Articles by Professional Speakers Guild members

Getting Above the Noise

 (c) 2005  Dr. Jack Wolf

Congratulations, you have worked long and hard developing an idea, a concept or a niche which you believe make will your company a winner.  You have created a business card, a brochure and maybe even a website; you know where the customers are and how to sell your ideas and products to them.  You are ready to kick into high gear. 

But wait a minute... how have you differentiated what you have to offer from your competitors’ services?  “Me too” companies abound in today’s marketplace.  They sell the same services, packaged the same way, and target the same customer base as a dozen (or more) other companies.  Long gone are the days of only one baker, one butcher, or one blacksmith in each town.  So the question of the day is, “How do you get above the noise of the crowd?”  What is it about you, and your company, that makes what you offer unique?  If you don’t know, take some time right now to figure it out.  This may be one of the most important things you can do to position yourself for success. 

Does your brand, including your business card, brochure and website, fall into the “me too” category?  Are you just like everybody else?  At a recent conference for financial planners where I was a guest speaker, one of the more popular vendors in the exhibition area was offering website design services.  What was amazing to me, however, was the fact that this vendor had designed only one website template for the financial services industry and was selling the identical website, other than the broker’s name and contact information on the home page, over and over to numerous financial planners. Yes, it was a great website, but, these planners were often in the same city, targeting the same customer base and selling the same services.  Instead of making themselves unique, they were marketing themselves as exact, interchangeable replicas of each other.

 If you are ready to break out of the “me too” marketing mindset, here are a few things you can do to increase your brand profile:

1.       You.  You are a very important part of what makes your company and its services and products unique.  What is it about you personally that sets you apart from the crowd?  Is it your relationship skills? Your technical expertise? Your industry knowledge?

2.       Your business name.  Have it speak to who you are and what you do. Unless you have unlimited dollars to create brand identity for an esoteric, one-word name, make sure your potential customers can figure out what you do when they look at your business card or hear your company’s name.

3.       Business cards. Yours should contain all of the usual information of course: your name and credentials, full contact information and a brief, bulleted list of services.  But what have you done to make it stand out?  Here are some suggestions to make your card distinctive:

a.       Make it interactive.  Create a V-fold card that needs to be opened to reveal your information.  Use all four sides of the card; make them want to open it or flip it over.

b.       Make it colorful.  Use colored or textured card stock rather than basic glossy white.

c.       Make it useful. Leave some space so that your customer can jot a few notes down if necessary.

d.       Make it work for you.  Small CD business cards have become very affordable. Use them to deliver a short sales infomercial about you and why your products and services are unique.

4.       Brochures. There are two types of marketing.  The first is what I call “Me” marketing and the other is “You” marketing.  “Me” marketing is filled with statements that begin, “Our company...,” “I am...,” and “We are...” “Me” marketing focuses on you and on all the (hopefully) wonderful things about you.  “You” marketing, however, is centered squarely on the customer.  “You” marketing answers the one question that all customers want the answer to: “What’s in it for me?”  The bottom line is this: your customers want to know exactly what it is you can do for them, or how you can solve whatever problems they are having.  Keep the data about yourself and your company to a minimum and spend most of your efforts telling them what you will do for them.  Write your brochures using statements such as, “You will receive...,”  “Now you can...,” and “This service/product will make your life better/easier/simpler...” You get the idea.  

“You” marketing goes a very long way towards creating relationships with customers.  Here is a yardstick by which you can measure how customer-focused you are in your overall communications.  When you write a letter, e-mail or even speak with a customer, make note of the number of times you use the words “you” and “yours” versus the words “me,” “I,” “mine,” “ours,” “we,” or “us.”  Aim for a ratio of 8 “you” words for every 1 “me” word you use. 

These are only a few of the ways you can begin the process of making yourself unique, of “getting above the noise.”  Think creatively, try to discover your own uniqueness factor, and most importantly, let your customers know what makes you so special. 

To Your Success!
Jack Wolf, Ph.D.

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