According to commonly accepted marketing best practices, the essence of marketing is telling the world how your firm is different from all the other similar firms. Well, most people are wrong. Perhaps that’s why conventional approaches to marketing cost so much and accomplish so little.

The status quo is so hard to escape because it reflects the perspective of the company and its leadership rather than the customer’s. Merely mentioning the customer doesn’t mean you’ve taken on the their perspective. Once you break free from the conventional wisdom you’ll wonder how it ever held you so firmly in its grip.

Shifting your marketing to focus on your prospective client is harder than it seems. To get there you must break three deeply-held beliefs underpinning most marketing:

Myth #1: Clients want to know how you’re different

Myth #2: Clients want to know about your products and services

Myth #3: More experience and expertise gives you a competitive edge

Clients don't care about how you're different, so neither should you. Click To Tweet

I’m Not Just Being Contrary

I’m not being contrarian in an effort to appear “different” from other consultants. Marketing best practices reflect what most people do rather than what’s most effective. More than 15 years of interviewing hundreds of customers from dozens of clients led me to some powerful insights. Chief among these insights is that most professionals don’t know the real reasons their best clients value them. They know they are valued, but they don’t have a accurate handle on why. As you’ll see below, that is a handicap. My continuing work and interviews across firm types and industries continue to bust all three myths.

Why Being “Different” Doesn’t Matter

Your clients don’t care about how you’re “different,” so neither should you. Clients don’t care about how you’re different because when you talk about how you’re different, you make the conversation about you. Clients care about their business, not yours. When you talk about you, you’re selling. You make your job harder.

When you talk about how you’re different, you make the conversation about you. Click To Tweet

Why You Products & Services Don’t Matter

You care about the drill your company sells. The customer cares about the hole they need. Fundamentally, it’s really that simple. But, until you can truly adopt the perspective of your customer, your talk of benefits will highlight the patented flutes that discharge more material. You might even go as far as tying your drill’s design to faster cutting speeds.

True, discharging more material faster is a benefit not a feature, but that’s not what clients really care about. What clients care about is the impact on their business. They want to sell more widgets while earning more profit on each one. They do that by making their widget a better solution to their customer’s problem. Link your drill to benefiting the customer’s business–or even better to their customer’s business–and your customer becomes all ears. Your overall impact extends well beyond the physical drill to include: availability, selection, set-up, service, advice, and anything else you do that benefits the customer’s business.

Why Expertise Is Overrated

No one knowingly hires a professional lacking the requisite skills. So, the 20-year attorney is a better choice compared to the first-year attorney in most cases. However, the same advantage likely doesn’t hold versus a 10-year attorney. Expertise is a threshold criteria. Beyond some level, more doesn’t matter. Expertise is necessary to be considered, but not sufficient to be selected. Expertise provides credibility.

Because you can’t get the first meeting without expertise, professionals think it’s important for selection and keep talking about it. Think about it. If the prospective client didn’t think you were an expert, they wouldn’t be talking to you.

If clients don’t care about expertise, what do they care about? They care about applied expertise and how it benefits their business. (You may be noticing a theme.) Being knowledgeable enough to accurately answer their questions makes you an Expert. Using your expertise and knowledge of the customer’s business to offer proactive advice that benefits their business makes you an Advisor.

“I Will Improve Your Business by. . .”

Marketing is the growth engine of your business. (Other things matter too, but they’re not much value without marketing.) I teach business owners and professionals how to build a more powerful engine that goes further on a tank of gas. By showing you how to speak directly to how your customer’s business benefits from what you do, you become the easy choice for prospective customers. When you are the easy choice, your sales cycle is shorter, price is less of an issue, and you win more of your most profitable customers.

When you are the easy choice, generating business feels less like selling. Without the I’m-not-a-salesman stigma, it’s easier to engage more people —internally and referral partners—in developing business for your firm.