How to Win Customers in an Increasingly Crowded Marketplace

Have you noticed a shifting in the marketing landscape?

Businesses still need to promote their products and services, that hasn’t changed. But people’s perception of marketing messages and the way those messages are delivered, certainly has.

Sophisticated consumers and multiple marketing channels pose a marketing challenge to businesses large and small.

First, today’s consumers are savvy. The principles of psychology and an understanding of human nature are valuable in reaching your customers, but the days of cheezy manipulation and pressure sales are over. Sure, some shortcuts might work for a few sales in the short-term. But consumers aren’t very forgiving when a brand goes too far, and the internet never forgets.

So if integrity is one of your brand values, pay attention.

Also, many of the channels that consumers turn to for information, including Instagram and Yelp, didn’t even exist ten years ago. Maybe YOU aren’t checking on Instagram to find the latest styles, but Pew Research Center reports that over half of adults ages 18 to 29 spend time there.

Social media sites attract more than just lifestyle and fashion brands, too. Banks, software developers, and service companies market to consumers and businesses across multiple social media channels.

And only a few years ago, consumers certainly didn’t ask their voice-controlled digital assistant where to shop for a new gadget or order a pizza.

So, with the rise of mobile search, online reviews and an influx of new shopping portals, standing out can be pretty tough.

How do you get noticed? How can you expand your customer base and increase sales among so much competition?

You have to show them that your product or service is truly unique. And you have to make an emotional connection with every customer.

Now, when I say connect, I don’t mean that you blast ads and other content at every potential customer hoping to grab enough attention to keep you in business. And, when I say unique I don’t mean using some template to create a unique value proposition that looks just like everyone else’s.

To create a sustainable business that stands out from the rest of the marketplace, you have to connect with your customers. To do that, your business personality and brand has to be clearly defined and clearly distinguishable from everyone and everything else on the market.

Otherwise, your products or services become a commodity that can be easily be replaced or undersold.

You have to know who you are before you can tell and show your customers who you are

I love this description of branding that Yo Santosa gave during a presentation for Hecho en LA. The founder of Ferroconcrete and architect of Pinkberry’s inaugural brand design said,

“What sets us apart is strategy and storytelling, which is distilling a brand essence to give it its personality and I believe people fall in love with personalities not business.”

This distillation, this kind clarity, is what sets you apart.

As the owner of your business, your personality, your values, and your vision for how to serve your customers’ needs IS your business. This is what makes your product or service something more than a commodity and helps you build not just a customer base but an army of brand ambassadors.

Once you know what you (and therefore your company) stand for and who you serve, perfecting your marketing message becomes so much easier. Your message will be perceived as authentic because it is authentic. You aren’t wasting money or squandering your credibility while trying on different business personas for size.

When you already know what you want to say, you can focus your resources on deciding how and where to say it. Plus, when you maintain a clear message that is consistent with your identity, you naturally attract an audience that aligns with that message and thus your brand.

Self-awareness is key to defining your business and its values

To get started, you need to define who you are both as an individual and as a business owner. You can think of this as your business persona, your vision, or your “why.” Whatever you call it, you must go through a process of self-analysis and refinement. Once you define who you are and the service you want to provide to your consumers, then you can focus on connecting with the consumers who share your values and vision.

If you have my book, Don’t Sell Me, Tell Me, you’ll find a step-by-step guide to help you discover what you stand for in the chapter titled “Finding Your Theme.”

The process begins with a 5-step exercise designed to raise your self-awareness.

Here’s a summary of those steps to give you a better idea of what I mean:

  1. Identify your personal motivators. In this step, you should list everything that motivates you. This isn’t about money. Think about the actions, achievements, and passions that inspire you to get out of bed in the morning.
  2. Make a list of your skills. Write down all things that you are good at, whether you enjoy doing those things or not.
  3. Write down what it is that you like about your business. Don’t worry about whether it is important to your success. If it is something about your work that makes you happy, put it on the list.
  4. Find the sweet spot. In this step, you’ll need to look at your different lists and find the overlap, namely which skills and passions serve your business and make you happy.
  5. Using this information, write your ‘stand for’ statement. Think of this as the promise you make to yourself and your customers about your business.

For me, the theme that runs through all my work distills to this: I believe my purpose is to show people how beautiful their world can be, shed light on how beautifully unique they are, and encourage them not to waste it.

That’s what people get when they work with me – as a photographer, a filmmaker, a speaker or coach.

You and your unique values and goals are your brand’s best differentiator

After you’ve completed this discovery exercise, you should have a better idea (or maybe just a reminder) of why you chose to start your business. This is your business value set. And being clear about it is what will set you apart from every competitor.

While the industry may have seen a lot of changes in the last several years, the fundamentals of good marketing haven’t changed. People still respond to a good story, sincerely told. And customers still buy from businesses they know, like, and trust.

With clarity, you can deliver a message to your consumers that no one else can.

Don’t be afraid to go all in with your story. You’ll be surprised by the quality of customers you begin to attract.