What’s the difference between the independent meeting planner you met on the elevator and the one you’ll have a drink with and the one you’ll sit next to at dinner? Visit their websites. Check their references. Still hard to separate.
Super customer service? If they don't make this claim, it could only mean they really don’t have good service. Best rate? Just until they are undersold, forcing them to offer their “ ‘best’ best rate.” Experience? Can’t dispute track records, although some recent examples in the news would challenge that stance.
I was chatting with a longtime planner seeking marketing help, and he couldn’t articulate why someone should choose him over others. Wouldn’t that be the first thing you’d determine before starting a business – or if you plan to get some business?
Try to answer this question: What’s so special about you? Ok, now that your confidence is up, consider these random thoughts as you look to build brand awareness and separate yourself from the pack. Note: proficiency of execution counts.
1. If you don’t have an opinion, find or steal one. You need a voice, which you can cultivate and use everywhere – social media, website, blogs. You don’t have to be a thought leader – let’s face it, everyone can’t – but relevant thoughts count, and people will listen and take notice when you deliver them.
2. Nominate yourself for awards – better yet, win some. There’s nothing like telling the market someone has recognized you. Plaques look great on walls, and one award is worth months of publicity and branding, on marketing pieces, press releases and email signatures at the least.
3. Look for speaking opportunities. Industries crave new voices and personalities, as keynoters or panelists. Seek out the groups appropriate to you, determine their proposal process and timeframe, and get with – and on – the program.
4. Write a guest post. Industry websites and publications that want to be content machines welcome relevant opinions. Write on a topic that does not directly promote your product but provides useful information to your audience. Remember: content sells; selling doesn’t.
5. “Always Be Helping” replaces “Always Be Closing.” Get away from the hard-sell approach and be a resource -- it will be a quicker route to earning trust and respect, and increase your odds of getting the business anyway.
6. Make your website a work in progress. Many people redesign and refine their sites, then go to sleep on them. How can you keep it vibrant and changing so that your market wants to come back and check it out first thing every morning?
7. Write a White Paper. In a world where custom content is king, take charge and produce the de facto, in-depth research on the topics that matter to your audience and that position you as a thought leader (oops, as a thoughtful person).
8. Speaking of research, there’s nothing like snap industry polls that generate quick content and compelling information for a market. Consider one of the many reasonably priced services that allow you to survey your audience and post timely results on your site and via social media.
9. Be everywhere – or give the impression you are. Social media. Live events. Quotes in industry publications.
10. Take a reporter to lunch. Relationships go a long way toward increasing your chances of standing out and actually getting coverage when you have something relevant to push. Understand how they evaluate information, what they look for, and how they make decisions on what gets in and what doesn't.
11. Are you “a niche” or “all things to all people”? I’ve never met a travel agency, for example, that says it can’t handle corporate meetings. Many can, but most can’t – they’re just afraid to say they can’t do something for fear of losing a business opportunity. Let people associate you with a specialty.
12. Join the conversation. Social media is an opportunity, not an obstacle. “Conversations are markets,” says author Patrick Schwerdtfeger. Use it to get in on the discussions and as a vehicle to lead viewers to your important links.
13. Push a theme -- not a release. Press people get hundreds of releases. Yours better be on the level of a cure for a rare disease if you expect coverage. Approach the media with a theme, or a relevant topic for them to cover. Then you can lend key input because you happen to be an expert on the topic.
14. Start a webinar series. Great chance for you to further your position of providing industry content while capturing leads of people who show a direct interest in the topic and hopefully your product category.
15. PRWeb and others. There are services tailored to provide broad-reaching distribution of your news to the appropriate sources. Find them – and use them.
16. Placement or purpose? At a past company, we had a great case study of a key client, and we had to decide: do we pitch this story to an industry publication or do we write it ourselves, manage the distribution process, and use it as collateral marketing material? Now if an industry pub picks it up, there’s the perception of a third party independently acknowledging you -- but it’s confined to their circulation list. If you write it as impartially and non-promotional as you can, and share it intelligently using all the avenues at your disposal (social media, tradeshow handouts, mailings to your own lists), you likely will get a wider reach.
17. Interview a key industry figure. Then market the interview and place it on your website.
18. Friends in the right places. Latch onto key influencers. Have them follow you and serve as brand ambassadors.
19. Testimonials. Generate as many as you can. Nobody says it better about you and your business than somebody besides you.
20. Write a Letter to the Editor. In this world of editorial teams having bare-bones budgets and challenges generating enough copy, nothing warms an editor’s heart than an intelligent, non-promotional letter on an industry topic that helps position you as someone of worthy opinions and expertise.
21. Always be listening. You’ll be amazed what you’ll learn.