Over the years, I have met with hundreds of small business owners and marketing directors. When asked what they do, nearly all respond with a carefully crafted marketing driven value message that they spent hours agonizing over or paid a branding consultant to create. They tell me that they provide industry leading, best of breed solutions that helps customers leverage technology (blah, blah, blah) for maximum profitablity (yadda, yadda, yadda). Yawn…
Thanks to traditional sales and marketing methodologies many good businesses have created these false all encompassing message and then they try to buy into them. They think they are delivering their company to prospects in a positive light, but are they?
How do you know you are best of breed and what does that actually mean? If you are best of breed, what other companies are in your breed and how do you measure that you are better than they are? How can you say you are industry leading, if you are not actually the industry leader? If you are, who is the #2 company you are beating the pants off? If you cannot answer these questions in a quantitative way, then it is likely your customers cannot either. You are probably delivering a false message.
I say probably, because one of you may actually be an industry leader. My buddy tells people his company is one of the nation’s leading providers of a certain hr software. In reality, his is the leading provider, so he can make claims like that because they are true. He can list for you names of all the companies in the top ten and tell your their approximate annual sales for FY 2008 relative to his.
The way these descriptive phrases are thrown around, “industry leading” means that the company delivers services that are considered to be at the forefront of the industry, not that the company itself is leading that industry. Under this methodology, anyone who offers something that other companies also offer and if that type of solution is considered pretty good, that company is doing something that is “best of breed.” The overuse of this “by association marketing speak” has diluted these messages making them completely worthless. They offer little value to anyone qualifying your organization.
The products or services every business provides has a certain level of assumed competence in the actual offering, so the discussion around “best of breed” and “industry leading” usually has little bearing on the decision making process of the buyer. People can learn a great deal on the Interwebs about your industry and the types of solutions available.
When dealing with an informed market, offer them more information about why you may be a good choice. Give them the honest information they will value as a decision maker. The good customer, the one you will want to build a strong relationship with, really cares about what you can do for them and how much you will value your relationship with them. They are often seeking a long term, reliable partner for the product or service.
When you stop selling assumed competence and begin being honest about what you do, you can deliver a meaningful message to your customers and prospects that they will want to hear. Nobody cares what you do, they only care about what you can do for them. The fact that you think you are best of breed has little effect on your customers, your relationship with them or the solutions you hope to deliver.