BNIGuy's Blog

It's all about business!

Archive for September 2011

Facts Tell

leave a comment »

“If you’ve heard this story before, don’t stop me, because I’d like to hear it again.” ~~ Groucho Marx

We are a species that loves a good story and enjoy sharing it.  Some people I know always have a new joke and deliver it with enthusiasm, employing voices and gestures that accentuate the action.  Stories are the oldest communication format and were passed through generations before the advent of more permanent technology—like the written word.

Anecdotes are a powerful way to share your message and you can empower your network with memorable success stories, as well.

The best narrative is to consider one related to your best client (see week three for examples.)  Profile this client completely (see week 31) and develop a story that helps your network find other similar clients.

Let’s dissect a good story.

Who.  An engaging beginning defines who we want to meet and sets the stage for the pending action.  Use demographics to define this individual fully—including number of employees, years in business, etc.

What.  Why.  The action-packed middle of the story should introduce the problem your client experienced and some ineffective actions taken or consequences faced before you arrived on the scene.

How.  When.  Your success stories should always have a Happy Ending.  Describe how you solved the problem.  This is the part of the story that gets repeated the most often.  Include facts, figures, and statistics that matter.

Develop these stories and write them down so you can refer to them as needed.  Treat them like a key-ring, each designed to open a specific door.  Have a story or three for every target market you serve, every benefit you provide, and every objection you might face.

© 2011 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

Advertisements

Written by bniguy

September 25, 2011 at 2:08 am

The Rubber Meets the Road

with one comment

“What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.”~~Herbert Simon

Testimonials influence us in many subtle ways and range from professional to personal.  Advertisers appreciate this and pay for celebrity endorsements, despite a healthy skepticism from consumers.  At a subconscious level, though, people that admire Michael Jordan might reason that, “If it’s good enough for him its good enough for me.”  Pressed to consider this point, most would deny the influence and yet advertisers that study cause and effect can measure the influence regardless of how independent we think we are.

The next level of professional endorsements that influence buying decisions come from reviewers.  These include movie reviewers, restaurant critics, product advisors, and so on.  At a simple level we might check a movie review when deciding whether or not to see it although we can appreciate that the reviewer doesn’t know or perhaps even share our taste exactly.  We can get a more convincing endorsement from a friend who has seen the film and knows our likes and dislikes.  These personal endorsements (or warnings) are much more powerful, although less frequently sought.

A third category emerges, sandwiched between the professional and personal and that is the testimonial provided by non-professionals.

This is the focus of this week’s topic.

Testimonials from other customers can be powerful in moving us to take action. Many customers offer them in an informal, unsolicited manner.  One way to encourage this behavior, by the way, is to give away an item with your logo on it.  People like to help one another, generally, and will recommend a proven solution and include a personal story of the benefit received.  Most satisfied customers will provide more formal testimonials, if asked.

Often, however, when willing they get hung up on exactly what to say and by providing guidance you can resolve that, too.

There is more of an art than a science as to determining when to ask.  Once you start to recognize this, opportunities will present themselves regularly.  Let’s consider this scenario.  One month before completion of a long-term project you ask your client how they are enjoying the process, so far.  If they announce that you have made a huge difference in their operations and saved them a lot of time and expense, ask if they would be willing to share that with other customers by writing that on their company letterhead.  Coach them on pertinent issues such as why they chose to work with you, what benefits have they experienced that they did not expect, and so on.  This conversation will make it easier for them to complete this favor.  Negotiate a delivery date.

One you have these testimonials in hand then consider placement.  Some companies print them and leave them in the lobby for waiting room clients to see.  Others have a page on their website or sprinkle them in various places throughout the website.  Each method has its advantages and disadvantages.

Whatever model you use, be certain to revisit these testimonials regularly to cull those that are out-of-date and request more current entries.

Your action items this week are to ask for three written testimonials.  Make it easy for the author by specifying what should be emphasized.  Negotiate a delivery date and decide how you will deploy the information once received.  Finally, develop a strategy to regularly ask for and review these comments.  It goes without saying that you must earn these and seeking them regularly is an effective method to place your customer service level on a constantly improving plane.

© 2011 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

Written by bniguy

September 18, 2011 at 2:26 am

Be the Message

leave a comment »

“Any general statement is like a check drawn on a bank. Its value depends on what is there to meet it.” ~~Ezra Pound

The longer you are in business the more subject matter expertise you gain.  This knowledge can be shared and leveraged if you consider a strategy of doing just that.

There are a number of resources at your disposal.  Many publications, both virtual and physical, rely on quality content and editors are always seeking knowledgeable expertise to share with their readership.

Knowing this and taking action on it are two very different things and this can be a frustrating uphill climb until the first few opportunities appear.  Therefore, select topics where you have both expertise and passion.  At worst, you gain the advantage of sharpening your message while soliciting rejection letters and the passion will carry you through.

Nothing replaces activity for this process, so I will move directly to the action step.

First of all take an assessment of your personal expertise, unique perspective, and passion to share.  Find potential venues that might welcome this information.  Visit their websites and pay particular attention to the section targeting advertisers.  This is who the publication would like to gain traction with.  If your expertise aligns well that is a shortcut.

Second, outline four articles that reflect this expertise and will appeal to your intended forum.  Four is a good number to choose as it is wide enough to provide breadth without diluting the message.

Once you have this arena in mind write a letter of introduction to each perspective editor and pitch your idea.  Have a plan to deal with rejection.  The best bet is to listen for what the editor is looking for and the rejection provides an opportunity to have that conversation.

© 2011 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

Written by bniguy

September 11, 2011 at 1:53 am

The Press Release

with 2 comments

“Stand upright, speak thy thoughts, declare the truth thou hast, that all may share; Be bold, proclaim it everywhere: They only live who dare.” ~~Voltaire

Word-of-mouth marketing is the most cost-effective tool in a networker’s arsenal.  That has been and remains the focus of this year’s weekly blog.  Starting with January 2nd and continuing every Sunday through Christmas, we are expanding and expounding on a single facet each week.

Today we turn our attention to a little-used resource that is seen by experts as the second-most cost-effective tool and consider the Press Release.  Publicity is powerful, although it cuts both ways.  Many small businesses do not have a publicity strategy in place.

Let’s first of all consider some differences and similarities between advertising and publicity.

Advertising presents a cohesive, planned message to the audience.  In some cases the message is clear, although different levels are perceived and reacted to.  It is medium-specific, targeted, and generally designed to motivate and/or educate.  (Medium-specific refers to the delivery channel.  Television ads may or may not differ from radio ads, print ads, signage, etc.)  The most effective advertising brands the similar message and market via similar styles, tone, pacing, etc.

Publicity presents a cohesive message to the audience.  In some cases the message is clear, although different levels are perceived and reacted to.  It is not really medium-specific, although the delivery channel reflects the medium.  Publicity is targeted, however, and generally designed to educate rather than motivate.

One of the key differences is based on who controls the message.

Advertising is paid publicity.  The message is controlled by the business-owner who may hire copywriters, actors, advertising specialists, and a team of experts.  Advertising campaigns may encompass any scope from international to local.  Recipients (I will call them readers for simplicity’s sake, although they may be viewers, listeners, etc.) know that the message is purchased and they, therefore, retain a healthy skepticism.  Advertisers attempt to break that down with humor, sincerity, statistics, repetition, and a number of other techniques.  Companies that advertise pay for placement.

Publicity is usually free.  This fact should not be overlooked by the small business owner and is also understood by the reader.  You (or a professional writer) draft the press release and submit it to the channel for distribution.  Someone at the news organization converts it into a format suitable for their readership and they determine the placement (if any.)

As noted earlier, publicity cuts both ways.  We see that when politicians are caught in compromising situations.  Their campaign slogan (advertising) is often used tongue-in-cheek when negative publicity plays.  Saturday Night Live made this reverse-spin a famous staple, as do late night television comedians.

Assuming your business is ethically focused on helping customers solve a specific problem, publicity can be a useful avenue to consider.  Most small business owners do not address that for three main reasons:

  1. They are not sure whether the message is newsworthy or not.
  2. If it is, they do not know how to write a press release
  3. On the off-chance they know how, they do not take the time to do it.

Let’s address each element individually.

In order to determine if something is newsworthy you must be completely honest in your assessment.  The marketplace will certainly do that for you.  Consider whether someone across town would be interested.  Would the parents of your children’s school be interested?  Would anyone waiting for their car to be repaired or standing in line at the grocery store be interested?

If they are unlikely to be then neither will the editor.  In fact, this is the first test of the press release.  If it is self-promotional or mindless fluff it won’t get past the editor—and rightly so.

Despite that there are press-release worthy events in your business you should consider.  Perhaps you are opening a new location, introducing a new product line, celebrating an anniversary, recognizing significant growth, or chairing a fund-raising campaign.  All of these are simple examples that may or may not work for you.

Your primary objective is to make an announcement of interest and value to the readership.  Your objective is not to gain new customers, although you certainly won’t turn them away if they come as a result of it.

Once you have a suitable topic then it becomes a matter of writing the press release.  Hiring a professional is certainly the best avenue although I know many of you are do-it-yourselfers so I am remiss in not sharing some valuable resources.  www.press-release-writing.com, for example, provides a dozen good examples, summarized below:

  1. Attract your reader with your title.
  2. Provide an interesting angle.
  3. Tell about your products or services in one or two clear sentences.
  4. Use timely, relevant information related to current events and/or trends.
  5. Deal only with facts—avoid fluff.
  6. Make it lively by using active verbs.
  7. Limit adjectives, adverbs, and jargon.
  8. Follow rules of grammar and style.
  9. Limit to one-page as often as possible.
  10. Make every word count and count every word.
  11. Include complete contact information (name, address, phone, after-hours contact info, web address, email, fax number, etc.)
  12. Make sure to include national and regional publications, radio and television stations, Internet publications, and all potential clients.

Once written it is time to submit the press release.  You have two primary routes here and can use one or both.  Under the paid process, subscribe to a distributions service such as www.PRWeb.com.  Alternately, you can simply rely on your network to connect locally with people that review press releases for your community publications.

Finally, if you see the value yet lack the skill or time, hire a pro.  Professionals can help determine newsworthiness, craft a compelling message, and ensure reception into the proper venues and media outlets.

This week you have three actions to undertake.  First, brainstorm some suitable topics.  This will actually be easier than you think—although it will take some effort to get started.  Second, work the release through the twelve points above.  If satisfied with the results, move on to action three.  If not, contact a professional.  They will appreciate the effort you have already applied and can make tremendous enhancements.  Finally, schedule to revisit this exercise every quarter.  Four effective press releases per year is a reliable, simple pace.  If it takes you three weeks to prepare, back that time into the schedule, as well.  As with any worthwhile effort, be prepared to track the results and adjust, as needed.

© 2011 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

Written by bniguy

September 4, 2011 at 2:32 am