Your POV — the Foundation of Your Unique Position

line_in_sand_little_girlI was listening to a segment of Seth Godin’s Start-up School Podcast when he said something I’ve heard others say but that really hit me this time.

“Have a point of view.”

He had been talking to his audience about getting their message out, growing an audience that truly wants to hear (or read) what you say, and who wants more of it.

I didn’t choose another podcast from the que because that little statement – “have a point of view” – was busy rolling around in my head.

According to the British Dictionary at Dictionary.com  a point of view (POV) is….

  1. A position from which someone or something is observed
  2. A mental viewpoint or attitude
  3. The mental position from which a story is observed or narrated

Mr. Godin emphasized having a POV and sharing it – fearlessly – because it’s the foundation to helping clients buy.

And that’s the most basic part of MY POV – that you can’t convince anyone to buy anything. They’ve got to come to that conclusion…make that commitment…themselves. You can only help them buy.

I asked my Facebook contacts what makes them recognize that someone is an authority in a subject area and what would make them decide to follow that person and consider buying from them?

My contacts said things like “confidence” and “their message sounds right to me” and “their message rings true to me”.

So maybe the secret to building a strong foundation to (y)our messages is to understand our POV and communicate it.

Powerfully. Continuously. Consistently.

So have a trusted business friend ask you, “why should someone buy from you rather than a competitor?” and then answer that out loud and ask them for feedback on the clarity, confidence, and passion you spoke with.

Could they really hear and mentally see what makes you unique or did you use vague statements like, “I give my clients the best service”?

Did you speak with the conviction that confidence brings or did your voice and speech patterns send the message that you’re unsure of yourself?

What feelings did they sense from you or did your little explanation give them? Did they get a sense that your work consumes you? That solving your client’s problems, helping them achieve their goal really keeps you up at night?

Einstein said, “If you can’t explain something you don’t understand it.”

As crazy as it may sound, you may not fully understand the principles, values, and beliefs that drive you. Especially those that drive you to do your work in the way you do it and to grow your business in the way you’re growing it.

There are times when our principles, values, and beliefs collide in such a way that we struggle to draw a line in the sand and give full voice to our beliefs.

We were indoctrinated to believe that we could only be different between the little walls of the box our superiors put us in. That we couldn’t voice an opinion too strongly or we’d be thought of as someone who wasn’t a team player.

But it’s time to accept that we’re the CEO as well as the Chief Marketing Officer, head of Sales, and the front line employees as well.

And that if we really ARE different from the competition we need to be sure everyone knows that and understands what makes us unique.

This is truly risky – telling people what we think.

But having a clear point of view and boldly sharing it is exactly what we have to do to have the impact we want with those we most want to help. And be well-rewarded for doing it.

To identify your own POV try answering the following questions…

  • What do you believe about the problem you solve and the outcome you deliver?
  • Can you list a 10 Commandments or 10 Rules about the problem or the outcome?
  • What do you think others in your line of work are getting wrong or leaving out?
  • Which segment of those who need what you do is underserved by those in your line of work?
  • Why do people need you in order to have the result they want?
  • What aren’t your competitors emphasizing that you think they should be?

A great way to really get to the bottom of your point of view is to decide to write a book about it.

Seriously. I’m not kidding.

Nothing will force you to articulate your thoughts like creating something that others are going to pay to read.

As C.S. Lewis said, “We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand.”

10 Tips to Make Sure You Have the Right Pics for Marketing Your Business

girl_taking_pictures_facing_inI was on Skype with my colleague in an online mastermind group last night. We’ll call her Sandi (since that’s her name). She was looking for feedback on book covers for a client project.

Sandi had been working on this project for awhile and the cover had gone through several iterations.

The cover has several problems (which I’ll save for a different post) but the biggest one was the author’s photo that was going to be used on the front.

It’s not right for the cover, but the author loves it.

I’m going to resist the temptation to go off on a tangent about clients who fall in love with things that won’t help them. That’s another issue all on its own.

I ran into a similar problem when I worked for a brand design firm.

One of our biggest and one of my favorite clients to write for was a growing regional insurance agency.

The CEO was the son of the founder and it was a great example of a successful family-owned business.

When we landed the account, my boss (who owned the firm), spent an afternoon taking pictures of the CEO (Tom) for the series of ads we’d be creating for the agency.

Tom was truly the face of the brand and felt it was important that HE be the one delivering his messages.

He was right.

He’s photogenic, comfortable in front of the camera, and even comfortable filming a commercial.

The problem though was sometimes I’d be writing ad for copy that was talking about pretty somber stuff –being protected in case of an emergency or even a disaster.

But the pictures my boss took all had Tom sporting a big toothy grin.

My boss refused to ask Tom to pose for more pictures because he didn’t want to admit he’d missed something in the original photo shoot, nor did he want to have any additional expenses on the account.

This really cramped my writing style and sometimes would take me twice as long to create an ad because I had to have the copy match that face.

I did the job, and Tom was so happy with the ads he would refer to me as his “voice” because he said I came up with what he would genuinely say.

If you’re the face of your business then you’ll need to accept that fact means you need to have your picture taken fairly often for your various marketing and sales materials. So here are some simple tips to help you use your money wisely.

  1. Work with a professional photographer. My boss was pretty good but by no means a professional. Hire someone who has done shots for marketing and advertising because they’ll know you need various looks (serious, happy, etc.).
  2. Think about the emotions you’re trying to convey and to arouse in your Prime Suspects. I don’t know about you but I want a serious guy in charge of my insurance. When I had headshots done I picked two and asked my newsletter readers which one they liked. They were VERY vocal and basically told me one they hated because it was too serious and business like. The other one they LOVED because they felt it captured the personality they see when I teach live. And that’s the one I’ve used on my site online and off for about 4 years (and they’re time for an update).
  3. Get shots from various angles. You want to be able to place the picture looking into the copy wherever it is. For example, I always have my picture next to a note from me that’s part of my newsletter. My face is turned into the writing. It gives the subtle message that I’m in alignment with my message. (See how the girl is pointing the camera towards the copy? That’s what I mean. I could have used a shot with the girl pointing the camera straight at you. But having her facing the camera away from the copy would not be good.)
  4. Get a full body shot. I think of this as a power shot. There’s something confident and compelling about a person standing up.
  5. Get some pictures sitting down. Lean into the shot to create a feeling of movement and subtly look one direction and to the other. I think most of us are more photogenic when we’re looking slight on an angle.
  6. Take several changes of clothing to the shoot. If your image is conservative (like your clients expect you to be in a suit) then take at least more than one blazer with you. You never know how the lighting might impact the colors and textures. And if you’ve got a slightly laid back reputation then you might want to have some shots that are business casual and some that are more business traditional for you and your clients.
  7. Get the pictures taken against a white background. That gives you the most flexibility.
  8. Consult with an image consultant on wardrobe, makeup, jewelry and colors. It’s money well spent to have a makeup professional do your makeup before the shoot. Guys, that goes for you too. A little touch of concealer too minimize shadows around your eyes especially helps make you look brighter (visually, not mentally)
  9. Get new pictures done if you need them. Don’t be like my boss and force me to use happy pictures when I needed neutral emotion. If what you’ve got doesn’t send the message you want then get them done again.
  10. Loosen up before the shoot. Play your favorite music, bring a supportive friend along…do what you need to in order to be relaxed and present the real you. These are marketing and sales tools afterall, not your junior high school class picture. You’re smart and professional and that’s what you’re trying to convey.

If you haven’t updated your pictures in a while then it’s time to plan for that and start budgeting for pictures whenever you’re launching something new or changing your messaging.

 

The problem with advice

confused_where_to_goHave you ever had one of those moments when you’ve been thinking about something but haven’t really given voice to it, but someone you’re talking to says EXACTLY what you’ve been thinking?

I’ve had a week full of those moments.

It was topped off by today (Friday) when someone I barely consider an acquaintance but who I respect tremendously, generously offered me some of her time to brainstorm the title to my next book.

Titles being critical to the success of a book, I eagerly took her up on it.

The book will be what’s referred to as a platform building book. It will explain the foundation of my philosophy and approach to the work I do with clients to strengthen their sales process.

At the core of the book is a model for explaining how buyers buy.

When you’re creating something like a process, model, or system it’s common to try to brand it and come up with clever language that makes it memorable to your audience.

I approach selling anything from the buyer’s perspective. It’s what lets me crawl inside their head and identify the pieces that are missing or that need to be enhanced in the seller’s process.

I wanted to call this model, the Buying Path, because it really is a route people travel…sometimes fast, sometimes slow…and sometimes they go off onto a side path, sometimes the get lost in the weeds.

I showed a drawing I had of it to someone and explained the whole thing.

He liked it and instantly saw how it definitely applies to buying (and selling) but he said “you’ve got to lose that ‘Path’ thing.”

He went on to explain how the concept of a path was too boring and slow when people want to sell quickly.

Of course, that’s part of my point about why sales is difficult – because the seller wants the sale to happen fast…often before the buyer is ready to buy. And there are more steps in the buying process than sellers want to acknowledge.

I also thought the whole concept of a “path” fit with my own personality.

I love to garden. My garden was once on the local garden tour and it was written up twice in our local paper. And I thought there were natural metaphors between gardening, growing, and the path people take to buy.

But I listened to him and started using HIS name for the model.

And it’s always bothered me.

I mean…it wasn’t ME.

And now that I’ve been an independent consultant for 7 or so years now I understand my Prime Suspects and best clients are a lot like me.

We’re Ambiverts and Introverts.

We’re not pushy people.

We care about our clients making the decision that’s right for THEM.

We believe that selling is not about taking, it’s about giving. It’s about helping.

We know that in not pressuring, pestering, or pushing a client, and by giving them the information, tools, and resources to make a decision they’ll take more steps but they’ll actually decide faster.

The point of all this is to demonstrate that, while we all need advice and we all need to work with an advisor, coach, mentor or someone to help us think through our issues and decisions as we grow our business, we can’t be something we’re not.

So here are 5 tips when looking for advice. And this is hard because sometimes you really do need to hear and accept that your idea isn’t really very good. So like all advice…take mine with a grain of salt.

  1. Why are you asking this particular person? Are they an expert in this subject? Have they achieved something you want to achieve and have they done it in a way you feel good about?
  2. What is that you want from them? Do you want them to tell you what to do, help you talk through options, play Devil’s Advocate, or what?
  3. Are you invested in this relationship and are they invested in it? Yes, that means are you paying them. If you’re paying them, then it’s likely they’re going to take the time to fully understand you, the situation, and the implications of what needs to be decided. If you’re just talking over coffee then don’t expect a very deep analysis.
  4. Have others told you the same or similar things? If every single person you ask is telling you you’re making a mistake then maybe you need to start wondering what’s making them say that and could they possibly be on to something? Now of course we all know there are legendary people in every area of life who people said would never succeed who then did. From writers like Stephen King and JK Rowlings to Abe Lincoln, Mark Cuban, and the Beatles. Part of being an entrepreneur is believing in your dreams, knowing you’re on your purpose, and doing whatever it takes to make it happen. (I’m writing this at 10:51pm on a Friday night while my husband is in bed because I’m committed to finishing a writing challenge I read about online. I’m committed to building a strong web presence as a way to grow my business. #YourTurnChallenge)
  5. Be your own guru. Getting advice and even training from others doesn’t mean that you just blindly follow their direction (like I did). I’ve come to understand that what it means is to continue to develop yourself as you work on that dream. Listen to and watch for what your heart – and the Universe – is telling you. The greatest ability you can develop is the power to trust yourself.

And I’m changing the name of my model to the Buying Path.

10 Signs You’re Not Positioned Clearly

red_tulips_white_tulipDavid Ogilvy, considered to be the father of modern advertising, famously said positioning is the most important decision you’ll ever make about your business or offerings. That’s because it impacts every other decision you’ll make about marketing and selling your services (or products for that matter).

If you’re looking to increase your revenue, make it easier to attract your best clients, and raise the number of  — and improve the quality of — referrals you get, then clarifying your position in the market is the first place to start.

Positioning refers to your Role and Rank.

Your position is the Role you play for those you serve and the Rank you hold in their minds as well as their hearts compared to others in your industry segment.

While being first in the mind of your buyer has been preached as what you should be shooting for, that’s not completely true.

If I say “car” and you say “BMW” that’s nice. But you always buy Honda.

Your objective as a business owner is to balance building awareness with carving out a place in the buyer’s heart as well as their mind.

This is true whether you sell direct to consumers or in the B-to-B space http://ow.ly/HNuD2

Positioning is the foundation of branding and must be clarified in order for the visual and verbal branding to help the business reach and resonate with its best clients.

Here are 10 signs you’ve got a positioning problem:

  1. People tell you they either don’t understand what you do or can’t explain what you do. You see the same people at networking meetings you attend and have had some one-on-one conversations with them.

Maybe you’ve even met for coffee or lunch. But one (or more) of them has confessed – maybe when they’ve tried to introduce you to someone – that they really can’t explain what you do. This screams out you’ve got a messaging problem and that’s usually grounded in a positioning problem.

  1. You get pushback about your price. Price is a complicated subject, but for the sake of positioning, let’s assume you know you’re priced fairly for the results you produce and that you have solid evidence of that work. If you’re still getting pushback and you know you’re talking to your ideal clients then you’ve probably got a positioning problem. They aren’t seeing you as a high-value provider.
  1. The referrals you get aren’t a good fit. I once had a friend and past client send me an email that she had a referral for me (Yay!). She went on to tell me about the person’s problem and then proceeded to say “She’s a little bit crazy.”

I had to clarify for her that I don’t do crazy.

If you’re getting bad referrals you need to do two things: First, tell the person who referred the client that the person wasn’t a good fit (be very careful about the language you use). Then explain why. And be sure to explain what makes a good client.

  1. You get easily distracted and grab every new marketing tool that comes down the pike but aren’t consistent with any of them. Which social posting sites actually lead to referral partnerships and clients? Which sites are you on that you know for sure have the largest number of your ideal clients on and regularly interact on? Do you post to these sites regularly? Do you interact with others or do you just post your own information? Do you practice what marketing expert Pam Hendrickson calls “random acts of content”? If so, then you’ve got a positioning problem.
  1. Your marketing tools (website, social profiles, collateral material, etc) look and sound like everyone else’s in your segment. Your language is the same middle-of-the-road language. There’s no personality in any of your messaging and you use nothing but stock images on your site. Ho-hum. Today’s buyers have certain levels of expectation about messaging quality and impact. While they don’t want you to be salesy, they don’t want you to be white bread either. If you’re playing it too safe because you’re afraid of “chasing away” people then you’re not fully committed to attracting your best audience.
  1. You hate showing up at an event and discovering there’s someone else there who’s in your industry segment. This concern springs from several potential places; but if you were confident about your unique difference, the completely unique value you bring to your clients, and your unique client focus there would be no need for you to be unhappy that there are others in your industry segment at the same event.
  2. You struggle to create content for your marketing channels. If you’re struggling to come up with content, you’re likely focusing on the work (yes, it’s hard) and not the value to the audience and your business. Content helps buyers learn about their problem and the solution you recommend, so it’s critical that you share your knowledge, philosophy, and approach with them. Content creation is a critical element of the Pre-Selling process that positions you as an expert, demonstrates your personality and ability, and helps the buyer decide to take the next step in the buying process to move towards you (or away from you if they’re not right for you). So yes, you’ve got to make time to either do it yourself or work with someone who can help you get your message out.
  3. It takes you more than 30 seconds to describe what you do. You and I know it certainly does take longer than 30 seconds to fully explain what you do. But in the brief time you have to answer the question, “So….what do YOU do?” all you’re trying to do is help someone understand the problem you solve so they can tell if you can help them or someone they know, if there’s a potential referral relationship between you, and if you seem like a nice person. So if you’ve been oversharing in your introduction – or worse – you’re introduction includes any phrase that sounds like “…and I also…” then you’ve got a positioning problem.
  4. People don’t introduce you right. This is painful when it happens. I’ve had people do email or social media connections that I’ve read and thought “that’s NOT what I do!” That was one of my first clues that I was positioned badly.  Create a brief introduction for others to use and share it with them. No one wants to introduce you incorrectly.
  5. You don’t know how you’re different. This is the heart of a positioning problem. If you think you’re just like your competition then it begs the question why you started your business. You’re going to be considered a commodity and are going to be forced to compete on price or other easily identifiable differences your clients can see and understand.

Clarifying your own position can be a lot like trying to pull your own teeth. Sure, you COULD do it….eventually…but it will be an incredibly long and painful process to say the least.

The core elements of your position – the Role you want to play and the Rank you want to hold in the mind and heart of your best clients – come from deep within you. Their foundation is in your mission, your dreams for the business, your goals for your clients, and your motivation for serving them. It should also be something that your best clients see as valuable and is something your so-called competitors aren’t emphasizing.

Positioning is something within your own heart and mind, that must be given voice to and you must be brave enough to uncover, embrace, and communicate it.

Reduce Risk, Increase Trust and Confidence to Help Clients Buy

fear_trustWhat’s a scary activity your potential clients engage in every day?

They make decisions.

And why is that scary?

Well…how many people do you know who have been demoted or gotten fired because they made a bad decision?

The buying process is filled with decisions. It’s full of risk. And if you’re a potential new vendor for your client you’re asking them to take a big risk.

Lots of them actually.

What if you don’t perform? What if the money they spend on your solution ends up being needed to capitalize on some opportunity?

And if you sell to consumers, they face risks in the buying process too.

Have you ever gotten into a fight with your significant other over a purchase?

Ever felt stupid after you told a peer you bought something?

Sure you have.

When you’re involved in a sales conversation or a selling relationship, you’re asking the buyer to trust you. You’re asking them to take the risk that what you’re promising is really true and that you really will deliver on all the things you’re saying.

And that nothing bad will happen to them personally or professionally.

Your marketing tactics are likely bringing Suspects (or leads) in from a variety of sources – the Web (through your blog posts, social posts,  directories, and more); live events like speaking opportunities, mixers, and industry events; referrals; and other sources.

Buyers come to you at various points in their own buying process and they’re looking for specific types of things at each point in the process.

The buyer probably doesn’t even realize they’re looking for them.

What they want to know is if taking a step closer to learn more about working with you is worth it. Is it safe or are you just like so many others out there – just out for the sale.

They’re looking – either consciously or unconsciously – for proof elements.

Proof elements come in various types but they serve to reduce the buyer’s level of risk and raise their level of trust of you.

There are 7 types of Proof:

Social Proof. These include testimonials and other evidence that your offerings work, that you’re a nice and reliable person (or company), and that you deliver on your promises. The more proof the better. I like to sprinkle social proof throughout a website and throughout the various collateral material in the sales process. I once saw a testimonial from a client who returned a product. He complimented the business on making good on the “no hassle returns” promise and made clear that the produce appeared to be a good one, just not right for him at the present time. That’s a gutsy move but very smart. Talk about reducing risk and increasing trust.

Results-based. This is the sort of proof that’s grounded in the outcomes past clients have gotten. The more specific the results cited, the more believable they are. So don’t round numbers up or down. If the average client sees a 13.67% improvement in X when using your service than say that. The key element here is to have other proof elements (which I’ll explain below) along with the details in order to strengthen the buyer’s confidence. So when you see the picture, read a little blurb about the person, and read about the results she had you’re subconsciously thinking, “if SHE had results like that then I should certainly be able to see improvement in my situation.” This is one of many reasons why staying in touch with clients to monitor their progress is important and also why you’ve got to have results from people who are like those you most want to work with. Because if your clients all appear to be big companies and your Suspect is a small business she may dismiss those results as being impossible for her to duplicate.

Third-Party Endorsement. This is different from a testimonial. It’s when someone who’s not a client says nice things about you. Maybe some guru saw you speak and blogged about how brilliant you are. (You have a Google Alert set up and you take other steps to monitor when you or your organization is mentioned online don’t you?)  That’s a third-party endorsement. When you get one, it’s like basking in the glow of that person’s brand.

Implied Endorsement. This is a subtle one but it can be really effective. Let’s say you speak at an event or you’re on stage at an event. That’s really an implied endorsement of you and your brilliance. I created a sales kit that sold $400,000 worth of new business in 4 months for the region’s largest roofing and siding company. One of the key elements was a document I downloaded and printed out off of a state website. It had the state’s logo and web address. I got permission for my client to use it and we didn’t change it in any way. We were just handing out helpful information to avoid being taken advantage of by home repair contractors. That was an implied endorsement.

Fact-based. If you’re going to make a claim, be sure to have evidence to back it up. This might be a survey or some other type of verifiable evidence that supports your point of view or verifies your statements. Following organizations that are widely respected and that track trends or conduct studies that are related to your industry, your offering, or the impact your work has on a segment of the population can help you stay on top of and use this type of information.

Achievement. This is slightly different than Results-Based. Results had to do with the outcome your clients’ have. Achievement relates to you, your organization, or your staff if you have one. Have you won an award, landed some big client, celebrated some anniversary, or done something else? If what you achieved is relevant for your clients than you want to use this in your marketing pieces.

Visual Proof.  Sure you can say Joe Blow the COO of ABC Company said you guys are the best thing ever but when you have a picture of you and Joe or you have a video of him actually delivering his testimonial and talking about the results they’ve gotten, then by all means use it. Grab a selfie-stick and the next time you’re meeting with a client who loves you, stand next to her and let her start raving. Some of the elements already mentioned get bonus points when you can add a visual element to them.

Credentials. If you’re a doctor, lawyer, or other professional whose clients want to know that you carry a certain credential then make it clear you have it. Certifications are a way to help buyers recognize that someone is competent in some field. So if it’s important in your industry or to your clients, than make it clear that you’ve got the necessary credentials. I’ve got a certification I maintain that nobody has ever asked me about, but it helped me get a freelance job and was an easy way to verify that I must have known something.

Buyers often don’t know how to buy. They don’t understand what’s different between providers and they can easily default to simple-to-understand elements like price.

You don’t want that to happen.

Proof elements help your buyer feel more confident about you and your ability to perform. So the more, the different, and the more elaborate proof you can provide the easier it will be for them to move forward in the buying process.

What types of proof are important to your Prime Suspects? What elements do you plan to focus on adding to your sales process?

The Foundation of Messages That Resonate — Finding Your Why

question_mark_beliefsOne of the biggest issues every business wrestles with is how to stand out from the crowd of competitors.

The frustratingly difficult part of selling our services is making those differences clear – to ourselves so we can communicate them and to others so they’re drawn to us.

We don’t want to chase after clients, nor do we want to compete on things like price.

So how do we uncover what truly makes us unique and communicate that in a way that gets the message across to those it will really resonate with?

Is it our offerings that make us unique? What about the results we deliver or the way we deliver them?

It’s actually none of that. Each of those things can be duplicated.

Sure being first to market can ensure our position in the minds of our audience but none of us is the first accountant, doctor, business coach, or marketing consultant in our community.

What makes us unique and unduplicatable is the unique cocktail that is our approach, philosophy, beliefs, values, mission, and drivers.

Simon Sinek’s great TED talk, “Start With Why” is a great starting point if you’re struggling to uncover and build a foundation that’s unique to you and you alone.

But identifying your Why is challenging.

I think we have three Why’s.

Your personal Whys. I’ve got many reasons I’m self-employed and lots of reasons I do the work I do. I believe service-professionals have a hard time fully articulating their Why because it’s so deeply ingrained in them. I’ve been asked why I do the work I do and I’ve asked others. And the answer among us is the same – “I have to. It’s my mission.” Or “It’s just what I do.”

We’ve been gifted with a set of unique talents that we spend a good part of our lives trying to identify and put to use.

And while we all share the same basic mission – To Serve Others – each of us is driven and motivated by different elements that keep us moving towards achieving the mission placed on our hearts.

Your work…your mission…even that of your firm as you work to build it…grows from within you. Ask yourself “why” in order to unearth it.

The Why for your Clients. I’ve got a Why or two for my clients. Sometimes it feels like I want their success more than they do.

I want my clients to create the independent lives they dream of. I want to see them joyfully using their skills and sharing them with the world. I want to see them experiencing the abundance they dream of.

On days (like today) when I’m staring at that blank page in front of me, trying to collect my thoughts, the thing that keeps me going is knowing someone needs my help to achieve their goals faster than they’d be able to do it without my help.

The Why for the World. I grew up in a small town in the most rural county in South Jersey. Less than 64,000 people live in the entire county. It’s a beautiful place. But the town is a ghost town. Full of boarded up buildings, vacant lots, and unemployed people who can’t or won’t leave.

When I was a kid, you could walk into town and buy virtually anything you wanted – from a new car to groceries to clothing. We had three grocery stores and every neighborhood had a little store that was family owned. My aunt and uncle owned one of those stores and their shop also sold fresh meat since my Uncle Johnny was a butcher.

It breaks my heart to go back home and drive through town and see nothing but broken windows and buildings that are falling apart.

In my heart, I think that helping my clients – most of whom are husbands and wives who work in their business together – is somehow an attempt to heal the hurt in that little town.

I’m crazy enough to believe that people should be able to be self-employed…to earn a handsome living being well-compensated for providing goods and services for others in their community, their region, or even around the world.

I also believe that communicating your uniqueness starts with understanding your Why, then communicating it in as many ways as you can.

So here’s what I think you can reflect on. And for those of you who are growing a business with a team – whether they’re employees or contractors – giving full voice to your why and sharing that with your staff, will help you become an employer who can choose from the best. People will come on board because they resonate with what you stand for and with how you do what you do.

OK, so here’s that list of what forms the foundation and framework of your why…

Your Beliefs – about people, about the work you do, about those you serve

Your approach – how you look at the problem you solve and then how you tackle it. I approach every sales problem from the mind of the buyer, not from the seller.

Your philosophy – According to Dictionary.com, a philosophy is “a particular system of thought based on study or investigation”; “the critical study of the basic principles and concepts of a particular branch of knowledge, especially with a view to improving or reconstituting them”; “a system of principles for guidance in practical affairs”; or “an attitude of rationality, patience, composure, and calm in the presence of troubles or annoyances.” We’ve all GOT a philosophy. We just don’t typically think about it. We just sort of react. But attracting clients is at its root, attracting people who share your beliefs and philosophy, so it’s important – even critical I think – to uncover and give voice to yours.

Your motivation – Yep, this is what drives you. It’s a combination of your personality (the way you’re wired), the problem(s) you’re trying to solve, and the wishes in your heart. One of my motivations is the dream that I’ll build a business big enough to have my sisters be able to work for me. My other motivation is knowing the difference I could make for people.

And I love solving a problem. It’s fun to see the possibilities and figure out the solution to make them a reality.

Your experiences – You’re who you are because of everything you went through to get here. There’s something(s) in your background that will help your best clients feel like you get them.  They contribute to your Why as well as to the What and the How. As a professional you might not want to talk about the things you perceive as negatives in your background but those things you see as dark moments may prove to your clients that you’ve got what it takes to help them avoid those same dark spots they’ll face. No one wants diet tips from someone who’s never struggled with their weight right?

Your style – You’ve got one whether you want to admit it or not, and it can be important to your clients. An accountant is an accountant right? My accountant lives 500 miles from me and I refuse to go to anyone else. I love his style. He’s got the perfect demeanor for me and I’d rather work with him than someone a mile away.

Your approach – This is a little different from your style. Your approach is the method you follow…your system. THIS is often a big part of your difference. If you’re a service provider, naming your system will go along way to further differentiate you.

The role you play – Are you the Hero? The Visionary? The Cheerleader? The Problem Solver? Each of us usually plays one primary role which is centered on the core of our work (my clients tell me I’m their Problem Solver) and then there’s a secondary role that helps us in our approach.

When you’re feeling frustrated at your efforts to differentiate yourself, get back to basics and get more clarity around your Why. Then begin to incorporate that in your messaging. You’ll be surprised at how It can help you attract more clients and help them decide to buy.

 

 

Create a Client-Focused Sales Process to Help Clients Decide to Buy

magnifying_glass_customerThe old saying, “people don’t mind buying but they hate to be sold to” has never been more true.

Today’s buyer is hip to the typical marketing tactics. They’re on to the ways sales people try to manipulate the conversation.

C’mon…you’re a buyer. Aren’t you on to all of that? And I’m sure you hate it too.

We’ve all been conditioned to hate the sales experience – we’ve seen pushy sales people in movies and on TV. We’ve felt pressured by sales people hawking everything from insurance to furniture to cars.

And while you may not want to be “that guy”, it’s easy to fall into what I refer to as “ego-focused” marketing and selling.

Ego-focused messages are the sort that make vague claims, use lots of hypey BUY-NOW language, and talk about how great the business is.

Client-focused messaging is focused on the problem your Prime Suspects have, the impact of that problem on their business, life, or both and educates the Suspect about the solution options.

You KNOW your offerings can help the person who comes to your website or who you meet over the vegetable tray at the local association dinner.

But why can’t they see that?

Did I mention they hate being sold to?

You created your message in the highest levels of your brain, using the most sophisticated concepts you could think of.

But when they receive the message, it comes into the most primitive area of their brain first – their lizard brain if you will.

They are on high alert for anything that smacks of a marketing or sales message and they’re likely to just dismiss it — and you — as fast as they can.

So whether people are going to your website, watching your video channel, or meeting you in the buffet line, inspiring them to pay attention to you and your messages requires you being client-focused rather than ego-focused.

There are 5 components of a Client-Focused sales process…

  1. Profit. This component includes your offerings – they need to be high-value, solution-focused offerings that your Prime Suspects want and are willing to pay for. This involves creating a profitable business model that leverages your time, is based on the greatest gifts you have, and is easily scalable.
  2. Position. Each of us may be unique in the eyes of the Creator but distinguishing between service providers is not easy for a buyer. One accounting firm is just like all the others to them. You’ve got to be clear about how and why you’re different and it needs to be a difference that matters and is of high value to your Prime Suspects.
  3. People. This component consists of your referral partners, you (you’re a people), and your Prime Suspects. The more you know and understand them the better you can do at creating messages that truly resonate with them and inspire them to take action. No convincing. If you feel the people you’re talking to need convincing then you’re talking to the wrong people.
  4. Pre-Sell. Your sales process starts with your branding, includes marketing tactics like awareness building activity, and goes through to inspiring repeat business and getting testimonials. But how do you help people move through THEIR buying process without pushing or dragging them? That’s where pre-selling comes in. It’s the bridge between marketing and sales. Pre-Selling consists of activities that elevate you to the level of specialist, expert, authority in your focus area. Pre-Selling also includes educating your Prime Suspects. Educating them about the problem, the implications and impact, and – most importantly – how to make a buying decision. Buyers may be experts in the subject area. They may be incredibly knowledgeable about the problem. But they are likely to have blind spots that impact their perception of the impact or of the solution. They’re unlikely to understand the differences between solutions or between the solution providers. If the buyer doesn’t understand the difference between or how to choose between solution providers, they’re going to make their choice based on the easiest things for them to see. Price is the very easiest. You don’t want to compete on price, you know that.
  5. Process. The work of people like Robert Cialdini, Dan Ariely, and others in the field of behavioral economics, has shown us that humans (us included) are often irrational. But there’s still a process people go through when they buy. How fast they go through that process depends on many things including their own personality, what they’re buying, and the level of commitment involved in the purchase. Your sales process needs to follow their buying process, so each step of the way you’re providing them with the information, tools, and / or resources they need to make the best decision for them. But selling doesn’t stop with the actual purchase. It continues through service-delivery and beyond. You’re always helping the buyer rationalize their choice, and recommit to working with you – through to the successful conclusion of this project as well as on the next one. You want to help them to become fans and advocates for you and your services.

If you’re feeling frustrated with how long it takes for a Prime Suspect to go from contact to client, then it’s time to review your process and messaging to identify ways you can continue to improve your client-focus and reduce your ego-focus.

 

5 Tips to “Keep Christmas” in Your Heart All Year

santa_hatOne of my all time favorite holiday movies is A Christmas Carol. I love the version starring Alastair Sim , but the Muppet version with Michael Caine as Scrooge, and the George C. Scott tele-movie in third place.

Even if you haven’t seen the movie or read the book I’m sure you’re familiar with the basic premise of the story:

Ebeneezer Scrooge is a wealthy business man known for his ruthless approach and penny pinching ways who doesn’t even enjoy his wealth himself.

Seven years after his partner Jacob Marley dies, Scrooge is visited by Marley’s ghost.

Marley is forced to spend eternity walking among the living for eternity and witness the love and happiness he – and Scrooge – chose not to see or participate in. Marley must wear heavy chains that are wrapped around him. The chains symbolize the choices Marley made.

Marley realizes they focused on the wrong things in running their business and in running their lives.

Marley tells Scrooge that three ghosts will visit during the night in an effort to help Scrooge realize the error of his ways and reform. They visit and eventually Scrooge recognizes the mistakes he’s made and how blind he’s been. He makes a promise – to himself and to the Spirit of Christmas Yet-to-Come – to “…honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”

And of course, that’s the challenge we all face, isn’t it? To honor and live the spirit of our beliefs, not just talk about them.

As you throw out the wrappings and put away the decorations, I hope you’ll pause to reflect on what I believe are the 5 lessons Marley and the spirits shared with Scrooge and consider how you may “honour Christmas” and “keep it all the year.”

  1. Open your eyes to blind spots and let go of your emotional baggage. Scrooge became convinced that acquiring money would protect him from being hurt. He put all of his attention on what he was great at – making money – and “viewed everything by gain.” In trying to protect himself he only created more of the separation and loneliness he didn’t want. His gut reaction to wishes of “Merry Christmas” was a passionate “humbug!” because he focused on the outpouring of money and not the in-pouring of love. Think about how and which emotions are ruling your actions and thoughts. Is your message ego-focused or truly client-focused? Are you building your business consistent with your values or are you re-creating the same bureaucracy you left behind in your corporate life?
  2. Invest in your personal development. Scrooge missed so much love and so many opportunities simply because people were afraid of him. If we focus only on the development of our business and professional skills while ignoring our personal development we limit what our business could become and how far of an impact we can have. As the wonderful Leo Buscaglia said, “Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.”
  3. Have a clear vision of what you want. Scrooge accumulated wealth but it seemed to serve no purpose other than its accumulation. It wasn’t like he surrounded himself with creature comforts — He lived in a ramshackle house that he didn’t even heat well. When you cast the vision of what you want your business to be, include your life in that vision. What will your business look like 20 years from now? What sort of life do you want to be living 20 years from now? Will you be selling the business? Will you pass it on to the next generation of your family?I’m not just talking about goals and achievements. I’m talking about what you want your world will look like.

    Your brain can’t help you create what it doesn’t know you want.

    Write out your vision for the future and make it so detailed a 10-year old could read and understand it. Studies show writing by hand – not typing – has more impact on the brain.

  1. Believe in abundance. Scrooge was described as a “miser”, which Dictionary.com defines as “a person who hoards money or possessions, often living miserably”. A woman called me to discuss working with my but one of the first things she said was “I probably can’t afford you” (which signaled to me that she believes in lack not abundance). And within a few minutes of talking she went on to tell me that if I worked with her I wouldn’t be able to work with anyone else in her industry segment (more fear and lack). But the topper was how she then went on to say she was afraid to try anything new because her competitors would copy what we did together. Yikes! A belief in abundance from a business standpoint means you belief there’s enough business for everyone and that by being completely unique and trusting in that uniqueness you’ll attract those you’re meant to serve. Saying you believe in abundance is easy. Actually living and operating as if you believe is the challenge.
  2. Give. You deserve to earn a handsome living for the high quality work you do. Share your wealth – which is more than just the dollars in your bank account. Share the gift of time with your team members, vendors, and referral partners. Speak to school groups, not just to networking groups you want to get business from. Help new entrepreneurs. Find that balance between giving free information and not being taken advantage of. Stop trying to get everything for free. Hire people and pay their full fee trusting them – and managing them – to give you full value for what they charge. Give of yourself and your time, talent, and treasure with no focus on the reward but being thankful you can do it. Decide you’ll set people up for success – staff members, vendors, clients, and referral partners – by giving them the information and tools to succeed.

Whether you celebrate the Christmas season or not, there’s no doubt the spirit of the holiday is bigger than its commercial trappings or battles over “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas.”

So as you head into the new year I pray you’ll lift a glass and make the same promise Scrooge made, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”

How to Give Gifts That Build Relationships and Build Your Brand

wrapped_giftWe’re barreling to the end of the year and, in addition to examining what went right and what went wrong, planning to make the next year even more successful, it’s also time to decide how we’re going to say thanks to our clients, strategic referral partners, and even our special vendors.

Thanking your team members and staff is also important but I’m going to save that for another post.

Whether this has been a banner year financially for you or not, it’s still important to find some way to show your appreciation to the special people in your business life.

No matter whether you give your gifts during the month of December or you save them as a kick off to the new year, I’ve got some tips on how you can use your budget effectively without looking like a Scrooge.

The most important phrase I learned about gift giving came from my very first consulting client, Bruce Kamis of Kamis Imprinted Products.

Bruce and I met in a networking group and we just hit it off.

He gave a presentation once that educated us on “perceived value”. This speaks to the price the receiver has in her head about the overall worth of your gift.

For example, we’ve all seen aluminum travel cups on sale in coffee shops. They’re typically priced around $10 to $20. So when you give someone that as a gift along with a bag of their favorite coffee and a few cookies, they’re going to see that as a gift worth anywhere from $20 to $40 dollars.

If you bought the cup in quantities from a promotional products company it’s possible that you spent only $5 or so for the cup. That takes the actual price of your gift down to the $10 to $15 dollar range.

Understanding perceived value and that the recipient of your gift is going to do the mental comparisons in her head is important if you want to keep your gesture from creating more harm than good.

For example, It’s common for a real estate agent to give a gift to the buyer after the purchase.

When we bought our house last winter, our real estate agent gave us a gift of a bottle of olive oil and a bottle of balsamic vinegar.

Seriously?

We gave him $18,000 in revenue and he gave us something that cost maybe $20 tops and that’s if he bought really high-end stuff (trust me, he didn’t) and if we add in the sales tax.

That made me feel as though he either didn’t appreciate our business or was too thoughtless or lazy to put any effort in choosing something.

A much nicer and more thoughtful gift would have been a gift certificate for dinner at one of the gourmet restaurants in town.

Even if we had the most expensive thing on the menu, plus dessert, plus cocktails it would have cost 1% of what our sale was truly worth to him.

 

But it’s not just dollars and cents in the perceived value equation.

It’s also the thought and sometimes the effort involved.

This is when it pays to adopt some of Sherlock’s powers of observation.

I work pretty closely with my clients and strategic referral partners over the course of a project. I discover who has a sweet tooth and who’s gone gluten free.

I know who is an empty-nester and who is struggling to juggle the new baby and work.

I also know who the proud pet parents are.

One of my colleagues once gave me a tiny tree. I was over the moon! It couldn’t have cost more than a few dollars, but that gift showed just how well she knew me (I’m a big birder and gardener). I planted that thing in the perfect spot and said goodbye to it when I moved. (Yes I take “tree hugger” to new levels).

Another person “adopted” a seal for me.

I was crazy with joy over that and still have the picture and the “adoption certificate”.

if you don’t know much about your clients, do a little research. Connect with them on Facebook and LinkedIn. Scan their wall or profile for things they post about and things they’re interested in.

Do you know their home town or university? Get them a t-shirt, sweatshirt, or even a coffee mug with the college emblem.

Even a key chain is a good idea. Something else Bruce taught me was you want them to use the item (or at least look at it a lot) and think of you (fondly) when they use it.

I actually like getting junk mail catalogs and I scan them all year for goofy stuff to give.

I had a colleague who had a Santa collection. So when I saw a toy Santa with a Mexican hat and maracas that played and danced to Feliz Navidad (her favorite Christmas carol), I knew I had a gift home run.

Not sure if they celebrate Christmas? That’s ok, everyone celebrates the start of a new year. A great way to stand out from the December holiday deluge of cards is to save yours (and your gift where appropriate) and send them to coincide with New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

It helps your gift or card stand out a bit more and it takes some of the pressure off you too.

When figuring out your holiday budget, it also makes sense to prioritize the gifts you’ll give.

For example, a client who is paying you thousands of dollars isn’t going to get the same gift as a potential client who you’ve had a couple of meetings with.

As my examples show, it’s not necessary to spend a ton of money to show you appreciate and care for the person. But you don’t want to give something that looks like next to no thought went into it at all.

It’s easy to say “bah humbug” at this time of year because there’s so much to do and maybe you feel as though there’s not enough cash to go around. But when a gift is well thought out and conveys the right emotion it’s easy to build your brand and strengthen your relationship with the recipient.

If you’re a notoriously bad gift giver or you’ve got more money than time, consider hiring a professional gift buying consultant who can help you use your budget wisely and make you look good at the same time.

 

The secret to being seen as totally unique

red_tulips_white_tulip

I was very flattered when the woman on the phone told me she heard me speak a few years ago and has been hanging on to my card ever since. But the conversation took a turn for the worse when she then said, “I want to work with you, but I’m afraid when everyone else in my industry sees what we’re doing they’ll copy me and steal our ideas.  And if we work together, you couldn’t work with anyone else in my industry.”

 Wait…What?

First of all, an entrepreneur who is serious about standing out in their field, can’t allow the fear that someone will copy what she’s doing keep her from taking action.

A mindset like hers tells me this person is operating on fear because she’s not confidently and clearly positioned in the market.

Positioning is the action of communicating your unique value so clearly that you get into the mind of your ideal buyer and anchor yourself in so deeply that everyone else is seen as just an also ran.

Your Position is a combination of…

  • the role you play for clients
  • the niche segment you serve
  • the problem you solve
  • your approach to solving the problem

It gets communicated visually — through your brand elements like website, logo, color palette, and your or your staff’s appearance — and verbally — through the tone of voice you use as well as your specific word choice (I use “verbally” to mean written or spoken, online and offline)– and is the foundation of the brand you’re building.

This is about more than just about “brand awareness” or being known for what you do.

When I say “soda” (or “pop” as they call it up here in the Niagara Falls region), your first thought may be of Coke. But that doesn’t matter if Pepsi is what you spend your money on.

The best positioning goes deeper than just the mind. It resonates with the potential client’s heart.

There are four steps to Positioning:

First you have to actually get clear on who and what your business and offerings are all about.

The Father of Modern Advertising — the legendary David Ogilvy — called Positioning “the most important decision you can make” about an offering. That’s because it impacts every other decision you need to make about said offering.

Committing to claiming a position is a brave act — something solo professionals or the owners of small firms might talk about but often resist at a subconscious level for fear claiming a position is going to turn away too much business.

Ogilivy was faced with how to position Dove® soap and the decision is a great example of how powerful the choice is.

He had to decide if Dove® should be positioned as a a cleaning agent — something that gets skin very clean — or should it be positioned as a softening agent — something that cleanses skin while also making it soft?

Lever accepted his recommendation about 50 years ago and it’s still the foundation of Dove’s position.

The second step is getting found. It doesn’t matter if you’re the best at what you do. If those who want what you offer can’t find you or your insight when they need you, you’re struggling. Since the majority of people turn to the Internet to begin the search to solve a problem, you need a large digital footprint that communicates your position effectively so you resonate cognitively and emotionally with your Ideal Clients.  And whatever you do needs to be able to be viewed no matter the tech device used.

Step three is to get into their heart. It doesn’t matter if you’re first in their mind or not. What matters is if they know, like, and trust you enough to choose to work with you. H&R Block might be the first name I think of if you say “Tax Accounting” but that’s not who I trust with my taxes. I might have moved 500 miles away from Bob, my accountant, but he still does my taxes.

Bob’s in my heart. And by getting into my heart he’s my go-to choice.

The fourth step is staying top of mind. Professional solution providers are nervous about this because we’re worried we’ll come across as a pest or that we’ll be seen as salesy.

But when your overworked, overwhelmed ideal client needs a solution provider they can often make a decision driven by convenience. The person who sent them an email this morning may get the business because the client forgot about you.

If you’re ready to truly attract more of your best clients and make it easy for others to refer you, then it’s time to uncover, embrace, and fully communicate your unique so you’re clearly differentiated from the others in your industry segment.