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Who’s to Say What’s Sexy? Marketing in a Narrow-Niche B-to-B Space

By David Avrin, The Visibility Coach

A colleague commented to me recently about how he could certainly understand how I could get excited about speaking for companies and organizations that create and sell new consumer products or gee-whiz technology, but was struggling with what I would have to say to businesses selling mechanical parts, packaging supplies, trucking services or financial data processing to another business?

I then asked him pointedly: “Why should promoting in a business-to-business environment be any different than promoting a new restaurant, smart phone or bathroom sanitizer? Who is to decide what is industry exciting, engaging or relevant?” An industry that might seem “boring” to an outsider with no interest, relevance or connection, might be a fascinating industry to another, filled with engaging people providing vital and rewarding services to their community, the nation and even the world. It all depends on your perspective and your perspective depends on the sandbox in which you play.

The point is that a customer is a customer is a customer. People in business buy services, products and materials much the same way that consumers make buying decisions in the mass market: They look for engaging solutions to acknowledged  problems that stand out as a better choice than the other options available to them.

The rules of marketing are fairly basic: 1. Find a legitimate way to stand apart from your competitors. 2. Craft engaging and clearly differentiated messaging. 3. Have a well thought-out plan for how you are going to reach all of your audiences and 4. Promote like crazy!

Of course, what may sound simple does not mean it is easy.

Too often those “tried-and-true” approaches are over-done and tend to blend in to the messages delivered by competitors. The point is that being good is no longer good enough. When your prospective customer has a choice (and they always do) you can’t settle for simply being a good choice. You have to be a better choice than your competitors, market better than your competitors, and be more visible than your competitors.

Those who are playing in a pure business-to-business space can learn a great deal from their consumer marketing cousins. In hyper-competitive markets, as is the case with most consumer-oriented goods, standing out can mean life or death to the brand. Unfortunately, too many in business rely on simply touting their expertise, commitment to quality or great customer service. The reality is that being really, really good at what you do, just puts you on a par with all your competitors who are also really good at what they do.

When was the last time you conducted a true competitive analysis in your market? Do you have a copy of all the marketing materials your competitors are sending out to your prospects to compete against you? C’mon people! They give their marketing materials away — for free — so there is no excuse for you not to have them in-hand. Look them over carefully and highlight the heck out them. Print off your Web pages and those of your competitors and compare them side-by-side. You are likely in for a big surprise! Not only does most of their verbiage sound a lot like yours, some of it will match almost word-for-word.

The point is that to compete, truly compete, you have to know what your competitors are promoting and you have to promote better. Your value has to be better. Your words have to be better. Your graphics have to better. Period. The good news is the pay-off for that extra work can be significant. Commit to looking better to your prospects than your competitors. Maybe even — dare I say — sexy!

Marketing pro David Avrin is known internationally as the “Visibility Coach.” An in-demand speaker, author and executive coach, David has spent over two decades on the front lines of Marketing, Public Relations and Strategic Branding and has presented to audiences across North America and around the world including: Singapore, Bangkok, Melbourne, Brisbane, Antwerp, Buenos Aires and London. He is the author of three books including the Amazon best-seller: It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who Knows You! (©2010 John Wiley & Sons).