Ask the consultant

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Question
As a small business that creates solutions for and markets/sells them to other small businesses (call it b2b instead of B2B), what are the best ways to reach such a fragmented target audience?

CAREY RANSOM
CEO, REALPRACTICEOFFICE

Answer
Fragmented markets are challenging. There are large numbers of buyers, both big and small, who exhibit a wide range of needs, and who are being offered myriad, often overlapping value propositions by firms that are trying to garner a bigger share of the pie. Overall, it is a crowded, noisy marketplace with no clear-cut.

The first decision you want to make is whether you want to aim for full market coverage or be selective and target specific segments. Full-market coverage may have the upside of greater visibility and a large number of customers to work with. However, it is likely to put a lot of strain on your resources. Further, it will create positioning and communication challenges for you downstream.

I suggest that you go after a select number of customer segments. Make sure that you understand the nature of their demands and factors that affect it.

In business markets -- including b2b -- it helps greatly to embed yourself in your customers' business. That is, understand how your customers are trying to address their customers' pain points.

This will ensure that you understand your customers' needs. You will reap benefits in terms of your ability to develop targeted solutions that help your customers not only win new business but also identify potential opportunities where they can grow their business.

-- Avinash Malshe is associate professor of marketing at the University of St. Thomas’ Opus College of Business.

Originally published: 11/06/2011, Star Tribune