I recently attended an excellent presentation by David Avrin, who is known as the Visibility Coach and author of It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who Knows You. Like other first-class marketers, Avrin understands that marketing is way more effective when you have established yourself as a branded authority. This principle echoes what we preach (and practice) and is the essence of the difference between push marketing and pull marketing.
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 is one where there is no real advantage in terms of the product, service, etc., and where the prospect tends to evaluate you primarily on pricing, terms, and so forth. And as a commodity provider, you will often have to make painful concessions to win the business.
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. The trick is to 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 and/or your company as a branded authority, you will first have to decide the breadth of your focus. Marketing yourself with a very broad focus (e.g. general practitioner) is very different than a narrow niche focus (e.g. endoscopic brain surgery). And across most industries, those who have a greater degree of specialization earn more and face less competitive pressure. But you must understand 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 proceeding, make sure there is a healthy marketplace in your area of branded authority.
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 few, if any, competitors.
- You are able to charge reasonable prices and don’t have to deeply discount to win business.
- You are able to replace expensive push marketing with lower cost and more effective pull marketing.
- Deals close faster and more reliably.
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. And becoming a branded authority will almost certainly require you to transform your model from push marketing to pull marketing.
One final thought. Adopting the spirit of the title of David Avrin’s book, It’s Not Who You Know But Who Knows You, would be a great way to get your pull marketing efforts off to a great start for 2013.