Some of you reading this might be old enough to remember the wildly popular BluBlocker sunglasses from the ’80s. The technology in the lenses was originally created by NASA to block the sun’s blue rays; but they didn’t become a hit with the general public until adman Joe Sugarman discovered them and aggressively promoted them via magazines, TV commercials and later informercials as sunglasses that would “change the way you see the world.”
Joe was one of the first direct response marketers I studied. His books Advertising Secrets Of The Written Word, Triggers and The AdWeek Copywriting Handbook are definitely must-reads for the serious marketing student. He was a pioneer when it came to marketing. And he was the first direct response marketer to use 800 numbers and accept credit card orders by phone. Joe was adamant that to be effective in selling, you must become an expert on the product, service and customer. In his book Triggers, he wrote:
Establishing your authority is something that should be done in each sales presentation – regardless of how big or little you are.
When I talk to clients, they all WANT to be a “trusted advisor” to their clients, but wanting and achieving are two entirely different things. For starters, you need to know everything there is to know about IT services and your industry. I make a point of constantly investing in workshops, training and events where other marketers in other industries gather who are NOT in the IT industry. Doing so allows me to keep up with new ideas and methods, as well as attempt to stay on top of the constantly changing digital marketing “rules.” I also read through IT industry publications to keep a pulse on what’s happening out there, in addition to various business publications, such as Inc. and Forbes.
I’m often surprised by many CEOs running IT services organizations who don’t even bother to read their own industry’s magazine and are completely, intentionally, tuned out. At events, they avoid the vendor hall, resenting the sponsors and thinking of them as “salespeople” who should be ignored. BAD idea.
You cannot be an expert or a trusted advisor to anyone if you aren’t willing to invest time in staying on top of new developments happening in IT and in your industry – and the vendors are a tremendous source of new ideas, new technology, new trends that you need to be on top of. Yes, you’ll have to wade through a bunch of unnecessary, useless information, but that’s why clients hire you – to have someone, a trusted advisor, who’s willing to distill all the information out there to find the one or two things that ARE important to know, to use, to implement.
Next, you need to be an expert on your CUSTOMER.
Being a “trusted advisor” requires that you understand how their business operates, what technology they use and how they use it, what trends are happening in their industry, what changes in laws regulatory compliance will impact them, what they’re worried about and where the opportunities are. You should also know how they, your customers/niche, communicate with their clients, who their competitors are, how they make money.
With the above as a foundation, you then can go to work in becoming an authority and trusted advisor to your clients. And, folks, this requires work. You don’t get handed authority status – you EARN it by becoming an authority and then constantly marketing that fact. Here are the top
five ways to establish yourself as an AUTHORITY and get prospects and clients to view you as a trusted advisor:
1. Specialize. Hardly anyone questions the advice of a true specialist.
And their opinions and advice are usually followed to the letter by the person seeking it. Problem is, most MSPs stubbornly refuse to specialize in anything or any niche, promoting themselves as “IT services” companies to anyone with 10 to 100 computers. The equivalent is the doc-in-the-box Minute Clinic you can walk into with any problem, from heartburn that won’t go away to an ingrown toenail. Those doctors earn a salary of around $200,000. But when you move up the ladder into specialist categories, you’ll see the income double and triple. For example, the average neurosurgeon makes roughly $750,000 a year and sees fewer patients – that’s nearly four times the earnings of a general practitioner AND with fewer patients.
2. Be A Source Of Market Research. A couple of years 2 back I had Shark Tank’s Barbara Corcoran speak to my Producers Club members.
If you are unfamiliar with her, she started a real estate business from scratch with a bag of pennies in the very competitive market of New York, growing it to become one of the largest real estate firms and selling it for $66 million. She’s a savvy, smart marketer – but the ONE thing she did that put her on the map and had the newspapers promoting her for free was this: she started a real estate report called “The Corcoran Report” that provided details on housing trends and what homes were selling for in New York City.
At the time, the Internet was in its infancy, so this was an extremely smart move on her part. And it fueled inbound calls like crazy. We do the same with MSP Success Magazine by polling members and publishing reports on salaries, what most people charge for managed services and, of course, marketing trends.
3. Public Speaking. When I started my business with no list and no money, this was my primary source of getting new customers.
Some of you might be old enough to remember my speaking gig at the ASCII events years ago. And a few of you may have even bought the Toolkit back then from me. Like “The Corcoran Report” was for Barbara, public speaking was the single BEST thing I did to get customers, because it positioned me as an advisor and AUTHORITY and allowed me to walk out of every event with 30 to 40 paying customers (not just leads).
Today, I don’t have the ability to do as many speaking engagements and I turn down more than I accept. But I do frequently do webinars for vendors in the channel for lead generation. And those people are some of the hottest, best leads we get. Many of our members used “public speaking” via webinars last year that generated high-quality leads. These turned into hundreds of thousands of dollars in projects, managed services and remote workforce solutions.
4. Be A Source For News Outlets And Industry: Our new full-time Client Coach, Will Nobles, used celebrity marketing to get into various media outlets and become the go-to source for Fox 44 in Louisiana, where one of his offices for Vector Choice is located.
He’s made several appearances on the news station to talk about tech-related topics, such as cyber security and cryptocurrency. Member Scott Spiro, SugarShot, has done well doing the same for Good Morning America and ABC News. Recently he was on both stations talking about the Solar Winds hack and iPhone privacy changes. If you want to do the same, I suggest you sign up for the “Help A Reporter Out” website: www.HelpAReporter.com.
Even better would be to find a local PR company with connections to your local stations (IF you’re marketing local). Keep in mind that when they call, you have to pick up the phone and/or respond IMMEDIATELY. Reporters are on TIGHT deadlines and won’t wait for you to call back an hour later. You might be talking about tech in general, like privacy or cryptocurrency, NOT “how to keep a network running.” That’s okay, and you should take those opportunities because they give you exposure and build the relationship with the news outlets.
5. Publish Authority Materials. Two years ago, I started MSP Success Magazine, and the response has been interesting to watch.
From the production side of things, publishing a “magazine” is not that different from publishing a newsletter; however, the PERCEPTION of the value and authority positioning are entirely different. Nobody wanted to be featured on the cover of my newsletter. But now we have clients and vendors alike who enthusiastically want to be featured on the cover of our MAGAZINE.
For most of you, the best authority piece you can publish is a book. Salespeople have brochures, but authority experts have BOOKS. Books are also not thrown out like brochures and advertisements are. They are kept and put on a shelf. Further, news outlets and industry associations will help in promoting a BOOK. But they will send you to their advertising department if you want to promote your services or company.
Keep in mind that the LAST thing you want a prospect to think is that you are a salesperson. By doing the above, you can elevate your status to that of a trusted advisor and authority expert.