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About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.

Written by: Vickie Sullivan  |  April 01, 2007

How To Introduce Yourself To A Market, Create Credibility & Flourish

Originally published for RainToday.com

One of the most popular ways professional service firms grow is by penetrating new markets. The most common obstacle: all markets have their favorite suppliers — companies that have been there since the Ice Age. How do you create credibility and attract clients when you are the new kid in town? Here are two ways to do an end run around the Old Guard.

Apply Your Expertise To The New Market

Most newbies don’t get past the first round of consideration. Why? It’s because the buyer can’t see the connection between your expertise in one area and their challenge in the market you’ve decided to enter. The Old Guard can argue, “Well, it’s a different deal over here.”

Instead of answering that charge, reconnect the dots. Simply find that one thing your new prospects will rush to and apply what you know to that issue. Show how your current expertise can help them in the quest they’re rushing off to.

Example: Next Generation Consulting helps organizations with multi-generational workforces. A few years ago, CEO Rebecca Ryan put out a study called “Hot Jobs, Cool Communities” to highlight where knowledge workers most wanted to live.

National media had a field day with this Top Ten list, and Rebecca was flooded with calls from a new market, cities interested in economic development. Five figure speaking engagements followed, along with lucrative consulting contracts that had flush economic development budgets.

Next Generation Consulting took what they learned from the corporate arena and applied it to economic development. The connection: both markets are interested in knowledge workers, a group Rebecca knew a lot about. She simply applied her expertise on this group to a challenge that keeps economic development folks up at night: how to attract the high-wage worker.

Did buyers care that the company didn’t have previous experience with cities? Nope — they bought Next Generation’s marketing manifesto on how and why knowledge workers choose where they live and work.

Recommendation: don’t even argue the “you don’t know us” point. Instead, focus on what you do know better than anyone else and apply that knowledge to a new challenge. You’ll answer this standard objection before it’s ever raised.

Tap Into Trends

Another way to make immediate inroads is to tap into current trends from the new market–trends that new buyers already agree with and that set the stage for solutions that you are already known for.

By taking advantage of trends, you attract the visionary buyers who want to stay ahead of the competition. This strategy not only raises the bar, but also takes advantage of one of the most primitive of aspects human nature, which is the avoidance of future pain or loss.

Example: Years ago Hollywood deal-maker Ken Kragen wrote a book applying his star-making strategy to career development. His best recommendations were about creating events that brand people, organizations and ideas in competitive markets. These solutions made, and continue to make, sense in Corporate America, where event-based marketing and the “experience economy” is all the rage.

The result? Ken now spends 95% of his time consulting and producing events with companies such as Cisco, Pepsi and yes, The Hollywood Reporter.

Ken applied his biggest asset — prominence in Hollywood — to trends that his new market embraced. This opened the door to high-end clients who respected his high-end work in another arena. This created the peer-to-peer relationship.

Further, these buyers agreed that both Hollywood and their markets are fight-to-the-death competitive, and, in those situations, Ken’s clients come out on top. Already-known event consultants couldn’t compete with his experience with such projects as “We Are the World” and “Hands Across America.”

Recommendation: Look at trends as possible springboards. Choose which trends put your prominence in the best light and lead with those. Create a bio and business case that promotes your work as a solution to what’s on your prospect’s radar right now.

Use Marketing Tools Strategically

It’s not enough to apply what you know in other areas. New markets need to see something specific that catches their eye. It’s not enough to attract attention — you have to create urgency to act.

So go beyond the standards of writing articles, books or public speaking to attract new buyers. Just one or two degrees of specificity can mean the difference between strolling into a new market and making a grand entrance.

Let’s go back to Next Generation Consulting. Their media campaign did not focus on articles about where knowledge workers live. Everyone does that. Instead, Rebecca announced a new study that mixed provocative findings with a manifesto that redefined what this sought-after group wanted in a community.

Media loves studies, and so she got a lot more play than if she only wrote an article and distributed it to economic development journals.

However, many professional service firms put out studies. So what did Next Generation do to take their study to the next level? Rebecca got specific.

By making a list and naming names, the study took on a life of its own. Cities that were on the list publicized the study and called Rebecca to speak; those that weren’t also called to find out why and how they could get on the Top Ten list. Either way, Next Generation had a slew of new leads. Best of all, the list also created anticipation for next year’s findings. That gave the study legs and made Rebecca a rock star in her new market.

Recommendation: Distributing articles is fine to keep the branding fires burning. But if you want to make an entrance, get specific and strategic. Use studies as a springboard in which you name names. But stay positive; commentary that diminishes can open you up for libel in this litigious environment.

Your End Run

Professional service firms who build empires hedge their bets. They not only go vertical in their established markets, but also do end runs against their competition in new arenas. Buyers are always looking for a new take on their challenges. Use that to your advantage, and watch the Old Guard head for the hills.

Filed Under: Sales


About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.