Category Archives for PreSell

Mid-Year Check-in: 7 Elements to Review

to_do_priorityI took advantage of the long Memorial Day weekend and beautiful weather we had in the Niagara region to sit on the deck and take stock of where I am, how to leverage the work I did in the first half of the year, and where I want to go in 2017.

The tendency I used to have was to look at my accomplishments and beat myself up for not achieving more.

I’m done with that.

I know that type of thinking helped chain me in self-abuse mode and kept me focusing on negative things which only got me more negative stuff.

Part of being detached from the outcome is looking at your results and not judging them. Just compare them to what you wanted.

I thought you might benefit from doing a mid-year assessment too so I thought I’d share what I did.

These are the 7 basics I think need to be reviewed.

Businessman Holding Graph --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Revenue. I used to hate looking at my numbers. They were always inconsistent at best and not good at worse. But you can’t measure what you’re not tracking so take a look at your revenue from the first half of the year month by month. Is it going up or down? Were some months better than others? If so, why? Are you bringing in at least the amount you need to run your business, market your offerings, and have a great life without scraping to get by? Do you know the number you want each month? If not, get clear and then assess what’s going on here. Set a target for the second half of the year.

Expenses.  These were on track for me but then my websites were infected with malware and it cost me more than $1000 to get the problem fixed. I now have an unexpected monthly payment for continued protection and I’ve got to figure out how to recover that money. That tells me I need to up my revenue number and take into consideration building a business rainy-day fund over the 2nd half of the year and beyond. Are you spending money where you should be? Are you paying for things you haven’t seen a return on? Are you paying for things you don’t really need at this point? Estimate expenses for the rest of the year and begin looking at expense estimates for 2017.

Profit. Do a quick calculation of the difference between your gross revenue and your expenses? By the way, did you take money for taxes out of your revenue? If not, make sure you do that and put it somewhere you won’t touch it. In spite of what Mike Michalowitz says in his book Profit First, you don’t pay yourself first. You always pay the government first. Remember, it took the US Treasury Department to bring down Al Capone.

Now, take a look at that profit number. Naturally you’d like it to be higher. Resist the temptation to beat yourself up if you think it’s too low. If it’s higher than you thought, then yay you. Make some notes about this number and give some more thought to revenue and expenses for the remainder of the year. As my mentor Mike Koenigs once said, “It’s not what you make, it’s what you keep.”

OK, those are the very basics of business right? No surprise there. So here are the other things I looked at that I encourage you to review as well.

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Referral Partners. If you’re an introverted entrepreneur like me and you hate selling, one of the secrets to NOT selling is to get more referrals. Word of mouth is important for any business but it’s really critical if you hate to sell. You’ve got to work extra hard at being truly remarkable. You’ve also got to work at cultivating relationships with key referral groups. So think about what types of businesses compliment but don’t compete with you? Who serves your ideal audience? Two segments that serve my ideal audience are Online Business Managers and Virtual Assistants. I’m actively cultivating relationships with great performers in these segments to spread the word about my show, Let’s Talk Tech, and for the tech events I have coming up. Who would be natural referral partners for you and your offerings? Are you cultivating strong relationships with those partners you already have? What more can you do for your existing partners in the 2nd half of the year and how will that impact your expenses? Will you buy gifts, send cards, etc.?

Web Presence Optimization. This can sometimes feel like trying to herd cats but what I’m talking about here is your overall ability to rank in the search engines for key terms, and the development of a consistent brand on the web? Is your website looking good or does it need to be updated (like mine does)? This doesn’t mean you need to be on every single platform out there but it does mean you want to do a good job on those platforms you are on and that you present a unified image and message. Keep in mind the old adage “A confused mind never buys” and evaluate your web presence with a critical eye. One of my goals is to dominate page one of the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) for several key terms. Do you have a goal for your web presence? If not, then add that to the list of things to think about for the second half of the year. And be sure to keep in mind any expenses related to growing your presence and your brand.

Product Creation. We create an awful lot of content each month. As people who hate selling, one of the things to make sure we’re doing is to repurpose that content into products people can purchase as a way to check out our philosophy, process, and effectiveness. These low and mid-priced range products can be reasonable investments for someone who is evaluating whether or not to work with you privately and they’re also a way to get paid for all that content you’ve created. This can be a relatively painless way to begin to grow your revenue and maximize your earning power. Reflect on everything you’ve created – blog posts, webinars, white papers and reports, etc. – and then think about the needs and wants of your audience. How can you put together at least one small product to begin to sell before the end of the year?

gratitudeYour mental / emotional / spiritual / physical health. This should really be at the top of the list but I know revenue is the first thing on your mind as an introverted entrepreneur.

The first half of 2016 was crazy for me. I…
Le…successfully launched my podcast, t’s Talk Tech (on New & Noteworthy within an hour of its official launch and was in N&N in three categories every day for 8 weeks!),
...laid out a sales funnel
planned and hosted my first big virtual event
got featured in two commercials for hosting company Hostgator
created and sold a course on developing and launching a unique podcast
and survived the malware infection of my three web properties.

But I paid a big price.

I missed a couple of important family events and spent only minimal time with my husband.

What about you? Were the sacrifices you made worth it? What are you unwilling to do as you move into the second half of the year?

For me, this is an additional incentive to grow my revenue since I need to outsource more work to stay in my genius zone, maximize my impact, and minimize time spent away from those I love.

You know how fast time flies by. Take control of where you and your business are going so you don’t wind up on December 31st kicking yourself for another year of not becoming the person and not building the business you were meant to.

Leave a comment below and let me know where you stand at mid-year….how do you feel about your accomplishments and what are your big goals for the rest of the year.

Strong Boundaries Make Strong Businesses for Solo Professionals

wooden-fence-waterAs someone with a deep wound around rejection, I grew up with a huge need to be liked.

The first jobs I got as a kid were service-centered – where going the extra mile to please a customer was a badge of honor and led to financial and emotional rewards.

That conditioning continued through my corporate life as I worked in service industries and in helping positions – training, staffing, and organizational development, as well as marketing and sales.

Saying “no” was a quick way to be branded as “not a team player” and someone who wasn’t committed to the organization.

Out on our own, this drive to please our clients is a double-edged sword.

It can lead us to becoming the go-to person for those we serve and it can lead us to being seen as a leader in our industry segment.

But it can also cause us bending over backward to an unhealthy extreme.

Examples of going too far include any time you give so much value that you resent doing it. That’s taking over-delivering to the extreme.

It also happens when you do things for your clients and are afraid to charge them or because you want to have praise heaped on you more than you want money to flow into your bank account.

And sometimes, just as we leave ourselves open for bullies in our personal lives, being too eager to please can open you up to relationships that descend into bullying.

These business bullies can be those who use overwhelming negotiating tactics to get you to lower your prices, to give them more value than they want to pay for, or blaming you for not reading their minds and delivering on things they never asked for.

Standing up to them can be hard, but it’s a critical exercise in building your confidence muscles.

There’s a great Seinfeld episode where Elaine asks to use Jerry’s apartment while he’s out of town. The reason she needs to use it is so she can host a baby shower for a an acquaintance named Leslie who she doesn’t know very well but doesn’t really like but can’t say no to. Jerry and Elaine’s friend George considers Leslie as one of the worst dates of his life, but who he couldn’t stand up to when she humiliated him on their date.

Jerry’s predicament in the episode is he’s agreed to have Kramer’s friends install illegal cable in the apartment.

This is a great episode that shows the difficulty of standing up for ourselves with people we have a hard time saying “no” to, even though that’s what we really want to do.

Just this week I was faced with someone who I looked up to and admired who I felt was pushing me around about a project I had invited her to be on. (My husband Lou swears life is a Seinfeld episode)

She had missed every deadline she’d agreed to and then wanted me to change the completion date of the project.

And at first I was going to do it.

But then I realized what I was allowing to happen.

I realized that if I gave in I was allowing her to bully me and I was not valuing myself or my skills, nor was I acting as the leader I needed to be on the project.

So I told her the project didn’t appear to be a fit for her and while I wished her well I’d be moving on without her.

No apologies. No “It’s not you, it’s me” type of language.

It took a lot for me to be able to do that.

The old me – from even a year ago – wouldn’t have done it. I’d have given her everything she asked for, inconvenienced myself, but kept her happy (at least until the next thing she didn’t want to happen).

Of course, I made this brave stand by email 🙂 but at least I took a stand – the stand that was best for me.

The fact that she’s now unhappy about being cut out of the project isn’t my fault and it doesn’t make me a bad person.

It makes me a smart, healthy business person.

It minimizes my stress on the project, which on the whole raises my profitability because the happiness I feel about work directly impacts the quality and value of my days.

It lowers my exposure to risk. People who have extremes in their behavior and who get angry over what they perceive to be slights are unpredictable. I know people who’ve been caught up in law suits over ridiculous issues and who spent their life savings defending themselves.

It reinforces positive self-talk. Standing up to someone who’s intimidating makes me feel good, proves I can face bigger challenges, and develops my resiliency skills.

All of that takes confidence and courage.

But I didn’t always have them.

It took me years to develop them. And now that I have them, I’m not losing them again.

So if you find yourself complaining about your clients, your work, and other things in your business (or life), ask yourself what you’ve done that’s allowed those things to happen or to continue to happen (this doesn’t include violence, ok? That’s not what I’m saying here).

Ask yourself why you continue to stand for this type of behavior or these types of actions.

And face the fact that, to propel your business forward you’ve got to raise you confidence level and courageously step up for what you believe.

What types of situations do you find you lack confidence in? Share your thoughts.

What It Takes to Create an Iconic Brand — Lessons From The Eagles

When someone famous we like dies, my husband Lou and I will do something to honor that person’s memory.

So when news broke that Glenn Frey, co-founder of our favorite band, The Eagles, had died suddenly we watched The History of The Eagles on Netflix®.

That movie was one of those rare films that stayed with me long after it was over.

Not only was it fun to see the band in footage from the ‘70’s, but it was fascinating to see inside the minds of its founders, Glenn Frey and Don Henley.

I walked away with a deeper appreciation of the band and its individual members as well as for Frey and Henley as leaders of the organization and business.

These are the 10 lessons about business and brand building that I had reinforced by watching the movie.

1. Have courage. It took real guts to go to California, try to become a successful singer-songwriter, and have your own band when you’ve never written a song and have limited experience playing in a band. But that’s just what Frey and Henley did.

Glenn Frey, cofounder of the group with Don Henley, told Bob Seger that he (Frey) wanted to write songs but he was afraid he would suck. Seger’s reply was direct and realistic: “Of course you’re going to suck. But you’ve got to keep writing and you’ll improve.”

In the movie, The History of the Eagles, interview footage from the 70’s shows the members all had doubts about the band’s ability to maintain its success and some of them admitted to having had doubts about their individual talents. But Frey and Henley didn’t let anxiety stop The Eagles as a band. They achieved amazing things, including creating the top selling album of the entire 20th century. Imagine what staying focused and being brave can help you achieve.

Lesson for all of us:  Leverage your self -doubt and let it drive you to excellence, but don’t let it go to perfection. You can do that by setting the intention to be excellent and to remain humble and self-aware while managing your ego and working to not hurt others in your crusade to grow your strengths.

Action Step: Reflect on your fears and take action to address them. Taking massive action is a great way to leap over or blast through your fears.

2. Find your sound. This may be the hardest thing any of us does: To get clarity on the message we’re meant to share, then amplify it, and be true to it. Glenn Frey and Don Henley knew the sound they were going for, the music that was in them, and they stayed focused on how to amplify it by working with the best partners they could find who fit perfectly with that sound. They eventually broke up with early members of the band over creative differences and split with their first producer Glyn Johns because he didn’t believe the band could become what they dreamed of – a unique blend of rock, country, and other influences. He wanted to use tactics that Frey and Henley felt were wrong for them. Since their first greatest hits album is the top selling album for the entire 20th century, I’d say they were right.

Lessons for all of us: The hardest thing to do is to be your authentic self. That means embracing your brand essence and giving it voice – your beliefs, your values, your philosophy, and your approach.

Action Step: Ask yourself what you’re resisting and why. Ask yourself if you’re trying to appeal to everyone or at least to too many people. You have an audience you’re meant to serve and who wants to hear from you. Sing to them only. If others listen and are inspired to action that’s great.

3. Treat your business like a business. Creative professionals – especially musicians it seems – are notorious for focusing all their energy on what they’re creating. Glenn Frey and Don Henley were very smart businessmen and while some disagree with the way they ran / run the band, they recognized that they had a clear vision and goals and did what was necessary to achieve it. Early members of the band enjoyed the success but wanted more of a say in the business, more writing credits, and more singing time. I’m not saying Frey and Henley were or are perfect but in the moment, we all do the best we can. And as the leaders of our businesses we have to make very difficult decisions.

Lesson for all of us: Businesses track expenses, forecast revenue, create products, have contracts, follow budgets, and have other key indicators of success and failure. Leaders talk to underperformers or those who aren’t committed to the direction of the organization and, as tough as it sounds, they stop working with those people.

Action Step: Examine your business model and the culture of the organization you’re building. Recognize that it takes working with others to have the impact you truly want and to maximize your profitability.

4. Be a leader – to your audience, to your team and partners, to your industry. Not many businesses can survive by following a consensus-focused leadership style. Even in a democracy someone has to be in charge and someone has to make the decisions. And the founder or founders have to combine visionary thinking with a commitment and drive to set and stay the course. Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely existence and calls for hard decisions sometimes.

Lessons for all of us: You’ll be criticized, second-guessed, and questioned. You’ve got to stay the course and be true to your beliefs, vision, and values. That’s never easy. Especially when you’re going in a direction that’s different from what the so-called experts are telling you to do.

Action Step: Ask yourself if you’re truly a leader or if you’re just following right now. Is your messaging too generic? Following best practices is always a good idea but your message shouldn’t sound or look like everyone else’s.

5. Overcome your fears. Part of Randy Meisner’s refusal to sing Take It to the Limit during an encore was his fear of not being able to hit the high notes live in front of thousands of screaming fans. Of course by the time he hit the highest notes the fans would probably be yelling so loud they wouldn’t hear his voice crack if it did.

Lesson for all of us: Randy Meisner never gave a bad live performance of Take It to the Limit. Yet his fears ultimately are what led to his dismissal from the band. Fear will take hold of us and create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Action Step: When you find yourself resisting something, saying no to something, ask yourself what you’re afraid of. Confront that fear by planning, controlling what you can, and giving it everything you’ve got. Remember – you’re striving for excellence, not perfection.

6. Take advice from gurus with a grain of salt. I think most of us look for some sort of direction when we go out on our own. We’re looking for validation that our ideas are good and will be profitable, and we’re looking for anything that will speed up the trip from struggle to profitability. Frey and Henley recognized they’d never go farther if they kept working with producer Glyn Johns. What guts it must have took to let go of a producer who had worked with bands who were legends already.

Lesson for all of us: We have to work to find experts and partners who believe in our vision as much as we do and who will work with us to make it happen.

Action Step:  Consider if you’re following one or more gurus a little blindly. Find the balance of listening to a blend of your heart, head, and gut. And if anyone tells you something is simple run away from them.

7. Maintain passion for your message. If you’ve ever found yourself getting sick of saying the same thing over and over again you know what I mean here. Imagine what it must be like to sing the same songs in the same way over and over and over.

When Glenn Frey argued with Randy Meisner over Meisner’s refusal to perform their classic hit Take It to the Limit  during an encore, Frey stressed that the fans – who had waited hours to hear that song — deserved to hear it. Frey went on to admit that he didn’t really want to sing Take It Easy ever again either, but he did it because the fans loved the song and deserved to hear it live.

Those fights contributed to Meisner being kicked out of the band.

Lesson for all of us: Of course you’re going to grow and your message is going to evolve. We’ve got to find a way to keep repeating our message without losing the joy for it and not sounding tired or frustrated.

Action Step: Record yourself delivering your next presentation or having a conversation about your message. If you hear something you don’t like in your tone of voice or phrasing you can bet others are hearing it too.

8. Find inspiration everywhere. Frey said the inspiration for Lyin’ Eyes  came from the women they saw in a bar he and Henley frequented. Life in The Fast Lane’s title  is something a drug dealer said to Frey and the immortal guitar lick in that song was something Joe Walsh made up to help him get limber before a show. Imagine how different The Eagles’ catalog  would be without those two numbers.

Frey and Henley found inspiration everywhere. Then they took action.

Lesson for all of us: We’re all creative in some way and inspiration can be found all around us. But inspiration without action is just a dream.

Action Step: Open yourself up to the inspiration all around you; then keep what’s true to your message and vision and consistent with your beliefs and values.

9. Hard Work + Persistence + Timing = Success. The message I got from watching The History of The Eagles was how much hard work went into becoming one of the best in the business. Sacrifices have to be made. I think you can have it all; just not at the same time or all the time.

Work is more joyful and feels more profitable when you leverage your greatest gifts, construct a clear and powerful message, and remain focused on serving others; but it’s still hard work.

Lesson for All of Us: The prolific author, Stephen King, was right when he said, you have “to tell the muse when to show up for work.” We have to create success habits and control our entrepreneurial impulse to get distracted or to look for a shortcut along the journey.

Action Step: Look at your calendar and challenge yourself to see if you’re truly working on important things that will help you achieve your goals quicker or are you allowing yourself to get distracted? Or worse…could self-sabotage be playing a role in what’s going on?

10. Take a vacation. Frey admitted the band worked hard and lived hard. This probably contributed to the arguments, the breakup, and the 14 years they spent apart.

Lesson for Us All: As hard as it can be to schedule time away and as much as we feel we can’t afford to do it, the truth is self-care is critical for entrepreneurs, especially in those critical growth periods.

Action Step: Look critically at your calendar and make sure you’re not over-scheduling yourself. Get help if you need it, and be sure to take time to recharge your batteries.

There’s a quote attributed to many different people: “Being self-employed is the most intense and expensive personal development program you can take.” Business building is hard work no matter how talented or focused you are. Be sure you schedule time for reflection and consider refocusing your efforts to make sure you’re moving towards your goals. And surround yourself with great people who are healthy emotionally and mentally.

According to Don Henley, the big dream he and Glenn Frey shared was hearing their songs on the radio. That dream, combined with Frey’s dedication to become a really good songwriter and his leadership helped them become one of the greatest bands of all time.

Practicing these 10 strategies could help you create a brand as iconic and beloved with your fans as The Eagles have become for theirs.

One Reason Your Potential Clients May Say “No”

international_no_symbolI got a call from a person who said she saved my card for the past few years (very flattering) and she believed she was finally ready to work privately with me.

But she gave me confusing signals throughout the call.

 I could tell we wouldn’t fit well together but since what she needed was obvious to me I gave her what I thought was a perfect strategy to separate herself from the competition and stand out as the clear authority in her industry segment.

The line went silent for a few seconds.

“Wow. That’s a great idea,” she said quietly.

“But I can’t do it,” she went on to say. “Nobody else in my industry is doing anything like that. And if I did it they’d just copy me.”

I’ve thought about that call off and on over the past few weeks; and the conclusion I’ve come to is, she was torn between playing to win and playing not to lose.

This happens as we build a business that finances our lives, the lives of our vendors, and that allows us to support causes we care about. The better and more successful we become the more afraid we can become of losing what we’ve worked so hard for.

But there are also people who are naturally play-not-to-lose people.

They’re the people referred to as “prevention focused” and tend to be risk-averse. These are people who are analytical, problem solvers. They’re not wrong or bad or weak. They’re just different and they have a different perspective on taking a chance.

And working with you is risky.

 

Play not to lose people need you to answer the “yes, but” questions they have in their heads.

Of course they may not actually ask them out loud.

Imagine them thinking “Yes, but…”

  • Will it really work?
  • Is it worth the hassle of changing?
  • Will it be too hard to implement?
  • I haven’t heard of this before so how can it be good?

And on and on….

To help your client decide to buy, you’ve got to understand her motivations and what she’s got at risk by saying “yes” to you. What does she want to gain (more clients maybe) and what does she not want to lose (free time…she doesn’t want to work more than she already is now).

Then use that knowledge to inform your messaging so you’re effectively emphasizing what she’ll gain with what she won’t lose.

If you’ve got a Suspect who is afraid of losing control then emphasize they’ll still be able to __________ because you’re going to __________________.

Think about the Suspect you met with recently and see if anything they said or did could tell you if they’re Promotion Focused (play to win) or Prevention Focused. Now, think about your messaging. Is it completely aspirational? Full of possibilities?

Think about your Prime Suspects. Do they tend to be the type of people who are naturally afraid of losing? If so, don’t try to change them. Instead, think about adding some practical information in your messaging.

Admit there will be some challenges but talk about your track record and proprietary process. Talk about how your process is proven to help people just like them. Give examples.

Be prepared with some risk reduction strategies (like “try before you buy”, demos, or a guarantee or anything else that will truly lower their risk and make them feel more confident to move forward.

If you’re Prime Suspect is in a hierarchical organization (meaning they report to someone), or you’re selling to a couple, or anyone who is going to rely on others in the buying decision, then you can be sure there’s going to be some element of fear of loss at play here. You have to do what you can to make them feel confident and your messsaging needs to speak to the others in the buying process.

Brand building helps here because having a powerful reputation instills confidence in working with you.

Your Suspects want the outcome you deliver but if you can’t help them get passed their concerns then you can’t be surprised if they turn you down and choose a competitor they feel safer with.

And think about how you may be getting stuck in playing-not-to-lose land too. Then remember who you are — a visionary leader and entrepreneur who makes a massive impact in the lives of those you serve and who needs to reach even more people.

How to Educate Potential Clients and Elevate Yourself as an Authority

 

It’s no secret that inbound or content marketing should be a critical piece of every marketing strategy. The Web is made of content and your potential clients are turning to the Internet first when searching for a solution to their problem.

They turn to the Internet for help in figuring out what their problem is in the first place.

And if you’re a consultant, coach, or other licensed professional looking to attract more Prime Suspects (those likely to be your best clients) then educational content is a great way to educate your potential clients and elevate yourself as an authority in your field.

Depending on what study you review, customers — whether businesses or consumers — are turning to the Internet first when they have or suspect they have a problem. They want to learn more about their symptoms, get a diagnosis, and understand what their options are for solving the problem PDQ.

You the business owner should be creating content in different formats (video, written, audio, etc.) so your Suspects can get educated about the problem.

Focusing on giving them great information that genuinely educates them will help you create content that’s on-point, of high value to them, and that they want to share.

When we hear someone speak, watch their video, read their articles, we can’t help but think “this person’s an expert”. We see the person as an expert even if we don’t agree with all of the information they’re sharing.

Here’s a video I shot that gives an overview of what Pre-Selling means and how it helps clients buy.

 

How to Know if You’re Ready for a Rebrand

cocoons_butterfliesNow that spring is finally committed to sticking around (please God!), it’s nice to walk around town (without a jacket) and see signs of new growth everywhere you look.

You may have noticed some things didn’t survive very well through the harsh winter we had.

The streets have potholes; roofs have been damaged; and the clothes in your closet have shrunk somehow.

This is also a great time to sit back and reflect on how your business — and you — have changed or how you’re in the process of changing and where in fact you and that business of yours are going.

As you think about this, ask yourself if the branding — the visual and verbal messaging — that got you where you are is going to get you where you want to go.

What’s Branding?

When I say “branding” I’m not just talking about your logo or color palette. I’m talking about all of your brand elements that combine to make up your entire messaging — everything that communicates who you are, what you do, and who you serve. From your vision, mission, and values to the Persona that describes your Prime Suspect to your collateral material and website.

What’s a Brand?

A brand isn’t your logo or your tagline. Those are just the visual and verbal representations of what you stand for. Your brand is your promise to the market. It’s your reputation based on what you deliver. The goal is to create a visual (and a verbal) brand so powerful that people equate that visual image with whatever outcome you deliver.

Your branding — your brand elements — are tools to help you communicate with your Prime Suspects (those most likely to be great clients). They can limit the power of your verbal message (presentations you make, conversations you have…) because they can create confusion in the mind of the Suspect or they can make it difficult for the Suspect to process the messages you’re communicating.

There are lots of reasons you may not be getting  the results you want, but one reason could be you need a total rebrand.

What’s a Rebrand?

A rebrand is often thought of as a new logo, it’s much more than that.

A rebrand is an evolutionary process and it’s born out of a deep feeling of disconnection between what you’ve got, what you want, and what you do.

The rebranding process is one that starts with uncovering who you are, where you’re going, and what the business has become.

Run away from anyone who tells you that work isn’t necessary or who doesn’t take the time to understand who you are, what you stand for, and what you’re building.

It may be that — like so many consultants, coaches, and other independent service providers — you may never have had a brand that truly represents you. This happens when you focus on the fun, visual stuff without doing the deep internal work necessary to uncover what the visual stuff should represent.

Here are 14 signs you may be ready for a rebrand

  1. The clients you have are not the clients you want.
  2. You look and sound like your competition.
  3. You’re attracting fewer new inquiries about working with you.
  4. It takes longer than you want for a Suspect to go from initial conversation to signed engagement.
  5. You’re ready to grow and don’t feel your visual will take you where you want to go
  6. You’re competing on price.
  7. When people introduce you or say what you do you think, “that’s not it”.
  8. You look at your messaging and sometimes feel as though it’s not really you.
  9. Your business has grown beyond just you.
  10. You can’t state what you do in 30 seconds or less.
  11. You’re adding a new revenue stream or moving in a completely different direction.
  12. You have website shame.
  13. You have collateral material shame (whether you give out the physical stuff, email it as an attachment, or have it as downloads on your website.
  14. People have told you they don’t understand what you do.

A rebrand is a process that’s not to be rushed and it’s not for the faint of heart. There are things that can be done to shorten the time it takes but that means you have to come into the process ready to go. That means you’ve got to come into the process having done a good bit of soul searching on your own or with a facilitator.

One of the biggest complaints I hear from people who are going through a rebrand without doing the prep work is that the designer or developer is asking them questions they (the business owner ) can’t answer.

If that’s the case, it means you need to work with a consultant who is skilled at uncovering your difference. It also may mean that you’ve got a lot of uncertainty within yourself and until you’ve gotten clarity the process will be slow and painful.

There are times when it’s not a complete rebrand that’s needed. It might be that there’s a problem with the overall sales process — with how you’re bringing in Prime Suspects or how you’re helping them travel their Buying Journey.

If you’re trying to discern the problem and figure out if you need a rebrand or you need some adjustment to your sales process then you should talk to a consultant, coach, or strategist who works specifically around helping entrepreneurs like you stand out. The goal is to increase your reach so you serve more and earn more not just have a nice logo.

 

 

 

 

 

10 Tips to Get Started Using Video to Market Your Business

video_cameraIf you’ve resisted using video to market your services, resist no more.

Video communicates in ways text can’t. It lets people get a feel for your personality and it can raise trust like few other things can.

Trust of course is critical to #HelpClientsBuy.

Video educates your audience, engages them, and inspires action. It’s not just for product demonstrations.

Here are my 10 best tips to help you jump into video if you haven’t done it already.

  1. Get over yourself. Sorry to be so blunt, but just stop obsessing that you’ve got a face made for podcasting. You look fine. No one is going to be having dinner with their significant other discussing what you wore in your video today. They’re not going to be outraged that you need to have your bangs trimmed or that you said “uh” a couple of times.
  2. Have a wardrobe and standard makeup. I have about 5 outfits that are my uniforms for video so I don’t have to think about what I’m going to wear. Pick colors you like and that flatter you. Blue is a great color because most people look good in some shade of it. I like about 3 colors of blue and you’ll usually see me in one of them. Wear a top that has one solid color as often as you can. As for makeup….guys you may need some to. You probably need concealer for dark places around your eyes. Visit a makeup counter and explain you’re going to be doing videos and they’ll hook you right up. I like Bobbie Brown and I get it at Macy’s.
  3. Set up a video station. Don’t make it complicated. Below are two pictures of the video station in my home office. I picked up the bar stool at a yard sale for $10 and put two empty plastic boxes on it to raise my laptop so the camera is at a good level. I’m changing chairs soon so one of those boxes will go. The lamps I also got at yard sales. I use lightbulbs that are supposed to mimic natural light. You want the lights in front of you and just slightly to the side. I leave this set up in place so when I get inspired I can just run over and shoot something. I write bullet points on an index card and tape it to the top of the laptop just above the camera. I use blue painter’s tape for that.

    video_setup2video_setup
    Think about the background. You can just be up against a bare wall (a little dull) or you can do like I’ve done and use a spot with some visual interest. I love my Sherlock collection and it’s fun to have them in my videos.  Don’t be afraid to show some personality. That’s what people really want to see. They want the real you.

  1. Use the simplest tech you can. I prefer to do this stuff myself so it’s got to be simple. My laptop comes with Windows Movie Maker (yes, I confess I’m a PC person). If you’re a mac person then you’ve got stuff built in too. I’ve got the laptop positioned so I can just hit the record button without reaching too far and risk jarring the laptop. I used to use a Flip on a tripod and still use that sometimes, especially when I’m speaking somewhere.
  2. It’s OK to hide. If you just can’t bring yourself to sit in front of a camera yet try narrating a slide show with PowerPoint or Keynote (mac). You’ll at least get comfortable with talking and recording yourself and can then jump into the deep end after you’ve gotten more confidence. You could shoot a short intro or outro for the slideshow and be done.
  1. Aim for about 5 minutes long. That doesn’t seem like much but you know you’ve been bored by someone in less time than that. Your viewer has a zillion things to do and has the attention of a flea so keep your videos short and to the point. Develop a quick introduction and a quick conclusion. That leaves you with an average of 4 minutes of content to share. Yes, I sometimes go over that. If you think you need more time to cover the topic then do more than one video.
  1. Have a call to action. Send people somewhere. Tell them where to get more information. Tell them to leave a comment, give you a thumb’s up or like the video, and encourage them to share it. Tell them to subscribe. Don’t just let the video end. If you don’t tell people what to do at the end of a video (or anything else for that matter), don’t be surprised when you don’t get the result you want. Know where you want them to go before you start shooting.
  1. Share FAQs and SAQs. This was a great tip from my mentor, Mike Koenigs. He makes a list of frequently asked questions and a list of “should ask” questions. Then he films himself answering them. SAQs are the questions you wish people would ask you or they’re the deeper question they should ask. For example, people will ask me what they should post on Facebook. The bigger question is who are they talking to on Facebook, so maybe an SAQ related to that would be “how do I find out what my audience wants me to share on Facebook?”
  1. Commit to a schedule. As I was looking to uplevel my outreach and add video to my marketing strategy I knew if I didn’t create a schedule I’d never see it through. It’s like any other habit. At first, you’ve got to plan for it and prepare, then your brain gets conditioned to just do it. So I film on Friday and upload on Monday. I also recommend you shoot more than one video at a time to make the best use of your time. So have a list of videos to do and see if you can knock out a month’s worth in one day.
  1. Tie your video into your content calendar. When I started I just did a video on anything I could think of. It was more about getting comfortable than anything else. Now I’m more strategic. I have a theme or concept for the week. I do a video on it, I write a newsletter article (which will become a blog post), and I may do an additional blog post on the topic. Now I’ve got at least two pieces of content addressing slightly different aspects of a topic. I usually edit one of the articles and turn that into my LinkedIn post. My LI posts are shorter than my blog posts because people are usually in a hurry there. I’m going to be experimenting with Google+ more this year so I’ll see how that adds to my content strategy’s impact.

Using video is like doing anything else. It just takes practice to get comfortable. Video has the ability to raise trust, improve the time buyers stay on your site, and increase sales. It also has great power in the search engines. It’s time to make video a part of your marketing and sales strategy in order to further help your clients decide to buy.

6 Tips to Use Testimonials to Help Clients Feel Confident in You and Buy

magnifying_glass_puzzle_pieceI follow several copywriters who are all at the top of their profession and niche segments. Each has a slightly different focus and I learn from all of them.

One of them was talking about the power of testimonials and shared some tips to get them from clients.

And what if you’re a new entrepreneur or your offerings are new?

Well, she said, just go to websites selling similar offerings, copy the testimonials, and then use them on your site.

Say what?!!

Aside from the fact that she just recommended plagiarizing and violating copyright laws, doing something like that is unethical and deceptive.

I think I strained my finger clicking on the Unsubscribe link as fast as I did.

That’s the type of behavior that makes people skeptical of testimonials in the first place and especially skeptical of testimonials on the web.

Here are a few tips to using testimonials so your potential clients are educated, recognize you as the authority, and confident about working with you.

  1. Be Truthful. I always thought this went without saying but apparently it doesn’t. It’s very easy to replace one word with another one that sounds more powerful. Resist that temptation unless you check with the person giving you the testimonial. If someone wrote a nice testimonial but wasn’t as gushy as you’d like they may be trying to be more formal than necessary. Remind them of some words they used in the past. Or copy and paste something they said in an email that praised you. People are concerned about looking stupid or sounding silly so let them know that speaking from the heart serves them well. People want to help you but they want to look good doing it.
  2. Be representative of results. This is a tricky one. Especially when you perform a service. My mentor, Mike Koenigs, has people working for him in what he refers to as his “Department of Proof”. His team asks us to submit proof whenever we report a success story. This makes our testimonials much more powerful because he’s cobining the social proof of the testimonial with visual evidence for a powerful combination.

    Follow-up with past clients to see how they’re doing. It can be a great way to get testimonials and even case studies as well as helping you stay top of mind with them and encourage referrals.

  3. Be as specific as your profession – and your client – allows. I know there are industries where those you serve are hesitant to reveal they came to you for service. Maybe you’re a career coach and your clients are afraid their employer will find out they worked with you and see it as a negative. I’ve had people who work in marketing come to me for help with their sales process and they don’t want their clients to know that (hey, we ALL need to work with someone). Use as much information as they’re comfortable with and is appropriate. Use pictures, first and last names, city and state, and web address if they have one. Video testimonials are great and can be powerful. People have a tendency to ramble though so consider sending them some questions to answer to help them stay on track if they’re going to submit a video. And if your industry or profession doesn’t really do names and pictures, that’s fine. I’m sure potential patients understand that. But recognize you may need to do more to help develop trust and make people feel more confident in hiring you as their service provider.
  4. Edit where necessary. I’ve worked with people who have these long (rambly) testimonials they used in their marketing. They weren’t effective because just looking at them made me not want to read them. Then I’d force myself and had a hard time following it. Or I’d have clients who’d edit their testimonials to sound more professional and the comments sounded way too stiff and impersonal. Make sure the testifier knows you have the right to and will edit for space and clarity. Feel free to take out phrases or sentences and use just those. A good example is the endorsement I received from legendary management guru and author Ken Blanchard. I submitted my first book’s manuscript to him and he gave me a fantastic endorsement that was a few sentences long. I wanted to have his name on the cover because we all know how that can help sell a book. The whole thing would have been too long, so I just used a short phrase “…provocative and reflective!” I edit testimonials for space, clarity, and spelling but I leave the bad grammar or clumsy sentence construction because that’s how people talk and write.
  5. Answer questions and concerns potential buyers have. If you offer a high-priced service then people may wonder if it’s worth it. Structure questions that help testifiers provide the answer to what someone is wondering. For example, I ask people if they were nervous about working with me. I’ll get great comments like “Yes, I was a little nervous because I’d worked with a guru who didn’t deliver.” That’s a great statement because it’s real, it’s heartfelt, and who hasn’t worked with someone who hasn’t delivered? We’ve all done that. So when a testimonial can go on to say something like “But I saw a benefit right away….” it really lowers the potential buyer’s guard. I actually added benchmarking where my clients are before we start working together because I found they were often terrible at tracking their results! So when I remind them of how things were before we started working together it can help them provide a richer before…and now… type of statement. Remember, your marketing and sales messaging and materials should always be focused on helping the potential buyer make the best decision for them.  Statements like “I recouped my investment within a week” are priceless for you and give the potential client confidence they can benefit from working with you.
  6. Represent the clients you truly want to work with. When I first went out on my own I did a lot of work with corporate clients. Since I lived near Atlantic City in South Jersey I had casinos as clients and some mid-sized companies too. I started hearing that “I guess you don’t work with people like me” from exactly the sort of people I really wanted to work with so I took the list of companies off my site. Potential clients want proof you can do the job; but they also want to know you can do the job for people like them, organizations like theirs, and that you can solve the type of problem they’ve got. Your testimonials — and client list if you publish that — should help them see that.

Testimonials educate your potential buyers and really do assist you in helping clients buy so you can sell without being salesy and don’t sacrifice your values. The key is getting powerful testimonials that communicate the value of your offerings.

Testimonials – how you get them, how you use them, who gives them – should also be addressed in the general policies and Terms and Conditions (Ts & Cs) for your site. If you don’t have Ts&Cs I strongly recommend you get them.

I use and recommend Web Site Legal Form Generator put out by attorney Mike Young. Mike specializes in online / internet marketing. (That’s an affiliate link and I’ll get the equivalent of a cup of tea if you buy through it) And here’s a link to the US government’s guidelines on using testimonials and endorsements. (I’m not a lawyer and I’m not giving legal advice so be sure to talk to your own internet lawyer.)

What Potential Clients Need From You to Say Yes

magnifying_glass_factsThe more complexity surrounding the problem, the bigger the changes they need to make, the more nervous the buyer is likely to be about taking action to solve the problem.

Your potential clients are weighing three things in trying to decide to buy:

Risk — What if you don’t deliver? What if you disappear with the deposit? What if the changes you recommend don’t work?

Change – Use your system, follow your recommendations, or adopt whatever new thing you’re selling as the solution to their problem

Fears – What will happen to them if your changes don’t work? Will their reputation be damaged in some way? Will there be a bigger mess to clean up than there was to start with?

They’re looking for proof that you can do the job you say you can and that it will produce the results you promise.

It’s not that they don’t believe you.

People they trusted in the past stretched the truth (Brian Williams is an unfortunate example). People they relied on let them down. Changes they tried in the past didn’t work out the way they hoped or how the solution provider promised they would.

Then there’s the media’s distorted representation of anyone selling anything and the fact that we all know only a limited amount about the things we purchase.

Buyers want proof that you’re the right solution provider, that your offerings work as promised, and that you’ll help them get the results they want with the least amount of disruption.

7 Types of Proof That Help Potential Clients Say “Yes”

Here are the 7 proof elements that can help you inspire confidence in you from your Suspects. You don’t necessarily need all 7 — some may be more important to your buyers than others.

Fact-Based Proof – You have a point of view…a philosophy, approach, and a set of beliefs…that you operate on. Fact-based proof elements are things like survey results, statistics, and other verifiable evidence that supports your point of view. This is why being an authority requires such focus. You’ve got to stay on top of what’s going on in your industry, in your Suspect’s industry, and in other broad topics. Quoting some reputable source with a big name is like saying “See? It’s not just me who thinks this.”

Third-party Proof – An endorsement from someone with a big reputation would be Third-Party proof. You bask in the reflection of that person’s brand when you get an endorsement. It’s why a book will have an endorsement from a big name person on the front cover. The Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval is a Third Party endorsement. Having an article published on Forbes.com is a veiled endorsement because your article was good enough for them so it must be worth reading.

Visual Proof – Most of us are visually influenced to some degree. We land on a website and within 3 seconds we’re gone. We made the decision there’s nothing there we want. Our hand moves away from the dented can of peas and puts the undented can in our cart even though we know the peas in both cans are just as good. Pictures…videos…they’re the easiest elements of visual proof but even your website’s layout will impact buyer confidence. And if you’re the face of your brand, your appearance is part visual proof. Visual proof not only provides visible evidence of your claims but in the case of videos, webinars, and livecasts it can help people get a feel for what working with you would be like. My mentor, Mike Koenigs, is constantly asking those of us in his programs to send him things like screen shots of contracts or checks. He knows that Visual Proof trumps anything he can say. So if at all possible, take one type of proof and see if you can also turn it into Visual Proof.

Results-Based Proof – This is at the heart of what buyers want to know: what results have you produced…what outcomes did your clients have? Be very careful about the claims you make.

Social Proof – From testimonials to case studies to reviews on ratings sites like Yelp, people put more stock in what other individuals say than in what you the entrepreneur say. Yes, buyers know there are fake reviews on sites but they still check them and they are still influenced by them.

The Suspect is looking for themselves in who you’ve served. If they’re a micro business have you served other micros? If they’re a restaurant do you have testimonials from other restaurant owners?

They may see you’ve helped clients achieve great results but if your proof elements don’t help them recognize they could have similar results with you then they won’t move forward.

The more detail you can provide, the more powerful a piece of social proof becomes. Pictures, full names, websites, etc. all help Social Proof be more powerful.

Achievement Proof – Where Results Proof is an example of what your clients have achieved, Achievement Proof is what YOU’VE achieved. For example, I created a sales kit that sold $400,000 worth of new business in the first four months it was used by the client. That’s Results Proof. The kit then won a Silver Prize in the 2007 International Davey Awards. That’s Achievement Proof. Achievement Proof is particularly important if your work involves a role model for others in some way. My physical therapist is 60 and she looks fantastic. I look at her and know that’s a great achievement so when she gives me advice I take it. I copy-chiefed a new copywriter at the agency I worked for and her first press release landed on the front page of Forbes.com. That’s quite an achievement and something that could lead a potential client to think, “If she did that for THEM, she could do something like it for ME.”

Credential Proof – Some professions require credentials – doctors, attorneys, etc. and some don’t (like coaches for example). Credentials can help buyers choose because the credential at least demonstrates some level of education has been obtained. It’s important to be at the top of your game, but consider whether a credential is truly going to help differentiate you or help your buyers recognize you as an authority. If you have a certificate, help potential clients recognize how the certificate adds value to your background.

Your sales process – from the steps you take to build awareness right through to service delivery and after-sale relationship building – must be designed to help the buyer make the multitude of decisions necessary at each point in their buying process. Keep in mind that your buyers are just like you when YOU’RE the buyer. They’re nervous because buying is risky. They want to believe your claims are true, so help them recognize you as the best solution provider for them by using a variety of proof elements. They’ll be more confident and will take action faster.

Are you brave enough to be true to yourself as you grow your business?

black_ribbonToday is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Auschwitz was actually three camps and they were part of the horror of the Holocaust, the mass execution of the Jews and others (but primarily Jews) by the Nazis during World War II.

The State of Israel confers a title of Righteous Among Nations on people who risked their lives to save Jewish people during that time.

“Risked their lives.”

I thought about that phrase as I read the article.

I’ve never risked my life ever.

Sure, I’ve gone diving and had a scary accidental encounter with a shark. I was in a terrible car accident and should have died.

And I did some mighty stupid stuff as a teenager.

But I never intentionally risked my life for another person.

I taught college full time and as an adjunct, and I would often start or end classes with an ethical dilemma.

I did it to challenge the student’s thinking and help them develop critical thinking skills, just as the memorable instructors who taught me had.

Some of them answered with great bluster about the tough stand they’d take; and some of them talked bravely about standing up to a superior if they discovered an ethical violation or they felt the business was engaging in behavior that was wrong somehow.

I can only hope those students went on to do just that when the time called for it.

As a former corporate employee — HR manager and director — I can attest that it’s not easy to do and if you’re a corporate staffer reading this or remember those days in corporate life, you choose your battles wisely.

Now reading this article and thinking about the Holocaust and those who bravely “risked their lives” to save others, I think about how I haven’t always been brave enough to even be myself.

There were times when I gave in and took on a client I didn’t really want to work with because I wasn’t brave enough to insist that I only wanted to work on certain types of projects and hers wasn’t one of them.

There were times when I put in so much extra work on a project that I felt completely used and taken advantage of by a client who was paying me peanuts. Because I wouldn’t stand up and say “listen, what you’re asking me to do is way above the scope of our agreement and I’m going to have to charge you _______ for that.”

What was I afraid of? What did I feel I was risking? It certainly wasn’t my life.

“Risked their life.”

So on this day of all days, I honor those who died, those who survived, those who gave their lives to free others, and those who risked their lives that others may live by promising — myself, my God, and those I’m meant to serve that. if those at Auschwitz and the other death camps and on the battle fields and streets can be brave enough to put so much on the line, I can certainly be brave enough to speak honestly, to serve only those I’m meant to serve, and do only work that brings me joy.

What about you? Have you allowed a fear to grip you? Will you allow that fear to keep you from achieving your dreams? Or will you decide that you’ve had enough and become brave enough to live a full, honest life and allow yourself to create a business that’s truly in sync with who you really are?

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