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. I think that much of it applies to just about any business 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.
- 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. The customer is the only person who can decide what is valuable and what they are willing to pay for. I’ve seen many businesses fail from serving the wrong customer.
- Create a very detailed “Ideal Customer Profile” to help you understand and stay focused on the people who will truly make your business successful. These are the folks that love what you do. They are happy to pay for it, don’t argue about price, return often, and tell their friends about how great you and your business are. You want as many of these “Ideal Customers” as possible. You also want to send any bad customers to your competition!
- Determine who your top competitors will be for those specific target customers. Who is already servicing them right now?
- 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, and 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.
- 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 value to your customer, as defined by the customer, not by you. The key here is: Valued Differentiation x Effective Execution.
- Create strategic alliances with people in town who 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 create a constant stream of high-quality, targeted referrals that represent your Ideal Customer Profile.
- Also, determine people in your direct area of competition—but that you do not want to compete against. Try to form strategic alliances with them so you can work together and be in co-option instead of competition. I have a large network of other consultants and speakers who I admire. When a client approaches me with a project that I do not feel I can absolutely deliver magnificently, I quickly refer them to someone who I believe will be able to do a better job. This makes the client happy, increases their respect for my integrity, and I have now done a huge favor for someone else in the industry. Someone who will be looking to return that favor if they have the opportunity to in the future.
- 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 customer’s expectation. Create processes to make sure that they are delivered flawlessly every single time. If you can determine this handful of key things that are most important to your customers and be the best in your market at delivering them consistently, you will win huge market share.
- Establish a brand that represents a completely new level of service. A brand that changes the game in your competitive environment. Then position your business in such a way that you alter the decision-making process for your Ideal Customers by creating a new way to compare your products and services to what is currently being offered in the marketplace. In other words, change the rules of the game.
- 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. It is one of my very favorite Zig Zigler quotes:
“If you just help enough other people get what they want, you’ll get everything you want.”
- Be sure to follow up instantly with a request for referrals every single time you do a superior job. 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 in the form of strong personal referrals is the single most valuable advertising/marketing vehicle there is. You can pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy ads in every magazine in the world, but a handful of strong personal referrals from key opinion leaders will drive much more business than those ever could.
- 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. Then 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. Understand the needs of those customers better than any of your competition.
- The best way I have found to keep in touch with my top customers is to constantly look for information, ideas, articles, blogs that they would find truly valuable. And then send them one about once every two or three weeks with a note that says, “I just found this article and it made me think of you. It has some information that will be of value to you and your business, hope you doing great, take good care. – John.” I have a list of about 300 top customers that I try to send a note like that at least every two weeks. A note with something really interesting and of value that I know they will enjoy receiving.
- 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. Create a process in the system to ensure that you bring in new ideal clients, and deliver great products and services. Turning clients into evangelists for your business, and then asking for more referrals. If you are working like a madman to constantly add value to your customers and clients, they will be more than happy to share your name with their friends and colleagues. Introduce them to someone who’s going to do a great job for them too. It is truly a virtuous cycle. But it all depends on you consistently delivering superior customer service and adding massive value to the clients you serve.
I hope you found some of these ideas helpful. As always, I look forward to your feedback, ideas, comments, and suggestions.
Thanks so much,
If you want to get in contact with me, I’d love to hear from you. Please visit my site at https://johnspence.com/contact/ and let me know how I can help.