Middle School Marketing Recap: Working with All Types of Businesses

This month’s Middle School Marketing conversation centered around the hurdles of working dually with startups and mature businesses, and the challenges of landing the “big fish” while staying true to who you are.  The conversation then turned to strategies and solutions. 

Attendees related some of the difficulties they’ve had with winning work from large companies (the Cokes, P&G’s, and Nikes of the world):

  • Brand manager fear factor.  According to several attendees (including a former brand manager), many brand managers fear failing.  They would rather take the “safe route” of small risk through a big, traditional agency.  They often prefer the status-quo, rather than the chance to create something edgy and innovative with a lesser-known company. 
  • Flawed price/value perception.  People tend to think, “If it costs more, I must be getting a better quality product.”  Obviously, this isn’t always the case—and often boutique agencies can offer higher value at a lower cost.  These boutiques, however, encounter barriers when big companies assume that something must be lower quality if it costs less. 
  • Difficulty delivering a clear marketing message to two different client bases.  From sales teams to website content, how can an agency convey a coherent message while addressing the different needs and expectations of both audiences? 

Then we discussed a variety of tactics for addressing these issues, some of which included:

  • Be a specialist.  Don’t try to be all things to all people.  Understand your core differentiator, and execute it better than anyone else.  Be true to the core values of your company, so that you don’t overextend into producing less-than-perfect work. 
  • Focus on your core clients.  Serve your customer base extremely well, and don’t worry about trying to transition your service to the big guys.  If you specialize in inventive solutions for primarily startups (as many MSM attendees do), then focus on generating the best solutions possible.  If you’re great at it, you will get noticed.  But you have to be patient. 
  • Get your foot in the door.  If you do great, specialized work, you can land a related small-scale job with a big company.  And if you continue the trend there, brand managers will talk to one another.  Although they’re afraid of risk, they also want to look good—and once you start delivering for one of them, you’ll become a safe, smart choice for the rest. 

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the discussion—particularly to Peter LaMotte of GeniusRocket who kicked things off—we’re looking forward to another great meeting in August!

Paul is a senior digital analyst, where he works with clients such as Stanley Black & Decker, the University of Virginia, Lenovo, and the Wildlife Conservation Society. He believes in using data to prove the value of creativity, cut out digital clutter, and resolve disputes.

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