Distinguish and Dismiss

May 1, 2012

Don’t Define. Differentiate.

Why do your clients choose your firm/company/practice over others? Is it just because you’ve got employees who come into the office every day and do their jobs? Probably not. So why do so many companies resort to these types of generic statements on their websites and in other collateral? Read the rest of this entry »

What’s Your Advertising Budget?

January 13, 2012

And other dumb vendor questions.

I can tell it’s ad renewal season because I heard this question four times yesterday from representatives of major advertising companies – a new record. These companies must be sending their reps to used car sales training, rather than consultative selling.

When I’m asked this question by a rep selling to one of my clients, my answer is a simple, “Zero.” Try it sometime. You’ll leave the rep speechless. Read the rest of this entry »

Jump Start Your Firm’s 2012 Marketing Efforts

January 5, 2012

3 easy-to-keep New Year’s resolutions – weight loss optional.

Remember all of the things you wanted to do in 2011 to build your firm’s business? How many of those plans did you actually implement? Or did the act of doing business get in the way of the plans to grow your business, until it was too late in the year to impact the business?

All too often, we forgo even the most basic marketing activities because we don’t have the time, or they won’t have much of an in-year impact. Let’s make it our New Year’s resolution to change that starting today. Read the rest of this entry »

The 1-Hour Business Plan

July 10, 2010

Build a quick business plan so you can focus on building your business.

There are a number of articles about the importance of having a business plan, as well as tips about what to do or not do. As someone who has written several business plans over the last few years, I understand the importance of having a plan and appreciate any advice offered.

Unfortunately, that’s not my problem. My challenge is just getting started — organizing my thoughts enough to start documenting my business idea, plans, and goals. It’s converting all of that information from my brain into a Word file. Since there is no iPhone app (yet) that can interface between mind and Microsoft, I developed an exercise to help me start developing the business plan. Read the rest of this entry »

My Sales Reps’ Dream Job is My Nightmare!

July 2, 2010

Three steps for making the dream come true for you.

The Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) recently notified me that they wanted to publish an article I created from the “My Sales Reps Stink” blog post. After patting myself on the back, I started thinking about some more specific sales team advice that I’ve given clients since that original post. Today we’re just going to focus on the sales rep or reps, rather than any other business factors. Read the rest of this entry »

You Call That Service?

March 22, 2010

5 tips for improving customer service quality

I just finished up an interesting engagement, helping a professional services firm evaluate and optimize their sales and marketing activities. Dealing with their existing advertising and marketing partners was quite an eye-opening experience. I don’t use absolutes that often (I’m in marketing after all), but overall this was the absolute worst customer service I’ve ever experienced. At this point, let’s call these companies “vendors” because they are order-takers at best. Read the rest of this entry »

Content Creation

November 25, 2009

5 ways to overcome that blank page.

There it is. You’re staring at an empty Word doc or blank sheet of paper. You know that you need to get something written now. Your [clients/prospects/audience] are expecting a new [newsletter/white paper/seminar/blog]. Since you read my blog, you know that it needs to create value in the minds of your audience. You want it to be a clear, succinct message. You may even have a topic in mind. Other than that, you’re clueless. Hey look, someone just wrote on my Facebook wall… Read the rest of this entry »

Recycle Your Content

October 22, 2009

A new spin on “green” marketing – 10 tips.

I keep on pushing value-added content in my posts, so today let’s talk about how to get the most value for your effort. I know what you’re thinking. “Dave, you’re the most amazing marketer we’ve ever met. Where do we send the check?” Or not…

You’re more likely wondering how you can develop enough content to showcase your knowledge and distance your company from the competition. Today’s blog assumes that you can come up with at least one great idea, topic, noteworthy item, case study, survey, data point, result, etc. that offers something of value to clients and prospects. If not, take this week off and I’ll try to address content creation next.

Now think about how you can get more miles per content gallon by “recycling” that content into different formats and media, and modifying the message to appeal to different audiences. Without any new ideas, you’ll have a variety of new tools to address more prospect requests for specific knowledge – that’s a very good thing.

Here are 10 ideas for extending your message, kind of like Hamburger Helper for your content:

  1. White paper – this can become the central repository for all the information you’re trying to communicate.
  2. Executive summary – a simple, single-page document that provides a 1 minute overview and conclusion.
  3. Webinar – record a 30-minute online presentation. Include it in your newsletter, and store it on your website for easy access.
  4. Panel discussion – have some of your clients to discuss the topic in a moderated forum. Keep it simple, with a pre-planned Q&A format.
  5. Seminar – combine 3 and 4, and you have a potential topic for a trade conference. They love real company examples, and vendors who don’t pitch. You’re in.
  6. Forum – if you are communicating a hot issue, create an online forum/group to host ongoing discussion. You get to moderate. Or share your knowledge in existing forums.
  7. 10 Tips – just like this blog. Pull out 5 or 10 key bullets and build a one-pager to highlight them.
  8. Article – pitch a brief outline to trade publications for an article. Try a Top 10 list.
  9. Audience specific – now tweak the message to add industry and functional buzzwords. A CFO may consider the cost implications of your topic, where the CEO may consider shareholder impact of the exact same topic. Appeal to both.
  10. Update – depending on the topic, produce a Version 2 with new information next month or year. Own the topic long-term.

Another advantage of recycled content is that your sales team will have additional tools that they can pull out of their bags. For example, some more analytical prospects will appreciate a detailed white paper. Others will appreciate the 1-minute summary. Remember to leave the sales pitch out, or at least isolate it from the core message. The reader/participant will appreciate you more as a knowledgeable source of information. There’s time to sell later.

I’m sure there are many more ways to keep your content fresh and out of the landfill, but I’m out of time. Please share your ideas and I’ll add them to the list.

If you can’t measure it, don’t do it!

Ditch the Pitch – Part II

August 19, 2009

Know when not to sell. Take the No Pitch Pledge.

In Part I, we talked about how to improve your sales call results by actually doing less selling and more communicating. Now that your reps have taken the No Pitch Pledge and are all wildly successful sales consultants and business partners, let’s talk about the importance of removing your sales pitch from other types of communications, particularly what I call “value-added content.”

Defining Two Types of Communications

There’s a real subtlety between general marketing communications and value-added content. Traditional MarCom has a feature/benefit format, and typically includes brochures, website pages, presentation and proposal templates (before you customize them), mailers, etc. The goal is to describe and differentiate your company and products, so buyers at least understand what you have to offer and general costs. Pitch away here, no worries. But you may want to worry about how effective these communications really are.

Value-added content offers much more to the recipient, and can ultimately sell your company much better than any website or brochure. It should share your overall knowledge and expertise, providing strategies and advice that will help recipients improve business effectiveness and results. Examples of value-added content include white papers, seminars, trade articles, newsletters, benchmarking reports, etc. These most likely cover broader ground than just your specific products, although your products may be an implied part of the overall solution. Avoid the temptation to pitch here, as you will greatly diminish the value of the content.

You’ll want to offer both types of communications, but real challenge is maintaining the separation between Church and State – keeping your sales pitch out your value-added content. Here’s an example of what not to do.

Don’t Do This

I attended a webinar last week that was advertised as a discussion on new email marketing practices. That’s right up my alley, and I’m always looking for new ideas to steal. The presenters were introduced, and they started to give an overview of XYZ Company and its email marketing products. I always expect a brief sponsor pitch somewhere during a free webinar, so I continued to listen. Unfortunately, the pitch never ended. After 25 minutes, I closed my screen and went back to work.

While the webinar was advertised as information that could help me do my job better, it was actually about why I should buy XYZ Company products. Translation — sales pitch.

Put Yourself in Their Shoes

Pretend that you are a prospective buyer who was enticed to attend based on the promise of new ideas. How would you feel? Here’s what I thought:

  • I was there to learn about email marketing, not XYZ Company’s products.
  • There was no way that XYZ Company could understand my unique needs, since I’ve never talked to them.
  • Trying to pitch to all audience members resulted in a very vague message that provided me with no informational (or even sales) value.
  • I wasn’t expecting a sales pitch, and felt deceived. This would negatively impact my willingness to purchase from XYZ Company in the future.

So think about this as you develop your own value-added content. Remember to educate your audience about a concept, not a product. Think about the things that will make your buyers more productive and effective, beyond just what you have to offer them. Share your knowledge, experience, and aggregate data with your buyers, and they will share their budgets with you… and your content with their peers…

Ditch the Pitch – Part I

August 11, 2009

Know when not to sell. Take the No Pitch Pledge.

Now that we’ve discussed how trimming the sheer volume of content can improve your ability to generate interest and demand, let’s talk about making some adjustments to the ways you communicate. Let’s start with sales calls in Part I, and then move onto more general communications in Part II next week.

Sales Calls

So you’ve read all the hip books on selling, and you may even have some pretty consultative selling course certificates proudly displayed on your wall. Or not… It doesn’t really matter.

When you finally get a meeting with your prospective buyer, you diligently ask your 3 tremendously insightful and impactful business questions…

  1. What do you have in place today?
  2. Why are you looking to make a change?
  3. How would you measure success?

…and then jump into your sales pitch. You lay it all out, hoping that the buyer will bite on something. At the end, there’s a hearty handshake and you agree to follow up in a couple of weeks. You can never reach the buyer again. Hear the Twilight Zone theme playing in the background?

Is this you? I’m sure that you are very passionate about your company and products, and that is commendable. You are just showing your enthusiasm in the wrong ways. The first meeting is rarely a “sales” meeting, so why are you trying to sell?

Here’s where you need to take the No Pitch Pledge.

  • Start asking more questions and listening to the responses, rather than just waiting for the best time to start the pitch.
  • Have a real business conversation about company objectives, how those relate to the buyer’s goals, and even how the company is changing their industry.
  • Discuss ways that you may be able to share insight and information (other clients, partners, aggregate data, etc.), rather than talking about how your product works.
  • Just say NO if the buyer asks for your pitch. If you don’t learn anything new, you’re exactly the same as everyone else who met with this buyer – a vendor.

When you take the No Pitch Pledge, you have a chance to build much more than a PowerPoint presentation. You’ll receive:

  • More information about the industry/company/department, with details that may help you present a more comprehensive and unique solution than your competitors.
  • More information about your buyer, with some personal information if you are lucky.
  • The start of a real business relationship. You become a trusted advisor, a source of information that will improve the buyer’s ability to succeed. He/she needs you.
  • A chance to come back again to present real, meaningful solutions.
  • The sale.

Is this more difficult? Absolutely! Does it take more up-front preparation? Much more. Will this work every time? Absolutely not! There’s a happy medium in here someplace, and you’ll need to gauge the buyer’s willingness to communicate based on responses to your first questions. But wouldn’t you rather be the 1% who builds long-term business and client relationships rather than the 99% who just show up and throw up?

They’ll call you back…