This is the most important word in marketing

Mark Schaefer
5 min readMay 20, 2024

Yes, there is a most important word in marketing!

It’s not “niche” or “differentiation,” or even “conversion.” But before I reveal this important word, will you allow me to tell you a little story that illustrates my point?

You will? Of course you will. You really have no choice do you?

The most important word in marketing

A few years ago, I helped a business selling highly engineered metal parts to the aerospace market. A new competitor on the West Coast stunned my customer by taking nearly all of the lucrative California customer business-about one-third of the total market-in just a year.

“What are you going to do about this?” I asked the marketing manager.

“Well, we’re the market leader, and we’re going to go after it and get it all back,” he said. “We’re going to cut the price and sink the competition.”

Sounds like a rational plan, right?

After I conducted some research, here’s what I learned:

  • The competitor had newer, more efficient equipment and a lower-cost non-union workforce — a significant cost advantage over my customer.
  • The California-based competitor went after the West Coast market because it also had…



Mark Schaefer

Keynote speaker, marketing strategy consultant, Rutgers U faculty and author of 10 books including KNOWN, Marketing Rebellion, and Belonging to the Brand!