The following was written for Ziglar.com, the company founded by the late Zig Ziglar, by Howard Partridge, the company’s exclusive small business coach.
“The five points of experiential marketing:
1. Reputation. There is one primary “unspoken” question that every prospect has about every person or company they do business with. Can you think of what it is? “Can I trust you?” is the question. They may not verbalize it just like that, but that is their No. 1 question. So, in your marketing message, you must not only demonstrate trust, but prove that you have a phenomenal reputation.
2. Experience. The second unspoken question all prospects have about your business is “Do you know what you are doing?” I can trust you all I want, but if you don’t have a clue what you are doing, what good is it? So, your marketing message must prove that you have experience.
3. Education. The third point demonstrates that you are trained, that you have specialized knowledge. It has to do with being an educational source as well as certification. We will cover all of these points in detail.
4. Systems. This point has to do with both the technical systems of your business as well as your customer service system. In other words, how will you service that client differently from anyone else? If you are providing a technical, repair, or maintenance service, what is different about the service call compared to other companies?
5. Guarantee. The final point is to remove the risk of moving forward from the customer. The way you structure your guarantee has great impact on your message. More on this in just a moment.
Marketing Point No. 1: Reputation
Using Starbucks as an example, they have gained a reputation of being the coffee experts. They did this in two ways. One, they raise some real concerns about how average, everyday commodity coffee is made. The worst stories tell how imported coffees use dirt as filler! They share how commodity coffees use an inferior bean called the Robusta bean. Starbucks uses only 100 percent Arabica beans. Other coffee companies use conveyer belt roasting processes, and, of course, Starbucks has its own own special, patented roasting system. Commodity coffee companies use harsh chemicals in the processing and have to use defoamer to smooth it out. Yuck!
Even though this focuses on the product, the reaction is purely emotional, and questions the integrity of other coffees. The emotional reaction is “yuck!” Once coffee is ground up, how do you know what’s in there? Starbucks then begins the process of educating you about their processes that produce the perfect cup.
Marketing your reputation is done by using what others say about you rather than what you say about yourself! My friend Joseph Michelli, author of The Starbucks Experience, says “A brand is nothing more than what people say about you when you are not around.” The relationships you have with your clients, people with influence in your industry and community, will build your reputation and confirm that you can be trusted.
Testimonials are powerful ways to demonstrate trust, because what your clients and other important people say about you is more believable than what you say about yourself. Celebrity endorsements are also another great means if you can acquire them. If you have a local celebrity who recommends you, see if you can use that person’s name in your marketing. For example, one of my companies was featured on a television show by a local celebrity. Our phone rang constantly, and we soon learned that he had a radio program where he would give live endorsements in the ads. We generated millions of dollars in sales over the years from that one source.
High profile projects or clients also help you develop your reputation (which translates into trust). Your involvement in community service speaks volumes. Awards and certifications are also great tools that build your reputation. Be sure to use all of these things in your marketing media.
What others say about you taps into a powerful human law called social proof. I was on the west side of Kauai, Hawaii, one day and the water was extremely rough. I noticed that other people were waiting to see if anyone drowned before they ventured in! This is social proof. Social proof says if others are doing it, it must be okay.
Be sure to communicate how each and every one of these marketing points benefits the client. This one is obvious. The benefit is that since you can trust our company, regardless of what happens, you know you are not going to be taken advantage of.
Introduction example of reputation: “Our company enjoys a reputation that is second to none. Some of the area’s most seasoned refer our services/products exclusively.”
Marketing Point No. 2: Experience
Communicating your experience may be the number of years in business. “Since 1902” has an impact. “Over 20 years” is also a powerful statement. If the job requires a certain method of expertise or a certain procedure, you want to communicate your experience in those areas. One of the ways our service company made tremendous progress with our positioning was by offering to tackle troubleshooting jobs that no one else wanted to touch. Anything that was weird or far out, I wanted to get a peek at it. This, in turn, gave us unmatched experience. We were going after things that others were running from. In just a few years, I saw more situations that I was able to learn from than my competitors will likely see in a lifetime.
Introduction example of experience: “Our company has been in business for ____ years, and is experienced in all types of ____ . We will be familiar with your situation regardless of what it is unless ... ”
If you haven’t been in business for very long, focus on the areas of experience you have. You can also lean heavier on the next point.
Marketing Point No. 3: Education (or Training)
If you are certified by your industry, you should educate your prospects and clients what certification means to them. Certification can be a powerful marketing tool, but only if you share what it means to you. Talk about any specialized training or knowledge you or your staff have that benefits them. And be sure to share that part of your mission is to educate them on how to navigate your industry. This sets you apart as a consultant.
Introduction example of education: “Our company is certified by the ____ . We are heavily involved in our industry to stay on the cutting edge of information. We bring this education directly to you so you can be sure you have the very best available.”
Marketing Point No. 4: Systems
This is how you will deliver your unique experience. Your customer service system will set you apart more than anything else. And the best part is that it doesn’t cost much more (if anything) to provide a higher level of customer service. The key is to not just provide it, but to talk about how it is different and use it in your marketing message.
Usually, customer frustrations have to do with service, not necessarily the product. By tapping into the emotional distress of the typical customer, you can win many new clients. What are they suffering from? Identify the areas where your competitors are failing to serve and promise to fill that gap. Be sure to explain exactly what you are going to do that is different.
Introduction example of systems: “Our mission is to provide you with the most phenomenal service experience ever. We will treat you with the utmost respect and courtesy and deliver your service/product on time.”
In the longer version, you want to outline the steps you take that others don’t.
Marketing Point No. 5: Guarantee
Many small business owners are afraid to offer a guarantee on their product or service in their marketing message, but when I ask them what happens if their client isn’t satisfied, they quickly point out how they make it right, including a refund if appropriate.
If you want to attract high-end clients, you must understand that they expect you to back up what you do. If there is any question about that, they will not move forward in using you. Using it in your marketing message confirms that you are the right company for them. If you are attracting price-shoppers or people who just want to get something for free from you, you are attracting the wrong crowd. And that is not because you are offering a guarantee—it’s due to poor positioning.
Of course, you are always going to have people who take advantage of your guarantee, so you factor that into your cost of doing business. If you can get more clients at higher prices because you offer a guarantee, you can actually make more money. Don’t get emotional about this. Just work with the law of averages.
Of course, there are many things that you can’t offer a money back guarantee on. If you’re a home builder, you can’t give a refund on a house, but you can build a reputation that you follow up after the sale. My wife and I actually had this experience. We had a wonderful builder who addressed every need that came up long after the home was built and signed off on. That builder knows something that all business owners need to understand—how you handle your guarantee affects your reputation. So, you might imagine the five points being in a circle. Your guarantee is connected to your reputation.
Introduction example of guarantee: “Our company offers a 100 percent money back guarantee. If you are not completely thrilled with the service/product experience you receive from our company, we will rush back to your location at no charge and no obligation to correct the situation. If you are still unimpressed, you owe us nothing, and we will issue a 100 percent refund.”
—Howard Partridge is Ziglar.com’s exclusive small business coach. Visit the website to get more valuable tips like these.