For the majority of business owners, it comes as no surprise that the success of a company is highly dependent on being able to sell the product or service. In fact, sales are the lifeline of a thriving business.
In the same vein, it’s common knowledge that in order to sell, the product or service has to be marketed effectively. Without marketing, a company is going to grow stagnant and die. You need those leads in the sales pipeline.
With these two principles being accepted as necessary steps to keep a business thriving, one critical error is that often, business owners believe that when starting a company, they need to jump right in and throw all of their efforts into marketing, right? Not so fast. There is another important step to focus on before they any marketing plan is launched.
It is a crucial point, and neglecting this means a business is throwing money away by having marketing campaigns that are either not effective as they should be or not successful at all.
That point is public relations.
Let’s first get our terms straight.
A sale is the exchange of funds with a service or product. That’s easy.
Marketing is defined differently in different dictionaries, but the concept is the same – putting your service or product in front of qualified clients (or customers/ patients, etc.) so that you can sell to them.
Again, some may argue this definition is not complete and will talk about “the 4 P’s” (Product, Price, Place, and Promotional Strategy), but we are talking about the same thing.
“Public Relations” is creating a positive opinion or perception about you from the public as a whole or your target market. It is not about convincing someone to buy something.
As a rule of thumb, I like to say that selling is talking about the product or yourself, while marketing is talking about the clients and their problems (that are solved by your product or service), and PR is others talking about how good or nice you are, so that people think highly of you.
Positioning can be viewed as a form of public relations aimed to have your brand occupy a distinct position, relative to competing brands, in the mind of the consumers. In particular, authority positioning (expert positioning) establishes the business or person as being at the top of the industry (in terms of quality, prestige, knowledge, etc.).
As an example, when a dentist is talking with the patient about doing a crown for $1000, it is selling. When he promotes the business on the search engines, builds a website or sends postcards saying there is a discount for new patients, it is marketing. The message could have been “all new patients get a free exam and teeth whitening kit” or as plain as “we are accepting new patients; call now.”
Public relations could be a news story about a community service the doctor did to help a local school. Authority positioning could be promoting an interview with the dentist on a local radio station, promoting a new book about dentistry or announcing the doctor was chosen as the top dentist in their city.
Marketing or selling without positioning can work to some degree but is it not as effective and, in some cases, can recoil on the business. Without positioning, you are just another business marketing to them.
Consumers are very cautious when they sense someone marketing to them (or selling something to them) and it is as if they put on a bulletproof vest as soon as they get a hint that this is going on.
That is the reason people are throwing away “junk mail” without reading it or even saying “no” when asked if they need help at the clothes store. When you start marketing without positioning first, you are falling into this trap.
For that reason, some of the marketing money you spend is wasted because it turns consumers off. Sometimes, you can even alienate several people and thus can be harmful to your brand.
On the other hand, if you have a positioning as the go-to provider in your field or city, then when you start marketing, people are receptive to that. In fact, when people are receiving marketing messages from you, they open them, consume them and act upon them.
When consumers consider getting a service from someone with authority positioning, they are prepared to pay even more than what the competitors charge because they assume the quality is higher. If that person or business is charging about the same, then people feel it is a real bargain.
This leads us to the next question:
What can you do to establish yourself as an expert?
There are several ways to accomplish that target, but for now, we will only mention a few.
- Educate: All authority figures are educators and advocates of their clients’ success. Today’s marketing is done online mostly, and people use the internet for research. When you are the one they learn from, you establish yourself in their mind as a source.
There are several psychological triggers at play here. Those factors may be covered separately, but the outcome is the same: your audience will prefer doing business with you and will consider you as an authority figure in your market.
- Be Everywhere: Celebrities get a lot of exposure. People see their faces a lot. In people’s minds, the reverse also works: if people see you a lot = you are a “celebrity.” By that, we don’t mean that you will become a Brad Pitt or Kim Kardashian but rather that you will reap similar benefits as if you are a celeb.
A continuous exposure keeps you “top of mind” in the clients’ awareness, and when they need services you provide, they think of you first and compare all other options to you.
Being everywhere can be achieved in several ways, and most can be done relatively inexpensively compared to in the past. That includes retargeting (showing an ad to all the people that visited a particular page for the following days or weeks), Facebook ads, YouTube and news releases, to name a few.
Publish a Book: This can be under the first item here, Educate, but it has a place of its own. Being a published author (or better yet - a best-selling author) is probably the best authority trigger. You can educate THROUGH your book, but for that matter, it makes no difference if people read your book or not.
As a matter of fact, most will not read your book. While this can be frustrating, just the fact you have a book on your specialty is enough to elevate you above your competition.
Those are just three of the ways you can establish yourself as the authority in your market. You can now see how marketing could be more efficient after doing those steps.
I have seen firsthand how using this strategy increases the results. I have also seen how NOT using it results in holes in the bank and silent phones. The caveat is that it needs to be done in a smart way. But anything is better than nothing.
Go and establish yourself as the expert that you are and reap the results you deserve!