Many moons ago, I was on the marketing team for several large hospital projects in Toronto. So I was traveling from "Podunk, Iowa," up to the Great White North on a pretty regular basis.
This meant an entire day of travel to get from our cozy bed at home to my fancy downtown hotel room in Toronto. And along the way, there was usually one stop that always made me sweat...
The Canadian Customs checkpoint...
I wasn't doing anything wrong or smuggling anything from the US. Nothing like that. But I'd learned the hard way that one wrong word could detain your trip for over an hour.
When I was still new to the border crossing, I didn't know I had to be careful when answering the questions about why I was coming to Canada.
I found out if you say you're an architect, they don't ask you any more questions at the desk. They just put a big pink mark across your questionnaire and send you to the "naughty room." And that's where you stay for the next hour to answer a bunch of other questions.
No. The answer I learned to give was: "I'm a hospital design expert here to visit our Toronto office and help out with a marketing proposal for a new hospital."
Which was the truth. I just left out the buzzword "architect."
That always seemed to work. They might ask a few other questions about what hospital it was or where our office was located, but that was it. I was free to go.
Apparently, the rule they go by is they don't want to let someone into the country to do business if there's a Canadian firm that can do the same thing. And there are plenty of great Canadian architects.
That's kind of nice for the Canadian businesses, don't you think? A way to keep out the foreign competition.
And who knows? It might be the same thing for a Canadian architect trying to enter the US. I never actually asked any of my friends from up north if that's the case.
Anyway, what's the point of this story? And how does it apply to you?
Be the only one
The other day, I heard the marketing legend, Dan Kennedy talking about this same thing and his travels to Canada. And his point was nobody else does what he does. So he didn't run into those roadblocks.
And that's what you need to do with your product or service marketing. Show architects and your other prospects you're in a league of your own.
I hope you've heard of a USP. Your unique selling proposition.
And more importantly, I hope you've developed one. It's the answer to an architect's question:
"Why should I do business with you or specify your building product versus any or all of your competitors?"
And keep in mind your competition includes the architect doing nothing at all. They might not realize they need your product or service, or even that it exists.
So, you need to find a way to highlight what makes you different than your competition. Or "bake" something into your product or service to set you apart from the rest.
The most popular story of an effective USP is the story of Domino's Pizza. How they took a very common thing like pizza delivery and found an opportunity to make their offer better than anybody else's.
Nobody could delivery quickly or guarantee a time, so customers couldn't count on dinner arriving on time to feed their hungry horde.
So Dominos came up with the USP:
"Fresh, hot pizza delivered in 30 minutes or less. Guaranteed."
That put them on the map and they became a household name when families think of getting pizza delivered.
How do you come up with your USP?
If you don't already have a great USP, you should spend some time with your team to come up with one.
It should be the key message you use throughout all your marketing communications.
Talk with your past customers to see what convinced them to use you. What can you do better or differently? Once you have a wide selection of these answers, boil them down to what is really the most important.
Then you can narrow them all down to a few sentences.
But don't limit yourself. Successful companies don't just come up with a simple elevator pitch and leave it at that.
You need to have a USP that can expand and contract to fit the purpose. In some cases, your USP might just be those few sentences.
But in others, like when an architect isn't aware of the need for your solution yet, you will need to expand that USP to a few paragraphs. Or even a few pages in some cases.
And, finally, keep in mind you may have a USP for each of your products or services. And possibly a separate one for you as a company. Not just a one-size-fits-all.
I know it can be a bit overwhelming to start wrapping your mind around the task. Especially with the 101 other things you're juggling every day...
But I hope you can see it's an important task to tackle.
If you're new to the world of Sutton Copywriting, know that I'm here to help. Through these articles, I'm helping you step back to look at how you're marketing to architects.
And if you'd like me to help you dig in deep and come up with your best USP, along with your other key marketing messages, let's talk.
You can reach me through my contact form at www.suttoncopywriting.com/contact.
Until next time...
Make it a great marketing day!