Focus = Success for Resource Constrained Suppliers  11/4/2016

If you work at a small or mid-sized company, you probably approach your decision-making regarding marketing spending with much more scrutiny than your deeper-pocketed competitors. And in your resource-constrained environment, you don’t enjoy many of the benefits these big companies have -- including the ability to spread investment and risk over a broad portfolio as well as access to more funding to research, create and execute programs.

While a miss may be a minor issue for a larger company, for smaller companies and startups, it can be devastating.

So how do you improve your odds of success? Focus.

Easy to say? Yes. Easy to do? No.

You focus your investments where they have the best chance of success, and this often requires difficult decisions. This includes all aspects of the business, but is especially visible with your marketing approach.

Most of us realize that our products deliver a benefit or benefits and could be used by all types of consumers. A common mistake brands make is trying to capture all of that potential at once with a limited budget. That approach reduces your odds of success. When you spread your efforts too thinly across each segment, you usually don’t do exceptionally well anywhere. The overall sales impact is far less than if you had identified where you could get the most traction and then hit that as hard as possible.

So with a limited budget, focus on strengthening and building your core business, and move quickly – with what I call "Thoughtful Urgency." Here are a few general steps:

Identify your Prime Prospect.
Segment the market into targetable groups and assess the potential of your product in each of the segments. Select the area where you can have the biggest impact. This is not easy and may take a lot of work to answer the “impact” question. Define your prime prospect and get to work learning as much as you can about them.

Create a message that resonates.
Your product is based on an insight, typically about an unmet consumer need. You need to identify insights relevant to your prime prospect and understand how he or she addresses that need today. Figuring out what’s in the consumer’s head and how they feel is an important step toward getting them to engage with your brand and change their behavior in your favor.

Build off the insights you gather around your prime prospect, and consider how you can tie both a rational and an emotional component to your messaging. Develop a creative strategy that includes your unique selling proposition, the end benefit and the reasons the prime prospect should believe your message. The more complicated your unique selling proposition is, the more challenging it is to develop simple, efficient messaging, so work hard to simplify it as much as possible.

Evaluate program options and prioritize.
In today’s world, there are so many ways to reach your prime prospect with your message. In the “old” days, conventional wisdom said you needed to get your message to your target three times to be noticed. Thanks to the proliferation of media platforms and how much every consumer is bombarded with digital messaging, the current thinking is you need to reach that same consumer a minimum of seven times with your message to get noticed. The challenge: Determining which vehicles fit your message needs best.

Once you’ve identified the options that make the most sense for your target, then you need to prioritize and determine mix. This impacts not just what programs you select for spending, but also where you allocate your organization’s time.

Rarely is there just one “right” way to approach marketing. It is an inexact science, offering the opportunity for continuous improvement and refinement as you learn and as the market changes. In the spirit of continuous improvement, approach this with a “Plan, Do, Check, Act” mentality.

The key to all of this is making the first decision to identify a prime prospect and focus on that group. If you do this well, your odds of financial success are greatly improved!

William Sever

Managing Partner
Clear Solution

William Sever has 30+ years of leading marketing and sales success in consumer and medical products companies such as Pharmacia & Upjohn Consumer Healthcare, Spectra Marketing, and Sunstar Americas. He launched and/or accelerated growth for brands in over 50 categories, including Rogaine, Motrin IB, GUM SoftPicks, Pediacare, Pop-Tarts and Ivory. Clear Solution for Growth is a consultancy focused on marketing and sales strategies for mid/small cap companies (

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