I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Brent Herd, thoughtleader for over 15 years in sales and advertising. He has led the sales teams at AOL, Yahoo, Advertising.com, Moxie Interactive and Bolt Media. He is now the senior VP of Sales at ShareThis.com

I wanted to know what he predicted the top three challenges were in this new decade. They were:

1. A crowded marketplace makes differentiation increasingly difficult.

2. Moving traditional budgets over to online, and how to increase the pace of that

3. Realizing that the buying community is overwhelmed.

We talked in detail about branding and differentiation when there are a lot of websites selling similar things. Additionally, people are creating similar solutions, and it’s not always obvious how to slice up the segment. So how can a company stay competitive?

Well, first, refine how well-defined your brand is. Have you created a brand that’s too broad so the customer doesn’t really understand what you do? We’ve all seen that when we search. We’ll see web enabled solutions, but it doesn’t say what problem it solves. Make sure that your product or service is solving specific problems.

Secondly, are you advertising to the wrong demographic? Recent surveys are showing that the greatest number of subscribers to Facebook are over 70. And that the Millennials have stopped blogging. This could impact your advertising strategy.

To use an example, you want to fish where the fish are biting. However, if everyone has cast their line, how are you going to entice that fish? Better bait isn’t always the answer. You have to know what the fish prefer.

Now people are obviously not fish, but the lesson of knowing how to segment solutions is important. Your product can be used differently by various market segments. Additionally, you sell differently to the different segments. Women respond differently than men. Teens react more positively to videos. The over 70 crowd prefers larger print and simpler styling.

Additionally, people are buying differently. No longer do they read product reviews in magazines or books. They go online to do comparison shopping and read reviews by others who have purchased the product.

And with SmartPhones and tablet computers, people can research right in a store. Applications can show the customer comparison pricing in their geographic region. And when they’re happy with their purchase, they can share that on review sites or social media.

Finally, remember that when someone buys a drill bit, they’re not buying the actual bit. They are buying the hole. Are you advertising your product or service, or are you advertising the problem you are solving. Give them what will help them, and make it easy for them to recommend you.

News Reporter