An article in India’s Economic Times suggested many of India’s small and medium sized IT, software and technology outsourcing companies are now outsourcing some key marketing functions like making pitch documents, lead generation, power point presentations and even reverse outsourcing (where they appoint a local agency to market their products and services in the US).”  Small IT firms outsource marketing Economic Times 8 Sep, 2008, (P P Thimmaya & J Padmpriya).

The article says lead generation and building a brand are the biggest challenges for small to mid-sized companies trying to grow sales in the US but did not mention the critical strategic marketing activities that should always precede tactical actions like these.  These key strategy elements are segmenting and targeting and developing a value proposition based on competitive differentiation.

Segmenting and Targeting refer to developing an understanding and a profile of the customer market(s) where a company intends to sell their services.  It includes defining market needs and requirements, business, industry and economic trends, competition and alternative solutions.   Solutions and offerings should be tightly aligned with the needs of the market and the value to the customer should be very distinct. Competitive differentiation means establishing an offering’s strengths and uniqueness relative to competitive alternatives.

Value proposition means defining (for each targeted market) the specific benefits the product or service provides.  It should very clearly state the results the customer can expect.  (Hint:  If what is unique or better about your solution is that it costs less than the competition, then please don’t get your hopes up too high).

Too many companies skip past these necessary steps in marketing planning and proceed directly to promotion efforts like branding and lead generation.  When that happens, the typical results are wasted marketing funds and lost time.   The cliché in this case is usually true: it’s the difference between working smart and working hard.