Two weeks ago, I presented a BrightTALK webinar on behalf of the Sales Expert Channel, titled Branding and Positioning for Marketplace Leadership. You can listen to the replay here. I talked a lot about the importance of companies having a compelling and differentiated brand. Many are not aware that the exact same principles apply to you and other company executives.
Marketing and selling is way more effective when you not only have an effective brand that positions you well in the marketplace, but you also have established yourself as a branded authority. This principle echoes what my company – Fusion Marketing Partners – preaches (and practices) and will ensure that your recognition as a branded authority will allow you to reap rewards and transition to a greater proportion of cost-effective pull marketing strategies.
The opposite of being seen as a branded authority is to be considered “one of the crowd,” otherwise known as a commodity provider. While this may seem like a safe path, it is rarely a good idea to be perceived as just like your competitors. A commodity provider provides no real advantage in terms of the product, service, etc. and the prospect tends to evaluate you primarily on pricing, terms, and so forth. As a commodity provider, you will often have to make painful concessions to win the business – the type of concessions that hurt both your top- and bottom lines.
The alternative to being perceived as a commodity provider is to create a perception of differentiation. I use the word “perception” because it is the marketplace’s perception of who you are that gets you invited to the sales dance, and not your actual competitive differentiation. This is a key principle of marketing: Perception = Reality. Because of this, you must present the reality of what you offer in terms of products, services, and customer experiences, in a way that is both accurate and compelling.
To establish yourself as a branded authority, you will first have to decide the breadth of your focus. To use a medical analogy, marketing yourself with a very broad focus (e.g. general practitioner) is very different than a narrow niche focus (e.g. endoscopic brain surgery). Across most industries, those who have a greater degree of specialization earn more and face less competitive pressure.
Do keep in mind that when you market yourself in a narrow niche, you are telling the world not only what you do (your specific area of focus) but also what you don’t do (anything else). So before establishing a specific brand niche, do the research to ensure there is a healthy marketplace in your area of branded authority.
As for success criteria: You will know that you have achieved success as a branded authority if:
- You do not have to chase your prospects – they come to you when they need what you offer.
- You get invited to more sales engagements and face fewer, if any, competitors.
- You are able to charge fair prices and you no longer need to deeply discount to win business.
- You are able to replace expensive push marketing with more cost-efficient pull marketing.
- Deals close faster and more reliably.
With rare exceptions, you can’t become a branded authority overnight. You may need to take a fresh look at both your products/services and adjust what it is that you deliver to the customer. Likewise, you may need to sharpen your messaging and content strategy, especially around the value that you personally bring to the table. And, as mentioned earlier, becoming a branded authority will almost certainly require you to transform your model from push marketing to pull marketing.
One final thought. There is an old expression that the more you know about your customers, the more successful you will become. Sounds good, but the reality is that people buy from you because they know about you, not vice versa. This is where becoming a branded authority will bring you outstanding results.