Infographic: Anatomy of Content Marketing

B2B marketers have always relied heavily on “content marketing” going back decades now, mostly in the form of thought leadership. Because the concept is relatively new to consumer marketers and is buoyed by social media, it gets a lot of hype these days and generates infographics like this one. Nonetheless, I like this infographic for the useful statistics. It may help as ammunition for B2B marketers who need to justify their thought leadership programs and budgets. This is focused on the online, but there are many offline opportunities as well (e.g., conference presentations).

In planning your programs, be sure to take a strategic approach to the thought leadership you put out into the market place – it should revolve around the unique positioning you are after as a Go-To in your target market. Keep the content focused. Make sure the messaging differentiates you.

I wrote recently about the McMahon Group and their Go-To status in the private club sector. Every bit of content McMahon puts out into the market is aimed at educating private clubs on strategic planning, operations and member experience. It never deviates. And all of the information McMahon provides is useful and actionable.

Do an audit of the content you’ve produced over the last 6 months. Lay it all out – does it hang together? Does it revolve around a singular theme? Does it support the positioning you’re after? Does it distinguish you? And what can you do to improve going forward?

 

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Market Dominance Case Study: Owning a (Large) Consulting Niche

mcmahon-good180I’ve talked a lot recently about the advantages of being the Go-To in your chosen market and have offered up a couple of high-profile examples. But there are plenty of examples in specialty markets the average person isn’t exposed to. An example is McMahon Group in St. Louis, the Go-To for private club strategic planning and consulting, and I experienced the power of their Go-To status while playing the role of buyer.

thinkstockphotos-628711134I was once helping a premiere private club that was falling prey to the same tough trends impacting all private clubs across the U.S., if not the world – an aging membership, flat membership numbers that would decline if the club didn’t change, and less-than-optimal utilization of club facilities and programs – despite this being a club that was highly respected. I was on the long-term planning committee tasked with addressing this problem. One of our first steps was to seek out a firm that could help us conduct a member survey and determine a plan of action based on the results. In this situation, you can imagine how price sensitive the club was. However, results were more important. We could have sought out a generic market research firm. Afterall, how hard is it to put together a bunch of questions about how and why members use club facilities and what they felt was missing from the member experience? Heck, we could have done it with a free online survey tool.

We weren’t just after a survey, though. We were after a long-term plan that would improve the club’s future. We needed expertise. As it happens, there is an entire sub-specialty of private club market researchers and consultants we could turn to. Who knew? The club leadership agreed that it made perfect sense to hire a firm that understands the unique issues and trends impacting private clubs, even if it was going to cost a little more. We knew that member feedback and input was just one piece of what the club ultimately needed, and we wanted a firm that could help us ask the right questions, interpret the feedback appropriately and guide us toward best actions.

thinkstockphotos-512814378Then it became a matter of selecting the firm. The private club sector, like most industries, is a tight community at the upper leadership levels. Just like any industry, club managers all belong to one leading professional association, see each other at meetings, read the same publications, network with each other, and progress from club to club as they climb their career ladders. As a result, the general manager already knew of the top three consultants in the business, telling us that one, in particular, was the Go-To; so we interviewed all three. Two were impressive – they had great credentials, stellar reputations, and “trusted partner” status with their clients; had done many similar projects; obviously had deep expertise in this specific area; and offered strong teams. The cost of their services was also extremely reasonable and competitive. We knew they could each do a great job.

thinkstockphotos-77739477The third firm, McMahon Group, was all of that and much more.  In addition to the above, it was the thought leader in the field. McMahon didn’t just serve the industry; it led the industry by proactively investing in, conducting and sharing private club trends research, not just on where the industry had been and where it currently was, but also on where it was going. When we had lunch to interview the company’s president, Frank Vain, he humored us by listening to our litany of the club’s challenges and problems; but he could have told them to us himself, because they were no different from what he saw at every club McMahon Group works with.  He was finishing our sentences. And further, he laid out the trajectory we were on. Most of all, he prescribed the solutions right then and there – told us exactly what we needed to do.

In talking to Frank, it was clear that McMahon Group lived, ate, and breathed private club trends and operational excellence best practices. This is all it does. It knows everything going on in the industry. It knows all of the key players.  At its own expense, it studies and watches the trends on everyone’s behalf and warns the industry of what’s coming on the horizon. McMahon has taken spiritual “ownership” for understanding and solving the industry’s most pressing problems. And when you hear it talk about the industry, you can tell this company cares.

In the end, we hired McMahon, even though it was about twice as expensive as the other options. The reason is that we felt the club would get great value and an accelerated
path to results – we knew McMahon would not just execute a survey to tell us what the members wanted but would help the club quickly take the optimal actions as a result. We weren’t buying market research services – we were buying a treasure trove of expertise, experience and wisdom. It would help the club solve the problem – and fast.

That’s exactly what happened. We did the survey. It told us precisely what Frank had told us it would at lunch that day (yes, we could have saved a lot of money by letting him just give us the answers…but we needed to hear it from the members). The action plan ended up being exactly what he had prescribed during that same conversation. As a result, membership growth and club utilization have soared. The Club has since been thriving and doing better than ever, even through the “Great Recession,” when many clubs suffered badly.

The private club sector might sound like a small, limited market for a company like McMahon Group to target, but it’s about a $26 billion market consisting of 14,000 clubs in the U.S. alone.  McMahon doesn’t have to capture much of that market to have a great business. And by capturing the top end of that market and charging a premium price for premium value, McMahon has built quite a profitable business with a reputation that precedes it. It is, indeed, the Go-To in its space.

Give some thought as to what your company can do to establish this kind of reputation and make this kind of contribution to individual customers and your industry as a whole.

More on the Advantages of Being the Go-To

I recently posted twelve reasons it’s better to be the Go-To than a me-too and then four examples of Go-To brands. Here’s just a bit more on they advantages of being the differentiated Go-To.

The greatest advantage is that you compete less on price, if at all.  In fact, you can usually command much higher prices than the competition, because you offer a unique approach and can promise stellar results. The buyer considers the benefits you offer to far outweigh your cost.

Another big advantage is that you are no longer part of the pack – you stand out. You are the first name that comes to mind when the buyer has a particular problem. And that buyer often will proactively seek you out, particularly when time is of the essence (as in the case of C. C. Myers when the freeway melted).

Often selling costs for a Go-To are much lower, because you’re not starting from ground zero in a sales situation. Your reputation precedes you, so you don’t have to work as hard as a lesser-known competitor to establish your credibility. You don’t have to prove yourself as much. You can cut right to the customer’s situation at hand and how you can help.

As the Go-To in a particular field, you wield great power and influence in the marketplace. You aren’t just part of the fabric of the industry, you sit at the top of the pyramid. You help set the direction of the industry. You have a vision others want to follow. As the Go-To, you are in a position to fundamentally alter the direction of the market.

Doesn’t all of this sound much better than scraping for business as a me-too and being pushed to cut your price?

Infographic: Four Go-To Brands That “Own” Their Markets

This is a follow-up to my previous post and infographic, “Twelve Reasons It’s Better to Be the Go-To Than a Me-Too.” As it illustrates, achieving market dominance as the differentiated Go-To in one’s market offers lots of advantages. I thought it would be fun to provide a follow-up with some well-known names that people in tech can relate to, though there are many, many more out there. Though all of these serve a variety of markets now, they all started with a laser focus on one core offering, establishing market leadership before branching into other areas. Once again, enjoy and share. Better yet, send me your own examples of Go-To companies.

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Strategic Marketing Infographic: 12 Reasons It’s Better to Be the Go-To Than a Me-Too

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Market dominance simply means becoming the Go-To brand for a particular market need and being so superior at solving that market problem that you are able to command premium prices, work with premium customers, and hire premium people. Any company, no matter its size, can pursue it.  Your goal is to get people to seek you out and have them so firmly believe in your ability to make a unique contribution that they will pay you whatever it takes.

The alternative is to be a me-too that has to scrape for business and compete on price.

There are at least twelve reasons it’s better to be the Go-To, and I’m sure you can think of even more. Enjoy the infographic and pass it along…

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“I’m Begging You…Make It Stop!”

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Are prospects begging you to solve their problem asap? If not, consider this…

Your primary positioning goal should be to establish your company as the Go-To in your chosen market, so that you can eventually name your price and increase margins as opposed to watching prices and margins shrink under competitive pressure. This is the intent behind the Apollo Method for Market Dominance (TM).

If you’re currently in the position of trying to figure out what you’re going to offer the market, there are two keys to the equation.  The first you’ll hear often: Focus your offerings on large, common critical market problems. Yes, that’s essential, but it’s not enough. People will buy…eventually…and at some price. Just maybe not the price you want. Especially if they have competitive alternatives.

Here’s the common missing piece:  Focus on urgent common, critical problems. The more urgent it is, the more quickly the customer will buy and the more the customer will pay to stop the pain.

So ask yourself: “How urgent is the problem we’re solving?

The Case of the Melted Freeway

I’ve been away from this blog for awhile to focus on client work. And some of what I’m seeing – that tempting siren song of losing focus and veering into me-too territory – is making me more determined than ever to get through on why it’s so critical to specialize, especially when you’re not a global behemoth and have limited resources.

Let’s take the case of the melted freeway as a great example of the power of being the best at what you do…

At 3:41 a.m. on Sunday, April 29, 2007, James Mosqueda was driving a tanker carrying 8,600 gallons of unleaded gasoline to Oakland, California.  He ascended the ramp onto one portion of the MacArthur maze a little too fast and clipped the guardrail.  What seemed like an innocuous bump proved too much for the truck to take at that velocity, and over it went. Within 21 minutes, not only had the truck become a fireball, but the concrete and rebar overpass upon which it rested had completely melted and collapsed onto the freeway under it. Poof. A major commuting artery serving 80,000 cars a day in the San Francisco Bay area was gone.  This was an economic and logistical disaster.

The MacArthur maze in the San Francisco Bay area is a complex set of interchanges where several major freeways come together. On a daily basis, it is central to the movement of 280,000 vehicles passing east, west, north and south. The damaged portion was what formerly took cars off of the Bay Bridge from San Francisco or allowed them to move southbound through Oakland. Even without traffic anomalies, gridlock and slowdowns are a way of life in this area. Construction projects of this magnitude are usually measured in years, but in this case, California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) officials knew that every month, if not every day, would count.

They needed to find a construction company with incredibly deep expertise. It needed to have done this exact project so many times before that it could walk onto the job with an extraordinarily efficient delivery mechanism — people with the right skills, established suppliers who were willing to ship as soon as possible, and a proven approach to rapid but safe freeway construction. In short, they needed the Go-To.

In this case, speed and quality mattered more than money, so CalTrans was willing to pay the winning contractor a whopping $200,000 completion bonus for each day it could shave off the already-aggressive deadline.  C.C. Myers Inc., a Sacramento-based contractor with a reputation for making rapid emergency highway repairs stepped up to the plate. Caltrans required a completion time of 50 days. To collect the maximum bonus of $5 million, the firm would have to deliver in 25 days. C.C. Myers Inc. had crews on the job site within an hour of signing the contract and delivered in 17 days,  not for money (there was no financial incentive to beat 25 days), but for pride and reputation. Even still, its profit margin on the project was 50% plus millions in public relations value. The entire Bay Area bowed on its knees in gratitude as C.C. Myers executives opened the new road in time for Memorial Day Weekend. They were heroes.

In contrast to commodity players fighting to preserve their margins, why is it that certain firms seem to command more margin, more attention, and more respect than others? And why is it that they rarely find themselves in competitive situations, clients usually seek them out, and clients will pay almost any price for the privilege of working with them?

It’s because they own their markets. They dominate their spaces. They are Go-To brands in their domains.  C.C. Myers clearly owns “emergency bridge and highway repair” in Northern California. McKinsey & Co. is not the largest in its category, but it owns “boardroom strategy.” Accenture owns “large-scale, high-risk systems implementation projects for large enterprises.” Salesforce.com owns “salesforce automation.” Gartner Group Inc. owns “IT market analysis.” Heidrick & Struggles owns “CEO executive search.” SAP owns “integrated enterprise resource planning (ERP) software” Those firms have defined, committed to and established a unique market position. Anyone else in that space becomes an also-ran. Each is the first name to come to mind in its category. Each is regarded as the de facto standard in its respective markets. Each has survived during severe market downturns while competitors perished. And each is a premium provider that frequently finds itself in the luxurious position of being sought out by prospects, as opposed to having to fight its way through a crowded, time-consuming and expensive request for proposal (RFP) process. It often turns work away. It names its terms. Prospects sometimes even compete for its business, not the other way around.

It’s one thing to differentiate and focus. But taken a step further, it’s incredibly powerful and profitable to take the next step and become the Go-To in your chosen markets. In addition to obtaining sustainable differentiation, your firm will maintain healthy margins and grow revenues over time.