company Y needed you to be the cheapest, you could be the cheapest. If Referral Source Z needed you to be the smartest, you could market into that specific opportunity by demonstrating knowledge. And none of them were mutually exclusive or to the detriment of the other.
Stage 2 Marketing: Selling to Markets
One day, you wake up and realize you’re no longer an entrepreneurship. Friends, family, personal contacts and colleagues have all but dried up as a revenue or referral source, and you have loftier aspirations with respect to business development. You also have a bigger beast to feed, so your marketing goals necessarily have become more ambitious. You have to market to people you don’t know. You must appeal to subsets of people or companies, rather than individual companies or personalities. In other words, you’re selling to markets now.
In this new paradigm, it’s certainly NOT okay to have conflicting messages. You can’t be the fastest, cheapest and smartest (or at least that doesn’t feel right to me), so you need to penetrate the market with a unified, consistent and compelling value proposition. This, among other things, is your brand.
You need a message that penetrates a market and truly resonates with a subset of the market that represents the proper fit for your value proposition and service or product. Selling no longer carries the day; you simply must market, and you need a brand voice to do that.
Without what we call a Unique Brand Message, your all-things-to-all-people approach becomes an isn’t-good-at-any-one-thing reputation, and that’s a dangerous message to go to market with.
So, congratulations. You’re evolving. Here’s where the fun begins. But it’s also where the real branding work just begins.