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.
People like experiences. When they go to a restaurant they want good food AND great service. But, they will pay even more for ambiance and to feel special (think The Melting Pot).
When people go to a hair salon they want a style that is flattering. But they will pay extra if the salon offers perks (i.e. soothing music and an extra five minute scalp massage).
Think about the experience your clients have when they interact with you and your products/services. Then think about how you can make it better.
You’ll not only have satisfied customers, you’ll have brand loyalists. People like a brand because they know and like the experience that comes with it. And they’ll talk about it if that experience makes them feel special.
Towanda Long aka The Café Lady
A few weeks ago I worked a tradeshow exhibit booth at a convention. While taking my afternoon stroll around the exhibit area (mostly to check out the competition and to find inspiring ideas) I chatted with a possible vendor that was also exhibiting.
Her business was a great fit for one of my future marketing projects. I was excited at the possibilities and gave her my contact information. She was to follow-up with me after the show to schedule a meeting.
When I hadn’t heard from her in two weeks I figured she must have forgotten about me. I considered calling her, but never got around to it. Over four weeks later she contacted me, but my excitement was gone.
Why? Because a call within a week says, “I am on top of my business and I look forward to working with you.” A call within two weeks says, “I am an efficient business person, but not overbearing.”
But four weeks? That makes me ask questions. Can I trust her to respond in a timely manner? Will she value my business? Will my products arrive on time? Will she call me with updates? Is she on top of her business details?
I’ll still consider a meeting, but my enthusiasm to work with her is gone. Her follow-up has shown me some unflattering things, and she has to overcome that.
What does your follow-up say about you?
Towanda Long aka The Café Lady
Posted in branding, Business, General, marketing, Marketing Tips, mid level professionals, networking, self promotion, senior professionals, Towanda Long
Tagged branding, business follow-up, marketing, tradeshow exhibit