What Can You Give

What can you give your customers that no one else can?

When you’re developing business, decide what it is – what service, good or unique proposition (i.e. benefit) – do you supply that they cannot get anywhere else or from anyone else.

img_51851The key here is to decide what your core is all about. The book, Uncommon Service, digs right into this idea. What do you want to do well – great, really – and therefore what do you do poorly. What will you be great at and therefore what will suffer (in the service of bad)?

You cannot literally be great at every single facet of every single entity. It’s unreasonable and exhausting. You’d kill yourself and your business in the process.

What you can do is decide where you’re great – where and how and why do you give what no one else does – to accomplish that greatness, and let the not-so-hot fall away.

The book is worth your time and attention. As a voracious reader, I am quickly learning to see which books are worth my time, which have ideas of usefulness for me and move on as logical.

Enjoy the book and tell me what book you’d recommend in return. Thanks.

Do Something

Myriad resources exist for business owners and operators. On that thought, here are some insight today from one of my go-to’s: the local SBDC, Small Business Development Centers.

Jack Vitacco, Director of my local branch, delivered a talk this year where these ideas came from. Enjoy, use, apply.

Do something.

Nothing happens until something is sold.

Get off your butt.

Money, authority, need = right contacts

There’s a difference between a prospect and a suspect; a suspect has no intention to listen or purchase.

Know your clients’ needs, get to the benefits.

Offer the how-to with the sale.

Listen, acknowledge, question.

Ask ‘check in’ questions, i.e. “is this what you meant by ….” to clarify

“Are there some questions I haven’t answered yet?”

Pictures and Words

If the idiom goes, A picture is worth a thousand words, what is each of those words worth?

Marketing is all about communications. Communication can be put forth by words, by pictures, by land and sea and….you get the idea.

So what are the marketing words worth? What about the marketing picture – that’s that worth? Is it truly 1000 Words? I don’t think so.

What's this picture worth?

What’s this picture worth?

I think the picture is worth as many words – from few to many – as it’s worth. 1000, 200, 365 or 75,489.

The key here is to communicate value, in however many words or pictures it takes; not more than – enough. If you need to expound, then do so after the initial message has been put forth, not before.

Your audience will decide how many words are needed and what they are worth. That’s where business engages.

  • Choose your words wisely. Efficiency and efficacy = goal.
  • Choose your pictures wisely. Specificity and clarity = key.

Tactics For Everyday Branding

How can I market myself as a brand when it feels uncomfortable “tooting my own horn”? 

1. Get comfortable with being confident in your own abilities, in your own style. Said another way, stand tall, be relaxed, be ready.
2. Decide what you want to do most – top three services – and practice talking about them out loud; to yourself, to valued qualified friends (hint, hint) and in your car. Start hearing how you’re coming across and what you really want to say and how you really want to say it will rise to the top.
Tactics for everyday branding

Tactics for everyday branding

3. If the car doesn’t toot its own horn, how will anyone know about it? It’s supposed to and can be done well, tactfully and effectively.

How can I navigate social media while promoting my brand? Do I need to do twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest? Or, do certain demographics like certain platforms best? 
1. Choose the platforms that do 2 things: 1. fit you and your agenda and goals and 2. are used by your clients and potential clients. Some basic surfing will help you see the top platforms used, what they do/how they work/why they’re around and why people use them. Give yourself a check-up once a year to make sure you’re still in the direction that fits, per the above. Adapt as needed.
2. It’s easy to drown in the Should Ocean; you ‘should’ only do the things that fit for you and your goals and business. Let the rest go.
3. Really, too many tools makes the message cloudy and very difficult to maintain. For instance, I put my Facebook into dormant stage recently – I don’t enjoy it and so am not great at it nor am I motivated to manage it. It’s been a huge smart move for me; I love Twitter AND know that your website is The Most Important Tool for marketing and communication you can have. If you only have one tool, make it a very well executed (though not complicated or busy) website that people can easily find, navigate and use.

What tips do you have for cold calling potential clients? Any conversation starters to put them at ease and not seem pushy?

1. I don’t generally cold call. What I do is write warm-up letters and emails to targeted clientele. Letters with a specific purpose, question and angle clearly outlined.
2. This process will help me vet – who actually replies, who doesn’t (therefore I don’t want to engage), and what they need and want. Plus it tends to lead to referrals forward; be sure to let them know you’re glad to be forwarded to a better party if they aren’t the one to speak with.
3. From there I’ll line up phone calls to learn more about them and what they have in front of them; listening is the #1 asset in the first phone call. Never pitch in the first call. If they ask you what you have in mind, be ready with your top 3 (as above) services you feel may be of help to them.
4. You can sleep on just about everything that comes your way. Write the letter, send it, do the follow-up call and hear them out. Thank them, tell them you’ll be back with them soon with more thoughts, then do just that: sleep on it, then reply to them as appropriate. This gives you time to distill, consider and maybe do a bit more research on them.
5. FYI I don’t do a lot of front end research before calling; it’s too time intensive and can go nowhere; I save it for when the client looks truly promising. I know enough to get started and then go from there.
6. All communication should have some educational value. Is it worth their time? – reading your letter or email? If so, great. Is it all about them? It should be, not about you.

What else?

Make It Happen Postcard

In reviewing various business files lately, I came across this day-maker from years back:


I wanted to see if there was any possible way for you to send me a MAKE IT HAPPEN card once again. I received it from you back in September and have it on my desk at work. I wrote a few notes on the card, but I have had several people come in and say that is a great motto.  I would like to hang it on a bulletin board, but now it looks goofy because I wrote a few numbers on it.

Hope all is well!



Matt Thompson
Dean of Student Services
Southwestern Community College
Creston, IA

The set up here is that Matt is a previous valued client. He invited me to present The Power Of The Customer Experience talk I give for his faculty and staff. Two sessions, two audiences, two groups of moving and shaking people helping build futures for their clients.

I’ve long extolled and used postcards as a communication mechanism. In this case I had sent Matt a thank you postcard, one with ‘Make It Happen’ printed on it. Since I’m really dedicated to consistent and timely communication, he got a new one post-haste. I maintain a stack of ready to use postcards with various messages at all times. They’re a super handy and effective and fun army of brand soldiers at the ready.

Direct mail is still a very effective way to stay in touch, reach out, reconnect and generate business. Especially in the age of many people only using electronic communication. Real life happens in person, not via the internet or via texting or any other sites we may think are the basis of our life.

Postcard army, at the ready.

Postcard army, at the ready.

Communication is marketing. Marketing is communication. And it’s always easier to continue to communicate and build business with attention to presence. Staying top of mind is calling people to see how they are. That’s it – not to sell or pressure. Some of the most productive phone calls are going to be the ones that you initiate to indicate the person on the other end of the line is someone who matters to you.

Don’t you like hearing from someone you like hearing from? Then call. Call people, often. Keep a log with who, best number and notes on what you talked about. By the time you’ve really established the relationship, you’ll be a long way towards conducting business – by serving that person who you now know well and can best take care of. (aka “warm calls”)

Be mindful: when you make phone calls, make sure to ask if it’s a good time to talk. Don’t overstay your welcome or barge into their day without permission to converse, even for a short bit. Busy people welcome phone calls from conscientious people.

You can make it happen for yourself. Stay in touch, be savvy about who you contact to best utilize our time, theirs and business development will follow.

Please Don’t Listen To Me

You’ve got a full life, a full agenda and plenty to do. Please don’t listen to me.

That said, when you find yourself stymied by the everyday branding you are trying to understand, surmount and conquer, then do listen to me.

Where is your brand showing up?

Where is your brand showing up?

The everyday branding of life in business as we know is one of the areas clients hire me for the most – they want ideas, strategy and tactics, explanation and creativity to get them out of an unproductive rut and into a groove.

Everyday branding includes who is representing your brand, when do they show up and where, how do they respond to questions and move conversations forward to serve clients, and what’s the frequency of presence. It can feel like a slog for some – for me, it’s fun – in large part because I know what I’m doing.

Am I bragging?

No, not really. I’m stating that I can help people with everyday branding ideas and concerns and tactics that will be productive for them in their businesses.

Am I confident in my abilities and expertise to help others?

Absolutely. I love what I can do for and with other to build their futures, lives and businesses.

When you’re ready to amp up your business through your marketing, call me. That’ll be the time to listen.

Answer & Problem

Fill in the blanks:

This is the problem ___________________________

This is the answer ____________________________

Was that easy or difficult or somewhere in between? Why?

If your concern lies with marketing, then the answer from me to any problem = What’s your current marketing strategy? How is it set up to best fit the progress of your business? When’s the last time you reviewed and discussed the plan with your crew? What needs to change and how will you change things?

Build your best effort in marketing like you would build a solid wall.

Build your best effort in marketing like you would build a solid wall.

Marketing is like a wall built of bricks. There are many pieces and unified they support your entire business. If you’re missing one, then you notice. Sure, it may seem like a ‘small’ hole, yet there’s a hole all the same. Hole size is irrelevant when you need to build a solid plan – a solid wall – in your marketing.

Think of your endeavor as building a brick wall. Choosing the right site, the right building materials (perhaps wood is better), procure, prep and build. Then monitor and maintain and repair as needed for best long-term life of the wall and your business.

Really, there’s no such thing as a problem when you have a solid wall you’re building. The vision of your marketing strategy is your superintendent and will help guide you forward.

Now, go get your trowel and get moving.

Go From Dabbling To Doing

Do you enjoy the minutia of everyday business ownership? Said another way, why did you get into business? Do do what you really love or to get mired in the desk work of everyday keep-the-business-running tasks?

I’d bet money that you got into it to change the world with your talents; not to balance your checkbook and check emails. If you’re in the business of helping others accomplish the tasks they wish to contract out, I – for one – am grateful for you. The very first pro I interviewed and hired when I started my first business was my accounting pro.

She freed me up to do what I needed to do to make the business go. The light of liberation came on and has burned ever since.

Are you dabbling (staying still) or doing (moving)?

Are you dabbling (staying still) or doing (moving)?

Here’s the good news: you have the key to those handcuffs you put on yourself. Today’s the day. Go from dabbling in your marketing to doing.

  1. Review your business plan. If you don’t have one, put one together. A business plan is more than getting your paper ducks in a row to court investors. It’s about having a plan to guide you forward. The marketing portion of the plan is key.
  2. Specifically review your marketing plan. Is it still valid and workable? Do you need to circle back (and possibly rewrite) your vision and mission statement to help guide your marketing strategy?
  3. Get help. There are myriad professionals and agencies ready and able to assist business owners with their plans. Get a handful of recommendations from other successful business people (not your neighbor who isn’t in business for themselves), interview a few who you connected with, consider and then hire.
  4. Hire different pros for different reasons. I’d also recommend hiring in a team-think; when you hire, for example, 2 graphic designers instead of one, you get a mushroom cloud of ideas – not just a single stream. Be sure to make it clear if you have multiple specialists they know each other and are good in working together. While a lot of us ‘do the same thing’, we really don’t since we’re different people with different experience and perspective.

Smart businesses hire the right help. They understand it takes a village of vision-sharing people to make the effort move forward. The right help – aka partners – will do what they’re really good at so you can do what you’re really good at. It’s a team you’re building for your happiness and success.

While most businesses seem to dabble in marketing, most execute poorly. And no wonder. They’re not marketing pros – they’re focused on other things. My ideal clients are those people who know they need a marketing partner to help them accomplish their goals. One of them told me recently, “I’m smart enough to know I need help.” Bingo.

Hiring the right pros takes you from dabbling to doing.

Get rid of the “I can do it myself” thinking to “who will help me amp my operations, freeing me up to do what I really want to do.” Then you’re really headed somewhere.