The art of strategic focus in marketing: what we can learn from Freddie Mercury

By Ellie Jackson, Chief Client Strategy Officer

‘I Want It All’ – that’s what Freddie Mercury proclaimed, and his words echo a universal truth. It’s human nature to push for more. It’s certainly true for marketing managers, trying as they are to get the most return from budgets that are rarely as big as they’d like.

The danger of overextension

But this entirely laudable aim of wanting more can sometimes lead to overextension in marketing strategy: allocating resources too thinly across too many areas, rather than concentrating on a few key areas where they can make a significant difference.

As Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter astutely observed, the essence of strategy is choosing what not to do. For marketing managers, this means making tough choices. Yes, there might be a multitude of aims and objectives across multiple products and multiple segments, but attempting to tackle all of them within a single year is rarely smart. Far better to prioritize certain goals, give them the attention they deserve for a year, and then gradually broaden the focus.  This is not about limiting ambition but about channelling it effectively.

How to Make the Choice

In theory it’s simple: focus your investment where your efforts will add the most value. After all, the reality is that even if you did absolutely no proactive marketing, you would still make some sales. Some level of business will continue as usual. But in other areas, a marketing boost will make a major difference.

Without a time machine, it’s impossible to predict this with absolute accuracy, but it is possible to make an educated assessment when you’re trying to prioritise different products or segments.

Key questions to explore will include:

  • Brand awareness and perception: What is our current brand awareness and perception for this particular solution/segment?
  • Competitive landscape: What is the competitive landscape like for this solution/segment?
  • Market demand: Is this an area where the audience is actively looking for a solution, or are we solving a problem that is not yet well understood? What external factors might play into buying patterns here in the next 12 months?
  • Revenue focus: Where are our biggest revenues currently coming from and do we want that to change in the coming years?

This last one is obviously especially important. For many of our clients (mostly technical B2B), we’re talking about complex sales processes, infrequent purchase cycles, lengthy decision-making periods, and buying committees. Our clients’ clients have a significant potential lifetime value, and a high cost of acquisition is a reflection of that.

In the high-value B2B space, the journey to conversion involves multiple touchpoints, essential for building trust and cementing reputation – especially when significant financial decisions are at stake. Better to hit a more targeted audience several times over with tailored content that’s appropriate for where they are at in the buying cycle. This is likely to be far more effective than reaching a broader audience just once.

So the next time you’re in a planning meeting and a question about target audience prompts the response, ‘oh, everyone’, I challenge you not to simply smile and let it go. Make the case for focus and the value it can bring. The (fat)-bottom(ed) line will thank you.

If you’d like help to sharpen your marketing focus, you can get in touch with our strategists here.

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