There is no market in which there is no competition.
Whether you’re selling something as niche as fountain pens or as broadly needed as budgeting software, there’s someone else or something similar enough to give you a run for your money. Or, more specifically, your customer’s money.
To stand out from the crowd in the modern business world, you need to approach your customers on a multitude of levels, offering them something they can’t find anywhere else. Since we’ve already established that’s not going to be your product, the next logical choice is stellar service and engagement. In other words, be different and unique.
Let’s look at a company that have raised the bar on what service in the Internet age looks like.
You Need A Budget
Called YNAB by its users–one might suggest “fanatical evangelists” as an alternative–You Need A Budget is based off the envelope system as it was developed by Dave Ramsey of 7 Steps To Financial Freedom fame. For those who never carry cash anymore, YNAB has a smartphone app and a computer program that subdivides your budget, helps you plan where your money is going, and protects you from overspending.
But where YNAB sets itself apart from other budgeting software is its customer service team. On the program’s website, it offers free webinars intended not just to use the software, but to help the user understand their philosophy of budgeting and money management. The company’s Twitter feed is a work of social media art. They often retweet positive messages that users have sent them, saying thank you, and also post articles intended to increase their users budgeting know-how.
They are a perfect example of what marketing expert Seth Godin calls Thought Leadership. They offer all of this information for free to anyone, with no demand that they purchase, and behind no paywall. You can learn everything you want to know about budgeting in the philosophy of YNAB, and if you wanted to, you could probably use those principles to set up a spreadsheet and track your money just as effectively.
But that’s not what happens. Instead, users purchase YNAB. The Android app has over 6400 5-star and 4-star reviews as of this writing; the iPhone app has an overall 4.5 rating.
What can you learn from YNAB’s story?
Too often we look for social marketing to have a direct relation to sales. We think that when we write a blog post, x number of readers will be converted into sales. That’s just not true at all.
I love the work they do to educate people on a better way to manage their money. Their leadership, and the fact that they choose to make it freely available, is a philosophy that means a great deal to me.
If your organization is not yet actively investing in thought leadership, in offering its expertise to the world at large for free, then you are missing a huge opportunity to become a major player in your industry. Whether It’s publishing a simple strategy on what strategies have made your customer service the best in the industry, or being incredibly responsive to questions and observations of your clients on social media, you are missing a huge opportunity to change the nature of your industry.
Start small. Start with the small secrets, the little changes, and the tiny questions. But aim big. Aim very, very big.