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Marketing in a Multi-Channel World: 2 Blog Series

By Steve Deist, Chief Operating Officer, Ewing Irrigation and Landscape Supply

Blog 1: Big M Marketing

A lot of folks consider “marketing” to include things like advertising, promotions, search engine optimization and email campaigns.  These are important activities but they are really tactical, not strategic.  I call them “little m” marketing. 

How do you know if the ad has the right message?  Which customers should be targeted for promotional campaigns?  To answer these questions, you need to understand who your target customer segments are, and what they really want to buy from you.   Figuring this out involves “Big M” marketing.   Big M marketing is about fundamental customer insight and market data. 

Technology has radically altered the marketing toolkit, but the principles of Big M marketing haven’t really changed.  Big M marketing comes down to three things: segmentation, targeting and positioning. 

Segmentation is putting customers into categories based on what they want from a supplier like you.  This requires insight about them, not just categories like “contractor” or “MRO”.  Two customers may both be contractors, but one may have experienced crews and its own stockroom, while the other may need to come to your branch every day for purchases and advice. Same business type, very different needs.  The most successful distributors leverage their customer knowledge to beat larger competitors, including Amazon, who lack the same depth of customer insight.  

Targeting is determining which segments are a good fit for you. Positioning is adjusting your brand and offering to be aligned with the needs of your target segments.  Your value proposition defines how you want to be positioned in the market.  To be successful it must be aimed directly at your target segments, offering a compelling message for them. 

Big M marketing is about creating the right value proposition.  Little m marketing is about the tactical delivery of it to your target customers, across all channels. 

In my course “Marketing in a Multi-channel World” at the University of Innovative Distribution (UID) this coming March I’ll show you how to build and execute on your value prop.


Blog 2: A Value Prop Story

My previous blog covered the difference between “Big M” and “little m” marketing.  Big M marketing is about creating the right value proposition.  Little m marketing is delivering it to your target customers, across all channels. 

Here’s an example of how to put the concept into action. 

A distributor sells to contractors that do commercial audio-video installations.  The distributor offers a range of services beyond basic product availability.  These include inventory management, project management, training courses, business consultation and installation support.  As part of a segmentation exercise the distributor realized that its customers fell into two very different buckets.  One group gets jobs through a “spray and pray” approach: they bid on everything they can find and play the odds, winning 10% or 20% of their proposals.  The other group focuses on innovation and specialization: doing jobs that no one else can pull off. 

The distributor estimated the size and growth rate of both segments.  It also did a profitability analysis to understand whether and how it could serve the segments economically.  Both segments were deemed attractive, but they clearly have very different needs.  The distributor acted on this insight decisively. 

For the “spray and pray” group the distributor stopped promoting training, project management and business consultation services.  It changed its branding to emphasize low price, reliability and being “easy to do business with”.  It added full visibility to quotes on its website and app.  It’s value prop became “cheap, quick, no frills.”  It was equally important to change the internal perception of these customers.  They aren’t “bottom feeders” or disloyal, they simply have different needs.  

For the innovative group it did the opposite.  It focused all its sales, application support, project management and training resources on this segment.  It created a sub brand that emphasized exclusivity and being on the leading edge.  It started a product-of-the-month program to help its dealers stay ahead of their competition.  It created a loyalty program that gave members exclusive access to online instructional videos and business tools.  It’s value prop became “helping the professional grow.” 

Needless to say, the distributor’s little m marketing efforts for the two segments are totally different. 

The distributor has gained significant market share in both segments and has actually lowered its overall cost to serve.  It is handily beating its online-only rivals because it got the Big M marketing right. 

I will cover the essentials of Big M marketing and how you can apply them to your company in my University of Innovative Distribution (UID) course “Marketing in a Multi-channel World” this coming March.   

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