If you know me, you know I believe that how you operate your business is as important as how you promote awareness of your business or professional practice.

The Secret of a Great Team?  Communication!
I just read a fascinating article in HBR on The New Science of Building Great Teams.  

In it, Alex Pentland, a professor at MIT and the director of MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory and the MIT Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program, and the chairman of Sociometric Solutions, shared a fascinating insight — the more team members interact (i.e. communicate) with one another, the more productive and effective they are.

Professor Pentland created a ‘tech-tool’ that, worn by team members, collected data about:

1.  who people talked with,
2.  how much intensity (energy) they used, and
3.  how often they interacted with other members of their team or work-group

Net result:
The more team members actually communicated, the more effective and productive they were.

The ‘Bee’ Among The Flowers is Not Only Busy but Increases Productivity, As Well
Pentland noted (around 3:30 sec into his 6 min video in the article) that some team members are ‘above-average’ at getting to know and share awareness of special skills and abilities of their team with others on a team.  They’re the people who are always seeking out people to meet, asking them to ‘Tell me more about how you . . .” and then connecting these people into parts of a project on an ‘as needed’ basis.

The more of these ‘bees’ you have in your ‘hive’ . . . the sweeter the honey . . . the greater the success of the team, overall.

KEY POINT:
Productivity is attractive in marketing your business.  Facilitating communication — quality and quantity of it — among your staff or team-members may be one of your best ‘marketing’ secrets. 

Seen your doctor lately?  You probably get more ‘face time’ at a speed-networking event than you get with your doctor!

It’s not the doctor’s fault.  Today’s M.D. sees, on average, about 60 patients a day.  Do the math.

In an eight hour working day, that means the average patient gets about 8 minutes with their doctor.  Some get more.  Many get less.  Not much time to ‘build the physician-patient bond’, is it?

Relationships Matter
In a world where most of us have more to do than time to do it, it’s easy to give clients less time and attention than they’d like.  Easy but also deadly.

Because if you do, you do so at our own peril.

A Quality Experience Is a Great Differentiator
To your client, a sincere, authentic, and heart-felt connection with you is . . . priceless.  It doesn’t take much.  But, it takes time.  Time to listen to what is troubling them.  Time to communicate you care.  Time to let them know you care about what they care about.

I like to say, “Treat your clients like prospects” . . . because they can be stolen away if you neglect them.  But I also like to say, ‘Treat your prospects like clients” . . . so they will know what it’s like to be your client.

Take Time to Make a Difference!
Either way, take the time you need to make your prospects, clients and centers-of-influence feel important.  It doesn’t take much time.  But it does require a commitment to help people see you differently because you make them feel better about their issues after sharing time with you . . . better than any alleged competitor who’s too ‘time-starved’ to care to act better.

KEY POINT:
People want to feel SPECIAL . . . take the time to make them feel that way and they’ll love you for it!

I just read where Apple has become a largely iPhone company.

In 2012 Q1, the iPhone generated 58% of Apple’s revenue.  58%!!!

A mere 5 years ago, Apple didn’t even have the iPhone, much less the enviable position in the cell-phone marketplace it now commands.

So I guess the blog title isn’t quite correct, eh?  Some things DO change.  But wait . . .

What Made This Possible?  
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, in a related story, talked about why Apple would remain a ‘top choice’ even though some cell-phone carrier subsidies may be reduced in the future:
“. . . our focus is on making . . . a phone that delivers an off-the-charts user experience that customers want. At the end of the day, I think that carriers . . . want to provide what their customers want to buy.”

An ‘OFF THE CHARTS USER EXPERIENCE’
Ironically, while the MODE of Apple’s revenues has changed to reflect it’s huge success with the iPhone, the BASIS of what makes Apple so successful has NOT changed.

As Cook pointed out, Apple’s ‘secret sauce’ is to create such a compelling and exquisite experience for people who buy and use Apple products that, all things being equal, there’s really no basis for comparison with an Apple product.

There’s a lesson there . . . I hope you see it.  More importantly, I hope you APPLY it!

KEY POINT:
Understanding what your client wants . . . and providing it in an elegant and compelling manner . . . generates an experience that produces repeat sales, increasing revenues, more profit-ability and growing brand loyalty.   

Once again, I’ve found the secret of being highly competitive.  SERVICE!

Missed Opportunity #1:  The Bank
My wife recently received a notice from her bank that, because she has had no activity in her account (it’s a CD and we let it roll over), unless she presents herself to the bank, her funds will be turned over to the state of CT as ‘unclaimed funds’.  Joyce wasn’t too happy at the way the bank was handling this.  Evenso, she went to the bank to let them know she was ‘still active’ and to not turn her CD over to the State of CT.

The Bankers from Hell
While my wife is waiting to talk with the branch manager, she’s sitting next to where the teller windows are located.  One customer approached a teller to make a withdrawal.  Another teller — not the one working with him — sees what he’s withdrawing and says (out loud!), “Wow — that’s a lot of money!  Are you going to buy a house or what?  Or maybe you’re going to the casinos?  If so, I’ll go with you with that kind of cash”.

My wife was appalled.  The man was clearly uncomfortable.  And not one staff person said anything to the offensive teller.

It Gets Worse!
When my wife got to speak with a manager about her ‘unclaimed asset’ account, the manager couldn’t get someone from the bank’s home office to take her call to explain how to process the form my wife received — and the manager was not familiar with it (great training!).

The manager apologized to my wife saying, “I don’t know why they’re not picking up”.  (Yeah?  Well, I think I do!)

The Most Egregious Sin of All
What’s so sad about this situation is that this bank is currently running a TV commercial showing how they go to great lengths to ‘service’ their customers.

In one commercial, a branch manager actually opens up her branch early because one of her valued customers forgot her passport in a safe deposit box and needed it to go on a trip.  That’s why ‘marketing’ and ‘operations’ need to align or the customer will suffer and then so will the revenue-stream they generate for this bank!

Long story short, this bank’s inability to know what their staff is doing that creates a negative experience for their customers, or train them to perform in a professional manner and have managers who will not tolerate it when they perform badly . . . has cost it our business.  In America, we ‘vote’ with our pocketbooks and wallets.

With unprofessional / unacceptable behavior tolerated from their staff and the commercials being run on television I think this bank needs to take a long, hard look at their operations rather than which media they can use to push a message that is out-0f-touch with the reality they deliver in-person.

KEY POINT:
What your business DOES speaks so loudly it matters not what you SAY in your marketing materials.  Your behavior communicates more powerfully than anything else to your customers.  Don’t ever forget that!

Given the proliferation of information — and access to it — is today’s consumer better prepared than ever before to buy a car, choose a restaurant or find a new dentist?  In fact, with the availability of social rating services — e.g. Angie’s list, Yelp, etc. — is there truly any need (or, an opportunity) to ‘sell’ anymore?

The Background
I have a friend who’s been in sales all his life.  Recently, due to some changes in his industry and company he found himself ‘out looking’ for a ‘new thing in a new ring’ as he put it.

That lead him to work with an old friend who owns several auto dealerships.  Yes, my friend decided to add ‘sold cars’ to his long and fairly successful resume.  But, based on his recent experience, I’m not sure how long that’s going to be. 

“Bill, it’s Hell. We get people coming in (the dealership) who know what they want and what it costs us to put their dream vehicle on the road as well as I do.  They even know what the ‘car mats’ or ‘upgrade package’ costs the dealership.  Even worse, when they come in they view a salesperson as an ‘order taker’ whom they ‘negotiate’ with by saying if I don’t give them the price they want, they’ll walk and talk to a competitor who will.  It’s terrible.”

Does It Have To Be That Way?
I agree that today’s consumer has more information about most things they’re seeking buy than ever before.  And, I believe that’s a good thing. But that does NOT make selling irrelevant.  Far from it

Perhaps . . .
If whatever you do or offer is considered a ‘commodity’ by your prospect, then God help you because the ONLY basis for differentiation becomes ‘price’. And because information is so prolific,  you may not need to ‘sell’ as much as ‘tell’ someone what your fee or price is and hope (which is always a poor strategy) that you win the bidding war more often than not.

Perhaps, NOT . . .
It’s difficult to differentiate a tangible product outside of price. If you’re looking for a new car or TV or PC or . . . then it’s true that you can do much, on your own, to assess your needs, learn your options and find a price for a solution that you’ll want.

But if you’re providing a service, selling more than telling . . . is a very viable strategy.  Especially if you know how to reframe the conversation.

“Find The Flaw . . . Start The Thaw”
When a prospect, armed with knowledge and a certain ‘coolness’ (or, hubris — you choose!) begins the buyer-seller ‘dance’, you want to ask a question that helps your prospect discover that maybe they don’t know everything about the purchase they intended to make.  You don’t need to do anything more than plant the seed of doubt that what someone thinks they want may not be what they truly need.

The sooner you can plant a seed of doubt, the sooner you’ll find a basis — other than price — to get your prospect to have a ‘real’ conversation with you.

An insurance agent may hear, “What’s it cost to insure a new _________?”.  That question suggests a buyer who appears to believe that ‘all policies are the same’ and she’s ‘shopping’ for the best price to get one.  That’s the moment-of-truth.

One agent I know asks, “Before I give you a quote, may I ask if you own a giraffe?”  That interrupts the pattern of her prospect!  It also forces the prospect to ask, ‘Why?”.  That invites a conversation about how many factors other than the car help her determine the best alignment of company, coverage and cost for her clients.

That also creates an experience that demonstrates how she is both different from and better to work with than all the other agents who don’t know how or care to get out of the ‘commodity’ mentality.  See how that works?

That’s how you can move the conversation from, “What’s your price?” to one that’s better at helping both you and your prospect explore what’s driving them to want some ‘thing’ you offer and what, in spite of any previous research they’ve done, is really the best option (from you) to satisfy their need.

KEY POINT:
Asking questions, sooner vs. later, engages your prospect in a real conversation and avoids the ‘commodity-penalty-box’.

 

 

 

 

Four (4) things prospects like to know when they first meet you:

WHAT . . . do you do for your clients? (Value Proposition)

WHO . . . you do that for? (Target Market / Ideal Client)

HOW . . . you do that? (Secret Sauce)

WHY . . .  are you better than other firms? (Unique Selling Proposition)

Your TALKING LOGO addresses most of these questions.  But what’s the REAL basis for ‘standing out’ from your competitors?  It’s NOT (darn it!) as easy as crafting a great message you can use when you meet someone for the first time.

How Do You STAND OUT . . . to a Prospective Client?
Years ago a famous marketing professor at Harvard Business School (Ted Leavitt) was asked to help a major accounting firm ‘differentiate’ their audit services.  A major corporation’s audit business is worth a LOT of money to the accounting firm that “wins the audit” away from other competitors.

To differentiate a product or service, it must be BOTH:

1)  Beneficial . . . i.e. it must offer a meaningful benefit, and
2)  Unique . . . i.e. it can’t be like anything else

Then, he explained the challenge . . . “If something is truly beneficial, it won’t be ‘unique’ for long — competitors will follow suit and if something is truly unique, maybe what you’re offering isn’t all that beneficial”.

Everything this firm offered in an audit was also being offered by their competitors.  So where was the opportunity to differentiate?  It didn’t (seem to) exist!

The Challenge of Differentiating Your Business and Services
But Leavitt had an idea.  He asked to interview their best audit clients to learn, “WHY . . . did they choose your firm to get an audit?”.  The client agreed.

A large number of their clients later told him, “We just liked them better than any other firm”.

“Perception IS Reality”
In marketing, being ‘liked’ isn’t about being ‘nice’ (even if you are!).  It’s about being seen as a Preferred Provider relative to your competitors.

The clients suggested a number of PERCEPTIONS about Leavitt’s client and told him that it was how they behaved during their meetings that convinced them his client was the ‘best firm’ to use to get that audit.

Basically, what they SAID and DID convinced these prospects to go with Leavitt’s client!

The Big Lesson Here
Ask your ‘best clients’ the question, “Why did you choose OUR firm?”.  Follow that up with, “What did we SAY or DO to make you believe we were ‘the best’ firm to use?

You’ll learn what you need to say and do in front of prospects . . . to ‘Stand Out’ from the crowd of your (alleged!) competitors.

I’m often asked about the ‘funny’ name of the marketing organization that I represent —
Duct Tape Marketing.

There’s a great story behind HOW the name came to be but … I digress.  ‘-)

What is more important, is why Duct Tape Marketing exists and why, in 2005, I become affiliate with this fine organization of people that began in Kansas City, MO and now has over 80 of my colleagues in every part of the world.

Enjoy . . .

In a recent post (3/22/2012) I discussed the need to be sure you get a response from any marketing you do to promote your services. But getting a response depends on WHAT you’re offering and . . . HOW you’re inviting a response from your prospective client.

Which is More Potent . . . Needs or Wants?
No doubt about it, marketing what people want is relatively easier than marketing what they need.  If that seems odd, consider this:

Most people will agree that ‘being healthy’ is something they ‘want’ to be.  At the same time, they may ‘need’ something to achieve that goal — i.e. a colonoscopy after age 50.

Of these two, which one is easier to sell?  Which one is easier for someone to ‘buy’ into getting?

You may want a new sports car, but you may need some sales training to help you get it. Wanting the sports car is obvious and desirable. Needing sales training that can help you get it is neither!

Needs or Wants — There’s a Different Approach for Each!
If  your prospect wants what you offer, then you can invite a response in the form of an immediate buying decision.  For example, if you’re offering a wonderful Caribbean cruise, that’s highly desirable.  And a good Call-To-Action would invite someone to book with you.

However, if your prospect needs what you offer, then you should use a different approach. Typically, ‘wants’ are associated with ‘soft’ services like ‘business consulting’ more than ‘hard’ products or goods like a ‘getaway weekend’ cruise. Remember, we want to be healthy but we need a colonoscopy.  The former is obvious and desirable.  The later is not.

The Two-Step Call-To-Action
I’m assuming you’re offering a service more than a product.  So what you’re offering is really the (needed) MEANS to some (wanted) END that your prospect would like to enjoy.   This requires an offer to get something — usually information — that would help someone get what they want.

A CPA might therefore ‘offer’ an e-book on:
“The Five Biggest Tax Deductions Business Owners Always Seem To Miss”

Inviting people to download that e-book would certainly identify people who might logically need other services that a CPA can render.  But, absent an opportunity to engage prospective clients in the first place, those subsequent conversations may never have a chance to occur!

KEY POINT:
When appealing to ‘wants’, always offer an item-of-value that is low-risk / no-cost to accept and suggests high-value if it is.  Once you have the ‘first’ step out of the way, you can make follow-up actions appropriate to the person’s ‘need-to-know’ and ‘readiness-to-go’ ahead with later offers to engage your services.

I just received a direct mail piece from a firm I did business with years ago. They’re still in business.  Which is nice to know.

But their mailer is, well . . . ‘deadly’ to say the least.

The copy is self-centered drivel and their offer is non-existent.  How sad.  For them.  I hope his mom ordered extra copies for her bridge club because at least she’ll see some value from this mailer!

What’s The Goal?
The creation of any promotional marketing communication must begin with as clear an understanding of what you want to happen after someone receives it as is humanly possible.

That implies, of course, that you expect ‘some thing’ to happen as a result of receiving and processing your message in whatever medium of delivery you may choose to use — print, verbal, online, etc.

Response . . . Must (ALWAYS) Be Your Goal
Given the time, money and effort required to produce and deliver a message these days, you really can’t justify any marketing that doesn’t call for your reader, listener or viewer to do something in response to your message. This is a ‘Call To Action’ or ‘Offer’.  Same thing.

Of all the goals for your marketing communications, make sure a response is one of them!

KEY POINT:
Any communication that doesn’t invite response is a wasted opportunity.

With one foot in ICE water and one foot in BOILING water . . . on the average . . . you should be pretty comfortable!”

One of the things I remember from my college statistics class was that an ‘average‘ is a theoretical construct abstracted from empirical reality.

Practically speaking, it doesn’t reflect in any accurate way what’s really going on in your world — i.e. ’empirical reality’.

“Statistics Lie”
That’s 100% Incorrect. Statistics don’t lie any more than guns kill people.   But people do use them to present reality in a way that may invite you to either misunderstand or (more likely!) misperceive the ’empirical reality’ that they’re based upon.

The 80 / 20 Rule — AKA “Pareto’s Principle”
Pareto was the Italian economist who first suggested that “80% of any result is generated by about 20% of the effort required to get it”.  This ‘rule’ of input and output has been applied to almost everything.  In business, you often hear, “80% of your profits comes from 20% of your clients”.  That’s accurate — until you dig deeper!

Pareto’s Principle reflects a Statistical AVERAGE Not an Empirical Reality!
In advertising, you hear, “50% of every dollar spent is wasted” followed by the collorary “So I have to spend a buck to see any value”.  That’s consistent with the “80/20 Rule” — only in that case, it’s more like the “50/50 Rule”!

Even if the 80/20 rule is ‘technically correct’, it can be ‘practically in-correct’.  Why?  Because is SIMPLIFIES the situation and that is what causes the 80/20 rule to be dangerous if you take it on face value.

Pareto was a Pessimist!
What I mean is that when you examine which of your clients are contributing to your ‘bottom line’, you may find what MIT lecturer, Jonathan Byrnes points out in his book “Islands of Profit in a Sea of Red Ink“.  Byrnes argues that your practice has a relatively few ‘super profitable clients’ who cover for the ‘grossly un-profitable ones’.  So while the 80/20 Rule may appear to be true, in reality, your profits are more likely to reflect the “99.9 / 0.01 Rule”.

KEY POINT:
Identify your SUPER PROFITABLE clients and cultivate relationships with them!