For years, companies have used FUD to sell their products and services. FUD is an acronym for Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. FUD tactics are meant to scare the customer into buying a product or using a service and rely on the customer lacking information to make a decision on their own.

Today's most successful companies rely on a completely different interpretation of FUD that takes into account the ever-connected and highly informed customer. This approach capitalizes on storytelling and relies on establishing a long-term relationship.

The new definition of FUD:

Focused

Defining your company's focus is key to sales success and you must ensure that your customer understands your focus. Use marketing messages and stories that establish empathy with your customer's situation and resist the temptation to tell your customer what you do. Instead, tell your customer why you exist and how your mission helps them solve a problem or live a better life.

The world's most successful companies tell their stories as part of their taglines. Nike encourages us to "Just Do It", Zappos "Delivers Happiness" and Visa recently returned to the familiar "Everywhere you want to be". Their advertisements and marketing messages are centered on these easily approachable themes that empower customers to lead better, more fulfilled lives.

Unique Value

Your company's products and services must have a unique value that differentiates them from all other companies or products. Define this unique value and clearly express it in all of your communications to your customers.

Why did you start your business in the first place? It's in those early moments of company creation that your unique value is the most clear. What problem did you set out to solve and how did you plan to do it differently or better than any other company?

I recently interviewed Julie Brown from Julie Bee's. Julie Bee's is a unique line of American made, handcrafted shoes for women that are both beautiful and comfortable. Being a shoe guy, I asked Julie if she had considered other products or possibly a line of men's shoes. While those ideas are not out of the question, Julie said that she and her team continue to go back to the problem they set out to solve when considering new ideas.

Domain Expertise

I was at a pitch event this past week and one of the presenters talked about avoiding the "newbie tax". We have all paid the newbie tax--going into something that we have no experience. One of the key reasons your customer will buy your product or service from you is because you know how to do something better than they do.

You have domain expertise.

Customers want to learn about your domain expertise on their own. When they research how to solve a problem, they will look at what your company shares on blogs, websites, via social media, at conferences and in the media. Use these forums to tell stories about your customers and share the knowledge your company has on a topic. A recent study by CEB's Marketing Leadership Council shows that today's business buyers make 57 percent of the purchase decision before picking up the phone to call a supplier.

The bottom-line: today's customers buy, they don't want to be sold and they don't buy into scare tactics like the old-school FUD approach. Companies that learn how to focus, be unique and share their domain expertise will succeed in this new customer-driven economy.

Published on: Oct 15, 2014
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.