Market to Your Strengths

Market to Your Strengths

Recently at an entrepreneur camp for high school students, I worked with several teams in preparing a 3 minute pitch to sell their inventions and innovations to a panel of professionals.  My focus was to help these young entrepreneurs identify their business and product strengths so they could convincingly sell us on their idea in a very short amount of time — much like the real world.

I shared my experience in managing sales teams and evaluating investor presentations about what works and what does not work in pitching.  I let them know that even the most seasoned professionals can mistakenly focus on the “hot” features without direct alignment to what makes you stand out against your competition.

My lesson, you must compete for mind share before you get market share. Whether selling your idea, your services, your business or just you, always use your valuable marketing resources to promote what makes you better than the rest — your strengths!

Have you identified your market strengths?  Recently? And once you found your strengths, have you effectively managed and built them up in your marketing?

The easiest tool to define your strengths is the simple risk assessment that every marketing plan must include — SWOT Analysis.  No matter the size of your business, you must know your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.  

Complete a SWOT Analysis to Find Your Strengths

If you have already completed a SWOT analysis on your company, product or service, dust it off and review it today.  Is it still accurate?  Hopefully you have evolved!  Your strengths are not set in stone.  They are dynamic based on competition, economics, innovation, market growth or decline and shifting attitudes toward your business and products from consumers and employees.

If you have not completed a SWOT Analysis, take out a piece of paper now. Draw four boxes and label them: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.  In each box, list out what you currently say, believe or understand as your strengths and your weaknesses, the opportunities you see where you can grow and threats in your business to achieving your goals.

This initial SWOT Analysis is meant to be quick; however, a thorough strategic marketing plan will take more time and resources for a complete evaluation.  You will ultimately want an assessment that has multiple inputs including employees, executives, vendors, partners and current, potential and lost customers.

A SWOT analysis is useful to make sure you are current with messaging on how you are perceived and understood in the market place.  It is a business planning tool that should be evaluated quarterly to make sure market opportunities are seized and threats are assessed and mitigated.

The next step is to audit your current marketing programs and communications to see how effective you are in defining your strengths.  Are you placing all your strengths on the first page, first paragraph, above the fold and in your elevator pitch?  Review your marketing tactics to see how well you represent your strengths. Start your assessment with:

1.  Branding – Do you clearly communicate and represent your strengths in the essence of your brand and your identity?

2.  Communications – Do you detail your strengths in all your marketing communications, including sales presentations, collateral and on your web site?

3.  Sales – Can your sales representatives and customer-facing employees recite your top five strengths?  Where are they detailed in your standard sales presentation?

4.  Public and Analyst Relations – Does your boiler “About Us” include your marketing strengths?  Are you able to weave your strengths into every new release?

5.  Social Media – How often do you remind your fans and followers about your strengths?  Are they listed in your social profiles?  How many weekly posts include mention of your strengths?

In order to create demand and achieve anticipated growth, you need to market to your strengths. Make sure you are consistent, clear and current in your messaging and get the word out why you are better than all the rest.

Best Networkers Go Where Others Won’t Go

Yesterday I met with a successful executive coach who is starting to explore opportunities of expanding her business. She was sent to me by a trusted colleague and notable networking expert.  The typical goal of these meetings are to learn about our respective businesses and then make introductions or provide advice on how to reach new clients.  It’s the life of an independent business owner and consultant.

One of the questions I always ask people looking to develop more business is “who owns your customer?”. Often there is pause. Yes, I want to know who owns the relationship with your customer, not who is your customer. The reason I ask this question is to identify the strongest influencers of those potential new customers.  In my experience, it is the shortest path to multiple buyers.

An influencer provides reach and accelerates your ability to grow market share.  Research suggests that we “buy” when we are influenced by someone we trust.  In fact, ninety percent of consumers surveyed in a 2009 Nielsen Survey said they trust recommendations from people they know.

This is not only applicable in retail situations or online recommendations, but also in business services as well. The business community often gives their business to those that come through their trusted network of peers or with whom they have a past relationship. Why? It eliminates the vetting and testing. In the old fashioned sales vernacular, it saves time and money.

Here are a few recommended steps to reaching your influencer:

1.  Identify your influencer, ask yourself who “owns” your customer.

2.  Research your influencer.  Where do they meet?  Who is in their network?  Who are their customers?  What events do they attend?  What association and industry groups do they belong to?

3.  Start following. Not literally stalking of course, but follow companies and connections in LinkedIn, through social media channels like Twitter, Facebook Fan Pages and Google+.  What are they talking about?

4.  Go to events where they gather and start building your circle of influence.

The biggest mistake I see others make in networking to find business is they go to where their friends and competitors go. For example, I am probably less likely to get business at another marketing event, as opposed to hanging out at a physicians conference or speaking at a non-profit event about advisory boards. My competitors do not go to these events, or at least very few do. I get more time to interact.  I can learn more about their needs in a particular industry or market vertical.  More importantly, I can start to build a network of influencers face-to-face.

How do I get those in the room that have nothing in common with me enter into a trusted relationship? I start by listening.  I then offer to make introductions to my trusted network, when there is a good match. I share my knowledge to see where we have similar business interests, like expanding markets, growing revenues.  Sometimes I offer to participate in events as a speaker on mutually defined topics of interest. Finally, I look for ways I can help them achieve their business goals and give them a “sample” of what I have to offer at no charge.

The saying, nothing ventured nothing gained seems to work well in the world of networking for business.  Sole proprietors and consultants have little time to work on their business, as they are the business.  You need to be your own best PR agent and maximize your limited selling time effectively. If you are competing for air time in a room of people that look and talk just like you, that is an educational or skill expanding event. Learn about your craft and further your expertise.  Don’t expect to get customers at these events.

When you want to network for business, go where you expect to see the least amount of your competition. The fewer people that are “talking just like you” that are in the room, the better chance you have to find business. You also create more awareness about your services because you are not a peer. You have more “meme” time. That will drive curiosity, and that opens a door to “sell yourself”.

Venture Out and Be DifferentNetworking is a skill.  Before you say no or turn away from the idea of going to a meeting or speaking at an event of complete strangers, realize that this is where business starts.  Venture out.  Be different. Go where others won’t go.