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Confidence Plus Capability Equal Credibility January 16, 2010

Filed under: Small Business Marketing — Marty Vik @ 1:18 am

I was having conversation with some friends the other day about a silly premise: A 3rd grade student should be able to teach 2nd grader.  After all, they have learned everything and should be able to share that knowledge with somebody else. 

 The conversation was actually a bit more serious than it sounds.  The question was around how long you have to work at something to be considered an “expert”.  There are a couple schools of thought.  One is the 3rd grade teacher camp.  Timothy Ferris approached this in his outstanding book, The 4-Hour Work Week.  Part of his story involves ways to build expertise quickly.  A soon as you have developed some skill level, use it.  Using it will help you build more.  Don’t wait until you are 65 and retiring to be considered an expert and reap the benefits by slowing down or traveling.

 Others in the conversation were a bit more traditional.  Expertise was gained by developing deep knowledge on a subject.  You are an authority when other experts ask you for advice.

Like most issues, there was a middle ground.  Michael Moore of Strategic Persuasion ( painted a picture using his words.  “Who is the King of Rock?” he asked.  Elvis of course.  “Who is the Greatest of All Time?” was the next question.  Ali, naturally.  Then he closed the sale by asking us “Who said so?”   We looked around at each other and realized that they said so themselves.  And both of them could make a good argument based on their accomplishments.

Hidden in that conversation was a great lesson.  You can gain the credibility to make a statement like that based on your capability.  And you have to be pretty confident in yourself.  But now, think about a boast that is not so far out.  For example, we can help you regain two hours of family time every work day.  Or how about a claim that your marketing gets a caffeine boost with the Coffee News.  The claims are made because they can be substantiated.

So here is where the conversation ended.  Expertise is gained over time, but you don’t have to wait until you know it all to use it.  In fact, you should use the expertise you have to help your clients.  And then continue to build your expertise and capability.  When you are confident enough to claim your skill based on capability, you will have the credibility to be seen as an expert.  And your customers will continue to look to you for help.  Isn’t that what everyone, even 2nd graders, really want?

Tell me what you think at  Take Care.


Perfecting Your Elevator Pitch December 11, 2009

Filed under: Small Business Marketing — Marty Vik @ 2:51 pm

 “Come on up and have a sniff.”

 Last week I happened across an expert at the elevator speech.  You can read lots of advice on how to prepare an elevator pitch.  Plenty of people tell you how to practice, when to use it, how to stay prepared, how long it should be, etc, etc, etc.

 I would like to take a minute and alert you to a place you can see a master at work.  Last week I saw all of that advice heeded, and practiced, over and over.  I was at the Mistletoe Market Place.  But it could have been any flea market, farmers market or bazaar.  Because the real pros at giving an elevator speech are the people that give it hundreds of times each day.  And they give it to get results.

 “It’s handmade goat milk soaps and skin care. I make everything from scratch, I even milk the goats by hand.”

 The Business School at Pepperdine suggests knowing yourself and your audience as the first step in perfecting your speech.  Answers to the following questions can help you knock your 30 second speech out of the park.  Let me tell you how the owner of Wild Heaven Farm did it.

1.   Who am I?

The farm stand atmosphere in the market did most of this job for her.  She had ample signage and the product was displayed perfectly.  The soaps and balms were arranged neatly where people could see them and get to them, after they worked their way through the large crowd.  While her speech was practiced, it sounded fresh every time.  I stood back while my wife inched her way toward the front of the line.  I felt like I got to know the owner better each time she repeated her pitch.

2.  What do I offer?
Obviously, the soaps were the main attraction.  “Central Virginia’s only REAL handmade goat milk soaps” she would say.  But you can buy soap anywhere.  The pitch went on to make sure I was clear on the difference.

3.  What problem is solved?
Adding milk to soap alters its pH level, which helps to maintain the pH of healthy skin. It is also uniquely compatible with human skin.”  It was clear that the soap was gentle, cleaned well and helped skin stay healthy naturally.  I understood the product right away.

4.  What are the main contributions I can make?
Normally, the person giving the elevator pitch has one person as an audience.  In the market atmosphere, you have several at once.  And 30 seconds from now, you have another group ready to hear from you.  The owner picked out the people near the front of the line and spoke to the products they looked at.  For each product, she had a detailed snippet of information and could relate how it would help that particular customer.  She clearly understood her product and how it would make a contribution to their well being.

 5.  What should the listener do as a result of hearing this?
Each potential customer was asked to sniff or try the fresh squeezed product.  The products really sell themselves once they are sampled.  The call to action started each visitor down the path toward a purchase. 

 I spoke to the owner as my wife began collecting soaps, butters and balms.  She said she needed to say her pitch so often that the booth owner next door could take over if she had to step away.  She approached her business seriously, but with a light touch and a happy attitude.  I could have stayed there longer, just hearing her use her elevator pitch to turn visitors into customers.  She was a master and I learned a lot just in the 10 minutes I spent with her.  And I think everybody could benefit if they can learn from somebody as effective as the owner of Wild Heaven Farm.

 I encourage you to do the same.  Spend some time with a master, ask a question or two and keep your ears open.  I ended up spending $40 dollars on real Virginia Goat Soap.  It was the best class I ever took.


Networking events are a waste of time November 25, 2009

Filed under: Small Business Marketing — Marty Vik @ 3:36 pm

If networking is viewed as a chance to catch up with friends, networking is a waste of time. Throw a party instead.
If networking is viewed as 90 minutes of sheer terror, then networking is a waste of your time. Go see a movie instead.
If networking is viewed as a way to improve your chances of landing a new customer or a new job, then networking is time well spent. Oops, I forgot to qualify that last statement. Networking is time well spent if you prepare.
Winston Churchill said “Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.” Dwight D. Eisenhower offered the same advice when he said “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” With planning being so important, let me offer some prerequisites and a plan for a networking event.
• Begin to consider everything you do as an opportunity to network. People have gotten business because of a conversation in line to buy groceries.
• Create at least one 30-second “elevator pitch.” You may consider creating 3. One 10-second speech with your name and company tag line. A second 30 second speech that summarizes who you are and what you’d like to do professionally. Finally, if you get an entire minute, make sure you can cover the benefit of doing business with you and how you differentiate yourself. More on how to use these later.
• Always have plenty of business cards with you. If you are in job transition, considering carrying a current résumé you can send upon request. Business folks can also carry a tri-fold brochure from your marketing kit.
• Have access to your calendar and a note pad. Make sure you are ready to make an appointment and can follow up.
Now here is the program. Remember G A P. It stands for Goals, Actions and Proof. At the end of the page I have a sample plan you may use as a model.
Make sure you know why you are attending the event. It may be that you are new to the job market and you want to see how things work. You may also have a small business and are looking for customers or referrals.
Also, understand the event. A political campaign stop or a hotel opening offer different opportunities than a Chamber of Commerce meeting or a career transition session. Understand the people that will attend the meeting and how you can connect with them.
Think through the actions you will take to satisfy your goals. If your goal is to talk to ten people you didn’t know before, the corresponding action may be to look for new faces. If your goal is to say “Thanks” to 5 of your clients from the past year, your strategy…well you get the picture.
Be as specific as you can. Make sure the actions you take will support your goals.
Make sure you understand how you will know if you met your goals. Meeting 10 new people may be a great goal. You could measure that by collecting 10 new business cards. That is the proof. If your goal was instead to generate 10 new business leads, you may need more than a business card. Your proof could be that you have set up 10 follow up appointments.
I encourage you to set goals that make real progress. I mentioned earlier that you may want to have 3 elevator pitches. If you make aggressive goals to meet and do business with people, than you will definitely have the chance to use all three. Use the 10 second speech when you first meet somebody. If when you introduce yourselves and your tag line doesn’t make a connection, don’t feel bad about exchanging business cards and moving on. Remember, they probably have goals for the meeting also.
If there is a possible link, say more about yourself and let your new friend know what you do and a little about your strengths. If you both see ways that you can help each other grow professionally, make sure you are crystal clear about how you can help. You may not have a chance to quote it word for word, but knowing it well will help you apply your skills to their business needs.
Take a look at the example below and let me know if you think it would help you prepare for your next networking event. In fact, let me know if you think it is rubbish, also.
I am always here to help and I look forward to hearing from you.
PS: Don’t forget to celebrate when you hit your goal! More on that later.

Goal: (Networking Event – Technology Club Meeting)
1. Introduce myself to 15 new people.
2. Create 3 new prospects.
1. Look for 20 people I have not met before.
Introduce myself with my 10 second elevator pitch.
Exchange business cards with all 20 people.
2. I will introduce 5 new acquaintances to somebody I already know.
3. Use my 30 second speech with at least 10 people.
4. Set up at least 5 follow up meetings.
1. I have 20 new business cards.
2. I have entered all business card information into my Contact Manager.
3. I introduced 5 people without spending more than 5 minutes in any conversation.
4. I have booked 5 follow up meetings.


5 Ways to Keep Your Customers November 19, 2009

Filed under: Small Business Marketing — Marty Vik @ 1:26 pm

Today there are all sorts of lists.  I recently sat with some friends and we talked about how small business owners can help keep their customers happy.  Keeping customers happy means keeping them as customers.

We could have come up with a list of ten or even 20. But this list is really a reminder list.  There is one tip to practice each week.  (There is an extra tip that is more of a principle.)  In the box below, all of the tips are listed.  Cut the list out and tape it to your monitor.  Then pick a day of the week. Let’s use Thursday.  On every Thursday, do what that week calls for.  That means, on Thursday for Week 4, call up a client to say Thank You for their business.  Nothing more than that.  Be sincere in telling them why you appreciate their business.  Next week, start over at Week 1 with a new set of customers.

Anticipate Problems and Offer Solutions

The conversation started because of interaction I had with an internet Auto Parts company, PartsTrain.  With some auto parts, when you buy a part, you also get charged for the core.  That is the old part that the company can refurbish if you send it back.  I sent a note to their support team because I needed to know how to return a core item.  I also included a note about the purchase process on their site.

About 1 hour later, I got a phone call from support.  Winston wanted to talk to me to be sure he understood my comments.  He then offered a couple work-arounds for future purchases and promised to pass the issue on to his IT team. 

While I was on the phone, I got an e-mail from a different part of support.  They told me how to find the return authorization.  But they went farther.  They went ahead and issued two authorizations, including one for a product that had not shipped yet.  The second authorization was a promise that it would be updated after I received the part.  When I did get the actual part, I also received the authorization along with instructions on how to process them.  Clearly, PartsTrain understands going above and beyond to keep customers.

Maintain Personal Relationships

A Pew Charitable Trust survey completed in 2000 found that many Americans use the internet quite regularly to stay in touch with family and friends.   But think about the last time you talked to somebody after you forgot to return a phone call.  Digital tools help, but there are times when only face to face, or at least phone, conversations are super important.

I got a call the other day from a friend that had changed jobs and is now a financial advisor.  I feared the worse.  What John (his real name) said was he was just calling because he remembered us talking about an event I was to attend.  He wanted to know how it went.  WOW.  We chatted for a minute and then said goodbye.  Afterwards, I felt great.

I am suggesting a two step method.  One, call your customer and say Hello.  Get to know a little about them, their business and their family.  It is great if you can record the names of spouse and children.  Birthdays are excellent also.

Put that information to use by recording it in a CRM tool or some other tickler file.  Then send a card every once in a while.  A hand written note is especially memorable these days.  One way to do that is with Share A Card Now.   A friend named Robin operates the service that you can use to send a heartfelt card that you order electronically. will let you choose a card and text and have it delivered.  You can even use their mailing list and reminder functions.  This is a great blending of the digital and tangible worlds.

Share Information

I got an article link in an e-mail from a friend recently.  It wasn’t about me.  It was about a company in town that affects another friend.  Sending that article showed me that Eric cared about me.  He knows I can use it next time I talk to Steve.  Aren’t there times that you are reading the paper, a book or news online and you say “Wendy should really know about this”?   Send Wendy that article to show you are thinking about her. 

Say Thank You

This one is for my mom.  I don’t think I can count the number of times she told me to “Say Please and Thank You”.  Well, it still works.  And it is good for business.

When you offer thanks, be specific and tell people how it made a difference to you.  “Thanks, attending that meeting allowed me to finish that proposal.  It helped me get a new customer”.   Sending it in a card is more powerful than sending e-mail.  The warm feelings generated by a personal call are always worth the effort.  Don’t forget to follow up with a card or certificate.  Something a customer can hang on the wall keeps your company in front of them all the time.

Be Honest With Your Clients

Here is another point that doesn’t need to be said, but can’t be overstated.  To keep customers, keep informed customers.  Tell them the good news and the bad news, the sooner the better.  Nothing loses a customer’s trust faster than finding out that you have not been up front with them.  Nothing keeps a customer loyal like feeling they are a partner, in good times and bad.

The Challenge

Post this table on your computer monitor.  Make sure you see it every Monday morning.

Each Monday morning, take two customers from your client list.  On the first week of the month, look for a problem you can solve for them.  Next Monday, pick two more and call them personally.   Third Monday, share something with two clients.  At the end of the month, say thanks to two more clients.

At the beginning of the next month, start the cycle over with two more clients.

I think building this habit will go a long way to keeping customers. Tell me what you think at Take Care.

Week 1

Look For Problems To Solve

Week 2

Call Somebody Personally

Week 3

Share Something Valuable

Week 4

Say Thank You


Always Be Honest

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