There is easy marketing problems, and there is difficult marketing problems. Think of it as an exam. The first question is always easy, just to get the nerves settled. Here it is:

First question:
How would a large company go about marketing a new beer to the adult population of a country?

It is easy marketing because:

  • The product is tangible – it’s a can of beer.

  • The market is large – the adult population of a country.

  • The benefits are clear – most of us understand the satisfaction gained from a cold beer.

  • The company wanting to market the beer is large, indicating a fairly substantial budget.

But things can quickly get tougher. Replace the beer with an intangible service, such as insurance. Go from a large consumer market to a niche business market. Easy-to-understand benefits to technical, industry-specific benefits. Large companies with big budgets, to small, cash strapped ones. Suddenly it’s a different game.

So what is one of the tougher challenges I have come across as a consultant? Here it is, with only 5 minutes on the exam clock:

Last question:
How do you market industry-specific software to a handful of large companies operating in a technical business environment and up against international software alternatives?

This is tough stuff because the offering is intangible, industry specific, technical, niche-focused and with limited marketing support budget.

It is a scenario that I believe is unique to South Africa. I call it “marketing to a super-niche business market”. It is characterised by relatively small companies trying to sell highly specialised business services to a few larger clients. The equivalent of climbing a marketing Mount Everest.

So what is the answer to this question? How do you do it?

It boils down to this: get more intimate with the customer. With this I mean: know your customer better. Much better.

Ultimately there is a direct correlation between marketing difficulty, and marketing intimacy. For example:

  • Technical products, such as pharmaceuticals, are marketed to doctors by highly trained (and paid) reps who visit doctors individually.

  • Niche products with only a handful of buyers, such as the aeroplanes sold to airlines, require aerospace companies to deal directly with the individuals making the purchase decision over many months.

Consider the marketing challenges associated with selling CT scanners to hospitals and nuclear reactors to countries. You don’t do this kind of marketing over a website, or with a few tweets and some advertising on Google. You do it over coffee. Many coffees, over many months. And a round or two of golf…

Do you have a tough marketing problem to crack? Maybe it is time to get personal.

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