This is part two of a three-part series on Finding Strategy. Each post includes a free template.
So, I’ve been preaching this one pretty hard for a bunch of years and see no end in sight, because it’s just that important.
Find a way to differentiate your business, one that matters to somebody, or you’ll be forever doomed to compete on price.
Get really, really clear about the single-minded point of difference that some narrowly defined ideal client cannot live without and you’ve got the secret to marketing success. Seems pretty simple, right – then why do people fight it so?
I’ll tell you why, because to be unique, you have to actually be different and that scares the heck out of most business owners.
But let me tell you the most important lesson I’ve learned in all my years of owning a business – your customers and prospects want you to be different, they require you to be different.
If you want to succeed in business you have one job – find a way to propose that you are completely different in a way that a market wants and values, exploit that difference in every word that you compose and watch your profits soar.
This is the essence of the elusive marketing strategy so many companies long for.
Okay, enough preaching let me teach you a simple process I’ve used for many years that often helps business owners nail the core difference and value proposition that matters most.
Identify your ideal client
The first step is to identify your ideal client. I wrote about The Secret to Finding Highly Profitable Clients here. You know you have an ideal client in mind when you can ponder how great life would be if you have a dozen or so more just like them.
Create a list of six to eight of your current ideal clients and commit to sitting down with face to face or over the phone for about fifteen minutes. You are going to conduct an interview of sorts that may lead to some fabulous revelations.
Ask them these questions
Once you have your client’s attention pose some variation of the following questions.
A word of caution here, you’re not looking for scientific data here, you’re looking themes and stories that offer clues to what really does make your firm unique. In most cases you will need to use follow-up statements such as – “Okay, we provide great service, that’s awesome, but tell me a story about a time we did.”
- Why did you hire us/buy from us in the first place? (Here you are looking for clues to what helped them decide to buy, what build trust, what resonated in your marketing and sales processes.)
- What’s one thing we do that you love the most? (Stick to one thing and help them get as specific as possible)
- What’s one thing we do that others don’t? (Again one thing – this may sound a lot like the second question, but what you are really trying to do here is get some industry comparison going – you might get some stories of how others have failed them in the past and there offer some interesting opportunities.)
- If you were to refer us what would you say? (This is your chance to have them describe what you do best as though they were telling a friend. This point of view can be very powerful and this answer might actually turn into a testimonial. In many cases that’s precisely what I’ve done with answers to this question.)
- Can you tell me about three other companies that you love? (This question does a couple of things. It allows you to better understand what they think best of class looks like and why and it helps you build a list of potential strategic partners. Think about it, your shared client thinks you both rock!)
- Bonus: If you can pull this off, have them conduct an online search and simply ask them to type the phrase they would enter if you were no longer around and they needed to replace what you do for them. (I like to try to have them physically do this. It’s amazing what you learn from watching what people really do to find things online. Experience tells me you might not be optimizing your content for the same terms your prospects are looking for.)
We’ve created a handy tool that you can use to record your client interviews – Download our free client survey template here
Work with themes that matter
From your interviews you should have some rich themes to work with. Don’t underestimate the power of simple things. Quite often your clients value the little things you do that are special. Resist the temptation to dismiss them as unimportant enough to use as your core point of difference.
I once worked with a remodeling contractor that felt their superior craftsmanship was the key and while their clients acknowledged this they admitted that it was an expectation because the company was also higher priced than most. What they didn’t expect was how thoroughly their people cleaned up the job site every day. That idea was unique and using it in all of their marketing created a dramatic shift in strategy and sales.
In the final part of our Finding Strategy Series we’ll cover how to turn your point of difference into a core message, value proposition and something I all Your Talking Logo.