Shotgun marketing

by Tony Fannin, president, BE Branded

A recent experience with a small business has prompted me to enter this subject as a blog. They have been around for about 3-4 years and are established. They’ve gotten beyond the scary stage of a start-up (Am I going to make it?). They gave me a call to set up a meeting. Here’s what I found out. They are trying to grow to the next level. They’ve been treading water for quite a while and have seen no significant growth or haven’t been able to attract the more larger, lucrative clients. They service other small business and start-ups and feel that they take too much resources to get as clients and to maintain the relationship once they get them as clients. I asked them what have they been doing up to this point to achieve “breakout”? They gave me a list of several things they’ve either tried or going to try. After reviewing their tactics, I noticed nothing had to do with each other. There was no coordination, just a bunch of one-offs. I found out that in order to “save money” they chose single tactics and single campaigns to execute. When it didn’t work, they tried something else. In the end, they ended up trying a lot of “stuff” and spent as much money as they would have if they actually committed to a “real” marketing budget. Their result: nothing to show for the dollars they spent, not even greater brand recognition.

This is not unusual for a small business trying to take the next evolutionary step to being a medium sized business working with larger companies. The problem I see is they still keep the “small business and start-up” mentality when they are wanting to work with more larger players. Their expectations are also not in alignment with reality. Here are a few points I see on this subject.

• The cycle takes longer – When you are going after another small business or start-up, the decision to sign with your company can happen on the first meeting. When you are going after larger clients, that rarely happens. In my experience, the cycle takes about 6 -9 months from initial contact to possibly getting your first job just to “try you out”. Then it takes a little longer for them to become an official client where you are getting significant business from them. So, you can’t plan your quarterly financials based on immediate sales anymore.

• Act like a big business – If you are going after larger business, you need to act like one. Businesses like to do business with peers, or those they perceive as peers. You’ve got to market and advertise as they do – with a comprehensive marketing plan with set goals that is backed by realistic budgets to achieve those goals. You need to be where they are and act as a player that belongs. Pros like working with pros, so your company can’t be seen as “small business” in a negative way. Be seen as a great company that happens to be small.

• Do marketing for the long run – You’ll end up spending the same or more money for little or no results. You won’t even get the benefits of increased brand recognition. It’s like a money pit. You feel like you’re spending less in reality, the money you spend is wasted. To work with larger clients, you need to market for the long-run and not the quick hits. The larger businesses don’t usually make decisions on the spot or even after one meeting. Gone are the days of meeting at Starbucks and being able to seal the deal there. They have several internal stakeholders that need to be involved and vetted. This takes time. There are also several other businesses just like yours who are trying to do the same thing. Large business have many choices because they can work with other large businesses and smaller ones who want to move up. Because they are more deliberate in making decisions, your marketing needs to be consistently out there and over a longer period of time. That way, when they do come to a decision of making doing something about their needs, your chances of being on the short list is greatly improved.

My advice to my example small business and others like them, it will serve you better if you changed your viewpoint of acting less like a small business by getting more sophisticated in marketing and building your brand. This will help you gain access to their “club” by being seen as a peer and someone they to get to know and work with. Just as with shotgun weddings, shotgun marketing usually doesn’t work.


About Be Branded

Tony Fannin is of President of BE Branded, an integrated marketing firm who helps clients BE Somebody to their customers. If you aren't somebody, then you are commodity.

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