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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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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.

Getting Found Online

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Google SearchOK, so yesterday . . . I made a post on this blog: “Inbound Marketing in Connecticut”.

Today — just one day later — I do a search on Google for what I’d like to think a prospective client might type into Google assuming, of course, that they were interested in ‘Inbound Marketing’ and entered (as many do) a geographic factor i.e. ‘Connecticut’.

Relevance Makes You Rise To The TOP!
Well, lo and behold . . . My post is found on PAGE 1 of the Google search for the phrase (some call it a ‘long-tail keyword’) that was the title of my post.  (you can check it for yourself — click the image to open in a new window!).  

What Were The Ingredients That Worked?
First, I
t was only 230 words (quality beats quantity in a blog post, folks!). Second, I used the keyword phrase ‘inbound marketing’ but in a meaningful and relevant way.  Third, I included a video that was ranked well on YouTube.  Fourth, I used the phrase (keyword) ‘Outbound Marketing’. Nothing magical there.  Just basic SEO that you can do, too.

Something is missing from yesterday’s post, though.  Can you tell what it is?  If not, I’ll share it tomorrow.

KEY POINT:
Content attracts people who are looking for what you do . . . so plan to use it effectively in 2012. 

Don’t (just) Chum . . . CATCH!

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In the movie, “Jaws!” there’s a scene where the shark hunters are chumming — putting a vile-smelling concoction of fish parts over the side to attract sharks to the boat for a ‘great day of fishing!”.

As you may also recall, Roy Schneider’s character got a classic line when, after chumming, ‘Jaws’ rears his head out of the water startling Schneider and he says, “I think we’re gonna need a bigger boat”.

Bigger boat? Are you kidding me?  How about a bigger HOOK or HARPOON or NET or . . . something to catch what you attract!

Attraction is Good . . . Catching is Better!
Attracting the shark was only 50% of their challenge’.  The other 50% was actually catching it!. It’s no different for your business and your website visitors.  If all you do is attract visitors to your website but you don’t catch them . . . all your work to attract them to you in the first place will be for naught!

Are You Capturing Your Website Visitors?
A recent survey of over 2.500 SMB’s by MerchantCircle/Reply.com revealed that ”SEO Is The Single Most Important Marketing Channel For Small to Mid Size Businesses.”

As the graph shows, SEO or Seach-Engine-Optimization was easily the most attractive option.

OK, that’s nice –– a nice START!  Merely attracting traffic won’t put money in your bank.  You have to ‘convert’ your visitors into qualified leads.  If you don’t you’re wasting your time and money on SEO-only vendors.

KEY POINT:
If you ‘only’ attract traffic to your website but you don’t convert faceless visitors into viable prospects, all the SEO in the world will be for naught! 

Rules for Building Relationships Online

I get a daily email from HARO (Help A Reporter Out) — brainchild of Peter Shankman. HARO is a service that provides a venue for reporters and bloggers and sources of news and information to connect. It’s totally free and it’s made Shankman well-known and a hero to many of us who seek quality sources for our content.

Recently, he spoke at a blogging conference on how to build relationships online. He was a smashing success, holding the room spellbound for 90 minutes sharing his views on life as much as business. Here are 4 highlights from his talk:

Own It — whatever you do online with a project, share it.  Things won’t always go as you like.  It happens (or, something like that!).  Do your best to make things right.  To make things work.  And if you don’t or can’t . . . own it.  People will regard and respect you more than if you live in denial and seek to blame others for the situations you may find yourself in.

Be Relevant — building a base of fans requires that you offer what people want.  People don’t care about you.  They care about themselves.  If you honor that by offering what they want, they’ll give you what you seek — support and attention and loyalty.

Learn How To Communicate — people have all the time in the world as well as the attention span of a gnat!  If you want to attract and keep the attention of people, you must learn how to make your content not only relevant but rendered coherently as well.

Keep In Touch — it’s so easy to make connections online but it’s difficult to build them into relationships of substance.  Peter suggests making yourself uncomfortable.  “Call people and say, “Hi, how are you doing?”.  It’s going to be difficult.   But it’s also going to make you stand out.  In a good way.

6 Questions To Ask Every Client (#4)

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What Can I / We Do BETTER?

This question is designed to help you learn what you can do to increase your ATTRACTIVENESS FACTOR to the kind of people you’d like to have as your clients.

The previous question reminded you of how difficult it is to see yourself as others see you.  That’s why knowing how and where your customers would like you to DO BETTER by them is so valuable to you as a marketer.

When you ask this question, LISTEN . . . see if you can place the answers you get fall into one of the following categories of response:

1. Something you should . . . STOP DOING
2. Something you should . . . START DOING
3. Something you should . . . DO BETTER

If you think about it, these are the only three (3) ways that a performance GAP can be described.  So if you want to be better, you’ll find the answers you seek must fall into one or more of these three (3) approaches.

Kind of makes life simple, doesn’t it?

This question will reveal ways for you to remain and grow increasingly attractive to people who fit your Ideal Client profile.

KEY POINT:
Learn what you can DO BETTER . . . as your Ideal Client sees it!

Ignorance Isn’t a Bad Thing

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“I don’t know” isn’t the end of the world
When I was starting out in business, I was reluctant to tell a prospect, “I don’t know” when I was asked a question about how taxes, policy provisions or  business law would affect them.

As I ‘matured’ in my career, I learned to get real — real comfortable admitting, “I don’t know” to many of the questions I was being asked.

Be ‘OK’ being ‘Not-OK’
Social psychologists have proven over and over again that your ability to openly acknowledge that you are NOT perfect . . . that you don’t have all the answers . . . actually makes you more attractive to a prospective client.

Seek to demonstrate . . . “Credible Candor”
The fact is . . . your ‘trustworthiness’ factor goes up whenever you exhibit what I call, “Credible Candor”.  This means you say, when it’s true, “I don’t know”.  This makes you more ‘real’ (i.e. less ‘plastic’) and, therefore highly attractive to prospects.  Just be sure you add something like, “. . . but I’ll make sure I find out for you!”.

What you DO is more telling than anything you might SAY to a prospect or client.  Behavior that reveals you’re not perfect in every way – makes you seem  even more perfect to others.

KEY POINT:
Be Human . . . you’ll reveal your imperfections . . . and become more attractive 

 

Offering Value . . . Attracts Blog Traffic

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If you have kids, you understand.  If you want them to do something you want, you have to address the old ‘WIIFM’ — “What’s In It For Me?” issue in terms they’ll appreciate.

Valued Content ATTRACTS . . . People To You
A key purpose of blogging is to attract people to you who care about what you know and what you can do . . . for them.  Your blog’s content needs to address what your desired readers want to know and, if known, is likely to produce significant value for them to enjoy.

Click on the image above.  If you were a financial advisor, a mortgage broker, a P&C agent, an attorney or even a CPA . . . offering such information would be very likely to attract people whose need-to-know aligns nicely with your expertise and services, wouldn’t it?  See?

Valued Content CONVICTS . . . People About Your Authority
A good post will cause people to find you.  That’s what organic search is all about — causing your post/s to appear on ‘Page 1’ when a prospective client types a query into Google.

But the post itself must render meaningful value in the form of useful insights and practical actions that a blog reader can use to enhance their life.  When you do that, people see you as an expert in your field.  That translates into AUTHORITY which builds your CREDIBILITY and reduces the RISK of hiring you.

KEY POINT:
Offering VALUABLE content is ATTRACTIVE and builds AUTHORITY for you and your business