1. Introduction: Linking Revenues to Appeal

Business competition has evolved. To achieve sustainable growth in today’s market, your company must advance beyond selling products or services to selling its commitment to customer relationships. Whether you serve consumers or business-to-business clients, your customers need only a keyword search to find alternatives to anything you sell. Winning their loyalty--and, by extension, eliminating their interest in comparison shopping--begins with presenting your product, service, and company information in a manner that resonates with your target audience.

How can your company connect more meaningfully and profitably with existing and prospective customers? Whatever your business, there’s a direct link between your revenue goals and your ability to appeal to customer priorities. A stronger understanding of those priorities will guide you toward the presentation practices that are best suited to supporting your growth objectives.

2. Build Trust with the Confidence Component

Start by thinking about ways to enhance the experience of doing business with your company. Can you escalate interest in your products and services by adding an element of fun to shopping for them? Are your customers more in need of information and expertise that helps them resolve problems or eliminate stress? Or will they respond best to demonstrations of commitment to their needs and expectations? How can you sell not just your products and services, but also confidence in doing business with your company?

“Trust is a component that is missing in most people’s sales process today,” says John Michael Morgan, author of Brand Against the Machine: How to Build Your Brand, Cut Through the Marketing Noise, and Stand Out from the Competition (Wiley, 2011). “The moment you stop selling your product and start selling trust, you’re going to win. Your product doesn’t even have to be different. You can win by caring more.”

3. Use Creativity to Push Conversion

Once you’ve identified the core values and qualities that distinguish your business and have the potential to unlock its sales potential, look for ways to reinforce those perceptions and integrate them into your marketing. Don’t engage in creativity for its own sake or follow trends, no matter how popular, that align poorly with your business and its goals. Implement strategies that reinforce the messages most likely to attract customers and win their allegiance. Depending on their interests and needs, that could mean in-store events, YouTube product demonstrations, revamped delivery and return policies, frequent buyer reward programs, or increased staff training that equips your employees to deliver a higher level of customer support.

Of course, implementation is as critical as the underlying strategy, and it’s an area in which many companies fall short. Facebook fan pages, which have become as essential as company websites, are a case in point. Many businesses create them without thinking through the question of how they’ll help engage customers and gain insights into their buying habits and areas of product satisfaction and dissatisfaction. That, in turn, can lead to a disconnect between traffic and conversion (whether that means a purchase, an email or telephone inquiry, or a request to be added to your mailing list).

“You don’t have to convert only in terms of sales. But if you’re going to make a decision that your Web presence is going to be an integral part of your marketing plan, then you probably should also build in some type of a conversion,” says Brian Robinson, co-founder and managing partner of Ripe Social and iFolios.

Doing that successfully goes back to the core question of how your customers want to be engaged in conversation with your company and what you can do to promote dynamic two-way communication. Do they want interaction with you on social media? On mobile devices? Does a segment of your customer base still prefer to review information in print rather than electronic formats? Once you have that information, it’s essential to ensure that they have a consistent experience in all their interactions with your company, whether via phone or email, in person, or on your website or social media pages.

4. Look for Hidden Opportunities

Customers can be the best source of that information, and Robinson points out that a perceptive company can recognize and act on input even before the first sale. He offers the example of pre-sale support requests, which smart companies can use to learn where they’re falling short in presenting product or service information. “Are the answers to these questions not clearly presented on your website? Sometimes you’d be surprised,” he says. “Sometimes they’re there, and they are just really hidden. And sometimes you learn that people just don’t read. Maybe you communicate them best visually.”

Customers’ social media complaints about your competitors offer more insights into developing a distinctive presentation for your business. “Take a look at everything that your competition never does, and then do the never,” Morgan says. That creates an opportunity to become known as the company that, in addition to selling a product or service, resolved a long-standing frustration with the market or industry. Being the business that “gets it” will go a long way toward solidifying customer relationships and sustaining sales growth--and can be a cornerstone of distinctive, memorable branding.

When assessing your presentation resources, be sure to build your employees’ input and participation in the equation. Their access to and interaction with customers can offer invaluable insights into the company’s strengths and challenges, and their buy-in is critical to successful implementation of new strategies. Experts agree that perceptions of your presentation depend on the company’s ability to live its marketing language and branding content.

5. Deliver Your Message--and Live It

“Every interaction you have with a customer is either affecting your brand in a positive way or affecting it in a negative way,” Morgan says. That means your presentation can be bolstered or sabotaged by the way staff members greet customers on the phone and in person; by your reputation for listening and responding well to customer concerns; and by the level of authority your employees have to resolve problems or provide information that may affect purchasing decisions. When customers see every member of your organization as a reliable resource, you create a market distinction that represents a huge competitive edge.

That approach also allows you to shift your focus from trying to compete on price, which Morgan advises companies to regard as “an issue only in the absence of value.” That’s an especially critical presentation principle if your company isn’t in a position to offer the lowest prices. Instead of leveling the playing field, create a niche playing field on which you have the advantage. Keep the focus on what you do better than anyone else, and make your appeal to customers who see value in doing business with you.

In the end, best practice in presentation doesn’t have to depend on expensive marketing campaigns, edgy taglines, or promotions that drive traffic without necessarily increasing sales. As in most of business, presentation is built on the personal connections that drive and sustain customer relationships. By focusing on your strengths in delivering value and meeting customer needs, you can uncover your company’s hidden presentation power and unlock its potential to achieve long-term sales growth.

Looking to unlock growth for your company? Let the Spark BusinessSM Card from Capital One help. Whether you’re looking for unlimited 2 % cash back or double miles, there’s a Spark BusinessSM Card that helps make growing a small business more rewarding. To learn more, visit www.capitalone.com/smallbusiness.