How to break through business malaise

Suzanne Ross offers advice on growing your business.
Market leadership strategist Suzanne Ross is president of the Aerie Co. in Evanston. Photo courtesy of the Aerie Co.

By Suzanne Ross

Guest columnist

Suzanne Ross offers advice on growing your business.
Business  strategist Suzanne Ross is president of the Aerie Co. in Evanston. Photo courtesy of the Aerie Co.

It not news that people are tired of being marketed and sold to in the traditional manner. Yet the malaise threatens organizations from demonstrating their real customer and industry value. As companies build their market leadership, the aim should be to arm teams with what of most value to customers and prospects:  information and insights about their sector, their issues, their challenges. Imagine how refreshing it is to drop the ˜hard sell and to have conversations that show deeper business and industry insights.

For small and middle market companies looking for a refreshed and more relevant way of engaging with clients and prospects, there are a number of creative, free and inexpensive approaches to maximize the marketing budget with research. Today few companies have extra funds sitting around and, when they do, research isn t typically at the top of the list of spending options. However, the good news is that quality research doesn t necessarily have to break the bank, particularly when survey results can provide rich material for campaigns to help bolster your leadership.

Consider strategic tactics like the following:

Explore available research and free public information. To build a strong foundation and establish authority, knowing what already been produced in the field is critical. In addition, with the wealth of free public records and information available online, proxy statements, press releases, newsletters, blog posts and company websites offer a treasure trove of data, trends and insights that await gathering and analysis. Relevant information related to customer issues and how your company is positioned can be incredibly useful to your offerings and  become a centerpiece of your media relations, marketing communications, industry relations and events.

Look internally at your own data. Most companies have a vast amount of information they gather, yet they neglect to consider how they can capitalize on insights gleaned from the data. If you conduct benchmarking, survey customers on satisfaction or solicit feedback on product development, you may be collecting relevant nuggets that could translate into broader trends that are of interest to clients, media and the industry. Review how your company collects information on current and prospective customers and explore how you might add a few  simple questions to the various data collection points that can reinforce your credibility as a thought leader.

Collaborate with a partner or association. Often companies lack the resources to take on initiatives like this alone so they seek out external partners or influential industry, customer or advocacy groups to conduct surveys. Professional associations and consumer or trade groups can be effective and successful collaborators where both parties enjoy a gain and share resources to extend the promotional impact.

To get to the top, aspiring market leaders must make an investment that becomes more than merely a compelling perspective if they expect to get attention and drive value. Once these efforts have produced results that can fuel client and industry conversations, ensure the findings and insights are packaged so you can use the data again and again. You have to be committed to express your findings and point of view in various forums, venues, media outlets and industry channels to reach the audiences you intend to engage.

Suzanne Ross, a market leadership strategist and president of The Aerie Co. in Evanston, collaborates with organizations and executives to identify and communicate their value. Ross also is a frequent speaker on communicating value, customer engagement and branding.