How To Prevent Marketing Paralysis – Chapter 2

stop-sign-37020_640Here are two more causes of marketing paralysis

Marketing Paralysis Cause II

Getting unhelpful or misguided advice. It’s always a good idea to talk things over with a friend and get some advice. You might want to discuss a new idea, clarify a stumbling block, or just plain talk about your business. If you’re considering starting a solo business, it gets lonely quickly in the early stages of planning your business strategies.

Key point: People love to give advice. When someone gives you advice, there’s a good chance that the advice they give you is more about what the other person needs rather than what you need. Be careful and don’t get sucked into their advice.

Phone a friend who is not employed in your industry or profession. You might want fresh eyes on your situation. You want the other person’s perspective. However, there might be times when you’ll want to talk to someone in your field of business.

When you initially talk with your friends, don’t ask your friends to solve your problem for you. Ask them not to give you advice. Ask them to listen and act as a sounding board. Sometimes, just saying aloud what your situation is can be helpful. Now, you can brainstorm ideas or solutions.

Marketing Paralysis Cause III

So far, we’ve discussed two of the three main causes of marketing paralysis – using the wrong marketing model and getting unhelpful or misguided advice. You were presented with some tips and suggestions to immunize yourself against marketing paralysis. The third cause of marketing paralysis information overload.

There are thousands of marketing resources online –print books on marketing; ebooks, self-help guides, websites focusing on how to use social media, e-seminars and podcasts. To make things even more overwhelming I found a website that listed 72 different definitions of marketing. That’s a lot of information!

Look at the Small Business Administration’s (SBA.gov) website. There are all sorts of resources available on how to market and build a small business. They have 42 online training courses and 69 videos. Reading these definitions can contribute to marketing paralysis.

There are a lot of ‘professional’ marketers out there willing to take your money to help you build a marketing plan. These self-proclaimed marketing gurus tend to profess quick solutions to complex marketing problems. They encourage you to purchase their guides and marketing plan outline. Chances are, these plans contain more information than you need.

Look back at the three causes of marketing paralysis: using the wrong model of marketing; getting unhelpful or misguided advice, and information overload. Is there one particular cause of marketing paralysis that you can relate to? Are you using the model that best fits your business?

How To Prevent Marketing Paralysis – Chapter 1

informationoverload

This is an exciting, action-packed, six-part series called Preventing Marketing Paralysis. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a start-up or are already in business, the practical tools and tactics you’ll learn will be of value to you. We’ll discuss the causes, signs and symptoms of marketing paralysis. And, most important, you’ll be given practical tips and suggestions to prevent you from becoming a victim of marketing paralysis. Be sure to read all six chapters, you’ll be glad you did.

What is Marketing Paralysis?

Marketing paralysis is a syndrome commonly seen in small business owners and providers of personal and professional services, who have little or no knowledge of marketing.

Marketing paralysis is similar to analysis paralysis. Analysis paralysis is over-analyzing a situation or idea to the point that nothing ever gets done. Those individuals or groups who suffer from analysis paralysis usually say something like, “We need more data. Let’s start from the beginning again. We need the right people to work on this.” Consequently, the project or idea stagnates and in many cases, no decision is made. Marketing paralysis occurs when, in the process of creating a marketing campaign, you stop dead in your tracks, unable to move forward.

Marketing Paralysis Cause I

Using the wrong model of marketing. Most marketing models are based on strategies and tactics aimed at selling products, not services. Selling products entails a completely different strategic approach. For example, if you are building a marketing plan to sell gardening supplies, your marketing and sales tactics are based on straightforward transactions. When you sell a product such as a garden hose, your customer shops for a certain brand, price, or specific features (length and thickness, type of material, etc.). There is more than one option to buy. It’s easy to sell value. There is little or no emotional involvement in the sale. The sale is a simple transaction and uses traditional sales techniques.

On the other hand, if you provide personal or professional services such as financial planning, tutoring, or any type of consulting, your marketing and sales tactics are consultative, not transactional. It’s hard to sell a single option service (accounting). Consultative selling requires you to build a relationship with potential clients or customers. There is high emotional involvement in the relationship. When promoting services, word-of-mouth and referral-based strategies are used.

Have you applied the wrong marketing model’s strategies and tactics in your business? What happened?

In the next chapter, you’ll learn two more causes of marketing paralysis.

Stay tuned.

YouTube or MeTube?

YouTube

According to Tad Friend, writing about YouTube in the New Yorker in 2014:

“YouTube was adults with camcorders shooting kids being adorably themselves. It was amateur hour. Nowadays, YouTube is alarmingly professional. It has millions of channels devoted to personalities and products, which are often aggregated into “verticals” containing similar content.”

Who would have predicted that a revolution in digital communication could have such a profound impact on how we connect with people. And, who would have predicted that the way we conduct business would drastically change? And, to make things even more convoluted, the capabilities and functions of digital communication are changing almost daily (well, not quite daily).

Tad Friend suggests that YouTube is alarmingly professional. However, the pipeline for cute baby and cuddly cats videos will never get shut off. Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook, just to name a few have expanded their capabilities. Twitter, besides having the ability to link to other (content) sites, is now a platform to receive breaking news. You can set up your own Twitter business page, too. Pinterest now has a blogging feature. Instagram is now a good place to find recipes. LivingSocial has moved away from a deal-of-the-month platform to a promoter of concerts, festivals, and other events. Small businesses that advertised on LivingSocial now have to look elsewhere to advertise.

For those of you data junkies, check out some data I from YouTube’s website:

  • YouTube has over a billion users — almost one-third of all people on the Internet — and every day people watch hundreds of millions of hours on YouTube and generate billions of views.
  • YouTube overall, and even YouTube on mobile alone reaches more 18-34 and 18-49 year-olds than any cable network in the U.S.
  • The number of hours people spend watching videos (aka watch time) on YouTube is up 60% y/y, the fastest growth we’ve seen in 2 years.
  • The number of people watching YouTube per day is up 40% y/y since March 2014.
  • The number of users coming to YouTube who start at the YouTube homepage, similar to the way they might turn on their TV, is up more than 3x y/y.

Take from: https://www.youtube.com/yt/press/statistics.html

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by this information and you don’t know what to do with it, you’re not alone. Some folks take this data ‘with a grain of salt.’

However, if you’re thinking about using YouTube videos as a vehicle to promote yourself, your product, or your service, ask yourself the following questions:

Strategic Questions:

  1. Producing a YouTube video is not about you (MeTube) and how great your product or service is. It’s about sharing information with your customers and addressing critical customer problems. Will the video address your customers’ most critical questions?
  2. Who exactly is my audience?
  3. Why do I think YouTube is the best way to communicate my message?
  4. How do I make sure the video is seen by my customers/prospects?
  5. Do I have compelling and fresh content that my customers need?
  6. In terms of producing a video, have I considered how much time, energy, and money it will cost?

Operational Questions:

  1. Who is going to write, design and produce the video?
  2. How long should the video be?
  3. Should I embed my video in my website?

My job is to ask you the tough questions. Your job is to make an informed decision as to whether you should use YouTube to promote your business.

Time to Tune Up Your Elevator Speech

5 Tips to Make Your Elevator Speech (ES) More Impactful

elevator

You have an idea of what you want to say in your ES. You feel confident that your talking points are solid. Your introduction is brief. Your statement about what you do in terms of what’s in it for the person you’re talking to is succinct. Your statement indicating how passionate you are about what you do is precise. And, your statement or two that ends the conversation is clear.

 

Here are some ways to fine-tune your ES.

  • Think of your ES as your business card in action. Most likely, you will want to modify or refine your elevator speech. Just as you reprint your business card when you move or change jobs, you have to ‘reprint’ or refresh your ES as time goes on.
  • Use plain English, not professional jargon. Don’t hide behind jargon. If you’re talking to someone in your professional community, tone down the jargon and remember to use mostly jargon-less words. Remember, you only have one chance to make a first impression.
  • Practice your ES out loud in front of a mirror. No matter how painful and embarrassing it is, you should practice your ES in front of a mirror. If you really want to experience terror, try practicing it in front of your spouse or child.
  • Be prepared to improvise and adapt on the spot. Consider having two or three variations of your ES on the tip of your tongue.
  • Land the plane, smoothly, safely and quickly – Don’t drag your ES on and on. Once you start repeating yourself, then it’s time to end it. Quickly decide what kind of follow-up you want: exchange business cards; ask for a meting; ask for name of someone else who might be helpful.

It’s OK to use your elevator speech on an escalator or on the floor.

Sales is Not a Four Letter Word

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“Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman-not the attitude of the prospect.”   W. Clement Stone

Two of the most frustrating challenges preventing new business owners from becoming successful marketers are: 1) fear of selling, and 2) fear of setting and discussing fees or prices. I often hear new business owners say things like, “I’m not a salesperson”…”, I don’t know how to do it”…”I feel anxious at the thought of selling myself”.

Before we discuss how to overcome your fears, let’s talk about the role anxiety plays in a sales situation.

The Look Out Syndrome

You’re meeting with a prospective customer or client and start to feel nervous and self-doubting about your ability to sell. As your anxiety level increases, you focus your attention on the other person–their body language, facial expressions, or general demeanor, instead of listening to what is actually being said.

You might assume the other person is thinking negative thoughts about you. Often, your evaluation of these non-verbal cues is incorrect.

You might say to yourself, “Will I get the sale?” Now, more doubts about yourself start creeping into your head–“Is the look on the other person’s face saying he doesn’t want to work with me or purchase my product?” As a result, you probably didn’t hear most of what the other person said. You were too busy looking into the other person.

I call this the Look Out Syndrome: I am looking at you looking at me. 
And, 
I am wondering what you are thinking about me.

When you’re on the Look Out and not listening, you don’t say what you want to say because you’re too busy trying to figure out what the other person is thinking. Can we attribute Looking Out to inexperience? Immaturity? No self-control? Probably none of these.

Chances are you are scanning the prospective client so intensely that you repeat yourself or ask the same question more than once. Clearly, your thinking brain is offline.

How to Avoid the Look Out Syndrome

  1. Look at the other person, not into them. Focus on the color of their eyes, the color of their hair, or any other feature. Focusing on physical features will calm your brain so your thoughts stay focused in the present. Then there is little or no room to think what they’re thinking about you.
  1. Listen. This is probably the easiest thing in the world to say and the most difficult thing in the world to do. What is listening? How do you listen? How do you know if you’re being listened to? My advice: go online. There are plenty of resources and tutorials that can help you develop effective listening skills.
  1. Think business at all times. Your job is to sell your product or service, not to start a budding friendship. You don’t want new friends; you want customers or clients. If you focus on understanding and satisfying the business needs of customers and clients, rather than Looking Out, you’ll be able to keep personal interests out of the equation.

Fear of Selling 

“Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, ‘Make me feel important.’ Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life.” Mary Kay Ash

Some small business owners suffer from a debilitating condition called Fear of Selling. This phobia occurs when a business owner starts thinking about being in a position to sell their product or service. The business owner goes into a panic and fear mode. It doesn’t matter if the sales situation is on the phone, via Skype or in person, fear still rears its ugly head.

Two of the most common fears are:

  • Fear of delivering a sales presentation to a group
  • Fear of giving a talking a conference or seminar

Yes, it’s the dreaded fear of public speaking. The technical terms for fear of public speaking is Glossophobia.  Two more fears that are common are:

  • Cold-calling a prospect
  • Talking to a known prospect on the phone

The fear of talking on the phone presents a real challenge for some business owner. The business owner cannot ‘read’ the other person. The business owner can’t pick up on any non-verbal cues. It’s almost as if the business owner is involved in a monologue, not a sales dialogue. It’s also hard to know when to stop the conversation so the other person can speak.

To understand how you feel when confronting the above fears, ask yourself which one of the following reactions apply to you?

Fear of delivering a sales presentation/fear of giving a talk at a conference:

☐ A) Been there, done that – no big deal

☐ B) I feel nervous, sick to my stomach, but I do it.

☐ C) I feel nervous but I’ve got it under control.

☐ D) I’m breaking out in a sweat just thinking about it and I’m not going to do it.

Cold-calling a prospect

☐ A) Been there, done that – no big deal.

☐ B) I feel nervous, sick to my stomach, but I do it.

☐ C) I feel nervous but I’ve got it under control.

☐ D) I’m breaking out in a sweat just thinking about it and I’m not going to do it.

Talking to a known prospect on the phone for the purpose of upselling

☐ A) Been there, done that – no big deal.

☐ B) I feel nervous, sick to my stomach, but I do it.

☐ C) I feel nervous but I’ve got it under control.

☐ D) I’m breaking out in a sweat just thinking about it and I’m not going to do it.

Here’s what you should do and what you should not do to minimize your fear.

#1 Do not read, word-for-word your presentation. Refer to key talking points using an outline.

#2 If you are using PowerPoint, do not look at your slides. In other words, don’t talk to your slides. Instead, face your audience and talk directly to them. Again, talk from an outline

#3 If you want to create more anxiety and raise your fear level, tell a joke at the beginning. Chances are, you’ll be so anxious that the joke will fall flat. No canned jokes, please.

#4 Keep your phone calls brief and definitely work from a script.

Even though email marketing is an effective way to deliver your sales message, you want to think twice about whether you are using email as a way to avoid talking on the phone.

After all, you don’t want to have an anxiety attack in front of potential customers.

 “Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.” Les Brown

Here are four more fears of selling. These fears revolve around the business owner’s lack of confidence and feeling they are not persuasive or convincing in a sales situation.

#1 A manifestation of fear of selling is hiding behind jargon, instead of speaking informally. Using jargon make it almost impossible for a customer to relate to you, as a person. Jargon keeps you at a distance from your customer. I was attending a local networking event, and overheard a psychotherapist talking to a lawyer – a potential referrer. The therapist thought the lawyer might have clients with emotional or relationship problems. In this case, the therapist was trolling for referrals. The therapist said to the lawyer, “I do psychotherapy, Gestalt Therapy, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and EMDR”. That was a sure-fire way to turn off a potential referrer. This is a great example of how not to be relational. There might be a time, when in a sales situation, you would use some technical talk, especially if you are talking to someone who is in your industry or profession.

#2 Asking prospective customers if they want to meet rather than suggesting a specific time to meet. When people feel insecure about themselves in a sales situation, they do not want to irritate or turn off a prospective customer. So, they ‘play it safe’ and ask.

#3 Convincing a skeptical prospect of the value of your service or product. You are not a door-to-door salesperson selling vacuum cleaners. Don’t laugh, some people feel they are going door-to-door selling. You are selling value and solutions based on your professional expertise. If you stick with the tried and true sales approach of discussing the benefits of your product or service, you won’t feel like a vacuum cleaner salesperson.

#4 Knowing when to end the discussion. When it comes to closing the sale or terminating a conversation, you want to ‘land the plane smoothly’. Why is landing the plane so difficult for some people? Why do competent people get flustered? Some people hesitate landing the plane due to their fear of rejection. Landing the plane requires you to be open, honest, and direct with the other person. You might balk at having to plan and even rehearse your landing statements. What happens if during the landing process, you experience the dreaded awkward silence? It’s perfectly okay to wait a few seconds without conversation. This is a good time for you to take a deep breath and remember your landing script.

Here are five examples of how and how not to land the plane.

Wimpy Way                                                  Direct Way

Can I call you?                                                When can I call you?

Do you have a business card?               I’d like one of your business cards

Can I have your email address?
            What’s your email address?

Maybe we should have lunch?              When, at your convenience can we have lunch?

Can I be a Contact in LinkedIn?           I’ll make contact with you on LinkedIn


These suggestions might seem simplistic and common sense. But in a sales situation, with your fears and anxieties out of control, you can remind yourself that you have tools to cope.

Fear of Fees

“Fears are nothing more than a state of mind.” Napoleon Hill

Over the years, I’ve talked to small business owners, lawyers, psychotherapists, physicians, accountants, and other professional and personal service providers. When I ask them how they feel about having a direct discussion about their fees, I hear:

  • “After being in practice for many years, I’m still uncomfortable bringing up the subject of fees”
  • “I wish someone else would do it for me”
  • “I try to avoid it as much as possible”
  • “It’s always an awkward conversation”
  • “I don’t feel I’m worth it to charge this much”

 I was coaching a young woman, Natalie, who recently graduated with a doctoral degree in physical therapy. She wanted to open a private practice but questioned her ability to ‘sell herself’. She was filled with self-doubt. One of several goals of coaching was for Natalie to confront her doubts about selling. We made a list of her self-doubts regarding selling. We addressed these self-doubts by replacing each negative message with a positive one.

Negative message Replaced with Positive Message
I have no confidence in my ability to sell I’m really good at building relationships. I can leverage that skill to promote my practice.
I don’t know where to start when it comes to selling my services I don’t need to know everything about selling. I can ask a friend for help.
I am more comfortable talking about physical therapy than selling myself I bring a lot of passion to what I do. I’ll communicate this to engage potential patients.

Two years after Natalie finished coaching with me, I sent her an email and asked her how things were going. She said she opened a physical therapy practice with a colleague from graduate school. She was treating patients and loving it.

What about you? Look at the questions below and answer YES or No for each question. If you answered YES to any of the questions, ask yourself what negative messages you have about money and suggest a positive message to replace the negative one.

  • Do you feel that you do not have enough experience to justify your fee?
  • Do you ask your customers if they think your fees are reasonable?
  • Are you afraid you are not charging enough?
  • If you state your fee, are you afraid the customer will say no?
  • If a customer balks at your fee, do you drop the price?
  • Are you afraid you are charging too much?

Believing in yourself, and your competence will help you overcome your fear of selling. This won’t happen overnight, but keep on reminding yourself of your positive message.

Let’s take a deeper look at the topic of fear of discussing fees. The discussion of fees would not be complete without talking about money.

“Nearly all of the 2014 Stress in America survey respondents (95 percent) said parents should talk to their kids about money. But only 64 percent said they themselves were taught how to manage money, and just 37 percent said they often talk with their family members about the subject.” Stress in America Survey

Ask yourself:

  • Did my family of origin speak openly and in a healthy way about money and finances?
  • Did my family of origin openly and fearfully discuss money or finances?
  • Did my family avoid any discussion about money?

Money avoidance: Believing that money is bad or that you do not deserve money. For people with this personality, money can evoke feelings of fear, anxiety, or disgust. Low-income, younger, and single individuals were more likely to hold this attitude. Brad Klontz

One of my clients told me that, as a child, her parents were hesitant to discuss money. In fact, they did not discuss money at all. As an adult, my client started two businesses. Both businesses were bankrupt within two years. My client blamed her failure on her inability to handle money. After her businesses failed, she confronted her parents about the money issue. Her father said he was afraid that giving his children too much information would have a negative impact on their adult life by diminishing their child’s goal or values. You can see why this client was fearful.

What are some of the manifestations of fear of discussing fees?

You have probably encountered a potential customer/client who, the first thing off the bat says, “How much do you charge?” or “What’s your fee?” In the rush to make the sale, you tell the other person exactly what they are looking for –a price. This person gets what he/she is looking for and most of the time will terminate the discussion. I affectionately refer to these people as ‘price shoppers’.

If you have fear of fees, here’s a way to slow down your thinking, so you can focus. Initially, do not state your fee. Do not say ‘”how can I help you?” (The response to “How can I help you” sets up an unrealistic expectation that you will help this person). Also, do not launch into your elevator speech. Eventually, you’ll want to discuss fees. Instead, ask a few benign questions such as:

  • What are you looking for?
  • Have you talked to others in the same business?
  • Have you ever purchased services (or products) like mine?

If you are unable to redirect the conversation back to the other person’s needs, then quickly land the plane by simply stating your fee (or a range of fees) and ending the conversation. Some business owners make one more attempt to turn the conversation back to the customer. If this doesn’t work, say, “goodbye and good luck!

When I first started out as a freelance marketing consultant, my only reference point for how much to charge was based on my experience at a large consulting firm. I could not charge anywhere near what they charged. I ruminated over whether I should charge an hourly fee or one fee for the entire project. I had no idea of what those fees would be. I realized I was anxious about talking about fees. I’d rather not talk about fees.

No one in my family would talk about money. No one would talk about the family budget. I never knew if my parents were or were not in debt. I had no idea of what things cost and how to budget. I tried to focus on the positives. I knew I had all the credentials and experience that potential clients wanted. I then knew I could face my fears and discuss fees with my clients.  Remembering that my family never discussed money helped me realize why this was hard for me. It took awhile for me to come to grips with this fear.

Now that you’ve examined your fear of selling and fear of fees, here are four tips you can use to minimize the impact of your fears.

#1 State your fee and shut up. Don’t justify your fee or over-talk. Let the customer respond. Keep this discussion as short as possible.

#2 Stick to your guns. Do not sell yourself short by dropping your fee. In a moment of panic and in desperation to make the sale, all sorts of thoughts are racing through your mind. You know how much time, energy, and money it took to bring your product or service to market. Leave no room for negotiation.

#3 Take a sales training course. Sometimes, I recommend that my clients attend a short sales training course. I’m not referring to 2-hour sales training seminars designed to lure you into purchasing a costly training package. In fact, I have some reservations about sales training courses. First, most of what is taught is common sense, just neatly packaged in a step-by-step methodology. Some sales training courses focus on the techniques used by the course leader. These leaders tend to be somewhat charismatic and the focus is on the leader, not you. Second, many sales training courses use their own jargon, which might be off-putting to you. Third, unless specifically tailored to your profession or business, general sales training courses might not offer specific industry-related insight or buyer behavior patterns. Fourth, some sales training courses offer a plethora of tips, tactics, and ideas. This might be the case of too much information. If you do want to take a sales training course, I recommend you consult your professional or business association. See what they have to offer. Weigh the time, cost, and energy you spend on taking a course against the benefits you might get. See what happens.

#4 Get a mentor or a coach. Mentors are individuals who are willing to assist you at no cost. Mentors tend to be senior executives or retirees. Many communities around the country have mentoring programs sponsored by local business councils. Coaches charge you by the hour. Whichever you choose, getting a mentor or coach is probably the best way to get a handle on how to discuss fees. It’s been my experience the best mentors are those in businesses not related to yours. Even though they do not have your industry-specific information and experience, they do know how to do the most important thing you need: discussing fees and closing deals. You’ll get a fresh perspective on selling. Caveat: Look online and you’ll see many organizations that offer coaching certification. Before you hire a coach, check out his or her certification. Does the credential seem credible? Will the coach let you talk to current or former clients?

Now you have tips and tactics to use so you won’t be selling yourself short.

What’s Your Vision for Your Business?

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Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.—Joel A. Barker

Have you ever met an entrepreneur who has a great idea for a business and wants desperately to tell you about it? Did you feel the entrepreneur’s sense of excitement and passion? Did the entrepreneur paint a colorful picture of his or her idea? Did you get swept up in the moment? Did you find yourself telling others about what this entrepreneur said? Do you wish you would feel this way?

Creating Your Vision

The dictionary defines a vision as the “act or power of anticipating what will or may come to be”. Your goal is not to predict the future, but to set your eyes on the prize. You can create and recreate your vision at any time, from the embryonic stage to being up and running.

Let’s see what Deepak Chopra has to say in his book The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire: Harnessing the Infinite Power of Coincidence to Create Miracles:

Consciousness orchestrates its activity in response to both attention and intention. Whatever you put your attention on becomes energized. Whatever you take your attention away from dwindles. On the other hand, intention is the key to transformation, as we have seen. So, you could say that attention activates the energy field, and intention activates the information field, which causes transformation.

Deepak believes energy follows attention. In other words, what you focus on can become your reality. If you put your vision out there into the universe (it might be a bit extreme, but it does make a point), you’ll have a good chance of making your vision happen. If you set your intention to work toward your vision, your chances of success increase.

Your vision:

  • Is intangible
  • Is intentional
  • Serves as a motivational force
  • Expresses your passion
  • Is a guide for planning your business objectives.

Let’s go deeper. Your vision, when written, serves as a constant reminder of where you’re going. It should be action-oriented and worded in such a way, so there is room for change. You should keep your potential customer or client in the front of your mind when creating a vision. After all, isn’t your business about providing a product or service that will satisfy a customer or client need?

The elegant aspect of a vision is that while you are crafting it, you are painting a mental picture based on your emotions (passion) and your intellect (your business idea). 
The result is a written statement about your dream for your business.

Can you keep your ambitious goal in mind and at the same time focus on concrete, tangible outcomes? I believe this is the key to success. You set a path and follow it. The path might be bumpy, with dangerous curves, hills, and dead ends, but in the end, you’ll get what you want – a successful business based on your values and your unique skills and abilities. It’s easy to get sidetracked and lose sight of your vision. There are many tempting distractions out there.

Your vision is not about the path, it’s about where the path takes you. It’s all about discovering your passion and pursuing it. In times of doubt, you can revisit your goal, and hopefully feel encouraged.

Answer the following questions and you’ll be on your way to create your vision.

  1. What is my highest dream or vision for my business?
  2. What do I wish for the most?
  3. What can I put into words that I have never put into words before?
  4. What am I willing to do to make my vision come true?
  5. What resources do I need to use on the way to achieving my vision?

Good luck and stay focused.

House of Cards?

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QUICK QUIZ

Question 1: Right now, how many of your business cards do you have in your wallet, purse, or brief case? If you have less than five, hurry up and put more in your wallet, purse, or briefcase. Or, have more printed.

Question 2: How many of your business cards do you have laying around your house or office? If you have fewer than twenty-five, go online now and order more.

Question 3: YES or NO. 
I have up-to-date business cards. If you answered No, you know what to do.

So, what’s the big deal about business cards? Along with having a prepared elevator speech, you should always have up-to-date business cards on hand. And, here’s an example of why.

Recently, I attended a networking event. I met a lawyer who specializes in working with small business owners on legal matters. He was the perfect referral source for me. I wanted to follow up with him and at the end of our brief conversation, I asked him for his business card. He fished through his wallet and found a crumpled up, dog-eared business card. He took out the card and said, “Oh, my phone number changed, and so did my email address”. He scribbled the new contact information on the back of his card and handed it to me. I then thought twice about contacting him. There must be other lawyers with his specialty who don’t have crumpled, outdated business cards. I did not contact him.

You know what they say about first impressions. Is this the kind of first impression you want to make?

You can drive yourself crazy reading articles on the Internet about what to include or exclude on your business card, whether to purchase or use free templates, which fonts to use, etc.

 6 tips for creating a legible and succinct business card

  1. Put your contact information on one side only.
  2. Use one or maybe two different fonts. If your customers are over the age of 50, pump up the size of the font.
  3. Put the least amount of contact information on your card. Do you need to put your landline, cell, fax, email address, mailing address, website, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or Instagram logos on the card? Is it necessary to put an inspirational phrase on the card? Less is more.
  4. Make sure any graphic you use does not overshadow your contact information.
  5. Even though you get price discounts when you order larger quantities of cards, buy small quantities. You never know when your contact information might change.
  6. Before you go ahead and print your business cards, have a friend look it over. You’ll be surprised at, in the rush to print the card, glaring typos are made.

If you have any doubts about what your card should say and how it should look, check out other people’s cards. You might get some good ideas.

Are You Putting The Cart Before The Horse?

horse cart copy

Here’s a little story that demonstrates how to avoid putting the cart before the horse, in a marketing sense, that is.

I was hired by a professional membership association to create a marketing plan. I’d be working under the auspices of the association’s newly formed Marketing Committee. The members of the committee had input into all aspects of the project. At the first meeting, I asked the committee members what they thought the scope of the project should be. Immediately, one of the members suggested they write an informational booklet describing all the good things the association does. She said this would be a great way to ‘market the association.’

I tried, to no avail to direct the conversation back to defining the scope of the project. By this time, the committee was fixated on the idea of producing a booklet and what the booklet should contain. Then, the conversation shifted from the idea of writing a booklet to a discussion of what political ramifications might occur, if the booklet was published. One member was concerned that the booklet should not, in any way, offend any member of the association, or any special interest group. After this discussion went nowhere, the committee moved on.

Then, I bluntly asked, “What’s the purpose of this booklet?” The committee members said that the booklet should be used to:

  • Recruit new members
  • Update active members on the association’s accomplishments
  • Educate the public
  • Influence and educate local, state, and national policy makers on issues important to the association’s membership.

In other words, the booklet would serve the needs of everyone. I said to myself, “ this ain’t gonna work.” If the booklet was written, it would have to address the unique needs of:

  • Prospective members
  • Current members
  • The public
  • Lawmakers 
(local, state, national)
  • Members of the Marketing Committee
  • The leadership of the association (after all, the leadership has to approve the budget for the production, distribution, and promotion of the booklet).

We’re getting nowhere, fast. Towards the end of the meeting, I suggested we break down the committee and form a small working group. They liked this idea. So, here’s what we did:

  1. I asked the work group, Who’s your most important target group? If the committee had selected, ‘the public’ as a target group, which they didn’t, they’d be shooting themselves in the foot (the public is 324 million people). The public has to be broken down by age, sex, geographic area, income, educational level, special interests, buying patterns, etc. They selected prospective members as their most important target group.
  1. Why is this group important? The association has many stakeholders, from the rank and file member to corporations that support the association. Why are prospective members more important than other groups? Because, prospective members will join and provide badly needed dues and non-dues revenue to ensure the financial stability of the association.
  1. What message do you want to convey to this group? Once the target group was identified, the message can be posited. In this case, the message is to inform prospective members of the benefits of joining such as having a venue to connect with other members and develop contacts encourage them to support their profession.
  1. And, last but not least, What’s the best way to communicate your message to this group? Once you know who your target is and what the message is, then select the best vehicle to communicate that message. Here’s where it gets tricky.

In order to select the most effective vehicle to communicate the message, we need to understand the purchasing habits of the prospective members. These prospects range in age from 26 – 35. For example, they prefer to receive most communication electronically. They are skeptical of and avoid traditional sales approaches.

Based on this and other demographic and psychographic data, the committee agreed to:

  • Update their current prospect list (including non-members who have previously purchased books and journals)
  • Request lists of graduate students from graduate schools
  • Update the association’s website to include a section devoted to prospective members
  • Capture email addresses of those visiting the website and those who request to receive the association’s newsletter
  • Send email newsletters to prospects
  • Use website and email to promote a special discount on membership

As of this writing, the Marketing Committee submitted a budget to the Finance Committee for approval. Let’s wait and see if the budget gets approved.

Now you can plan your marketing campaigns in this order:

  1. Who’s your most important target group?
  2. Why is this group important?
  3. What message you want to convey to this group?
  4. What’s the best way to communicate your message to this group

If you follow these four steps, you’ll be putting the horse before the cart.

What is the Look-Out Syndrome?

dont-panic

Tamara is a 29-year-old freelance destination-wedding planner. She left her job as an administrative assistant at a large event planning company to start her own business. During her time at the company, she made valuable contacts in the hospitality industry with hotel managers, caterers, travel agents, airline personnel, photographers, videographers, florists, bridal consultants, disc jockeys, bands, etc. She felt confident she could make it on her own.

When she started her business, Tamara did not fully realize that she had to develop trusting business relationships with the bride and groom and their respective parents and all of the vendors who would be providing the services.

She did not feel confident at the thought of working with all these people. She also felt uneasy thinking about working in overseas venues.

Tamara was fortunate and got a referral from a former colleague. This would be Tamara’s first client. When Tamara’s friend told her about the referral, Tamara’s brain went into overdrive and she felt nervous, to say the least. She remained in this stirred up state right up until the time she met face-to-face with the prospective client.

Her anxiety led to what I call the Look Out Syndrome. The Look Out Syndrome occurs when you are in a situation with another person and you focus your attention on the other person’s body language, facial expressions, or general demeanor instead of listening to what is being said. Often, your evaluation of these non-verbal cues is incorrect and usually negative. Most importantly, you imagine the other person is thinking negative thoughts about you.

Tamara fear of rejection was overwhelming. Not only was Tamara scanning for danger by looking out, she also questioned herself, “Will I get the sale?” “Am I qualified?” “What do they think of me?” Now more doubts about her confidence started creeping into her head. Tamara said to herself, “Is the look on the other person’s face saying he doesn’t want to work with me?” This is called negative self-talk. As a result she didn’t hear most of what the prospective client wanted. Not good.

Here’s another way to understand the Look Out Syndrome:

I am looking at you looking at me
And
I am wondering what you’re thinking about me.

What a mess. When you experience The Look Out Syndrome and you’re not listening, you don’t say what you want to because you’re too busy trying to figure out what the other person is thinking. Can we attribute Tamara’s case of Looking Out to inexperience? Immaturity? No self-control? Probably none of these.

Tamara was scanning the prospective client so intensely that she asked the same question three times. Clearly, Tamara’s thinking brain was offline. She was in a reactive mode and her emotions took over.

What happened? The prospective client did not hire Tamara.

Tips to prevent the Look Out Syndrome

Look at the other person, not into them. Focus on the color of their eyes, the color of their hair, or any other feature. Focusing on physical features will calm your brain so your thoughts stay focused in the present. Then there is no room to think what they’re thinking about you.

Listen. This is probably the easiest thing in the world to say and the most difficult thing in the world to do. What is listening? How do you listen? How do you know if you’re being listened to? Look online for tutorials that teach listening skills for business people.

Turn that frown upside down. I’m a big fan of faking it – to a point. Pretend to be brave when you’re anxious. Try it and you might feel more self-assured. Fake being interested in other people when you’re feeling low. See what happens to you.

Take a timeout to calm yourself. According to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Communication, “. . . people stressed from work did not feel any more relaxed after they played video games or watched television. They often felt even worse.” It has been observed by some teachers of psychology and neuroscience, that if you’re feeling stirred up or reactive, it takes approximately 20 minutes of positive self-talk and breathing to get back into your thinking brain,. In business situations, I generally leave the situation for a few minutes and take a restroom or coffee break. The short time away is enough for me to take a few deep breaths, screw on a smile, and resume my discussion.

Think business at all times. Your job is to build business relationships, not make friends. You don’t want new friends; you want customers or clients. If you focus on understanding and satisfying the business needs of customers and clients, you’ll be able to keep personal interests out of the equation. I’m not saying you should skip informal small talk and jump into business talk. You need a way to break the ice and small talk in a good way to do it.

Use a Cheater. Write an outline of key talking points before your meeting. Take notes and keep to your script (as best as possible). Don’t forget to breathe.

For more ideas on how to build business relationships, go to criticalconnectionsbook.com.

 

Did You Ask a Good Question Today?

questions

This is one of my favorite stories. Isidor Rabi (1898 – 1988) was a Polish-born American physicist and Nobel laureate. He was recognized in 1944 for his discovery of nuclear magnetic resonance, which is used in magnetic resonance imaging. When asked if there were any significant influences on his life, he said, “My mother made me a scientist without ever intending to. Every other Jewish mother in Brooklyn would ask her child, “So? Did you learn anything in school today?” But not my mother. “Izzy,” she would ask, “did you ask a good question today?” That difference – asking good questions – made me become a scientist. (As quoted in “Great Minds Start with Questions” in Parents Magazine, September 1993). The lesson I learned is profound and forms the basis of my work.

Izzy’s mother got it. She understood that asking questions is about engaging in meaningful dialogue.

I wish I knew about Izzy and his mother when I started my first job after graduate school. One of the managers where I worked took me under his wing and gave me two pieces of advice I’ll never forget.

  1. During your first few months on the job, don’t impress the employees with how much you know. Don’t offer up solutions or suggestions. Just ask questions. Ask as many questions as you can to as many employees as you can.
  1. When you are walking around the office, always carry a yellow pad with you.

There are two reasons to do this. The first is that it would not look good to others to walk around the office empty-handed. After all, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” You need to appear as though you’re doing something work-related. When you ask a question, surreptitiously write down what others said. Keep this list handy and use it as a reference when you would be in a position to answer questions.

From that point on, I never stopped asking questions.

Here’s a brief example of how to ask questions in a business situation. A customer asks you a question about your product or service or states a frustration. Instead of trying to answer the question or solve the problem, the very first thing you do is to take their question or their stated frustration, throw
it back to them, and ask for clarification. You might say, 
“What exactly do you mean?” “Tell me more about this.”
“Can you clarify your question?” Sometimes, people just want to be heard and are not looking for solutions. By asking questions, you’ll begin to engage in a dialogue.

Next time a customer asks a question or states a frustration, start asking questions.