Does Networking Make You Feel D-I-R-T-Y?

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http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-suffering-pain-businesswoman-headache-image25232862

Granted, the title sounds a bit naughty, doesn’t it?  But it’s true!

The prestigious Harvard Business Review recently published an article that validates this is, in fact, true.

This particular article originated from a 2006 study in which the researchers demonstrated a direct connection between moral purity and physical purity.  It’s actually called The Macbeth Effect.

In the rather gory Shakespearean play, Macbeth . . .  Lady Macbeth literally has ‘blood on her hands’ and indulges in incessant hand-washing as a result.

Lady Macbeth’s famous line, “Out, out…spot”  wasn’t referring to the dog who wanted to go out to do his business.  It was actually the blood on her hands from the intrigues of the play that prompted that line.  But, I digress . . . 🙂

Why Business Networking Makes You Feel Dirty

Believing that moral lapses lead to physical feelings of being impure or ‘dirty’, these brave social scientists set out to test their hypothesis that when you engage in business networking — it evokes feelings of being non-authentic (ergo ‘dirty’) more often and more intensely than if you engage in social networking with your friends.

I won’t bore you with their marvelous methodology, but . . . they proved their hypothesis!

There IS a correlation between engaging in business networking that produces feelings of being ‘unclean’ that social networking doesn’t generate.  Which, is why we sometime hear someone say, “I need to take a shower after going to a networking event”.  In many ways, they’re not kidding!

Networking Isn’t The Problem, It’s Your Motivation For Doing It

The research study didn’t just reveal that many people feel, well . . . ‘dirty’ when they network for business, they revealed an important insight into why!

One of the groups examined in this study was lawyers.  (Please, no jokes).

The researchers looked at how senior partners vs. newer associates in a law firm felt after engaging in business networking.  They found senior partners felt LESS ‘dirty’ as a result of networking activity than the newer associates felt after doing the very same thing.

It’s About Value . . . Who’s Got It and Who Needs It

The conclusion of the study was that business networking is an activity that does not, by itself, make anyone feel dirty. But the degree of self-interest being exhibited by someone in a networking exchange was far more likely to determine if they felt dirty or not.

Think about it.  The partners were going into a networking exchange with (usually) more value than their junior associates.  In their case, value meant these partners were bringing substantial resources into a networking exchange — their extensive network of connections, access to resources of all kinds, etc. was much greater than what a junior legal associate might bring into a networking exchange.

Are You a ‘Giver’ or a ‘Taker’?

On the other hand, a newer associate has relatively less power to bring into a networking exchange and a lot of reason to seek to take something valuable out of it — can you help me find a good position, can you mentor me in the firm, can you tell me who are the players in town, etc. These newer legal associates bring more need than power into a networking exchange and, that generates feelings that make them feel ‘needy’ and that’s not a good feeling to have.  Neither is feeling dirty.  See the connection?

“Is This About Me or . . . About You?”

The study concluded that you’re LESS likely to feel dirty from business networking IF:

1) you believe you have valuable ‘resources’ — contacts, information, etc. — to offer, and

2) you seek to give value to others more than you seek to gain value for yourself

That makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?

untitledTake an extreme situation.  Let’s say you’re playing ‘Santa Claus’ for a kid’s holiday party.  Everybody’s going to love you.  So why would your role as the great benefactor (Santa) and the ‘resources’  you bring (presents) make you feel badly or, ‘dirty’ in any way?  Answer: it wouldn’t be possible!

Now take a different but equally ‘extreme’ situation.  You’ve lost your job.  You haven’t been able to find another.  You’re low on funds.  You’re feeling depressed, hungry and getting a little desperate, too.  You hear about a Community Christmas party sponsored by The Salvation Army.  There will be food and gifts for the homeless and unemployed.

You never saw yourself ever attending an event like this when you were working but, this year, things have changed.  Drastically.  You decide to attend.  Reluctantly.

So why are you attending?  Are you planning to give anything to anyone.  Nope.  Your motivation is to take value for yourself.

Nothing wrong with that.  Especially if you’re going through a difficult time in your life.  But that also changes your mental framework of the ‘exchange’ event from one where your motivation is to give . . . to one where your motivation is to take . . . value away from the exchange.

The BIG Takeaways!

Networking is a Contact Sport
If you want to network effectively, you have to go and show up.  Networking is, by definition, a ‘contact’ sport. Like the lottery commercials say, “You can’t win if you don’t play”.

Framework Matters
If you don’t view networking in a positive light, you’ll find all kinds of reasons not to do it.  And, if you don’t do it (or, rarely), you won’t develop this important business building skill.

Attitude Matters
An attitude that empowers you to network with others comes when you see yourself as:

1)  bringing great value to others in every exchange you have with people, and

2)  seeking to give your value to others more than you seek gain for yourself

BNI’s Ivan Meisner had it right long ago – “Givers Gain”.  Now you know why!

Life is a Party . . . And You’re The Host
My mother was very successful in real estate.  Her career spanned 42 years.  She threw a lot of parties over the years.  Invariably, she would greet a guest when they arrived and say, “I’m so glad you’re here.  Come with me . . . I have someone I want you to meet”.  Mom was connector.  She was always adding value to other people in her own inimitable way.

One day I asked her the secret for her success.  She said, “Billy, life is a party.  You’re the host.  You’re responsible for making everyone feel good for attending your party.  Do that and you’ll be successful.”  And that’s why I use the phrase, “I want to be a party to your party”.  Life’s good.  Networking makes it even better.  Seeking to serve others ultimately serves you, too.

POINT:
You’re The HOST — it’s your party to share your value with with your guests.

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3 Keys To Your Successful Value Proposition

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“How often do you change your value statement . . . AKA . . . your ‘Elevator Pitch’?”

I ask that of people I meet with in workshops and in passing conversations.  Those who say they “rarely change” fall into 1 of 2 camps:

  1. they’ve not given the subject a lot of thought, or
  2. they’ve found something that works and they’re not going to ‘fix what ain’t broken’

But most of the time I hear, “I’m always changing it — when I find one I like, I’ll let you know!”.

The Search for a Good Elevator Pitch Never Ends

While I’m all for having a short, targeted statement that resonates with someone who may find the value proposition you offer is of interest, it’s just a the ‘first move’ in a larger game of marketing ‘chess’.

It may help you capture the attention of a potential prospect, but it’s not going to close a sale. In fact, there’s a long way between your ‘opening gambit’ and the ‘checkmate’ move that ends the game!

What you may want to give as much (if not more!) thought to is what is your value proposition?  That’s not necessarily something that fits the one-size-fits-all approach, nor is it something that you can give out as quickly and easily as an elevator pitch.

Your Value Proposition Is Not Your Elevator Pitch

If your elevator pitch is useful in ‘opening the game’ — like a good serve in tennis or a solid drive off the tee, your value proposition is what sustains the game to a decisive conclusion.

Your value proposition is the ultimate basis for a qualified prospect making a decision to do business with you.  Or, not.  The latter being true if you’re not a good fit for one another.

How Your Value Proposition and Elevator Pitch Differ

An effective elevator pitch must answer two questions:

  1. “Are you relevant . . . to me?”
  2. “What benefit will I enjoy . . . as a result of working with you?”

The relevance issue . . .
is easily addressed by defining or communicating WHO . . . is your ideal client.  One of my clients likes to say, “I work with business owners who are 55 years old or older . . .”.  That’s pretty clear and, I can tell you from her feedback, it’s pretty effective in quickly engaging the attention and interest (or, curiosity) of people who are over 55 and own a closely-held business.

The benefit issue . . .
is easily addressed by pointing out, in a very tangible way, what someone stands to gain (or, avoid losing) as a result of using the problem-solving expertise, products and/or services of the person who’s answering the questions, “What DO you do?”  Another client describes the beneficial difference he makes in a client’s life this way: “I help my clients achieve their 5 year plan goals in 3 years or less”.  Again, a measurable outcome he offers as a meaningful benefit that attracts the attention and  engages the interest of someone he’s just met.

If your elevator pitch is a one-size-fits-all statement of WHO and WHY, your value proposition is more of a custom-tailored response that perfectly addresses the questions:

  1. “Why You?” and
  2. “Why Not?”

Why YOU? . . .
The fancy-schmancy marketing term this suggests is ‘positioning’ or ‘differentiating’.

It goes to the issue that, all other things being equal, what makes you the preferred provider of the beneficial solution to the problem that you used your elevator pitch to capture my attention back when we first met?

If you’re no different — or, better — than other providers of the solution I may (now) be interested in . . . any competitor with a clear and compelling reason to chose them over you could . . . beat you out at the box-office.  So you’d best find out why you’re not only different but better than the alternatives.

Why NOT? . . .
In sales, there’s an old adage that says, “A decision to do nothing, is still a decision”.  I’d argue it’s the default decision that each of us must assume when talking with a prospective client.  They’ve been doing something before we showed up and they may feel that’s good enough UNLESS . . . they learn of a compelling reason to do something different.

This raises the issue of ‘risk’.  No one likes to make a mistake.  So they make a decision to do no thing that will change their situation — for the better or, the worse.  It’s a big reason behind why people don’t take actions that could, potentially, benefit them.

You probably hear of many people who didn’t jump back into the stock market after the big crash in 2008 out of fear of getting ______’ed again.  But they lost out on the recovery, too.

You’ll need to manage the risk of action vs. inaction in the value proposition you offer someone or they may just decide to ‘stay put’.  And that, for both of you, may be more costly than either of you like.

The 3 Keys . . . To a Successful Value Proposition

If you want to build a value proposition that will move people to make a decision about working with you, consider what you must address with whatever and however you communicate it . . .

Interest . . . you must focus your prospect’s attention on WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?).  Everyone has more choices for investing their time and money than they have time and money to invest.  Unless you’re talking about what your prospect cares about, you’ll be talking to yourself before too long!  So focus on the benefit you offer and hit it . . . hard and quickly.

Competitive Position . . . despite what your mother told you, you are not the only game in town.  You have competition.  You know it.  Your prospects know it, too.  So embrace the obvious.  The ‘elephant’ in the room. How?  By acknowledging your prospects’ alternatives to you.  Reference your competitors and position who you are, what you offer and how you’re better . . . relative to your alleged competitors.

Avis rental cars claimed, “We’re #2, we (have to) try harder”.  By adopting that position, they re-positioned the #1 car rental company (Hertz) very effectively . . . “They’re #1 . . . they don’t have to . . . (give a _ _ _ _!)”.

Credibility . . . prospects are not clients (yet) because they’re already doing some thing else!  Think about it.  They are already doing some-thing by simply doing no-thing . . . with you or anyone else in your field!  A decision to do nothing is still a decision to do something . . . to maintain their status quo.  Why do people do this?

Life coaches Walt Hampton and Ann Sheybani teach that the desire to avoid possible pain is, for most of us, more powerful than the desire to make changes that may lead to greater gain.  We may want to ‘steal 2nd base’ but we know keeping our foot on first base won’t get us tossed out of the game.

Never mind that doing no-thing may be more costly than some-thing you may be suggesting.  We don’t make changes easily until we believe the cost of doing nothing (different) poses a greater risk of loss than the benefit we may gain by doing something new, different, and . . . possibly better.

Your value proposition must address these three issues — interest, position and credibility. How?  Often with client testimonials that your prospect can relate to as credible parties whose situation was similar to what their’s is now and whose outcomes were more promising to seek than maintain the status quo they’re living with now.

POINT:
Your Elevator Pitch can start the game, but a solid Value Proposition can close the sale for you

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Your Contact Network IS a Money Tree

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Money TreeThe more people who ‘know, like and trust’ you, the better.  But do you really know why?

It centers around the value of building a network of ‘raving fans’ — people who know, like and trust you.

Doing that is not only easy, but motivational as well.

Your Network IS a ‘Money Tree’

If you’re a solo-practitioner, there’s a practical limitation on the number of business relationships you can cultivate.  Despite what you might like to believe, it’s difficult to maintain a quality relationship with more than a few hundred individuals.

In fact, an English researcher named Robin Dunbar did research that revealed how most people can only maintain a viable relationship with around 150 people.  Thus, the ‘Dunbar Number‘ of 150 people refers to the number of people you can maintain an active relationship with over time.  And, by ‘active’ I mean they’ll respond to you when you call or contact them.

If you look at the average person’s network connections on Linkedin, they probably have a few million ‘close, personal connections’.  The fact is . . . most of your online ‘connections’ don’t know you exist and couldn’t pick you out of a police line-up if they had to (and why would you be in a police line-up, anyway?).

I’m not putting down social network connections.  But the reality is, absent a personal effort to cultivate an awareness of you and build a position for you / your brand, you’re not likely to generate new clients from social network connections.  Doubt that?  OK, in the last 12 months, how many new clients did you generate who only know you from Linkedin, Facebook, Google + or the like?  See.  I rest my case.

What’s a Better Approach?  Cultivate Your Own Network!

Again, there are very good reasons to be active on social media — especially Linkedin.  But generating new revenues from people whom you have not connected with in a meaningful and ongoing way . . . is not one of them.

What is better is to identify people who are likely to buy what you offer and/or likely to refer you to others who can?  In a word, ‘Cultivation’.

Cultivation is a KEY Function for Growing Your Clientele

Cultivation is one of the six (6) key client-development functions you must engage in or you’ll be relegated to making cold calls for the rest of your career.  These are:

Fueling . . . generating introductions to people who MAY be able to buy or refer you

Qualifying . . . learning if someone can buy and/or refer you to others who can

Cultivating . . . building top-of-mind awareness and preference for the brand called Y-O-U

Converting . . . helping someone make a decision to act on your recommendations

Servicing . . . keeping someone happy to work with and spend money with you

Managing . . . operating your practice in a way that consistently exceeds clients’ expectations

Once you’ve found someone who’s able to buy what you offer and/or refer you to other people who can, you’ll want to cultivate a relationship with them.  This helps you build the ‘know, like and trust’ factor you need to be thought of first and favorably when (not if) a need arises for your problem-solving expertise, services and products.

To keep this function simple, all you want to do is keep-in-touch and top-of-mind with your qualified people.  Reconnecting with them to remind them you exist . . . with relevance, respect and regularity . . . is all you need to do.

This calls for a very simple ‘plan’.  For example, you can build a Cultivation Plan using any or all of the following means of keeping-in-touch and top-of-mind with your ‘qualified’ connections:

1.  a newsletter

2. a personal, handwritten note of appreciation

3. a phone call to ‘touch base’

4. a ‘Thinking of You’ email with a link to an article of relevance to your contact

5. an invitation to reconnect over lunch or coffee with 2 other people-of-interest

6. an introduction to a person of interest or value

7. a referral to someone you know who might do business with your contact

8. an item-of-value that your contact would likely appreciate receiving

You don’t have to incorporate all these different activities.  Nor do you need to do them each month.  But you do need to choose some of them and use them consistently and conscientiously.

Why 240 People . . . Is Your Magic Number

Earlier, I said it’s not practical to attempt to cultivate more than 150 – 250 people on a regular basis.  But if you do cultivate 240 people, you’ll see a lot of opportunities to generate clients, revenues and referrals.  Here’s how . . .

Let’s say your Cultivation Plan requires you to call your people once a quarter.  That means you’ll be calling, on average, 1/3 of all your contacts being cultivated, each month.  (If you want to know why, call me — 860-798-6964).

If you’re cultivating 240 people, you’re re-calling 80 people a month.  Unfortunately, between your schedule and theirs you aren’t going to reach 50% of them.  No problem.  They’ll remain in your cultivation system and you’ll continue to cultivate them as your plan suggests.  Yes, you’ll call them again in another 90 days.  So you’re down to 40 people.

Of the 40 people you do reach, expect that around 50% will thank you for calling but they’re not going to have a need you can address or know someone they can refer you to meet.  It’s OK.  They go back into the cultivation pool as well.

Now you’re down to roughly 20 people.  A couple are likely to tell you, “Let’s stop”.  They (or, you) will decide that they’ll never buy from or refer to you.  It’s over.  It’s OK.  You’ll live.  You remove them from your cultivation system and make room for new, more viable contacts to go into it.  It all works out in the end.

Of the remaining people you do reach, you’ll either find a reason to meet or you’ll generate some referrals to people they know who fits the profile of the kind of person who can best understand, value, desire and afford your services.  It’s all good.

Now remember, these are WARM calls . . . to people who know, like and trust you.  Each one is growing steadily closer to the next time they need to buy what you do — lifetime value of a client, remember?

So how many discussions do you need to generate an open case?  How many open cases can you turn into a decision meeting?  How many decision meetings do you need to close a single sale?  What’s your average sale look like?

Now, do you see why you want to cultivate qualified people?  It reinforces your relationship with key people for your practice, it makes your life easier, your revenues greater and, best of all, more predictable, too.

POINT:
Cultivating Key Relationships . . . helps generate revenues easily, predictably and significantly

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Finding Your Authority as an Author

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I love psychology. I have a degree is in psychology.  But I really love the field social psychology.  One fascinating aspect of that is known as ‘Impression Management’.  That’s where what you believe is real reflects the input or impressions you receive from various sources.  Being an author has a lot of value.  It marks you as an expert or authority in your field.  More on that in a moment . . .

My wife and I were on a cruise ship.  One of the evening shows featured a stage hypnotist.  He called up several audience members to be part of the show.  After being hypnotized, he told one young man, “You’re outside . . . in sub-zero Antarctica . . . and you have no coat”.

Immediately, the man began to shiver uncontrollably.  Was he actually feeling cold?  Objectively, no.  He was on a boat in the Caribbean!  But subjectively, he was feeling that cold like a polar bear in January.

All Reality Is Subjective

There’s an established truism that our behavior reflects what we believe is real.  The fellow on the cruise who believed he was in Antarctica without a coat behaved accordingly.  He shivered uncontrollably. But was he really cold?  Of course not.  But he believed he was!

Behavior Follows Belief

So you know that what’s real is only real because you believe it’s real.  Whether it’s truly real or not is irrelevant.  All that matters is that if you believe something is real or true . . . it is.  For you.

Differentiation By Managing How People Perceive You

Let’s say you’re at a social gathering.  Personal or business.  It doesn’t matter.  Someone comes up to you, introduces themselves and asks, “So, what do you do?”  I’m sure you have a better answer but assume you just want to reply as simply as you can.  “I’m a financial planner”.

We both know that’s accurate but deadly.  Almost as soon as those words leave your mouth the other person is mentally checking out of the conversation, right?  And why not?  What are they going to do with that line?  Either they’ll open themselves up for a possible pitch or they’ll say something truly inane like, “Financial planner?  Gee, sounds fascinating . . .”  Seriously?

Control The Conversation . . . Manage The Perception

2 guysNow assume your answer is this . . . “Me?  I’m a financial planner . . . and I’m writing a book on The 10 Biggest Mistakes Affluent People Make Before They Retire“.  

You’ve just introduced a piece of information that isn’t readily known about you — you’re writing a book!  That helps someone perceive you in a whole different light than simply being just another financial planner.

Once someone perceives you as an author, they’re ascribing you with a role and a status.  Your status is Expert . . . on the topic of retirement planning for affluent clients (or, any other topic of your choice that gets a conversation going in the direction you want).

What really differentiates you from your competitors isn’t easily understood by a financial ‘civilian’.  Even if they learn you’re a CFP, ChFC, CPA, etc. they usually can’t appreciate what that means like you can.  But once someone learns you’re writing a book on some topic (hopefully of interest to them) and they’ll perceive you differently.  Usually, you’ll be intriguing and that . . . is very, very attractive!

Tell The Truth . . . Always

writerWhen I advise clients to use this approach, I’ll hear, “But I’m not writing a book!”.  Excellent observation!  That may be true.  And, I never advise clients to lie or misrepresent themselves to anyone.  That said, let me suggest that you make a commitment to write a book . . . on a topic you know well and people find interesting.  Writing a book is a powerful marketing tactic and it helps people perceive you as the Expert you are.

Now stay with me here . . . somewhere between committing to write your book and actually publishing it . . . aren’t you actually ‘writing the book’?  Yes.  Yes, you are!

In fact, I have some clients who are always ‘writing a book’.  They’re never finished!  But they find themselves having the most involving conversations with people at parties and meetings because of the book they’re (still) writing!

Let’s face it.  Reality is what you believe it is.  If you happen to provide information to someone you’re speaking with about yourself and, as a result, they perceive you to be an Expert . . . you’re no longer ‘just another financial planner’ . . . your status is elevated . . . you’re a bona-fide Expert.

What impact will THAT have on their financial well-being and, your success?   Quite a lot!

POINT:
Manage the impression/s you make with others . . . by design, not accident.

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Stand Out or Sit Down!

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It’s not often that I find an unusual / unusually effective way for someone to make a statement about WHO they are and/or WHAT they do.  It happens.  But it’s not common.

Then, yesterday I received an invitation to connect on Linkedin with Joe Lavoie.

I didn’t know Joe before he reached out to connect on Linkedin.  Even our ‘who you know in common’ didn’t reflect a list of the usual suspects I would normally expect to see.  So I did what I do most of the time.  I checked out Joe’s Linkedin profile page to assess whether I should accept his invitation or, politely, decline it.

Joe’s Profile

When I viewed his profile page, here’s what I saw . . .

Joe Lavoie

Joe’s tagline was a significant ‘pattern interrupt’.  It stopped me.  Cold.  I was hooked.  At this point I didn’t know all that much about Joe except that he had me smiling.  He had me admiring his courage for stepping outside of what convention suggests one should do with the tagline on Linkedin.  Most of all, he had me wondering, “Who the heck is this guy??”

Why I liked Joe . . . Before I Ever Met Him

Joe’s decision to put himself out there with his uncommon tagline automatically set him apart from the pack.  One of my favorite sayings is, “The ONLY dog on a dog sled team with a change of scenery . . . is the LEAD DOG”.  (Think about it for a second.  You’ll see what I mean!)

In business and in life it’s not easy to be seen as so different and unique that you stand out from the pack of me-too positioned people.  Joe Lavoie succeeds at standing out because he’s made a courageous decision to do so.

Joe didn’t have to be a ‘rocket surgeon’ to say what he did.  True, he’s pretty creative.  But it’s not beyond anyone — including you and me — to seize the same opportunity Joe did . . . to make a distinctive and memorable statement that causes him to be memorable in a world where most people forget your first name after just meeting you!

How To Stand Out Like Joe

A good Core Message or tagline needs to do two things:

  1. Convey what you do and/or what benefit you produce for your client
  2. Be memorable . . . which means being distinctive and beneficial

The father of differentiation . . . HBS professor and noted author, Ted Levitt, defined ‘differentiation’ in his 1986 book, The Marketing Imagination as the ability to be both unique and beneficial.

The challenge, of course, is to be both.  Why?  Well, think about it.  If you’re beneficial, you’ll be copied by your competitors.  So you’re not likely to be unique for very long.  And, if you’re truly unique, no competitor has tried to copy you.  So maybe you weren’t all that beneficial after all.  See, there’s the rub.  Finding a sustainable way to differentiate or position yourself effectively . . . is a real challenge.

The good news is that, as an advisor to your client, you’re not a tangible product that is readily available to your prospective clients from any one of a number of retail outlets.  You are, simply by being who you are, unique.  There is no one else like you.  So there’s half the battle.

The second challenge is to be beneficial . . . as your Ideal Client defines it.  This is, as I’m sure you know, less about what you do and more about what you do for your client.  Once you shift your frame of reference on that, you’ll see and communicate the beneficial difference you make in your clients’ lives . . . fairly quickly and easily.

POINT:
If you’re good at what you do . . . don’t hide your light under a bushel!  Convey the beneficial difference you create in a client’s life simply, creatively and . . . effectively.

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Don’t Blow Your Client Relationship!

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Apple Computers and I Have a Relationship
apple imageI’m a big fan(atic) of Apple computers.  I bought my first Mac — a little 128K model while working on a project as a consultant at LIMRA — in 1984.  I finished the project so far ahead of schedule that I got a ‘bonus’ check.  That check paid for my new ‘personal’ computer.  I was hooked on Apple.  Our ‘relationship’ has stood the test of some 30 years.  Apple computers and I are a ‘thing’.

Recently, Apple rolled out it’s latest operating system version called ‘Yosemite’.  It reflected a number of changes from prior O/S offerings.  Some were very substantial.  Many were, as expected, pretty cool.

One of the applications that comes with an Apple iOS is called, ‘Keynote’.  This is Apple’s answer to PowerPoint.  And, while both are good.  I prefer to use Keynote.  It’s elegance (and, my skill at using it) makes it my presentation software of choice.

Keynote . . . is a ‘Consequential Damage’ of Yosemite
Unfortunately, the new Keynote / Yosemite pairing has resulted in a major problem.  For me.

Keynote’s got a bug that Apple created with the launch of its Yosemite operating system.  Even worse, Apple seems unable and/or insouciant to address this problem.

I used to create Keynote ‘slideshows’, added audio (voice narration) and mixed both into an MP4 (movie) file I could upload, distribute, etc.  NO MORE!  Now, audio / voice-over recordings are mysteriously ‘dropped’ from an MP4 after about 45 seconds.  WTH?

“Apple . . . We Have a Problem”
I called Apple’s tech people.  They’re pretty top-notch in my experience.  Unfortunately, I was told by the tech person I spoke with that the “dropped audio in Keynote” is a problem that Apple knew would happen, knows is happening and . . . is (currently) doing nothing to correct it.  Seriously?

This is a big issue as it means a lot of time and effort will be required to produce a similar result — using non-Apple software I might add!  This cuts into my profit-ability and adds a ‘hassle’ factor that’s growing by the moment.

I don’t know which is worse.  Apple’s knowingly making changes that compromise what loyal fans have come to count on from their relationship with Apple, or . . . Apple’s apparent dismissal of client concerns once they’re voiced.  Either way, it’s not going to build trust between Apple and it’s community of fans.  Quite the opposite.

Without the ability to do what has been done for many years, life is changing.  And, not for the better.  Thank you, Apple, Inc.  I wonder what Steve Jobs would have to say about this egregious insult to the long-standing expectations of loyal fans . . . like me?

What’s Important to Learn From All This
Any relationship of value . . . and I believe a ‘client’ relationship qualifies for this . . . must be regarded as a fiduciary relationship.  If you’re holding yourself out as a ‘trusted’ advisor, it means you’re worthy of your client’s trust, right?

The problem is, ‘trust’ is a fragile thing.  It’s a challenge to establish it with a new relationship.  It’s also a challenge to maintain it once you have it with an existing relationship.  Trust . . . is the ‘glue’ that binds a client to you and you to a client.  But like any bond, it can be broken.  To the detriment of all parties involved.

POINT:
Trust . . . is hard to earn, and so easy to lose.  Work hard to get it.  Even harder to keep it!

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Client-centric Crisis PR

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Well, here we are . . . one day after Hurricane Sandy left our area (NY/NJ/CT) but only after leaving a trail of destruction and tragedy behind her.

During this difficult time, I have received several emails that sought to ride-the-coat-tails of this significant weather event.  Most were sad attempts to be cute but, in the end, were either horrifically boorish or downright cloddish and insensitive.

A high-visibility news event offers you an opportunity to leverage the heightened focus of existing media coverage to make your message relevant by relating your message to the ‘news’ factor of the event.

Unfortunately, when a news event is a disaster — natural or man-made — there’s a significant risk you’ll be seen as ‘crass and insensitive’ if you seek to relate your message to it.  One email I received today said, “Like hurricane Sandy, our sale prices will BLOW YOU AWAY!”

Obviously, there’s a fine line between relating your message to a major news event in a positive manner and ‘going too far’ with your message.  But it can be done.

Here’s another email I received today from American Express:

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, it’s very much about their interest in the well-being of myself and my family.

It’s sensitive to the potential difficulty this hurricane may have created for people living in my area.  It’s not selling.  It is a sincere reflection of regard . . . for my well-being.

It is the way you can safely piggy-back on a major news event that has the distinction of being a ‘disaster’.

KEY POINT:
Promoting yourself around a news event that is also a serious disaster is best done by focusing on your clients’ well-being and not your ‘Storm Special’ offer! 

PR Opportunities Are . . . Everywhere

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Whether you love the tragic-comedy Lifescapades of Lindsay Lohan or not, you have to admit that she’s getting a LOT of media coverage lately.

In fact, all that media coverage has not been lost on the good people at Goodyear Tire.  Yes, the people with the blimp.

Lindsay — You’ve Got Mail!
It seems that, following the recent episode in a NYC parking garage where Ms. Lohan allegedly hit a pedestrian while attempting to park her Porsche — and the media that went nuts like a bunch of sharks in a feeding frenzy, good old Goodyear has taken it upon itself to help save the world (or, at least make it better) by offering driving lessons to Lindsay and Amanda Byrnes.

OK, That’s Funny.  But Goodyear is Totally Serious!  
How serious?  Serious enough to send her publicist an actual letter in which they offer Lindsay FREE DRIVING LESSONS with a professional driver at the Goodyear headquarters.  And, oh yes, they guarantee there will be “no paparazzi allowed”.  You can read the actual letter by clicking here

Naturally, the letter does a nice job of promoting Goodyear’s local dealers and tire products.  (Why not, it’s THEIR letter, right?).

Listening for the BUZZ . . . Attracts the GREEN!
Goodyear’s PR people were smart to jump on this ‘current event’ (Linday’s notorious driving reputation) to raise Goodyear’s AWARENESS to a nice level using the very same media who were covering Linday’s latest lifescapades in the first place!

What’s Good for Goodyear Is Good for You, Too!
If you’re lucky enough to have an in-your-face media fiasco like Linday produces predictably and periodically, you have a readily available source of inspiration for a ‘newsy’ angle on which you can build a story for your brand, company, product or service.

When you do that, you are also likely to gain the attention of the media and all the good things — increased brand awareness and probably increased website traffic (to name just two things of many!) that go with that.

KEY POINT:
PR is a great way to raise the public’s awareness of your business and brand.  The secret to PR that doesn’t end up lining birdcages in Baltimore is to piggy-back off of some highly touted and visible event that everyone seems to know about and leverage that media coverage into a highly visible PR opportunity for you.

Moments of Truth in Branding

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Branding Lessons:  Moments of Truth
Last evening I attended a meeting where the topic of discussion was ‘branding’.
While many of us are, in varying degrees, familiar with the topic, the viewpoint of those present focused on: 1) the means of ‘sharing’ the brand or identify of a firm and 2) the basis of its reality.

You Don’t Tell People What Your Brand Is — They Tell You 
One of the points we discussed was that, what with social media being what it is, the power of branding your business is more in the hands of your customers and clients than yourself or your own marketing people.

Of course, we all want to have a ‘brand’ that elicits the feelings and generates the associations we’d like people to have of us. But the reality is that your firm’s brand is what the people who come into contact with your business believe about it.

True, or not.  Desirable, or not.  Perception is reality.  And whatever people believe is true about your business is what is ‘true’ and real about it.  For them. For example, you may believe your _______ don’t stink.  But if your prospects and clients think it stinks, then it does!

If You Can’t Control The Distribution, Control What’s Being Distributed!
OK.  So you know that the word-of-mouth process is not under your control, right?  But, what IS under your control is the kind of experience people have when they come into contact with your company.  This is a far more significant truth to embrace.  After all, if you create a ‘Wow’ Experience for your customers or clients or patients, they will talk about you.  And, what they say will help to establish a positive (and, competitive!) perception about your business.

KEY POINT:
Your brand differentiates your business from others to prospective clients.  While you may have little or no control over how people may share your brand with other people, you have 100% control over how they’ll experience your business / understand your brand.

Therefore, seek to create an experience with your business that makes people say, “Wow!”.