By Robin Robins, channel sales/marketing guru and speaker at all HP/Axcient Cloud Roadshow events Feb. 28 – March 15.

The other day I was driving to my chiropractor when I noticed another burger joint had opened up, replacing a previous restaurant that sold – you guessed it – burgers. I suppose the other one failed and was forced to shut its doors like many restaurants do because of tight margins; it’s truly one of the toughest businesses to turn a profit. And although I don’t know the owners of the new restaurant, I’d be willing to bet that they reasoned to themselves that THEY would surely do better than the last place because they had better burgers, a cleaner store and maybe friendlier staff. Maybe they have some special kind of beef they use. Who knows.

The “new” factor of this restaurant may boost them up a bit for a few months, but if they don’t have a way of sustaining themselves through smarter marketing – both in getting new clients and KEEPING them coming back – I give them another 1-2 years before the place is gutted and replaced by a Starbucks. I say that because, although this restaurant is not too far from my house, I’ve yet to see any kind of advertising or promotion going on to let me know they’re there – no “grand opening” signs, etc. That, combined with the fact that there are at least 40-50 different restaurants within a five-minute drive (three of which also specialize in burgers), doesn’t bode well. And if they think they’re going to win customers away from everyone else because they have better food, they’re in for the shock of their life.

This is one of the biggest mistakes I see over and over again with new business owners – the “build it and they will come” premise. The mistake is in thinking that if you build a better widget, people will want to buy from you. Yes, there is some truth to that – but the widget better be exponentially better, solving a major problem for the client or delivering a big benefit to the point of causing the prospect to feel they can’t live without it. Most do not have that competi­tive advantage. In IT services, being marginally better won’t get prospects to pay attention, much less go through the inconvenience of switching vendors. And if you look, sound, feel, and act like everyone else on the front end (marketing and selling), acquiring new clients is going to be akin to pushing a rope uphill. The right premise to start with is NOT, “Hey – look at all those companies with computers, phones, and IT needs… I can make money a ton of money selling that!”

The CORRECT premise is, “The business world can get IT services anywhere and doesn’t need another MSP… so what am I going to do that will give me a competitive, strategic advantage in the market place?”

To be clear, I believe most service firms do an “okay” job with service. I think they deliver exactly what the customer expects and do a “good” job. But to truly succeed in business – particularly in this highly competitive and overcrowded marketplace – you must be exceptional in many ways. For anyone who is willing to work smart and stay sharp, this is a good thing. You’ll easily blow away competitors who can’t seem to deliver a consistent service, who chronically procrastinate, who can’t implement new ideas well, and are generally disorganized and treading water.

When Dr. Nido Qubein took over High Point University in North Carolina, he knew he had to be exceptionally different than all other schools he was competing with in the area in order to grow it the way he has. He started with the premise that there were already dozens of great schools both locally and nationally where students could go to get an excellent education. So what was going to make High Point stand out? What was going to get parents and students wanting to come to High Point versus all the other options available?

Starting with that premise, Nido decided to look to the Ritz Carlton and Four Seasons as a model for High Point rather than to other universities. Doing that immediately gave him a fresh perspective that no other university had thought about. In fact, most were studying other universities to look for ways improve, only giving them marginal “me too” strategies to implement. And providing a “better education” is akin to providing “better food.” Yes, it does matter because if you don’t deliver this basic requirement, you’ll be out of business – but to be truly extraordinary and secure unheard of gains in new students required more than just a “better education.” That’s why High Point’s campus is beautifully designed with fountains and statues, is immaculately clean and well kept. That’s why they offer students an on-site concierge to help them ease into their new life away from home, helping them with any need or desire they have. That’s why they have a steak house on premise that is free to the students and give away drinks and snacks to the students as they walk between classes. That’s why the dorm rooms look more like a hotel than a crummy, smelly rundown apartment building. And that’s why Nido teaches a “life skills” freshman class to instill the values of pride of ownership, good manners, gratitude, and personal responsibility into the students, so as you walk around campus you get a sense you’re breathing different air.

As you look at your business and create grandiose plans for growth and profits, make sure you are starting with the right premise. Clients do NOT need “another” IT service company. They don’t need another help desk, cloud solution, spam filter, web site, hosting company, or whatever else you’re selling. There are already dozens of those. The real question is, what are you going to deliver that they can’t get anywhere else? What do your customers REALLY want? Then, how are you going to deliver that in such an exceptional way that your competitors simply cannot mimic what you do?

For more sales and marketing strategies from industry thought leader Robin Robins, attend the HP/Axcient Cloud Roadshow, coming to five U.S. cities now through March 15.