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Ira Koretsky
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Duane Bailey
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My oldest son and I attended a ceremony for newly licensed drivers at the County courthouse the other day. Like any other parent-son activity, I seized the opportunity to use it as a teachable moment – this time on dressing for success.

When I was growing up, business suits were reserved for special occasions. My dad is a retired factory worker and rarely wore a suit and tie. Etched in my memory is the one instance when he attended a court proceeding. I remember his telling me how important it was to wear a well-pressed suit and tie. It was a sign of respect, he said, for the authority of the court and the people who worked there.

And so it never occurred to me to show up to the courthouse in anything less. As we stood in line at the entrance, we were amazed at what we saw – there were teens in shorts and t-shirts, parents in blue jeans and polo shirts and only a handful with a tie and no jacket. I told my son not to worry. As I learned in sales, there is no such thing as over-dressing.

As the judge entered the room, we observed the usual protocol of rising and then sitting when told to do so. The judge addressed us from the Bench, reminding the teens and their parents of the seriousness of the responsibility they were about to undertake. The ceremony concluded with her presenting each parent-son couple the teen’s new driver’s license.

When our turn came, I and the young man who came dressed for success politely thanked the judge. I could tell by the smile on her face she sensed my son was ready to assume his new responsibility. I know I did. I could tell by the way he was dressed.

I was recently in the market for a new pair of running shoes. Like most runners, I was looking for a way that would help me run faster and farther. I had been considering minimalist footwear for some time and was ready to make the leap to barefoot running – or at least the feel of it.

In short, I was looking for a new running experience.

I purchased a pair of Vibram FiveFingers® minimalist shoes. In the short time I have owned them, they have provided me with an experience like no other shoe. When I run outside, I can feel the grass under my feet. I’m feeling more connected to nature and the environment. At the gym, it’s as if I’ve been given the freedom to wander around barefoot. No wonder the gym is feeling more like home these days.

I don’t know if the movement toward barefoot/minimalist running will turn out to be another fad...or what it will do for my time or distance. What I do know is Vibram has found a way, through product innovation, to differentiate itself with a rich and unique customer experience. When it comes to Vibram’s FiveFingers® running shoes, less really is more.

Are your customers telling you your products and services are the same as everyone else’s? Is your customer experience virtually identical to those of your competitors? Perhaps it’s time to start innovating. What can you do to make your customer experience richer and more unique?

I recently responded to a question from one of my professional speaking groups in LinkedIn. The person asked about the value of free workshops. Absolutely, if done deliberately. Here's my answer...

For new speakers, free/unpaid speaking engagements is a great way to build momentum, brand, awareness, etc. Also, in regard to some of the other comments, invest in yourself with speaker professional development training and practice. For my first large keynote of several thousand, I rented a room and invited 50 of my friends and colleagues to lunch. I went through my presentation. Then eagerly listened to their suggestions. Best investment early in my speaking career.

For experienced speakers, be selective. I only speak for free for associations/trade groups as I'm leveraging a one-to-many relationship. Our name, brand, topic, and message gets shared with the email list, sometimes in excess of 20,000 names. Every single free event has yielded another event or a paid engagement. I use three main criteria before saying yes. Does the majority of the audience meet my Ideal Client Profile (ICP)? Is it within an hour's drive? In exchange for my time, will the organizer provide a testimonial and positive referral to headquarters for potential national exposure? If yes to all three, then I generally accept the invitation. If it's outside an hour, then I start talking expenses and fees.

I treat every free event as if it's paid. Anything less and I shouldn't agree. The organizers know full well my time is an investment with the potential of new clients. To me, the difference between free and paid is in the level of customization. Paid events are customized--free events are not. I've been speaking for 30 years and spent 12 years performing improvisational humor professionally. So all of my customization is done on-the-fly.

Lastly, ensure you have a way to capture on-going interest. I offer tip guides, articles, no obligation review of one business story element, and others. Now I have interested persons who want to hear from me.

For many of us, our first impression of a brand comes in the form of our initial sales experience. An integral part of that experience is our interaction with the salesperson.

I recently purchased a new car. After a couple of false starts and unremarkable first impressions, I ended up buying the car from the third salesperson I met. What made my experience with him remarkable was how he made me feel during my first visit to his dealership. He took a genuine interest in me and what I was looking for. Instead of trying to sell me what he thought I wanted, he found a way to sell me the car I actually wanted. 

I’m now not only a customer; I’m also a brand advocate – I’d recommend him, his dealership and the car to my friends and colleagues.

If you’re in sales, either in the B2B or B2C space, here are five tips for making your customer’s first impression a good one:

1. Greet your customers and make them feel welcome. They are the reason you come to work each day.
2. Ask questions and listen. Find out what’s important to your customers and why.
3. Be creative and find solutions to your customers’ needs and wants. Resist the urge to sell what your customers don't want, even if it is the only thing you have.
4. Assume your customer knows more than you do. Anyone with a smartphone or a PC can become a self-educated expert on your product.
5. Build and nurture trust. All lasting relationships are built on trust. Break it early and you’ll never have the opportunity to rebuild it.

Brand advocacy starts with a good first impression. What kind of impression are your salespeople making on your customers?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How to Grow Your Network

I was speaking with a colleague the other day about one of the unpleasant side effects of business networking – the inevitable flood of phone call and email solicitations from aggressive salespeople looking to close a deal. This is hardly an effective way for anyone to grow their personal or professional network.

To me, business networking is simple. It’s all about meeting new people and getting them to engage with or, in Facebook terms, to “like” you. It’s about building trust through the establishment of a longer-tem relationship. And getting a business card from someone you’ve just met is the first step.

What you do with that business card is often the difference between growing and not growing your network. A follow-up note (e.g., “great to meet you, thanks for your time, looking forward to…”), an offer to help me in some way, or even a request to connect in LinkedIn are some great ways to continue the conversation with me. Each of these steps offers value. It shows me you genuinely care about helping others like me and, in return, it makes me more open to helping you.

If you are looking to grow your network, internalize the phrase I learned when I achieved my membership in the Order of the Arrow, the Boy Scouts of America's Honor Society: “He who serves his fellows is of all his fellows greatest.”

For more insights on growing your network, check out these posts:
- Service Before Self: Why Strength of Character Compels Others to Do Business With You
- Social Media Playground Rules – Are You a Giver or a Taker?
- Business Networking in a Foreign Land

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Simple Sells When Going Green

In my previous post, I mentioned Baja Fresh had found a simple and compelling way to promote an offer for a reusable plastic drink cup. Before I tell you what it is, let me give you two versions of the same message.  I’m going to ask you to pick the one you think Baja Fresh chose.

To help you decide, I want you to evaluate how well each of the messages I've provided answers these 3 questions:
1. Does the offer make sense to the consumer?
2. Does the offer communicate a clear benefit to the consumer?
3. Do the key sales points stand out?

Let’s start with the first hypothetical message, which could have been written by a pricing manager:

Get refills at 3.3¢ per fluid ounce, plus applicable sales tax, every time you present this 30-ounce cup at participating Baja Fresh locations.

Now consider the second message, which could have been written by a member of the marketing department:

REFILLS 99¢ FOREVER

Both messages essentially say the same thing. One is easier to understand, implies a clearer consumer benefit, and stands out more. Which do you think Baja Fresh chose? 

You guessed it, they chose the second one: “REFILLS 99¢ FOREVER”.  Take a closer look at the image I included in Tuesday’s post, and you’ll see it toward the bottom of the cup. If you look closely, you might even see a call-to-action immediately under the offer description: “Save a cup every time you refill this one.”

A message so simple, it has compelled my 8th and 10th graders to make repeated visits to the local Baja Fresh… cups in hand, $1.04 (the cost of the refill including sales tax) in their pockets, and smiles on their faces.  I can only imagine the number of cups they are saving.

You can still catch the first part of this story here:
- A FRESH Approach to Going Green

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A FRESH Approach to Going Green

I’m always fascinated when my 8th and 10th graders find an offer they are passionate about. Take the recent Baja Fresh in-store promotion, which asks consumers to save the Earth one cup at a time by refilling a reusable drink cup each time they visit.

Why would two teen-aged boys who aren’t overly passionate about the environment want to do this, I wondered, when clearly it would be easier for them to get their drinks in a disposable paper cup?

The creative on one side of the cup features a prominent headline, “Doing Our Part for Global Cooling,” between two images of birds and leafy green trees. In an interesting play on words, Baja Fresh has taken a negative consequence of pollution (e.g., global warming) and magically transformed it into a positive outcome (e.g., global cooling) their customers could experience firsthand…literally.

So Baja Fresh is a company that cares about our environment, or at least that’s my perception of the brand. Their main message seems to be they are doing their part to help the environment and with a little effort, I can do my part, too. I can do my part every time I refill the reusable cup. Sounds simple enough, right?

I asked my boys if this is what made them buy the cup.  No, came the answer. It was something much more basic and personal than that – it was the benefit Baja Fresh was offering to consumers like us who participate. And it made sense to them... every time I do my part, I get a large drink for half price.

By offering consumers a FRESH way to save money and the Earth, Baja Fresh succeeded in motivating two teenagers to do their part. Again… and again.

Read my next post, Simple Sells When Going Green, for more on the compelling offer description that inspired my teenagers to do their part.

How many times have you been sitting in some sort of team motivational meeting or workshop and been served up some fitness-related metaphor? “You gotta run that race!” “Get to the top of the mountain!” “Score that touchdown!” or “Ride the wave to success!”
Admittedly, sitting at your desk, making calls, sending emails, and attending meetings hardly seems athletic - even on casual Friday.  Truth be told, exercise and business have more in common than you'd think. I've found scores (no pun intended) of parallels. Everyday at work I encounter many of the same challenges and goals as I do in my workout. And the many miles I've put on my running shoes have taught me as much about my job as any book or motivational meeting.

1.  Identify What You Want
There are those who can go to the gym, five times a week, just because they enjoy it. I have never been one of those people. I have to have very specific goals and know exactly what I want to accomplish or I am not getting off of the couch. The same holds true in business. You have to identify what the client wants, or needs, or you will never be able to deliver it. 

By coming to terms with what I wanted, which included a flat stomach and an 8 minute mile, I was able to see the importance of finding out what each individual customer wanted, so that I could attain it for them.

2.  Create Desire
Once I figured out what I wanted, I had to create a deeper desire in myself to attain it. For my fitness goals, this can include bumping down a jean size for an upcoming high school reunion where I will NOT be the girl who used to be able to rock a little black dress. 

For a customer, this is sometimes creating desire that they don't even know they have. By making your product so enticing that they must have it, you have unlimited potential for sales.

3.  Create a Clear Plan
So how was I going to fit into those size 4 jeans? Well, I had to have a very specific plan. This of course, included hours of cardiovascular work, resistance training, and a very clean diet. All of this was laid out in stages, with increases in intensity, duration, and fluctuations in calories. I understood it to a tee. 

In business, you need that same clear plan every time you approach a consumer. Often accounts are lost because the sales or marketing person cannot spell out exactly what they have in mind. By giving detail and clarity to a plan, you will increase client retention and make the way much easier for you.

4.  Outrun the Competition
I'm competitive by nature. This is why running appeals to me. There is a start, a finish, and I have people to pass along the way. Staying ahead of the competition, no matter what industry you are in, is essential. It is an opportunity to always push your self to greater heights. Being just one-step ahead can be the difference between success and failure. I never thought I could place in a 10K, until my husband's ex-girlfriend showed up to the same one I was running in. Oh what a little competition can do.

5.  Re-evaluate
There have been points in my life where what I was doing was just not working and I was so busy, I barely noticed. Not just in the gym, also at work, personally, and even with my dog. 

And after a couple of weeks of endless frustration, I took a step back and began to re-evaluate what I was doing. In the gym, I completely altered my routine, starting taking a couple classes, and hired a trainer once a week. 
In business, following up with the client and constantly re-evaluating the situation is monumental to progress. Asking for help when you are stuck should not be a last ditch effort. It is something that should happen regularly.

6.  Assume the End Result
As a "Gym Rat" I am privy to a plethora of conversations that happen between trainers and clients. Most of these are from people who are frustrated with their appearance, performance, results, or their own habits. I've heard, "I will never be____" more times than I can count. 

I always assume the best end result possible with myself. I believe I can have the body of a 20 year old and can complete a half marathon this year. The idea of “assuming the sale” has been around forever, and yet, our own insecurities often get in the way of doing it. If you truly believe you have the best product for this client, that it will help build their business, and that you will follow up the sale with unparalleled service, why would you not assume the deal is done?

Start Today
Author Maria Robinson once said, "Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending." This is true in the race of life, business, and your health. Start today, and create the physique and career you want to have in the end.

Pam Greene's own journey to health and fitness started when a friend suffered through some health challenges. Realizing this was a wake up call to her to focus on her own health, she started learning about Fitness, Nutrition and Healthy Weight Loss. Pam now works for Beachbody, which provides Home Fitness Programs and Work Out Dvds including the well known P90X exercise program. Pam is passionate about sharing tips to help others eat better and exercise for better health.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Blogging for Higher Sales

If the success of your business, not-for-profit, or government agency rests upon how well you sell your ideas, products, or services and you’re not currently blogging, you may want to reconsider. You may be selling yourself short by overlooking this influential medium.

Technorati, the leading blog search engine and directory, recently released its annual “State of the Blogosphere” report for 2010. As I thumbed through the report, I was struck by the increasing influence of blogs in driving consumer recommendations and purchases. When asked about the likelihood of recommending or purchasing a brand, product, or service from a variety of information sources, over 40% of the consumers surveyed chose blogs. In fact, more consumers chose blogs than those who chose Twitter and most Facebook sources.

Now, that’s not to suggest Twitter and Facebook no longer have a role in generating consumer recommendations and purchases. What it does suggest, as the Technorati report concludes, is that the blogosphere is converging with social media. As my own experience with The Chief Storyteller® illustrates, bloggers are increasingly sharing their blog posts through one or both of these social networks.

Turn your communications into results. Consider the impact blogging might have on your sales results.

I have always loved video games. Anyone that plays or follows the industry knows how realistic they are becoming. Sounds, dialogue, scenery, locations and geography, and much more.

It's no surprise Jeep Wrangler has partnered with one of the top grossing video games, Call of Duty: Black Ops. Jeep has produced a special version call the Black Ops Edition.  

Visit the website and you'll be greeted to this home page along with battle sound effects. I really like the tagline of "The Only Vehicle Tough Enough to Play in this World."

A few suggestions to add media and consumer attention:  
>- Run a contest for game owners to win a Jeep
- Offer an in-game cheat you only can get from an authorized Jeep dealer
- Use social media like Twitter for a short-time to create additional buzz

* click on the image to view larger size

* Click on the image below to visit the Jeep site. While on the Jeep web site, click on the small image on the bottom of the screen to view the 30 second commercial

Like most of you, I receive a large number of email marketing messages. In about 3 seconds or less, I typically decide whether I will open or delete each email. What typically grabs my attention and compels me to act are the words in the subject line.

So when I received an email the other day from my wireless provider that said, “Exclusive customer invitation,” it grabbed my attention. I had to open it.

The email was an exclusive customer invitation to purchase an iPhone 4 before everyone else. Although it was a little copy heavy and included far too many links, I was captivated by its single message – exclusive customer invitation. It made me feel special. It was personal and it offered me an immediate benefit (e.g., the opportunity to get the iPhone 4 first). And, it actually compelled me to click-through some of the links in the email to learn more.

As an email marketer, there are some techniques you can use when writing your emails to help ensure they are opened and acted upon. One of those is to use a compelling subject line.  The subject line is one of the first things your readers will see after receiving your email. You want your subject line to scream, “Read Me!” You have fewer than 50 characters or less than ten words to write the most important part of your message. Make your headlines personal and offer a benefit. Grab the heart first, then the brain.

Last month I attended another great event from the local Meeting Planners International (MPI) Potomac Chapter.  Carolyn Kepcher was the luncheon keynote speaker. You may know Carolyn as one of the original judges on Donald Trump's The Apprentice. Now she is running an advice and self-help site geared toward women called Work Her Way.

When it was time for us to move from networking to lunch, we were greeted by a card leave-behind at our seats as you can see in the picture below.  The card front and back are very well done from branding, messaging, and call-to-action perspectives.

All too often we forget that every single communication item tells your business story. 



About a year ago I came across these very clever commercials from Ally Bank. Blog Entry 1 has the first commmercial and Blog Entry 2 has three more commercials.

Here are links to three more. Watch them at least twice. While the commercials are humorous, they are negative. They do have very strong messages.

What do you think? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments...

 

Ice cream (YouTube video link here)

Egg Management Fee (YouTube video link here)

No Run Around (YouTube video link here)




My colleague, Ira Koretsky, posted a similar story on this topic in October. Although the circumstances surrounding mine are a little different, both of our stories speak to the kind of customer experience your organization is providing to the people it serves. If your product or service is highly commoditized, the experience you provide can be your strongest differentiator.

A friend of mine, Hope, recently relayed this story to me. She works in an office building, at her firm’s corporate headquarters. One day, after almost everyone had gone home, a customer unexpectedly showed up. He had a question about the service he was receiving and did not feel he had gotten an adequate response from the company’s customer service center. So he got in his car and drove to the company’s nearest office.

The receptionist, eager to help, came to the area where Hope was working and asked if anyone would be willing to meet with a customer who had just walked in. Without hesitation, Hope said yes. Even though she didn’t officially work in customer service, Hope figured she might be able to help direct him to the right resource by spending a few moments listening to what he had to say.

When she greeted him, she thanked him for coming in. She sat down with him and tried to understand his concern and the frustration that lead him to show up at her office. Hope left him with her business card and promised to have someone follow-up with him within the next few days. Although she didn’t promise a specific outcome, she did provide him with a feeling that he was important enough to be heard.

What’s especially relevant about this story is how Hope made him feel. Had she merely referred him to the company’s toll-free customer service number, he would have felt like the company didn’t care about him or his business.  Instead, she made him feel special. In the words of American poet Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I was having lunch with my good friend and colleague John Fineran from FinTel Communications. He mentioned a cool new feature in LinkedIn. You can now have full-sized profile photographs.

When you visit someone's profile, move your mouse over the profile picture and you'll see a magnifying glass appear as in the picture below. Click and the larger picture appears.

To add your own personal high-resolution photograph, go to the Edit Profile option in the menu. Then click on the blue Edit link under your profile picture. Finish by following the instructions to upload your new photo. It should take 20 seconds.

You'll find other helpful article links on improving your LinkedIn profile at the bottom.

Improve Your LinkedIn Profile with Tips and Ideas from these Articles:
- Make Your Personal Brand Stand Out in LinkedIn
- LinkedIn for Job Hunters: Tips to Create a Must-Read Profile
- It’s Who Knows You: Three Little Known Ways to Turn LinkedIn into a More Valuable Sales Tool

It was one of those nights. Another late-night at the office. Car pools to after-school and evening activities for the kids. All my family and I wanted was a fast and convenient dinner. So we opted for the local Panera.

When we went to pick up our order, I looked quickly in the bag to see if everything was there. I didn’t bother to open each of the containers and just assumed they were complete. It was only after we had gotten home that I realized a couple of items were missing.

I had a few extra minutes between car pool assignments so decided to stop by the restaurant. The moment I walked in, an employee greeted me and listened to my story. Without hesitation, he apologized and said he would be right back. When he returned, he presented me with a bag and he told me what he had included.

When I told him he had given me too much (instead of one of each item, he had given me two), he looked at me, smiled, and said, “I apologize for your inconvenience. I hope you have a great night.” In that instant, he had succeeded in turning an ordinary take-out meal into an outstanding experience.

What made Panera’s customer service so great? A front-line employee was empowered to resolve my complaint. And without my asking, he found a way to make me feel like he had compensated me for the time I spent trying to correct their error. If your organization is in the business of serving customers, how great is your customer service?  

 

What do CEO's and Generals have in common? That's a question I always seem to ask myself because I have one foot in both worlds. I served in the military and I am now making my headway in the business world. Instead of leading a small squad of troops, I now lead a small group of young marketing employees. 

I'm finding that leadership stays true no matter who you're leading. You need to have a strong presence, be a mindful tactician, and play the role of teacher and superior. 

Here are some tips from the military that I've transitioned into my management style. 

Generals Grow Armies
In the military, this is called enlisting and boot camp. In the business world, this is known as hiring and training. The first step is to be a discerning interviewer – you want to look for existing skills and long-term potential as well. I'm naturally more inclined to hire someone who has shown a history of being "hungry," i.e., someone in school or someone who has been promoted multiple times.

These are individuals who will only prove more valuable with time. Also, there is no consideration for late interviewees - if that's their best behavior on the first meeting, then I certainly don't want to see what it's like during high pressure times.

During boot camp, strengths and weaknesses become apparent and natural leaders come out. When you're training new employees keep a close ear to the ground and see which ones take initiative. These are potential lieutenants, or trusted aids, which will help you, run your operation.

Training helps employees not only learn new procedures and protocol, it also is about teaching self regulation and self correction. In my marketing team, I actually have employees check each other's work before providing it to me for submission. This way I know it has gone through a few sets of eyes and minor errors are eliminated. It is a leader and manager's job to see the big picture and not get distracted by the small-scale mistakes. Those self-regulated status checks along the way save time in the end.

Generals Plan their Strategies
“Watch, listen, and learn. You can't know it all yourself. Anyone who thinks they do is destined for mediocrity,” Donald Trump.

A great leader is predictive and responsive. First, you need to find information on your opposing force. Be honest with yourself and evaluate your operation in comparison to your competitors. Hire outside contractors or send over your own employees to be "test customers." For example, if you're a retailer, find out how their customer service works, how they lay out their products on the shelves, and what coupons or sales they offer. You want a large set of honest objective information - because it is that information that allows you to evaluate where you lead and where you fall short.

A great leader also needs to be flexible. In my line of work, it's fairly easy to be flexible, as we're competing directly with marketing teams from other companies for the same set of customers. We can see their campaigns on their websites and Facebook pages. From there we can determine how to improve our offers and outreach. What you need to be careful of is the difference between being adaptive and being reactive. A reactive leader waits for the other side to make a move first, while an adaptive leader changes and adjusts their stratagem on the fly.

Generals are First into Battle
“The company is definitely set up in a way where myself and the other founders have a lot of control over it,” Mark Zuckerberg.

When spearheading a campaign, responsibility and consequences fall to me because every previous decision and aspect of my force has been chosen, trained, determined, and implemented by me. To be a leader is to be constantly tested against your choices. Not every choice is the best way or even the right way. 

A great leader is one who can admit a shortcoming and improve upon it quickly. Bill Gates is well known for saying, “behind most great and successful products or businesses are entrepreneurs who were turned down a hundred times.” Risks will need to be taken. It's a great leader who calculates the least amount of risk for the highest payoff.


John is an Operation Freedom War veteran and a manager for Airsplat, the nation's largest retailer of Airsoft Guns including Spring Airsoft Rifles.

We have various guides and templates in the office. Guides for writing blogs, articles, and tip guides. We have a brand guide for color, font, format, and logo use. What we don't have is a consolidated list, in one place, of all our mantras--the phrases, statements, aha's, rules, etc.--that "guide" us as we create and deliver content, messages, and great business stories.

Here are our top 50. Think about this list and how it can help prompt new and fresh approaches to your business stories. We would love to hear your mantras...please leave them in the comments.

1.    It’s all about them.
2.    Business stories are the engine of relationships and relationships are the engine of continued success.
3.    Write to the 10th grade level.
4.    Be memorable.
5.    Use humor if you want to.
6.    Content is king.
7.    Relationships matter.
8.    Credibility is more important than expertise in the beginning of relationships.
9.    Know your elevator speech / elevator pitch / mission statement (core business story).
10.    Ensure your core business story is unified throughout all communication materials.
11.    Your brand story is everything.
12.    Success stories are key to differentiation.
13.    (Good) blog and article content matters the most.
14.    Strive for “interest” questions. Avoid “understanding” questions.
15.    Social communities are built on personal and business stories.
16.    Everything you write, speak, and record online is a business story.
17.    Content first. Design second.
18.    Always have a second person read your content before publishing.
19.    Design your website for your target audiences (not your employees).
20.    Everyone builds relationships through networking.
21.    Send hand-written thank you notes, especially job hunters.
22.    Audiences are hungry for original thought-provoking content.
23.    Blogs are for sharing, educating, and inspiring…not selling.
24.    Get yourself known (e.g., LinkedIn questions and answers, post to SlideShare, and Tweet good information).
25.    Generating genuine interest in your product/service is the first step in building a relationship.
26.    Active listening is key to building great relationships.
27.    Write in your authentic voice.
28.    But is the worst word in the English language (and many other languages).
29.    Words really, really matter.
30.    Treat everyone like a CEO.
31.    Stop listening to your Mother. Talk to strangers at networking events.
32.    It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.
33.    Speak in headlines.
34.    Write and speak conversationally.
35.    Treat every client like your best client.
36.    Maintain a detailed Ideal Target Profile for your key target audiences.
37.    Have positive self-talk conversations.
38.    Change is a choice.
39.    Deliver on the expected experience.
40.    Create your own success momentum.
41.    Be a student everyday.
42.    Be a deliberate networker.
43.    Be a deliberate communicator.
44.    Be a people bridge and make referrals.
45.    Be a mentor.
46.    Be a whole body communicator.
47.    Write emails as if they will be read on a smart phone.
48.    Inspire Action: facts do not persuade and inspire, people do.
49.    First Impressions Make Lasting Impressions: offer a warm smile, firm handshake, and good eye contact.
50.    People are at the heart of every great story.

No one likes rejection. It can be humbling, disappointing, and just plain depressing. Knowing when to accept it, though, can mean the difference between a good salesperson and a mediocre one.

If you consider every one of us has at one time or another sold something, rejection can be more pervasive than most of us might realize. It happens when your customer says no, when your boss fails to approve an idea you have, or when you don’t get the job or promotion you had hoped for.

How you handle rejection says more about you as a person than you may realize. Continuing to press your case even after a decision has been made makes you appear self-centered and inflexible. Trying to influence others individually once a group decision has been reached appears underhanded.

On the contrary, accepting rejection graciously and attempting to learn from it shows strength of character. It demonstrates concern for other points of view and it conveys a healthy respect for the accomplishments of others. When done right, it leaves the door open to future opportunities and relationships.

So, the next time you face rejection, think about how you want others to perceive you. And where you want your future to take you. It’s entirely up to you.

I’ve always thought of sunglasses as something rather ordinary – a mass-produced, inexpensive commodity I could pick up in any drug or department store. All of this changed this past summer when my teen-aged son asked me to try on his pair of “Oakleys”.

I knew in an instant Oakley, Inc. had succeeded in turning the ordinary into something remarkable. The fit and feel of his sunglasses were like nothing I had ever experienced before. Through a unique blend of art and science, their products have made Oakley one of the most widely recognized brands in performance and fashion, particularly among the hundreds of professional and amateur athletes who sport Oakley products while competing.

As Oakley’s online brand overview proclaims, “It’s in our DNA to identify problems, create inventions, and wrap those inventions in art.” During a visit to one of their retail stores, I saw how easily the sales associate was able to build a pair of sunglasses around my own particular needs, likes, and dislikes.

Within a few short minutes, the retail sales associate handed me a custom-made pair of Oakley Radar® sunglasses to try on. The frames were the color of my choice (Matte Black/Grey) and the Pitch® lenses were chosen to complement the shape of my face. They came with the optional Iridium® glare-reduction coating I had requested. The sunglasses were designed with many of the features I couldn’t get with the ordinary ones I used to own: lenses that would block out harmful UV rays and prevent rain and sweat from building up, a nosepiece that would continue to grip even during heavy summer perspiration, a lightweight frame that would be as comfortable to wear at the end of the day as it was in the beginning, and impact-resistant lenses for blocking high-velocity projectiles from reaching my eyes while on the range. Oh, and did I mention how good they looked when I finally tried them on?

By finding a way to make my experience with sunglasses better than I thought possible, Oakley has succeeded in turning the ordinary into something remarkable. How remarkable, you ask? So much so that I was willing to pay almost 10 times as much as I used to pay for the ordinary sunglasses I once wore.       

 

Regardless of which side of the buyer-seller chasm you’re on, here’s a simple way of determining the type of business relationship you’re in. It lies in the answer to this singular question: “How much is your budget?”

When I was a technology sales representative for a Fortune 500 brand, I would spend hours with my clients trying to understand their business objectives. Before I could design a solution that could address those needs, I would ask them about their budget.

When I changed roles and became a customer, I had my own set of business needs and challenges. I relied on a number of suppliers for help in achieving the results I desired. Almost without exception, one of the first questions I heard from them concerned the size of my budget.    

Aside from being a good indicator of how serious buyers were about addressing their challenges, how I and my customers answered this question was ultimately a window into the type of business relationship that existed between buyer and seller.

The buyers who were reluctant to share this information, for fear that the solution might be deliberately priced to consume their entire budget, did not trust their salesperson. To them, the salesperson was just another vendor who was more interested in his or her sales commission than the customer's personal and organizational success.

The buyers who viewed their salesperson as a trusted advisor, however, were open and transparent. They gladly shared this information with the seller. They knew that if the buyer and seller shared ownership in the success of the initiative, including the management of its resulting costs, mutually beneficial results would follow.

Think about the answer you get (or give) the next time this question is asked. What kind of business relationship do you have with your seller (or buyer)?

I was recently asked to assist with the launch of a new marketing initiative. It was a premium offer targeted to a small segment of customers, affording them an opportunity to join a movement to address a global problem they cared deeply about.

My job was to inform and excite the organization’s customer-facing associates about this new initiative. If I could ignite their passion for helping others to improve their lives, they would feel empowered to lead the effort in recruiting customers to join the movement. 

The new marketing initiative was designed to solve a global problem. The problem was widespread and there were many causes. It was easy for the employees to wonder how one person could possibly make an impact.   

To ignite their passion, I used a business story that allowed me to show how one person could make a difference. I told the story of a man who spent his morning throwing starfish that had washed up on the beach back into the ocean. The beach was long and the starfish were many. If they were left on the beach, they would surely die. When the man was asked by a passerby how he could possibly make a difference when there were so many, he tossed yet another starfish in and said he was sure he had made a difference to that one.       

As I told the story, the room became quiet. The audience was attentive and engaged. Questions and comments flowed freely during the discussion that followed. One member of the audience later told me the story brought a tear to her eye. It was then that I knew I had succeeded in igniting their passion for helping others to improve their lives.

What business stories are you using to ignite passion within your organization?

Microsoft recently launched its new lines of smart phones to compete against Apple's iPhone and Google's Android. Microsoft has been effectively using YouTube to showcase its advertisements, functionality, and feedback.

It is employing the concept of "Really" throughtout the ads. It is simultaneously poking fun at current mobile fun usage and pointing out how some people are using their phones shall we say, a bit too much. While the ads are clever and engaging, sometimes they try too hard or seem not to make immediate sense. See if you agree...

Click on the pictures below to see the various commercials.

All my 8th grader really wants for Christmas is an iPhone 4. So, I took him to my cellular provider the other day to see if they could help us.

The first salesperson who greeted us wasn’t able to assist us, because we were asking for something the store didn’t have. She motioned for some help and another salesperson came over. I’ll call him Mark.

Mark introduced himself to me and shook my hand. He failed to acknowledge my son, who was standing next to me.  When I told him we wanted to buy an iPhone, he said they didn’t carry them. He offered to show me other smart phones that “worked like” iPhones and, after checking with my son, I declined. All he really wanted was an iPhone 4.

Mark then proudly acknowledged that at least they had an iPad, which was a “step in the right direction”. Having never used one, I asked him to show me how it worked. My son, a savvy iPod touch owner and Millenial, stood by silently and watched. Within seconds, he quickly surmised Mark had never used one before and had virtually no idea how it worked.  End of demo.

Before we left, Mark shook my hand and gave me a price book and his business card.  Again, he failed to connect with my son who, it turns out, was the real customer. Had he bothered to ask, he would have discovered my son knew exactly what he wanted and why. I was simply there to write the check; it was his decision to make.

At my son’s request, we drove to another carrier’s store. We were greeted by Joffrey, a salesperson who seemed to take a genuine interest in helping us. Without prompting, he shook my son’s hand and was extra careful to get his name right. He gave us their prices and walked us through the process for moving our five lines over to the new carrier. When we left without buying, he again shook our hands and thanked us each by name.

It’s starting to look like my son may just get an iPhone 4 for Christmas this year. As for the rest of my family, we’ll all be getting a new cellular carrier. 

In December of 2009, Robert Half Management Resources released the results of its study, "The Value Meal." The leading sentence starts, "CFO Survey Shows it Pays to Take Your Client to Lunch."

Here is the text of the press release:

Breaking bread with key contacts is good business, according to a recent survey of chief financial officers (CFOs). More than a third (36 percent) of executives surveyed said their most successful business meeting outside the office was conducted over a meal.

The survey was developed by Robert Half Management Resources, the world's premier provider of senior-level accounting and finance professionals on a project and interim basis. It was conducted by an independent research firm and includes responses from 1,400 CFOs from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with 20 or more employees.

CFOs were asked, "Other than in the office, what was the location of your most successful business meeting ever?" Their responses:

Restaurant 36% Trade show or conference 25% Sporting event 4% Golf course 3% In a car 1% On a trip/plane 1% Nowhere else, only in office 24% Other/don't know/refused 4%

 

   
  

 

 

 

(*Total does not equal 100% due to rounding)

"A well-chosen restaurant can offer a neutral, more relaxed environment than the office, often with fewer distractions," said Paul McDonald, executive director of Robert Half Management Resources. "Sharing a meal with clients or colleagues puts all parties more at ease and helps to establish rapport."

McDonald offers the following tips to ensure a successful business meeting outside the office:

  • Choose the right location. If you're planning on a restaurant, select one that is quiet, easy-to-find and provides excellent food and service. Make sure the menu has enough variety to accommodate anyone with dietary restrictions.
  • Arrive early. Plan on getting to the meeting before your guests so you can select a comfortable spot and be there to greet them.
  • Stay on schedule. While you want to postpone talking shop until after you've ordered, don't let the meal go on too long if your client has told you he or she has limited time to meet. On the other hand, if things are going well, avoid rushing to get your bill.
  • Give them your undivided attention. Never take cell phone calls or check e-mail at the table. As the host, it's your job to make sure the meeting is productive and on topic.
  • Practice good manners. Always treat the restaurant or facility staff with courtesy and respect.
About the Survey
The national study was developed by Robert Half Management Resources. It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on more than 1,400 telephone interviews with CFOs from a random sample of U.S. companies with 20 or more employees. For the study to be statistically representative and ensure that companies from all segments are represented, the sample was stratified by geographic region and number of employees. The results were then weighted to reflect the proper proportion of employees within each region.

About Robert Half Management Resources
Robert Half Management Resources is the premier provider of senior-level accounting and finance professionals to supplement companies' project and interim staffing needs. The company has more than 145 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at www.roberthalfmr.com.
Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Sales Is Not a Spectator Sport

I recently stopped by one of the big chain bookstores where I live to order a book. After waiting in line at the checkout counter for my turn, I was told I had to go to a desk at the back of the store, where I could order the book online…myself. I was also told I would need my credit card, as the store required prepayment in full. Once I placed my order, I would have to wait 5 to 8 business days for my book.

Because I really wanted the book and felt I didn’t have a lot of options, I dutifully went over to the desk with the four PC terminals and began the process of placing my order. It wasn’t long before I realized the processing time on the computers was unusually long. A sales associate came by and offered to help.  She explained the PCs were slow because it was Cyber Monday and everyone was online. She thanked me for my patience, asked me if I could try placing my order again later on and walked away.

I waited for five or so minutes before deciding to take her advice and cancel my order. I was on my way home when it occurred to me that I should try the other big chain bookstore near my home. I walked in, approached the information desk and encountered a very pleasant and helpful sales associate. Within seconds, she had placed my order, told me no payment would be necessary until I picked up the book and to expect my book within 2 to 3 business days.

Two competing bookstores, two completely different customer experiences, and only one resulted in a sale. Why?

In the first instance, sales had become a spectator sport. Customer Service, Information Technology, and even Sales were sitting on the sidelines. They watched as I fumbled through what was obviously a very broken process. In the second instance, sales was very much a team sport. Customer Service, Information Technology and Sales all worked together to help fulfill my need…and win the sale!

Holiday and dinner parties, business networking events, and visits with family and friends all present opportunities for people to pitch their brand and tell their story in 30 seconds or less.

I'd like for you to take a simple test. Select the best answer to the statement: Elevator speeches are for people with the following job responsibilities:

a) Sales
b) Marketing
c) Sales and Marketing
d) Everyone
e) No one

While the obvious choices may be a, b, or c, the correct answer is d. From the CEO on down to the most junior entry-level member of your team, each and every one of us encounters opportunities where we are called upon to talk about our job, our brand and the organization to which we belong or represent. Very often, these opportunities begin with the question, “What do you do?”

The answer to this question is your organization's elevator speech. Your elevator speech must quickly convey the qualities of your brand that attract the right target audiences. It must be memorable, compelling, and deliverable within 30 seconds or less.

A well-crafted elevator speech can be an effective way for increasing brand equity. A unified brand story, where everyone is literally singing from the same songbook, will lead to increased reach and frequency of your brand message in the marketplace. This, in turn, will lead to more sales, more clients, and other top line business results.

Additional resources on brand storytelling:
- The “What Do You Do?” Answer: A Key Tool in Your Sales Toolbox (article)
- Wow! Tell Me More - An Article for United Kingdom Charities (article)
- Elevator Speech – Not Just for Breakfast Anymore

EIZO Nanao Corporation (EIZO) desired to grow its business. As a company with a niche product line in medical imaging and monitors, it needed a creative and novel approach to generating interest to help it stand out from the competition in a small market. EIZO hired the advertising agency Butter. Butter is from Berlin/Duesseldorf in Germany.

Nadine Schlichte, Art Director at Butter, concieved of the idea for a unique pinup calendar. The calendar would be offered to prospective and current physician clients. Each picture of the month shows a naked skeleton image of woman. The developed slogan is "The EIZO Medical pin-up calendar — just like EIZO monitors — really does show every detail." The calendar was released in May 2010.

“Our actual intention was to stimulate more interest for what is the highly complex, technically sophisticated area of EIZO monitors  for diagnostic purposes and viewing of x-ray images,” say Butter, “As you can imagine, the target market for this kind of specialist, highly-priced monitors is very small.”

While most people believe each month to show a different woman, the creative team at Butter developed the monthly models from computer CGI illustrations.

The EIZO calendar description includes "Whereas craftsmen are showered with pin-up-calendars at the end of every year, this kind of present is less popular among physicians. EIZO breaks this taboo. This pin-up calendar shows absolutely every detail.

The calendar and the pictures went viral quickly. Additionally, Butter and EIZO garned several advertising and related creativity awards.

In fact, the calendar was so successful, EIZO is now taking orders for the 2011 calendar [which looks to be the same pictures from the 2010 version].

What kind of novel ideas have you considered? Implemented?


Additional Resources
- Purchase the 2011 calendar here for ~€70 Euros or ~$95 USD
- Eizo Nanao Corporation
- Butter, Berlin/Duesseldorf, Germany
- View all of the 2010 calendar pictures from the Butter website

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Achieving Relevancy in eMarketing

With three email accounts, I receive a large number of email solicitations. I typically begin each day scanning through the subject lines to determine which are the most relevant to me and, subsequently, would warrant a further look. The less relevant emails are saved, while the totally irrelevant ones are simply deleted. Luckily, for me, it takes me less than 3 seconds per email to make this determination.

I’d like to show you five of what I consider to be the most intriguing subject lines I saw in my inbox over the last two weeks:

1. “I took your advice!”
2. “Train Less, Stress Less, Run Faster!”
3. “Opportunity Knocking!”
4. “You’re Invited”
5. “Here are your questions…”

As you look at these subject lines, can you see what they have in common? They’re all about me! They are acknowledging me, offering to help me in some way, or inviting me to be a part of something. None names a product or service, nor does any mention price…or discounts…or savings! And yet, I opened each and every one of them.

eMarketing relevancy begins with the right message. The right message, or subject line, keeps the focus on your customer and, in so doing, leads to higher open rates. Higher open rates can lead to higher click rates, which can lead to new or stronger relationships and top line results.

 

The iconic seven-slot grille is the symbol of one of the world’s most recognized brands. The spirit of freedom and adventure it stands for has defined the Jeep brand throughout its 70-year history, attracting generations of loyal customers. Few brands command a following so loyal that Jeep designers have resisted major changes to the design of the grille for fear of alienating a devoted customer base. To what, then, does Jeep owe this enviable customer loyalty?

It’s the unique experience of freedom and adventure you get with a Jeep. Plowing through foot-high snow drifts before the light of day, crossing a stream on a rutted dirt road en route to an overnight camping destination, cruising along the beach with the wind in your hair, sitting under the stars watching Fourth of July fireworks, driving through an orchard on a quest for the perfect apple, and exchanging the “Wrangler wave” with other Wrangler drivers are all part of the Jeep brand’s unique selling proposition. These experiences make the brand different from any other.

I bought my Jeep Wrangler nine years ago. My boys, then ages 5 and 7, were with me from the very first test drive. I can’t remember who wanted the Jeep more – me or them. I purchased mine off the lot and theirs, miniature Matchbox® models of mine, from Toys ‘R Us. A Jeep Christmas tree ornament – a gift from my boys – followed soon after. Over the years, we’ve travelled many miles together and have accumulated lots of fond memories in our Jeep.   

My seven year-old is now 16 and will soon have his driver's license. The spirit of freedom and adventure is alive and well, even within him. Driving to and from swim practice, manually shifting the gears as he heads west  toward the mountains on an open highway, and cruising around with the top down on a summer evening are already ingrained experiences in his psyche. And so, another generation of Jeep Wrangler owners is born. Brand loyalty endures.

How unique is your brand’s selling proposition? Is it compelling your customers or members to yearn for more? Is it helping you to build brand loyalty for generations to come?

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