Much attention gets paid to small and big business. They make for good headlines, after all: the inspiring small business owner in pursuit of their dreams or the industry-leading, aspirational big business. But there’s a huge segment of the business world in between these two: the middle market.
The Middle Market By Numbers
Despite its lack of media visibility, middle-market businesses — both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) — account for a third of the nation’s gross receipts and a majority of the jobs. The revenue they generate is substantial, falling between $5 million to $1 billion.
Middle market companies span all industries but frequently focus on business-to-business services or products. (This, in fact, is one of the reasons why they lack broad visibility — B2B companies often focus heavily on particular niches.)
Life in the middle market
As the middle child of the economy, middle-market business owners may feel at the whim of the larger economy and megatrends set by their big corporate siblings.
But no middle-market business owner should feel stuck when it comes to growth. Companies — and their leaders — that exhibit the following behaviors and practices can better position themselves to expand.
- Companies that pursue new markets and new customers are more likely to grow
- The fastest-growing companies focus on geographic growth, marketing and communications, innovations, and building their talent
- Leaders can influence their company’s success by having a formal growth strategy and managing efficiencies
What do these behaviors and practices look like in concrete terms, though?
Understanding your customer
As a middle market entrepreneur, you know your products or services like the back of your hand. That expertise is what helped you grow your business from a startup to its current position, after all. But how well do you understand your customers?
Even when you have great customer relationships, are you looking at the whole picture? Mapping out your customer’s journey from first interactions to post-service can help improve their experience, but it also helps you understand where you can adjust the services and support that you offer.
It also helps you understand who your target customer is. This is essential for…
Maximizing lead generation
If you don’t understand your target customer, you’ll miss important opportunities to speak to them. No business offers a product or service that is for everyone, but there’s still a lid for every pot.
Once you know who’s out there looking for you — because someone is right now! — you’ll know where to find them and how to reach them. You’ll be able to pinpoint:
- The right social media networks to prioritize for your marketing budget
- The best keywords for effective local search
- The content that your target audience wants and needs
A word to the wise on lead generation
While everyone likes to see lots of potential leads, they won’t take you very far if your targeting is too broad. Narrower is often better because you can spend your time, effort, and money on prospects that are actually interested.
Invest in your technology to maximize productivity and scalability
There are more business technology options than you can count these days, from free browser extensions to massive enterprise-level customer relationship management (CRM) tools. However, for middle-market companies, picking tools that are robust enough while not breaking the bank can be a real challenge.
Many business owners avoid addressing IT issues because of uncertainty, lack of expertise or simply lacking the time. Any business technology decision should take the following into consideration:
- Your business strengths and needs
- Your employees and your customers
- Available technical support
When you are making long-term growth decisions, though, it’s essential to opt for technology systems that allow for scale, security, and efficiency. Your IT strategy should be regarded as a fundamental part of your business plan.
Pick the right marketing strategies for your company
No business grows without the right marketing strategy. However, marketing strategies shouldn’t be a cookie-cutter operation. You need to understand your products and customers (see above) and have the right technologies (see above again) to drive your business in the right direction.
Huge emphasis is placed (rightly) on digital marketing. Automation tools help get and manage leads. A well-crafted digital presence speaks to your customers, both current and potential, and extends brand awareness. Thoughtfully implemented, accessible online services make their lives easier. Putting mobile first can put your business anywhere in the world.
But marketing strategies don’t end with digital. Print is still a major player, with direct mail marketing reaching large swaths of the population. Moreover, any marketing strategy should also address the importance of in-person customer experience.