It doesn’t matter that you have a great service or product. It doesn’t even matter that your potential customer needs it. When it comes to your marketing campaign, your message must engage the customer so that they understand, in their way, why they need your product/service.
Here are some ways to get your message heard and spark the “need” factor:
- Tell your story in an engaging way. Make it colorful, different and memorable.
- Highlight the benefits that are important to your potential customer, not necessarily the things that are important to you. For instance, it’s great that your shoes are scuff-proof, but if I only care that they are comfortable tell me more about comfort. Stop trying to make me care about scuffs.
- Show the specific need you answer as well as the impact on their general wellness.
- Acknowledge your competition and highlight the differences. This one is tricky because you don’t want to speak negatively about your competitors, you only want to point out your uniqueness.
- Use a customer-friendly tone. Avoid big words, jargon and by all means, condescending stereotypical language.
- Use testimonials of current customers that are similar to your target audience.
Vertical customers want an expert. They want to feel like you not only understand your product/service, but that you understand their industry.
Here are a few ways you can highlight your knowledge throughout the relationship, not just during the pitch:
- Include industry news in your communications (e-newsletters, emails, website, etc.).
- Offer commentary with solutions regarding current hot topics. For example, a mask manufacturer could discuss swine flu.
- Host a monthly (or weekly, quarterly, annually) seminar. Don’t exclusively highlight your company; instead mix up the agenda with speakers from other businesses.
BONUS: This is a great way to build relationships with companies that may be able to forward referrals.
- When discussing your business, use friendly language. Avoid jargon and big words as much as possible; they don’t say knowledgeable. It says you’re overcompensating or hiding something.
Here are a few reasons why small businesses should embrace their size and not feel pressure to stretch the truth or their size:
You have an expertise. Instead of building a long list of product/service offerings, focus on your strongest capabilities. Build your business on these, and you limit the risk of mistakes, which can damage your brand image.
This will also help you focus your brand and corner your niche.
Red tape is non-existent. A great asset is there is little room for bureaucracy. Instead of dealing with an automated service, boilerplate answers and inflexible rules, your customers get to deal with a person. Trust me, that’s invaluable.
There is no “bait and switch”. How many times have you been pitched by the VP or another high-level executive at a company, only to find out you will never work with that person? Instead, you will be working with a junior team that is nowhere near the initial meeting.
Yes, this junior team may be capable, but it doesn’t matter because you’ve built a report with the initial pitch team. Eliminating the bait and switch puts you at an advantage and sets the tone for an honest work relationship.
Your business is flexible. Most small businesses are nimble by design. Can you meet or complete projects at unconventional times? Do you have a unique way to work (special worksheets, work plans, etc.)? Make sure your clients know about it.
Here are three ways you benefit from talking to your customers regularly:
Things mentioned in casual conversation may spark a great value-add opportunity. This opportunity can be a service that you offer and your client forgot or never knew you provided. It can also be an opportunity for you to offer a referral. It may even highlight a new service that you could provide with little or no effort, but that may be a lifesaver for your customer.
Your conversations can serve as informal research. You can learn everything from true competitor pricing (not what’s posted on a website) to industry news (how it’s really affecting them) to stereotypes and/or urban legends that you may need to address.
You may learn of other places to reach your target market. For instance, regional events and hobbies are a great way to connect with your customers. Unfortunately it is difficult to figure out which regional events are worth a second look without some insider information. And you may never know that your customer loves bird-watching unless he mentions an upcoming trip in a conversation.
Your emails say a lot about you. And while we all can overlook a sporadic typo, ignoring email etiquette can not only damage your perception, it can land your email in the “deleted items” folder.
Here are two posts to get you on the right track. The first, How To Improve Your Email Etiquette, is from Marci Alboher, Working the New Economy’s Blog.
The second, Sending Emails That Get Read, is a post I wrote about a year and a half ago.