In January 2018 MPG will be four years old. My baby is growing up. When we launched MPG, a friend – who had been on a similar journey – told me it takes a business at least five years to ‘find itself’. I now believe her. At the start we had a strong sense of the kind of business we wanted to run, but no idea it would evolve into what it is today. Many clients, ex-colleagues and business friends, who have been part of our journey so far, have been surprised at the steady growth we’ve achieved by delivering a unique blend of marketing consultancy and agency services in a way that no one else has done before and to a market that has never really been served well before, at least in terms of what we are offering. Several people have asked me what valuable lessons we have learnt in getting to where we are today. There have been many, but by far the most valuable is that every business needs all of the following three things in order to survive, thrive and grow: A clearly defined and ‘narrow as possible’ target market – you need to focus on a niche, one that is large enough to sustain extensive business growth, taking into account the share you currently hold of this market A strongly differentiated offering with a clear competitive position – you must have at least one USP based on something any current or potential future competitor will find difficult to replicate A product-market fit – in other words, a strong match between your offering and the specific needs of your defined target audience (ideally where these needs are not being met very well elsewhere at present) These are the three essential ingredients that make a business viable in the long term. Basic stuff, right? However, I have also learnt that some companies can get a long way without these ‘success factors’ in place – through a combination of hard work, determination, (sometimes) charming founders and usually a bit of good luck. And then they hit a brick wall. Growth stops and the company very quickly becomes vulnerable. This is often when marketing is taken more seriously. Hopefully, by the time this happens, it’s not too late. So, to get back to the theme of this blog – why do we sometimes turn business away? We have decided that as we continue to find ourselves and strengthen our long-term viability we will follow our own advice more strictly. Rather than casting our net wide and offering our services to any business needing B2B marketing, we will instead focus on offering services that specifically help brands run commercially successful events and build engaged communities around their brands. There are 100s of B2B marketing consultancies and agencies out there. But no businesses anywhere in the world (we have done the research!) that can offer what we can in terms of the ‘full service’ around marketing strategy, data and analytics expertise, digital platform development, marketing technology, and campaign delivery – specifically to help our clients grow their commercial events and communities*. Never be afraid of competition You may ask why I am so freely giving away my ‘competitive intelligence’? Because we believe the barriers-to-entry are quite high. Even with an already strong base, excellent network and vast experience in the market we serve, it has taken us nearly four years and the re-investment of most of our profits to build our team, knowledge, infrastructure, client base, credibility, case studies and brand. We now have unique (yet proven) methodologies, analytical tools, digital platforms and intellectual property that our clients gain clear advantage from and will be difficult for other agencies or consultancies to replicate. The number one spot is a tough place to be, especially when you openly talk about your strategy and business model. To remain as market leader in our field we’ll need to keep innovating and investing. But, just as importantly, we’ll sometimes have to turn business away. * I am excluding freelancers and ‘one-man bands’, who have their place, but we don’t see ourselves competing with them as they don’t have a permanent established team and infrastructure.