Your best brand storyteller? Ask the expert!

Your business might be telling an exciting, captivating and helpful story… but is the right person telling it?

 

Successful companies already know that people buy people.  In my experience, professional buyers seeking product and service solutions will look at the people providing it and make subjective decisions based on how assured they are by the specialism and specialist knowledge they exhibit.

Specialist knowledge comes from an in-depth understanding only built up from previous experience of facing up to and conquering similar challenges.

So, thinking about how businesses marketers brand their companies in a bid to commercialise their offering, isn’t it a good idea to actually put that brand offer in the hands of the people who have created it? The people who are best placed to build strong credibility because of their inherent capability?

There is a commercial benefit to going down this route too; experts with highly prized knowledge can demonstrate value and attract a potential premium.

USE YOUR expert

But who is the real expert in your business? Who’s expertise brings in the money?

Many company owners know where the revenue sits, and who creates the products and services that are successfully monetised. Yet many companies keep these people at arm’s length from customers and clients.

I wonder why.

  • Is it because they are somehow not competent or not credible with customers?
  • Is it that we don’t trust them to stick to the script? 
  • Is it that we would rather they focus on the solutions despite the fact those solutions are best informed by direct customer feedback?

The reality is that the model most companies use to manage customer relationships is broken and the experience we are delivering is actually risking the relationship long term.

Fine margins

Long term success in the modern consultative sell means understanding that many B2B buying decisions often come down to fine margins. Whilst, the primary driver may well be for products that deliver improvement, save time, reduce waste, use sustainable materials and more, the value add and interpersonal chemistry matter.

There has been a strong track record of companies using key people in their marketing (as heroes) and this, depending on the type of company you are, can be a real winner. Prominent examples in the UK include Boeing, Halifax and B&Q.  

A little bit more contact with the ‘brains’ of your operation is increasingly being seen as a more viable option to to the usual Chinese walls created by armies of call centre workers, field sales representatives, account handlers and other people designed to help traffic process.

Replace selling with serving

My advice: Be daring and place the experts in your business in a position to engage in customer dialogue. Adopt a model where you tap into their expertise and begin to demonstrate the value you profess to bring by replacing selling with serving.

And, for your next marketing campaign, regardless of whether you are setting acquisition, retention or engagement KPIs, think about what is going to resonate most with the audience you’re targeting.

Think about telling stories. Think about having your people who do amazing things day in day out, bring that story to life – and in doing so, begin to place them right at the heart of the narrative.

**Also, check out this post on watering holes and establishing where your customers hang out.**

Image: Ollie Heath

 

 

Watering holes

Do you know where your customers hang out and what keeps them awake at night?

One of the phrases I use the most when I’m consulting, training or speaking is “watering hole”.

For me, watering holes are one of the most important, yet frequently overlooked elements of any marketing or content marketing program.

Watering holes are the places online and off-line where our customers, prospects and influencers go to satisfy a number of needs.

It might be where they reside, hangout, go for advice, information, ask questions, seek conversation, engage in dialogue, and look for anything from reassurance, help, support or guidance.

Not just for PR

For the most part, it has been savvy PR consultants and agents looking to carefully place PR in front of the right people that have been the most successful at identifying watering holes. Watering holes have tended to be sector press, business press, industry and member associations, websites, conferences and exhibitions, online groups and forums to name a few.

Good publicity and public relations will, however, only get you so far.

Increasingly, working your way into the watering hole, being accepted by the community there and putting credit in the bank is less about disrupting the conversations already taking place.

Nobody likes the loud, self absorbed person at a party. With conversations and discussions already taking place between people who have given permission and earned the right to do so, arriving and seeking to divert attention is just plain rude.

People, especially Brits, are generally suspicious of companies and their motives in communities. Just think about ‘the rules’ prescribed by Linkedin group owners to prevent spamming. Brand owners need to take the time to study and listen to what is going on before ploughing in.

Lead with your experts

Participating in community discussion and becoming one of the trusted counsellors can be a challenge for companies where sales and marketing professionals represent the company publicly. For this reason I think it is better to use your experts.

Think about it. Every company has them. Positioning on expertise and being able to discuss and solve customer problems is the ethos that underpins the modern explosion in ‘content marketing’. Only experts have the credibility to achieve this, as people (not brands) solve problems.

The best way, I think, to join any watering hole community is to first listen, ask questions, offer advice, offer recommendations across the community and build a facilitator profile.

Don’t ever try to sell straight away. Trust always comes before transaction.

[More on marketing with expertise to follow…]

 

Thought for the day: Experts

Since writing his book Outliers, it has been widely written and commonly accepted that Malcolm Gladwell is right with his assertion that you have to invest a lot of time into becoming brilliant at anything. (He personally suggests 10,000 hours).

Compare this with specialists, experts, gurus and other self appointed consultants who approach you through various platforms claiming either to be an expert or to be able to quickly get you to speed and operating like an expert.

Be warned, especially if it involves new technology, new ways of working, thinking, acting, fast moving environments or tightly regulated sectors – they are unlikely to be as specialist as they might proclaim. Exercise due diligence before committing. Here is a related post I wrote a few months ago.

Share

Guru

Today, I’m showcasing the excellent Steve Trister, actor, comedian and proprieter of Performance Dynamite.

Steve has created the character Guru John Popolini as an antidote to the rise of the business guru (I wrote a post on this a while back that might be of interest.) He can often be seen at business networking events, conferences and exhibitions. I dare say he probably does the odd gypsy wedding and bar mitzvah for the right price too!

It is a timely reminder about three things. One, the importance of creativity. Two, how to not take ourselves too seriously. Three, how a little polish can make all the difference when it comes to presenting!

Check him out on Twitter @SteveTrister and @GuruJPopolini – but be warned, he tweets alot!

Part one [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVgX08COD1I&w=480&h=390]

Part two [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Mbyvk4oGXg&w=480&h=390]

Part three [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uzbw_Yy0ZfA&w=480&h=390]