Are You Losing Business to Competitors or to Something Invisible?

October 26, 2010 | Branding, Startups

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When we work with a client on a branding project we spend a considerable amount of time looking at who their competitors are. Knowing and understanding your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses can help you find your own niche where you can dominate.

But the reality is that many times your prospects are not choosing between you and your competition, it’s a decision between you and doing nothing. And with the recession, the choice to do nothing—and keep one’s hard earned cash tight in hand—is often a very alluring choice for your potential customers.

Branding helps you to Sell the Invisible

Selling The InvisibleI recently read a book called Selling the Invisible. Written in 1997 by Harry Beckwith, it’s not a new title, in fact according to it’s cover it’s considered “A Classic.”

It was recommended to me as a small business owner. The book is a compilation of very short articles on how to market a service-based business. Unlike a product-based business, there is nothing tangible to show or demonstrate to your prospective client. Therefore you are Selling the Invisible. The book is filled with all sort of tips and ideas, but here are my key takeaways, especially as they pertain to building a strong brand identity.

  • People Hear What They See. Since people cannot see your service they are relying on all your [intlink id=”753″ type=”post”]brand touchpoints[/intlink] to create an image of you and your service. Your business card, your web site, your office or even your shoes all need to project the right image. No amount of words can overcome the visuals.
  • Attack the Stereotype. You need to have a firm grasp on the first thing a prospect thinks about when they hear about someone in your line of business. Some examples he gives are: “Accountants are humorless. Lawyers are greedy.” If you keep your head in the sand and don’t do something to counteract that stereotype, it will outdo any of your brand building work.
  • Say only one thing. This is what psychologists calls The Cocktail Party Phenomenon which means that if we start overhearing another nearby conversation we can no longer concentrate on the conversation we are presently having. Beckwith writes that “people cannot process two conversations at once.” Therefore, your brand identity and messaging needs to clear and consistent.
  • Eliminate your prospect’s fear. The overwhelming reason people continue to do nothing, rather than buy from you is that they are scared. Unlike a product that can be seen and tested, you are selling something sight unseen. While Beckworth talks about offering to take on small projects to start (which is definitely a reasonable course of action), I would also suggest that this is where branding can help your prospects overcome their fears. A consistent and professional brand identity helps people to recognize and trust you and your business. A professional brand image helps people to feel comfortable with the idea that you know what you are doing and our prospects will have confidence in you before you even work together.

If you are a small business owner who has a service-based business, I recommend this book. And I recommend you think about how a professional, consistent and compelling brand identity can build trust with your prospects, help you make more sales, and command higher prices for your services.

8 comments

  1. Houston Web Designer | October 27, 2010 at 10:07 am

    Excellent article. An eye opener for businessman.
    Thanks for sharing this wonderful article.

  2. Issa @ Ajeva | November 2, 2010 at 5:26 am

    I’ve seen that book like a lot of times when I make my weekly visits to this local bookstore and I’m glad you wrote something about it. The next time I pass by, I’m going to grab myself a copy ( and pay for it, of course ). I think many businesses online have a lot of nice products and services to offer. Sadly, it’s their site design that gave them away as it doesn’t look trustworthy enough. For example, it is screaming of ads or that it looks like something a ninth grader can do.

  3. Emily Brackett | November 2, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    Issa welcome to the blog. The book is a quick read and a great bedside table book because it’s easy to read in short bursts.

    I think trustworthiness in web design may be the next buzz word.

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