A few weeks ago a good friend of mine that is starting up a new professional services firm asked me to have lunch with him to talk about what he would need to focus on to be successful in our town. Here is the exact memo I sent to him and I think that much of it applies to just about any business and /or any individual trying to separate themselves from the rest of the market – especially a local market. Take a look through my suggestions and see which ones might work for you and your organization.
1) Figure out exactly who your key target customers are – the part of the market you want to own, that is the most profitable, and where your services will have the most value… as defined by the CUSTOMER… who is the only person who can decide what is valuable and what THEY are willing to pay for.
2) Create a very detailed “Ideal Customer Profile” to help you understand and stay focused on the people who will truly make your business successful
3) Determine who your top competitors will be for those specific target customers, who is already servicing them right now?
4) Study those top competitors, who are currently servicing the customers you want to win, to deeply understand how they position themselves – what services they offer – what promises they make – what sort of value proposition they are currently bringing to the marketplace that is, for some important reason, winning over the customers that you want to win away from them.
5) Figure out how to clearly differentiate yourself from your competitors in a way that will raise the bar and recalibrate the customer’s expectations, and be sure that the way you differentiate yourself is of true of value to your customer, as defined by the customer, not by you.
6) Create strategic alliances with people in town who, by the nature of the business they are in, can become wonderful sources of referrals to you. You want to get as many people like this on your team as possible… but you especially want to identify the top four or five “Opinion Leaders” who are the most influential sources of referrals for you so that you can get these very important individuals on your team and creating a constant stream of high-quality, targeted referrals that represent your Ideal Customer Profile.
7) Also determined people who are in your direct area of competition – but that you do not want to compete against, and try to form strategic alliances with them so you can work together and be in co-opition instead of competition.
8 ) Identify your key “Moments Of Truth” — the handful of key things that absolutely have to go right in order for you to be able to meet and exceed your customers expectation — and create processes to make sure that they are delivered flawlessly — flawlessly – – – every single time.
9) Establish a brand for yourself and oyur business that represents a completely new level of service and changes the game in your competitive environment.
10) Position yourself as an expert, trusted advisor, partner and peer to your customers by continuously delivering them REAL value and assistance in making their businesses better and more successful — by making them look really good and delivering massive value to their customers.
11) Be sure that every single time you do a superior job – and your customers tell you that you are fantastic – follow up instantly with a request for referrals. If they say you’re awesome, thank you, thank you, thank you… tell them that the very best way they can thank you is to tell 10 other people about how fantastic you are and strongly recommend that they do business with you. Positive word-of-mouth through strong personal referrals, are the single most valuable advertising/marketing vehicle there is on the face of the earth. You can pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy ads in every magazine, website and newspaprer in the world – but a handful of strong personal for referrals from key opinion leaders will drive much more business than those as ever could.
12) Keep track of your best customers. Check in with them regularly – talk with them – ask questions and LISTEN. The best way to grow your business is to determine who your very best customers are – and turn them into your marketing department. Deliver GREAT products and service to them and get them to help you find more customers just like them – and understand the needs of those customers better than any of your competition.
13) Once you figure out what works best for you – what truly leads to gaining real market share and significantly increasing profitability – focus like crazy on that area and get better and better at it every day.
I hope you found some of these ideas helpful. As always, I look forward to your feedback, ideas, comments and suggestions. Thanks so much — John