"I'd like you to come into our offices and help us understand why we still need a website."
You can remove the word "website" and interchange it with practically anything from, Twitter and YouTube to Facebook or a mobile website. You can even swap that word out and exchange it with any of the more common industry terms you use. If you really want to translate that first line, what it really says is, "forget what you do for a living (and how well you do it), I don't even think the industry you serve is important for us to be paying attention to, is it?"
It's a bad place to be, but it's the reality for most.
One of the biggest transitions we've had at Twist Image over the past few years is that we no longer field questions/comments like that anymore. In fact, we get the calls that go something like this: " we know that we could be doing a lot more in the Digital Marketing space, and we'd like to come over to your office, explain where we're at and have you show us where we should be going."
How can you transition your business from dealing with questions about the merits of the industry you serve to becoming a recognized authority?
Here are 6 ways to remove the most painful question potential clients always ask:
- Join your industry association and groups. You can't have a strong business without a strong community. One of the best ways to bring your industry into a more mainstream world view is to become a member of the associations, organizations and groups that serve your industry. In my instance, this included groups like the IAB - Interactive Advertising Bureau , but it also meant taking it a step further and getting involved in places like the CMA - Canadian Marketing Association as well. It's important to have association with the industry that serves your company directly, but it's equally important to get involved in the more general industry association that serves the larger umbrella of your vertical.
- Become a leader. If all you do is join and pay your dues, you're missing a much bigger opportunity to affect change. Most of these associations and organizations are driven by volunteers, and they are constantly looking for fresh blood and succession for some of their present leadership. What an amazing opportunity to not only affect change, but to network, connect and really get your hands dirty in growing the industry that you serve. Who knows what this can do for your industry (and your career/business growth)? If that doesn't suit your needs, look at unconferences (like BarCamp and PodCamp) and figure out a way to get something like that started for your industry.
- Be quotable. Mass media and the power of strong traditional public relations and media attention does move the needle. While Blogging and being on Twitter (see the next point) are a huge part of this transition, do not dismiss the reality that many of your potential clients still pick up the business section of your local (or national) newspaper and are still highly influenced by what they see on TV and listen to on radio. If you can be quotable, Journalists will call you for your perspective. Bonus points if you can score your own column or segment in traditional media where you're frequently sharing the value of your industry and those who serve it.
- Blogs are not dead. People still like a good White Paper or article that they can pass around the company. Blogs are the new White Papers and articles. Now, you don't need to spend months trying to get one piece of content produced, you can Blog for relatively cheap (even free) and start creating a constant and consistent stream of valuable content that establishes you (and your industry) as a recognized authority. The hard part is doing it well, doing it consistently, being highly relevant and not being pushy on the sale. If Blogging isn't your thing consider any (or many) of the other online digital platforms that allow you to publish text, images, audio and video. Figure out what works for you, strategically, and start producing valuable content.
- Speak. A lot of people say that they like to speak in public, but few really do prepare, practice and hone this skill. This is a huge component of how you can shift the perceptions of your industry. Think about it in its simplest form: instead of going from meeting to meeting explaining to one company at a time the value of the industry you serve, suddenly you have a public platform where you can evangelize to hundreds (sometimes thousands) of individual and companies at a time.
- Be Authentic. This is the core principal for how to develop your Personal Brand. It's also the core value in what makes some people so successful at Social Media while others can't figure out why it's not working for them. Being authentic is your ability to understand your true values, goals and beliefs and using all the channels/opportunities mentioned above to share them. I've often talked about how great Digital Marketing is because it's about, "real interactions between real human beings." That's what is going to separate and elevate you and your industry from the rest: your ability to do things authentically for the overall betterment of your industry, and not with the sole purpose of lining your own pockets.
What would you add to this list?