There is no question that it is becoming more difficult to gain a competitive edge in marketing services and products. Market forces push marketing and sales professionals to find new ways to differentiate themselves from competitors and add value to their customers. One often over-looked method for doing this is through “knowledge marketing.”
Knowledge marketing involves setting yourself apart from competitors by becoming an expert in understanding perceived customer benefits. It also involves understanding your specific marketplace and the trends that impact customers. This goes beyond product knowledge and sales demonstrations to becoming a valued advisor to your prospects and current accounts.
Become an Expert
You will stand out from your competition as an expert in your marketplace. This is easier to do than you may think. It does not involve hours of product training, but rather the ability to decipher and communicate market trends that are driven by the needs of your customers.
For example, a friend of mine works in employee benefits. Walter is an expert in employee health insurance trends and the reaction to those trends by consumers and companies. He can provide firsthand examples to back up his points. I am amazed at how much Walter knows about the industry.
Because of Walter’s marketplace knowledge, he is my first choice for employee health insurance. He understands the market and how it impacts his customers. What is interesting is that Walter does not discuss his products or services, but I can see why he has a successful business. It is assumed that he knows his products, which he does, and better yet, he thoroughly understands the market and customer needs.
Stay current on the trends in your marketplace. The best way to do this is through discussions and feedback from your prospects and current customers. This will help you understand real customer benefits, which are the key to sales and marketing success.
The Magic is in the Details
It is the details of your product and service that push customer hot buttons and make up benefits. You should understand these details as they relate to the specific needs of your customers. Sales people are notorious for spending time on features that do not mean anything to customers and ignoring the most important buying signals that can lead to a sale.
When a consumer begins the process of buying a product or service, there are usually a few key items that are very important and at the heart of the sale. In their first interaction with a sales rep, they are often overwhelmed with information. Rather than dumping information, take a step back and listen to your customers and get to know their business.
Ask Before You Speak
Have probing questions ready to go that get at the real issues on the mind of your customers and prospects. Use the answers to build a database of knowledge and information that you can use to relate back to your target market. More importantly, use this information to educate your customers and become an expert in your marketplace.
Knowledge Marketing Action Plan
In order to get results with knowledge marketing, you must begin educating and training your target market. This can be done through seminars, workshops, sales meetings, articles, public speaking and other methods that bring your message to your prospects and customers. The key is that your message must provide value and benefit to your target market. It must be a transfer of knowledge that helps your customers do their jobs better or enhance the quality of their lives.
Internet Knowledge Marketing
The Internet is a fantastic vehicle for knowledge marketing. Visitors to your Web site are looking for information that can help them do their job more effectively or enhance the quality of their lives. Get in touch with these customer objectives and provide valuable content on your site and via email newsletters. Also, distribute that content to other Web sites that attract your target market.
The Web is loaded with product reviews and information on products and services. These reviews are incredibly powerful marketing resources and great tools for understanding customer reactions. Provide outlets on your Web site for customers to discuss your products and services. Build on this type of information to become a knowledge marketing wiz.
Tom Young, MBA is an Internet marketing consultant helping companies increase revenues on the Internet. He is the author of “Intuitive Selling” (www.IntuitiveSelling.com) and can be reached at 719-481-4040, or email at [email protected]. For more articles like this one, visit his web site at www.intuitivewebsites.com. Call for a free consultation.