Reaching The Unreachable Referral

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THE ISSUE:
Someone you’ve been referred to can’t be reached and isn’t returning your calls.  Nothing else can happen until this is done.  It’s frustrating.  But, it can be addressed.

THE INSIGHT/S:
Assume your referrals are distracted and self-absorbed.  Why?  Because they are!  Consequently, ‘breaking through the clutter’ won’t be easy unless you can appeal to what they perceive to be either a) potential threats to their safety or life and/or b) possible opportunities that will improve their position.

THE RECOMMENDATION:
Focus someone’s attention on what they don’t know . . . and ignorance isn’t going to be bliss, either!

THE ACTIONS:

Research . . . your referral to learn what would cause PAIN or offer GAIN

Appeal . . . to your referral’s self interest . . . based on what your research suggests

Wait . . . for a response from your referral . . . it will happen if you’ve done the above correctly

You’re Invited . . .
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4 Factors Behind Marketing Failures

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Yesterday, I had the pleasure to be invited to do an ‘Ask The Experts’ call with Colleen Ferrary, President of Small Business USA. Colleen and her organization are dedicated to helping small business owners access resources that help them succeed.

On our call, we discussed a number of factors that both enable and dis-able the ability of a small business owner or solo-practitioner to be effective in their marketing.  I thought it would be timely and useful to share some of the highlights of our call with you, today.

Marketing Means

We began by talking about the role and definition of marketing.  While there are various ways to define this essential business growth function, I said I like one that’s fairly simple:  

“Marketing is a business function that reflects the decisions you make and actions you take, over time, to increase the quantity and improve the quality of opportunities where a sale can be made”

Marketing effectively, means you’ll be coming into contact with people who can best understand, value, desire and afford the beneficial difference you can create in their life on a predictable and regular basis.  And that spells S-U-C-C-E-S-S.

The Challenges You Face

Typically, if you’re a small business owner or sole-practitioner, marketing is a challenge. Why?  Because it sucks . . . resources away from other activities in your business where you’d prefer to use them.  Notably, there are four (4) factors that limit your ability to market your business, your products and your services as effectively as you’d like:

Time
You have all the time in the world.  24 hours per day.  So a lack of time isn’t the problem.  OK, what is?  Making choices on how to use your time that doesn’t help you your marketing, effectively or efficiently.  Too often, I see people who make bad choices on how to invest their time on marketing as well as other areas of their life.  Making better choices seems easy enough.  Until you realize there is an emotional payoff for the choices we make.  Yes, including the ‘bad’ ones.  Reframing the importance of marketing can help.  But this is a real issue.

Money
Business people often lament, “I can’t afford to spend money on marketing”.  Really?  Tell me, “Can you really afford not to market your business or practice?”  Unless you’re absolutely without a source of funds for marketing, this is not a good mantra.  Said often enough, you may actually believe it!  My suggestion . . . get in touch with WHY you want to market — the consequential benefits it will produce — and you’ll reframe this issue in a totally different and far more productive way.

Skills
This is probably one of the few legitimate reasons why people don’t market effectively.  You need to have an aptitude for marketing.  Not everyone does.  Maybe not even you.  But even if you have it, you need time to invest in learning how to do it effectively.  For these two reasons alone, having the requisite skill to do your own marketing isn’t something that’s safe to assume is always likely to happen.

Staff
If you’re a solo-practitioner, you have a number ‘hats’ to wear.  For that same reason, you will be most challenged by this factor.  You know the meaning of the saying, “If it’s going to be, it’s up to ME!”.  Your nemesis is, more than anything, time.  More precisely, it’s all the demands you have to do everything you must in the 24 hours a day you have to do it.  If you lack the skills to do your marketing, then you’re really in a tough spot to get your marketing done effectively and efficiently. If you lack both time and skill . . . get someone else to do your marketing activities for you . . . or, suffer the consequences.

If you have staff, they may be just as challenged to do your marketing –– for the reasons cited above.  First, they must have skills to market your business, products and services.  Second, they must have the time — in addition to what you’re already asking them to do — to do marketing on top of everything else.  Regardless of what your employees’ challenge may be, something has to give and usually, it’s not something you’ll like.

A Solution You May Like

If you’re a big company with lots of money (a sure-fire way to buy someone else’s TIME!) and staff (some of whom have some aptitude for marketing), then this won’t be of interest to you.

BUT . . . if you’re a time-starved solopreneur or self-employed advisor / planner / professional . . . this may be the best way to do marketing –– for you –– that is not only simple and effective but affordable and sustainable, as well. (How cool is that!)

istockphotoPAM

Say “Hello” to PAM — Personally Assisted Marketing

‘PAM’ is a marketing service that’s designed for you if you lack the time and possibly the skills you need to do your own marketing.

Because PAM is affordable, you don’t need to invest a lot of money to see meaningful and measurable results.  In fact, your marketing budget, large or small, is capable of generating a really nice ROI for you . . . in the hands of ‘PAM’.

 

How It Works

The power of PAM comes from a series of ‘touches’ . . . contacts made with people who are your prospects, clients and centers-of-influence.  Most of these are done FOR you . . . by a VMA (Virtual Marketing Assistant) who is assigned to handle your marketing.

We’ve learned the #1 reason smaller firms, consultants and advisors find marketing so frustrating is that they’re trying to do it themselves.  Not good!

That’s why you want someone else — your VMA — to do most of the ‘heavy lifting’ your marketing requires.  This allows you to respond to marketing that puts people, with a PAIN or a PREFERRAL into contact with you on a regular basis.  That is ‘all good’ for your bottom-line!

The Eight (8) Touches PAM Makes For You

Since most of your clients are buying a relationship with you, PAM focuses on creating ‘touches’ that are personally meaningful to the people you’re cultivating for the lifetime value they offer you . . . either in the form of revenues and/or referrals.  These include:

Emails
PAM sends these to people who want to hear from you — i.e. 100% opt-in.  These emails are short, interesting and can be scanned in no more than 7 seconds.  We feature your photo and contact information prominently on each one.

PAM also does all the ‘work’ involved in creating these emails.  From researching, writing, releasing and reporting on what your people do after they receive them.  All you need to do is invite people to receive them from you.  PAM . . . does everything else!

This keeps you top-of-mind with people who can, sooner or later, buy from you or refer you to others who can.  They’re also designed to get people to ‘raise their hands’ and let you know they’d like to learn more about specific products or services you offer.  Sweet!

Phone Calls
Once a quarter, your VMA will make a ‘courtesy call’ to each person you’re cultivating.  The goal for each of these calls is to do three (3) things:

1.  remind them that you are thinking about them . . . in a fiduciary way . . . to ensure they’re doing well

2.  learn if they have a need that someone (an ‘Expert’) in your network may be able to help them address

3.  invite them to request a call or arrange a meeting with you, if they wish, to discuss a matter of importance . . . to them

Do you get a periodic call from the office of your doctor, dentist, accountant, coach, auto mechanic, remodeling contractor, etc.  Few do.  But the impression it makes — and the perception of ‘preference’ it generates — for you when you do this is . . . ‘priceless’.

Meet ‘N Greet Lunches
One of the best ways to reconnect with people who are ‘key’ to your practice or business — prospects, clients and centers-of-influence — is by breaking bread together.  Once or twice a month, PAM arranges for you to meet with 2 – 3 other people you’re actively cultivating.

You have to eat anyway, why not use the opportunity to strengthen relationships, introduce people who know you to one another.  In the process, you’ll discover needs and opportunities you can address.  Plus, ‘PAM’ takes care of everything — from contacting the restaurant (or, ordering the food to be delivered to you office), inviting and confirming the ‘guests’ and following-up afterwards.

Thinking of You Emails
Periodically, PAM will send a brief email to people you’re cultivating with one or two sentences.  Something like, “Dear Mike — I saw this post on Linkedin and thought you’d find it of interest.  Hope all’s well with you and yours.  Sincerely, Christine”

Sending these thought-full emails to your ‘special’ people on topics you know (and, tell PAM!) are important to them will make YOU far more valuable to them, as well.  Guaranteed!

Preferral Exchange Meetings
You know there are certain people in your business circles who have referred people to you in the past and likely would do so again in the future, right?  Well, do you plan to reconnect with them on a regular basis?  If not, PAM can help make that happen.

Once or twice a month — you choose — PAM will arrange for you to meet with people who are likely to introduce you to new people who are likely to understand, value, desire and afford your problem-solving services.  Of course, fair’s fair and this is an excellent opportunity for you to return the favor.

But the bottom-line is that, by doing this consistently and conscientiously, you’ll be regularly generating new people to talk with because of the influence and prestige of someone else who’s already established a ‘trusted advisor’ relationship with them.  Kind of makes your work a lot easier, doesn’t it?

Introductions to Your Experts
As PAM connects with your people each month, ‘needs’ will be learned and shared with you.  Many of these will not be needs for something you do.  But other people you know will be able to help.  When that’s the case, PAM will help you make an introduction of your contact and your expert.  This tends to delight three (3) people.

Your contact is delighted because you’ve helped them to identify and meet with someone they can trust — because they trust you, yes?  Your Expert is delighted because you’ve helped them to meet with a prospective client they might other never have known about.  And then there’s you.  You now have two (count’m 2!) more people in the world whose opinion of you has gone up a few points.  That’s called goodwill.  And goodwill turns into more revenues and referrals!

Items-of-Value
Staying-in-touch and top-of-mind with your key people is an important thing to do.  And, do regularly.  That’s why an item-of-value is so important.  This ‘touch’ needn’t be expensive.  But, it must be thoughtful.  It’s a tangible experience that reminds someone you’re cultivating that, “You’re important to me”.

These items are usually very simple, inexpensive and have a high utility value.  One of the more creative clients we’ve had the privilege to work with uses a solid milk-chocolate bar that shows their practice’s name and logo.  It doesn’t last long (DUH!), but the feeling it creates for our client and their firm is . . . priceless!

Handwritten Notes
Each month, PAM will remind you of certain individuals who should receive a handwritten note from you.  These are (mercifully) brief.  Why?  It’s not the message you write.  It’s the message you’re sending to someone you’re cultivating — “You’re important to me”.

The reason notes work so well is that in a high-tech world where it’s so easy to ‘like’ someone’s page on Facebook or ‘follow’ someone on Twitter, you have to give your personal attention and time to write a note and (snail) mail it to someone.  What your effort communicates, more than any words you may write on the card, is that the recipient is someone you regard, respect and value.  Get your people feeling that feeling on a regular basis and you won’t worry about any alleged competitors!

The Power of PAM: Synergy

As good as each of these ‘touches’ may be, the real power of the PAM service doesn’t come from using any one of them.  It comes from the synergy of combining all of them into a coherent and coordinated plan of action that is carried out consistently and diligently.

Your PAM plan is uniquely tailored to your needs and resources
For example, you may not want to have two Meet ‘N Greet lunches every month.  OK, just do one.  Or, you prefer your item of value to be a white paper — rather than a keychain calculator.  That’s fine.  You have a lot of latitude and options.

Regardless of your choices, just be sure the type and frequency of the PAM ‘touches’ your plan calls for are done consistently.  That’s why we assign a Virtual Marketing Assistant to you . . . to help you make sure your marketing activities  happen “according to plan”.

POINT:
Don’t Let Limiting Factors Hold Back Your Marketing and Your Success!  Get PAM working . . . for you!

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Learn More About PAM — Personally Assisted Marketing
Complete the form below.  Mention ‘PAM’ in the comment box.

We’ll be in touch to discuss how it works and, more importantly, how it may be able to do what your previous marketing efforts haven’t done as well as you wanted.

Making a Good Impression on Your Prospective Client

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“How can I convince a prospective client that I’m better than other advisors in my field?”  That’s a great question.  One I get asked a lot.  OK, here’s an insight for you . . .

Prospects decide to work with you — as their advisor —  the same way they decide to buy a book. But before they buy the book, they ‘buy’ the book’s cover. Consider the following scenario:

You’re in a bookstore.  You find two books on a topic you’re interested in.  You want to buy one book, not two.  Question: “How do you choose which book to buy?”

Do you read both books before you decide which one to buy?  No.  That’s not practical.  So what does help you choose one book over another?  Short answer?  It’s the book’s cover!  

Specifically, it’s the experience a cover offers you that helps you choose one book over the other.

If it’s sufficiently appealing, you’ll probably buy the book.  If not, you’ll put it back on the shelf. That’s the very same process prospects use to decide to work with you . . . or, your competitor.

The Impression You Make is Key to Your Success with Prospects

Let’s be candid.  Financial planning is an overcrowded and highly competitive field.  Next to encountering a few ‘coaches’, attending any social event means you’ll find more than a couple of ‘financial advisors’.  And we both know that’s being conservative.

Your Challenge:  Standing Out . . . from Your Competitors

To people who are not in the financial planning field, every planner looks like all the rest.

At a minimum, you call yourself by a common term — ‘financial planner’.  You probably have letters after your name on your business card — CFP, CLU, ChFC, etc..  You’re licensed by the various financial regulatory agencies, you hold membership in your professional associations locally and nationally and you have awards and accolades from your company or broker-dealer.  So do all the other planners!

There’s really very little ‘difference’ between you and your competitors . . . as Joe or Jane Public perceives things.

So here’s the problem:  You may be no worse than your competition.  But, you’re also not seen as being any better than they are, either.  Not good.  For you!

What you SAY and DO . . . Differentiates You

Some years ago a major accounting firm hired the ‘father’ of modern differentiation — Ted Levitt, Professor Emeritus of the prestigious Harvard Business School.  They asked him, “Tell us how to ‘differentiate’ our audit services from the audit services our competitors are offering”.  Winning an audit contract with a major company — think Boeing, Apple, Google, etc. could bring in millions of dollars in fees — to the accounting firm that’s chosen to do the audit.

Levitt knew that to ‘stand out’, something must possess two qualities.  First, it must be unique.  In a me-too world, you won’t be noticed unless you’re different.  Think of Waldo.  He doesn’t stand out so it’s hard to find him, right?  Second, it must also be beneficial.  Something must offer a legitimate benefit — as the target audience defines ‘value’.

The problem is it’s not easy to sustainably differentiate a professional service –– like you offer.

If your offering is beneficial, competitors will copy you and you won’t be unique for long.

If your offering is unique and competitors aren’t copying you, maybe there’s really no benefit.

There’s your dilemma.  Finding a way to sustain a ‘competitive edge’ . . . a point of differentiation for you . . . over time . . . is a very real challenge.  It’s why you feel like Waldo more than you like!

The Secret To ‘Standing Out’ and ‘Kicking Your Competitors Butts’ 

Good News!  Professor Levitt’s first requirement . . . being unique . . . is actually easy . . . for you.  Last time I looked, there was no one else on Earth who is just like you.  Heck, even your mother told you that, right?  Listen to your mother!  She’s right.  You are totally and perfectly unique.

As for being beneficial, here’s how you address that issue.  Manage your behavior!  Why?  Because there’s a direct connection between:

1.  what you SAY and what you DO in front of a prospective client

2.  how they perceive you as a preferred provider of financial expertise, advice and products

3.  whether they’ll choose you (or, your competitor!) . . . when the ‘beauty contest’ is over

I use a simple graphic with my clients to illustrate how this works . . .

It all begins with / depends on your behavior.

Everything (EVERY Thing) you do and say — i. e. your behavior — creates an experience for your prospective client.

 

In social psychology, it’s well-known that your perception of someone reflects the cumulative effect of the behavioral impressions they offer you.

If I’m always late or always have a messy room, you tend to perceive me as undisciplined, uncaring, disorganized, lazy, etc.  That may not be true.  But because that’s your subjective perception of me, that’s your reality of me and you’ll tend to behave accordingly toward me.

Pulling It All Together

OK, so how do you use these insights to help your prospective clients perceive you as the advisor they’d prefer to work with . . . assuming they’re ready to do so . . . and all other things are ‘essentially equal’?

First, learn what your ideal client wants to find in an advisor
Leavitt learned audit clients really didn’t care about the audit.  It was a necessary evil — like undergoing a colonoscopy after age 50. What they really wanted / cared about was to work with a ‘business advisor‘ whose firm could also do their audit.

AHA!  It was never about the audit, it was always about the relationship the client wanted!

The best way to learn what your prospects want in an advisor is simple.  Ask your best clients this question:

“Why did you choose ME . . . over other planners you were aware of / considering using?”

You may hear:  “You knew about . . . “, “You were thorough”,  You listened well”,  “You made me feel comfortable”, etc.  These are perceptions . . . of you . . . expected by your prospects.

Once you learn the answer to the question, “Why me?”. . . you’ll know what your prospects are looking for in an advisor in your field.  Then, I urge you to identify the ‘Top 3’ most commonly cited answers you hear.

When you know what makes you a preferred provider, you can create the experience (of you) prospects will use to decide if you’re the advisor they want.  Yes, it’s an Open Book Test!

RULE:
“3 Behavioral Impressions –––> 1 Subjective Perception”

It takes 3 behavioral impressions to cement a single perception (AKA ‘truth’ or ‘reality) about you with a prospect.  If you create 3 behavioral impressions for each of the Top 3 perceptions that educators want in their financial advisor and, all things being equal, you’ll have a decided edge over any alleged competitor!  See?  Amazingly simple.

Second, choose what you must SAY and DO to validate the Top 3 perceptions clients want
Your current clients were once your prospects.  They were looking for someone they could feel comfortable trusting to help them manage their financial affairs.  Behaving like what your clients wanted from you is the key to presenting your ‘best side’ to prospects in the future.

For example, let’s say you work with educators.  Your best clients told you, “We chose you because you seemed to know a lot about teachers”  If so, you may want to communicate your expertise by asking a question or sharing an insight.  e.g.  “Many of the teachers I work with are not aware of what their maximum contribution to a tax-deferred annuity program is for this year.  Have you determined what you’re allowed to contribute and are you planning to take full advantage of that amount?”

That’s one (1) behavioral impression!  If you make three (3) similar behavioral impressions during an initial meeting with a prospective educator client, they’ll form the perception that you’re someone who . . . specializes in working with educators!

Repeat that process with the #2 and #3 perceptions educators use to choose . . . their financial advisor . . . and you’ll end up not only standing out in your initial meetings, you’ll end up converting more prospects into clients, too.

POINT:
People buy books by their covers and advisors / planners by their behaviors!

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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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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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Standing Out In a Crowded World

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“If you’re not standing out, maybe you’re just not that outstanding!”.  Perhaps a tad harsh with a hint of truth (sounds like a good wine!).  But the fact remains that differentiation is a key skill to develop for your business or practice.

It’s Not Personal, It’s Biological!
The author, A. K. Pradeep writes in his book, The Buying Brain: Secrets for Selling to the Subconscious Mind that when there’s a plethora of similarities, our brain goes into what he calls “Repetition Blindess”.  This is a condition of perception where, when faced with a number of similar objects or concepts, the brain ‘freezes’ or ‘goes blind’ and is rendered useless at being able to distinguish one item from the others.

Pradeep adds, “We are biologically programmed to seek out differences”.  Why?  The purpose is purely adaptive.  We need to identify things in our environment that have the potential to harm us.  So we scan and scan our environment to identify anything that appears ‘out of place’.  So our brain renders anything similar in appearance as non-registerable and seeks to find the ‘exception’, not the ‘rule’.

Marketing Implication:  Stop Being a Copycat!
Saying what your competition is saying is not only unimaginative, it’s ineffective.  Why?  Because ‘copycat’ marketing — saying what your competition is saying — makes you appear similar to them and that, as we just said, makes you invisible!

Marketing Implication:  Honor Your Prospects’ Need for Differences
The way to capture attention of your prospective client is to ‘go against the grain’ . . . to ‘stand out’ from the crowd in what and how you say it. Remember that your prospects’ brains are craving for what is not like all the other messages out there.

Rather than putting out the ‘same old, same old’ . . . consider these ‘outstanding / stand out’ variations as noted copywriter, Tom Trush suggests:

Tutorials — popular way to attract interest.  “How To” never goes out of fashion!

Lists — short, sweet and fun to eat (oh, that’s baby carrots!)  but you get the point, yes?

Interviews — with thought / industry leaders — they’re very popular for a reason!!

Statistics — charts and graphs render complex ideas quickly and easily!

Insider Views — show what ‘most’ can’t or don’t get to see and you’ll be very popular

Q & A — reveal your expertise and satisfy the need to compare ourselves with others

KEY POINT:
Don’t be a copycat!  Saying what others are saying in their marketing is like getting wet in a dark wool suit — you may feel all warm and fuzzy but no one (that you care about i.e. prospects) are likely to pick up on it. 

Leveraging Your Relationships

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What’s Your TRUST FACTOR?
People who know and like you are likely to trust you.  Trust is evidence you have relationships that allow access to the contact networks of others and that allows you to generate referrals for your business.  And, as you know, more referrals = more revenues, profits and owner equity.

Why is TRUST Important?
To build business, you want referrals.  The more people who allow you to leverage their TRUST of you, through their endorsement of you to their network contacts, the more referrals you’ll see from it.

Why Relationships Matter
Consider this . . . the average person has a contact network or sphere of influence with 200 people — more or less.  So building a solid relationship with people whose contacts are most likely to 1) understand, 2) value, 3) desire and 4) afford what you do, the more opportunities for referrals you’ll be generating.

Strategic Alliances
One of the types of relationships you’ll want to establish and maintain is with someone who satisfies the following characteristics:

1.  they are highly regarded and trusted by people in their contact network

2.  they know or have clients who look like your ‘best clients,

3.  they know, like and trust you . . . i.e. ‘raving fan’ material, and,

4.  they are willing to introduce you to select members of their network

 If you will build a strong relationship with 25 people who serve the same kind of client as you do — with complementary vs. competitive services or products — then you should be seeing both referrals (inbound leads from receptive individuals) and Preferrals (outbound introductions to qualified individuals).

The numbers of Reality
Let’s say you have 25 Strategic Alliances.  On a quarterly basis, that means you could be meeting (I prefer lunch) with 2 of your alliances each week.  Now, because they already know, like and trust you AND you’ve been able to give as well as receive . . . they’re coming to lunch with the full understanding that this is a time to exchange introductions to people in their network who share characteristics in common with people who are your ‘Ideal Client’ and you’re coming to lunch to do the same thing for them.

Assume you manage to collect, on average, 5 names of people who may, sooner or later, be likely to need the services (and, outcomes!) you offer.  That’s ten (10) preferred introductions (Preferrals) a week . . . 40 or so a month.  So what happens when you follow up?

Roughly 1/3 will say something that means there’s no future — e.g. “Oh, did I tell you my wife is a CPA and does all our tax work?”.  See, it’s over before it gets going.

Another 1/3  will express interest in what you do but have no current need for it.  If they invite you to ‘stay in touch’, you have a ‘future opportunity’ you can cultivate, over time, until one of either ‘coughs up’ or ‘gives up’.

Finally, 1/3 will be interested and receptive to some kind of immediate ‘next step’ . . . a meeting to get better acquainted, an agreement to take your online survey and schedule a debriefing call or meeting, etc.

The REAL Payoff — “Life Gets Much Better!”
Over time, as you build up your database of people who share characteristics in common with your best clients, and they invite you to keep-in-touch so you can stay-in-mind should they or someone they know ever need the service/s you provide, roughly 1/3 of the people you’re cultivating . . . will come ‘up’ each month . . . for a recall to requalify to remain in your Client Cultivation System, or ‘CCS’

Say you have just 240 qualified prospects in your CCS. That means that about 80 people are due, each month, for a ‘touch base’ call.  Now, because they already know you, it’s not a ‘cold call’.  As they’ve invited you to stay in touch, it’s a call with ‘permission’ — so you’re not intruding. And, assuming they were qualified to be cultivated in the first place, with each subsequent call, they (or, someone they know!) are getting closer to the time when they’ll need someone who does what you do.

It’s called ‘CULTIVATION’ for a reason — just as a farmer keeps the weeds away, the insects at bay and makes the water plentiful, so too must you, as a service provider, offer the ‘gentle care and feeding’ of the relationship known as ‘client’.  And if someone is not (yet) your client, keeping-in-touch on a regular basis and in a client-centric manner is one of the best ways to ‘harvest’ the seeds of success you’ve planted in the past.  It’s also a proven strategy to both differentiate yourself from others in your field, and build up client loyalty to you and your brand.

POINT:
 Relationships matter.  Cultivating relationships for both current and future revenue opportunities is a wise strategy to make your business or practice generate clients (and, the revenues they suggest!) consistently and efficiently.

The Best Marketing Methods Are Personal

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I’m reading a research brief from The Center for Media Research . . . about the effectiveness of various marketing ‘tools’ or methods.

As you can see . . . the MOST EFFECTIVE means of generating new business opportunities are:

1.  Referrals . . . 59% of respondents agreed

2.  Networking . . . 57.4% 

2.  From Existing Clients . . . 57.4% . . . a TIE with ‘networking’

3.  Presentations or Speaking . . . 24.6%

KEY POINT:
While the world of marketing media has grown more digital and online . . . the prominence of ‘direct’ marketing . . . and building ‘personal’ relationships . . . has not gone out of favor!  Don’t forget this! 

Are You a ‘Professional’?

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To me, the word Professional means “Worthy of Trust and Respect”. Without these qualities you’re unlikely to be an effective agent of change and growth in your company.

So here are five (5) qualities that correlate with being a pro . . .

 

1.  Competence
You could call this ‘Knowing Your Stuff’.  And while it’s important to know enough to be competent, it’s also about being confident enough to know what you don’t know and being able to admit that.

In my first job, I felt compelled to ‘have all the answers’ . . . until a senior associate replied to a client, “Y’know that’s a good question.  I don’t have a clue . . . but let me do some digging into it and I’ll get back to you”.  After that, I found it was a ‘strength’ not a ‘weakness’ to accept and acknowledge my limits and commit to learn what I didn’t know but needed to know to grow (what else!) “more professional’ to my clients.

2.  Conviction
As the recent election showed, differences in position or opinion are perfectly acceptable.  If you prefer one candidate over another, it’s because someone had a clear position on what’s important and they didn’t compromise their values to please people or gain a short-term popularity (which you know won’t last!).

3.  Commitment
You know the term, “Keeping your word”?  Well, people do prefer to work with / support / follow people who do what they say.  As one staffer at a client told me, “I may not always agree with or like what ______ says we’re going to do, but I know she’ll do it and back me up if I do the same.  I can rely on her to create ‘no surprises’ and I really find that attractive!”

4.  Transparency
This suggests a lack of pretense and that’s what the famous JOHARI Window reveals — that organizations where people are transparent have the smallest facades and ‘blind-spots’ — two factors that correlate with highly effective organizations where communications and productivity are generally very, very high!

5.  Endorsement
This is what you DO when you ARE someone who endorses others on your staff.  I used to fly with a great pilot — John H. Phillips, USAF.  His greatest compliment to me was, “I’ve got your six”.  That was an endorsement that, if the you-know-what should hit the fan . . . I wouldn’t be alone.  That kind of support would make me march into the gates of Hell for John –– as I knew he’d do for me.   If you can instill that kind of esprit-d-corps in your staff, your competitors won’t be getting much sleep!

This post was inspired by a great post by Sharlyn Lauber  AKA the “HR Bartender”

KEY POINT:
Being a ‘professional’ isn’t what you say you are, it’s something you DO . . . and these 5 qualities are useful benchmarks to judge how well you’re doing it.

Keeping In Touch / Building Your Personal Brand

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Are you in a profession or field where selling WHO you are is just as important (if not more so) as WHAT you do for your clients?

I like to say, “If you focus on building transactions, you’ll fail to build relationships.  But if you focus on building relationships, you’ll build transactions, too”.  It’s a truth that will help take you to the bank . . . if you practice it in your business or practice!

My Advice:  Write Personal Notes
In these days when no one ever seems to have enough time to do everything we want to do, the mere act of setting aside the time to write a personal note  is a behavioral statement that, “Dang it, You Matter To Me!”.

Now I can’t speak for you, but most people are a little ‘stroke deprived’.  We get all kinds of you-know-what but never, so it seems, enough ‘love and recognition’ from others.  In basic human terms, we don’t get recognized as having value — in an unconditional way!  So . . . by sending a note to someone who’s a prospect, client or center-of-influence, you’re effectively validating that, at least to you, they matter!  And that, is what marks you as a person of interest and value to them.  That builds goodwill and . . . sooner or later . . . revenues for you.

And here’s a simple, powerful and highly effective way to do this . . .

Write One (1) Personal Note / Day
While there is value in doing more than this, let’s not overwhelm you before you even get started.  So I’m deliberately suggesting you ‘start small’ with this idea.  Once you get to the point where you’re consistently and conscientiously getting ONE personal note written (and, sent!) each day, you can ramp it up a bit.  But remember . . . ‘walk before you run’ . . . just doing ‘one note’ a day is far better than doing ‘no note’ a day.

By the way you don’t need to say a lot!  Something as simple as, “Dear Chris,   I just had a moment and wanted to say how much I admire how you never let the economy get you down.  You’re an inspiration to me.  Thank you, Dana” will work just fine!  In fact, you could even print up a nice ‘notecard’ for yourself as the gifted author (and prolific note-writer!) Bob Burg has done here:


Who and Why?
Your business network consists of many people who fall into three (3) main categories:

1.  Prospects
2.  Clients, and
3.  Centers-of-Influence

Each person in your network is in a position to do at least one of the following:

BUY . . . what you’re selling or doing, and/or
REFER . . . others to you / you to others . . . who can

Your network is your business lifeline . . . so it’s important to keep it working –– for you!  And there’s nothing like any act of recognition to demonstrate how important and valued they are to you.  That breeds tons of GOODWILL and BRAND PREFERENCE for you.  And, while that may not be a tangible asset on your balance sheet, it’s a critical factor that drives value to it.

But here’s the problem:  “HOW . . . do you stay on the ‘Mental Shelf’ of your prospects, clients or centers-of-influence in a way that makes you both memorable to and appreciated by these people?”

And, “HOW . . . do you get them to think of  you FIRST and FAVORABLY???”
whenever they (or, someone they know — a friend, family member, client, co-worker, etc.) — develop a ‘need-to-know’ about something YOU can do.

The Method . . . Ya Gotta Have a Method!
Here’s what I suggest you do . . . to get started.  Once you’re doing this for a few weeks, you’ll be ‘hooked’ on the practice because of all the positive and wonderful feedback (not to mention goodwill and business opportunities!) that will be coming your way.

Again, let’s keep this simple.  Make an appointment with yourself on a Saturday or Sunday for just 30 minutes. During your appointment with yourself, here’s what you want to do:

IDENTIFY . . . five (5) people you’d like to build (or, continue to build) a relationship with
CHOOSE . . . something about them worthy of noting — in a note, of course!
WRITE . . . a brief note to each person recognizing them for that quality or action you admire
PUT . . . each note in an envelope, address it  and add a stamp (remember those?)
SCHEDULE . . . to send out one note . . . for each day of the week

That’s it.  Kind of like working out at the gym.  Don’t overdo it.  But do get started.  The benefits you’ll enjoy will be amazing.  People will call you to say, “Thank You”.  Sometimes they’ll even say, “Funny how, after your note arrived, a friend called me looking for some help with . . . and I thought maybe you could help . . . here’s her number . . . why not give her a call and mention my name when you do . . . ”  Yes.  It WILL happen.  And yes, it is all good!

KEY POINT:
In a world where the simple act of recognition has become increasingly elusive, taking action to honor the relationships you have with your key people — by writing them a personal, handwritten note — is huge.  Hugely appreciated by your key people and hugely productive and profitable for you, as well.