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Ira Koretsky
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Duane Bailey
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Guest Bloggers
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Does your organization encourage risk-taking? If not, how can you create a risk-friendly culture, especially in these tough times?

If you’re looking to accelerate growth and innovation, you need to encourage risk-taking. Risk-taking enables creativity, which drives innovation. As Edwin Land, the co-founder of Polaroid Corporation, once observed, “The essential part of creativity is not being afraid to fail.” Founded during the Great Depression on his belief that consumer markets should be created around scientific research, his company was once the world leader in instant photography – largely due to the commercial success of ground-breaking innovations like the Polaroid SX-70 camera, which was introduced in 1972. The camera was an instant success, garnering year-over-year sales growth of 20% within the first few years of its commercial launch.

If you’re looking to accelerate growth, you need to find ways to innovate – your products, your services and even your customer experience. Encourage the risk-taking needed to enable creativity in your organization. Let your employees know it’s ok to fail once in a while. After all, as The Chief Storyteller®, Ira Koretsky, once told me, “You’re not going to hit a home run every time.”

Here are some ways you can encourage a culture of risk-taking, creativity and innovation in your organization:
1. Embrace a perspective that views mistakes as opportunities for learning, rather than failures.
2. Encourage your employees to follow their passions and to think outside the box.
3. Tell your employees what you want, not how to do it…and recognize there are many “right” ways to achieve the desired result.
4. Encourage collaboration through the open sharing of others’ ideas.
5. Recognize and reward your employees for doing something right.

And finally, on a personal note, I would be remiss if I neglected to mention the Polaroid SX-70 camera my dad had when I was growing up. That camera (and the big square case it came in) was an endearing presence during Bailey family holidays and vacations for many years.  Thank you, Mr. Land, for providing us with an innovation that allowed us to preserve our fondest memories...in an instant.   

Here are three different advertisements from September and October. Each has and is generating signficant exposure on YouTube, from media, and from consumers. The first one is for Sony's PS3, second for French mineral water Contrex, and the third for electro-rapping band LMFAO. Each is telling its story in its own way. What can you take away from these and apply to your own communications?

Sony posted its Playstation PS3 commercial "Michael" on YouTube on 5 October 2011. In less than a month, 9,968,581 have watched the ad. Even more incredible...it got over 3 million views in its first 24 hours. Sony included a caption, "When they tell your story, what will they say?"  Click on the image or here to watch the video on YouTube. The ad features two American soldiers from WWII as they walk carefully through a forrest to a stone building, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. They pay the bouncer, a woman who sort of glares at them, and enter a room. The room turns out to be a bar filled with the favorite PS3 game characters. And the characters are swapping stories about "Michael." Michael turns out to the be "you" the gamer. The ad celebrates more than the great games, it is celebrating the people who play them (and of course buy them). The Deutsch agency out of Los Angeles, California produced the ad.

This is an advertisement from French water company Contrex (click on the image or here to view the YouTube video). It starts off much like a publicity stunt. You see a Paris square then focus in on a big building with a long row of pink exercise bikes out front. Curious women then climb on and begin pedaling. As more women pedal, more pink neon wires light up. The light starts at the stationary bike and shoots forward to the building showing an outline of a very fit, and handsome man. More women get on bikes and a few men. A record starts playing high energy music. The man starts dancing and begins to take off his clothes in a strip-tease like style. The women starting laughing and shouting and pedaling faster. He strips everything off down to his underwear/pants, swirls them around, and repears with a sign "placed" strategically that reads something like "you have just burned 2,000 calories during the exercise."

Everyone laughs and of course, drinks Contrex mineral water, a brand owned by Nestle. One of the benefits Contrex touts is that it helps people lose weight because of its high calcium content. It's innovative, fresh, lively, and entertaining...with a very clear, easy-to-grasp message. The ad was created by the Marcel agency. Launched 2011 Sep 22, in a little over a month, 8,317,346 people have viewed it on YouTube. Contrex has a link to its companion Facebook campaign site.

The music video from LMFAO is called "Sexy and I Know It."  Released on YouTube on 2011 Sep 16, the video has been watched 73,466,296. CAUTION! This video is a bit graphic and quite visual with men in speedos and women in short skirts/tight pants. It has over 218,000 comments. It's #1 on the YouTube 100 count. The band has a well-integrated trans-media messaging platform in  Twitter, iTunes, Internet, YouTube, Storefront, and Facebook. LMFAO is grammy-nominated, electro-rapping band from Los Angeles. This song is from their new album, "Sorry for Party Rocking." Their music is called Party Rock — "unapologetically partying their faces off with hilarious results. The title-track explodes with bastardized R&B grooves mashed up against ‘80s synths, dance-floor pounding beats, and crunk-like rhymes about living the wild life. With ample help from London chanteuse Lauren Bennett and Hollywood producer GoonRock, the following “Party Rock Anthem” makes good on its title with an insta-hit trimmed in flashes of electronics, buoyant beats, and lyrics that celebrate and encourage decadent behavior." (from the iTunes description) (click here to watch on YouTube or the image)

 

 

 

 

 

I had the pleasure of seeing Dan Roam speak at an ASAE Great Idea's Conference. He was fun, kept my attention, and shared some great techniques for turning ideas into pictures.

In the past two months, I have purchased five copies for clients. I thought, "now that's a sign. I should write a quick book review."

Published in 2008, "Back of the Napkin," was Dan's first book. Now it is an international bestseller and according to his website, "the most popular visual-thinking business book of all time." I believe it is such a popular book because it is filled with helpful, illustrative pictures. Most business self-help books contain only a few pictures. Most of Dan's book is pictures. They include walk-throughs, tools, and examples. His whole approach is built on the simple premise that you don't have to be creative or know how to draw. If you can draw stick figures, then you are ready to tackle problem solving with pictures. If you find yourself sometimes at a loss for how to show a problem visually, consider reading Dan's book.

Resources:
- Back of the Napkin website
- Back of the Napkin book site on Amazon
- Back of the Napkin blog
- Change This Manifesto:  The 10 1/2 Commandments of Visual Thinking: The "Lost Chapter" from The Back of the Napkin
- Change This Manifesto:  Found In Translation: The Case for Pictures in Business

I'm a huge fan of Pandora, the Internet radio listening site. A short time ago I was listening to an "Elmo" (from Sesame Street) station as I had my daughter in the car with me.

At a stop sign, I happened to glance down to my smart phone. I was quite surprised to see the advertisement in the picture below, right side.

I truly appreciate that free radio needs advertising. What I don't understand is that in today's world of powerful programs to analyze data, I would receive an ad for a match making site on a children's radio station.

Imagine a culture where your customers are your advocates. Strong, personal relationships have been forged with your brand. Your customers perceive you as their trusted advisor. And your customer retention rates are above industry average.

Is this something your brand is aspiring to? Or perhaps you’re already there.

Most brands who have achieved this position have done so with the realization that brand loyalty begins at home. With your employees. And how you treat them.

Employees who are trusted and valued by their employers find it easier to build similar relationships with their customers. They inherently trust others outside of their organization to honor their commitments, act in their best interest and speak positively on their behalf. This trust makes it easier for them to forge deeper, longer-term relationships.  Customers are viewed as collaborators, not conspirators.

In turn, customers are attracted to brands whose employees genuinely delight in serving them. Customers find value in content, products and services designed to meet their specific needs. Trusts are built and relationships are strengthened.

If you’re aspiring to higher levels of brand loyalty, where do your employees stand in your organization? How trusted and valued are they?

For more on employee loyalty and collaboration, please see these recent posts:
• Inspire Employee Loyalty – Celebrate Your Employees
• Back to School:  Collaboration Is In
• Business Is Personal:  Accelerate Relationship Building with Small Talk

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tech Support as a Competitive Advantage

It wasn’t very long ago when most of us would have laughed at the notion of technical support – online, phone or even onsite – as a competitive advantage. Thanks to advances in interactive voice response technology, customer relationship management tools and the soft science of customer loyalty, technical support has become an unforgettable way to differentiate your brand.

I recently spent a weekend reloading the operating system on one of my PCs. With no prior software replacement experience, I logged countless hours with both my PC manufacturer, Dell, and my Internet Service Provider, Verizon.  In both cases, I was pleasantly surprised by their commitment to providing me with an outstanding customer experience – 24/7 expert technical support, a good balance of self-help and live agent interaction and exceptional value for the price paid. I even received a follow-up phone call from Dell to see if I needed any additional assistance!

While I did manage to restore my PC, I will acknowledge that at an age of almost 6 years, it is nearing the end of its useful life. Soon, it will be time to invest in a replacement. Thanks to the service I received from Dell and Verizon over the weekend, I'm fairly certain I'll be staying with the brands we have.

An outstanding tech support experience – it's what makes these brands unique from many of their competitors. It's also part of what's keeping me as a loyal customer.    

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"No" Often Hides the Door to "Yes"

Over the years I have learned to use the hidden power of "No" when working with certain types of people or with time-challenged teams. 

Today I have a client where the team is out of town half of every month. Saying that scheduling meetings is a challenge is sometimes an understatement.

With their personalities and time commitments, they are the perfect candidates for applying my "No" style of consulting.

For example, while developing a new presentation outlying the group's strategy, we would collaborate and develop the outline. I would then show them two to three options for each of the major concept storyboards/slides. The various team members inevitably would tell me more about what he/she didn't like than what he/she did like.

And that was perfect. I got the results I wanted. I learned what the team preferences were for the messaging and visuals.

Sometimes consultants shy away from what seems like a confrontational communication style. Try looking at how the client communicates, the reasons, and what you can do to adapt your style to achieve the same results.

As I was driving through the neighborhood last evening, a business acquaintance and neighbor stopped me to say how much he appreciated the volunteer work I’ve done in our community over the past few years.

In the currency of life, he told me our most precious asset is time – how we spend it, what we spend it doing and who we spend it with. He told me one reason he liked working with me was because of my willingness to share my time helping others.

For me, volunteering is a labor of love. It’s who I am and it’s a big part of my personal brand. For many organizations, particularly those rooted in their local communities, serving others is as much a part of their brands as it is of mine.

Organizations who serve others foster goodwill in the communities they serve, build relationships with potential customers and provide assistance to those in need. They share their resources willingly with others and, in the process, differentiate themselves as brands that are sincere in their commitment to making a difference in our lives.

How is your brand serving its community?

For more on serving your community, please see these posts:
• Service Before Self: Why Strength of Character Compels Others to Do Business With You
 Do A Good Turn Daily
• What the Boy Scouts Can Teach Your Business About Serving Others

I received the below email from Carol. She wrote, "I think you will get a real kick out of this email. She sent a thank you note to everyone--at the same time!  It's perfect for your blog."

Thank you...yes it is.

So here is the email with all of the names changed and some of the text to ensure anonymity. After the email are a few comments and suggestions.

--------------------------------------

From: Julie L.
To: John F., Eric P., Sara M., Laurie A., Raul S.
Subject: Great meeting you last week

Sara and John, thank you again for the invite to the invent. Double thank you for the introductions to Eric, Laurie, and Raul.

Eric and Laurie, it was a pleasure meeting you both and hearing a little about your company. I'll definitely be on the lookout for opportunities for partnering. I really like the potential of us working together. Let's talk again in about a month.

Raul, it was great meeting you as well.  I'm sorry I didn't get to learn a little more about your business this morning. Do let me know what your schedule looks like after the first week of September and we'll get together for lunch.  

Regards,
Julie


Comments & Questions
- "It was great meeting you as well" does not sound very enthusiastic. I know Julie's was well-intentioned...it just didn't come across that well.
- Subject Line:  make it relevant, specific, and personal. Something like, "Follow up from last week's event at XYZ - Great to meet you"

Suggestions
- Always send the follow up email to an individual
- Always personalize the email (just like Julie did)
- Endeavor to email within two business days following the event

Three months ago, I purchased a new car – a Volkswagen Jetta. During my brief customer journey with the Volkswagen dealership, I’ve begun to build lasting relationships. They are the kind of relationships that inspire brand loyalty and drive customer retention.

My customer journey with Stohlman Volkswagen of Tyson’s began with the salesperson who greeted me on my very first visit. Dieter provided my wife and me with an outstanding purchase experience. He took the time to understand our car buying needs and, above all, made sure we felt comfortable with the car we were looking to buy.

Since buying the car, I've needed to bring my new Jetta in for service. While the problems that needed to be repaired were all very minor, what made the difference between a positive and negative perception of the Volkswagen brand was the experience I received from my service consultant, Bobby. For me, when the service experience is extraordinary, minor product defects are easily overlooked.

Most recently, my customer journey took me to a “New Owner’s Clinic”. There, I met several members of the Stohlman service team. What made this experience unique from others I have attended was the opportunity to meet one-on-one with the service technicians who will be doing future repair work on my car. One of those technicians, Aaron, was bright, articulate and overflowing with useful tips and information.   

Relationships help foster trust, which in turn drives loyalty and a desire to keep coming back. While I may not know where the road ahead will lead me, I can tell you I’m looking forward to continuing my customer journey with Stohlman Volkswagen.

Is the journey you are providing to your customers driving the same results?

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The Road to Best-in-Class

Name the best in your industry, profession or sport. What are they doing now?

Practicing. Preparing for the next campaign, interview or game.

Somewhere right now, someone is competing with you for the top spot.  They’re honing their strategies, perfecting basic skills and learning new techniques. 

If you or your organization is looking to become the best in your industry, profession or sport, you need to make sure you and your team members are all-in. In short, everyone needs to be personally invested in your success. And that means practice and preparation.

Practice can make a positive impact in almost every functional area of an organization.  In the area of marketing communications, for example, team members from best-in-class organizations tend to exhibit these attributes:
• A well-rehearsed elevator speech (answer to “What do you do?). Everyone should be able to internalize and deliver the same 30-second pitch.
• Presentations with purpose. Prepare for and rehearse your customer presentations so you start and end on time and follow a customer-focused agenda.
• A clear and consistent message.  Every message you share verbally, in print and online should be consistent with your desired brand perception.
• The right tools and resources. Choose your resources wisely. Use tools like white papers, email, direct mail, websites, testimonials and social media that demonstrate a record of quantifiable success.
• A relentless pursuit of excellence. Strive to exceed your customer’s expectations. Outperform your competitors.

Is your organization looking to become best in class? Are you striving to achieve breakthrough performance in business results – like sales, customer loyalty or brand differentiation? If it is, then it may be time for some decisive leadership.

I recently read an article in The Washington Post that talked about recent personnel changes by the Washington Redskins, our local NFL franchise. In this highly competitive world where coaches and players are held firmly accountable for their performance (i.e., where careers are made or broken by the number of games won in a single season), I was struck by the leadership perspective offered by Mike Shanahan, current head coach and 3-time Super Bowl winner (twice as a head coach): “A lot of people are afraid of being second-guessed. They make their decisions based on what other people say, rather than what they see with their own eyes, on general consensus. They don’t see it themselves; they ask other people’s opinions.”

Are the leaders of your organization behaving like this? Are they afraid to make decisions for fear of being blamed if results are less than expected? Are they relegating important decisions to general consensus? If this decision-making approach is failing to deliver the results you are expecting, then perhaps more decisive leadership is in order.

Sure, every decision entails some element of risk and not every decision will result in the desired outcome. Breakthroughs in performance often come from new ideas and almost always require leaders to assume some level of risk…and accountability.

Confident, informed and inspired leaders like Coach Shanahan know what it takes to drive breakthrough performance. What they need from you and the other members of your organization is a culture that rewards decisiveness and accountability.

Thirty speakers. Sixty minutes. One challenge. This is how an upcoming web seminar is describing itself. You have to do the math to appreciate the impact. Each speaker has two minutes to present his/her topic. Just two minutes.

I'm verrrry curious and intrigued to watch and evaluate the messages. I use a variety of workshop program evaluators, some of which are complementary and similar. I'll be looking to see if the program was: 

1. Valuable:  Did the suggestions, resources, references, etc. offer unique ideas I can't find elsewhere?

2. Simple:  Did I quickly understand the messages, supporting facts, and suggestions?

3. Useable:  Could I see myself, partners, staff, clients using the information? (Complementary to #4)

4. Actionable:  Could I use some of the information today, immediately? I always suggest ~80% today and ~20% tomorrow (strategic) content for educational programs (Complementary to #3)

5. Practical:  Were the suggestions, ideas, questions, and exercises appropriate for the intended audience in terms of prior-knowledge and expectations?

6. As Expected:  Did the speakers deliver the "Expected Experience." I was inspired to act, entertained to keep my attention, and educated to learn ensuring I left knowing more than before.

7. Described Well:  Were the program objectives easy to understand and was the write-up compelling?

8. Interactive:  Did the speakers include exercises, thought-provoking questions, and/or thought-provoking imagery?

9. Pacing:  Did the speakers talk at a conversational, easy-to-follow pace?

10. Amount:  Did the speakers cram too much information into the program or was the amount of information just right?

 

Here's the write-up from the site. Register here.

As a marketing decision-maker, your job becomes more complex–and challenging–each day. New channels and platforms emerge continuously. So, what are the most effective ways to plan and launch an integrated, multi-channel marketing campaign today?

Join us as we bring together 30 marketing leaders to each share their best ideas for leveraging email, mobile, social, paid media, analytics, and more to build your brand and business. In just 60 minutes, you’ll hear from leaders like Guy Kawasaki, Chris Brogan, and Brian Solis, and brands including IBM, American Express, Pandora, Coca-Cola, Kayak, and more.

It all starts on July 28 at 1pm ET (10am PT/6pm BST). You’ll discover the story of Sarah DeLash, our fictional senior marketer who’s endeavoring to transform her company from an outdated, industrial-era corporation to a modern, relevant, socially conscious brand.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tips for Winning at Sales

As I reflect back on my experience in large commercial Information Technology (IT) sales, the one constant that keeps coming to mind is the presence of formidable competition on virtually every deal.

Since my price was rarely, if ever, the lowest, I learned to work harder and smarter than my competition to win deals. I learned to sell beyond price.

Here are 5 helpful tips for winning at sales:
1. Get to know your customer.
 Understand why your customer is buying and how you can help him or her to be successful. Position yourself as a consultant. Strive to become their trusted advisor.

2. Focus on your positive attributes.
 If you are a small company competing against a larger one, emphasize the higher level of personal service your customers will receive. Conversely, if you are a large company competing against a smaller one, focus on the resources that are available to support your customer.

3. Get in front of your decision makers.
 Show your decision maker(s) through personalized service and tactful persistence you are interested in earning their business. Find reasons to engage them in conversation often – over the phone or in person.

4. Introduce your team early.
 Help your customer feel comfortable with the people who will be working with him or her after the sale. Introduce your team members early in the sales process and showcase their expertise.

5. Provide a list of satisfied customers.
 Have a list of enthusiastic customers who are willing to share their positive experience with you and your company. Be sure they can speak to the tangible results they’ve realized by implementing the product or service you are selling.

For more tips on how to win at sales, please see:
• B2B Sales Tip: Friend Your Customer
• Are Your Salespeople Unforgettable?
• Trusted Advisor or Vendor: How to Tell the Difference

Join NBPCI and The Chief Storyteller for a roll-up-your-sleeves workshop to make your three most important documents unforgettable to prospective government clients. They are your elevator speech, capability statement, and capability presentation. Turn your Big 3 into memorable, powerful packages inspiring prospects to say, “We need you.” 

The event is Tue, July 26, 8:30 - 11:30, Fairview Park Marriott Hotel, 3111 Fairview Park Drive, Falls Church, VA 22042.

*** We have secured a special rate just for friends of the The Chief Storyteller. Register today.

Detailed information is below...

The Big 3:  How to Grow Your Revenue with a Compelling Elevator Speech, Capabilities Statement, and Capabilities Presentation

Learn how to develop high impact messages with supporting talking points, content, and win themes through easy-to-follow processes. Your program is rich with practical ideas and thought-provoking exercises you can implement immediately.

Bring hardcopies of your Big 3 documents and your laptop, as you’ll be making changes to your documents during the program.

* Special Offer:  For 30 days following the workshop, you are eligible for a free review of one of your Big 3 documents. Each review includes personalized suggestions.

Benefits of Attending
- Learn a powerful, internationally-taught process for developing compelling and engaging sales messages
- Make changes in real-time to each of your core sales tools
- Be inspired with proven, fresh ideas to convert prospects into clients

Your Program Includes:
- 30-page workbook filled with exercises, examples, how-to’s, processes, and templates
- Three, multi-page tip guides
- Free access to over 700 thought-provoking articles, ideas, and tips
- Copy of the presentation in PDF
- A 3-hour hands-on workshop, along with a specific action plan for improving your Big 3

We have secured a special rate just for friends of the The Chief Storyteller. Register today.

About Your Presenter, Ira Koretsky, The Chief Storyteller ®
Ira has been helping companies like yours develop strategic messaging and content management frameworks for over 23 years. He knows how to help you turn your Big 3 into documents getting prospects to say, “We need you.” Ira has delighted audiences around the world turning business stories into revenue. He is a sought-after speaker, consultant, columnist, and trainer. Be inspired with his mantra, “Think deliberately and differently.” Stay engaged with insightful exercises and actionable ideas you can implement immediately.
The Chief Storyteller helped IntelliDyne win a $94 million contract with the Federal government, TCIG quadruple its contracting revenue in six months, professionals at the EPA develop clear and compelling mission statements, and the CDC develop a complete outreach program for an important community health initiative.

Complete biography chiefstoryteller_pdf

Ever wonder which of your customer touch points is the most important?

Common answers I hear when I ask this question include the following: a direct mail piece or radio spot, website, the salesperson or ticket agent, a customer service representative, the invoice or perhaps the one who greets customers as they arrive.

Depending on the number and order of touch points your customer experiences, each of these may be right. For me, it’s the last one I touch. Why?

A friend of mine works as a gate attendant at a performing arts center. His job is to greet the patrons as they arrive and to collect their tickets. As they are exiting the venue after the show, he can typically be found at the same gate.

What amazes him is the number of patrons each night who tell him how much they enjoyed the show. Many of them will even thank him for a wonderful evening. To these patrons, he has become the face of his employer.

As their last touch point before or after the show, how he treats them has a lasting impact on their experience that evening. If his interaction with them is positive, even in the midst of the hustle and bustle that comes with navigating a large crowd, patrons will recall their experience as a positive one and will be more inclined to return.

Now think of how many touch points your customers experience when they interact with your business. Of the ones I mentioned above, which do you think is making the greatest impression?

At 6:17 am I was awoken by a loud banging noise. Well, more of a knocking noise. There is absolutely nothing in our bedroom that could make the noise!

Perhaps it was a crew roofing a neighbor's home. The thought of that premise made me just a tad upset...6am is just too early. I looked outside. Nope!

I just couldn't imagine what it was...I got dressed and went out back. Lo and behold, there was a woodpecker furiously pecking away at the wood just below the roof line, above our bedroom window.

"What did I do?" you ask.

Well, I did what every normal communications professional would do...I asked nicely.

She looked a bit startled. And then she promptly flew away (she based on my limited research. the bird was either a Hairy Woodpecker [Picoides villosus] or Downy Woodpecker, [Picoides pubescen])

It got me thinking. I could have selected any number of negative actions to rid myself of the woodpecker. Instead, I went the way of kindness--an important mantra of mine that I live by and offer in my programs.

What can you do to make an uncomfortable, inconvient, unpleaseant, etc. situation better? What positive steps can you take to diffuse a situation. My dad always said, "kindness first."

A friend of mine received this email yesterday as he was finalizing plans for a breakfast meeting.

This is the word-for-word email he received in response. I only changed the name of the woman to protect the guilty party.

"Sounds great, thanks! Did you have a place in mind? If possible I will bring Carol (my attractive colleague, I believe you met) along as well."

I wonder what Carol would think and say to the guy who authored this email?

Join NBPCI and The Chief Storyteller for a roll-up-your-sleeves workshop to make your three most important documents unforgettable to prospective government clients. They are your elevator speech, capability statement, and capability presentation. Turn your Big 3 into memorable, powerful packages inspiring prospects to say, “We need you.” 

The event is Tue, July 26, 8:30 - 11:30, Fairview Park Marriott Hotel, 3111 Fairview Park Drive, Falls Church, VA 22042.

*** We have secured a special rate just for friends of the The Chief Storyteller. Register today.

Detailed information is below...

The Big 3:  How to Grow Your Revenue with a Compelling Elevator Speech, Capabilities Statement, and Capabilities Presentation

Learn how to develop high impact messages with supporting talking points, content, and win themes through easy-to-follow processes. Your program is rich with practical ideas and thought-provoking exercises you can implement immediately.

Bring hardcopies of your Big 3 documents and your laptop, as you’ll be making changes to your documents during the program.

* Special Offer:  For 30 days following the workshop, you are eligible for a free review of one of your Big 3 documents. Each review includes personalized suggestions.

Benefits of Attending
- Learn a powerful, internationally-taught process for developing compelling and engaging sales messages
- Make changes in real-time to each of your core sales tools
- Be inspired with proven, fresh ideas to convert prospects into clients

Your Program Includes:
- 30-page workbook filled with exercises, examples, how-to’s, processes, and templates
- Three, multi-page tip guides
- Free access to over 700 thought-provoking articles, ideas, and tips
- Copy of the presentation in PDF
- A 3-hour hands-on workshop, along with a specific action plan for improving your Big 3

We have secured a special rate just for friends of the The Chief Storyteller. Register today.

About Your Presenter, Ira Koretsky, The Chief Storyteller ®
Ira has been helping companies like yours develop strategic messaging and content management frameworks for over 23 years. He knows how to help you turn your Big 3 into documents getting prospects to say, “We need you.” Ira has delighted audiences around the world turning business stories into revenue. He is a sought-after speaker, consultant, columnist, and trainer. Be inspired with his mantra, “Think deliberately and differently.” Stay engaged with insightful exercises and actionable ideas you can implement immediately.
The Chief Storyteller helped IntelliDyne win a $94 million contract with the Federal government, TCIG quadruple its contracting revenue in six months, professionals at the EPA develop clear and compelling mission statements, and the CDC develop a complete outreach program for an important community health initiative.

Complete biography chiefstoryteller_pdf

How would you describe the relationship between your account executives (or account managers, client executives, etc.) and their customers?

If your business model calls for a consultative, solutions selling approach, your salespeople should have a relationship that transcends the typical supplier-customer one. They should be friends.

In one of my first blog posts, I wrote about the importance of refrigerator rights. Refrigerator rights are what customers give to salespeople when they trust them. They are the essence of long-tem relationships. And they must be earned.

To get them, your salespeople need to be continuously engaged with their customers throughout their relationship with your brand. Salespeople need to provide something of value to them – before, during and after they buy. Over the long-term. This is how relationships are built and sustained.

Ultimately, this is what will help differentiate you from the competition.

For more ideas on increasing sales effectiveness, please see:
• Are Your Salespeople Unforgettable?
• Sales Is Not a Spectator Sport
• Be Your Own Customer

True or false? Social media conversations influence purchases.

True. A May 2010 chart from Internet market researcher eMarketer identified the sources that most influence purchases by social media users. Here are some of the findings:
• Friends – 55%
• People like them – 55%
• Brands – 38%
• Retailers – 35%
• Influential Bloggers – 26%

If you subscribe to the view that the majority of Internet users regularly use a social network, odds are the next purchase your prospects (and your customers) will make is being influenced by a social media conversation somewhere…even as you read this post.

If your business is not engaged in these conversations, your story is being told by someone else. It could be your competition. Or it could be someone who is contributing to a less than positive perception of your brand. In either case, it’s not likely those conversations will influence anyone to purchase your products and services.

Why not join the conversation and engage your customers?

This morning I attended a breakfast discussion on mobile technologies hosted by AFCEA Bethesda, "Mobile Technologies – Info on the Go."  While the focus was on technology, one of my conversation partners asked my opinion on what has changed with regard to messaging and mobile.

Without hesitation, I told her, "it hasn't."

Advertising and messaging has ALWAYS been about using the right words to attract the right audiences. Mobile is just another means of connecting to and with audiences.

Think about the common attributes of successful advertising campaign. Some of the top attributes include:

- Unified message. This message brings everything together in a short and succinct phrase. Think newspaper or magazine headline.  And the message is unified through all communications used by the organization.

- Unforgettable message. The message is memorable and understandable. Effective word-of-mouth relies on these very principles. One of the best examples are the commercials during the US Super Bowl. Can you name another televised event where consumers truly look forward to the commercials?

- Story. Advertising needs a story the listener/reader can immediately relate to. Great advertising is all about the shared experience. The advertising has to deliver on making tomorrow better, in some way. Otherwise, why would anyone buy it?

- Specific target audience. Specific campaigns to specific audiences yield better results time and time again over broad appeal campaigns.

- Integrated approach. Organizations use the right communication channels to reach the right audiences. Today, we have the traditional channels of magazines, newspapers, billboards, television, and radio. The newer channels include mobile, blogs, video blogs, podcasts, banners, and videos (Note:  We've identified over 450 communication elements today...so there are lots more I could add).

- Measurement system.  Marketing must evaluate continuously what is working and what is not working. Think A|B testing or more complex approaches with A|B|C|D|X testing, surveys, couponing, and polls.

Additional Resources:

- AdAge.com, Top 100 Advertising Campaigns
- Define Yourself in a Way That’s Relevant to Your Target Audience
- Advertising is the Same Worldwide

The July issue of Consumer Reports includes the results of a nationwide survey listing the most annoying customer service problems. Among the top 5 problems are rude and pushy salespeople.

Think about the last time you shopped for a new car. Or maybe a new appliance. What was your experience like? What is it that you remember most about your salesperson?

If you’re like me and a good number of those who were surveyed, you’ve probably encountered your share of rude, pushy salespeople. I cycled through two salespeople (and dealerships) before finding one I felt comfortable enough to buy a new car from. What made the third truly unforgettable were the following behaviors:
• A helpful yet laid-back approach. He made it clear from the outset his goal was to help me find the car that was right for me, even if it meant not closing the sale on the first, second or third visit.
• A polite and welcoming attitude. Each time I visited, I was told to make myself comfortable and offered something to drink.
• Superior product knowledge. I learned something new every time I interacted with the salesperson and his colleagues at the dealership.

How do your salespeople compare? Are they interacting with your customers in a way that will make them unforgettable?

I ordered take-out pizza for the family the other night. It was late, I was in a hurry and we were all really hungry.

When I arrived to pick up my pizza, I paid my bill and was handed my receipt. The first thing I noticed was the spelling of my name – Dwan. It wasn’t even close to being right. I was in a hurry and didn’t even give it a second thought.

The cashier handed me my pizza. I grabbed the pizza, got in my car and drove home.

It wasn’t until I got home and my son opened the box that I realized I had been given the wrong pizza. I drove back to the restaurant and told the cashier what had happened. Strangely enough, they acted as if this happened all the time. No big deal, they said, as they took back the one I was returning. As it turned out, the pizza I had ordered was still there.

For a family-run restaurant whose website touts their dedication to excellence in service, I was a little surprised at the response I had received. It wasn’t until I had mentioned the inconvenience of having to make two separate trips before the manager had apologized and offered to pay for my next pizza. I accepted his apology – and the credit – and still left feeling less than satisfied with my experience there.

It got me thinking about another recent experience I had with a local restaurant. To be sure, mistakes happen...all the time. What differentiates the truly remarkable businesses from the ordinary ones is how they recover from their mistakes. The truly remarkable organizations empower their people to make things right before the customer even has a chance to ask. Even when mistakes are made, their customers still manage to leave with a satisfying experience.

My daughter recently "graduated" from the infant room at daycare to the toddler room. As such I haven't seen the women in the infant room for about a month. I typically pick up my daughter in the evening while my wife drops her off in the morning. Today, I dropped her off and by chance, ran into Barb from the infant room.

She smiles and without hesitation said, "I haven't seen you in a while. When are you making me a new baby?"

I turned red from embarrassment , laughed loudly, and responded, "you'll have to ask my wife."  

Because we have gotten to know Barb so well with various baby and home issues you would never imagine talking to a stranger about, she was comfortable telling me such a bold statement. As much time as she spent with our daughter, we thought of her as an extended part of our family. And the way she treated our daughter, she thought of herself the same.

What kind of relationships do you have with your staff, bosses, colleagues, partners, vendors, grantees, and so forth?  Relationships are everything. It's too easy to switch "relationships" when you don't have a genuine and authentic connection.

Here are some areas to ask people about to to deepen connections. Start small until you have gained someone's trust.

- Family
- Hobbies
- Job
- New projects
- Upcoming business travel
- Upcoming holiday travel
- Books reading/recently read
- Articles reading/recently read
- Movies watched/recently watced
- Significant dates (e.g., birthdays and anniversaries)

Leonardo da Vinci once said, “The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.” When you’re looking to drive improved business results, one of the greatest joys can be truly understanding your target audience – their wants, their needs, and their motivations.

In conjunction with the national effort by the same name, I recently organized a Bike to Work Day event for my friends and colleagues at the office. I was looking to increase our participation rate from last year’s event (myself and one other) to something more significant. Before I even announced my plan, I started asking people I knew some very basic questions:
  • What would motivate you to ride your bike ten miles to work on a Friday in May?
  • Is there anything in particular you would want to happen before, during, or after the event?
  • Is there anything in particular you would need to make the trip more comfortable and enjoyable?

The list of responses included some basic things like a place to shower and change, a healthy snack, a safe place to store their bikes, pleasant weather conditions, and a chance to win a prize. Armed with this information, I proceeded to organize an event that would deliver on as many of these needs and wants as possible.

What followed was a 200% year-over-year increase in participation. I went from 2 to 6 participants simply by understanding and addressing the wants, needs, and motivations of my target audience.

If you’re looking to drive improved results in your business, make the effort to understand your target audience. Use that understanding to deliver elements of perceived value that will compel them to act.

Over the weekend, I took the family to one of our favorite restaurants. As we were leaving, I noticed the van and how busy it was in regard to the various messaging elements (over 20).

The "Cool prices ... Warm Service!" phrase stood out--it was memorable, short, and playful.  It prompted me to find them on the Internet.

The home page is simple, and I was glad to see the slogan unified with the website messaging (MBS Mechanical website). 

Have you ever used playful messages in your communications? 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

May I Help You?

I had an extraordinary customer experience this past Saturday at my local Home Depot.

I walked in with a small list of materials I needed for the day’s home improvement projects around the house. As I walked around the store, I encountered Home Depot associates at every turn. Without exception, every one of them greeted me with the words, “May I help you?” 

I was most impressed with Tom, an associate behind the counter in the kitchen design area. You see, I wasn’t standing in front of him when he asked if he could help me. I was actually in an adjacent area looking for a wooden shelf rod for one of my closets. Tom greeted me from across the room and then proceeded to walk me to the other side of the store, where the wooden shelf rods were.

I got the feeling these Home Depot associates viewed me for what I was that morning – a customer. To them, I was more than just another handyman “wannabe” or an interruption of their work. I was the reason for their work. Each of them took the initiative to ensure my experience was a good one.

“May I help you?”

Four simple words. A consistent message at every touch point. Personal accountability. And an extraordinary customer experience.

I went for a trail run the other day. The air was warm and the sun was shining so I opted for an outdoor experience.

I brought along everything I would need – my Vibram FiveFingers® shoes, Nike Dri-Fit running apparel, Oakley sunglasses, Coppertone sunscreen and Apple iPod. Although I had purchased these products from five different retailers, I brought them together to form an ensemble that would play well with my planned adventure of exploring a cross-country trail on a warm summer-like day.

As I neared the completion of my run, I marveled at how perfect my experience had been. While I was clad in gear representing five different and sometimes competing brands, it was almost as if they had all come together in perfect harmony. Without conflict or duplication of effort, each had performed their assigned function as expected. If I had to describe my experience in a single word, it would be "comfort."

Now, pretend for a moment I was able to buy all five of these products at a single retailer. How might my perception of that retailer differ from those of the five separate retailers I had visited? It's possible I might perceive the one who could provide me with the right mix of products as an organization that specializes in comfort, instead of a single product. I might have been willing to pay a premium for the convenience of being able to find everything in one place.   

If you’re in the business of selling products and services from multiple brands, what steps are you taking to ensure they are working together in perfect harmony to provide an unforgettable customer experience?

To view more fitness metaphors for business, explore these posts:
Marketing Muscles and Sales Sprints – What Getting Fit Taught Me About Business (Guest: Pam Greene)
Online Marketing: Good Landing Pages Are Easy to Follow
A New Year’s Resolution

I met Colin, the CEO of E Group at a regional government contractors conference. After a great conversation, we exchanged business cards. As per my norm, I looked at the card front and then back.

Lo and behold, I was compelled to read the back. I discovered Colin's personal statement (see images below).

I excitedly peppered him with all sorts of messaging-related questions. As the CEO, Colin shared everyone in the company has his/her own customized card (as a second example, see Frank's card below).  

In all of my 25 plus years of professional networking and personal events attended...in meeting thousands and thousands of people, I can without hesitation say this is truly a unique card. The other unique card comes from Superhero cards (read Mere Mortal or Superhero? and I Love Being a Superhero).

What are you doing to stand out and be unforgettable?

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