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The key to good marketing is finding good markets (see what an MBA does for you?). The best marketers are skilled at finding markets that their competitors don’t see. In marketing parlance, they are better at market segmentation so that they can use focused techniques to reach it.
If your competitor is gaining market share and you don’t really understand how, odds are that they have a clever marketing team that has found a different way to look at the market and are attacking it in a way (value proposition, distribution channel, promotional tactic, etc.) that you aren’t even seeing.
Try this: analyze your existing customer base to find unique ways to segment the market. Look back over the past couple of years and collect as much information as you can about each customer: industry sector, geographic location, company size, size of sale, features/options purchased, method of purchase (ie. channel), when they purchased, why they purchased, who were the key decision-makers, etc. Use your financial records, installation/maintenance records, CRM (you do have a CRM, right?), etc. to try to get a complete picture.
Now it’s time to look for patterns. You’re trying to perform a “firmographic” segmentation of your existing client base so you can identify similar companies that are likely to buy your product or service.
Once you’ve identified some common characteristics of your existing customers, you can develop the marketing tactics to most effectively reach new ones. Ideally, you’ve identified some novel patterns in the data that will enable you to reach your ideal markets while flying under your competitor’s radar.
This approach to marketing is particularly effective when you are up against a large competitor that can outspend you in market development. They’ll see the smoke when you start winning business but by the time they figure out what you’re doing, all that will be left are the ashes – you’ll be off lighting fires in the next target segment!