Remember The Pretenders’ song “Brass in Pocket (I’m Special)?” [Go ahead–watch it! But come back, OK?]

There’s a sales lesson in those lyrics.

Yesterday I posted on Ten Ways to Lose . . . Even When You’re the Best.  And the first way is when your service is too specialized.

I’m special.”  “There’s no one like me.”

If you are the only company that does what you do, you have a serious problem.  You don’t have a market.  It is not generally a good circumstance to have no competitors.  In fact, it means you have to create a market before you can even sell into that market.

I’m gonna make you, make you, make you notice.

How are you going to get noticed?  It takes a lot of work  with a new service that people aren’t thinking about.  There are lots of business services that we know we need–accounting, legal, telecommunications, insurance, office equipment, and on and on.  But what about services that come out of the blue?  One that comes to mind is “spend management,” pioneered by our client Ariba.   It’s big business now but was almost unheard of as a business service even ten years ago.

Gotta have some of your attention, give it to me.

How do you get in the door?  Who is your lead buyer?  Is anyone looking for what you are selling?  Who will pay attention? These are critical questions for the highly specialized company.  Your cost of sale is extremely high, your sales cycle is long, and your close rate is abysmal.

What can you do?  Companies that have successfully brought an entirely new service to market have effectively invented their new market.  Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Aggressive thought leadership.  You’ll need to leverage all of your intellectual assets–especially those of your employees–to educate your potential customers.  White papers, newsletters, an informative blog, webinars (live and recorded) case studies of early adopters–all will be important to bring your concept to the attention of the new market that you are creating.
  • Superior content strategy. Not only will you need to develop rich content to educate your buyers, you’ll need to get it out in public systematically and through multiple channels.  Make a plan for how to balance the social media sites with the sites you own (your website, your blog, your opt-in newsletter list).  What is the content you will post, what will you push, what will you pull, and how will you encourage your audience to react?  Don’t forget the live events either–executive briefings (ideally held at your location if it’s nice enough).
  • Marketing/Sales Integration.  Far too many companies have a black hole between marketing and sales functions. But you simply can’t afford it.  What the sales team learns in conversations with prospects needs to be fed back into marketing, and both teams need to be on board with strategy and tactics.  You can’t market an unknown service with brochures.  You need dramatic, exuberant, visible tactics!

Have you ever been too special?  What did you do about it?