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Climbing the ladder of fame (in Beyonce’s shoes)

Fame: known to or recognised by many people

Last month’s column went down extremely well. People sent me nice emails telling me how much they enjoyed reading the piece. It was, at least for a day, B2B Marketing’s most popular blog post. To be honest, it made me feel a little bit famous.

Might I suggest a reason for that particular post’s popularity? Could it be because I mentioned Beyonce in the headline, and then used the 800 words given to me by the generous people in the B2B Marketing magazine editorial team to formulate a theory that allowed me to pepper the piece with references to bankable stars like Beyonce, Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Kim Kardashian?

Ah yes, the phenomenon of celebrity. As I write this, my wife is watching True Hollywood Story: Kate and Pippa on a satellite channel excitedly called E! (which, I assume, stands for ‘entertainment’). Library footage of Kate and Pippa Middleton is being voiced over by an American man who refuses to pronounce anything correctly (Berkshire is ‘burk-shyre’, Ibiza is ‘eye-bee-zar’), while Angela Rippon, surprisingly billed as a ‘Royal expert’, stares earnestly into the camera and comments on Pippa’s bottom and its appearance at The Royal Wedding™.

However awful this sounds, I’m finding it hard to concentrate on writing this column. Celebrity, however it manifests itself, is fascinating. The fact that people are interested in Pippa Middleton makes me interested in Pippa Middleton. Against my better judgment, I’m gawking at the TV.

And this is why people were interested in my column outlining the similarities between Beyonce Knowles and their own B2B marketing strategy. They got to look at a picture of Beyonce, while musing at how similar their own situation is to hers. Admit it: For a moment, you felt like Beyonce too.

Talking of Beyonce (again), she didn’t just wake up famous one day you know. She worked hard to establish herself in smaller group, before moving onto a larger one. First she became known at school as a good singer. Then at church, where she was spotted and made a soloist. Then she become known in Houston, then moved to California and become famous there, then got on a talent show and become famous nationally. She eventually got to be a global star when her band song was featured on a film soundtrack, but it took her 12 years and lots of climbing to get there.

If you think about your job in marketing, all you’re trying to do is make your brand a bit more famous than it was without you. The definition of fame is to ‘be known to or recognised by many people’. In B2B marketing, ‘many’ is relative to the market you’re in. If your audience (those who make up the universe of people who could potentially be interested in buying what your company is selling) is in, for example, manufacturing, then you’re looking at a universe of around 3 million people in the UK. How many would many be? A few hundred thousand, perhaps? If your audience is a super-specialised niche of experts making up just 1,000 people, then ‘many’ would probably mean 300 people and up. But I’m only guessing.

What I think we can all learn from this is that – in the ever-decreasing universes that make up the world of B2B commerce – the steps to stardom are pretty easy to climb. Much easier than Beyonce’s steps, anyway, which were far wider apart. So when you’re writing your next marketing plan, don’t think about owning an entire country, or a sector like manufacturing. Think about winning the hearts and minds of a small subsection of a subsection of your final audience. Once you’re done that, move up the ladder to the next, larger group.

This technique echoes everything we’ve ever learnt as marketers. Closely defining your market. Being true to the strengths of your brand. Remembering reputation is everything. Never trying to be all things to all people.

If you make software for manufacturing companies, market yourself to the users of the software, then to the teams in which the users sit. Then build your story to speak to an entire company, then a whole sector of manufacturing. Make sure your campaigns nail the message each and every time, in the right voice and with respect to the daily challenges of the audience.

Eventually, if you conquer each audience on the way, you’ll be speaking to the entire industry (or even country) by having earned the right to speak at every stage. But if you’d started your campaign trying to tell an entire country about your manufacturing software, nobody would’ve cared. Fame needs to be earned.

In other words – put yourself in Beyonce’s shoes, and go back to school. And work up from there.


Picture courtesy of the internet.