The reason I see so much backlash against marketing courses is primarily context. Given that marketing is applicable to each and every business model and organization, context is the first thing you want to determine.
There are various approaches to marketing. Some tend to be more specific and complex than others, especially when it comes to expensive goods in a B2B environment.
In this article, we’ll review the most common marketing categories and tactical strategies marketers have to undertake to face each one of them.
Is Marketing Universal?
Marketing is a topic too broad and diverse. Consider IT as an example.
- IT entails a number of software engineering disciplines: data management and analytics, using and deploying information systems, cybersecurity, technical support, along with dozens of other areas, each of those niching down further.
- Specialties are implemented separately within different organizations. What works for a SaaS startup doesn’t for an enterprise hardware manufacturer.
- Which is precisely why we don’t see job titles like “Internet Professional” out there, it’s pointless and far too vague.
Marketing isn’t universal, which is why I’m prepping this definitive set of terms/categories impacting the strategy utilized throughout marketing campaigns.
Many of those may seem trivial. And that’s fine. The goal is to fill in the gaps AND realize the different nuances of building a custom-tailored campaign based on the detailed context.
Marketing Category Breakdowns
Marketing often obeys the rule of “couples”, semantically splitting business niches into a small subset (usually of two). Let’s dive in and discuss some examples below!
1. B2B vs. B2C
Businesses sell to other businesses (B2B) or consumers (B2C) directly.
- Consumers can be addressed directly while businesses can’t.
- Marketing to an organization may go through a chain of interactions.
- Businesses often loop different stakeholders in.
Marketing candies is often a B2C activity where your audience is kids you can directly blast through Facebook ads and Instagram stories. In some cases, healthy candies are best directed to their parents (holding the purchasing power).
Selling at large means positioning the brand before supermarkets, a B2B strategy aiming at other channels. Your business has to determine who is the best point of contact there — the general superstore director probably won’t be a good fit but their secretary or delivery/store manager is probably in charge of the selection management/prioritization.
Different marketing strategies are employed in each of the categories here.
- B2C products tend to target the consumer directly. The sale is executed faster. The cost is lower and more affordable.
- B2B solutions often involve multiple stakeholders. You may be marketing a decision influencer who isn’t the decision-maker. The sales process is longer and complex funnels are often at play.
Tip #1: Applying the same technique for individuals vs. organizations is shooting in the dark. Study your market and target the audience with a quick shot for cheap B2C or an established funnel for complex B2B deals.
2. Local vs. International/Virtual
Digital services and solutions often aim for a national/international audience. There’s no added tax for shipping an audiobook or an online course from San Francisco to Melbourne or Paris.
What about local restaurants and bars, coffee shops, the local post office, courier services? Location matters — and marketing locally is the only way to promote a local venue.
Incorporating a locator search engine can help boost sales if you have multiple shops or a network of vendors and partners across the country.
The breadth of the area can determine the complexity of the campaign and its utilization. Marketing a software application internationally could happen solely through social media, content, email marketing.
But non-English markets will require a content translation of your landing pages and sales copy. Languages like Arabic are right-to-left, and your software has to support this. Let alone all cultural references across the board, different currencies, tax laws — you name it.
Local marketing could bet on offline techniques — print, local partnerships and cross-selling, local media exposure, local SEO, Yellow Pages, branding park benches, sponsoring meetups and conferences in your area.
Tip #2: Study your market and select high impact, high ROI channels for local vs. international. Local markets can tap into localized or cultural references that are highly related to their crowd. International marketing should carefully reflect specifics across the board, and geographical/economic differences across multiple local markets.
3. Inbound vs. Outbound
Most marketers have a strong preference over inbound vs. outbound. Creating a healthy marketing mix is tricky, and I’ve written a comprehensive guide on building an effective marketing strategy with both. While both can play together nicely, it’s both personal preference, a reliance on experience, and a matter of time versus budget.
- Inbound marketing is an investment in the future. It takes a while to kick in, aims to develop a strong brand, and can run on autopilot once it takes off.
- Outbound gets results quickly. You can easily scale up and get traction. But it’s expensive and once you stop pouring in, you kill your entire sales funnel.
It’s worth studying both marketing strategies separately. Your entire approach to marketing, the required budget, and your roadmap depend on choosing one or allocating a certain ratio.
Unlike the other marketing categories discussed in this guide, inbound and outbound can work together. But investing in both as a smaller business would not be truly sustainable. You need to identify one technique that works best and double down until you max out 80% of its potential. Then, diversify and identify the second-best.
I have recorded a quick comparison video with Colin Carlsen discussing Inbound vs. Outbound and our preferences:
Tip #3: Inbound and Marketing are completely different, treat carefully and see what works for you for starters. You can start with outbound first to validate your product faster and slowly build your content marketing portfolio until you have the resources to scale it.
4. Products vs. Services
Custom products are often about branding and comparison matrices. Marketing a product often aims for volume since, statistically speaking, they are cheaper than service (though not necessary, and we’ll get there too.)
And selling products at scale comes with a low incremental cost (support, server infrastructure, etc.) Services are sold by the hour or at a quantity that is hardly scalable and has to be gauged and controlled carefully.
Services are hardly comparable. There are hundreds of thousands of dev/marketing/creative shops out there. They market based on price, location, a certain niche, unique advantage, key skill, portfolio.
- Products come at a fixed cost. Selling a product is profitable even with the slightest margin. This determines certain KPIs that facilitate marketing through paid ads. In other words, there’s no additional cost to selling products on top of the initial development costs, the ongoing feature development process, and a slight uptick in support (or hosting) fees. Expenses are more predictable and scale is easier to achieve.
- Services are unique and thus require a larger margin acting as a safety net. Consulting, marketing, development services go through a lengthy discovery process, gathering requirements, preparing custom-tailored offers, and including smaller buffers to minimize the scope creep impact.
You can easily optimize your outbound costs with a product-based business once you manage to gauge the lifetime value of a customer. It’s hardly predictable for services. Also, marketing strategies aiming at a consulting business will have to keep the staff availability in mind at all times (a finite, limiting resource) although deals are significantly larger and allow for some experiments along the way.
Tip #4: Marketing products taps into quantifiable comparison within the sector. Services can be positioned differently, and often bundled with sales initiatives.
5. Direct vs. Indirect
This can be interpreted in different ways.
- You may be marketing to a decision-maker who isn’t paying, i.e. a wife picking a laundry machine paid for by the family budget.
- Or targeting influencers within the organization picking a technical/business stack for a new product.
- How about building a network of promoters and ambassadors and marketing them before reaching their own crowd?
While this isn’t as common, it’s often utilized for broader campaigns — political including. Promoting to a community leader or other authority is what Influencer Marketing is about, too, but that’s a separate topic in itself.
In advertisement, direct marketing is also known as a direct channel between the advertiser and the consumer. Think of strategies that connect with users directly, such as email marketing or SMS, instead of relying on fake stats from Facebook and alternative mediums.
Tip #5: Pick a short-term vs. long-term strategy focusing individuals or partners, vendors, other influencers in the buying decision process.
6. Cheap vs. Expensive
Marketing cheap products/services is about volumes.
Expensive ones tend to go through a longer smarketing (sales + marketing) journey, with sales cycles up to years at times.
What works for marketing bubble gums doesn’t for marketing an ERP platform for enterprise organizations.
I haven’t discussed demographics or context, though they come into play depending on the price point of a solution or a service, how developed the market category is, is it priced higher or lower compared to alternatives, and more.
Tip #6: Cheap products are sold easily and can do entirely through marketing. Scaling up takes longer, requires multiple touches, and may require a personalized approach for each lead.
7. Small vs. Large Org
Marketing within AND for organizations of different sizes isn’t the same, either.
- Smaller organizations don’t have anyone in charge of marketing, or probably just an assistant (or the founder handling this.)
- Large corporations have enormous marketing departments, often cross-disciplinary, located in different offices across the world, handling internal marketing activities such as content and video production, marketing strategy, SEO, planning, setting up KPIs, analytics, deploying marketing automation tools.
Needless to say, budgets are different — and so is ROI.
Marketing a product that saves 1 hour a week per employee results in 10 hours weekly for the micro-team. Now imagine the corporation with a headcount of 20,000 adapting that.
They can and will afford the product if you are patient enough and keep hustling. Then again, it may take longer — due to complex business processes and especially in case of a longer learning curve, since onboarding and training thousands of people can take years.
Tip #7: Smaller teams are more agile and have fewer decision makers (and faster processes), though their budgets are lower. Larger corporations take longer and coordinate between different departments in-house.
8. In-house vs. Outsourced
Smaller teams scale differently.
I’ve discussed the marketing alternatives for startups eager to boost their strategy:
Bottom line, companies outsource to agencies or freelancers depending on their budget, hire an assistant at first for the housekeeping, or try to invest upfront for a couple of solid marketers who can quickly generate ROI and take it from there.
Freelance marketers tend to charge $50 to $100 per hour for generic activities. More experienced ones can comfortably charge hundreds per hour or effectively maximize their rate on fixed fee campaigns with an added percentage on ROI. Famous marketers like Neil Patel advertise hourly consulting at $5,000, and I’m confident they can easily make more in different formats.
Agencies are more expensive thanks to the added overhead and their broader expertise across various verticals. Monthly plans can start at $3,000 to about $50,000 on average, excluding costs for paid ads. Top tier boutique agencies, especially those producing videos, organizing events, preparing booths for tradeshows, can charge in the millions.
Those time-and-budget constraints, combined with communication limitations, define the workflow and the ongoing marketing strategy, tackling low-hanging fruits vs. compounding benefits, and experimenting accordingly.
Tip #8: In-house activities are coordinated easily but outsourced solutions can provide the added consulting layer for smaller teams, along with the expertise across dozens of clients over the years.
While marketing may seem like a straightforward specialty at first, a successful marketing campaign bets on thorough research, user testing, defining audiences, creating funnels, measuring activities, and selecting a specific approach for each and every client.
If you plan to sell marketing services yourself, make sure you go through this list for every client of yours.
As for your own marketing needs, run this analysis once and stick to an action plan that can scale.
In addition to the marketing mix alone, every business is dependent on hundreds of important factors bringing them closer to success, such as:
- Great product-market fit
- Effective employees
- Reliable management
- Adequate and scalable processes
- Long-term revenue strategy
- Technical tools maximizing efficiency and automation
- Recognizable brand
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