Innovators: identify your audience, ignore everyone else

Broad based appeal isn’t always the answer, especially for innovators. A marketing agency I’ve written for for several years started including me in their own positioning discussions to help with their messaging strategy. Their owner is a serial innovator. He loves integrating new technology into marketing. He’s got a gift for it. As a result, he’s been successful and has supported significant growth for several long-term clients and continues to do so.

But he’s frustrated because he’s got a clear competitive advantage, but doesn’t know how to communicate it to the world at large. The agency has a strong market presence based on its track record. They get new business because people hear about the results they generate. But their message of innovation isn’t getting through. Even their existing clients who know and love them, don’t really understand how they do what they do. So how in the world are non-clients going to get it?

He’s written a book, which I helped him write, laying out his methodology and why it returns considerably more than traditional marketing strategies. But who’s got time to read a book? Also, marketing agencies are masters at claiming every capability under the sun, so they all sound alike even when they aren’t. Digital marketing, dialogue marketing, 1 to 1 marketing – who knows what these things really mean and what capabilities they should entail?

In fact, this is a challenge in almost every industry today. Business has gotten so complex and specialized that it’s virtually impossible for a non-specialist to sort out the facts. One strategy is to focus on the benefits this agency provides rather than how they provide them. But every marketing agency essentially promises the same benefit: cost efficient growth.

For true innovators, I believe, the real answer is to talk to other innovators. Forget your geographic locale, forget your industries of specialization. Those are simply coincidences of place and experience. Target cultures of innovation that match your own. Speak to marketing directors and marketing VPs who are sick of the status quo and are looking for the a new way to drive growth. They are the ones who will take the trouble to understand your methodology and to appreciate the value of what you offer.

You’ll still get the walk in business from referrals who just know you’re effective. But target your story for others who are already looking for what you are.

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