In my day-to-day work, I speak and meet with a number of companies that are really good at what they do. In fact, some are just outstanding at their specialty or niche. The problem is that too few people know about them. You practically need to trip over them to know that they exist.
Almost invariably, the VPs of Sales & Marketing for these companies voice their frustrations over the fact that while the company is good at doing what they do, they’ve not grown sales, nor increased their customer bases or product volumes, nor enhanced their brand visibility as their executive management team would have liked. In many ways, their companies end up becoming their respective industries’ dreaded “best kept secrets.” If this sounds painfully familiar, let me offer up a reason why this has happened and how to avoid this trap.
First, one needs to remember that there are two different sides to your business. One is what I call “inside reality” and the other is “outside perception.” The “inside reality” are all the things your business does that makes it valuable to customers and gives you a competitive advantage in the marketplace. It’s all your skills, people, expertise, service, commitment to excellence, passion, and the way you conduct your business.
I’m sure that if you asked your customers why they bought from you, they could tell you something quantifiable, specific, and instantly obvious. They might point to specific benefits for doing business with you and say, “That’s why I do business with you, that’s why I refer my friends to come here, that’s why I’m a loyal customer, that’s why I don’t mind paying a bit more for your products, that’s why I keep coming back.”
The problem then isn’t your “inside reality” but the “outside perception,” which is how prospects PERCEIVE your company, if they perceive it at all. Very commonly, there’s a fundamental disconnect between your inside reality and outside perception.
See, regardless of how good you are, or how good your “inside reality” is, your prospect isn’t going to be able to figure it out based on marketing that doesn’t address their outside perception. Take, for example, a bank that offers personal service. Their inside reality is they greet every customer by name, open the doors as each customer enters and leaves, and offer individual financial advice based on the customers’ specific banking needs. We’ll also assume their current customers are genuinely impressed. But the outside perception of non-customer prospects is that all banks are pretty much the same and all talk about personal service while most don’t deliver on the promise – and it’s not really that important to them anyway. Once a bank starts from that outside perception as the basis of their marketing, the solutions become entirely different. And so do the results. But the bank that continues to market based on such inside realities, especially in a non-creative or expected manner, will remain invisible to prospects because they’ve seen it all before.
You have to start by seeing your marketing through the eyes of a jaded, disinterested prospect who thinks they know all there is to know about you, or at least about the business you’re in.
So while “best kept secrets” might be seen as good for restaurants, traffic shortcuts and travel destinations, they’re NOT great for business. Don’t get lost in the noise. Whether it’s online, offline or thru social media channels, wave your ‘marketing arms’ and let people know you’re there. Because being in business and not promoting your value as you should is like winking at a cute girl (or guy) in the dark. You may know what you’re doing but she or he sure doesn’t.