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B2B Marketing - Why it Should be Subtle

By Stuart Ayling
Posted Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Subtle adj. Showing or making, or capable of showing or making, fine distinctions of meaning.

How many times have you been told that: great marketing has to be "off the wall"; your message really needs to "knock-out" your audience; you have to be loud to stand out from the crowd.

Consumer marketing tactics are frequently about big-budget, high-impact campaigns. But if you're selling services to other businesses you might want to consider a different approach.

Often it's the subtle message that makes a difference. Not one that's really loud, but one that really hits the mark with the audience. Sometimes you need to fine tune your marketing message in subtle ways to make a bigger impact.

The sort of subtleness I'm talking about could be:

* Using industry specific terminology in messages.

* Using the right tone of 'voice' in communications.

* Participating in the most appropriate trade events.

* Providing information that demonstrates insights into client problems.

* Recognising key phrases during the sales process and responding specifically to them.

* Talking about results in terms the particular reader/listener will understand.

You should think about the benefits of preparing different versions of your standard promotional message. Pay attention to the specific audience of the particular marketing activity you are implementing.

Subtleness = Understanding. Clients will recognise your understanding of their situation or industry and you will be viewed as a specialist.

A strong benefit of this approach is that - as a specialist - you can avoid being perceived as a commodity. Consequently you are in a much stronger position to close the sale without being pressured into price concessions.

For example, on a web site describe your services in different ways to appeal to different types of clients. If you need a brochure to use with a variety of client types, consider segmenting the information so you can demonstrate benefits in a relevant way.

The key is to pay attention to the little things that make a big difference. A great article on how email messages can be customised in subtle ways can be found here.

This subtle approach can easily be used in personal presentations. You may have one "30 second introduction" or "elevator pitch" that you use at a general business networking event. You could also have another version of your introduction to use at a meeting of colleagues within your own industry.

Take up the challenge to be subtle. It works.

(c) Marketing Nous Pty Ltd 2005

About the Author
Stuart Ayling runs Marketing Nous, an Australasian marketing consultancy that specialises in marketing for service businesses. He helps clients to improve their marketing tactics, attract more clients, and increase revenue. Stuart also offers telephone consultations and runs regular marketing seminars. For additional marketing resources, including Stuart's popular monthly newsletter, visit his web site at (

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