Friday, March 30, 2012

Technology I Can Use

I received my Square card reader in the mail last week. It’s a small (1” X 1” X ½”) white plastic credit card reader that connects to my smart phone via an earphone jack. There’s an app for the various smart phone types. You set up an account with the company including your banking information and then just enter the amount and swipe the card. The cash is in your account tomorrow with a small processing fee taken out. Other companies like Intuit and PayPal either have a similar device and app or have one on the way.

Many of the smart phone apps available on the market today are games or have really limited usefulness. They’re scaled down versions of the real website functionality without the usefulness than made the site interesting in the first place. I guess that’s natural in most situations due to the size of the screen and limitations of the small keyboard.

This app isn’t like most out there. It was designed for the phone in the first place. It’s exceptionally easy to use. You have the ability to charge your customer for products and services in a paperless environment, on the go. You don’t need “cash registers” anymore. Whether those are in the form of a personal computer or an actual dedicated POS device, this application can make that clunky box a thing of the past.

If you have sophisticated inventory management and hundreds of items being checked out, like at a grocery store, this might not be a good app for you. But I typically am receiving payment for a book or a few books or consulting services, and this works great for me. The phone has the ability to read bar codes, so it can’t be far in the future before a simple smart phone will replace the cash register completely.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Creativity…Gone Amuck!

Companies and individuals spend a good bit of time and money to be creative. That creativity is expressed in everything from interesting logos to the entire corporate culture. Some companies like the design firm IDEO, are known for their creative cultures that allow employees to express themselves to benefit their clients. They create products and services for clients that solve problems for customers. Always, the customer’s pain is at the center of the creative process.  This helps the folks at IDEO generate very creative ideas that support the client’s brand and solve problems.

Some local companies try to do the same thing. The group I practice with, the Ad4! Group, takes these same concepts and principles to solve problems for our customers, but always with the customer’s brand and pain at the heart of the process. That allows us to be creative without giving the customer a solution with which they are not comfortable or portrays them in an unfavorable light. This kind of creativity almost always leads to happy customers.

Sometimes, however, ad agencies or in-house marketing personnel lose focus on the customer and get creative just for the sake of being creative. Today, I received in the mail, a 6” X 9” hand-addressed manila envelope. The envelope had my name and company and address as well as the sender’s address, but no name or company listed. The envelope had a stamp, not postage machine affixed postage. So far so good. They got me to open the envelope.

Inside was a 6” X 9” card with a web URL, and an instamatic photograph. You know, kind you take in a pop-open camera and pull the cover sheet off to expose the image in about a minute. This picture was very dark and I was just able to make out what looks like a Sasquatch. That’s right, a big foot.

Now I’m thinking, what the heck? Why did someone send this to me? They took the time to hand address the envelope and attach an actual stamp. Normally, I would have thrown the whole mess away and thought, these fools. What a waste of money. But today, I needed a blog post idea, so I went to the website to see who these fools were.

So it turns out that this big database management firm has hired a marketing firm in the Dallas area to create a clever marketing campaign. From my perspective, I think they totally missed. They sent me a photograph of big foot. Trying to be clever, they out thought themselves. The theme here is you have to see it to believe it. But my perspective is they have been extremely “clever” just for the sake of being unusual. The end result is they missed the mark and have a stupid campaign that doesn’t support the customer’s brand or their pain.

Marketing isn’t about being clever. Sure, being clever is good, but it can’t be about just being clever. It has to be about the customer’s pain and solving it within their brand. Those things have to come before the clever part, or it turns out like this campaign.

If you need help with your marketing strategy or need to refresh your branding, give us all, we’re here to help.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The 7 Rules of Elevator Pitch Success

My research only turned up one song about elevators; a children’s song that’s way to annoying to repeat. Similar research on songs played in elevators generated the same results; songs too annoying to repeat. I guess I’ll have to summarize my series on successful elevator pitches without a forty year old pop song. Na, that wouldn’t be any fun, try this: in 1968 the Rolling Stones first released “Sympathy for the Devil” on the Beggars Banquet album. In the opening line of the song, Mick Jagger sings “Let me introduce myself, I’m a man of wealth and taste.” While the song has moral and societal implications that are way beyond the scope of this topic, I think the opening line plays into my theme perfectly. Jagger’s opening and introduction breaks rule #1 and starts him on the wrong foot, at least in networking circles.

Developing a successful elevator pitch isn’t difficult, but it does take a little preparation and practice. Follow these seven rules to show your business or yourself in the best light:

Rule #1: It’s not about you. It never was about you. It’s not going to be about you in the future. You customer’s only care about themselves. Turn your attention to their needs.

Rule #2: Tell them how doing business with you will make their life better. This is what your customers want to hear.

Rule #3: Only you care about features.  It’s like the teacher on the Charlie Brown movies. If you’re talking about features, your customers hear: “Wank wank wank wank.” Salesmen like features, customers like benefits.

Rule #4: Start with a hook. Research suggests you only have about 10 seconds to get their attention. Set the hook early and quickly reel them in with a good story.

Rule #5: Keep it simple.  Complication leads to confusion. Confusion leads to lost customers. Don’t be confusing. Apply the K.I.S.S. principle.

Rule #6: Nobody cares if you’re the president. Seriously, why would you waste most or all of your 10 seconds telling people about your titles and accomplishments? Unless you’re six years old or talking to your mother, drop that act from your routine.

Rule #7: End with a call to action. Customers aren’t as intuitive as you’d like them to be. At the end of your pitch, tell them what you want them to do.

Script out your pitch, picking the perfect words to clearly and succinctly tell your story. Develop interchangeable part for different situations and customers pains. Then practice until your delivery sounds natural and unrehearsed.

If you have a killer elevator pitch, share it with us here. If you’d like help improving your elevator pitch, give us a call.  We’re ready to help.

Check out Chris’ elevator pitch lens on Squidoo.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Come on Baby, Light My Fire!

Staying with the pop music theme, The Doors #1 Hit single from their January 1967 debut self-titled album “Light My Fire” was the group’s first big success and a earned the band significant radio play. The band and especially lead singer Jim Morrison never hesitated to ask for what they wanted, and usually got what they asked for. Once again I’m tight-walking a thin line of relevance to bring you Rule #7 for successful elevator pitches: End with a call to action.

Let’s say that you’ve followed the other rules; you got to the point, told a quick story about how doing business with your company would make their life better, used an interesting hook while making it all about your customer. Then you just stand there waiting for your prospective customer to respond. What is it that you want them to do? You want them to light your fire by buying your product or service. But unless you specifically ask them to buy, the potential customer might just stay that way, potential.

Volumes of sales material, workshops, blog entries way more clever than mine, and endless training sessions focus on one of the key parts of selling: the asking for the business part. For many non-sales types, this seems to be very difficult. You have delivered a clever elevator pitch that didn’t generate a second floor elevator ditch. You’re standing in the lobby with their attention in hand. You gotta ask for the business!

Better yet, just build it into your pitch. That way you can have a well researched, cleverly worded, and appropriately rehearsed 'ask' that gets your customer to respond positively. And if they don’t buy right there on the spot (which they won’t!), at least you’ve got them asking for more information. And that’s the goal of an elevator pitch. You’re not going to make a sale right there in the elevator. You’re not trying to make a sale right there in the elevator. You’re trying to get them interested enough to ask for more.

Yes, yes. If they want to buy right there on the spot, you will absolutely sell them right there on the spot. But since that hardly ever happens, that should not be your expectation. In fact, if you have no expectation of selling right there on the spot, it will make the whole event less stressful for you non-sellers, and allow you to keep the focus on the customer, which as a review, is Rule #1.

Any former hippies have thoughts you’d like to share?

Do you have a great elevator pitch that you’d like to share? If so, list it in the comments or send me an email.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Nobody cares if you’re the president

Seriously, how does telling me that you’re the president, founder, vice president of business development and secondary market strategy, and chief cook and bottle washer help ease my pain? This is my biggest elevator pitch pet peeve and Rule #6: Nobody cares if you’re the president.

You only have a few seconds, so don’t waste any of them giving a list of your titles and qualifications. Remember rule #1: It’s not about you.

Whenever I hear a business owner giving a pitch and they use their first one or two sentences telling me about their qualifications and titles, I just quit listening. It reminds me of my favorite Margaret Thatcher quote: “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't.” If you have to waste your precious few attention-getting seconds telling me how great you are, you probably aren’t!

The person you’re speaking with isn’t going to do business with you because you’re the president of the company. They will do business with you because your product eases their pain and they like you personally. Rule #6 addresses both of these points.

Rule #6 doesn’t require much explanation.  Thoughts?

Do you have a great elevator pitch that you’d like to share? If so, list it in the comments or send me an email.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Kiss ‘em goodbye!

One sure fire way to run off a prospective customer is to start into a complicated diatribe on why this feature of your business does this or why that feature solves this problem and on and on and on. We’re talking elevator pitches and Rule #5: Keep it simple.

You can’t create a story for every SKU in your product database. Most companies have dozens to thousands of product and service varieties. The object here is to identify the top several products or services and create a compelling story about how each makes the lives of your customer better.  

Script each story and work on using the precise words that best deliver your message. Once you get the words just right, practice saying it out loud. Practice saying your pitch out loud over and over until it becomes natural. You want to deliver your pitch in a natural, unrehearsed way that only comes from rehearsing.

The real application of Rule #5 is to only use one story per pitch. You should have an arsenal of pitch components at the ready for use when that particular component is needed. When you meet an individual with a particular pain, pull out that pain point and merge it into your pitch.

The research suggests that you only have about ten seconds to say something interesting before the other party tunes you out. You can’t possibly tell a complicated story in such a short amount of time. If your business is complicated, boil your pain topics down into bite-sized talking points that you can get across quickly. If you’re having trouble, go back to the customer’s pain and your product benefit bullet points. Brainstorm with your team or a colleague to find the right words to make your complicated story simple. This is where prior preparation really pays off.  

Do you have a great elevator pitch that you’d like to share? If so, list it in the comments or send me an email.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Baby, I’m Hooked on You

David Gates 1977 classic “Hooked on You”, performed by Bread tells the story of a man who falls in love and gladly pays the price to be with the woman of his dreams. We’re still talking elevator pitches and you’re wondering what mediocre 1970s soft rock hit has to do with anything. Well, it’s a loose connection at best, but does lead me to Rule #4 for creating successful elevator pitches: Start with a hook.

A hook is a question or statement that is enticing and grabs the person’s attention. You need something so that the person will actually pay attention. It doesn’t do any good to have crafted a wonderful story in the form of a pitch if the other person never listens. You’ve been at networking events before. How many elevator pitches have you heard only to have forgotten before the person finishes delivering?

Think of this opportunity as a fishing trip to catch the “big one.” Once the fish take the bait, you jerk the line to set the hook. Then you reel in the fish being careful not to let it off the line. You’re doing the same thing here with your elevator pitch. When you get an opportunity to give your pitch, set the hook with a dramatic opening. It can be in the form of a question or bold statement about some pain in your prospects life. Then you tell a quick story about how you can make their life better.

Be sure to use lots of sensing language. That is, use words that share what you see, hear, smell and taste. This will engage your prospect on a whole different level than mere words. The goal is to get your prospect emotionally involved in your solution. They will become an advocate for you as they feel their life getting better and sense the happiness that it brings. Okay, that’s a little over the top, but you get the point. Sensing language engages the prospect and helps them feel the solution, not just understand.

Do you have a great elevator pitch that you’d like to share? If so, list it in the comments or send me an email.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What’s the benefit of a cheese plate?

In my last entry I talked about crafting a contrived or chamber of commerce elevator pitch where you are introducing yourself to a large group and need to be memorable. In this entry, I’ll talk about the second type of elevator pitch, the sincere or person-to-person pitch. This is your cheese plate of elevator pitches.

Well, what the heck is that supposed to mean?  I’m glad you asked.

Everyone is different. Everyone has different needs and different pains. While you can’t craft a specific elevator pitch for every single pain in the world, you can hit the high spots. Looks at your customer base and identify the main pains that afflict these individuals and their businesses. How do your products and services address these pains? Take time to list the four to ten major pains suffered by your customers and then create bullets under each pain topic about how you can make their pain less intense or go away altogether. If you’ve ever put together a formal marketing plan, you probably already have done much of this work.

As you look at the bullets under each pain topic, what benefits of your products and services are addressing the particular pain topic? If you were paying attention to the last post, I eluded to Rule #3: only you care about features. Features don’t make your customer’s life better. Features make you happy because you can talk about features very easily. You think you can use features to better sell your products without having to know much about your customer or take the time to learn their business. However, features are a short-cut to failure! 

Identify the benefits and the associated product or service that address the pain of your customer. Then script a story about how your product addresses the pain of your customer. Start your story with a bold statement about how your product reduces or eliminates that particular pain. Start with a short paragraph story and whittle and hone it down to one or two sentences. Select the exact wording that best tells your story in a dramatic and concise way that will speak directly to that particular customer pain. Once you’ve got the story boiled down to its essence with the perfect words and phrases, practice saying it out loud. Sometimes these phrases don’t as work well spoken as they did in your mind.

Remember, nobody cares that you have a boutique food shop with different daily specials. But if you’re speaking with a working mother managing a busy family, she will be interested in providing her family a nutritious and tasty sit-down-and-eat-it-together meal, using your convenient call-in order service where she can pick up a fully-prepared meal with all the sides on her way home from the office. Now that’s a solution to a pain.

You should craft a story for each of these pain topics. Memorize each and practicing saying them out loud so you can pull one from memory as needed to match the particular situation facing you. Unfortunately, unlike the chamber pitch where you have plenty of time to craft the exact message for that particular situation, you need to have a whole cheese try of elevator pitch choices ready depending on the particular needs of an ever changing situation. You never know when you’ll be presented an opportunity to give your pitch, so be ready.

Do you have a great elevator pitch that you’d like to share? If so, list it in the comments or send me an email.

Friday, March 2, 2012

You want me to say what?

We’re talking about elevator pitches. Sometimes you give your pitch even when nobody asked you what you do.

There are two basic styles of elevator pitch: contrived, for use at chamber or networking functions where you’re going to introduce yourself to a group and a sincere one-on-one pitch that is customized for the person to whom you’re speaking.

The contrived pitch may be silly, bold, or even outrageous, depending on your business. While you never want to make a fool of yourself, the idea is to be remembered after all the introductions are completed. I call this style of elevator pitch a contrived pitch because you would never respond with this type of pitch when speaking with someone one-on-one. The contrived or chamber version of your pitch is just a little too phony for use in a personal setting.

In this group setting, it’s time to put on your thinking cap and get really clever. Your choice of words and phrases is especially important, so choose them carefully. Many of your associates will have only one version of their elevator pitch. This is your time to carefully craft a message that not only attracts attention but also has staying power. You’ll have introductions, maybe a meal and a program and then networking time. Your pitch needs to stay with your audience until the networking time.   

We’ve all been at a chamber of commerce function where we’re asked to introduce ourselves one after another in front of a large group. How many times do you lose interest in the introductions and quit listening? With 30 to 50 people making introductions, it’s tough to keep your focus. On the other hand, with that many people, it’s actually easier to shine if you just do your homework and give some thought to your pitch.

Here’s where you can really put Rule #2 into action: tell them how doing business with you will make their life better. You want to define your products and services in terms of your customer’s pain. Remember, this is not the place for full-featured description. Nobody cares about features but you. Your customer only cares about benefits. It the benefits of your product that hopefully make their life better. Your products and services do make someone’s life better, right?

Back to the chamber networking setting, how can you use the topic of the event to play off of in your pitch? The entrepreneur who actually takes the time to craft a pitch with the event theme or the speaker’s topic, will make a big splash. I’m guessing you’ll even make an impression with the speaker, who may call you out during his presentation, thereby reinforcing your pitch message.  Making yourself memorable requires doing some homework, but if you spend the time working on your introduction while everyone else just gives their normal introduction, you will stand out from the crowd.

Do you have a great elevator pitch that you’d like to share? If so, list it in the comments or send me an email.