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Monday, October 22, 2012

Don’t sell your service, sell your smarts BY JEAN M. GIANFAGNA OCTOBER 21, 2012

Promoting a professional services firm is one of the most difficult challenges in marketing. Whether you’re selling legal services, marketing services, accounting, IT, insurance, benefits, payroll or consulting, it can be tough to create a marketing strategy that differentiates your company from everyone else who does what you do.

Here’s the usual approach: “We have great capabilities and we deliver great service.” No offense, but you must do these things or you wouldn’t still be in business. Plus, all your competitors are going to say the same thing.

Is that really what makes you stand out? Is that the real reason clients choose you over your competitors? I think not. In my experience as a marketing consultant, I have come to the conclusion that professional services firms can skip over most of the blather about what they do and how responsive they are.

The real value professional services firms sell is their expertise and their ability to use that expertise to solve clients’ problems. Here’s how to create a smart marketing strategy by selling your smarts.

Set your firm apart by showcasing what you know. The knowledge you bring to whatever problems you solve for clients is what makes your professional services firm different from everyone else’s. You’ve acquired that knowledge through your education and experience, which is uniquely yours. You want to build a marketing strategy around the value of your intellectual capital.

The first step is to focus. Do you have unique experience with a specific industry, challenge, application or situation that sets you apart? Are you an expert on this topic? Decide what you can talk about with credibility and authority.

Then, organize your content. What keeps your clients awake at night? Think about how to organize what you know into topics and content that will help prospects deal with everyday challenges or prepare for trends and issues impacting their businesses.

Finally, create the communication vehicles to share your knowledge. Here are some suggestions:

Blog. Blogging is the best way to regularly demonstrate your knowledge and your unique point of view.
Create case studies showing real-life solutions you’ve developed for clients’ problems.
Develop white papers that offer an in-depth assessment of a key issue your clients care about.
Be a columnist or contribute feature stories to your industry media outlets.
Create and present original seminars.
Speak at industry conferences.
Conduct original research, share the results and add your perspective on the findings.
Record a video. Repurpose your seminar or presentation content in videos for your website or YouTube.
Develop podcasts from your presentations.
Write a book. If you’re truly an expert in your field, writing a book is the ultimate way to demonstrate your knowledge.
Selling your smarts is a smart marketing strategy. Showcasing your expertise is the best way to differentiate your professional services company in a competitive marketplace. By sharing the knowledge and insights you’ve gained from your unique experience, you can position your company as an authoritative, trustworthy and proven resource.

Jean M. Gianfagna is a marketing strategy expert and the founder and president of Gianfagna Strategic Marketing which provides marketing strategy and creative services to leading business-to-business and consumer marketers. Read her blog for more marketing tips at http://www.gianfagnamarketing.com/blog.

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