Archives for June 2007

Public Speaking: How to put your best foot forward

SpeakingWhen we speak in front of an audience, what is it we are saying about ourselves?

You have to agree that speaking in public involves many dynamics. We have witnessed all styles of presenting. Some out there use a script, while others do not. Many speakers use props, side men and games. Do you like a podium or do you opt for a lapel mike? What about support materials such as presentation graphics? Do you have follow-up products to distribute or sell? Do you position yourself as a paid presenter or do you use speaking engagements as a marketing exercise to gain new leads?

What ever your intention, it is important that you look at the entire picture when you are presenting to your intended audience. Whether your audience paid to be there or not, you are using their time which is valuable. They have taken the time out of their busy schedules to hear what you have to say and hopefully they can get some tip as to how they might make more money from what you have to say. If you are going to present as an expert in your field you have to present that image also.

One successful technique for engaging an audience is:
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Are You Running Your Own Race?

I love the story about the old African American woman who’s informed by someone that she should do this, and she must do that. And her response is: “I ain’t gotta do nuthin’, ’cept stay black and die.”

How often do we do things in business just because someone told us we should? Just because we believe, often with blind faith, that it will help take us to the promised land? Too often in my opinion.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how we’re bombarded with directions – should do’s and must do’s – in all areas of our life, but perhaps especially in business. And of course, if you’re doing what you should be, you’re probably reading and listening to a bucket load of information about how to conduct and grow your business. I mean let’s face it, every man and his dog is telling you what you should do…

Become a blogger, be the expert, do speaking engagements, follow-up, cold call, network, stand on your head and chant “I love the customer” 50 times a day, (okay, I made that one up), and on and on ad nauseam.

Now, while it’s great to listen and learn (especially from people who’ve done it), should we take it all as gospel? Do we just follow blindly? And if not, how do we determine which bits to ignore? And what if something we’re instructed to do doesn’t sort of “fit right” – do we still do it anyway, because we’re told we should? In other words: Does OUR success lie up the path that someone else has laid? I honestly believe the answer to that is yes and no.

I think there are certain fundamentals that we need to adhere to in order to succeed, but in my opinion there’s a lot to be said for tailor-making your journey to success. So as far as I’m concerned, they can take their should and shove it!

Here’s how I now approach it:
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IS SHOCK AND AWE PUBLICITY A VIABLE BRANDING STRATEGY?

In the heyday of the Internet (late 90s) there was a company whose CEO did a web conference in his underwear. I don’t recall the specific company but I most certainly remember the instance. This “stunt” did effectively leverage the “shock and awe” buzz factor to garner media attention, but I can’t really say it likely did much for the company’s reputation long-term.

I equate this type of publicity to the multitude of whiz-bang sensory-overload commercials we see today that bombard us with sometimes-outrageous audio/visual stimulation but typically do little to truly sell us on the value of the company’s products or services. I mean just because a one-legged monkey with a Mohawk is riding a skateboard really well on a ramp and drinking a certain type of soda, doesn’t mean I want to purchase the same soft drink. I can’t tell you how many times I hear someone talking about a really neat commercial but can’t remember the name of the company behind it. Is this effective branding? I don’t think so.

There is most certainly something to be said for creating an ad or marketing piece that people will remember, but it is equally as important to make sure the viewer’s recollection is one of your brand’s value, not just how entertaining your communication was. In my branding and communications strategy for my business I utilize a formula to ensure I’m on the right track in terms of effectively communicating value to my clients and prospects. Here are the simple rules I follow diligently in all of my sales and marketing communication:
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Stronger Sales in a Slow Economy!

In North America’s industrial heartland where the automobile is king, industry is going through some trying times. As a result of this downturn many support industries are also feeling the pain. If you are in this demographic – you know exactly where I’m coming from. Sales are flat and the sales team is getting very frustrated and are looking at last years numbers as something to aspire to. They’d be happy to just hold their own.

Of course as the visionary of the company, you can’t fulfill your dream just holding your own. You are also keenly aware of the economy but being the optimist, you are out here in the blogisphere looking for solutions. I would suggest you look at your brand positioning and see if it truly differentiates you from the competition. My guess is that within your market and category everyone is playing follow the leader. As a matter of fact over the many years you and they have been in business, you’ve all done quite well following this model. After all, you’ve sawn off a respectable chunk of business and have put the kids through college doing it.

Would you consider entertaining a bold direction that would help your company to grow in slow times?

Would you be interested in invigorating your sales team and move them away from their status quo mentality?

Sure you would!

Wouldn’t this be better than waiting for the marketplace to come back, and you leave you carrying on as a commodity?

Of course it would!

No brainers right?

What’s the solution?
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Branding at a Trade Show

I just returned from a conference, which had over 100 exhibitors in the exhibit hall. In over 20 years of both attending and displaying at trade shows, I marvel at how badly many companies manage the opportunity to promote their brand. Here are a few tips for more effective branding on the exhibit floor:

1. Make your booth presentation simple and uncluttered. People are drifting past, making decisions in seconds about whether your booth is worth stopping at. A graphically appealing, open, and readily understood booth presentation will tend to draw people forward. A cluttered, boxed-in look, without any clear message about who you are and what you offer, will guarantee lots of walk-bys.

2. Concentrate on one message in the (visual) booth presentation. Tell who you are and what you do – one thing! – in the booth wording and graphic(s). Many companies fall into the trap of creating panels that are essentially static Powerpoint slides – bullet points of everything they do. Remember – you are trying to grab attention in seconds, not provide a written sales pitch. Save the additional words for when someone actually stops.
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A Hidden Treasure: Selling at the Weekend Markets

I recently suggested the weekend markets as a sales and marketing avenue to a friend who has a new and fabulous game. While “selling” the idea to him it got me thinking about all the things I learnt from my own experience selling my merchandise at the weekend markets last year. I learnt a heap about sales and marketing and had a ball in the process.

Although much is done online these days, if you have a physical product to sell, I highly recommend the weekend markets as the ultimate platform for testing how your rubber hits the road – how well you know your product and your market, how you engage with it, what the demand is, and how people respond to your stuff. This is particularly useful if you’re just starting out.

Markets can vary greatly, so I tested a few different ones until I found the one that was the best fit for my products and me personally.

Now before you turn your nose up, consider this: The majority of people who go to markets are already in “buying mode”. They’re cashed up and looking to offload it. It was an eye-opener for me just how much money is out there! Many stallholders at markets (around Australia) make a very handsome living. In fact, quite a few of them have become millionaires courtesy of their market stall.

When I first set up stall, I had no idea what I was doing. No idea what market to sell at, how to present my stall, or how to sell. So for me, there was no downside – all I could do was learn!

Here’s some of the amazing benefits I found hidden at the weekend markets.

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Is Your Brand Promise a Yawn?

Wondering which brand positions will guarantee you’ll just be one of the crowd?

1. Quality is job #1
2. The difference is our people
3. Your success is our success
4. Customer service is our pleasure
5. Great value for your dollar

(Or variations of the same)

These are probably the five most common “tagline” positions in the marketplace. And not one of them has any meaning to consumers.

Why?

They’re common, use bland language, make vague promises and are absolutely ordinary. In the end, they are simply the promises every business should make to their customers.

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