Robert Fuqua on Building a New Market: September Signature Series Luncheon

Atlas RFID, like most successful ventures, was conceived when Robert Fuqua, the company’s CEO, identified a problem – in this case, a $275 billion problem – and found success by providing a solution. Fuqua noticed that during a construction project, 15 percent of a company’s time was spent simply waiting on materials to be delivered. And, as the age-old saying goes, “time is money,” so Fuqua set out to solve the problem. Though he has faced his fair share of challenges along the way, Atlas RFID has grown substantially since its inception, now boasting a presence in 10 countries, six continents, over 300 deployment sites and three divisions.

But here’s where it gets exciting. Fuqua not only started a new business—he sought to develop an entirely new market. What’s more – his advice may not be what you’d expect. Fuqua recently joined us for our AMA September Signature Series Luncheon to share what his experience has taught him about marketing.

Second only to product development, marketing is a top priority for Atlas, having learned that the success of any new business is contingent on disciplined, strategic and intentional marketing efforts. Fuqua points out that at the end of the day, the main function of marketing is simple: to get people to have a conversation.

Easier said than done, right? In his pursuit of building a business and developing a new market, Fuqua has identified five marketing tenets, through which he has found success:

  1. Educate the market on the problem you’re trying to solve before you set out to market your solution. In Fuqua’s experience, people have to buy into the fact that there’s a problem before they can be receptive to your solution. He refers to this kind of marketing strategy as “evangelizing a problem,” something he sees as true thought-leadership.
  2. Know who you are and (more importantly) who you’re not. In addition to marketing what you do, Fuqua firmly believes that it’s ok to tell people what you don’t Being a “yes man” can cause you to lose focus, diverting energy and resources from what your business seeks to do well—ultimately a detriment to your company’s potential.
  3. Recognize that there’s no such thing as one decision maker. According to Fuqua, focusing all your energy on swaying one “decision maker” whom you perceive as someone with a great deal of authority isn’t effective. Instead, educate a broader range of people and seek a positive consensus from all advisers who will then influence the “decision makers.”
  4. Learn to dance with the “ROI Devil.” Fuqua acknowledges that it is a challenge to put a number on something you’ve never done before. No matter what number or value you choose, people will always say it’s ridiculous simply because in an entirely new market, there’s no benchmark for comparison. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Why? Fuqua says that having even a seemingly arbitrary calculation is far better than having no calculation at all. Marketing is data driven, and by placing a number on your product or service, it starts the conversation and lends credibility to your efforts. Once you have a starting point, you can always adjust based on the reaction it receives.
  5. The chasm between initial enthusiasm/early investors and when your business takes off is not a stall, but rather a waiting period. His advice? Focus on low-hanging fruit to topple the first pin—and do it well. You have to start somewhere, so Fuqua recommends concentrating all your energy on an attainable goal that can then jumpstart your forward momentum. After, continue building on this momentum through concentrated value and messaging.

These tenets have provided a solid foundation for marketing Atlas RFID, as Fuqua created a new market. However, Fuqua’s final tip may just be the most profound of them all, adding his own spin on the age-old wisdom: Seek first to understand, then to be understood (by the right people).

There is a notable difference between marketing, which is listening-based, and advertising, which is communication-based, and listening must always come first. This concept is central to all marketing efforts, emphasizing the critical importance of understanding and empathizing with customers.

“It’s your obligation,” Fuqua said. “You have to walk in their shoes in order to be great at what you do.”

Customers are looking for someone to understand, someone who has struggled alongside them. Empathy enables a level of trust that serves as a critical foundation for any business to consumer or business to business relationship. You must be sure you’re seeking to understand the right customer base, but after identifying your audience, empathy is a crucial step.

One of Fuqua’s favorite quotes aligns with and reinforces this concept perfectly, and as he closed, the words of Theodore Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” illuminated a relationship between marketing and empathy that ought not be taken lightly:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Marketing is not for the faint of heart. As fellow marketers, I’m certain this resonates with many of you, as challenges from your own marketing efforts flood your minds. There’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. However, Fuqua recognizes that building new markets and forging these new endeavors is increasingly relevant in today’s world and can only find success through tactful marketing. He encourages casting visions with no goal posts and thinking outside the box, while never discrediting the value of marketing. Though it rarely feels like a pressing or immediate need, strategic marketing can make all the difference in the world, something Fuqua has found to be deeply true in his own business endeavors.

Interested in more marketing insights from successful executives in our community? Check out our next Signature Series Luncheon this October. Visit for more information. To find out more about Atlas RFID and Robert Fuqua, visit