Give'em Something to Talk About: When businesses follow this principle, clients keep coming back for more . . . and bring their friends.

Guest post by Maribeth Kuzmeski
Author of Red Zone Marketing: A Playbook for Winning all the Business You Want

The other day I heard that old Bonnie Raitt song on the radio. You know, the one with the verse "let's give'em something to talk about . . ." And, it occurred to me that most businesses could use a bit of that gossip-inspiring intrigue that Bonnie was singing about.

All of which leads me to my question for the day: are your clients talking about you? You'd better hope so! Furthermore, you'd better hope they're not talking about the bad service you gave them, or the fact that you took three days to return a phone call, or even the hideous green carpet that's graced your office since 1973. No, the kind of talking I mean is positive in nature . . . in fact, it's delightful.

If you're at all familiar with my marketing philosophy, you know that I am constantly harping on the subject of client delight. That's because I'm a realist. I know that unless you absolutely delight your clients, they won't talk about you to their friends and colleagues. In fact, they may not even stick with you. Why? Because there are a lot of competitors out there offering services identical to yours.

Consider these statistics for financial advisors (many industries including yours may have similar statistics): There are more than 800,000 financial advisors and insurance agents in the U.S. Over 12,000 mutual funds. Countless Broker Dealers. All of which boils down to one disheartening fact: you are in serious peril of becoming a commodity. If you want clients to talk about you - which helps you fulfill the larger goal of pursuing referrals - then you must separate yourself from the pack. You must give them an experience. You must WOW them.
In short, you must give them something to talk about. 

Sounds great, you're probably thinking, but how do I do that? Here are three principles to keep in mind. 

Ask your clients what they want. A novel concept, huh? Too many businesses simply assume they know what the client wants. They tell the client "This is what you want and need, and I have it." What you as a Red Zone Marketer must do is ask, "What do you want and need? Tell me and I'll provide it." Ask your clients (at the very least your top clients) the following questions:

  • How would you like us to communicate with you? How often?
  • How often do you want to hear from me?
  • Are we meeting your objectives?   
  • Would you appreciate regular information on a different aspect of the business?
  • What would make working with us truly unique? 
  • What could we do to create delight through the services we provide?

Now, really listen to their answers. You may be surprised by what you hear. And you can be sure of one thing: if you give clients what they REALLY want-as opposed to what you think they should want-they will talk you up to their friends and colleagues. That's because very few of your competitors even bother to ask.

WOW them with the unexpected.  Want clients to talk about you? Give them an experience they're unlikely to get anywhere else. In Red Zone Marketing and The Client Experience, I provide numerous real-life examples of how businesses I know and work with go about WOWing their clients. 

For example, I work with a financial services advisor who has created The Life Enjoyment Experienceä. The concept is that he helps his clients "get to the top of the mountain." From the mountaintop, you can see and experience the world-so he has decorated each office and conference room to represent a different part of the world. For instance, one room has a mural of Athens on the wall; another one represents Paris. He reports that people bring their friends by, who are not yet clients, just to see his unique facilities!

Another one of my colleagues takes a different approach. He is very health conscious, and he wants to share his knowledge with his clients. Therefore, he incorporates healthful foods, exercise books and videos, and lifestyle seminars into his unrelated business offerings. He's providing an experience-and at the same time, showing his clients that he cares about their total wellbeing. 

What can you do to WOW your clients?

Be the Michael of your firm.
I am a huge sports fan. (The name of my company and books should clue you in!) So it's not surprising that I spent some time in the early 90s working for a team in the NBA. The team had 30 people making outbound calls selling tickets to games. I couldn't help but to contrast that to the Chicago Bulls, who were sold out most of the season!

What was the difference? In a word (well, actually, two words), Michael Jordan. Bulls tickets were in demand because the team had something truly different. I believe this phenomenon applies to the business world, too. One person can lift up an entire organization, if he or she is giving clients what they want! In other words, even if you work for a dry, humdrum, middle-of-the-road business, you can become the "Michael" of your firm. Dream up a unique slant on serving your clients and start doing it. Word of mouth will take care of the rest.
By the way, if you think you don't have what it takes to be a star in your industry, consider the fact that Michael Jordan was cut from the varsity basketball team as a sophomore in high school. The lesson? No matter what happened before, you can become a star. Just figure out what your clients want and give it to them in a unique way . . . and they will consistently seek you out. Guaranteed. 

Now, how are you going to get people talking? Give it a bit of thought and I am convinced you'll come up with something. Maybe it's your expertise in an specialized area of the business you are in . . . or the fact that you send them an info-packed e-mail every Monday morning . . . or the hot breakfast you provide at your wildly entertaining tax shelter seminars. You get the idea.

As long as you're doing something different, something that sets you apart from the crowd, something your clients can't get anywhere else, they'll talk about you. And believe me, that word of mouth is the best kind of press you'll ever receive.

What Is A Brand

Guest post by Anna Lieber

A BRAND IS A PROMISE TO THE COMMUNITY
A Daycare Center promises moms to care for their children as if they are their own. A CPA promises clients financial expertise, honesty and integrity. What is your brand promise? 

A BRAND IS A BLEND OF ATTRIBUTES CREATING A PERSONALITY
The Daycare Center’s brand personality reflects its service: lively, colorful and fun. The CPA’s brand materials project reliability, trust and stability. Does your brand personality look and feel authentic? 

A BRAND IS EVERY POINT OF CONTACT
Each time someone touches your brand, it makes an impression. So each point of contact is a genuine opportunity – whether prospects receive your promotion, hear your pitch or voice message, visit your site or try out your product or service. Are you making the most of each
brand touch point? 

A BRAND IS AN EMOTIONAL BOND
A brand is an emotional attachment which fosters loyalty. Every connection must contribute a positive feeling to the relationship. A brand aims to be engaging, informative, memorable and compelling. Is your brand gaining loyalty and market share? 

A BRAND IS A PROCESS DEVELOPED OVER TIME
Your brand should project a unified, compelling message throughout all channels. It’s built over time through research, self-analysis and focused development. The CEO is the leader of the brand but in large organizations, the CEO gets help from Marketing and Brand Directors. 
Are you leading your brand? 

A BRAND IS YOUR MOST VALUABLE ASSET
Think of this. If Coca Cola suddenly lost all its factories, production plants and materials, it could rebuild. But if it were to lose its collective brand memory with consumers, the company would go under. Need we say more?
 

A GOOD BRAND
Stands for one thing and one thing only. 
Focus is everything. 

A GOOD BRAND
Knows it’s audience. 
Who are you selling. What do they want? 

A GOOD BRAND
Knows what it’s talking about. 
Information is power. Stay informed.

A GOOD BRAND
Communicates a consistent message. 
Repetition is everything.

A GOOD BRAND
Never copies the competition. 
Innovate. Lead by being different. 

A GOOD BRAND
Is visually compelling and verbally engaging. 
Good design and creative copy are everything.

A GOOD BRAND
Uses show and tell, rather than sell. 
Demonstrate, give samples but don’t bore us.

12 Steps To Sponsorship Success

Guest post by Sylvia Allen
Author of How To Be Successful At Sponsorship Sales
Watch her interview on The Woman's Connection YouTube Vlog

Sponsorship selling will be even more difficult than in the past. Why? Pending recession, reduced budgets, greater demand (on the part of sponsors) for validation of a return on their investment (ROI) and, of course, more competition. It's not just the major leagues going after sponsorship dollars. Both for profit and non-profit organizations have "jumped on the bandwagon" and recognized that corporations will invest money in their events IF there is some marketing value and payback to them for that investment.

Selling sponsorships is not a matter of buying a mailing list of potential buyers, writing a direct mail letter, putting together a "package", mailing everything out and waiting for the telephone to ring with people offering you money. It's a nice dream but the reality is much more complicated (and time consuming) than that.

Before getting started you should have a definition of sponsorship. The following definition is by no means perfect; however, there are some choice words that help you purse your sponsorship sales with a good foundation. Sponsorship is an investment, in cash or in kind, in return for access to exploitable business potential associated with an event or highly publicized entity.  The key words in this definition are "investment", "access to", and "exploitable"

First, investment. By constantly looking at sponsorship as an investment opportunity, where there is a viable payback, no longer are you talking to someone about a payment of cash or money. Rather, use the word investment which automatically implies that value will be returned to the investor. Second, access to which means they ability to be associated with a particular offering (event, sport, festival, fair … you name it). Lastly, exploitable, a positive word which means "to take the greatest advantage of" the relationship. In other words, allowing the sponsor to make the greatest use of their investment and capitalize on their relationship. 

Don't underestimate the value of your local events and local opportunities. Your read so much about the multi-million dollar deals you forget that there are many more small deals … $500, $2,500, $5,000. These can be as simple as vertical street banners (which offer great exposure for a very cheap cost per thousand) to title sponsorship of the local parade or festival. Once you have gone through the 12 steps you will have a better understanding of how to put together sponsorship offerings, what words to use, and how to not only price but evaluate, on a post-event basis, what you provided to the sponsor.

If you take these basic 12 steps you will be assured of greater success in your sponsorship endeavors. 

Step 1 … Take inventory

What are you selling? You have a number of elements in your event that have value to the sponsor. The include, but are not restricted to, the following:
· Radio, TV and print partners
· Retail outlet
· Collateral material … posters, flyers, brochures, table tents, payroll stuffers, bank and utility bill stuffers, etc.
· Banners
· Tickets: quantity for giving to sponsor plus ticket backs for redemption
· VIP seating
· VIP parking
· Hospitality … for the trade, for customers, for employees
· On-site banner exposure
· Booth
· Audio announcements
· Billboards
· Product sales/product displays
· Celebrity appearances/interviews
· Internet exposure

And, you can think of more. Look at your event as a store and take inventory of the many things that will have value to your sponsors, whether it be for the marketing value or hospitality value. Take your time in making up this list … time spent at the beginning will be rewarded by more effective sponsorships when you get into the selling process.

Step 2 …Develop your media and retail partners

Next, approach your media and retail partners. They should be treated the same way as all other sponsors, with the same rights and benefits. You want to negotiate for air time, with radio and television, and for print coverage with newspapers and magazines. (You can always try for money but be happy to settle just for barter … you really need this inventory to be competitive with other people seeking sponsorship money from the same sponsors you will be approaching.) This inventory of media can then be included in your total sponsorship offerings to prospective sponsors. 

The retail partner offers you a store relationship for various products. For example, if Walgreen's is your retail partner, they have shelf space, end of aisle display opportunities, weekly flyers, in-store audio announcements, bag stuffers, on-bag promotions and register tape advertising that can be offered to your product sponsor such as Tums or Schick razors. Because sponsorship has to become more and more accountable, and offer a strong ROI, this retail relationship is vital to ensure the success of your product sponsorship.
In fact, after taking your inventory steps 2 and 3 are done almost simultaneously as you must have something to give to your potential media and retail partners that describes the sponsorship. Briefly, here's what is important to these two key partners.
Media

Your event offers the media an opportunity to increase their non traditional revenue (NTR). You have an audience, sampling opportunities, sales opportunities and multiple media exposure that the media people can offer to their own advertisers. Many times an advertiser asks for additional merchandising opportunities from the media. Your event offers them that opportunity. You can let them sell a sponsorship for you in return for the air time or print coverage. Just make sure it is always coordinated through you so they are not approaching your sponsors and you are not approaching their advertisers. From radio and TV you want air time that can then be included in your sponsorship offerings. From print you want ad space and/or an advertorial (a special section). In both instances you are getting valuable media to include in your sponsorship offerings to your potential sponsors.

Treat your media just like your other sponsors. Give them the attendant benefits that go with the value of their sponsorship. When the event is over, they should provide you with proof of performance (radio and TV an affidavit of performance; print should give you tear sheets) and, conversely, you should provide them with a post event report 

Retail

A retail partner … supermarket, drugstore, fast food outlet … offers you some additional benefits that can be passed on to your sponsors. And, with a retail outlet, you can approach manufacturers and offer them some of these benefits.

For example, once you have a retail partners the following opportunities exist:
· End cap or aisle displays
· Register tape promotions
· In-store displays
· Store audio announcements
· Inclusion in weekly flyers
· Weekly advertising
· Cross-promotion opportunities
· Bag stuffers
· Placemats (fast food outlets)
· Shopping bags

Again, as with the media, even though this might be straight barter, treat the retail outlet as you would a paying sponsor. They are providing you with terrific benefits that can be passed on to your other sponsors, a tremendous value in attracting retail products. And, as with the media, have them provide you with documentation of their support … samples of bags, flyers, inserts, etc. In return, you will provide them with a post-event report, documenting the benefits they received and the value of those benefits.

Step 3 … Develop your sponsorship offerings

Now you can put together the various components of your sponsorship offerings so you are prepared to offer valuable sponsorships. Try to avoid too many levels and too "cutesy" headings. Don't use gold, silver and bronze. Don't use industry-specific terms your buyer might not understand. (If the buyer doesn't understand the words they probably won't take a look at the offering!). Simply, you can have title, presenting, associate, product specific and event specific categories. They are easy to understand and easy to sell. Of course, title is the most expensive and most effective. Think of the Volvo Tennis Classic or the Virginia Slims Tennis Classic. The minute the name of your event is "married" to the sponsor's name the media have to give the whole title. Great exposure for your title sponsor. 
The first step in preparing for your initial sponsor contact is to prepare a one page fact sheet that clearly and succinctly outlines the basics of your event (the who, what, where, when of your property) and highlights the various benefits of being associated with that event (radio, TV, print, on-site, etc.). Sample following.
_______________________________________________
HIGHLANDS BUSINESS PARTNERSHIP FACT SHEET

LOCATION: Downtown Highlands, NJ

DATES/TIMES: 40 events from May 1-December 31, 2XXX including craft shows, bike tours, car shows, cruise nights and holiday activities

ATTENDANCE: 50,000 All demographic groups with average attendees 30-45 year old, professional, married with children. Visitors come from all over NJ with a concentration on
attendance from people in Monmouth County. 

SPECIFIC ACTIVITIES: Food, fireworks, entertainment, crafters, rides, vendors… everything you have come to expect in the way of family entertainment on the Jersey Shore.

MARKETING Booth Space
OPPORTUNITIES: Large street banners, Vertical banners, Audio announcements, Inclusion on posters, flyers, etc. On-site signage

PROMOTION IDEAS: Product sampling
Database development (register to win)
Product sales
Contest/promotions
Premium incentives
Couponing/bouncebacks
Cross-promotions/sponsor partnerships

SPONSORSHIP OPTIONS RANGE UP TO $7,500 INCLUDING BOOTH DISPLAYS, TITLE SPONSORSHIP, HOSPITALITY PACKAGES, PRODUCT AND CATEGORY EXCLUSIVITY … LET US TAILOR ONE FOR YOU!

Allen Consulting, Inc. 732-946-2711

###

Step 4 … Research your sponsors

Learn about your potential sponsors. Get on the Internet, read the annual reports, do a data search on the company, use the Team Marketing Report sourcebook … find out what the companies are currently sponsoring, what their branding strategies are, what their business objectives are. Become an expert on your prospects … the more you know abut them the better prepared you will be for their questions and the easier it will be for you to craft a sponsorship offering that meets their specific needs.

Be prepared to discuss the sponsor's individual marketing strategies with them when making the sales call. KNOW YOUR SPONSOR'S BUSINESS BETTER THAN THEY DO THEMSELVES! You will have to answer questions quickly and intelligently during the sales process … know everything about their brands, their sales goals, their sponsorship strategies.
Know and understand that there are different departments, with different budgets, that can spend money on sponsorships. These departments include, but are not restricted to, advertising, marketing, public relations, product management, brand managers, human relations directors, multi-cultural marketing managers, office of the President and even a sponsorship director! Look for different opportunities within the same company.

Step 5 … Do initial sponsor contact

Then, pick up the telephone. When you reach the correct person, don't launch right into a sales pitch. Rather, ask them several questions about their business that will indicate to you whether or not they are a viable sponsor for you project. Questions could be "Based on what I have read on your company, it appears _____________________________________ (fill in the blank with your knowledge.) Is that true? Are you interested in maintaining/increasing your profitability? Are you interested in creating a better environment for your employees (or attracting new employees, or rewarding current employees)? Make sure you ask questions that can be answered with yes.

Also, make sure you are talking with the decision maker. How do you know if they are the decision maker? During the questioning process, ask "Is there anyone else you want involved in this discussion?" That way they can give you another name without being intimidated that they are not the final decision maker.

One of the questions is always "How do I get past the gatekeeper?" If you can't get through the gatekeeper, make the gatekeeper your friend and ally. Explain the program, explain the benefits of participation and get him/her to make the appointment for you Another concern? How to get through voice mail. Don't leave long, boring messages. Never leave more than three messages. Dial around … try to get a real person … talk to the operator … have the person paged … get their e-mail address and send a note … call early in the morning … late in the day. In other words? Be creative!

Step 6 … Go for the appointment

Once you have had a brief discussion, try to get the appointment. If they say, "Send me a 'package'" respond with "I'll do even better than that. I've prepared a succinct one page Fact Sheet that highlights the various marketing and promotion components of my event. May I fax it to you?". Then, ask for the fax number, send it to them right away and then call back shortly to make sure they received it. If they have received it go for the appointment. Explain that the fact sheet is merely a one dimensional outline that cannot begin to describe the total event and you would like to meet with them, at their convenience, to show them pictures, previous press coverage, a video … whatever you have. Follow the basic sales techniques of choices .. Monday or Friday, morning of afternoon. Don't give them a chance to say they can't see you.

If it is a company that is too far for you to meet with face-to-face, make an appointment for a telephone interview. Have them write that appointment in their book, just as if it were an in-person conversation. Send them a package of information that they can have in front of them when you are speaking with them so they can follow along with your discussion and presentation.

Step 7 … Be creative


Once in front of the sponsor, be prepared. Demonstrate your knowledge of their business by offering a sponsorship that meets their specific needs. Help them come up with a new and unique way to enhance their sponsorship beyond the event. For example, if it's a pet store, come up with a contest that involves the customers and their pets. Or, devise a contest where people have to fill out an entry form to win something. Think about hospitality opportunities … rewards for leading salespeople, special customer rewards, incentives for the trade. Be prepared to offer these ideas, and more, to help the sponsor understand how this sponsorship offers him/her great benefit.

In many instances, it is up to you to lead the discussion. Often a potential sponsor will turn to you and say "I don't know how to make this work." This is where your knowledge and research will prove invaluable since you will have given thought, beforehand, to how they can maximize their participation in your event.

Step 8 … Make the sale

The moment of truth … you have to ask for the sale. You can't wait for the sponsor to offer; rather you have to ask "Will we be working together on this project?" or something like that. You will have to develop your own closing questions. Hopefully, as you went through the sales process, you determined their needs and developed a program to meet those needs. And, you certainly should have done enough questioning to determine what their level of participation would be. Keep in mind that different personality styles buy differently which means you must select from a variety of closing techniques to ensure the right "fit" with the different personalities. 

As with any sale, once you have concluded the sale, follow up with a detailed contract that outlines each party's obligations. A handshake is nice but if the various elements aren't spelled out there can be a bad case of "but you said" when people sometimes hear what they want to hear, not necessarily what was spoken. Make sure you include a payment schedule that ensures you receive all your money before the event. If not, you could suffer from the "call girl principle". The only exception to this rule? If you are working with a Fortune 500 company they will want to hold back 10% until after the event as insurance against not getting full delivery. It's a normal practice and, if you've done your job, nothing to worry about.

Step 9 … Keep the sponsor in the loop

Once you have gone through the sales process you will want to keep your sponsor involved up to, and through, your event. See if their public relations department will put out a press release on their involvement. If they do, make sure you have approval rights before it is sent you. (You want to make sure that your event is being presented in the proper light, just as you want to assure your sponsors, with your releases that their marketing message is being presented properly.) Show them collateral as it is being developed - posters, flyers, banners, table tents, invitations, etc. - to make sure they are happy with their logo placement. (With fax and e-mail this is now a very simple process.) Make sure they are kept up-to-date on new sponsors, new activities … whatever is happening. Discuss their marketing needs with them … make sure the contest or other activity they are doing is being followed through on. The more you involve them in the process the more involved (and committed) they become.

Step 10 … Involve the sponsor in the event

Involve your sponsor in the event. Don't let a sponsor hand you a check and say "Let me know what happens". You are doomed to failure. Get them to participate by being on site … walk around with them … discuss their various banner locations, the quality of the audience, the lines at their booth, whatever is appropriate to their participation. Take time to participate in the various hospitality offerings with them. Introduce them to other sponsors … talk to their representatives. Do everything possible to ensure positive participation and, of course, reinforce this participation as a prelude to renewal!

Step 11 … Provide sponsors with a post-event report

There's a very old saying regarding presentations: "Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them." The post-event report is the last segment of this saying. Provide your sponsors with complete documentation of their participation. This should include copies of all collateral material, affidavit of performance from your radio and TV partners, tear sheets, retail brochures, tickets, banners, press stories… whatever has their company name and/or logo prominently mentioned or displayed. This should all be included in a kit, with a written post-event report that lists the valuation of the various components, and presented to the sponsor with a certificate of appreciation for their participation. Use a formula that encompasses Cost Per Thousand (CPM) because that is language your sponsors understand from their media buys. If you have done your pricing properly, you can use those same figures in your post-event report. Be consistent and be honest. If you are doing it the right way, you will deliver at three three times their investment, just in marketing value. And, a 3:1 ROI is great … certainly assurance of renewal!

Step 12 … Renew for next year

Now, if you've followed these 12 steps carefully, renewal is easy. In fact, you can get your sponsor to give you a verbal renewal during your event (if it is going well) and certainly after you have provided that sponsor with a post-event report that documents the value of all the marketing components he/she received. You should try for a three to one return on their investment. In many instances it will be even more than that if you have delivered as promised!

Conclusion

Selling isn't easy; however, if you follow these 12 steps it will be easier because you will have done your homework and will be prepared to discuss the sponsorship intelligently. These 12 steps make selling fun!

12 Web Site Errors: Are You Guilty?

Guest post by Anna Lieber

1. YOU PRACTICE DIY (DO-IT-YOURSELF) WEB DESIGN
Do you fix cars and do dentistry also? Don’t practice on your web site. Find an expert developer. Poor web design speaks to the world.

2. YOUR NAVIGATION ISN’T SIMPLE AND USER-FRIENDLY
Nothing turns a prospect off faster than getting lost in a maze of tricky sub-pages. The home page should be a direct link to all features. Elegance is simplicity and a Simple interface translates to positive user experience. 

3. YOU DON’T OWN YOUR OWN DOMAIN NAME
Nothing says amateur hour and undermines credibility more than a domain that ends in some fly-by-night company name. And a known telecom advertises their brand, not yours. Get a domain. 

4. YOUR CONTENT IS POORLY WRITTEN
If you don’t write well, engage a writer. Poor grammar, spelling, and technical jargon are a turn-off. Be relentless in proofreading. 

5. YOUR COPY IS WRITTEN FOR THE PRINT WORLD
A recent study cites 79% of web users scan. Only 15% read every word. Lengthy prose won’t cut it in cyberspace. Sound bites and good headlines will. Half of your print word count works. So does one idea per paragraph. Where’s that writer?

6. YOU DON’T PROVIDE USABLE INFORMATION
It’s not just about you or promotional fluff. What’s in it for the user? Is your site informative and relevant? Why should they come back?

7. YOU DON’T UPDATE YOUR SITE REGULARLY
Stale copy has never won readership. Change is vital. Display latest news prominently. 

8. YOU RELY ON BELLS AND WHISTLES
Fancy tricks don’t impress. They just slow things down. And waiting makes online readers angry. They won’t wait. They just move on.

9. YOU DON’T PROMINENTLY DISPLAY YOUR CONTACT INFO
Your company name, street address and phone are required for credibility. Nothing is more frustrating than having to search for how to reach you. Self-sabotage is not a good business idea. 

10. YOUR SITE IS INTERACTIVE BUT YOU’RE NOT
If you have an email form on your site, answer the email when you get it. 

11. YOUR SITE DOESN’T LOOK LIKE YOUR BUSINESS CARD,
If your brand look and personality aren’t reinforced through consistency, how will you create memorability? 

12. YOUR SITE DOESN’T HAVE A CLEAR CALL TO ACTION
Extend your offer. And make it easy for people to buy. If your business extends over a wide geographical area, list a toll-free number. If you aren’t asking the reader to take the next step, you’re blowing a huge opportunity. 

10 Marketing Mistakes: Are You Guilty

Guest post by Anna Lieber

1. YOU SPEND TIME ON SALES, BUT NOT ON BRAND BUILDING
Sales flow more easily, once you’ve built a brand with a point of view. 

2. YOU SPEND MORE TIME SECOND-GUESSING YOUR CREATIVE TEAM THAN SELECTING IT
Once you’ve selected a great team for their expertise, let them do their job which is to make you look good. 

3. YOU DON’T HAVE A CREATIVE TEAM
If you wouldn’t let your nephew fix your car or your teeth, why would you let him mess with your company brand? It’s just as important. 

4. YOU HAVE NO STRATEGIC VISION
It’s essential to develop a shared vision, with all members of the team pulling in the same direction. 

5. YOU HAVE NO MARKETING PLAN
If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there. Creating a dynamic, actionable plan is the foundation for control over your marketing. And planning is not a one-time event, it’s a process. You don’t know where to begin? Call me quick.

6. YOUR POSITIONING STATEMENT IS WEAK
You don’t have a positioning statement? You don’t know what a positioning statement is? Check the Q & A above.

7. YOU HAVE NO SPECIALIZATION
A specialist will usually win over a generalist. Find a special niche and communicate it convincingly. Passion plus experience attract clients. 

8. YOU CREATE DIRECT MAIL FOR THE CIRCULAR FILE
If you have no strategy, no position, no call to action, no contact information, it’s pointless. Take 5 steps back to strategic vision. 

9. YOU HAVE NO MARKETING SYNERGY
What’s that? A mix of marketing initiatives will get your pipeline flowing. 

10. YOUR BRAND IS DULL
You have no brand personality. Don’t take it personally. Change it. 
Strategize. Then add some snap, crackle and pop. 

Ten PC Tips for Communicating with a Diverse Audience

Guest post by Simma Lieberman

By learning to speak to a diverse audience, you can broaden your client base transfer the learning to more people. We need to be more "PC". Were not talking "political correctness", were talking "Positively Conscious", of who is in our audience and understanding how to make people feel included. The more people feel included, the more they will listen to you, use your information and come back for more. If you offend people they will shut down and you will lose them.

1) Use words that include rather than exclude. While some women don't mind being called ladies, in a professional setting the word women is more appropriate. Be "positively conscious" of pronouns when discussing hypothetical cases. I have been inn workshops where the facilitator spoke as though all managers were "he" and all administrative support were "she". Metaphors are very effective. Remember to mix them. Don't use only sports metaphors. Have a balance. In Europe when they think of football they think of soccer. Be aware that people have different abilities. Instead of telling everyone to stand, you might say everyone who is able please stand, and have a way for others to participate in the exercise. 

2) Learn the demographics of the audience before your presentation, and prepare. 

3) Do not assume everyone shares your religious beliefs. 

4) Look at everyone in the audience and smile at them. Speakers can have a tendency to visually relate to people who look more like them. Assume everyone wants to be valued. 

5) Do not use humor that puts down any particular group. If you are not sure, get feedback from others. 

6) Examine your assumptions about people who are different than you. Be open to letting go of those assumptions. 

7) Do not be afraid to ask for the correct pronunciation of someone's name. 

8) If someone has an accent and you can't understand them, ask them to repeat what they said slowly, because what they are saying is important to you. 

9) Use methodology in your presentations to accommodate different learning styles. Visual Auditory Kinesthetic

10) Be comfortable with silence. In some cultures that can mean respect and attention. Be comfortable with direct interaction. In some cultures that can mean respect and attention. Be comfortable with saying, " I don't know."

Powerful Brand Leadership

Guest post by Anna Lieber

Q. How do we define a brand today?

A. A brand is a promise to the community. It is an emotional connection which promises a certain level of quality, honesty and integrity whether it applies to a person, a product or service. 

If you have a daycare center, your community is the mothers in your area and you are promising reliability and excellent care for their children. If you are a CPA, your community may be businesses or individuals who need tax consulting, and you are promising honesty, integrity and a high level of competence. If you are a jobseeker, you yourself are the brand and you promise a high level of commitment to anyone who receives your resume. There is a great deal of competition in every area. Today, you can’t even get a date without marketing yourself. 

Some brands seem to grow magically, like Starbucks, for example.

A brand needs to be relevant to the times. There’s a good reason why we drink coffee at Starbucks today and not Chock Full o’ Nuts. Starbucks recognized the need to create a coffeehouse community. They grew their brand quickly, and without advertising, simply by recognizing a need in society so they could be ahead of the curve, and creating a great brand experience. 

Q. How do you create a brand?

A. Too many people think a brand is simply a logo. A brand identity is much more. The brand is a personality expressed by how you look, how your office looks, your letterhead, your web site and promotion or your resume, how you answer the phone, in short, through every means of communication. 

The brand personality will be very different for the daycare center (colorful, fun and energetic) than for the CPA (dignified, businesslike and conservative). A brand must be appropriate and descriptive of the business or individual through its look and feel. Sometimes it helps to start with the key words which describe your business. 

Q. How do you know if you are being strategic? 

A. Strategize who you are, what you’re selling and who your target audience is? Decide exactly what you stand for and develop a set of key messages which answer the questions: What can I offer? What is my core competency? What do I specialize in? What do I believe in? 

It is imperative to strategize by analyzing yourself and then your competition. In marketing we do a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Understand thoroughly who you are. Determine your unique point of difference. What distinguishes you from your competition? And don’t forget, what could you do better? It’s easier today to do competitive research or competitive intelligence than ever before because of the internet. 

Make sure you know what your clients want. Only then can you fashion products and services that are marketable and build an image which is credible, relevant, unique and durable. 

Q. How do you create a corporate identity?

A. So now you are finally ready to create a brand identity, a visual representation. The brand identity becomes a powerful tool in getting your message out. It may be a logo or type treatment which you integrate into every communication whether it’s a letter, a web site, an email, a resume, a product package or a service brochure.

Do not create it yourself unless you are a graphic designer. And don’t let your nephew in high school do it. You wouldn’t let him fix your car or perform surgery on you. Don’t let him experiment with your brand either. It’s far too important. If you can’t afford a designer, hire a design student through one of the design schools. Although they are beginners, they’ve had design training which is essential.

A powerful brand identity creates memorability through repetition. Create a letterhead, business card and envelope which all match. When you develop a web site, integrate the same look here.

Once you have a brand identity, how do you get the word out? 

Start by creating key messages about yourself, your product or your service. Then market these messages every chance you can – to everyone you know. You have a database – even when you start out. It’s your address book. Tell everyone you know what you are doing whether it’s through a letter, a postcard, a web site or verbally via your elevator speech. That’s the basis of networking. We all use our networks to find a doctor, a babysitter, or a job, or to buy a house. And we need to spread the word about our business in the same way because no one knows you are out there until you tell them. 

Q. What is an elevator speech? 

A. Figure you are in an elevator and going up to the 10th floor. You meet someone and you must tell them in two to three sentences what your business is, or what position you are seeking. It should be succinct, compelling and answer the questions, who you are, what you do – and most important, why they should care. The key is there needs to be a benefit. What’s in it for them – or if they can’t use your service, what’s in it for your target audience – because surely they know someone who could use your services. The elevator speech needs to be scripted and to roll off your tongue without thinking.

Q. So an elevator speech is a networking introduction?

A. Networking is essential in marketing our businesses. It’s the key to getting what we need in life because we are all part of a community which shares information. That leads me to the role that content and knowledge management play in creating a brand. 

Q. What do you mean by “content”? 

A. Brands today are required to be brainy and to have a “brand voice”. You have information to share. And you will want to figure out how to share it so that you and your brand look smart to the right people, your target audience, those who have a need and are qualified to buy your product or service. You want to engage them to create interest and credibility. 

With so much information out there, how does creating content help my client?

In our cluttered environment, your role is to simplify the process for the client who has too many choices. You are the “portal of trust,” a term coined by Robert Reich “The Future of Success”. You, the expert, will navigate the waters for a client who is terrified to make a mistake. 

Q. What types of marketing initiatives will prove your credibility?

A. Use your brand to show yourself as an expert. Create content on the web, write an article, run a workshop, send an email newsletter. Even a simple promotional letter outlining your accomplishments of the past year can be instrumental. Your clients may not know what you’ve done for other clients. Start what I call a clipping campaign. Send your clients and prospects articles of interest. Selling today is not really about sales. It’s about starting a dialogue and being a resource. 

And marketing is not about advertising. It’s information sharing in a global community. It’s about creating a brand personality which represents you and your company in a way that creates maximum credibility and visibility. Educate those around you and give them something of added value. In the “New Normal,” a leader in business or in life needs to connect by creating a brand, then make a contribution to the community, and success is sure to follow. 

Marketing vs. Sales

Guest post by Anna Lieber

"You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do." – Henry Ford. 

Business owners often confuse marketing and sales. But the distinction is really simple. Marketing is communicating what you do to generate prospects and increase visibility. Sales is converting prospects into clients. You need both. Here’s why. 

First, we all know commitment takes time. Before you marry, you date to get to know one another. Doing business is similar. It’s what we call the “know, like and trust” factor. 

Second, marketing is an ice breaker that warms up your leads. Prospects can be confused because they don’t understand how to judge your expertise. Sometimes they don’t even understand what you are talking about. Your knowledge base is simple to you but it’s a foreign language to them. 

Marketing educates prospects and helps take the fear and uncertainty out of a buying decision. It moves them from a flying leap to a more comfortable leap of faith. It’s that trust factor. The discount clothier Syms says “an educated customer is our best customer”. And we’ll add an educated customer guarantees a better experience for all. 

Third, marketing attracts new prospects. A company which markets all the time, via traditional, viral or guerrilla techniques, in good economies and bad, slow times and busy times, has the edge. Marketing generates brand awareness leading to a larger pool of warm leads and greater success.

Strategic marketing provides a select audience – you attract interested prospects instead of needing to track them down. Attracting rather than chasing – what could be better? A known brand is the comfortable choice. It makes decision making intuitive and creates raving fans.

Sales or converting prospects to clients is the next part of the process. There are various sales methodologies but most use a variation of these steps: qualifying leads, approaching them, presenting or demonstrating, probing for needs, answering objections and closing the sale. 

Sales skill is essential in moving prospects from stage to stage but marketing ensures prospects feel good about the decision. Expert selling is consultative and meant to create lasting relationships. And marketing continually communicates your expertise. 

The bottom line: Sales success is facilitated by good marketing. Marketing plus sales is the winning equation.

Viral Marketing: Buzz Your Way To Success

Guest post by Anna Lieber

“An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.” – Victor Hugo

VIRAL MARKETING is getting a bad rap, in part due to its name. Nobody wants a virus, medical or computer. But what exactly is viral marketing? It’s simply word-of-mouth via email. Maybe we should call it buzz marketing instead. 

Why is viral marketing successful? Everyone likes a free sample. It’s a time-honored strategy – give away a taste of the pie and then sell the whole pie. 

DIGITAL MESSAGES spread rapidly and easily at a fraction of the cost of other marketing vehicles. People are social and as they communicate, your message takes on a life of its own. Each time it’s transmitted the circle of receivers grows exponentially creating ever-widening exposure. 

As a marketer, I like that idea. Provided your message is clear, useful and compelling, tasteful and legitimately delivered. 

HOW TO CREATE BUZZ WITH VIRAL MARKETING

€ publish an ezine, encouraging people to forward it to their network

€ send email news releases about free articles on your web site

€ create a giveaway like a CD or ebook to showcase your expertise

€ ask clients to write testimonials and feature them on your web site

€ trade web links with synergistic businesses

€ write an article, submitting it to various informational sites

€ add an email signature including your contact info and offer

ADD VALUE Use viral marketing to spread the word about your expertise and products. But can the corny jokes and pyramid letters. Send information of real value to your target audience. Be extra careful not to overdo frequency or reveal email addresses publicly.