Sales and Sales Management Blog

February 1, 2008

Low Cost, High Impact Positioning Sets You Apart From Your Competition


Would you like to have the power and the authority of the press proclaim you as the leading personal financial planning, architect, environmental engineer, or IT consulting expert in your local area?  Who wouldn’t?  Having the newspaper, radio or TV news, or a local magazine inform their readers or listeners that you are the authority in your industry is worth more to your business than any amount of advertising you could ever purchase. 

Salespeople, professionals and business owners try to find the most effective methods of finding and influencing prospects.  Yet, the reality is that most are using the same methods, with the same message as their competition.  Differentiation is the objective of every marketer–whether the marketing director of a financial services company or the owner of a small consulting company.

Everyone is fighting to set themselves apart from the crowd.  Unfortunately, being seen as unique or different is extremely difficult.  For the past few decades, everyone has been encouraged to develop their own Unique Selling Proposition–a short phrase that succinctly describes what they do and what sets them apart, not what they sell.  The problem is that every other competitior has their own version of the same USP.  The USP is effectively dead, not because it didn’t produce results, but because it is no longer unique.

Most rely exclusively on massive advertising, direct mail, cold calling, or other forms of marketing.  Although marketing is a key to success, prospects are still wary of it.  They are fully aware they are being sold, and many assume, being manipulated in some form.  In addition, marketing doesn’t give ample opportunity to differentiate.  Seldom will you find an ad, a direct mail piece, a cold call approach, or other marketing that effectively sets one salesperson or company apart from their competition.

Nevertheless, there are ways to stand far above the crowd.  You can outdistance your competition–not by outspending them on advertising, out cold calling them, or out pricing them.  Outdistancing your competition, involves out positioning them in the marketplace by making yourself the sought after advisor because of your perceived expertise.  And best of all, your program to out position the competition costs little to nothing.

Pick up your local newspaper or business magazine and you’ll notice almost every article has quotes by people within the industry the reporter is discussing.  A few articles have extensive interviews with “leaders” within that industry.  These individuals are quoted and interviewed as the experts within the industry.

Nothing you can do can give you the expert image and the authority that being quoted or interviewed in the news media can provide.  Your marketing is recognized by prospects and clients as marketing.  They understand you’re trying to sell something.  Publishing articles and giving speeches, although far more influential than “marketing,” is still viewed by prospects as a subtle attempt at positioning yourself.  However, when quoted and interviewed by the news media, all suspicion and questioning of your agenda disappears.  You’ve gone from marketer or quasi-marketer to unadulterated expert.

Despite the current consumer cynicism about bias in the press, business news is still viewed as unbiased.  Only the experts within the subject industry are quoted and interviewed.  A knowledgeable person can disagree with the expert, but the person quoted is still viewed as an expert.

You simply cannot buy that kind of exposure.  In reputable news publications, that type of coverage simply isn’t for sale. 

Nevertheless, you can earn it.  The individuals quoted and interviewed didn’t just get lucky.  They worked hard to get the exposure by developing a relationship with the reporter or freelance writer.  They developed the contacts over time.  You can do the same.

The fact of the matter is most of the individuals quoted are not the innovators in their industry, nor are they necessarily the absolute best at what they do.  They are, however, the ones who have made it part of their marketing plan to become the recognized local expert.  They have worked to get the quotes and the interviews.

How can you do the same?  You do it by instituting a plan of action that gradually leads to being recognized as the authority.  Although it takes time, you can have established your reputation and begin seeing results within as little as a year.

Get Expert Credibility:  Begin writing and publishing articles and giving speeches.  You need to give reporters and freelance writers something they recognize as being from an expert.  A list of articles you have published, along with the names of the publications, and the speeches you have given is the basis for this recognition. 

Get Noticed:  Create a media kit and get it in the hands of anyone in the news media who might be interested in and cover your industry.  A basic media kit need only have a one-page biography, a reproducible photograph, a list of articles published and speeches given, one or two samples of published articles, and a list of the topics that the reporter can rely on you for comment, interviews, and information.  Send a hardcopy or electronic kit to every reporter, freelance writer, and editor that may have reason to cover any aspect of the industry.

Get Connected:  Follow-up with each reporter, freelancer, and editor to make sure they received your kit and see if they have any questions or current information needs.  Let them know you are highly accessible.  Many will be working on very tight deadlines and will need access to you on very short notice.  Give them a cell number where you can be reached virtually anytime, day or night.

Keep Them Updated:  During your initial conversation, ask for their permission to keep them informed of your activities.  Then keep them informed by sending them updates to your article and speech lists, important press releases about yourself and your business–and especially anything occurring in the industry or the economy that should be of interest to them.  Become their eyes and ears.

Marketing is more than simply putting an ad in the paper, sending a direct mail piece, or writing a quality cold calling script.  Marketing is developing and implementing a plan to out-maneuver your competition.  You may not be able to outspend your competition.  You may not be able to or want to out price them.  However, you can out “expert” them.  And, by the way, not only does becoming the recognized expert push aside your competition, it can virtually eliminate cost as an issue.

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1 Comment »

  1. I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Chris Moran

    Comment by Chris Moran — February 1, 2008 @ 8:39 am | Reply


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