When you’re talking to a new prospect, how do you quickly convince them to select your AV integration firm rather than the competition? It’s critical that every integration firm have defined competitive differentiators that you can pull out of your back pocket in sales discussions.
These competitive differentiators are the reasons why you are different from your competition.
Once you can say that you are the best at XYZ, your list of competitors suddenly shrinks because there are only so many integrators that service your market and have the same strengths.
This then helps move the conversation away from price to focus on meeting your prospect’s unique needs.
How Do I Know What Makes Me Different?
If you are looking to attract more customers similar to your current base, you can do a survey or quick interviews with these existing clients to find out why they selected your integration firm and what they like best about working with your company.
You should start to see some common themes that will give you a head start in identifying your competitive differentiators.
What if you are looking to make a change to your customer mix?
One approach is to take a look at just your most profitable customers. You could also look at a fast-growing segment within your client list. Once you identify the people whose opinions you most want to collect, you can again implement either a survey or conduct quick interviews.
Types of Competitive Differentiation
Companies can stand out in many different ways. You can focus on specific vertical markets, become an expert of certain types of projects/technologies or emphasize business capabilities such as customer service.
Focus on Specific Market Segments
Each vertical market has somewhat different needs. Deploying a digital signage solution on a college campus is very different from a retail environment. One way to really stand out is to focus.
Select a couple of vertical industries that are big in your area and become the expert at understanding and addressing their needs.
Specialize in Certain Types of Projects
Alternatively, you may have amassed experience with certain types of projects or technologies such as very large video walls or unified communications systems. When you look for more customers with these same needs, you should work to identify commonalities between your existing customers.
Do they tend to be a certain size business? Are they in specific locations with unique requirements such as corporate campuses with more than three buildings? Characteristics such as these will help you create a profile of the type of customer you are looking for.
Highlight Specific Business Capabilities
When you talk to existing customers, do they frequently call out the promptness of your support response? Or maybe they like how you have defined simple, easy to understand packages of products and services. Perhaps they give kudos to the friendliness of your sales and support teams.
Whatever messages you keep hearing over and over are a great place to start when defining how your AV integration firm stands out from the competition. Let customers help inform your competitive differentiators.
Creating Company Messaging
Once you have defined what makes you different, the next step is to create company messaging.
Company messaging a consistent set of words you use to describe your company. You may have heard the common refrain that customers have to hear something seven times in order to remember it.
This is called the “Rule of Seven”. One aspect of the rule of seven is to write out certain phrases that everyone in your company uses consistently when describing your business.
If a prospect sees an ad in the local paper referring to “Topline Integration – the videoconferencing experts” and then hears a radio ad for “Topline Integration – we do UCC right” and then gets a flyer in the mail that says “Topline Integration – we work with all kinds of schools” etc. The prospect often ends up confused.
Saying that your AV integration firms does everything well is like saying you have no specialty – nothing particular stands out to the prospect. However, every one of those marketing messages could have said the same thing:
“Topline Integration delivers exceptional customer service that makes our customers come back time and again – they even bring their friends”
There is a much greater chance that prospects would remember that message after hearing it over and over. Following are a few elements of a company’s messaging:
1. Vision Statement
It may sound very pie-in-the-sky but it’s helpful to start off by defining why you do what you do. What is your long-term goal for running your business? Do you want to enable other companies to achieve their potential? Bring about world peace through better remote communications?
Understand your vision to help customers see that vision for themselves.
2. Mission Statement
This is the next level down of how you will achieve this vision and includes tangible goals. For example, Amazon Web Services mission statement is:
The AWS mission is to enable developers and businesses to use web services to easily build and be paid for sophisticated, scalable applications.
If your vision statement is to help other companies achieve their potential, then your mission statement might be:
“The Topline Integration mission is to make complex technologies simple for retail and hospitality businesses.”
3. Elevator Pitch
Once you have a clear understanding of your overall goals for the company, the next thing you will need is an elevator pitch. This is just what is sounds like – two to three sentences that you could say to a prospect while you ride up to a meeting in an elevator.
This is a longer paragraph or so of text that describes your company and focus in more detail. If your company was planning to exhibit at an event, this is the text you would submit to the show guide. It would likely also live on your website in the About Us section and be put at the end of any press releases.
These are basic elements that you would want to have as part of your company messaging so that every sales and marketing person in your business can consistently use the same language when speaking with customers and prospects.
Keep in mind, it’s not until you can recite it from memory that prospects are finally starting to associate it with your business. It takes lots and lots of repetition to have an impact.
Customer Testimonial Program
One last suggestion I want to make is that once you have identified how your AV integration firm stands out from your competition and defined the words you want to use to communicate your message, don’t forget to line up customer testimonials.
Nothing is as powerful as an actual customer expressing why they love your company. This type of third-party support will gain much more attention than your own marketing efforts.
In fact, it’s so important that I recommend writing it into your contracts.
If you are planning an exciting new project, you may even offer the customer a slight discount if they agree to provide video and text testimonials. The new business that these testimonials can help bring in will more than make up for the initial project discount.
Of course, you also need a marketing plan to make sure that your testimonials are seen. Stay tuned for an article on just how to create that plan.