Vertical Ubiquity

Pity the poor marketing people at companies like McDonald’s and Coke. And to that statement, you may respond, “But look at their huge budgets, their massive organizations, and their global dominance.” Clearly, though, their marketing challenge is one of the most difficult in the world.

Why?

Because of their respective target audiences — basically, anyone who eats and drinks. Companies like these strive to attain marketing nirvana — the perception of ubiquity. They want to be everywhere they can be to influence the purchase of their product during those critical “lifestyle” moments during everyone’s day when a bite to eat or a jolt of cold caffeine would be just the ticket. Imagine the pressure to be everywhere for everyone, even with a few hundred million in cash at your disposal.

Presence Builds Preference

Why do McDonald’s and Coke go to all this trouble? Simply put, they believe (as do I) in the mantra “Presence builds preference.” The more your key customers see you in relevant environments, the more they become comfortable with the concept of doing business with you.

Start-ups don’t have such problems. Even with a limited budget, a start-up in a highly vertical industry or business segment has it made against the brawny likes of Coke. While creating a sense of ubiquity is always a challenge, doing so with a smaller, highly vertical audience of customers is a breeze compared to having to be everything to everyone.

Creating a Sense of Ubiquity

The overriding goal is to make an impression with your key customers in each area of their day-to-day lives that is relevant to your company. For example, let’s say you have a product or service that is pertinent to media buyers. The first step is to put yourself in the shoes of the media buyer. What is his day like at work, and how does he interact with the world around him? Does he use the Web? Does he read trade publications? Does he attend seminars or trade shows? What influences his decisions and how he does his job?

That’s a lot of questions, but the answers begin to provide you with a way to create multiple impressions across the scope of the media buyer’s entire day.

How?

Let’s say we know media buyers read Advertising Age and Adweek religiously, enjoy networking seminars, and use the Web to do research. Additionally, this may be a universe of 60,000 to 100,000 people, so already you are targeting a vast subset of a particular industry group. And while people who buy media are located across a broad geographic spectrum, the largest number of buyers (as well as the biggest) are located in major metropolitan areas like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

So conceivably, with a well-integrated marketing plan, a particular media buyer can read an article about your company in Adweek in the morning, see a print advertisement in Advertising Age before lunch, catch a banner ad on her favorite media research site, saunter past an outdoor ad on the way to grab a bite, and attend a cocktail-hour/networking/seminar event sponsored by your company after hours. To that particular media buyer, you have created a sense of ubiquity that is highly relevant to her and her job. And, in that sense, you may create enough of an impression to get her to learn more about your company and its product or service.

Death by Pinprick

The key to success is what I call “Death by pinprick.” You use all the channels at your disposal to attack the problem, but you won’t ever be exactly sure which channel is the one that “put it over the top.” People often ask me which strategy — PR, advertising, direct mail, or trade shows — worked best for a particular company. And I always answer that they all worked together to create the end result. The end result is a potential customer who says, “I’ve been seeing these guys everywhere.”

Eat your heart out, Coke.

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