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Welcome back.  My summer sabbatical is over and I’m ready to resume my work here on the blog with a renewed vision and refreshed energy!

In case you’re thinking, “Oh no!  He’s going to belabor the old ‘feature vs. benefit’ issue . . . I get it . . . people want ‘holes’ not ‘hand-drills’ . . .”  To which I’ll simply say, “PUT A SOCK IN IT!”  That’s so basic I’m not going to insult you by seeking to make that point . . . again.  Actually, I have something far more subtle and important to share on this.

“It’s Not Really About You”
I’ve  been noticing something that’s happening . . . a lot  . . . especially over the summer months.

I call it the “It’s Not Really About You” viewpoint that so many people in business and the professions are adopting.  And it’s not endearing them to their prospects and clients.

Here’s an example of how this played out:
I was talking with an attorney one of my clients had hired to help him resolve a minor legal matter.  Not serious.  But it had to be addressed.

At one point, I asked this attorney to explain the basis for the statement that my client just received.  I wasn’t challenging his bill, I was truly curious about what it represented.

Long story short, the attorney explained how he had to do this (and charged .5 hours for it) and then he had to do that (and charged 4.2 hours for that), and so on.

At the end, I just asked, “So tell me, after all this work . . . did the client get what he asked you to do for him in the first place?”. “Uh, not yet . . . but I’m working on it!”  True.  And he was very proud of the effort (and, time-consuming activities) he’d done on behalf of our mutual client.  But the client still did not have what he engaged this attorney to do for him in the first place.

In my own world, we’d had some work done on an online service (software) a developer built for us. At one point, it needed some ‘maintenance’.  So we hired a firm to correct the ‘bugs’ in the software.  At one point, we still had some issues — and a hefty bill from the developer.  I asked, “Why?”  The reply was essentially, “Look, we had to put in all kinds of time trying to figure out why the software wasn’t working as it should and THAT . . . is why we billed you for X hours of our time”.  The fact that my reason for hiring this firm hadn’t been addressed was (apparently) secondary to the primary interest of this firm to be paid for it’s time.  This firm had a legal right to be paid.  But their focus on their time vs. our outcome . . . was an emotional ‘wrong’ — to us as the clients.

It’s Way Beyond “Holes vs. Drills” . . . It’s About EMOTIONAL FULFILLMENT!
In both these cases, the providers of the service were ‘top shelf’ quality providers of their respective expertise.  I never doubted (still don’t!) their expertise.  But it seems to me that there is an inherent tendency to focus on WIIFM (M = ‘me’ as a provider) rather than WIIFTC (TC = ‘the Client’).

We can all take a lesson from the ‘contingency’ or ‘PI’ (personal injury) attorneys.  They’re a great example of professionals who are converting their expertise into compensation (roughly 33% of any damage award they win for a client).  While they do charge for expenses, that is not (or, shouldn’t be) the main basis for their compensation.  They are paid, pure and simply, for their . . . PERFORMANCE and RESULTS . . . that follow from their performance.

KEY POINT:
Focus more on what your client wants to receive by hiring you . . . and less on the time or activity their request may require.  The Result . . . is what your client wants, the Activity is what you want . . . just be sure you don’t lose sight of why you’re being paid  . . . to go into the swamp in the first place!

Every contact you make with a client or prospective client is a ‘Moment of Truth’.

You either make or break it . . . depending on how well you respond to the situation.

Much like our friend here on the right . . .

A Tail of Getting It Right
Recently, we had to take one of our cats to the Veterinarian for a dental cleaning.  While we love and trust our Veterinarian, we were a little apprehensive about this procedure because our pet would need to be anesthetized.

As a safety measure, our Vet did need to draw blood to analyze it as a way to make sure our cat could safely undergo the anesthesia and the dental procedure.  We expected that.

Surprise! . . . It  Isn’t Always a Good Thing
When we picked up our beloved Jake at the end of the day we got a surprise.  Actually a couple of them!  The bill for the dental cleaning was significantly higher than we expected.  Only a few months earlier, his sister Jasmine had her teeth cleaned and the bill was about half of what we were being charged for Jake.

The fee, while a surprise, didn’t concern us as much as the basis for the fee.  It seems there was more than one blood test performed.  That made us question if something had been ‘discovered’ from the first blood test that suggested a problem with Jake’s health.  In addition to that, there was a charge for “ICU services” and ‘hydration with lactated Ringers Solution’ that seemed odd and created a lot of consternation in my wife and I.

After sharing our concerns with our Vet and her practice manager, our fears about Jake’s health were allayed and the billing was adjusted.  Why?  Because it was the ‘right thing’ to do.  As a result, we’re even more pleased with our Veterinarian and her practice manager.

Look, things do happen.  That’s life.  But remember — it’s what you do AFTER things occur that is most telling about Y-O-U.

When The Bloom Goes BUST!
Also this week, a new garden shop opened in my town.  

They managed to get a nice piece written up and published in a local paper. The former owner had passed away.  A subsequent buyer tried to rekindle the magic but shut the doors within a year.  So now this newest owner seemed to suggest a ‘turnaround’ was about to happen.

Hello?  Is Anyone There?
The Garden Center’s ‘Grand Opening’ was last Sunday.   On Tuesday, my wife called to find out their operating hours.  No one answered the phone.  No machine.  Nothing.  So she went there to buy some products for the garden. Incredibly, there was no one at this ‘brand new’ Garden Center.  It was locked.  No staff.  Nothing.

Joyce then proceeded to go to a nearby competitor and bought what she needed.  When she told me what happened, she concluded with, “. . . and if they think they’ll ever see my money, they have another thing coming!”.  They lost a customer before they were open a week!

KEY POINT:
Good management is the basis for great marketing.  Promoting a firm that makes a customer or client mad, sad or scared is a guaranteed road to ruin!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you’re a business owner in 2012, you’re an exceptional individual.  You’ve survived one of the most challenging economic periods in history.  Congratulations.  You’re amazing.

At the same time, I bet that merely ‘surviving’ financially is not why you want to be in business.  Business is (and, I’ll reveal my own bias here) about growth!

There’s a Secret for Growing Revenues?
YES!  Years ago, as a management consultant at a large international trade association, I was mentored by a Gordon A. Kratz, CLU.  Gordon developed a process, delivered by myself and other consultants, that significantly increased the rate of growth for companies who used our process — relative to their peers that did not use our process.  It’s called The Profit Project™.

Release Strengths by Reducing Limitations
No company is perfect.  You have factors going for you (strengths) and factors going against you (limitations).  The secret is to leverage your strengths by reducing your limitations.

For example, if you have a great product but an ineffective distribution system, you want to work on your distribution system.  Improving your product, while easier, will not do as much to help you increase your revenues or growth.

Or, assume you’re generating leads, but your people aren’t servicing your customers.  In this case, training your people to create an ‘exquisite customer experience’ will get customers coming back –– with the higher margins for profit and growth their sales suggest.

Knowing What To Address Is Just The Beginning
Once you’ve isolated the addressable (key word!) ‘limitations’ in your business, you want to set goals to eliminate them. For each goal, you want to build an action plan to make it real. That gives you what every business owner wants — control –– of your future.

KEY POINT:
Growth reflects a process that is best implemented with advice from a consultant outside of the management team that is engaged in the daily operation of your business.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope you’d enjoy this brief trip back down ‘Memory Lane’ with me.  I sure did!

The Wizard of Oz contains the secret of business GROWTH.

You need (at least one!) a clear GOAL and a PLAN (of action) designed to help you reach it.

The other thing you need to be successful is . . . ACCOUNTABILITY!

Follow, Follow, Follow, Follow . . . Follow The Yellow-Brick Road!”
In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy has a clearly defined GOAL — to go the the Emerald City and find  the ‘great and all-powerful Wizard of Oz’.  After that she had another ‘bigger’ goal — to get back home to Kansas.  And, just like Dorothy, your business has multiple goals that all depend on still other goals to become realities.

Every business has a basic and clearly defined Goal — generate revenues and . . . profit.

Early in the story, Dorothy gets a road-map (literally!) to reach her goal – when the Munchkins tell her to, “Follow the Yellow Brick Road”.  (That was the 1939 equivalent of our modern GPS!)

But what happened to Dorothy?
She manages (catch my humor, there?) to recruit some staff members.  But she soon learns that her staff is far from perfect!  Tin-man has no heart (legal department?).  Scarecrow has no brains (operations?).  And the cowardly Lion has no courage (the sales force?).

Great way to start the process of achieving her goal!  Maybe you can relate?

The Wicked Witch of the West
The wicked witch represents the ‘force’ that makes many things ‘go awry’ during the implementation of any plan.  So it wasn’t surprising that Tin-man was threatened with water so he could rust again, Scarecrow was set on fire and Lion was scared into catatonic paralysis.

Later, Dorothy’s entire staff was easily distracted by being made to fall asleep by the Wicked Witch in the poppy field scene — making her ‘easy picking’ for those winged monkeys!

And THAT is why if you want to be successful . . . you need a Goal, a Plan and you need to be held accountable for doing what you planned to do in the first place.

KEY POINT:
Success reflects a PLAN to reach a GOAL and some way to be ACCOUNTABLE for doing whatever it takes to reach your goal and achieve success. 

 

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

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

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

Enjoy . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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