I’ve begun to notice a very common affliction with marketing in small and mid-sized B2B companies, and chances are you may recognize it within your own organization. Here are a few of the symptoms we often see, even in very successful organizations:
- Your company’s marketing department spends far more time with your sales team (making powerpoint decks, I bet) than it does working on promoting the company to bring in new leads and set appointments for the sales team.
- Your CEO (or president, or other senior management) are very involved in trying to craft a clever new way to call the thing you sell.
- You have a lot of conversations about your “market position,” and as a part of this conversation it is eventually decided that you’re really selling solutions, not just the thing that you provide.
In a lot of these kinds of companies there is a very real and intense focus on the organization itself. This isn’t inherently wrong, but that focus is misplaced during these conversations.
Instead of retreating from the marketplace, getting your team in a huddle, and thinking about yourself really, really hard, you should be doing the opposite. Go out into the marketplace, talk to as many people as you can about the thing that you sell, figure out what problem it solves and then align yourself to it.
The focus of your marketing, how it speaks to your prospects, what you call yourself and what you do should be driven by a relentless pursuit of your client or prospect.
It sounds really simple, but if it is, then why do we see it, almost predictably, in so many SMB services companies? Here are a few reasons:
1.) Talking about ourselves is fun, easy and comfortable.
Let’s face it, it’s not difficult to get most people to talk about themselves, and this isn’t really a bad thing. After all, we’re all the world’s foremost expert regarding our own self and the collective aspirations of a company’s individuals feed off each other during these conversations.
In short, it’s a lot of fun to have a meeting where a half dozen people are all dreaming together. These are good conversations to have, but they should be the beginning of a larger one, not exhaustive in their own right as they often are.
2.) Learning about your own marketplace is hard.
It requires all the data you can muster which often isn’t available or is incredibly expensive to buy. In the absence of real data, anecdotal evidence is used and this leads to having to dissect whose opinion of what is more correct than another’s. Can we just go back to talking about ourselves already?
3.) Organizations must confront the disparity between how they see themselves and how their clients see them.
Nobody likes this. In fact sometimes, nobody believes this, even in the face of evidence suggesting otherwise. It takes a really mature organization to acknowledge the difference and embrace it instead of getting defensive and wanting to fight it.
The best part about choosing to align yourself with your audience instead of trying to align your audience with your organization is that it relieves the fatigue associated with endlessly trying to guess what they might like to hear. You can start making decisions based on an objective reality (what the client wants) instead of a subjective one (what the highest-paid person in the room wants).
Guess what else? It makes your marketing more effective.