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.

4 Steps to Improve Discoverability and Pre-Sell Your Offerings

magnifying_glass_colored_puzzle_pieces_4Not long after Al Gore invented the Internet, entrepreneurs started dreaming that clients would magically find their shiny new websites, instantly understand the entrepreneur’s value, and start sending them money.

But of course getting found has become harder and harder every year between changes to algorhythms, increased competition, and the strengthening of existing online competitors’ digital footprints.

And even if you do get found online, the challenge then becomes positioning yourself as unique from your competitors as well as being seen as a trusted authority while educating your visitor about the complications involved in solving their problem and turning that traffic into actual business.

So how can you improve your discoverability while making your unique value clear, demonstrating your credibility, and increasing searcher trust?

You do that by concentrating on web presence optimization (WPO), which is the new search engine optimization (SEO).

Web presence optimization requires acknowledging that much more than just your website or blog appears in the search engine results pages (SERPs). It asks you (ok, “forces” you) to start thinking about your SEO and getting-found strategy from a broader perspective and linking these all together as much as you can in order to form a compelling, consistent image online.

Here are the 4 basic steps in WPO…
1. SEO fundamentals. No SEO isn’t going away. It can’t. It’s the foundation of the web and of search. So you’ve got to have a good foundation of key phrases (no single words please). Have the tech elements in place, and, if you’re site is on WordPress, make sure you’re using a plugin to help you optimize each post and page (like Yoast or All-in-One). Key phrases are still important so give some real thought to them and do some research into how people search for what you offer.

2. Have a Content Strategy. Do not practice what Pam Hendrickson (one of my mentors) calls “random acts of content.” That might have worked in the past (like 10 years ago) but it’s not working anymore. Create an editorial calendar tied to the seasons of your offerings and tied to your launch schedule for new offerings. Fill the gaps in with related content and moments of inspiration. Your content is a critical part of your Pre-Sell strategy because it helps differentiate you by sharing your point of view, it educates your visitor / Suspect, and it demonstrates your authority. If you can’t write, don’t have time to write, or don’t want to write then you better plan on using video and audio or hire a writer. There are good ones out there and you need to accept that you’ve got to invest in that skill if you don’t have it yourself. Lorrie Morgan Ferrero, my original copywriting mentor, is famous for saying that copywriting is the most expensive part of your marketing budget and she’s right. But it’s an investment that pays off in a better reach and better reaction from your audience. I’ve been on sites where I can barely follow the copy and I just click away never to return and I’ll bet you do the same. If you’re not willing or able to pay for someone to write for you then invest in a good writing course that focuses on writing for the web.

3. Publish everywhere.Blog posts go on your blog of course but you can also guest post and post your article on LinkedIn as well. Make a few minor changes so it’s appropriate for LinkedIn and there you have it. Put links in updates on your social platforms and encourage people to share. Don’t assume they’ll do it. But make creating great content the focus because that certainly helps inspire people to share. Be sure to add share buttons everywhere. Then do an audio / video recording of you talking about your post and you’ve got a video for You Tube. Maybe you can start a video podcast. And speaking of podcasts, (audio) podcasts are suddenly huge and going to get bigger as cars make it easier to stream them and we all try to escape the commercials and same songs played over and over.

4. Measure, improve, repeat.Track the results of your efforts. Don’t just monitor your industry but monitor your audience’s industry or problem as well. This way your content can help site visitors make connections between your offerings and making their life or business better. Be patient but be bold and make changes as needed. I say be bold because too often we’re soft in our message (and I’m talking to myself here too). Our audience needs to see we’ve got a point of view and they deserve to know what that is. We’re going to attract those people who resonate with it and those who aren’t interested will go find someone who’s a better fit for them. Don’t be afraid of that.

Content has never been more firmly seated on its kingly throne; but Quality is queen.

Getting found online requires a strategy that leverages your content to create a unified presence while raising your discoverability. Give value; don’t hold back; and respect people’s time. Remember, this is how you help clients buy – by Positioning yourself as uniquely different, Pre-Selling yourself – demonstrating your knowledge, educating your visitor; which then helps you Profit by attracting people who want what you offer and who reach out to you ready to learn more and inclined to work with you.

Have a clear point of view and share it bravely — if that POV is controversial

Super Bowl commercials have become so big that lots of people watch the game just to see them.

Me? I just watch them all on You Tube either before or after the game.

Like lots of people, I was taken aback by the Nationwide Insurance Company’s commercial. I thought it was a very bold thing to address through a commercial and incredibly bold to do it during such an upbeat sort of event.

I do think they missed an opportunity to make more clear what their message was and I’ll share that in another post.

They certainly have a clear point of view and as I said were brave in sharing it.

One of the big challenges in attracting and gaining new clients is helping them to understand our unique difference so they can choose a solution provider who they truly resonate with.

Having a clear point of view and bravely sharing it so you attract the right people and gently repel the wrong ones is a critical foundation of an effective marketing and sales strategy.

The Nationwide commercial inspired me to create this video.

Don’t Stretch the Truth — It Just Might Break Your Reputation

pinocchio_lyingI’m going to make a confession about something that I’m a little ashamed about: I don’t watch the nightly news.

I don’t read the newspaper beyond glancing at the headlines.

That fact shames me because I once prided myself on reading two newspapers a day (the local and the big city paper), watching the local and big city news every night, and reading three newspapers on Sunday.

I was on top of things. A well-informed citizen.

During the first Gulf War, my brother and I lived together and we’d watch CNN for hours every night.

Then came September 11, 2001.

I couldn’t leave the TV. I hated watching and at the same time couldn’t stop watching.

But at some point, as I started to make real changes in my life I realized I couldn’t subject myself to the nonstop misery played out in front of me every day. It didn’t matter how sad I was that something happened; that sadness didn’t change that it did in fact happen.

So I now trust that when something really bad happens that I “should” know about as a citizen, it will find its way to me and I can then make a decision on what to do about it and if I need to learn more.

Don’t worry. I go all news-junkie a few months before every election to make sure I’m up on the candidates and the issues so I can do the best job I can when I vote.

I say all that as a prelude to where I’m going.

I just found out about the whole Brian Williams thing.

I’m going to start by saying I don’t know him personally but I’ve always liked what I see. He inspires confidence as he delivers the news and that’s an important quality.

I never sat around wondering if he was telling the truth during a newscast nor during any of the many appearances I’ve seen him make on talk shows or on fundraisers. And I consider him one of Jersey’s favorite sons.

I was proud and happy to see him on the fundraising concert that recognized the heroic first responders of Superstorm Sandy and raised so much money to support the displaced homeowners and others impacted by the storm.

And now I learn that he had….told a lie?….allowed a story with falsities to be told and perpetuated?….I don’t know exactly how to label it.

The incident happened in 2003 and it’s a little unclear to me why it’s coming out now, but it has and the fallout is still happening.

There are people who want to see him fired (what we in HR would refer to as the professional version of “capital punishment” because it’s often a career killer).

There are others who are so stunned they don’t know what to say.

I fall somewhere in between.

This isn’t the first time a famous person has said s/he did something she didn’t, experienced something s/he didn’t, or was somewhere s/he wasn’t at the time s/he said s/he was.

And I’m sure you know people this has happened to in your own life.

I’ve read some of the news reports of this and from what I see it probably happened innocently enough. He started recounting the story and people are excited about it. In the repeating of the story a detail or two gets added and before you know it the story and the facts have really gotten separated somehow.

Science has certainly shown that memory is a strange thing; that perception very much impacts our reality; and we can easily distort facts.

But facts are a funny thing.

I once asked someone to review a document for me so I would have another pair of eyes look at it before I put it up on my website.

She sent me a message on Facebook and told me that the document was “a mess” and “full of mistakes and typos.”

And her note included three exclamation points.

I was devastated.

First of all, I respect this woman and wanted her to like and respect me. I wasted her time by giving her something that was poorly done to begin with?

I started doubting myself. Was my brain so damaged from my car accident in 1999 that I couldn’t trust what I was seeing?

I didn’t want to look at the document but knew I needed to.

I opened the document I’d sent and swallowed hard as I started to read it.

I found one word missing from one sentence and a comma where a period should have gone.

One typo and one wordo (as I call them).

Not what I’d consider “a mess” or “full of mistakes and typos”.

My point is, she’s an intelligent, successful business woman with a reputation for possessing the highest of integrity.

Is she a liar?

I guess some people would think so.

So what lessons are there in the Brian Williams mess for us to learn as professionals and as nice people?

1. Resist the temptation to puff, stretch, or embellish. Even a little. And that can be hard. As people ask you how you were able to achieve something it’s easy to make it sound like you invented something you didn’t or that you’re able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

2. Choose your words carefully. That’s certainly related to number 1 but it goes a bit deeper. I was testing titles for my next book and a few people wanted me to use “integrity” in the subtitle. But some people I ran it past got really irritated by that word feeling that I was insinuating the reader would be someone without integrity.

3. Don’t make promises you can’t keep or say you got results you didn’t. I know that’s not what happened in the case of Brian Williams, but that sort of thing is still stretching the truth and it undermines your credibility when you’re found out.

4. Get media training. I know that sounds like an outrageous step but as you work to improve your reach and have a bigger impact…as you put more content out there…the media may just reach out to you for comment on something. Trust me. I’ve made mistakes when being interviewed. You’re never off the record with them and they’re not going to polish up what you say. It gets printed or played, bad grammar, poor word choice and all. At the very least take some public speaking training. Even improv acting classes help. The point is you need specific training to be comfortable talking on your feet. I have a friend who often says “It takes a lot of work to make something look easy.”

5.  Set the record straight — quickly. The longer you allow a mistake to be repeated the truer it becomes. Don’t worry about embarrassing the person. They don’t want to be connected with inaccurate information so correct them as gently and respectfully as possible, but for Pete’s sake correct them.

6. Work hard to remain humble and self aware. The old saying “he believes his own press” was used to describe someone who had gotten pretty full of himself. The Brian Williamses, Robert Irvines, Hilary Clinton, and others who repeated tales that made themselves seem even bigger or more important than they are usually people who already have impressive resumes. The story in question really wasn’t going to improve things much. As the character John Milton said in the movie The Devil’s Advocate, “Pride….It’s my favorite sin.”

You’re fabulous just the way you are. Trust that you’ll get all the recognition you deserve (you might have to wait for the next life to get your reward). And know that in today’s transparent world, a little fib or puff is only going to be proven false at some point.

Your reputation is really what your “personal brand” is all about. It’s what you’re known for.

You don’t want to be known for not telling the truth.

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?

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.