What’s YOUR “1-Most-Important” Thing?

A presentation given at my home Chapter for BNI (Business Networking International) in Rochester NY.

Part of my job is helping clients clarify their vision of what needs to be done: Print, E-mail Website and Video are tactics. Answers to questions like “Where do you want to go from here?” are are needed before choosing the vehicle to get there.

Better Business Cards

handshake01Ah, the ubiquitous business card. Often, designing a business card is a tag-along service included with creating a new logo. Regardless of whether your company or look is new, hire a professional designer. Once hired, trust them, but not implicitly. Skills and attention to detail vary, so ask questions until you’re settled with the answers. Follow the steps below.

Don’t go cheap. 
Business cards are inexpensive by nature, but keep in mind they carry your name and an experience to your prospect.
Paper:
Heavy stock (100# cover or 14 point are both a good choice). Gloss finish is fine, but on 1 side only, please. A gloss finish can make colors “pop”, but it also makes taking notes nearly impossible. Using a gloss finish on both sides will ensures your card is remembered for frustration.
Printing
Professionally done, NOT off your desktop-printer. Printing on 1 side or both is a matter of opinion.
Size
Stick to the traditional 3.5″ x 2″. It fits everything out there made to hold business cards. If you want to produce something else – GREAT! But that’s a promo-item, not a business card.

Know your audience.
If your customers are often over 40 years old, most typefaces under 6 point are, well, pointless. Keep your audience in mind when communicating to them. Making it hard to read will also make it easy to throw away. Annually, business cards by the millions are produced, distributed and recycled. If you’d like to avoid yours landing in that third category, use this checklist.

INCLUDE:

  1. Company Logo
  2. Street Address
  3. Website
  4. Representative’s Name and Title
  5. Representative’s Phone # and eMail
  6. What the organization does

Harping on #6.
Prospects are everywhere. And if you’re fortunate to have someone (other than you) share your card, the stranger holding it needs to understand WHAT you do when you aren’t there to be suave and debonair in-person. Tell him/her in plain language.

TRUE STORY: I consulted for a company with a name that could have implied anything from sports equipment to executive coaching. Their card displayed no qualifying statement or definition of industry. When I pressed for an explanation, the answer was “Well, we do so many things we don’t want to limit ourselves.” Listen Champ, when your prospect has passed your card to a C-Level executive and THEY don’t know what you do, you’re limited.

Specific is Terrific.

Improve Your eMail Marketing with 5 Tips

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5 Simple pointers on how to improve your eMail Marketing. Happy “zooming” with Prezi!

To Chase or Woo

The Art of Woo: Using Strategic Persuasion to Sell Your Ideas

Many have the dubious honor of sitting through the “Hunt vs Farm” sermon, usually delivered by a Sales Manager or Boss. As common sales strategies go, it’s both accurate and unfortunate. Eventually, during the “Hunt or Farm” scenario the one pursued is consumed, which can make your client uncomfortable about being a prospect.

If you want an endless cycle of chasing business, congratulations! Your activities are easy to define and will look a lot like your competition (ugh)! If you want people coming to you, I commend learning to Woo.

How to Woo, Step #1: Do what you do, well. Be professional, diligent and studious. Work hard. Learn your craft and live it. No one is trusted more than a consummate professional displaying understanding and discipline. Once developed, your skills must be seen and required by those who need you…

How to Woo, Step #2: Build your network.  Surround yourself with fellow professionals who come into contact with your prospects and look for opportunities to refer you. Their expertise in other areas of business produces mutual need, respect and a desire to learn about YOU. This takes time, intention and effort. Intentional networking often means giving more in a season than you receive but the long view is much rosier than being “on the hunt” for the rest of your career…

How to Woo, Step #3 Honor your network. I met with a Sales Rep. who’d landed a nice piece of recurring work via referral, which led to other pieces of closed business as well. But this Sales Rep informed me he was “moving on”. His network wasn’t producing anymore.

“Really? That’s a shame. How long has this been going on?” I asked.

“Oh, months now,” he replied.

“But haven’t you been getting repeat work from ____ Company?” I asked.

“Well, yes, but I already had that,” he replied.

Happy “chasing” and don’t be surprised when your network becomes your bystanders. Wooing requires effort, but it cultivates results that can be managed instead of constructed. Your network is a series of relationships. If you continue to produce on steps #1 and #2, the manner in which you treat those relationships will dictate whether you Chase or Woo. Some seasons require a lot of giving, while others produce more receiving. But they are seasons, not final results.

Honoring your network can be a challenge when it seems one-sided. If your network isn’t producing what you think it should, consider what you’ve given to it. Have you cultivated businesses of others? Have you asked how you can help? Most importantly, have you helped someone else find a payday? Make Wooing your style and your days will be more fun and profitable!

The “e” stand for “evil”, 2

keyboard-brokenEarlier in my career, I made more assumptions and failed to ask some critical-path questions, which earned me a few scars. I offer you these observations to save you from having to earn all of them yourself.

For those who wrestle with “timing…”

“When responding to an email, please do so in time for the recipient to use the information you’ve provided, instead of what you’ve been doing. Because you current plan of action includes waiting to provide critical information in the last three hours that you’ve know for the last three months.”

“Timing in our business is crucial and these actions will force our vendor to attempt to complete this project in a manner akin to standing on his head while simultaneously begging angels to perform back flips out his nether-regions while simultaneously attempting to set his underwear on fire with a flint rock.”

“You see, flint rock is just not in the budget.”

Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. Douglas Adams

Be unreasonable FOR your customers

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Let’s “pretend”. You’re browsing your favorite store, content among the things that make your off-hours hobby fun, when a fellow patron enters. This patron approaches the owner with ease. They obviously know each other and engage in conversation. “Hey, I know I’ve been here a hundred times and asked for this part, but I just can’t seem to keep in my head where to find this thing. So, uh, can you point me in the right direction?”

The owner delivers a stinging comment, instructing the patron to fend for himself. If he’s been here that many times, he ought to have figured out by now that the sought-after item is in aisle 2 – end of the row – on the right – just go get it.

Frankly, I cringe while writing this, but I’ve been present when the same attitude surfaces in relational businesses. When an owner has to deliver info on a repeated basis that OUGHT to be retained by the customer, it can become tiresome. But remember that person IS your CUSTOMER and the best way to retain this person (and get more) is to convert your attitude.

3 Steps to Convert the Attitude

#1: Help the customer remember. Take time to understand them and WHY they aren’t retaining the info. Do you move items around without notifying your customers? If the path to getting the product is counter-intuitive, perhaps a “cheat-sheet” on navigating your store or website would help. If you repeatedly hear the same question from other customers, odds are your problem is staring back at you in the mirror and not across the service counter. Consider changing YOUR methods in order to change their actions.

#2: Reward the actions you want. There are many ways to reward your customers: Thank you notes; Discounts; Gift cards. But you might be surprised that a rarely-used reward is your time. Ask a few customers how you can make THEIR experience better. You will very likely hear things you don’t enjoy. Press in, say “thank you” and ask if there’s anything else. This negative feedback is a gift. If you make interaction with your customer pleasant for them, you’ll build a bridge they’ll happily cross all by themselves to buy from YOU. Heck, if you make it a fun destination, they might even bring a friend or two.

And who doesn’t enjoy having a friend along to show off their relationship with the owner. Give them bragging rights to you and it will pay off for everyone.

#3: Does “reasonable” even matter? Its been my experience that what’s reasonable is often a matter of opinion. If those extra steps seem “unreasonable”, ask yourself where YOU like to buy, and why. Are those choices influenced by people who go out of their reasonable way to help? Unlock your customers’ favorite buying experiences and you’ll turn then into the kind of buyers who recruit others for you.

The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails. William Arthur Ward

Habit vs. Process

Is a habit the same as a process? A little after-hours reflection on a week-full of client conversations.

 

So, what’s the big idea?

keyboard-ideaYour advertising campaign is more than the latest tagline or pasting a new graphic on old products. It SHOULD be driven by what you really believe, expressing a natural flow that’s part of your product or service. Its like being in love; “Why did you mail that greeting card when you’ll see him tonight? or Why buy flowers for her when she has a garden-full?” The answer is simply that it was an expression of your core feelings. In Advertising, concept is core to everything. How is  YOUR core? Is the plan broken…Does it even exist?

A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on. ~JFK

Is Word of Mouth Enough?

advertising_and_pieI recently met with a business owner referred to me by a close associate. After a few pleasantries, I began asking questions. That’s what I do. Becoming familiar with an owner’s goals helps me help them. But after hearing “all my advertising is word-of-mouth” the second time, I asked, “So, does that mean you have all the business you want?”

After a pause (and signing a non disclosure), further needs were revealed. “Word-of-mouth” is a great way of getting to qualified prospects. But the quantity of those prospects may not be enough to meet your needs much less your goals. That’s where Marketing and Advertising fit.

You may make the best pies in the world, but if no one knows, you’ll eat them all yourself. 

Build a little House

hugh_laurie_as_houseDealing with your inner sarcasm – I miss Hugh Laurie as “House”; brilliant – troublesome – naughty and tragically sarcastic. He said everything I want to say. Do you quietly entertain a running dialogue of the most caustic things imaginable? For those who wrestle with that nasty bit of outspokenness, consider the following:

Where did THAT come from? Saying something unpopular is not wrong. But, some things ARE better left unsaid. Extended periods of stress can lower the bar on self-awareness. I believe stress and fatigue are unavoidable and necessary components toward accomplishments. But left unchecked, can cause damaged relationships and impede trust and opportunity for future creative input. Self assess or ask a trusted advisor if its time to “take a breath”. If that “trusted” person has the audacity to tell you something you don’t like, listen.

Is that TRUE? Determine what’s true vs. opinion. Q: “Does this make me look fat?” A: “No, being able to SEE you is what makes you look fat.” That may be funny if you’re a spectator, but stating that opinion is nothing but a selfish wrecking-ball. I’m not telling you to lie, but speaking all of your opinion, all of the time, can be disastrous. We change constantly: Tired-Energetic; Hungry-Full; Lonely-Loved. These changes don’t affect constant truths (like gravity) but they DO affect opinions and our thought-life. Giving voice to all of your opinion, always, can become a selfish and hurtful lifestyle. While that makes for an entertaining movie, the life it builds can be far from comforting, in the long run.

What do you WANT to happen next? Once you’ve opened your mouth and the words are free, they cannot be caged again. Those words will roost in the thoughts and memories of those you face. Even an accepted apology for what’s heard, will not erase the damage. Words are tools of expression. Before you use those tools, consider your goal. Is your intent to create a rift or solve a recurring frustration? Does that sound manipulative? It is. But the one being manipulated first, is you. So, before pulling sarcasm out of your tool-belt, consider the life and reputation you want to construct. Then, build your house.