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Market Hard, Sell Soft
By Peter Lowy

Marketing hard lets you sell soft. This means the better you define exactly what it is you provide-and to whom-the easier it becomes to sell your products and services. Put another way, only when you have fully ascertained the value you provide, and figured out who buys from you and why, are you ready to go out and sell.

What do your customers buy from you that they can't get anywhere else? Whether you compete in a narrow niche or face many competitors, you have to know how you are valued. Here's a way to help stay on target.

Ask current and former customers, as well as potential customers and referral sources:
  • What do they value most about your products or services?
  • What do they say makes you special?
  • What do they cite as your weakness?
  • Who or what do they say competes with your products or services?
  • How do you compare to competitors?
  • What more could you do to solve their business problem?
Many people are reluctant to tell you directly what they don't like about your products or services. For this reason it helps to have an independent third party undertake this type of inquiry on your behalf.

You will learn, among other things, how honest people are. Some of the things they say, both positive and negative, will likely surprise you. That's all to the good, because it lets you refine your answers to those two critical questions: who are your customers, and what do they buy from you?

Even after you have designed and launched your marketing program, you will have to revisit these issues. That's because constant change within your market, and without, alters the way you are perceived.

Never forget: you are one resource among many that your customers draw upon. It's up to you to help them understand how you contribute to their business success.
© Peter Lowy