Stuck In The Middle: Shining a light on the mid-market

Posted on March 22, 2016 by Claire Mason

When it comes to B2B marketing, it’s easy to assume there are only two audiences that matter: SMEs and big business. In contrast to Germany’s esteemed Mittelstand, the UK business landscape is considered more of an hourglass – a nation of shopkeepers and listed superpowers, with little in between.


Our media and entertainment perpetuates this story – it’s all about the art of the start or what it takes to be an apprentice to the big guys. But who is the poster child for the inbetweeners? What about the mysterious M in SME?

Medium-sized firms generated more than £711 billion in revenue last year and arguably constitute the most dynamic layer of the UK economy. With an appetite for investment, growth and acquisition to outstrip both their larger and smaller counterparts, M is a market B2B marketers should ignore at their peril. As big firms look down for growth, and mid-market firms target their peers, market M will be a key battleground this year and a prime opportunity to differentiate through marketing innovation.

Yet mid-sized firms are underserviced by traditional audience targeting. To the left, while small business owners thirst for advice, their lower level of sophistication and complexity makes catch-all SME marketing miss the mid-market mark. To the right, C-Suite marketing aimed at corporate decision-makers fails to engage mid-sized leaders. With leaner corporate structures and skin in the game, they have much more to win or lose.

While marketers often try to cover the neglected middle with regional marketing, this assumes a level of local relevance that fundamentally misunderstands the national and global orientation of these dynamic enterprises.

The UK’s mid-sized businesses are some of the most innovative, high-growth companies in the world. Rather than making assumptions about their needs as a monolithic entity, it’s time that we as marketers make the effort to understand their hidden depths and needs lifecycle. They’re big enough to be experts in their own specialist fields, and need high-level help and industry understanding in order to continue growing. Deep practical insight is the order of the day.

Marketers face significant challenges in accessing this under-celebrated and under-targeted group, but there is a real opportunity to help the mid-market reach its full potential and perhaps become the big fish of tomorrow.

It’s time we took the M out of SME. Watch out for the middle child, she might surprise you.



This blog originally appeared in B2B Marketing magazine.


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