Do you market now or wait until things get better? I know that marketing is the last thing on your mind at this moment in time. But the worst thing you can do is cut your marketing. We are witnessing a financial catastrophe which may have peaked but still is highly disruptive. The public is looking for answers, and that alone may be the biggest marketing bonanza ever.
So what can you do? First, you’re going to have formulate some answers to the tough questions, and you have got to keep cutting expenses. I certainly am. That being said, here are some low-cost marketing suggestions that you can put to work now.
o Maximize chance encounters. Don’t hide away in your office. Get out and walk around town. Let people know what is going on with you. Go to as many parties or events as possible. A casual chance discussion at a cocktail party could lead to something unexpected.
o Think different! When Steve Jobs returned to a shattered Apple Computer in 1997, his first move was to launch a marketing campaign to hammer home one simple message: thinking different.
o Write up your unique story into a concise statement. This should clearly and concisely capture the essence of what differentiates you from the competition. Communicating your value should not be self-aggrandizing, bragging, or displaying a list of your credentials or achievements. You can’t list values such as honesty or integrity, or qualities you may possess such as talent, competence, reliability, resourcefulness, preparedness, etc. You need to find a way to show these qualities without using words. For example, instead of saying “I’m a valuable member of the team,” tell a story that documents or demonstrates your value, but your stories must ring true and authentic, without sounding egotistical.
Find stories that have an application in your client’s world. Recall real-life events of how structuring wealth or assets, educating clients, assessing business risks, conducting succession planning, uncovering insurance issues, and estate planning helped real people.
Your stories should have a central theme of “problem solver.” This theme should resonate in everything you do.
o Identify your deliverable. Study how your services can best be used in various scenarios. Continually ask yourself: Why would anyone hire me and use my service today?
o Target sub-tribes, not markets. Nothing is more frustrating than having a number of physician clients, but not being able to further penetrate their market. Instead of targeting a market, use your time to identity a sub-tribe within a much larger market. Especially in difficult times, people find support from and comfort in tribal relationships.
Transform Your Marketing Materials
Most everyone in every industry looks alike, represents themselves alike, and even uses the same language. Due to the substantially similar choices available, it has become even more difficult to objectively select one product, service, or person over another. The public can’t tell who is competent and who isn’t. Since the alternatives appear to be basically alike to the average consumer, there are no obvious wrong choices, only unfamiliar ones.
But here is the conundrum of a look-alike world: Research shows that our minds are engineered to ignore sameness and respond to differences. We remember mostly what is unique, sensory, creative, out of the ordinary. This simple table shows what traits attract people, and which repels them.
(For more on this topic, try the works of Edward Tufte, a professor emeritus at Yale University, particularly his book Beautiful Evidence (Graphics Press, 2006), available at www.edwardtufte.com)
To transform your marketing materials, you have to repackage your “stuff.” Most advisors think of packaging as the least important aspect of their business, according to Dan Sullivan, the co-founder of Strategic Coach (www.strategiccoach.com), but working on your packaging will help you see things from the client’s point-of-view. (A disclaimer: while I’m in the third year of the Strategic Coach program, I’m not being paid to write nice things about it.)
As we move deeper into a globally commoditized look-alike world, one of the few areas where you can differentiate yourselves from your competition is in repackaging what you do.
Sullivan boldly proclaims that our real competition is not the people providing similar services to ours, but all those companies that leave us with a positive experience, the way Disney did; or more recently The Four Seasons (the luxury resort chain), Starbucks, or Lexus; those few companies that have transformed their services and their products into a positive experience. Success does leave clues.