Sales and Marketing “under the radar”

I’ve collaborated with several CEOs with new ventures targeted to enterprise markets who need to stay “under the radar” as they start selling to customers. Operating “under the radar” means that sales and marketing activities are conducted in a manner that is largely unrecognized by the rest of a marketplace. When products are complex and qualified prospects work for enterprise businesses, the sales task is especially difficult. But adding the need to stay “under the radar” doubles or triples the level of difficulty of the task.

Why operate “under the radar?” I am familiar with several reasons for implementing this tactic, principally:

  • A CEO has the ability to control the number of his/her competitors and the timing of when these competitors decide to enter the market

Let’s look at this first reason. The fact is that “under the radar” is a useless mode of operation where a CEO cannot control the extent and timing of competition entering his/her market. Therefore, don’t even consider this tactic for 98% of business activity where products and markets are established with clear value for enterprise buyers and sellers. Going “under the radar” in these markets can be taken as an indicator that a business is a weak player without the capital to do a proper job of promotion and sales. Markets that fall into this 98% category include markets served by well known vendors marketing ubiquitous tangible and intangible products.

Be careful not to confuse “under the radar” tactics with the tactics of traditional direct marketing campaigns: telemarketing, targeted mailings, etc. The tactics may look similar (for example, an excellent tactic for “under the radar” market development, teleprospecting, looks like telemarketing, but is very different in several important ways), but the intentions are very different.

Consider staff augmentation, a well known and familiar business serving the large enterprise market. The staff augmentation business does not benefit from mass market advertising; rather, telemarketing and direct mail are well known to be excellent methods of promoting staff augmentation services to the enterprise. As well, a sales person with an address book is a boon to this type of business. But few staff augmentation businesses succeed operating “under the radar”. Enterprise buyers demand certain financial realities (for example, a level of business activity with peers of an enterprise, a specific staff size, etc) that may not be feasible for a business operating “under the radar.”

In my experience, CEOs capable of controlling competitive pressure, meaning CEOs who will benefit from stealth operation, are marketing products that are either new to enterprise markets, or of unclear value. Of course, these CEOs must be very careful. If no one else is selling what you’ve got and/or the value of your product is unclear in the enterprise market, then you may be looking for trouble. Watch out. But if you’ve done your research and have a viable business plan, then sales and marketing “under the radar” may work for you.

Look to my next post for another important reason to consider marketing and selling enterprise products “under the radar”

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2011 All Rights Reserved

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