Resources  >> The Commodity Zone: 3 Buyer Perceptions That Create Low-Fee Conversations

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  |  September 03, 2014

The Commodity Zone: 3 Buyer Perceptions That Create Low-Fee Conversations

Originally published by RainToday.com

When decision makers are in the market for help, they explore. They get referrals, and they find the key players. The more sophisticated buyers will check you out before they reach out.

They comb through companies’ websites, read their blogs, and peruse their social media pages. What they find there will create a mental picture that quickly becomes gospel. The buyer becomes biased, and that perception either bolsters or blocks your efforts.

Let’s take a short tip to the dark side and explore three common perceptions many buyers start out with that cut off great conversations.

1.  One of Many

When folks check you out, the first thing they look for is clarity. They want to know what you do. They want to make sure your talents fit their needs. When buyers see a sleek, professional website with general “have you experienced this?” questions, they think “so far, so good.”

But many marketing efforts go no further. Too many companies offer “the view at 30,000 feet” solutions on their blogs or social media posts. Those cause buyers to think you sound like a typical [enter your profession here]. Now your conversations have to focus on why you are different from your competitors. And if you give the standard reasons–better service, for example–you’re in the commodity zone.

The tipoff: ideas and solutions that are considered standard in the industry. While relevant, the content doesn’t position you as innovative or more talented than others.

The antidote: become the leader of a movement. Show relevance by “drilling down” your content into on-the-front-lines situations. Use specifics to show your approach stands for a bigger mission than just providing good service. Then combine the specifics with killer client stories.

2.  Talented But Non-Descript

The next thing buyers want to know is capability. They want to know if you are “for real.” They want to know if you are established and credible, or if you are just starting out. They want to be convinced of your capabilities. When buyers see a bunch of client testimonials, they think “so far, so good.”

The problem is that all of us have a fan club. When faced with a slew of client testimonials, the buyer assumes all options are capable. Your conversation now involved playing defense, having to explain why you are more capable than the other providers. And you better believe that all of the other vendors are telling their client story, too.

The tipoff: a website filled with lots of case studies and client stories combined with general descriptions of your work. Your competence is clear, but the capabilities show you are a “jack of all trades.” The buyer’s reaction: “Great, but so what? Everyone has clients who like them.”

The antidote: keep the case studies, but beef up your messaging. General “we do everything” is no longer credible. Replace the generalities with an overall theme. Example: healthcare consulting firm touts “be the facility of choice.” That’s a focal point that captures the buyer’s aspiration.

3.  Old Wine In A New Bottle

Finally, buyers want to know more about your approach. They want to figure out if your solutions fit their culture.  In short, they need to see your brand.

Most of you know by now that branding is essential. So you go out and hire someone (or gather our friends for Happy Hour) and think up some clever words. The buyer sees this concept and is delighted, thinking, “Hey, this sounds pretty good!” Until they dig deeper and find the same old ideas everyone has. Typical buyer reaction: “Same ideas, different analogy.” Now you have to convince the decision maker that your approach is innovative yet effective. Again, you’re playing defense.

This perception is the most subtle and the most dangerous. It traps the more advanced providers and is the most difficult thing to get out of. This happens to experts who brand themselves without a strategy.

The tipoff: clever analogies that showcase an “already out there” solution.

The antidote: this is a delicate balance. Your approach shouldn’t be so far off in left field that buyers consider you high risk. But the approach should be enticing enough to convince buyers that your solutions can’t be had for pennies on the dollar.

A Constant Comparison

Most firms do a good job describing what they do and that they are “for real.” That’s not enough for buyers who are exploring multiple options. When these folks check you out, they compare you to what they already know and to the other options. To them, anyone who doesn’t stand out becomes a commodity.

When your marketing shows the “it” factor, as well as describes what you do, you set yourself up for conversations with intrigued buyers. And when buyers believe you have the unique solution for them, you are now the one to beat.

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.