Sometimes my blog posts are fully formed ideas that I'm sharing, or examples of best practice from my experience, or a snippet of the training I deliver.
But sometimes the blog acts as more of a conversation with myself as I explore a new concept or topic. This is such a blog post. What you read below is more like you're looking over my shoulder as I scribble ideas in my personal journal. It's not a fully formed idea. It's not something you can pick up and implement right now. But it might help your thinking.
Any feedback would be appreciated.
In my recent post on vertical differentiation I highlighted that the best marketing positioning for most consultants, advisers and other professionals is not one that's “different” to their competitors – but “above”. In other words, “we're the best in the field” – where best translates to best results.
How do you achieve that positioning? Through what I call Authority Marketing.
Authority Marketing is the process of establishing yourself or your firm as a leader – an authority – in your field.
Why is it important to establish yourself as an authority?
Well, direct marketing guru Dan Kennedy said a rather long time ago “it's all about the offer”.
In marketing we obsess about writing compelling copy, about design, image etc. But as Kennedy says, the single most important determinant of whether someone buys is the offer we make them. It's the value of our product or service.
You can have copy written by David Ogilvy himself, but unless you're offering something of high perceived value you won't get sales. Or to put it another way: you can put lipstick on a pig…
So how do clients determine value for professional services?
Well, of course it's dependent on the situation. Some clients just want a basic service at low cost. But to be frank, I don't want to play in that game – and neither do most professionals.
It's actually very difficult for clients to determine the value of a service they're going to get from a service provider. More often than not, the service will be tailored to the specific needs of the client. So in theory, all providers offer the same value because they're all offering the same “solution”.
What's different is the client's perception of how well they're able to deliver that value – or what the risk is that they might not deliver it.
And that's largely dependent on the perceived expertise and authority of the professional.
If the client doesn't believe you're an expert in your field – then the only part of the value equation you have to play with – the only way to differentiate yourself from your competitors – is through price. That's not a good place to be.
But how many of us focus on establishing our authority in our marketing and business development efforts? Not many.
Networking is the favoured approach of most professionals – be it face to face or social. But although it's a great way to meet potential clients, how easy is it to establish your authority in your field? Usually not easy.
Yes, they get to know you, like you and trust you.
And the old saying goes – all other things being equal, people buy from people they know, like and trust.
But guess what? If you're competing against an Authority Marketer – all things aren't equal.
If you're up against someone who's already perceived as an authority, you're starting with a huge handicap.
Yes, I like to do business with people I know and like. But if I'm developing a new strategy for my business, or if I want to minimise my huge tax bill, or I need my case defending – I want the best (within my range). So I'll pick someone I perceive to be an authority.
Look at most professional service firm's websites. What do they have on them?
About Us, Our Services, The Way We Work, Our People, Our Values, blah blah blah.
Nothing to establish their expertise or authority – other than claims about their great people and leading edge thinking. No proof.
And by proof I don't mean testimonials. They're 10 a penny.
What I want to see is examples of your expertise. If you're in marketing, show me some new marketing ideas. Get me excited about new insights I've not seen before that I can really use in my business.
And think about your own marketing for a moment.
What if instead of trying to “get in front of clients” or “establish our brand values”, the objective of your marketing was purely to establish yourself as an authority in your field.
What would you do differently? What approaches would you use that you don't use today? What approaches would you tweak and use differently? And what approaches would you drop? And how might that make clients perceive and react to you when they first meet you face to face?
Worth thinking about.
There'll be more on Authority Marketing in upcoming posts.
Update: I've developed more thoughts in this area in a more recent post on authority marketing: