According to the Forbes “World’s Most Valuable Brands” list, Apple is the most valuable brand – the brand alone is worth $182 billion.  It’s followed by a bevy of tech companies (Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon) and Coke comes in at #6 as the top non-tech brand, worth $57 billion.

That must be nice.

The reality is that most small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) don’t have the luxury of what marketers call “unaided brand awareness.”  That means people can’t name your company if someone just asks them to name companies who do what you do.

Everyone knows what Coke is, and everyone knows how to get one – all Coke has to do in an ad is remind you that it sure would be refreshing to have a Coke in your hand.  But small and mid-size businesses don’t get that luxury – we have to say who we are, what we do, and how to contact us in a single ad, and have it stick.

That makes it extremely important for any marketer to be able to step out of their role and imagine themselves as a customer.  What are potential customers doing when they discover you?  How do you make an impression on them?  What leads to them getting in touch with you?

These three factors will help keep your marketing focused on the customers that matter most to your business.

Focus on Problems – It’s important to look at your customers’ problems from a number of different angles.  Consider an accounting firm; its customers all need accounting services – tax advice, risk management, or consulting services to name a few.  But that’s not really a problem, per se.  There are plenty of accounting firms in the Triangle.

Maybe their current accountant isn’t paying enough attention to them and they need to find someone they can trust.  Maybe their business has grown to the point where they’ve been advised to look for an accountant, and they’re not sure what they need and what they can afford.  Maybe they just need someone who can get them an informed answer to a burning question – fast.

Unless you don’t have any competition, you’re also going to have to do more than solve a customer’s problems.  You’re going to have to do it in some way that’s better than any other choice they have.  Are you faster?  Cheaper?  Are your hours better?  Are you more reliable?

Once you figure out how you’re better than everyone else, don’t be afraid to bring up that topic frequently!  Make sure your prospects know why it’s important to hire someone who’s really good at that thing you do better than any of your competitors.

Prove You’re the Best – Have you ever heard a company tell you their customer service is fantastic?  We certainly have.  The problem with claiming customer service excellence is that there’s no objective way to really measure customer service quality.  It drives us crazy, because we really do believe that we provide some of the best customer service in the industry – but there’s nothing we can say to prove it!  You’ll have to call us and talk to our front-line technicians to really discover the difference. (Please do!)

Whatever you do better than everyone else, find a way to own it.  Get your customers to provide a testimonial on your superiority.  Apply for business awards related to that differentiator.  Give speeches on the topic.  Finally, put all of that credibility-bolstering content in your marketing.  If you’ve picked something that really matters to your industry, you’ll start to notice that you’re getting calls because of your marketing – unless all of your competitors picked the same differentiator.

Go Deep, and Narrow – There’s a reason that those giant companies at the top of this post – Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon – don’t have small companies threatening to topple them.  Those companies all serve many different types of customers in many different ways.  Small businesses outperform big companies by focusing on narrow markets.  They serve a specific geography, provide a specific service or serve a particular type of customer.

When you’re looking for that one thing that makes you better than any of your competitors, don’t be afraid to be specific.  Maybe you have a better working knowledge of a potential customer’s industry than your competitors, because you have many customers in that industry.  Maybe you’re the only local competitor that handles a specific challenge, or you’re more flexible on how your deliver the service or product.  It’s better to focus on a smaller market with a winning message than to be an also-ran in a giant market.

There is one caveat to this – don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.  If you over-expose yourself to customers in a particular industry or customer type, for instance, then a downturn in that industry could take your company down as well.  Make sure that your customer base is diversified enough that you’ll weather tough times for any one type of customer!  There’s no industry-specific message good enough to weather the decline of the industry itself.

To learn how WingSwept can help you leverage technology to get better results for your company, call us at 919-7790-954 or email us at