by Marcia Yudkin
In preparation for my latest web site makeover, I toured about a dozen competitors' web sites, in search of ideas I could use or definitely wouldn't want to use at my new site. Since I'm not a potential client for them, I normally didn't spend much time looking at marketing consultants' or copywriters' web sites.
To my surprise, I discovered two sites containing a statement along these lines: "Confidential projects require a 100% surcharge." Without the surcharge, clients could see the work they'd commissioned and paid for dissected, discussed and shown off in the consultant's courses and portfolio.
Never in a million years would it have occurred to me to present confidentiality as a competitive advantage, as something all my clients receive without any extra charge.
Reading competitors' terms and conditions might be similarly eye-opening for you. Industry norms that you take for granted pertaining to privacy, quality control or courtesies for clients might have slipped while you've been quietly doing business traditionally.
"Unlike other companies, we...": See if you can create a powerful differentiator.
You may have an even better chance to connect with potential clients by conducting Hot Button research. This involves discovering the biggest worries and concerns for people in the industry you sell to.
When that industry is one you target but do not directly participate in, try these four methods of discovering its hot buttons:
1. Attend an industry meeting or conference and during the coffee breaks, ask everyone what their biggest challenge or obstacle is this year.
2. Find a discussion list or discussion board for the industry and note both heated debates and thoughtful questions experienced folks ask each other.
3. Take previous clients in that industry out to lunch and ask them about current controversies in their field and any others they think are bound to break out soon.
4. Sometimes a hot button is perennial rather than new. Simply ask your informants what business issue has most kept them awake at night over the years.
With all this listening, pay attention to the words people use to describe their fears and ordeals and echo them when you create your new product or promotion. Whenever you discover a new hot button that doesn't seem to have gotten much public attention yet, write a white paper or create a video about it and distribute a press release about the white paper or video to your industry and the general news media.
Marcia Yudkin is the author of more than a dozen books, including 6 Steps to Free Publicity, now in its third edition, and Persuading People to Buy, from which this article is adapted. She helps solo professionals and small-to-medium-sized business owners connect with their target market cost-effectively and creatively. Learn more about her Marketing Insight Guides series on the fundamentals of turning strangers into long-time customers at http://www.yudkin.com/guides/index.htm