Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Organizations usually underestimate the potential value of the most important new information, technology, and ways of operating. This error occurs because the new information or resource unexpectedly makes untrue what has been undeniably true in the past.
Achieving 2,000 percent solutions is a good example of this tendency. While hundreds of organizations routinely develop and implement such solutions every day, the majority of businesses, nonprofit organizations, and governments continue to focus on how to make 4, 5, or 6 percent improvements. With the same time, effort, and resources, these people could be accomplishing hundreds of times more!
What is a 2,000 percent solution? It’s any way of accomplishing 20 times more with the same time, effort, and resources. Why would you shoot for less?
Here’s an example: A best selling business book will usually be read in part by fewer than 10,000 people. Chop the book up instead into essays and provide those essays for free over the Internet, and you will soon have over 500,000 readers. The time, effort, and expense of putting up those essays will be less than finding an agent for a book. Lead those essay readers to your Web site and you’ll sell more books than a best selling business book, and you’ll earn more profit because you won’t have to split the revenues with a publisher.
Disbelief: Limited Imagination and Blind Spots
The disbelief stall (a bad habit that delays improvements) is based on a valid experience, lack of relevant experience, or a previously established circumstance that no longer pertains. The bigger the new idea, the more likely it will boggle the minds of those involved.
Consider this: Over a hundred years ago, Alexander Graham Bell supposedly offered his fledgling telephone business to Western Union for $100,000. Western Union reportedly turned him down cold, perceiving the telephone as an electrical toy with a limited future. Bell himself initially saw the telephone as limited to use as a substitute for town criers. Householders wondered, “Why get a telephone when I can step outside and talk to my neighbor over the back fence?” The airplane, radio, computers, and the photocopier were greatly underestimated in similar ways before becoming the foundations for major industries. Major breakthroughs change the possibilities of how we can lead our lives, and we are slow to see that undeveloped potential.
Creative People with Different Viewpoints
In checking out new information, technology, and techniques, seek the help of people who enjoy creating new solutions. You may find these open-minded people among suppliers, new employees, customers, and outside experts, including academics. If you don’t have enough such people to draw on, expand your circle of acquaintances.
In the same way that no two people have identical kinds of curiosity and imagination, organizations likewise differ in how they look at potential new solutions. You can easily imagine that Intel, Microsoft, IBM, General Electric, and Disney would take quite different approaches to addressing the same opportunity. You should examine your organization’s personality and orientation to consider how your perspective can be expanded in useful ways, perhaps by adding new partners and new competencies.
Positive Thinking Starts the Exponential Progress Engine
To overcome the disbelief stall, you need a positive outlook. You have to believe that wonderful results are just around the corner, if only you keep looking for improvements.
Ask yourself a positive question about any possibility you consider. For instance, imagine that you are being asked to use a computer in a totally different and more difficult way for the first time. Instead of fighting this new assignment, ask yourself how the task could help you get home sooner every night. A manager recently had a good experience from opening himself up to this opportunity. An IT expert noticed that the manager didn’t know how to do a mail merge, a way to produce custom documents for many people on a list. At first, the manager resented the few minutes of unexpected training. But that attitude soon changed after many monotonous tasks were accomplished 20 times faster.
At the same time, it’s even more helpful to adopt new beliefs that open the doors to possibility. A good example is that many people will never read this article because they think it’s far-fetched to find even one 2,000 percent solution. A better belief to hold is that untapped 2,000 percent solutions abound in your most important opportunity areas.
Other helpful attitudes include:
• Seeing roadblocks as opportunities in disguise
• Feeling that all events occur to help you improve
• Believing that large changes can be made quickly to create positive results
• Being convinced that new technology can easily remove old limitations
• Believing that high goals are more fun to pursue
Locate Blind Spots
The more often you hear about something, the more likely the new thing is to be relevant to your organization. It helps to seek out the new to speed up the process of appreciating what’s going on. To help identify your organization’s blind spots, ask yourself the following questions:
• What complaints are customers making that you’ve chosen to downplay?
• What things are your competitors doing that you have decided to ignore?
• What things are the communities you do business in talking about that you have ignored so far?
• What negative feedback have you been receiving from employees for at least two years?
• What perceptions about your organization and industry are you not addressing?
Evaluate the Implications of the Blind Spots
Ask yourself these questions about your blind spots:
• Which blind spots are in areas where your organization’s actions can improve or worsen your situation?
• What actions are needed to gain the most benefit or avoid the most harm?
• When are actions needed to be most effective?
• What is the minimum evidence you need to know that immediate action is needed?
Donald W. Mitchell
I have studied literature in leadership and spirituality and have found a common thread. The common thread is this: if you want to be successful and fulfilled you need to keep your ego in check.
The ego is that part of us that is always asking: “But what about me?” or saying “Look at me!” The lesson I’ve found in these fields of study and in my own life is that when we focus on our ego needs we can, at best, create a temporary success. Often our ego gets in the way, creating pain and suffering. If we want to build a good life, a good company, or a good relationship, we need to take the focus off our individual need to win, to be right, or to receive the glory.
Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, did extensive research to find companies that achieved greatness. He found companies that had been mediocre for years and then became great companies, creating a sustainable success. These companies outperformed their competitors several times over. Collins found that all of the leaders of these great companies demonstrate “a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will. They are somewhat self-effacing individuals who deflect adulation, yet who have an almost stoic resolve to do absolutely whatever it takes to make the company great, channeling their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company.”
These leaders, according to Collins, look in the mirror, directing their attention to themselves when problems arise. They take full responsibility. When successes occur they look out their window, directing praise and credit to those who serve with them. These leaders work in concert with other leaders to cocreate a great organization. (References to Jim Collin’s work found in the article, “The Misguided Mix-Up of Celebrity and Leadership” found at www.jimcollins.com in the articles section)
In 1978, in Superbowl XXII, the highly touted Denver Broncos football team were beaten by the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys played with precision and focus, executing plays that were impossible to defend. After the game, one of the Broncos said: “Dallas beat us because we were focused on winning, and they were focused on football.” The ego wants to win, but a focus on winning has us forgetting what it takes to get there. True winning comes from playing the game well and playing it as a team.
Today we have many celebrity CEO’s, authors, actors, athletes, politicians, and TV personalities. Fame, rather than being a result of doing something well, is often an end in itself. There is nothing wrong with fame. The question is, if you are seen as a leader, as someone to be admired, what lasting value are you creating? Would others do well to follow the example you set? Does your example inspire others to express their own greatness?
A recent book, Made to Stick (Heath and Heath), mentions studies that have shown that people who listen to a charismatic speaker often can’t remember anything the speaker said. Speakers who were memorable, that is, their message stuck, were able to connect with their audience through anecdotes and well structured messages.
It is the ego in us that has us placing premium value on egocentric personalities to lead us and be our models. Data and experience suggest that we might better focus on doing what we do well. It suggests that we might focus our attention on building up others, mentoring, and helping them. It suggests that the playing field may be more level than we thought, that anyone can build success if they can step outside of their ego and do something well. Charisma and attractiveness are as much liabilities as they are assets.
Humility, channeling one’s energy in to something bigger than the self, cocreation, clear focus, and connectedness to others–these are all traits that fall into the realm of spirituality. These traits don’t seem to fit with today’s idea of great leadership–the swash buckling, egotistical, celebrity who swoops in and saves the day, the superstar athlete, or the charistmatic speaker. Yet, we see that the true winners of today, the highly successful leaders, possess these traits.
If you are a leader, focus on leading well. Don’t make the organization dependent on the force of your personality, but create systems and structure that promote success and well-being. When we shift our focus from looking good and self glorification to serving well, and to doing the best possible work, we create organizations, products, and services that are both great and sustainable. You probably aren’t going to get rid of your ego anytime soon, but you will need to transcend it often if you want to be truly successful in what you do.
—————————————————- William Frank Diedrich
Your sales meeting could be a free consultation, in person or by telephone, a demonstration, or it could be in your store. It could be long or short. The big question is: Who controls the meeting?
Customer service is hugely important, and it starts with the sales meeting. You are the expert in your industry and the expert regarding your specific product/service. If you allow the prospect to do all the talking and ask all the questions, you lose the opportunity to show the prospect how well your product will fulfill their needs and solve their problems.
You are not doing your potential customer any favors by allowing them to take control. Also, when you come to the meeting with an agenda you look very professional and organized.
You can have several intentions with your agenda, but the main one should be to get the sale! For me, since I so enjoy my fr’ee consultations, I have to additionally use my agenda to keep me on track so I keep the length of the meeting reasonable.
On your agenda, you should have open-ended questions. These questions do not have a “yes” or “no” or other such specific answer. Examples of open ended questions include: - What is it you most want? - Would you please tell me about _______? - What problem are you currently experiencing with your ______ - How are you currently handling this problem? - If you could change something about your ________, what would it be? - How do you think I could help you?
Then, if you want more information or if you sense there is something more to what they have already told you, you can ask: - Could you please tell me more about that? - Anything else?
The most important skill you will need to be a great salesperson is LISTENING. The prospect will list for you all their selling points €“ all the reasons they need your product. Many people need to be heard. If you really listen, you may get the sale based solely on this ability. Also, you may have heard that you should only talk 20 percent of the time, but I think this depends on your product or service. For coaches and consultants, the prospect often wants to hear us talk €“ they are getting fr’ee advice they would otherwise have to pay for! Just do not over-do it.
Here is an example of a basic sales meeting agenda €“ 1. Ask open-ended questions that will give you the information you need to sell them your product, and will demonstrate to the prospect that you care about their needs. 2. Tell them just enough about your product or service so they will begin understanding how your product could benefit them €“ resist the urge to vomit information on them, and don’t talk about yourself! Unless they ask, they usually don’t really care about you. 3. Close the sale by putting their needs together with your product. (What I do is demonstrate my coaching by coaching the prospect around the issues they mentioned to me, demonstrating value. I then summarize what we could work on together and how they would benefit, drawing on the needs they already outlined earlier.)
One more question you can ask, if it fits into your agenda, is: Do you know anyone else who could benefit from my services?
Then you need to ask for the sale!—————————————————- Audrey Burton
You’re energetic. You’re focused. You start off with a fabulous idea that you are absolutely certain you can take you to places of amazing success. It’s not just you who thinks that your business concept is a great one. Nearly everyone you talk to offers their support for your bold move. Some of them even envy your chutzpah. You embody the stuff dreams are made of. You are proud to call yourself an entrepreneur.
You know your business inside and out because you’ve had your hand in every decision and every move from the get go. Essentially you have become your business!
But wait! What happened? Suddenly, you’ve got more business than you can handle on your own. You’ll have to bring in new people, new systems, new processes. Making that shift can be daunting if not completely debilitating.
This growth phenomenon is a very common challenge shared by entrepreneurs. We have seen this process time and time again. An entrepreneur’s business starts to grow, and then he or she wakes up one morning and decides to close the business doors. Over the last decade, I have noticed that most businesses don’t fail because they go bankrupt, but rather because the owners decided that the amount of effort they must put into their businesses is simply not worth it relative to the payoff they are currently receiving. When it all boils down, this credo holds true: Learn to work smarter, not harder. First, here’s the typical cycle: The business grows, and the owner pulls back because he or she is faced with more decisions. More decisions mean more fear and indecision. More fear and indecision mean less dialogue because people shut down when they’re afraid. Weakened dialogue means that business is becoming less visible and well known in the marketplace. The less that business and its principles are expressed, the more fear the entrepreneur feels, because he or she is sensing the downward spiral. It’s a vicious circle, and suddenly people start saying “What happened to John? Is he still around, or did his business fall off the face of the earth?” If this scenario sounds familiar, you may be asking “What do I do now?” The down and dirty answer is this: You shift your thinking from being an entrepreneur to being a leader! You may have begun as an entrepreneur. To grow and thrive, however, you must become the leader of your company€¦and not just in word but in deed. Take responsibility for deciding what you want your business to look like, and start taking the bold steps you need to take to make things happen! Follow these five principles, and your actions will speak volumes for you.
1) Vulnerability: This may sound like a touchy feely word, but it’s really quite practical. First, identify the weaker threads of your leadership and/or your company. Recognize any weak spots or sinkholes in your foundation. Second, address specifically-with your team, your Board, your coach or mentor-how you’re going to work on those issues to shore them up. Be specific. Many leaders are afraid to discuss their shortcomings for fear of appearing incompetent. The truth is that vulnerability engenders trust, which engenders camaraderie, which engenders growth! People respect honesty because it creates a level playing field where they know who’s in what position - what the strategy of the game is. Ironically, addressing your own vulnerability will make you less vulnerable in the marketplace because you’ll inspire the loyalty of your team.
2) 50/50 Likeability: With a new business, it’s easy to fall into the trap of doing whatever it takes to attract the greatest amount of business, being everything to every person you meet. You want to make everyone happy, regardless of whether or not their request falls outside of your business principles, core values or mission. One piece of advice€¦Stop this insanity! Instead, work to create a leadership style that demands a reaction from people; they’ll either love you or they just won’t like you, and that’s okay. Think of leaders like Abraham Lincoln or Elizabeth I. They served and lead amidst inconceivable controversy and left some of the most amazing marks on humanity. Think of an Apple vs. Microsoft computer. Each has its own function and reaches a unique market. Allow your customers, your clients, your team-the people whose lives you touch-to experience a legitimate emotional reaction to your business. They’ll remember you and they’ll return because they know what you stand for. As you develop 50/50 Likeability, you will be attracting people who are perfectly suited for your business, and when people are perfectly suited for your business, you will do your best work, which results in very happy customers.
3) Find the gold in toxic feedback: How often do you get negative feedback about your business? Whether that nasty-gram of an email or that verbal tirade came from someone on your team or from one of your customers, look at it closely. It may be exaggerated, but there’s most likely a nugget of truth in there. Realize first that it’s just feedback; you have a choice as to what to do with it. For starters: Don’t take the feedback personally. Step back from the feedback, boil down the issue, address it, and use it to help you grow as a leader. If someone has had a negative reaction to your business, look closely at what you have done to contribute to the problem. Chances are very good that this feedback will be the key to unlocking your next business opportunity. Last but not least, thank the person for the insight! Shift your perspective and realize that they’ve given you a fresh perspective for examining your business and your style as a leader.
4) Delegate: Yes, it’s the “D” word. Most entrepreneurs have spent so much time in total autonomy mode that allowing themselves to delegate is a monumental task. I highly recommend a simple three step process for delegation.
a) Clearly articulate your expectations, but don’t be glued to an exact vision of the outcome. Leave some wiggle room for people to bring their own energy into the process so that the outcome is stronger.
b) Communicate in spades the process you want to see. Be specific about the who, what, when, why and how of the task you are delegating. People respect and respond well to boundaries, so don’t be afraid to spell things out in detail.
c) Provide feedback and make adjustments. Respectfully interact with your team and employees as you move toward completion of the task at hand. Let them know exactly what they are doing well and what types of improvements you want to see, and above all, give your employees permission to fail. If you are afraid to delegate, because you are afraid people will fail, chances are very good that your team and your business will never grow into its full potential. The synergy created in delegation should be greater than you. Let people exceed your expectations.
5) Agility: Say the word agile, and you probably think of a gymnast. Instead, think of yourself and your business. Learn to bend€¦not break. You can grow in many more exciting directions when you have the courage to bend and stretch beyond your comfort zone. The beauty of it is, you’ll inspire your team to do so right along with you! And the more you’re willing and able to find out what’s new and different in the world on a daily basis-be it technology, information or even something as seemingly simple as expanding your team or seeing their skills in a different light-the more your agility will develop. Soon, you’ll be doing cartwheels around the competition! The proof is in the pudding. These principles can be instrumental in your own evolution from entrepreneur to leader. When that shift happens, hang on! Your company can then take the amazing journey from successful to significant!—————————————————- This article was written by Bea Fields and Corey Blake. Bea Fields and Corey Blake with Eva Silva
your family and friends on the weekends, or what little part of the weekend you have? Well, I have a secret to share about the blind spot that just might have got you there. It certainly was mine. The secret is this: Your job is only part of your workload. You’re not tired because of your career. You’re tired because of everything else.
This is particularly true for women. Many of us hold ourselves up to mid-20th century ideals while working 21st century careers.
Two years ago, I was just exhausted. Between my business, the house, eldercare issues, and other responsibilities, there just wasn’t any time to relax. Something had to go, but what?
I was sick and tired of hearing from the “experts” that the solution to my exhaustion was to just stop doing most of what I was doing. I wasn’t doing anything that wasn’t important. I had eliminated all that I could, including many things I enjoy, and there was still no time for a life. That’s when I realized that I had to start hiring people to do things for me.
I think you should consider doing the same. It’s your life you’re talking about. You are in your peak years, both mentally and physically. If you’re spending your time doing something you can pay someone $15, $20, or $40 an hour to do, you’re not spending that time with your kids, partner, family, or friends, or even a good book. To me this is a waste of all your education and hard work on the job if all it gets you is no time for the rest of your life. Will you really look back on your deathbed and feel satisfied that you personally pulled all of the weeds in your yard?
It wasn’t easy. Like most entrepreneurs, I love control. I liked to pretend that I didn’t, but the truth was that I did. All of my excuses, like “I can’t afford it” really just came down to one thing: I was afraid to give up control.
For some tasks, I even had an added layer of rotten thinking: believing that if I didn’t personally handle household responsibilities like menu planning and laundry, I must be a pretty lame wife. What was I thinking? Old messages still float around our heads, and once we surface them, we have to whack them on the head until they are dead. So I did.
My first baby step was the vet who makes house calls. Why traumatize Bill with a car ride to the vet’s when there’s a vet who will come to him? Not to mention that it saved me the time getting out his carrier, driving him to the vet, waiting, and driving him home.
Then came the bookkeeper. What a fool I was to wait so long. I meet with her every other week to hand off bills and receipts. She does the rest and keeps me informed. She handles bill paying and expense and income tracking and stays on top of all the accounts for my business, for my mother-in-law, and for us.
We actually have a household P&L now. I think it’s a ton of fun. Others think it’s just sick. Either way, I have more time, and I have better focus at work, since, “Oh, crap, I wonder if I transferred enough into the personal checking account to cover that Key Bank automatic payment” never floats across my brain while I’m at work. I know that Laurie is all over it. It was heavenly to come home from almost three weeks away and have NO bills stacked up waiting for me. None.
It was the bookkeeper who suggested the gardener. She was right. Kirk hates mowing, anyway, and I was so bored pulling weeds. Now when I work in the garden, it’s the part I enjoy, like tending to my herbs and vegetables. It’s relaxing. It sort of reminds of…oh, what is it…it’s like having a life!
Finally, I took the biggest step of all: I hired a personal assistant. She handles the 1,000,000 little things like laundry, grocery shopping, making appointments with the plumber, meeting him at the house, and so on and so on. She saves me a full 40 hours a month. I was pretty shocked to realize that 10 hours out of every week had gone to managing the household, some of them during the workweek.
I get really worked up when I hear a reasonably successful professional say, “Oh, I can’t afford a luxury like that. I don’t make enough.” I couldn’t either, you could say. While it’s true that I make more money now because these wonderful people have freed up time for me to be more focused and productive, for the first few months, I carried the expenses without a return (on my business line of credit, in case you’re interested - real debt, real skin in the game, no fooling around). I was confident that the return would come, and would far exceed the investment. It has.
Even for employed professionals, the return will come if you (and your partner, if you have one) at least farm out your most hated tasks.
For the self-employed, it’s absolutely essential to manage your business from where you want it to be, not from where it is now. Investment in resources that make you successful, whether on the personal or business side, is essential to having a profitable and sustainable business.—————————————————- Jennifer Selby Long,
As you may have guessed, providing great benefit to customers doesn’t occur by accident. It comes directly from applying a well-designed value philosophy. What does it take to create outstanding products and services that are not only profitable, but also capable of converting ordinary consumers into “raving fans”?
This article covers four critical ingredients that produce stellar products, services, and customer relationships. You can boost your product and service value to a level that truly “wows” customers by doing the following things:
1. Researching your audience’s needs.
Creating impeccable results begins with the approach you take toward researching what your customers or prospects want and need. Developing successful offerings then involves incorporating what you learn into solutions they want to buy. Where and how you derive your product and service design requirements can hugely influence the success of your offerings, and extends beyond product design into the entire customer experience.
Ways to research what matters to your audience’s success include the use of interviews and needs assessments, mining the information in your customer database, and probing customer headaches via support calls and surveys.
2. Making your offerings safe, reliable, and easy to use.
Many elements contribute to making a product or service friendly and intuitive. Two factors that strongly influence the success of your offerings are 1) how simple the features and interface are, and 2) how much support your offerings give customers for achieving real-life goals. Many companies mistakenly believe that perpetually adding fancy features will increase customer satisfaction. In reality, complexity can backfire and actually keep customers from achieving success.
If you already have a product or service, before you release the next version, perform a difficulty analysis by asking:
– Does the system guide people in achieving their real-world goals? – Have you prevented all unnecessary options and features from creeping in? – Have you automated or kept to a bare minimum all tedious setup? – Have you performed a “hassle hunt” to remove known customer annoyances?
Depending on the answers, you might need to add more guidance, simplify the design, or hide complexity more elegantly.
3. Testing and evaluating your offerings.
Do you have a way to tell whether your offerings achieve exactly what both you and your customers expect? Are your products and services confusion-free, even if they carry out complicated tasks? How well do they perform their intended actions? By using powerful testing and evaluation techniques, you can reveal the answers in a systematic way.
To begin with, you would want to use a specification to describe what your product or service is intended to do, and have a way to continually compare your product or service against that specification to determine whether it actually 1) does what it’s supposed to do, 2) does it correctly, and 3) as advertised.
Then, a combination of requirements evaluation, usability testing, alpha testing, and beta testing can become your “secret sauce.” The earlier in the life cycle this process can begin - specifically, in the requirements and design stages, when the initial concepts are still on the drawing board - the more successful your offerings will be at satisfying customer needs and desires. An early starting point will let you build quality incrementally into your offerings, instead of trying to add it as an afterthought, the way your competitors might.
4. Focusing on consistency to cement your brand promise.
When consumers are pleased with what you offer, how do they show it? Usually, by becoming loyal, repeat customers. But what if they’re unhappy? The majority will quietly take their money elsewhere, and you’ll probably never hear the reason.
What’s the solution? Creating consistently compelling customer experiences that galvanize consumers, who then can’t stop telling their family and friends. The recipe for cooking up highly profitable customer interactions includes, but is not limited to, recognizing the importance of focusing on customer retention; over-delivering on promises, both explicit and implied; striving to prevent variation in product and service quality; and doing everything possible to ensure your customers’ downstream success.
In conclusion, using this four-part formula for increasing product and service value can transform your offerings from being lackluster, difficult, or even hazardous to use to “wowing” your audiences with superb experiences. By 1) researching audience needs; 2) making your offerings safe, reliable, and easy to use; 3) testing and evaluating your offerings; and 4) focusing on consistency to cement your brand promise, you will create countless ways to attract buyers who become raving fans!
—————————————————- Adele Sommers
I am a specialist in “Client Attraction” because I find that this form of marketing is the least expensive and most powerful way to grow a thriving business.
I have been doing what I do for many years and sadly, I have seen way too many business professionals struggle to bring in more clients and to build thriving businesses.
I see good people leaving their chosen professions every day because they are unaware of ways to get a steady stream of good clients. It is all so unnecessary. If only they had taken the time to learn marketing strategies that actually work.
Unfortunately, they wind up spinning their wheels and going nowhere because they are doing everything under the sun they think they should do to go after clients instead of concentrating their efforts where they belong: on getting clients to come to them.
Let’s look at how client attraction works. Instead of becoming a nuisance by pushing yourself on people who may or may not be in the market for your services at the time you’re sending your marketing message, client attraction allows you to “pull” potential customers towards you in an incredibly powerful way.
With this type of marketing, you are not trying to “sell” yourself, your product, or your services to anyone. Instead, your aim is to become so incredibly “attractive” that your prospect is drawn to you as a teenaged boy is drawn to a cheerleader. Master the strategies of client attraction marketing and you can virtually become a “client magnet.”
There are a number of low-cost strategies involved in client attraction, but to me, it all starts with knowing your craft. This means embarking on a journey that includes:
* getting the best training you possibly can (both preliminary and advanced) from the best school or organization you can find and afford
* becoming licensed or earning credentials if your profession offers those choices
* taking continuing education courses in your chosen field
* joining and becoming active in your professional association, both on a local and national level
* taking on a position of leadership in your professional association
* being coached and/or mentored by someone who has achieved the level of success you are seeking
* reading everything you can get your hands on that pertains to your field
* listening to tapes and CDs about your field any chance you can
* attending conferences, conventions, and trade shows that will likely attract others from your profession
* going to hear speakers who are the voices of experience in your profession
* creating high visibility for yourself within your profession
* monitoring and becoming involved in your profession’s e-mail discussion groups
* forming relationships with your peers.
These are all opportunities to learn and to grow both personally and professionally.
Why, you might wonder, in an article about marketing, am I devoting so much ink to learning and honing your craft? Because when you know what you’re doing, you become attractive to those in your target market.
When you don’t know what you’re doing, all the marketing in the world won’t help you land and keep enough customers to stay in business. Remember, you are on a journey and each of you is marking different mileposts along the way. Like all journeys, it takes time to reach your destination.
Keep your goals in sight. Do not stop learning. Be patient with the process. Celebrate your accomplishments and understand that whether you are a neophyte or a seasoned veteran, you need to get the word out about your services.
How do you do that without spending a fortune? It’s really very simple:
* Stop trying to be all things to all people and you will attract more clients.
* Become a specialist and not a generalist and you will attract more clients.
* Target a distinct market segment and you will attract more clients.
* Become clear on who your ideal client is and you will attract more clients.
* Team up with others to create strong alliances and you will attract more clients.
* Follow up in a timely manner and you will attract more clients.
* Refer to others and you will attract more clients.
* See and be seen and you will attract more clients.
* Establish yourself as an expert and you will attract more clients.
* Put powerful systems in place and you will attract more clients.
* Stop giving your services away and you will attract more clients.
* Believe in yourself and you will attract more clients.
Bottom Line: When it comes to marketing, shift your thinking from “attack” to “attract” and you will “Attract Clients Galore.”
—————————————————- Leni Chauvin
In the English language, we make an interesting semantic distinction between the words “customer” and “client.” This distinction does not seem to appear in all languages; several use the same term to mean both.
Sometimes we use these expressions interchangeably in English, but more often than not, we intend them to mean something different. Below are some composite definitions from various dictionaries:
* Customer: A person who purchases goods or services from another; a buyer or patron.
* Client: The party for whom professional services are rendered; anyone under the patronage of, or receiving the benefits and services of, another person.
Notice how the term “client” implies much more of a caring, fiduciary role for the benefit provider? It strongly suggests the presence of a relationship — one that will endure over time to enable the benefit provider to continue providing benefits. The term “customer,” on the other hand, suggests that a relationship, if any, forms only when a purchase is made — and that the relationship might dissipate soon after.
Whatever you call the people to whom you offer products or services — whether they are members of the public or people within your own company — consider the subtle but important value of using the term “client” when thinking of them. People will sense that difference and respond positively to your concern for their well being. It will be a relief for them to feel that you’re looking out for their welfare, and not trying to push them into taking any action unless it is clearly in their best interests.
Are You Your Clients’ or Customers’ Biggest Fan?
While you are thinking about your clients and customers, ask yourself the following:
1) Are you their greatest fan and supporter? Along the lines of encouragement, do you take every occasion to acknowledge and congratulate their successes, as modest or significant as they might be? Since they have honored you by requesting your aid, and you have been privileged to provide assistance, you can help them celebrate the results!
2) Do you aim to ensure their downstream success? Are you consciously considering the success of not just your clients, but also your clients’ clients, and even your clients’ clients’ clients?
In conclusion, by striving to produce an ongoing series of benefits and satisfaction, you will be providing products, services, or other offerings that not only fill your coffers, but also provide significant and lasting returns to your clients and customers.
—————————————————- Adele Sommers, Ph.D. is the creator of the award-winning “Straight Talk on Boosting Business Performance” success program. To learn more about her tools and resources and sign up for other free tips like these, visit her site at http://LearnShareProsper.com
They say every cloud has a silver lining. But when I recently spent a whole day desperately giving the kiss of life to a relatively new computer, it was hard to see the bright side.
Yet, when the machine finally started working again, I made a fantastic discovery.
That little icon at the bottom of my screen that flashed as each new email arrived was no longer there. And, not only did I survive the day quite happily, I realized I was much more productive.
It helped me recognize the importance of taking control of my time. As business owners, time is arguably our most precious resource. We can choose to sell it, invest it or waste it. So the more effectively we use it, the greater our chances of success.
Here are my 7 tips for mastering time.
1. Know how much your time is worth - The first step in getting control over your time is knowing its real value. The most obvious way to value your time is just to divide your annual earnings figure by the number of hours you work in a year.
But our number of productive hours is much lower than the actual hours we work. So to get a better picture of the real value of your time, estimate your number of productive hours for most people it’s less than three a day.
Once you know your hourly value, you should ask yourself if what you are doing is worth your hourly rate. Outsourcing activities is now so easy that you can often pay someone else significantly less to carry out tasks.
2. Clone yourself (or your work) - While it’s not yet possible to clone yourself, you can easily clone your own work without any ethical issues. When you’ve written something, leverage it for maximum benefit. With a little additional work, a presentation script easily becomes a magazine article or a sales letter, for example.
3. Spend more time on output than input - Are you spending too much of your time reading emails and learning new things? When you’re inputting information, you’re not outputting. And it’s only output (like working for clients and developing products) that makes money. New knowledge and different ideas are valuable but sometimes us info junkies need to go on an info diet!
4. Decide what work you are willing to leave undone - No matter how efficient you are, you can’t do everything you’d like to. If you’re busy, one of the most useful things you can do is to transfer some unnecessary tasks from your “to-do” list onto a “not-to-do” list then quickly forget about them.
5. Manage your day with time limits - When I stopped reacting to that flashing notice of every new email arriving, I set aside specific times each day for reading emails. I now limit the time for doing that and scan them quickly using a “one-touch” approach where I immediately act on the email or delete it.
Another technique that works well is to use a timer to help you focus on work for fixed periods. Some people work well in short bursts completing specific 15-minute tasks before moving on to the next one. For other people and other tasks longer time limits of 45 or 60 minutes work better. But you need to be disciplined and stick to the limits.
6. Focus on your priorities - Decide which one, two or three big tasks you need to complete today or this week. Then concentrate on them before doing anything else.
7. Develop systems and processes - If you have your work organized into clear processes, you can more easily manage your time. While it makes tasks much easier to delegate, it’s also a better way of using your own time more efficiently.
The more you control your time, the more profitable your business will be.
—————————————————- Robert Greenshields is a marketing success coach who helps entrepreneurs and independent professionals develop the success mindset and marketing strategies for a better lifestyle. http://www.MindPowerMarketing.com
Bill Promptly. Ever find yourself so busy building your business and making deadlines that you don’t get around to billing on a regular basis? You’re not alone. In a consulting business I once owned, I often got so busy that every once in a while I forgot to have the invoices sent out until I realized I wouldn’t have the money for the next payroll. Seems like a stupid mistake, but it’s something that happens.
If you don’t already have a system in place, start (or assign an employee to start) billing for projects on a regular basis. When taking on longer-term projects or clients, negotiate in advance for regular payments based on time or upon reaching milestones instead of allowing the amount due to build up until completion of a contract.
Create Incentives for Faster Payments. Small businesses can sometimes significantly cut the time spent waiting for payment by offering a discount for quick payment. I have used this technique when necessary and have also been asked by customers if I offered that type of discount.
Basically I offered discounts of 1% or 2% for payment within 10 days. It is good for your bottom line and good for the business’s cash flow, too. The real bonus is that the customer thinks you are doing them a favor whether they choose to make the early payment or not.
Avoid Slow Pay/No Pay Customers- The best way to avoid cash flow problems because of customers or businesses not paying you is to weed out those slow pays/no pays before they become clients. So if someone is about to become a significant client or customer, do your homework.
Ask for, and check out, credit references. Call other businesses that have had a relationship with the client. You might even pay for a credit check from an organization such as Experian or Dun & Bradstreet.
Consider Consolidating Your Loans. I know it’s often tough for small businesses to borrow money. It’s also surprising how some small businesses manage to get multiple loans.
If you have several loans related to your business, review the rates and terms on each one. You may be able to consolidate two or more loans into a lower-interest account and improve your cash flow.
Trim Your Inventory. If you can’t go to a “just-in-time” inventory management system like many manufacturers have adopted then how about “just-in-less-time”? Money spent on over stocked inventory is money that isn’t producing any interest or savings for you.
George Sierchio www.actionbusinesspartners.com
Saturday, September 27, 2008
One of the many reasons that get people interested in using direct marketing is its value as a means of acquiring new customers or clients. With the ever increasing costs of doing business it is critically important for the retail automotive dealership and management to be cost-effective in marketing.
That means that good control is exercised over the cost of getting a new customer. Many businesses grow their gross at the expense of their net. At least partially through uncontrolled new customer acquisition cost. With that approach, they can literally grow themselves right out of business.
I’ve found that the best way to develop methods that work consistently, predictably and cost-effectively in acquiring new customers is through direct mail marketing. When you develop a successful cost-effective direct mail program you’ve got an extremely valuable asset. You’ve got a system that you can use over and over again for a long time with predictable results. Unfortunately, most businesses don’t take the time or effort to do this.
“If you do not have a system for selling, you are at the mercy of the buyer’s system for buying (or not buying).” LAH Promotions 2007
To use direct mail effectively to acquire new customers or clients you have to deal with demographics. Demographics are the statistical information about people that marketers use to select and target their prospective customers and clients.
Today computers have added a huge extra measure of sophistication to the collection and organization of demographic information. So that it is literally true that if you can describe it you can get it. This makes it critically important to know as much as possible about your present customers and your desirable customers. The more information you have about the commonalities in your customer base the more efficiently you can select prospects.
Here’s a partial list of demographic information you might compile about your potential customers; age, sex, marital status, home ownership, car ownership, major purchase behavior, credit card possession, income level, occupations, response to mail order offers, magazines subscribed to, cable TV subscription, etc…
By collecting and analyzing the data about your customers you might find, for example, that a significant majority of your best customers are between 30-35 years of age, male, married, own their own homes, have bought a new car within the last three years, have bought a VCR or television set in the last two years, have an American Express card, earn between $50,000-$80,000 a year, are engineers or middle managers, are known mail order purchasers, subscribe to Playboy and have cable television.
If you have that type of information you have the power to very efficiently select new groups of targeted prospects.
—————————————————- Hal has been marketing for the automotive industry for 24 years. He has produced direct mail for 900+ retail automotive dealers from coast to coast. His promotions include single point and multi-dealer on-site and off-site sales. http://www.lahpromotions.com
Always start with a consideration for consideration offer: a presentation of the minimum transfer conditions well within your negotiating limits. Declare yourself up front. ‘You have something I want and I have something you want. I am a negotiator. Let’s negotiate about the transfer conditions.’ For example, ‘I would like for you to. I understand that it would be something that would change things a little for you. I think that I have an offer that will make it a comfortable thing for you, though. In consideration of your, I will.’ Simply fill in your consideration and my consideration: the minimum transfer conditions. You have made me a consideration for consideration offer and have done so in a way that lets me know that you are a serious negotiator.
If I begin negotiating, all is well. I might say, ‘I might think about what you want from me; but what you’re offering is not enough for me to give you what you want, you will need to.’ I have made a counter offer and we are ‘horse trading’ as the negotiators say. Suppose I say, ‘No.’ Are the negotiations over? Being a good negotiator you understand my saying ‘No’ as simply my first negotiation offer. You say, ‘That really surprises me. Under what conditions would you?’ I will then probably make an opening offer - present an initial set of transfer conditions to you. If not, you simply learned that what you want is - from my point of view - simply not negotiable.
The following tips have been found by good negotiators to increase their negotiating effectiveness and increase the extent to which they are respected as effective negotiators.
Stay relaxed and friendly.
Remember the 80-20 rule. Eighty percent of the movement - progress - will be made in the last 20 percent of the time available for negotiating. Knowing this makes it easier to stay relaxed and much easier to be patient.
Keep your focus on the negotiations - the transfer conditions. Skilled negotiators will try to distract you, will talk about things unrelated to the negotiations, and try to diffuse your focus. Through this process, keep your internal focus, your mind’s eye on the negotiations.
Ask for and suggest options. When suggesting options, raise - only as possibilities - different mixes or combinations of consideration. Here, it is important to take care to always stay within your negotiating limits.
Always remember that you are negotiating and never simply trying to get your own way. Your focus is on the transfer conditions and includes your giving me something in exchange for what you hope to get.
The following negotiating strategies appear subtle and not easily seen from the point of view of the negotiation novice. For a skilled negotiator like the one you are becoming, though, they are easy to spot and are an important part of your negotiating repertoire.
Use the first third of the available negotiating time simply to get a feel for my interest. Importantly, you will also determine what I want; but my interest represents how I think I will be better off if we are able to successfully complete our negotiations. ‘Interest’ is not what I want but rather ‘Why’ I want it.
Once you have a feel for my interest, develop a priority listing of that interest as you understand it. Put my most important interest - my most important ‘Why’ at the top of the list and then continue listing my interest in terms of descending priority for me.
Acknowledge and facilitate my interest in the priority order you have developed.
Based on your understanding of my interest, take time to show me how I am going to be better off.
As you talk about the transfer conditions, be very clear. Show me who, what, when, where, why, and - most importantly - how.
Within any exchange - meeting transfer conditions - there are some risks. If there were no risks to me including no possibility of being less well off after I give you what you want, I would probably simply give it to you. I would understand that as doing you a favor and, if nothing else, would expect that you might reciprocate at some point in the future. When negotiating, there are always some risks. Be up front with me and very specific about the risks. Show me all of the risks. This will require that you think about the situation from my point of view, from my perspective. Good negotiators are superbly skilled with this aspect of the process. From my point of view, what are the risks? It is always better if you bring them up and define them clearly for me than if I bring them up in the process.
As you interact with me, limit the amount of detail you bring into the process, be very accurate, and always have more detail available to expand on or back up anything you say. Wait for me to request the additional detail, though. If I do not request it, it is appropriate for you to indicate that more detail is available if I would like to have it. Let it go at this, though. (From a strategic point of view, this puts you in the position of being the expert who is teaching me.)
Show me how we will share the risks and responsibilities. Remember that the person with whom you are negotiating will be more comfortable if the risks and responsibilities are shared as opposed to either you accepting all of the risk or responsibility or the other person accepting all of the risk or responsibility. From this perspective, the key is to maintain each of us as equal participants in the process.
Always let me be the one to make the final decision. Even if I may have made the last offer and you are prepared to accept it say, ‘I think you have made an offer I can accept. I think we are about to a point where we can agree to agree. What do you think?’ Whenever possible, let me make the final decision. Why? Because I will feel better, feel more in control, and feel more comfortable with the position into which you have gotten me.
Always credit me with having made a good decision. Say, ‘I feel like you have made a really good decision. I appreciate the time you have spent talking with me about this.’ What if my decision was to simply stop negotiating and not do what you wanted me to do? The response is the same. ‘I appreciate the time you have taken to talk with me about this. All things considered, I think you have made a good decision from your point of view. It did not turn out quite the way I wanted it to turn out; but I respect the decision you have made.’ Why do this? You never know; you may want to negotiate with me again. You have left our relationship at a point where I feel good about you and about negotiating with you again. Save your negative feelings or reactions for a later time when you are by yourself and can say anything you want to say. At the point our negotiations stop, though, take care not to ‘burn your bridges behind you,’ as they say.
—————————————————- This article is excerpted from The Frustration Factor from Glenbridge Publishing. For more from Gary Crow, visit http://www.LeadershipVillage.com or http://www.LeadershipVillage.org
Nearly every negotiating book ever written takes a win-win approach to agreements. However, master negotiators know that win-win is for losers. In reality, nobody believes in win-win because people play to win not to tie, and certainly not to lose.
In martial arts, for example, whether you are sparring for practice or in a tournament, you do not want your opponent to win. Even if the person across the mat from you is your best friend or your brother or sister, you still don’t want them to beat you. There’s nothing wrong with this attitude because the need to win is human nature, for both men and women, and it’s what drives people to do their best.
But let’s be clear — winning doesn’t mean breaking even. If you are an avid gambler you would not consider yourself a winner if you went to Las Vegas and played blackjack with $100 for three hours and left the table with $100. If your hockey or soccer team ends an important game in a tie do you consider it a win? Martial artists play to win and so do you.
Contracts are signed with each party’s own interests in mind. Leading up to the contract is the negotiation, and the winning attitude must start there. This is not to say that the opposing party does not get what she wants out of a deal as well, but an experienced negotiator lets her have it on his own terms. The mark of a master negotiator is to walk away from the table with what he came for while letting the other party feel she got a good deal as well. Now that’s skill.
Win-win suggests a tie wherein you, in the best case scenario, end up with a dissatisfying compromise. On the other hand, win big/win small means getting what you came for while still making sure the other party’s needs are met as well. You will always get the best deal in bargaining if you follow more of a win big/win small philosophy.
When you truly win, it means you got all of your needs met and obtained as many of your wants as possible. You must recognize the difference between wants and needs and how to keep them at the forefront of your mind.
Too many people feel guilty if they win big by obtaining more of what they want from a deal than the opposite party seems to. Don’t fall into that trap. They aren’t going to agree to any deal where you are the only one to benefit. For all you know, they may be going through a divorce, job transfer, illness, need cash, have tax problems, or some other situation that you are helping them to resolve.
Bargain with your own interests in mind and assume the other party will do the same. A family had some large, unused items cluttering up their garage so they asked a hauling company to come over to give them an estimate. After looking at the freezer, file cabinets, and other assorted pieces of furniture the company quoted $200. The family told them they would have to think about it and reminded them that if they had to come back, it would cost them time and money for gas. At that point, the haulers offered to drop the price down to $175. The family stalled, suggesting that they might call in a non-profit group who would gladly accept the items and take them away for free. After a little more back and forth they eventually settled for $110. The family was prepared to pay at least $150 the minimum cost of having to do the job themselves — so they won big. On the other hand, the hauling company still got $110 which, for them, meant they won a little as well. Certainly this was not a win-win but more of a win big-win small result.
To win big you must see an opening and go for it without hesitation. If a martial artist is going to break a brick with his hand he cannot hesitate or he is more likely to break his wrist than the brick. If you are selling a house and are still thinking of all of the fond memories it contains you will not get the best deal because your emotions will make you hesitate. It’s probably better to wait until your focus is on your next house before putting this one on the market.
Believe it or not, many people negotiate with the intention to fail. Watch the words you say or think when a negotiating opportunity arises. If you hear yourself using such phrases as, “I’ll try” or “I’ll do my best” you are defeated before you even begin. These words say that you are playing to lose because you’re giving an excuse for not winning. Instead, replace defeatist scripts with such phrases as, “When I win” or “When I get the best deal”
The principle here is “Always negotiate for the best deal you can for your side. Do not be concerned about fairness as long as the other party can protect his own interests.” Start out with the intention of getting the best deal you can and you will.—————————————————- Michael Soon Lee
One of the primary tools still used by PR professionals to garner media coverage is the press release. Now, understand the purpose of a press release is to grab the attention of an editor, not to offer a word for word story to a publication. Most professionals, as well as small business owners, misunderstand this concept and are therefore frustrated when they can’t seem to make it work for them.
If you understand that the purpose of a press release is to grab attention, then you might also begin to realize that there is a bit of an art to writing an effective one.
This art actually begins with proper format. It probably shouldn’t matter how you format a good story, but editor after editor has told me that if a press release comes to them and is not properly formatted, it often doesn’t get read. Read that again if you are bit of a maverick. You want to read about your company in the news then you might just have to follow the rules.
Ultimately, your story will have to stand on its own, but follow this accepted format, and you stand a better chance of making that all important first impression.
For release timing
The very first thing to appear on your release is the release date or time. If your story is for immediate release, say so - For Immediate Release. If there is a reason to hold some news or a seasonal deadline, say so - For Release Before Halloween. Some background type releases can also carry the - Release at Will tag
Don’t make it hard for them to get in touch with you. Right under the release info state your name, address, direct phone, and email address under the heading “For more information” Remember the real point is to get them to call you.
90% of all advertising effectiveness rides on the effectiveness of the headline. It is no different for a press release. Most readers will decide whether or not you have anything to say based solely on the grabbing power of your headline. Pull them in quickly. Write 5-6 attention grabbing headlines and then put your release away for day or so. Come back and see which ones still grab you. It is that important.
At the start of the body of your release, you are expected to provide some useful information. First the date of the release and then the city the release originates from. Put a dash after the city and then start the body of your release. ie: February 18, 2003 -- Today in history…
Double space the body of your release. This probably goes back to the days when reporters made notes by pencil in the space between the lines, but I guess some still do that.
Okay, so now your headline grabbed them. Tell them what you’re going to tell them in the first paragraph. Don’t beat around the bush or try to be cute here. Hit them with your best shot.
Quotes and Credentials
Quotes make for interesting reading. Try to find a newspaper story without a quoted source of some sort. Add your own quotes and then add some credentials to the person you attribute the quote to. If it’s you and you’re a master plumber with 25 years of experience, then say so. “The flora and fauna was breathtaking,” said Bill Sphenkle, one ofCity’s most experienced plumbers.
Call to action
If you want them to interview or visit your website to find out more information, then say so. Bill Sphenkle is available for interviews. Just don’t hype your company or product. Nothing gets your release tossed faster.
At the end of your release, add the symbol - # # #
—————————————————- John Jantsch is a veteran marketing coach, award winning blogger and author of Duct Tape Marketing: The World’s Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide. You can find more information by visiting http://www.ducttapemarketing.com .
Talk! Talk! Talk! We are in a business where talk reigns supreme, and the boldest talkers are always at center stage. Claims run rampant about everything from ad responses - to phenomenal product results - to bodacious income projections.
Sometimes this talk sways the uninitiated, and if they fail to seek any type of verification before taking action, they might find that they have based their decisions and plans on pipe dreams and smoke screens.
However, before I leave the impression that talk is always cheap (and therefore frivolous), I need to emphasize the legitimate role of responsible talk in MLM. Responsible talk in our industry accomplishes a number of things:
It speaks public commitments into existence which then create the forum for public accountability that is so helpful to those who need a support structure for continuous production;
It helps people design a time frame for success (i.e., I’m going to lose 20 more pounds before Easter);
It excites and motivates others to think bigger;
It sets a climate for accomplishment in the organization which stimulates others to make commitments;
It intensifies focus for everyone so they can evaluate their goals, large and small.
We consider this type of talk to be positive because it results in benefits like those listed above. However, empty rhetoric, or worse yet, distorted testimonials and promises spoken, but not kept, have damaged our industry tremendously. When people keep talking about the future and how much money they are going to make, you need to come out from under the ether and look at what they’ve consistently done over the past year or years and compare those results to what they are saying.
I used to — out of ignorance — stand in front of the room and ask the question, “How many of you would like to make $10,000 a month?” Every hand would go up . . . and that got me excited! I didn’t learn for several years that I was asking the wrong question.
Of course, they all wanted $10,000 or more each month; they just didn’t aspire to the levels of commitment, focus, and keeping of production schedules that were needed to produce such a monetary result.
In those days, I didn’t comprehend those levels myself as my own business was not making $10,000 a month yet. I daresay that if I had known and identified the work habits and time constraints required for a $10,000 monthly result, I would’ve had far fewer “takers.”
I don’t want to discount the importance of “speaking things into existence,” because I do feel that public declaration can go a long way towards helping people get on track and stay on track. Just don’t be misled by unsubstantiated talk. Most of the companies in our industry are bigger on telling you what you can do, particularly in reference to your earning possibilities, than in sharing what others like you have really accomplished. Before you put a lot of time, energy and money into a game plan, check it out carefully to make sure that the speaker has lived what he or she is speaking and that it was indeed successful.
Industry legend Richard Brooke says, “Success comes through you before it comes to you.” By speaking your commitments into existence, you can attract energy to you, which will support your making things happen . . . if you are truthful and focused while honestly sharing both those times when your accomplishments are measuring up and those times when they have fallen short of what you have said.
We must be ethical and honest at all times. Too many distributors will say anything to prospects to get them involved. Check out some of the ads in any papers or letters, and you’ll see what I mean. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true. Greed often clouds our judgment about what to believe.
We must be careful that we speak honestly, respecting our prospects and giving them the best that we can offer. We need to distinguish the wide array of benefits and contributions that our MLM opportunity presents. We need to talk about what they, the prospects, want, and we need to focus our speaking, and then our actions, on team efforts.
Only then will talk really become a vehicle for helping dreams come true.—————————————————- Eileen Silva, Ph.D., N.D
Your logo and marketing materials have many jobs, but one of the things that they can do really well for you is to introduce you to new clients and to help those potential customers feel a connection with you and your business. Alas, many small business owners overlook this valuable role for their materials when designing them, and so any connection often happens by accident alone.
Considering that the connections that most small businesses are making with their logos marketing materials, and websites are happening by accident, these businesses are actually doing rather well. But what could their business growth and sales cycle look like if they could improve the way that they connect with their ideal clients?
The top 3 ways to ensure that your designs will appeal to your target audience and begin to form this connection with them are:
1. Design your materials with your customer’s preferences in mind. The most common mistake that small business owners make when designing their brand identities is to create the design to reflect their own tastes. I met a financial planning consultant at a networking event a few months back, and she wanted to “pick my brain” about her thoughts for a logo. She mentioned that she wanted her logo to be an aqua-blue seahorse, because those were her favorite image and color. But when I questioned her further about her business, I found that she worked largely with male heads of households on their families’ financial planning needs. While an aqua seahorse might represent her preferences, I suggested that it might not catch the eye and the imagination of her projected client, and that she think more about the types of images and color palettes that would appeal men who were hiring her to manage their money. I believe that I convinced her that this approach will result in a better connection with her potential customer base, and will help her to close more business with her prospects.
This approach to establishing connections extends beyond your company’s logo: picking appropriate layouts, fonts, and photos for any marketing piece can make that piece connect with your target audience much more quickly. Something as simple as choosing stock photos that feature people of the same ethnicity or gender as your target audience can greatly increase your sales and decrease often subtle, hidden resistance to your business image.
2. Test your materials with your target audience. This means asking not just whoever’s hanging around, but with real potential clients. I can’t tell you how many times I have completed the first round of logo designs for a client, just for them to come back and say, “My mom HATES them!” I certainly sympathize with this impulse to check your ideas with a respected friend or family member; I tend to run my own designs by my mom, against my better judgment. But if your mom-or whoever you’re running your design focus group with-isn’t part of your target audience, then it really doesn’t matter if she likes it or not. In fact, if you’re trying to sell your products or services to college-age men, for example, it’s probably a good thing if your mom doesn’t like it!
So, where do you find potential clients to test your materials on? Ask your past clients what they think about your new designs, or poll friends in your target demographic. I even had one client who would ask potential customers that she stood in line with at the coffee place and post office about their thoughts on her logo.
3. Make your materials magnetic. Don’t misunderstand: not everyone should love, or even necessarily understand, your logo and marketing materials. A small business’s logo should make the prospect react emotionally to your company, pulling the right people toward working with you and pushing the wrong people away. Unless you’re a big company selling a mass-market product, designing a logo that everyone loves is not necessary, nor even in your best interests.
If you’re creating a logo and marketing materials and you want everyone that you meet to like them, then you’re in for a very long design process. And your logo won’t be able to perform one of its most important jobs: making sure that you’re spending your time talking to the most qualified clients. As a small-business owner, you probably run the business, do the sales, and have a bunch of other tasks as well. If people in your target audience like your logo and marketing materials, but people outside of that demographic don’t connect with them, then it’s less likely that the people you don’t want to work with will become engaged in the sales cycle with you. And it’s always better to sell to interested and qualified prospects rather than people who are just “kicking the tires” or getting competitive quotes.
Keeping your customer’s perspective in mind when designing your materials makes those materials relevant to your customers, creating a valuable tool for your business. A client wants to feel understood and well-cared-for throughout the sales cycle. If your designs truly take your clients’ tastes into account, are tested and approved by your ideal clients, and make people react in an emotionally positive way to your company, then those designs will be more than just a pretty pieces: they will help you to talk to the right customers, to connect with them, and, ultimately, to grow your business.
—————————————————- Erin Ferree is a brand identity designer who creates big visibility for small businesses. As the owner of elf design, Erin is passionate about helping her clients stand out in front of their competition and attract more clients. Her “Define Your Difference Branding Workbook” will help you define your brand so that you can connect with your target audience. http://www.elf-design.com/products-define.html
Zig Ziglar tells a great story centered around a pump. In fact, he used to carry around a chromed hand-pump to his sales seminars to help illustrate his point. He would present the idea that a pump only worked after it was properly and sufficiently primed.
Priming requires a combination of technique, resources and time. After a successful priming period, water would flow from it freely and bountifully. It is the same with people and success. We must develop and invest the proper skills, materials and time in order to reach a wellspring of selling rewards.
The following are several proven activities to assist you with the priming of your success pump:
1. Re-evaluate and refresh your goals.
Goals are dynamic. A successful strategy must include regular internalization and review of your goals, your progress and the adjustments needed to guarantee your success. Take an honest look.
2. Get congruent with your sales plan. Perform a GAP analysis.
Review your sales plan. Notice the gap between where you expected to be and where you are. What can you do about it?
3. Learn new skills. Always be working on your self.
The best investment that you can ever make is an investment in yourself. Always be learning and stretching your comfort zone. Your self-investment will always pay the highest dividends!
4. Read or listen to the biographies of successful people.
As Tony Robbins says, “Success leaves clues.” Learn from the mistakes and successes of entrepreneurs before you, both in and out of your industry.
5. Start an exercise program and stick with it.
Regular physical activity offers more benefits than I can ever describe here. Get off the couch, get out from behind your desk and get physical. Exert yourself. High levels of energy feels good!
6. Kick the processed sugar habit.
You will be amazed at your renewed energy! Most of us consume horrid amounts of refined sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. Get rid of the sugar-laden soft-drinks and snacks. This alone will likely have an immediate impact on any weight issues you might have. You will feel better too.
7. Take a brief respite. Immerse yourself in a day off or brief vacation to re-charge your batteries.
Take time to clear your head periodically. Totally immerse yourself into an enjoyable activity. Refresh yourself, you deserve it.
8. Become an expert in another product or service that you offer.
Decide to become an industry expert in something you offer. The “newness” and sense of authority will invigorate you, priming you for action.
9. Attend product training in your industry at least twice per year.
Technology is constantly changing and you need regular updates to at least stay current in your field. Why then stay only current? Decide to operate on the cutting edge!
10. Uncover a new market for your goods and services and dive in.
Learn about an opportunity-rich new market, design your sales plan and dive in. “New” is always fun and will help propel you forward in your selling successes.
Try engaging in all of these between now and the end of this year. You will find yourself leaping into the opportunities that 2008 will surely offer.—————————————————- Daniel Sitter, author of both Learning For Profit and Superior Selling Skills Mastery
3 Simple Steps To Manage Your Budget & Cashflow I bet just the very title of this article is enough to make you run for cover! Along with paper piles, budget and Cashflow is another area that can drive solo business owners over the edge! In your corporate days you would have had a bookkeeping/accounting department that took care of all of this for you - they paid the invoices, they tracked the receivables, they tracked the income, and they told you the bottom line!
Now that you’re running your own business you are also the Chief Financial Officer, and it can be very overwhelming. However, it needn’t be… let me share with you three simple steps that you can put in place to manage your budget and Cashflow.
What is a Cashflow projection?
One important area of your Financial Management System is that of a Cashflow projection. Put simply, a Cashflow projection shows whether your anticipated income will be able to cover your expected (projected) expenses and this report is very beneficial to you in your business.
It is an annual report and, if set up correctly, will show you how cash will flow through your business throughout the current financial year. I’ve been using a Cashflow report in my business for many years and find it invaluable. Just recently the chance to participate in a high-profile teleclass series came up, and because I have my systems in place, I knew straightaway that it was something I could take part in!
Step 1 - Create Your Cashflow Report
This is very easy to do using a spreadsheet. Create a column that lists all of your expenses, i.e. office supplies, legal & professional fees, membership, advertising etc. and a column for each month of the year. You will need to create formulae that will tell you your total income, total expenses, and subtracts the expenses from the income, and also carries forward any amounts from month-to-month. This is so you can see how your finances are ‘flowing’ throughout the year.
Step 2 - Input Your Data
Taking your financial data from your bookkeeping system input your actual income and expenses, and list any projected expenses in the appropriate row/column. Your Cashflow report will now show you at-a-glance any time periods for which you will need to be especially aware of. For example you may have a lot of expenses in one particular month so you’ll know that the previous month you’ll need to make sure that you have the funds kept back in your bank account to take care of those upcoming expenses.
It will also show you if you can afford to make an investment in your business, whether that’s signing up for a new service or membership club, taking out an advertisement, or buying new equipment.
Your Cashflow projection can also be used as a budget planner. You can plan out when annual memberships are due and put those in ahead of time. You can also add in an amount for when your taxes are due. This will provide you with a really good feel of how cash is flowing through your business, month after month, throughout the year, and you can also tell how much you can take off for owners draw, but still leave enough to cover the anticipated expenses.
Step 3 - Schedule In The Time
Now that you have your Cashflow report in place, it’s important that you update it regularly so that you can stay aware of how cash is flowing through your business, and take any actions necessary so that you have enough to cover all of your anticipated expenses.
I recommend scheduling in at least 30 minutes once a month to update this critical financial management report.
A Final Thought…
Having an annual Cashflow projection will provide you with all of the information you need so that you can keep on top of your business financially and know where you are.
If you have a bookkeeper taking care of all your financial records for you, ask them to prepare your monthly Cashflow report for you.