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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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“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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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.

“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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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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package

Constructing Your (Intangible Service) Package

Today, we’re going to delve into what it packaging your service really demands. It may help if you keep  “The Pure Powder Skiing Escape” from the 1/8/2013 post in mind as we do this.

Building Your Package . . . Step by Step

In this post, I’m going to explain the first 2 of the 9 steps shared in part 3.  With this insight, creating a ‘package’ for your service will become much much easier!

Step 1:  DEFINE . . . your CORE BENEFIT
Everything you do should be a harmonic reflection of your business’ purpose — as your clients would describe it.  And your package is simply a ‘bundle’ of elements that produce that beneficial difference in a client’s life.  If you start out with the ‘end’ clearly in mind, then the components that lead someone to that destination become equally clear to you.

Take McDonald’s Happy Meal as an example.  That’s a ‘package’ in every sense of the word. Burger.  Fries (or, fruit!), drink and toy (God forbid they forget to put the toy in the bag, eh?).

Parents buy Happy Meals (not kids).  So what is the real benefit a McDonald’s Happy Meal gives a parent?  According to what I can tell, it’s “7 minutes”.  Huh?  Well, think about it.  A parent buys a Happy Meal . . . so they’ll get “7 minutes” to wolf down their own food before their kid drags them outside to the play in the playscape.

POINT:
Start by focusing on the Big Picture / end result / ultimate benefit . . . it makes building your package a breeze (well, relatively so!).

Step 2:  REVIEW . . . Your RECENT CLIENTS
In marketing, it’s often helpful to use a ‘personna’ or ‘avatar’ — a mental construct that embodies or represents the essential qualities of your ‘Ideal Client’ — to write to, speak to . . . when you’re seeking to communicate effectively with your clients.  

For example, allow me to introduce you to “Harry”.  Harry is a client personna constructed out of the collective experiences of many different clients.  He’s the owner of a company that employs 28 people.  Harry’s clients are ‘significantly above average’ in terms of their total household income.  Harry’s company offers a variety of services to these people. He’s got a lot of competitors to contend with on any given day.  Which doesn’t make Harry too happy.  Why?  Well, lately, his margins have been squeezed a bit because . . . (you getting the idea?).

You want to create a ‘Harry’ (or, Harriet) for your business.  It helps you focus on WHO it is you’re building this package for in the first place!  Your package should contain ‘everything ‘Harry’ wants or needs and nothing he doesn’t’.  But if you don’t know who it is you’re building a package for . . . you’re likely to get it wrong.  You may include ‘nice but not critical’ stuff.  Or worse, you may (inadvertently of course!) omit something critical to Harry’s enjoying the benefit he’s buying your package to create and enjoy.

POINT:
Build a marketing personna or avatar based on your best and most recent clients.  Keeping your ‘Harry’ in mind as you build your package will make sure it’s attractive AND effective!

Don’t want to wait?  Download the full Special Report . . . NOW!

“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. 

This post is provided courtesy of my distinguished colleague, Kurian Tharakan.  Kurian lives in Edmonton, Canada (Brrr!) and is one of the newer and brighter stars of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.  I am so impressed by his experience and insight that I asked him to share some of both in today’s post.  Check out his website before you go . . . Enjoy!   

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It may surprise you to know this, but most people simply do not spend every minute of every waking moment thinking about you and your amazingly wonderful product or service. It would be great if this weren’t true, but most people have other more mundane things on their minds: mortgage payments, the boss, the kids, career paths, vacation plans, in-laws, etc.

It is therefore imperative to understand that for maximized sales revenues you will have to “CUE” people to “REMEMBER” positioning and feature/benefit elements at the most critical time: THE BUYING MOMENT. Everything that happens before this only serves to “prime” the sale. THE BUYING MOMENT is the true test of your marketing campaign. As well, it will be an all-or-nothing response from the customer: either they buy or they don’t! Your advertising and promotion campaigns are meaningless if the customer cannot remember what your offer is supposed to be about at the buying moment. A classic example of this is the tale of Energizer vs. Duracell batteries.

Do you remember the cute little Energizer bunny? You know, the one beating the little drum in all those television commercials that keeps going, and going, and going, and, well, you know…going. The point is clear: Energizer batteries last a long time. However, in market research tests on memory recall, most people could not remember which brand of batteries the little bunny represented (in fact a lot of people thought it was Duracell). So at the till, where all marketing efforts are supposed to converge and produce results, the expensive promotion and advertising campaigns of Energizer weren’t being much help.

What was the solution? Aid the memory recall process. Energizer started placing a picture of its bunny on all of its battery packaging. This made it much easier for the customer to RECALL that this was the same battery advertised in all those commercials.

KEY POINT:
Always make it easy for your customer to say “yes” by not only providing critical information about the purchase decision at the right time, but also by assisting their memory recall process with memory cues.

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! 

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!