One-third of the US economy is run by mid-market companies which are commonly defined by Dun & Bradstreet as any company with annual sales between $10 million and $1 billion. There are over 200,000 companies in this range who employ 45 million people. This is a group of companies doing very well: in the first part of 2019 average revenue growth in the group was +8.7% which is the second-highest rate of growth the sector has recorded.
Such companies have unique needs which, too often, agencies miss. They miss it because the creative efforts of large companies–from Unilever to Nike — take the majority of the trade press. These large brands have “experimental” marketing budget line-items that are sometimes larger than the entire marketing budget of the mid-market competitors in the same category.
What makes mid-market companies unique is the paradox they need to manage… They have marketing resources, but they don’t have huge marketing teams.
They invest in R&D, but not everything scales to work for them or is affordable at alpha stages. They are hiring at a greater velocity than small business and large enterprise, but they don’t have established ways for every position to work yet. They bring enormous passion to business, but they still make the effort to have interpersonal relationships with partners and suppliers they like. These conditions and more make for a unique set of marketing needs that aren’t talked about very much in the media.
“The tendency in the US to overlook middle market enterprises is extremely short-sighted, as it fails to appreciate the major contributions made by these companies in terms of economic activity, job creation, and investment in innovation.” -World Economic Forum
Drake Cooper believes the mid-market is both a factual definition and a mentality. Some companies are right in the heart of the mid-market by economic definition. Additionally, some teams within a large enterprise take on the wonderful mentality of the mid-market and do their finest work with partners who approach things in a mid-market manner.
When it comes to working with creative agencies, marketing partners and R&D innovation providers, there are ten core needs mid-market companies seek to achieve growth.
- Work the ‘bottom of the funnel’ to make themselves very findable online by consumers who aren’t very familiar with them, or don’t know the brand at all.
- Use creativity and craft as a core market advantage to draw people into a brand they often know little to nothing about.
- Steal market share from very large resource-rich brands while also watching for aggressive moves by smaller, yet credible, competitors who can displace them quickly.
- Be very clear in messaging about what they do, why they do it, and show how much people like them.
- Offer a surprisingly-easy customer experience and customer journey.
- Spend notable time building strategies to enter new markets, both physically and among consumers.
- Maximize their brand penetration by showing the brand, brand assets, packaging, etc. in a consistent and distinctive manner.
- Create a culture based on brand purpose that attracts and holds talent from the lure of large companies and their attractive employment packages.
- Invest in data management to create ‘relevant, not creepy’ ways to know customers better than large organizations (who often have unwieldy and disjointed data sets).
- Be able to personally show the owner(s) of the company, who often work just steps away, how their marketing investment is working.
Some of these may sound familiar to any company. But look closer. For big companies, many of the above are already done/different or they don’t use an agency to achieve them. Conversely, many small businesses are simply not at some of these stages yet.
The mid-market is one of the most exciting places to work in. We consistently find very strong brand propositions which just need more consumers to know about them. We also find that mid-market companies employ great people who bring smarts, humanity, ambition, and a healthy degree of fun to work every day.
Whether a brand is physically in the mid-market or has a specific division looking for mid-market grit, agencies need to be able to deliver against these ten needs if they are to be valuable partners to the brands who drive one-third of the US economy.