Mike Michalowicz has some advice for the small business owner who spends large chunks of the day wracking their brain how to best compete in a crowded marketplace. In a nutshell, the bestselling author and top business keynote speaker, wants you to know that simply being better is not better. Different is better. You need to be pursuing ways to stand out and contrast your business from the competition, instead of striving to simply beat them.
Michalowicz, who expressed this advice during an installment of the Total Tech Summit/VIP Peer to Peer webinar series, emphasizes standing out gives you the best chance to outshine the competition. Customers will find the competition if you are unnoticeable. If that competitor provides a lesser product or lesser service, it’s your fault.
“Many business owners are frustrated because they feel invisible in a crowded marketplace. They know they are better than their competitors, but when they focus on that fact they get little in return,” he expressed during the webcast introduction. “That’s because, to customers, better is not actually better. Different is better. And those who market differently, win.”
Michalowicz emphasized businesses need to market differently to make customers aware. “If our service offering or product offering is better, we have a responsibility to make customers aware of it to be of service to them. But if they never even notice us in the first place, that is the ultimate sin.”
Client referrals can be the lifeblood of a small business — many of which forgo marketing expenditures because of a robust referral pipeline — but here too Michalowicz offers caution. Consider referrals as “the icing on the cake; it’s surely not the cake.”
“If you get client referrals, you should be proud. But there’s a risk here. If we are dependent upon clients to refer us business, it means we’re at the whim of our customers marketing us. And the day they decide to stop, or they start working with someone else or they just don’t want to do it anymore, we’re not going to get lead flow,” he said. “That’s how vehement I am that if your service is better, you have to step up and market. The world is starving to discover you.”
Michalowicz centered his presentation around a marketing framework that is featured in his latest book, “Get Different.” Based on the acronym D.A.D., the concept instructs small business owners to ask three critical questions about their marketing: Does it differentiate? Does it attract? Does it direct?
“If these three elements are missed in part or in whole, the marketing at best is now crippled or is going to fail outright,” he said.
Following is an abridged look at each of these pieces, as explained during the webinar.
Step #1: Differentiate
This first step in the framework is to identify a marketing approach that is set apart from the din of the same, well-worn promotional tactics employed by other companies. Michalowicz invokes a bit of neuroscience to illustrate why the need to distinguish yourself from the pack is so vital.
At the base of the human brainstem is the reticular formation. Its primary function is to disregard or ignore most stimuli as a means to manage productivity and maintain focus. These nerve pathways are essential for governing our response to threats and opportunities, as well as evaluating stimuli that may require action or simply be ignored.
Think about marketing as a form of stimulus. If you employ the same marketing practices as your competition, there is a strong chance that audience is habituated to your messaging and therefore is mostly ignoring it outright. Here, Michalowicz cites the example of how customers filter through junk mail or email blasts, sorting and deciding in milliseconds whether something is of interest or offers some value to them.
The mission to differentiate does not have to entail some massive marketing overhaul, Michalowicz suggests. Rather it can be more nuanced and begin with small branding changes to logos, messaging in online and print ads, videos, etc.
Step #2: Attract
Sure, you must differentiate to get noticed. But this can present a vexing challenge for businesses.
“Different alone is not adequate. I could have dressed like a clown today with big floppy shoes, with the squirting daisy on my lapel,” Michalowicz said. “That may differentiate, I may get noticed, but it may not pass — and it likely wouldn’t — the second test, which is attract.”
Here, Michalowicz stresses your marketing must speak to the audience and community that you are targeting. It must engage the prospect. “So, for example, me dressing like a clown for this webinar you would notice, but I only have your attention for about a blink of an eye. If I am dressed as a clown, it may not only not attract you, but it may also repel you.”
To break away from marketing habituation — and be considered an opportunity, not a threat the prospect will instinctively avoid — you must speak to the audience’s needs and problems, Michalowicz described. “So, the question is who is your audience, and then how do you present to them in a way they haven’t been presented to before that’s different and attractive?”
Step #3: Direct
Succeeding at the first two steps in the D.A.D. framework will garner the prospect’s attention and engagement, but to seal the deal you will need to demonstrate a clear message of what call to action you want them to take.
“Direct is where you compel the audience to take a specific and explicit direction to do something. Smaller businesses have to get noticed. We have to engage and then we have to compel the audience to take direction,” Michalowicz said.
To do that offer something specific and reasonable, with the goal to arrive at the ultimate transaction to engage your services. How many steps do you need to get there? The fewer steps, as long as they’re reasonable, the better.
“The biggest mistake I see is this innocuous [approach], ‘Whenever you’re ready,’ kind of thing. The biggest mistake I see on websites is the call to action ‘to learn more.’ The whole reason I visited your website in the first place was to learn more. Don’t make me learn even more about learning more,” Michalowicz chortled. “Tell me what you want me to do.”
Maybe putting down a deposit is not an appropriate call to action, he suggested. Maybe instead it should be “call for that consultation.”
“Maybe it’s ‘download our 10 buyer tips’ and I give you my email address. But give me a specific, explicit, reasonable action to take,” he advised. “The customer feels safe and it moves the relationship as quickly as possible for the ultimate transaction you desire.”
This article originally appeared on our sister publication Security Sales & Integration‘s website.