Mid-Market Marketing: 6 Challenges You'll Face - Cascade Insights

Mid-Market Marketing: 6 Challenges You’ll Face

We’ve all heard of the tech titans like Microsoft and Apple and read about a unicorn or two, but the software industry is filled with companies that are less heralded.

Mid-Market Marketing: 6 Challenges You’ll Face

This article is based on an episode of the B2B Market Research Podcast. The audio version is also available here.

The playbook that marketing leaders at these smaller to mid-market (SMB’s) companies have to follow is lesser known, and seldom specifically talked about.

These companies inhabit a unique space. Many are quite sizable (hundreds to thousands of employees) and each company is typically focused on an industry niche, a particular size of target customer, or just an audience that has incredibly specific needs. For example, these companies may specialize in a certain type of business or technical problem such as CPQ software, remote desktop support, or the financial management of cloud services. Others target an industry vertical like healthcare, oil and gas, or education.

If you’ve recently been hired as a VP or director of marketing at an SMB, odds are that you are facing one or more of the following challenges. Odds are double that market research can help you to face them.

Challenge 1: Breaking the Box of Tribal Knowledge

When marketing leaders are new to a company, they walk into an environment replete with tribal knowledge. That tribal knowledge builds up over time. It’s often based on the slow and steady organic growth so typical to mid-market companies.

Not all tribal knowledge is bad, but it isn’t always adept at helping you survive a market disruption, an attack launched by a competitor, or the changing B2B buyer’s journey.

Successful marketing leaders have to think outside of the tribal knowledge box in order to launch marketing programs and initiatives that will effectively address disruptions brought about by changing market conditions or competitors.

Effective and targeted B2B market research can help you break the box.

Effective and targeted B2B market research can help you break the box.

In-depth interviews with your competitor’s partners, customers, and former sales team members can bring plenty of insight that will cut through tribal knowledge.

For example, one of our clients was facing stiff competition from a rival’s product. Despite the situation, our client was close to dismissing the threat posed by the product. Based on our client’s tribal knowledge of what customers had wanted over the past few years, our client thought that the competing product lacked enough features to matter.

However, we learned through interviews with the competitor’s customers that the rival company had simply focused on the features that mattered to customers in the target segment and cut out everything else.  This strategy allowed the competitor to sell their product for a far lower cost than our client’s price.

Had our client relied solely on tribal knowledge, they could have been in big trouble.

Challenge 2: The Case of the Missing Market Research Study

Many mid-market companies have never conducted formal market research in any way.

This isn’t necessarily a problem if good growth has happened organically for years and the customer base has stayed happy.

However, a new VP of marketing or new director of marketing has usually been hired to solve a problem such as a change in competitive landscape, the changing buyer’s journey, or change in buyer preferences.  Or, that new marketing leader may have been brought on to speed up the company’s growth.

Big changes such as these are an excellent time to conduct B2B market research.

For example, one of our clients simply didn’t understand why they weren’t gaining access to enterprise accounts.  Their solution seemed like it could meet the needs of large companies, so why weren’t they getting picked?

Our research determined that while they had tried to market and sell to the enterprise segment for years, they never quite got the hang of it.

Our findings revealed the marketing and sales tactics necessary to win the enterprise segment they were targeting.

Our findings revealed the marketing and sales tactics necessary to win the enterprise segment they were targeting.

Challenge 3: Unknown Brand Equity

Over and over again, we’ve seen newly hired marketing leaders struggle with the fact that their company’s brand equity isn’t known to the key customer segments they need to target.

In this situation, tribal knowledge often gets in the way. Determining brand equity can be a sensitive issue, especially for long-tenured senior leaders who feel very proud of the company and products they’ve created.  These leaders may believe, despite the statistical probability, that everyone must have heard of the company and its products at this point.

These old guard leaders will be quick to regale the new VP or director of marketing with stories of customers who have been very happy with the company’s products for years and years. However, these stories don’t accurately measure current brand equity. In fact, they might lead the company to believe they are more well-known than they truly are.  Worse yet, they may give the impression that customers love them more than they actually do.

…they may give the impression that customers love them more than they actually do. We see this scenario play out time and time again as we conduct research for mid-market companies.

We see this scenario play out time and time again as we conduct research for mid-market companies.

It’s quite an accomplishment to grow from 1 employee to hundreds. Of course company leaders are proud of this achievement. Nothing wrong with that. However, it’s important to keep pride from blinding you to your brand’s true perception in the marketplace.

Challenge 4: Unmeasured Messaging Validity

Newly hired marketing leaders often realize that their new company hasn’t adequately assessed strength and validity of the messages that are part of current marketing efforts.

For example, the company’s website may have been slowly built up over time with different people working on it.  With so many authors over time, the website may lack a unified message. Or, perhaps the website messaging is something that’s been around so long that it’s outdated. Other times, the current messaging “gets the job done” but it could be improved upon.

Again, this is where getting the unvarnished truth from competitor customers, your current customers, and those you’ve yet to reach, can all help you build effective messaging. Market research can help you achieve that insight.

Challenge 5: Unevaluated Content Marketing

Upon arriving at their new company, a recently hired marketing manager often finds a disorganized blog, stale whitepapers, and promising distribution channels that have been utterly neglected.

In addition, many mid-market companies have missed the boat on content marketing entirely.  This is often the case as many lack the budget of their enterprise competitors, and scores were born before the content marketing boom and didn’t jump right on the bandwagon like younger unicorns did.

You need to start asking your current customers and prospective customers what they want to see in the earliest stages of the buyer’s journey.

To remedy this situation, you need to start asking your current customers and prospective customers what they want to see in the earliest stages of the buyer’s journey.  Indisputably, marketing plays a huge role in driving the buyer’s journey. Make sure you have a road map for where you want customers to go.

Challenge 6: Pricing Model Confusion

Many of the mid-market companies we work with have been pricing their products in the same way for quite some time. In fact, there is usually strong resistance from the company’s leadership to hearing that the product is overpriced or even that it’s underpriced.

Given how much the combination of price and derived value drive so much of B2B purchasers’ mindset, you need to understand what customers really want. You need to know not just what they want in terms of price point, but in the pricing model (perpetual, subscription, etc.)  as well.

Getting the answer to these questions is as simple as going out and surveying and/or interviewing those customers on their price point and price model preferences.

Wrap-Up

In sum, the next time you feel like you’re facing a wave of challenges as a newly hired marketing leader, remember that they all likely come from the same source, opinion masquerading as fact.

And how do you challenge that wave of opinion you face?

You simply need to have great research in hand, conducted by a firm who knows your industry and B2B.

Contact us to let us know how we can help you do just that.

This podcast is brought to you by Cascade Insights. We specialize in market research and competitive intelligence for B2B technology companies. Our focus allows us to deliver detailed insights that generalist firms simply can’t match. Got a B2B tech sector question? We can help.

Image used courtesy of Patpitchaya/Fotolia.

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