Enterprise vendors must know how to triage before marketing to SMBs

Although it is absolutely true in marketing that you can’t be all things to all people, it is equally true that sometimes you need to expand the range of customers you are targeting or, at least, to make sure that all of those you can address have some chance of recognizing themselves in your marketing materials. If you have always been positioned as addressing the large enterprise end of the marketplace, re-positioning to now also embrace small and medium-sized companies can be a distinct challenge. It’s not that it can’t be done; you just need to be careful and intentional with how you go about it.

Take, for example, VMware. According to a recent trade media article, this well-established vendor of enterprise-grade virtualization technology is keen to broaden its client base and get into the SMB market. The company launched a new marketing campaign with the central messaging of “people like you” to help its value-added resellers market to smaller companies.

I can’t tell by looking at it from the outside whether VMware created a new set of products to cater to smaller customers, but the company certainly did create an entire campaign that its resellers can use to go after this segment that might not necessarily see itself as a having the big-IT requirements of VMware’s traditional market. The campaign materials that I have seen do an excellent job of using unique, targeted messaging that speaks more directly to the needs of smaller companies and aligns them with specific VMware product offerings that resellers can pitch. It’s a tidy approach.

In my own practice, I have been working on a similar challenge with a client. While this company’s product appeals more to larger, enterprise customers, it is reluctant to yield the smaller end of the market to its less-feature-rich competitors. The technology is new, and so the market has yet to go through a complete cycle, leaving my client uncertain as to whether it will be able to pick up customers that initially went with a competitor when it is time for them to refresh their technology suite.

The tricky part is developing messaging that will still appeal to these smaller prospects without watering down the enterprise-grade appeal to the larger, more sophisticated companies that are really our primary target market. Our solution was to extend an approach that we were already planning to use to distinguish between two large market segments we were addressing that already had somewhat different requirements and therefore needed distinct messaging.

On this client’s front page, when its new site goes live, will be three distinct sets of messaging, two catering to the big-company market segments and the third speaking to smaller prospects. As incoming prospects self-identify and click on one of the three buckets, they will then be dropped down into fairly well siloed parts of my client’s Web site where they will continue to see messaging, customer testimonials and pricing structures that appeal to their specific requirements.

This is not an unusual or even terribly novel approach for companies that are addressing several distinct market segments, each with their own and different needs. But it is an effective one. Known as triaging, it is the process of separating your prospects right at the front door of your Web site based on their specific pain or other characteristics and then showing them nothing further that is not completely relevant to those circumstances.

What you do on your Web site can be extended to the balance of your marketing activities; different campaigns and content appealing to each of the three target market segments can be created, with landing and subsequent pages that talk exclusively to that segment.

I am never an advocate of any company, and especially not young ones, spreading themselves too thinly by being too many things to too many people. We all must stake our place in the competitive landscape, even if it means deliberately foregoing some great-looking opportunities. But this is not a binary proposition, and it doesn’t mean that you can’t create potent messaging for two or more segments or that you can’t cater both to large enterprise-grade customers and to smaller ones. You just have to be careful to maintain good levels of messaging hygiene when speaking to one segment versus the other.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Francis Moran
Francis Moranhttp://francis-moran.com/
Francis Moran is principal of Francis Moran & Associates, a consultancy that provides business-to-business technology ventures with the strategic counsel required to make their innovations successful in a highly competitive marketplace. Francis can be reached at [email protected].

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