My work is in a tiny market niche of the small business community called "franchise development." It is exciting work, being able to work closely with entrepreneurs and business owners and support brand growth through franchising. It also is competitive and generally a small market, which can be frustrating at times. As someone who sells intellectual property, the goal of any of the brands that I support in franchising is to position the business owner as a thought leader and credible expert in that space. For example, a lice control franchise that we promote needs to be positioned as experts on lice, the meat shop owner needs to know meat and so on. In today’s content-driven marketplace, airtime is pretty competitive in just about any venue and even more so on the web, even in the lice business.
From my experience, the process of developing a position of credibility for a particular market space comes down to three key factors:
- Define why you are different: Everyone says they are smart and know something about their business, but what is your unique advantage and how do you approach the market differently from others in your space? Here's an example: I work with a commercial cleaning company that utilizes proprietary technology and focuses entirely on the hotel space. We leverage this in everything we present about the brand, franchise and leadership team.
- Find something you can specialize in: People want to work with specialists, they like the idea of having brain surgery done by a brain surgeon as opposed to the general practitioner. Make sure that your value proposition focuses on a specific niche segment and build your presentation around that niche. Here's another example: A public relations firm I’ve worked with who focuses entirely on the franchise market has been able to position themselves as the “franchise PR experts,” which has led to a strong business and a never-ending stream of clients.
- Get good at developing content, or find people who can do it for you: In order to be a credible thought leader in any market today, it takes consistent production of content. Content comes in different forms, writing, video, podcasts, articles, presentations and other formats; you need to be good at all of them. There are an incredible amount of resources out there that can make anyone look good on camera, write your blog posts for you and do other tasks, but you need to quarterback it all and provide direction that is valid for your market positioning campaign.
Once you have your three factors down and you have a clear picture of why you are different, what you specialize in and how you will produce content to support your “smartness,” it’s time to execute.
Set a game plan and have measurable targets along the way. Once you understand the activities needed to achieve your goals, you can measure activity-based variables every week until your goals come to fruition. For example, if blogging is part of your brand development, it might be suggested that you put four or five blog posts out each month to get the exposure you want to achieve. Each week, you need to produce one new blog post to stay ahead of this curve. You could measure interviews by relevant media personalities as a way to gauge activity. My recommendation is getting yourself a PR service. Even if you are in the PR business, you need someone working on your behalf helping you get out in relevant publications telling people that you are a smart specialist in what you do. Having a PR person isn’t necessarily about them bringing an expert service to you needed to get placement in the right publications, it’s more about accountability. You need someone reporting, taking notes and tracking the progress you make on achieving your exposure targets.
Know your message as you present to media, blogs, interviews and other opportunities, much like a good advertisement, there should be a close to the presentation. Something that grabs the listener or reader and gives them a reason to trust you, believe in you and want to call on you for your special services. In today’s world, this needs to be a bit subtler than the vacuum cleaner salesman from the 1950’s, but still enough so the receiver gets the point. Confident, but not boastful might best describe the ideal way to sell yourself in today’s market.