A new audiobook project and new office furniture have kept me from writing a blog update in the past couple of weeks. Just after posting the last entry, though, Drew and I went on a fabulous Alaskan cruise which left from San Francisco. The scenery in Alaska truly is amazing — one snow-covered mountain peak after another. It’s hard to believe magnificent pristine environments like those we saw still exist when all of the land in Atlanta seems over-developed and commercialized.
We’ve been on 9 cruises and already have the 10th one scheduled. While on our trip, I was thinking about the overwhelming choices offered by the abundant number of cruise lines. How would a person actually pick the ship and itinerary?
Like those who think all voice-over artists are the same, much about each ship and cruise seems the same. However, the cruise lines distinguish themselves and gain repeat customers through their competitive advantages and marketing strategies. Every business owner, including voice-over actors, would do well to set sail with this philosophy in mind.
A while back, I read a book by Larry Steinmetz and William Brooks titled How to Sell at Margins Higher Than Your Competitors: Winning Every Sale at Full Price, Rate, or Fee. The authors suggest that your competitive advantage boils down to one or a combination of these 5 fundamental attributes:
In this eye-opening book, the authors assert that people who make buying decisions solely on the basis of price are not people whom you wish as clients for these compelling reasons:
1) They take all of your sales time.
2) They do all of the complaining.
3) They forget to pay you or are notoriously slow payers. To quote the authors: Anybody to whom money is so important tends not to settle accounts quickly. Anybody who is willing to beat the daylights out of you for an extra one quarter of 1 percent is more than willing to take that extra discount in the form of the time-value of your money by slow pay of your account.
4) They tell your other prospects or customers how little they paid for something. The authors wrote: Bragging about what they’ve bought from you and how little they paid for it, perhaps, is the most debilitating thing that price-buyers can do to you. Not only have they beaten you up on price, but they encourage other prospects to do the same.
In thinking of the many people we have met on cruises, I can testify about the truth of this statement. A cruise line may change prices for the same sailing depending on many factors, including exclusiveness of itinerary, advance bookings and unsold cabins. Some people seemed interested in talking with us only because they wanted to find out how much we paid for our cabin and tell us about the great deal they made.
5) They are not going to buy from you again, anyway.
The authors listed 4 other reasons to avoid price-shoppers, and the entire book is devoted to tactics for selling your services at your stated price. They discuss many techniques that prospects use to get you to cut your price. They also provide you with methods to combat price resistance and finalize the transaction. I cannot recommend it highly enough for any voice talent or other business owner.
If you decide — as I have — that you aren’t going to lower your prices to meet a potential client’s demands, you’ll have to compete on some other basis. The authors list 20 things a buyer would like besides a low price, including:
- an easy, “no-brainer” relationship
- total product offerings
- reliability and dependability
- breadth and depth of quality
- knowledge, competence and follow-up
Your voice itself is part of your competitive advantage. We are all unique, and no one thinks or speaks in the same way you do. In Michael Port’s excellent book Book Yourself Solid : The Fastest, Easiest, and Most Reliable System for Getting More Clients Than You Can Handle Even if You Hate Marketing and Selling, you will find an impressive list of questions that will help you identify other ways that you are unique.
Once you have defined your unique offerings, Port steps you through defining a target and niche market based on your unique attributes and the types of clients that you want to attract.
To continue the analogy with the cruise lines, we could argue that the cruise lines seem to offer similar service, quality and delivery. Their competitive advantage seems to be in their advertising, promotion and salesmanship. Each line has defined a target market and then advertises to that market. Norwegian Cruise Lines appeals to the non-conformists. (Those who know me could readily guess that NCL is my favorite cruise line.) Royal Caribbean shows ads featuring families with diverse interests. Princess Cruises aims to lure the couples wanting a romantic getaway. Carnival Cruises attracts a younger crowd seeking sun and fun.
As a voice-over artist, I specialize in audiobooks, narrations and podcasts. Sure, I enjoy creating character voices and would love to be the next big star in a hot animated movie. After going through the exercises in Port’s book, though, I determined that my marketing efforts are better suited toward e-learning modules, corporate narrations, etc.
Having a MS degree in computer information systems and over 20 years of experience working in IT positions doesn’t really help me in landing roles as a character voice actor. However, these same attributes become huge competitive advantages when marketing to an e-learning target market and information technology niche market. By taking the time to assess my strengths and build marketing tactics around them, I can steer my voice-over career to exciting new places and heights.