Multipliers: the Secret Marketing Weapon You Didn't Know You Had


In a world of digital marketing and data-driven information, it can be a challenge for marketing experts to remain human, remembering that ultimately, the job is about connecting brands with the people for whom they can meet a want or a need. 
Steve Lanier is the President of American World Services, which has been involved in international marketing and business development since 1993. He believes that one of the greatest assets in a company's marketing arsenal are multipliers. We spoke to him to ask about what they are and how businesses can benefit from them. Here's what he told us: 

What are multipliers?

Let's start by placing them in context. There are four main marketing channels for businesses:

  • Direct communication: If you're a product or service producer, you might call on the end user directly. That might be by phone, by email, on LinkedIn, etc. There are times when it's appropriate to do that, and there are times you have no choice. It might be that it's a huge client, or perhaps your business model hinges on having very few, very high-value clients. We worked with a brand that sells satellite components, for example, and they had only a few potential clients because there are not many companies that produce satellites.

  • Digital media: Today, everyone has a digital presence and a digital marketing plan, where you're finding clients through SEO, social media and so forth.

  • Distributors and agents: This is a classic way of marketing, where you find distributors and agents who market or sell your products or services for you.
  • Multipliers: These are not new, but they are often overlooked. We often hear about them in a B2C context in the form of social media influencers, but they are also powerful in the form of industry associations and business groups, especially for B2B organisations. A multiplier is essentially anyone who has a network of individuals who could be your client. You become involved with them, and they introduce you to that network.

What kind of business are multipliers for?

We see a particular benefit for service-based businesses (such as engineering, consulting, architectural firms), very high value or customised, and highly innovative, such as new technologies. 
The reasons for this are trust and credibility. Services require trust because new clients can't see the product. Multipliers help generate that trust, much more than if a prospective client simply found a company on the Internet.
Multipliers are also very effective if you have an innovative product or new technology or service to sell. They help get people to listen in the initial instance and generate a sense of credibility. 

What are the benefits of marketing through a multiplier?

Many of our clients overlook multipliers at the outset, and it's an area that doesn't always get the respect it deserves. Of course, they're not for everyone, but the more digital marketing takes control, the more we realise that the human touch is essential as well. 
You can have a great digital media plan, but you still don't have great credibility if someone finds you on the web. So if you're selling something that requires credibility, then this high touch activity becomes important and digital media follows down the line.
In many ways, it's a step back from hard sales, and it goes back to building the story, building a relationship, showing the reasons someone can trust you. It's about long-term relationships, and it can take a long time to nurture those. It's not enough to turn up at meetings - you need to get involved, contribute to a community of people within that network and show that you're a part of it. You have to make a commitment to doing it consistently and adequately. Then again, most things that are worth doing do take commitment.

However, what you get from it are really strong relationships that last a long time and tend to generate compound interest. It's an opportunity to become a trusted partner, and when people see that, they want to do business with you, and they're happy to recommend you.

How can you work with multipliers?

Two examples of how we have worked with brands to market through multipliers:
The first is about a high-value product. We worked on a project with a company in Italy that made custom-designed cabinetry. They worked mainly with architects, and they would typically call architects directly, one by one. They could find a distributor, but they're very customised and high end, and the brand's story could get lost in that process. 
We found several good architectural associations that they joined, and we developed an educational webinar about how they worked with the wood and the different types of work they did. The associations organised events, and their architect members attended. It was a chance for them to get to know what the company could do. This took place during the pandemic when no one could travel, and it was an excellent opportunity to tell their story to an audience they wouldn't otherwise have had access to.
My second example is a UK manufacturing company with an innovative product that they wanted to take to a new market in the USA. They produced a washer unit used by hospitals. The product was used in 40 countries around the world, but we found that hospitals didn't use washers in the US because they were in the habit of using throwaway plastic items instead of washable ones. They wanted to work out how to access the American market, so we said that they needed to take a step back and educate the target user on why this was a better solution for them. 
Through research, we found that every hospital has an environmental impact group that looks at its actions' cost and impact on the environment. We then found an association of hospitals, and they too had an environmental impact committee that communicated with all those individual committees. We encouraged the business to become active with that group, meet everyone, and present how they could save money and the environment by switching processes. 

Breaking down barriers

In the end, products and services still have to be good for someone to want to do business with you. However, trust is the ultimate decision-maker. It takes you out of the race to the bottom on price, creating a much better starting point for discussion with qualified leads
I have also found that this is very much about recognising peoples' concerns, anxieties, or difficulties in their work, and that opens the door to show where a product or service can help. So much of what we do in our work is about listening to people and understanding what they need.
We work with SMEs that don't have enormous budgets to tell their story, so they need to be very targeted and connect emotionally with their potential customers. Finding the correct multiplier that provides access to the people you want to work with can be an extremely effective way.
You can find out more about Steve and his work on our recent podcast, and if you would like to find out more about incorporating multipliers into your marketing strategy, you can contact gigCMO to discuss working with a team of international marketing experts.