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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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“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

What is a ‘Package’ . . . Really?

Unlike packaging for a tangible product — think ‘Book Cover’, the package for your intangible service is totally different.  It’s not some container into which you pour your service, it’s not an image you use to promote your service and it’s not a set of ten (10) cassettes in which your service can be sold.

So, what is it?  Good question.  Here’s a good example to show what I mean:

“The Pure Powder Skiing Escape”

If you’re a serious skier who’s tired of the crowded, packed powder runs of New England and you yearn to ski in the wide open spaces . . . one day you make a decision to visit your friendly old travel agent.  Once you’ve told her about your disappointment with the heavy crowds and the packed powder problems you’ve had skiing in New England, you hear, “I’ve got exactly what you want –– The Pure Powder Skiing Escape!  (feeling excited already?)

It’s seven days of deep powder, no crowds, no phones, no fax machines, no kids (your option) and no demands on you except to have a great time!  We’re talking Utah here — where the powder is deep, the crowds are gone and the people are great.

The Pure Powder Skiing Escape includes your airfare, hotel, and all lifts.  You can stay at any one of six lodges and ski any day at any of three top-rated ski areas.  Or, for an extra $450 you can have a 3 bedroom, fully furnished condo that’s just a 5 minute walk to the base lodge or the tri-area transportation bus station.

I can also include a meal plan that provides a hearty breakfast and dinner each day if you wish.  Sound good or would you like the option of exploring the local restaurants on your own?  (Yeah, I thought you would, too.)

To get around the area we include a mid-size rental car with free mileage; an upgrade to a full-size luxury car is just $85 more. If you like we can include some optional activities: ski lessons: group or private as well as horseback riding or snowmobiling day trips in the high country.  Not for you, huh?  (I understand . . . been there / done that.  I get it!)

Now you can leave any day Monday through Friday. And, we include without charge, door-to-door limo service and all ground transportation in Utah.  Naturally, we handle all baggage checks for you.  The basic price of The Pure Powder Skiing Escape is $3,200 or $4,000 per person if you fly first class.  You can charge it on your credit card — we accept American Express, Visa, MasterCard, Discovery and Diners Club.  So now . . . the only question I’ve got for you is this:  “When do you want to go?”  

My friend, THIS is what I call a powerful package!

If you’re a serious skier who’s had it up to here with crowded trails and packed powder skiing, I’ll bet this ‘package’ of travel services is very, very compelling, right?  Could YOU do the same for your particular expertise?  If you’re not sure, we’ll examine why this package ‘works’ and how you can apply the same principles to achieve success in packaging your expertise, too.

To recap this PART 2 on Packaging Your Services:  

•  a ‘package’ provides what your Ideal Client wants

•  a ‘package’ includes everything needed to do that

•  a ‘package’ is the FIRST thing a client gets from you!

In PART 3, I’ll deconstruct the Pure Powder Skiing Escape — so you can do the same

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. 

In today’s crazy, hurry-up-and-make-it-happen kind of world, the desire for immediate (or, short-term vs. longer-term) gratificationis a force to recognize and reckon with . . . if you want to help prospects become clients and clients become repeat clients!

procrastination visual

See www.despair.com for more like this!

Our friends at www.despair.com are always ready to provide a moment of mirthful visual sobriety — and humor — sharing truths about how we humans are truly ‘built’ and ‘operate’.

As the poster spoofs, “. . . laziness always pays off NOW”.  Relative to ‘hard work’ and ‘delayed gratification’, getting more immediate reward will usually win out.

“Please, Don’t Make Me Wait!”
In your marketing, you might want to apply this notion by making it easy for your reader, listener or viewer to ‘get’ what they want from you . . . quickly and easily.

If you assume a prospective client or customer is visiting you website . . . for a reason . . . then make it as simple as possible for them to get what they want . . . be it information or a way to buy what you’re offering.

This requires some thoughtful attention to your navigation, your copy or content and, of course, your Calls-To-Action. These allow people to get something you want them to have –– and they’ll really want . . . kind of like this . . .

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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.

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! 

I recently opened my local town flyer / paper and saw THIS:

This has to be the ultimate in self-centered marketing.

I mean, OK . . . every business wants ‘new customers’ . . . but Geez . . . couldn’t you give me, as a prospective client, a more personally compelling reason to work with you?  Like maybe something that would appeal to me?

Marketing 101:  WIIFM?
Obviously, this company is NOT a marketing company.  So maybe they should get a little latitude when it comes to crafting a compelling message that will attract the attention — and response — of prospects for the services and benefits it offers.  But then again . . . this is a glaring gaffe.

What They Might Have Done
Unfortunately, these local papers are often not known for having marketing talent on staff.  So I don’t think there was anyone involved from the business or the publication who knew much better.  But what would have been ‘better’?  Couple of thoughts:

AIDA
This is a ‘formula’ for successfully creating a compelling marketing message.

A = Attention . . . you have to ‘grab’ it or you’ll lose it before you have it — this is what the headline does (or, should do for you!)

I = Interest . . . you must keep your reader involved.  How?  Talk about what matters to them (and that’s rarely about you / your company!!)

D = Desire . . . you want to engage the emotions of your reader.  How?  Talk about what isn’t ‘right’ and what ‘much better’ looks like — as they define it.

A = Action . . . you want to invite a response from your reader.  How?  Make them an offer (they can’t refuse!) to take some ‘next step’ with you

OK . . . that’s rudimentary.  But what would that mean in the same space in this paper?  Let’s see . . . how about this:

Granted, it’s not bad for about 2 minutes of ‘creative’ time . . . but here’s why it’s different than the other ad and how it’s better:

A . . . Attention    This headline WILL make you stop and investigate –– “Will you make you neighbors CRY?”  is an attention grabber, for sure!

I . . . Interest    By talking about the reader’s lawn . . . and whether it’s going to make people cry with envy or laugh with disjoin. . . is reader-centric (for a change!)

D . . . Desire     Talking about what the reader really wants . . . and  desires (a great lawn!) . . . is certainly emotionally engaging!

A . . . ACTION   By offering both a ‘package’ (The “Make Your Neighbors Cry” package and an urgent (call by Oct 15) CALL-TO-ACTION (offer) this meets the test

OK, is this the BEST ad you could do?  Probably not.  But, compared to what the other competitors are offering, it’s does stand out and often, that’s enough to generate a winning ad and make some money as a result.

KEY POINT:
When creating promotional copy of any kind — an ad, a brochure, etc. ALWAYS think about what you’re saying from the point-of-view of your prospect.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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