Get the “Leg Up” on Your Competition

Through Strategic Visibility

By Top Dog Eileen Proctor

People don’t do business with a company; they do business with people.

Let’s play a little game. Fill in the blanks of this age-old axiom: “People do business with those they ____________________.” If you responded with “know, like, and trust,” you’ve been well conditioned by countless business experts with the magic beans for customer acquisition and retention success. As important as those ingredients are, they are only 3/4 of the recipe.

People actually do business with those that they know, like, trust, and remember. Let’s face it: it doesn’t matter if you have the best business in the world if nobody knows and remembers you exist. The trick is to stay on top of your prospects’ and customers’ minds so they immediately think of your company when they – or someone they know – are faced with a problem that you can help solve. Top of the mind = top of the wallet!

A well-planned, consistently integrated visibility strategy is, paws down, the most effective way to accomplish this. It’s the key to attracting more customers, decreasing marketing costs, and significantly increasing your bottom line. While over the course of my 35-year business career, I’ve implemented and mastered an arsenal of 20+ different visibility tactics. Three stand out as my all-time favorite, can’t-miss techniques used to build initial awareness and ultimate customer loyalty. Incorporating them into your everyday business activity practically guarantees you’ll get the “leg up” on the competition and achieve enviable levels of success. And… insert a braying Beagle here so you don’t miss these important points… they won’t require a hefty bank account, large staff or team of stuffy consultants, or a grueling 24/7 work week.

Become a Media Magnet
The caliber of relationships you formulate with print, broadcast, and electronic media can make the difference between the limelight and anonymity. They also open the doors to markets you may not have thought to target, help to significantly reduce your advertising and marketing budget, and build unprecedented credibility. Keep in mind that the media is not in business to provide free advertising; they are looking to attract and retain readers or viewers by providing content that has the SPITE factors: Stimulates, Provokes, Informs, is Timely and/or Entertains.

Here’s a fun example: during the Chinese “Year of the Dog” celebration, we partnered with a local dog bakery to host the first ever Dim Sum Doggie Dinner. Rolling carts filled with assorted doggy delectables (“egg roll-overs” anyone?) were wheeled around to poochy patrons by servers in white jackets and chef hats. The dogs… and the local print and broadcast media… ate it up. With three television hits and three print mentions, it was the talk of the town for weeks to come. In addition to an influx of business for us and the participating dog bakery, our facility emerged as one of the media’s prime “go-to” experts for future pet-centric stories, whether they had to do with dog daycare or not. Now THAT’S media magnetism!

Become known as a trusted, reliable, easy-to-work-with expert resource, and you will ultimately not have to call the media to pitch stories… they will call you! Take it from one who knows. Using this technique, my clients and I have enjoyed over 1,000 free media mentions over the past decade alone.

Practice Work-Free Networking
If done correctly, networking is one of the most effective methods of maintaining visibility while concurrently cultivating prospects and reinforcing customer relationships. Studies show it is seven times more likely to bring in business than all forms of traditional advertising and direct mail combined at a fraction of the cost. Networking is also a great way to find suppliers and potential strategic alliances, learn new skills, and break the monotony of the work day.

For a great many business people, however, the very thought of networking produces sweaty palms, butterflies in the stomach, dry mouth, and a tied tongue. That’s probably due to the unrealistic and unnecessary self-imposed demands when attending such a function.

The secret to networking success begins with carefully selecting and committing to just two or three groups of the following various niche types: social, educational, business, leads-based, geographic, special interest, etc.

At each event, focus on quality, not quantity… maybe two or three individuals at most. Show them genuine interest and ask probing, pertinent questions with the intent of developing an enduring, mutually valuable relationship. Become known as a participant, not a predator; assume leadership roles or volunteer for committees. Have fun and be distinctive. I make it a practice to wear a dog-themed blouse, handbag, or piece of jewelry whenever I’m out in public. When I arrive at a meeting, attendees invariably stop me to play the “what’s she got on today?” game. When it comes to networking, consistency and loyalty are key. As a general rule of thumb, you’re not really part of the group until they miss you when you’re not there.

Don’t Just Build a Business... Create a Community
People don’t do business with a company; they do business with people. People who form relationships over time by interacting regularly around shared experiences comprise what is known as a community. Some of the most common types of communities are geographic (location), demographic (e.g. age, gender, income), psychographic (e.g. attitudes, values, fears), business (e.g. Chambers of Commerce, Rotaries, professional and women’s organizations), life stage (PTA, AARP, Empty Nesters, etc.), and special interest (e.g. religious or spiritual, hobby, or passion).

Thanks to ever-evolving technologies, such relationships have expanded beyond face-to-face interactions to online (e.g. websites, social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter), making it possible to belong to and participate in numerous communities at one time regardless of where you live or work. While participating in many communities may seem like a tremendous opportunity for visibility to a virtually unlimited number of prospects, customers, alliance partners, and referrals, spreading yourself too thin may actually be counterproductive. It is extremely important to hone in strategically on which communities you should spend the most time and resources within so you emerge as a strong presence, not merely a “hanger on” or a lurker. As with networking, quality trumps quantity every time.

Think of your business as a community in which your customers, employees, suppliers, and allied businesses are all members. As the community leader, it is your responsibility to devise and communicate ample reasons for your members to join and stay. Examples include the following:

  • Committing time, energy, and financial support to a non-profit organization that you and/or your members are passionate about
  • Conducting special events and other opportunities to allow your members to interact in person and virtually
  • Sharing pertinent information liberally and often through newsletters, conference calls, and social media
  • Celebrating member successes and commiserating losses
  • Asking their opinions when making policy changes or adding products and services
  • Developing vip, loyalty, and referral programs

Don’t just build a business. Create and cultivate a community. Remember that “U” should always be very visible… smack dab in the middle of your CommUnity.

Top Dog Eileen Proctor is a national pet industry and lifestyle expert, renowned for pioneering Phoenix, Arizona’s dog daycare industry in October 2000 with multi-award winning facility It’s a Ruff Life! As the Top Dog of Visibility, her training and consulting company, Top Dog Business Boosters, and exclusive 24/7 online community, Petpreneur Central, cater to the specific needs of PetpreneursTM across the United States, helping them to “sniff out” opportunity, get the “leg up” on the competition, and emerge as a “leader of the pack.” For additional information about the Top Dog, visit and For information about this or any other marketing, business development, or visibility topic, e-mail [email protected] or call 602-867-3647 (602-TOP-DOGS).

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