The Search for a Unified Field Theory of Marketing

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AtomFor decades physicists have searched for a unified field theory, because sub-atomic particles act so differently than the objects that we see in everyday life. It is a puzzlement.

We have a similar challenge in marketing because it can be so different for startups, SMBs and enterprises.

Of course they all start with understanding the customer, and the market, and creating offerings that they want. But once you get past product-market fit and enter the world of promotion and demand generation, it’s all different.

Startups, 99% of which get no VC funding, have no marketing assets to speak of. They need to focus like a laser on one industry and now spread themselves too thing trying to be everything to everybody. Somehow they have to claw their way to awareness with their ideal customers – a target which may shift more than once as they learn and pivot along the way. The best opportunities are forms of direct response and direct sales, with brand building as an attendant benefit.

Small- and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) do have assets such as their current customers, website traffic, email lists, and market knowledge that they can build on. These are at the center of my Bullseye Marketing Framework. Only when they’re taking full advantage of these assets should they move onto the second stage, getting in front of companies who have the intent to buy now. And then move onto long-term awareness and brand building programs like content marketing, social media, and advertising.

Enterprises typically have large scale marketing programs in place – they got big by marketing. They know a lot, or should know a lot, about what does and doesn’t work for them, and how to scale it. In addition to their direct response programs they may have been running branding programs for years. Of course they have opportunities that they’re not fully exploiting, and they’re as overwhelmed as everyone else by the rapid pace of change in marketing, but they have a solid, profitable foundation and lots of data to build upon.

The scale and programs in these three stages of business development can be utterly different, and require very different skills and technologies.