Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Are you a market maker or a market taker?

By Charlie Terry, founder and MD, CEEK

Last year almost 80 new businesses were created every hour in the UK. That’s easily more than half a million in 12 months – and if previous years are anything to go by, most of them will live to see their first birthday.

I know what the cynics among you are thinking: how on earth can the country sustain a million new businesses every couple of years? Surely there’s not the demand, or the gaps in the market, for so many start-ups to succeed?

But the secret, in my considerable experience, lies in knowing where your business fits when it comes to catering to an existing volume, or filling a void. In other words, are you a market maker or a market taker?

The reason it’s so crucial to establish this at the outset is that it will – or it should – entirely dictate your digital marketing strategy.

A market taker might be a homegrown organic wine start up, or a new range of vegan bar snacks. Both will be competing with existing brands in the same space, and hoping they can steal some audience with their individual USP or slick branding, but they are not carving out a whole new audience.

Market makers on the other hand are those companies who have created an entirely new product that offers something unique, unlike anything else available on the market. Off the top of my head mochi brand Little Moons has landed here from Japan and found a huge market of young teenagers – and others – who have gone wild for the dough-wrapped gelato sensation.

And then you have the brands that are both market making and market taking. A perfect example is DAME, the new brand of reusable sanitary products that includes reusable tampon applicators – the first time this has been offered to a mainstream market, if at all. (Full disclosure, we are proud to call DAME a client.)

In DAME’s case they are not creating a life changing product – in fact they are going up against the likes of Tampax which accounts for a third of global sales in this sector.

DAME’s target consumer is not just the environmentally conscious who would welcome reducing their single use plastic output, it is anyone who buys products from other producers of sanitary products. They are simply looking to take market share from something that is very well established, but with a new lens, angle, USP or – in this case – a value add.

So, how to tackle each approach?

If you’re market taking in a direct form it means there’s already volume, and you’re just not visible, so the marketer’s priority should be to get into conversations that are already happening. If there’s already an established market, what you’re looking to do is build your share of voice or, in digital marketing terms, your share of search. That means you should lean more towards search based platforms, because the volume of traffic is already there, you just want more of it to land on your page.

However, easily my favourite approach to market taking is something very few people do, which is to go into social media and type any number of questions related to your brand, which will return hundreds of results about other – rival – businesses. By looking at the developed markets and the conversations that are happening that aren’t directly about your product, you can see exactly what your client is missing out on.

If you’re market making, however, it’s a different challenge. Your focus should be on actually stimulating conversation, creating chatter and virality. Look to social media to create that virality that will in turn start to develop conversations in that space. To go viral thanks to a content creator who is already relevant in the sector is not easy but, if you can achieve it, will be a priceless launchpad for your startup.

By collaborating with an individual or a complementary brand that already has a big audience a startup can stimulate that conversation and get itself at the centre of debate.

A site that’s perfect for early funnel inspiration is Pinterest. There’s significantly more traffic at the inspiration/aspiration stage than there is on other social media platforms, so you can drive a lot more eyeballs around your concepts or new idea than if you’re only focusing on purchases. And then you can intrinsically bring those consumers into your ecosystem, build trust and start taking that market share.

In the time it’s taken me to write this, around 80 new businesses have been started (ok, maybe 100 but in my defence it’s a Friday afternoon) and a corresponding number of marketing plans will be underway. And point number one on every plan should, without fail, read simply ‘Maker or Taker?’