3/10/2015 | Tom Shapiro

“Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” These are the words of ancient Chinese master strategist Sun Tzu, and they certainly apply just as aptly to today’s world of marketing.

Case in point is a pasta manufacturer that invested heavily in driving traffic to its website a few years back without an overarching marketing strategy. With a 1.1-to-1 ratio of page views per visit, it was clear that the site was not meeting the needs of site visitors. Essentially, anyone who visited the website viewed only one page and then left the site, never to return. Instead of plowing resources into advertising and optimization efforts, what they should have done was reassess their website strategy so that the site aligned with their customer needs. Looked at another way, this manufacturer was doing more damage than good to the brand by driving more and more prospective customers to a poor brand experience. Strategy matters.

Strategy is especially important when looking at the marketing of midmarket companies. The largest firms in the market have entire teams dedicated to strategy. Startups often have a runway of opportunity where they can focus exclusively on one product or product line while being under the radar of the competition. Midmarket companies are different. They lack the resources of larger firms, while operating under greater competitive pressure and scrutiny than their startup brethren.

With this in mind, it’s critical that midmarket companies crystalize marketing strategies that get more bang for the buck than larger firms and startups. Their strategies need to work across audience segments, across the competitive landscape and evolve with ever-changing customer needs.

To that end, here are four highly effective marketing strategies for midmarket companies to accelerate growth:

Customer Experience Marketing

According to the Customers 2020 report by the customer intelligence firm Walker Information, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by the year 2020. This differentiation translates into real revenue. In fact, the impact from a 10-percentage point improvement in a company’s customer experience score can translate into more than $1 billion in incremental revenue (Source: Forrester).

The age of the customer is upon us, with their greater access to information and ever-increasing expectations. Midmarket companies that want a consistent competitive advantage need to focus on providing a better customer experience throughout the customer journey. The good news is that midmarket firms have a strategic advantage over larger companies in delivering a superior customer experience in that they are more nimble, have fewer bureaucratic hurdles and are generally closer to the customer with fewer layers of management.

Data-Driven Marketing

In the current digital era, customer and campaign data abound, providing marketers with exceptional insights into what works and what falls flat. Digital marketing options continue to multiply, including display advertising, paid search, site retargeting, search retargeting, email marketing, social media, content marketing, etc. With just about any digital marketing tactic, marketers are not only able to capture granular data, but also to test variations and to improve conversion rates for maximum marketing results.

Digital media will actually surpass TV ad spend in the U.S. by 2017, according to Magna Global, with paid search accounting for roughly half of the digital spend. eMarketer is predicting that U.S. programmatic ad spend is set to double by 2016.

There’s an explosion of data at our fingertips, enabling smart marketers to continually test, refine and optimize their marketing performance and return on marketing investment. The most successful midmarket marketers will take a holistic view of data-driven marketing, combining branding and creative concepts with marketing analytics and metrics.

Experiential Marketing (PR 3.0)

The key benefit of experiential marketing is that you are able to bond with your audience members on a personal level. Midmarket companies have a unique opportunity to engage in experiential marketing with prospects and customers. Smaller companies typically don’t have the budget for this type of marketing, while larger companies tend to host larger, less-personal events.

In the “B2B Content Marketing 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends—North America” report, published by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, in-person events were identified as the most effective form of content marketing for the fifth consecutive year, providing further evidence of the power of experiential marketing.

Throughout Salesforce.com’s rapid growth to multi-billion dollar company status, founder Marc Benioff always prioritized experiential marketing. The company would host small, local events, even if the turnout was smaller than the number of Salesforce employees in attendance. Salesforce was willing to get creative with its experiential marketing, as well. One time it boycotted outside the annual conference of its biggest competitor, Siebel Systems. The Salesforce representatives “protested” that the traditional enterprise software of Siebel was obsolete. Salesforce even hired a fake TV crew (from the made-up station KNMS) to cover the mock protest. Outrageous? Yes. Did it get the attention of Siebel’s customers? Absolutely.

Technology-Based Marketing

To be successful at marketing in the coming years, the midmarket marketing leader must equally become a technology leader. Gartner is projecting that the CMO will be responsible for a larger technology budget than even the CIO by 2017.

The Chief Marketing Technologist Blog by Scott Brinker has identified 947 companies that provide software for marketers. Moving forward, we can expect this number to climb dramatically. Ashu Garg, a general partner at the venture capital firm Foundation Capital, recently published the eBook “MarTech and the Decade of the CMO,” in which he predicts that marketing technology spend will increase 10x in 10 years, from $12 billion to $120 billion.

Midmarket companies have an advantage with technology. Large firms have significant investments in legacy enterprise technology, and any technology change could take years. Smaller firms simply don’t have as much money or resources to put into technology. So put on your seatbelt and get ready for the marketing technology revolution coming your way.

Tom Shapiro is the CEO of Stratabeat, a marketing, branding and design agency. Shapiro has worked with a range of market leaders throughout his career, including AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Kraft Foods and P&G. His writings have appeared in such media as CMO.com, CNN, MarketingProfs, MediaPost and REALTOR Magazine. Follow him on Twitter.