Earlier this week we talked about the impact of the digital age on an audience’s perspective: they’re more educated and have more access to information than ever before, so we don’t want to spend too much time listing off basic feature/benefit facts.

To take this point a step further—a step higher, actually—when we present, we have to capitalize on the opportunity to distinguish ourselves as a better partner, not just a better product or service. The word better, as it pertains to products and services, is highly subjective and changing every quarter. Mouthy startups threaten to disrupt even the best and most established brands in a variety of sectors. Better, as we said earlier, is just the entry fee. That’s when the competition begins.

Everyone needs a partner these days. Positions in marketing, sales, engineering, and accounting used to be specialist roles; now they’re generalists with cross-functional responsibilities. We can’t do everything well without identifying partners who can help us when we tread in unfamiliar waters. We’re 50% looking for the products or services that fill the immediate need and 50% looking for experts we can trust for all the uncertainty we feel while we try to do our jobs.

The #1 best way to differentiate yourself as an ideal partner is to demonstrate that you have the information and insights they need. And the way to do that is with market data. As aforementioned, our access to information is greater than it ever has been. But it would be a mistake to think that our understanding is greater than it ever has been. There’s so much information out there, and many of us don’t really know how to synthesize all of the data into reliable action plans for that critical question, “What’s next?”

By taking the responsibility to gather credible market data, organize it into thematic and simple messaging, and distribute that messaging to your audience, you communicate to them that you’re a solid candidate for the role of go-to partner in their organization or world. They’ll know that now and in the future, when they have misgivings or uncertainty regarding anything in your area of expertise, they can come to you to be educated (not sold). By using data to educate on trends instead of focusing on products or services, you do something far more valuable than just stacking up features and benefits: you justify the creation of a relationship. That’s a far better place for selling, after you’re an established partner.

Now, all this being said, it’s important to know that we do still have to pay that price of admission, and have really great products or services. By educating on trends and using market data, though, you create a logical and credible space in your presentation to explain your products and services. In fact, the goal should be to demonstrate that your products and services are what they are because of what you and your organization see in the larger market place: you created the ideal product or service because you understood the pain points.1

Question: How do you go about gathering market data when you put together presentations?

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