Sound Advice

I was at a networking group this week where a young entrepreneur made a presentation to a group of business owners and other savvy professionals. I was of the understanding that the entrepreneur was going to talk to us about how to attract people to an internet site. He did, but in the context of a sales presentation for his business, which I believe was generally not what the group in the room expected.

What followed was probably not what the entrepreneur expected either, as the group began to ask some very pointed questions as to what he was presenting us. Fortunately, the presenter was open to the questions, and proceeded to receive some extremely valuable lessons about business. Here are a few of the astute observations of the group.

“Name two ways that you are different from your competition?” A member of the group posed that question, and pointed out that most of the entrepreneur’s competitors would claim the same two differentiators. The lesson here is differentiation is more than just a few ideas. Differentiation is based on capabilities and knowledge that you possess that gives you an advantage in the marketplace. To understand how you are different than your competition requires careful research of your market and customers (actual and potential) and an in depth understanding of the capabilities needed to deliver to them.

“Who are your customers?” One of the very keen observations of a member of the group, was that, while the entrepreneur wished to expand on their customer base, was he really clear on what his current customer channels were, and why they were working? In particular, had he done enough to take advantage of this channel fully? One of the reasons why his current main channel was working so well was that his referrals were coming from people that were doing technical work. Would other channels less familiar with the technical nature of the entrepreneur’s work be as fruitful?

“Watch the technical language!” The young entrepreneur came from a technical background, and technical language rolled off his tongue easily. A number of members in the group pointed out that they did not understand what he was talking about. What the entrepreneur needed to do was talk about the benefits that the technology offered his clients, rather than talk about the technology itself.

“When speaking to a group, take charge of the room!” Sitting in a chair, the picture of laid back competence, the entrepreneur did not convey any energy to the group he was addressing. He got the point when one member of the group told him to stand up, now; and he did! Dispassionate speaking may work at a scientific conference, but you need to convey energy, confidence and emotion when you are selling. Your humble correspondent also brought up a few of the points about telling a story when speaking to a group, including a main character, conflict and resolution (see my Blog “Telling Your Story”).

After the session, I mentioned to another member of the group that perhaps we should send the entrepreneur an invoice for consulting for all the valuable information that he had received. If the young entrepreneur follows only a portion of the powerful information proffered, he should see an increase in his success as a business owner. Someday, he may even by one of the “savvy” members of that group!

3 thoughts on “Sound Advice

  1. Sound advice indeed; thanks Kevin.

    “Name two ways that you are different from your competition” is one of the best questions one can ask in strategy development and positioning…. and adding either: “in ways that your competitors will not also define their uniqueness” or “in ways that your customers would classify you” helps too.

  2. Kevin, great job of summarizing what was heard. It was clearly different from what the entrepreneur thought he was saying. The white hairs can still compete with the brown hairs!!!!!

  3. Once again the lack of a written marketing plan along with an executive marketing summary raises its ugly head. Those questions have been around for years and help to create focus around the marketing message. Effective marketing is the Achilles heel for probably 75% of all small businesses and probably 50% of all mid-size businesses.

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