Everyone knows that marketing is crucial to the success of your company and its products. However, did you know that there is one, single marketing decision that is exponentially more important than any other marketing decision you'll make? It's this:
What is our market niche?
The answer to this question defines both 1) who you're selling to and 2) how your offering is unique. Everything else--value proposition, brand image, sales strategy, and so forth--emerges from that crucial decision. Here's why:
Every industry is dominated by a few big companies. If you position your company or product as a direct competitor in the "big guy" niche, you'll get clobbered so quickly your head will spin.
However, in every industry there are things that the big guys can't or won't do because it's too specific to a single customer or a small group of customers. That creates a classic market niche where an SMB can make big money.
For example, I recently ran across a guy who built a multimillion dollar business that changes the fluorescent lights inside office complexes in the Boston area. That's all they do. It's work that's too specialized for the janitorial staff and the companies in the complexes don't want to hire somebody. A classic market niche.
Similarly, there are thousands of SMBs that collectively make billions of dollars a year doing installation-specific and company-specific customizations of Windows and Windows-based applications. This kind of detail work is too small to get on Microsoft's radar (or that of its major partners), but it's hugely important to the companies who need it. And they pay very well to get it.
Once you know your niche, you'll know what products and services to market and you'll probably have a good idea how to reach the customers that comprise it. It will be the foundation of everything else you do.
If you get the market niche decision right, there's a very good chance that you'll succeed. If not, you'll probably fail. It's really that simple.