The problem that many business owners have, is that they tend to think very tactically i.e. how can they can get more clients. This is very important – however – you must always be working tactically, from a strategic focus. Let me explain: for you to have any chance of being perceived as the expert or authority in your industry, you must look at the bigger picture, and ultimately be able to answer the question, “What do we want to be known for?” or “What is the ultimate position we want to hold in the market place?”.
In other words, focus on how your ‘tactical’ activities can impact on your strategic or positioning objectives.
Why is it that so many businesses look the same or do the same without making any real impact? They merely survive, as opposed to thrive. Very often this is because the business is centred on the wrong thing: the product or service. Instead, focus on serving the needs of your clients better than anyone else in your industry.
That is the key: making someone else’s life better in such a profound and purposeful way, such that it differentiates and lifts you above the competition. The durability of any business, and for that matter the resilience and robustness of any business owner, is to focus totally on making the lives of your clients better.
You see many business owners start up in business and unfortunately get it wrong from the very beginning. For example, they will focus on a specific product or service that they might have previous experience of, or may have worked a similar role before, or simply want to try something new. They will then scrabble around trying to find clients, without ever giving any real thought to what makes them different – what ultimately are they offering to the market – what position do they want to take – what is their overall strategy?
Do not design the business around you – instead – design your business around the needs, wants and desires of your client. This is what will ensure longevity; this is what will ensure you position your business in a category of one.
Of course the purpose for running your own business is to improve your life – you’re putting a lot at stake here. However, your ultimate strategic focus should always be client led. Build your business around what your potential client wants. Or even better, build your business around the client, such that, it removes some form of pain, frustration or problem. You’re not just in the business of marketing; you’re essentially in the business of solving problems. Never forget this, especially when crafting your marketing message.
With so many businesses all looking the same and offering the same, it is vital that you are able to offer a clear, competitive edge; something that clearly resonates with your audience and is a point of differentiation. In fact, it might reasonably be assumed that the reason many businesses have gone to the wall, it simply because they were never able to offer a compelling and persuasive edge; or literally were too inwards looking and did not see their business from the point of view of the client. A tactical, ad-hoc approach, as opposed to a strategic focus.
However as with most things, this is much easier said than done. Trying to identify a key competitive edge is difficult and can take time. Most business owners will never attempt this exercise, and that is why most business owners do not create the impact they want in their sector. They have set themselves up to be an also-ran, as opposed to striving to make any real impact.
So let’s now explore three key areas that collectively, will help you discover your strategic objective – what you want to be known for – and enable you to stand out and become the expert in your field. Each of these areas, when explored in detail, will offer you plenty of insight as to how best to out-market your competition. We’ll start with the obvious one first.
Study the competition:
Examine your competition closely, and get a good grounding in how they market themselves. For example, what do they do well and more importantly, what don’t they do so well. What areas are your competitors falling short on? You will need to remain reasonably objective at this point, however, by observing the opposition you will become a lot clearly on how to better market what you do. So areas you might want to focus on include:
Does your competition keep in regular contact with their prospects i.e. do they use opportunities to build a list?
Is the marketing client-focused, or focused on the product or service?
Is it obvious when reviewing their website that the company comes across as an authority in their field? If so, how? And can you borrow some of these ideas?
Perhaps you could even go as far as ordering their product or service and see for yourself how they deliver? Is your competition providing ‘value’ at every stage of the interaction?
I’m almost certain there will be key areas where your competition is falling down on. So exploit and utilise this is your overall strategy.
Study the commentary:
Part two of the exploratory phase now consists of looking at, and analysing the commentary that is used in your sector. This can be a very powerful form of research, especially with regards to establishing a strategic goal.
Start to pay closer attention to trade magazines and periodicals, as well as online platforms. Look at the thought leaders in your field, and if they have a blog, see what posts are frequently made. What are the reoccurring themes that your industry comments on or discusses? What problems, issues and concerns are frequently focused on?
Because you are able to tap into a rich theme of ongoing thought processes, you can use this in your marketing messages and talk directly to your audience.
Study your prospects:
The third and final phase of the research process will involve the most important: your prospects. We have already highlighted how every business should be client-led; therefore never underestimate how critical this is to your success.
What are your prospects fears and frustrations? Try and develop a mental image of your prospect. Try to imagine who it is you’re going to be talking too.
Appreciate that your prospect is not buying your product or service; they are buying the results of your product or service. So try and get into their mindset and get an idea of what they really want, or what issues, problems and concerns they want to solve. For example, visit relevant forums or bulletin boards in your sector; what topics of discussion keep coming up? Having a clearly picture of what your prospects want, will give you a clearer idea on what you want to be known for.
By reviewing the competition, the key commentators in your field and gaining a deeper understanding of the wants and needs of your prospects; you will have a much clearer idea as to how to position yourself strategically or in other words, be able to answer the question “What do we want to be known for?”
Andrew Ludlam is the owner of Maverick Marketing Consultancy, and is recognised as a leading expert on advanced marketing strategy and tactics. As a marketing consultant, trainer and author, he has advised many hundreds of business owners one-to-one, and many more have attended his private training programmes. Andrew also publishes a fortnightly newsletter which has some 2,000 subscribers.