Illuminating the Market


Tim J. Smith, PhD
Founder and CEO, Wiglaf Pricing

Published September 3, 2003

Since the invention of the tunable laser, scientists have enjoyed tweaking matter with its luminescence with remarkable control. Without it, our ability to control molecules was limited to little more than heating a sample over a Bunsen burner and observing the outcome. With it, we are able to isolate a specific sample of molecules, control the amount of light hitting them, and vary the frequency to excite individual rotations, vibrations, and electronic transitions in specific molecules.

Just as a scientist will control different aspects of a laser to manipulate matter at the molecular level, executives can control different aspects of the sales and marketing effort to manipulate the market at the prospect level.

Laser Focus

Perhaps the best known property of a laser is our ability to direct a beam of light at a specific target less than a quarter inch in diameter without dispersing light over the entire room. In the same manner, the sales and marketing effort should deliver the value proposition to a tightly defined target market. If the target market is poorly defined or the communication effort poorly focused, the effort will be wasted on individuals that are unlikely to purchase while not providing sufficient support for those most likely to purchase.

How can you determine if your sales and marketing efforts are adequately focused? Try this self diagnostic test:

– Have you defined your target market by needs and willingness-to-pay?
– Are the demands of the target market uniquely matched to your capabilities?
– Are the majority of the sales and marketing effort actually reaching people that might purchase your offering?

If the sales and marketing effort is found lacking in the above areas, then fix the focus. At the front end, doing market research to segment the market and clarify demands will help in determining where the communication should be directed. At the back end, metrics and controls can be used to direct the sales and marketing campaigns towards the actual target market.

The value of fixing the focus of the effort is in achieving better results without increasing expenditures or effort. Wasted efforts on non-target prospects are replaced with valuable efforts on prospects that can purchase.

Controlled Intensity

Another lever of control we have over lasers is the ability to alter the intensity of the laser beam. If the laser is overwhelming the target with light, we can turn it down. Alternatively, if we can’t see the laser over the background light, we can turn up the intensity. In the same manner, the intensity of the sales and marketing campaign is under our control. The intensity of the sales and marketing effort should be high enough to rise above the background noise and enable prospects in the target market to notice the existence of the value offering.

How can you determine if your sales and marketing efforts are adequately intense? Try this self diagnostic test:

– Is the majority of your target market aware of your existence?
– Are your competitors better known than you are in your target market?

If your target market has a difficulty identifying your existence, then turn up the amplitude on your sales and marketing campaign. Spending more on attracting new customers is likely to actually produce results commensurate with the expenditure of time, effort, and money.

The value of increasing the intensity of the sales and marketing effort is in enabling your offer to rise above the din of other offerings. This places your firm in the lead position to penetrate the market.

Resonating Frequency

For a scientist, the most valuable lever of control of dye lasers is the ability to tune the laser to emit a specific, monochromatic frequency of light. If this light frequency is resonant with an energy transition within a molecule, the molecule will absorb the light and be transformed to an excited state. If the light is non-resonant, it will pass through the molecule leaving it unaffected. In the same manner, the message that we tell prospects in our sales calls and marketing literature should resonate with them. It should transform them to being interested in your specific solution to their needs. If the message doesn’t resonate, it will pass through our prospects and leave them unaffected.

How can you determine if your sales and marketing message resonates with the prospects? Try this self diagnostic test:

– Does the brand message clearly identify the value of the offering from the customer perspective?
– Does the brand message explain why you deliver more value than your competitors for the target market?
– Is the value you claim to deliver credibly supported through other means?

If the brand message doesn’t resonate with prospects in the target market, then change the message. At the front end, market research will enable you to determine which aspects and outcomes the market values in using your product or service. At the back end, integrating these value points throughout the sales and marketing efforts provides the clarity necessary to excite customers.

The value of making the message resonate with the market is in creating more customers for the same level of effort. With a clear, value-centric, resonating brand message, the effectiveness of your sales and marketing communications increases with zero increase in effort.

Getting More with Less

A scientist can focus the laser to interact with a specific set of molecules, control the intensity of the laser to interact with enough of them, and tune the frequency of the laser to resonate with specific transitions. Alternatively, the scientist can light up the Bunsen burner and hope for the best.

A business person can focus the sales and marketing effort to a specific target market defined by needs, control the intensity of the effort to achieve sufficient awareness, and tune the message to resonate with the demands of the target market. Alternatively, the business can go on their intuition and hope for the best.

Making the sales and marketing effort perform more like a laser and less like a Bunsen burner allows us to achieve more with less. It may require a bit more research and planning than the prior efforts, but the result is greater achievement with fewer resources. At the business level, this implies greater market penetration, a growing customer base, and an improved stock value. At a personal level, the higher productivity should end up in your commissions, bonuses, and promotions.

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About The Author

Tim J. Smith, PhD, is the founder and CEO of Wiglaf Pricing, an Adjunct Professor of Marketing and Economics at DePaul University, and the author of Pricing Done Right (Wiley 2016) and Pricing Strategy (Cengage 2012). At Wiglaf Pricing, Tim leads client engagements. Smith’s popular business book, Pricing Done Right: The Pricing Framework Proven Successful by the World’s Most Profitable Companies, was noted by Dennis Stone, CEO of Overhead Door Corp, as "Essential reading… While many books cover the concepts of pricing, Pricing Done Right goes the additional step of applying the concepts in the real world." Tim’s textbook, Pricing Strategy: Setting Price Levels, Managing Price Discounts, & Establishing Price Structures, has been described by independent reviewers as “the most comprehensive pricing strategy book” on the market. As well as serving as the Academic Advisor to the Professional Pricing Society’s Certified Pricing Professional program, Tim is a member of the American Marketing Association and American Physical Society. He holds a BS in Physics and Chemistry from Southern Methodist University, a BA in Mathematics from Southern Methodist University, a PhD in Physical Chemistry from the University of Chicago, and an MBA with high honors in Strategy and Marketing from the University of Chicago GSB.