Outside-In Marketing: Don’t Sell a Service, Solve a Problem

Jim Bierfeldt

Jim Bierfeldt is the founder and chief strategist at Logistics Marketing Advisors, a marketing firm that helps logistics businesses define and communicate their value, and then translate that value into revenue.

Outside In Marketing from Logistics MarketingToo few logistics businesses practice “outside-in marketing.” Instead, they focus their marketing on the services and key features they (and 500 other companies) offer. That’s a great strategy if your marketing goal is to blend in and go unnoticed.

Successful marketers start with a market need and work backwards to their product or service. They identify the specific problem, or problems, they solve better than anyone else, and then position their company as the best organization to address this problem.

If done well, this makes marketing’s job much easier. People will actually SEEK YOU OUT.

You see buyers with specific problems don’t want generic solutions. And with gloms of information right at their fingertips, they don’t have to settle for generic solutions. A little searching, some reading, and a few phone calls is all that’s needed to identify the Pros from Dover for a particular solution.

You Can’t Be Expert at Everything

An outside-in marketing strategy involves positioning your company as an expert. But expertise has its limits. You need to know yours.

Let’s try a little exercise.

Assume there are fifty companies now researching different supply chain problems, and each is looking to hire a 3PL with experience solving their company’s current problem. The companies have deployed their best people to develop a short list of providers to contact. These research ninjas hit the internet, talk to consultants and otherwise find evidence of how particular problems were solved, and who solved them. Based on this research, short lists are created.

Be honest. Which logistics problems should your company undoubtedly be on the short list to solve – based on real evidence, not your marketing claims?

Your best prospects are the companies that have these problems, regardless of whether or not they match up with some demographic profile you’ve created.

An Outside-In Marketing Approach Can Be Applied to Any Service

Let’s say that, instead of a logistics business, you run a lawn care service. If your marketing approach is “inside-out,” your message isn’t going to be a whole lot different than the dozens of other lawn care businesses in your town. Good rates, reliable service, full-service seeding/cutting/fertilizing, blah, blah, blah. It’s a commodity and you’ll compete on price.

So you decide on an outside-in marketing approach and look at all the lawn-related problems/needs that people search on – bare patches, weeds, crab grass, brown lawns, and organic lawn care to name a few.

Hmmmm, brown lawns. You have experience installing in-ground sprinkler systems. That’s something very few of your competitors offer.

By tweaking your advertising and website to promote solutions to brown lawns (including sprinkler systems), you go from generalist to specialist. By publishing helpful articles on the topic and sharing your knowledge liberally via social networks, you go from anonymous to expert.

You’re not eliminating yourself from competing for more general projects, but you can now position yourself as the GO TO person in ANYTOWN to turn brown lawns back to a beautiful green.

Remember, buyers with specific problems don’t want generic solutions.

What problems do you solve better than anyone else?

I’m willing to bet that most of the new business you’ve signed in the last year has NOT been the result of proactive sales and marketing outreach. I’ll bet these opportunities started when a need at a prospect’s organization triggered a phone/email contact or referral to your company.

The thing that most determines whether your sales line rings and your inbox dings isn’t outbound marketing, it’s need. And that calls for an outside-in marketing approach.

Figure out where the pain already exists and market your company so that those who have that pain would objectively view you as the obvious choice to make it go away.

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2016 Survey eBook CoverLogistics Buyers Reveal How to Get, and Keep, Their Attention

Our new 2016 eBook summarizes the results of our survey of buyers of logistics services, including verbatim comments that take you inside the minds of your prospects and how they feel about the many marketing and sales pitches they field daily.

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