Surviving the Goliaths

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A record year for M&A in 2007 and the frenzy over Yahoo signal that the big are getting bigger … again. As they do, the rest of us—the marketing majority—need to think small.

In the b-to-b space, only goliaths can afford to target everyone and be everywhere. They'll use the full quiver of marketing, new and old: TV, print, radio, direct, online, social networking and guerrilla marketing.

To survive the big brands, everyone else needs to think differently and smaller. Find a place you can dominate and a space you can control. The results will make you look bigger. Call it "sneaky big."

The heart and soul of sneaky big is sacrifice. Decide what not to say, who not to talk to and where not to advertise. Be honest, act on the answers and you'll be amazed how less becomes more. You give up the market you aspire to for the market you can achieve.

Our brethren, consumer marketers, have segmented their audiences for years. They live and breathe division by age, gender, geography and income. So why do b-to-b marketers keep looking at the business world as a monolith?

Beyond media tactics, the message needs the same kind of medicine. B-to-b can get complicated, long-winded and boring real fast. Simplicity and brevity are your best allies. A simple and arresting idea makes your modest budget sneaky big. And this is particularly true of simple visual ideas. Towers Perrin, the world's leading HR consulting firm, took its complex, many-layered consulting process and boiled it down to a before-and-after story. The ad demonstrated how to turn the old "org chart" into a stronger and more powerful company.

Four years ago, Kyocera was a distant fifth in the copier/printer race. Today, it's nipping at the heels of the giants, on a fraction of their budget. Its core message, "we're people friendly," is concise, memorable and unique. And just what the market wants: machines that are reliable and easy to use.

Unless you're a goliath, be bold. Say less and be in fewer places. A sneaky big approach can have really big results.

Livingston Miller is CEO of Seiter & Miller Advertising, a New York-based advertising agency. He can be reached at [email protected].

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