Developing an effective marketing strategy is something rarely done in isolation from others. One of the people who has helped me bring clarity to my own practice of communicating my editorial services to potential customers is Kevin Daum, an award-winning marketer and business coach. His differentiation–solution–empathy framework was fundamental to helping me think about what information to include when telling people what I do for a living.
In "Give the Perfect Elevator Pitch", Daum asks, “Can you tell what you do in a compelling way? Believe it or not, most people can't. Here's how to do it efficiently and effectively.” Using the triad of differentiation, solution and empathy, Daum suggests a way of clearly and quickly articulating who you are, what you do, and why it’s valuable.
Daum’s focus in the above-cited article is on the "elevator pitch" – originally so called because it’s about communicating verbally with the customer in the few minutes it takes you to ride the elevator (or the lift, in my neck of the woods) – but I’ve used this framework well beyond the short marketing message.
In truth, differentiation, solution and empathy are key components that can be used to structure all of our marketing materials, whether they’re short pitches or longer statements about our editorial businesses: web pages, brochures, advertisements, specialist directory entries, CVs (résumés), cold letters and emails, cold calls, audio and video marketing, and even business cards.
Being interesting to the customer
Differentiation is all about you, empathy is all about the customer, and solution is about bridging the gap between the two of you.
Creating a message that focuses on these elements forces you to put yourself in the customer’s shoes and to frame what you do in the context of what they need. A message that shows your customer that you understand what their problems are is far more interesting (and more likely to get you hired) than one that just tells them how brilliant you are.
It’s all well and good telling a customer that I’ve been awarded this or that qualification by a recognized training provider, that I’ve been doing my job for X years, that I have a career background in Y, and a Master’s degree in Z. But what if those things aren’t my client’s primary concern? What if instead my client really needs a proofreader who can offer a fast turnaround, is a specialist in dealing with non-native English speakers, or who can edit directly in Word with Track Changes on?
Some examples to consider
When I think about the following client groups, using the differentiation–solution–empathy framework, it quickly becomes clear that the information I need to communicate is not the same for each group. By putting myself in their shoes, I can see that my focus needs to be tweaked. Below, I’ve put myself in the shoes of a publisher, a student, a business, and a first-time independent author. I’ve identified what I think their problems might be (empathy), how I can help (solutions), and USPs that I believe will make me seem interesting to them. (Note: this is just a brief outline for demonstration purposes.)
A final word on order
The nice thing about Daum’s simple but effective framework is that you can play around with the order depending on what you think you need to communicate first. You can bowl straight in with the empathy element, perhaps if you’re doing a short verbal pitch and want to show the client that you understand what their concerns are. Or perhaps you could start with the differentiation element if you’re creating a web page that publishers will be looking at. There are no rules – rather, the key is to use differentiation, solution and empathy to show your customer how what you do fits with what they need.
Louise Harnby is a professional proofreader and copyeditor. She curates The Proofreader's Parlour and is the author of several books on business planning and marketing for editors and proofreaders.
Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader, say hello on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or connect via Facebook and LinkedIn.
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I am an Advanced Professional Member of the UK's national editorial society. Visit the SfEP website for more information.
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