marketing

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Book Review: What Clients Love by Harry Beckwith

I found this book a little difficult to get through, as it's kind of all over the place, but it's really well worth it.   Harry's style in this book is similar to an experienced salesman mentoring someone new - he is imparting advice and concepts that made him and could make you successful in selling services as he thinks of things and not necessarily  in a particular order.

There's lots in What Clients Love, from what to call yourself, how clients perceive you and what they really buy when purchasing a service to how important the relationship is to selling a service (everything).  He also talks about what goes into building a relationship and how to maintain it.   He addresses issues like how to deal with mistakes and how to listen.

I'd recommend reading this book, and then going back and focusing on a section here and there slowly until you really absorb his points.   Mr. Beckwith isn't correct on everything - His predictions on the Internet were certainly off and you can tell that his target audience is white middle aged men, or white male wannabe's - a normal bias for most traditional salesman.  And yet there are pearls of wisdom, even in that. 

So many things struck me in this book, it's hard to list them all so I'm not going to even try.  Here's just a few highlights.

  1. From page 129 - "Prospects choose service providers who share their tastes."  Remember the advice - "dress like your clients, just a little bit better."  It's excellent advice, but not if you pretend to something that you aren't, such as dressing like a farmer if you aren't one.  That ends up offending worse than the silk suit.  Mr. Beckwith addresses this very nicely with a clear story and better advice "Dress honestly and a little up."
  2. From page 182 - Imagineering's Six Commandments.  These are great reminders of what's important when designing a space, a sales presentation, or anything affecting your image or marketing.  My favorite commandments are "Avoid overload" and "Tell one story at a time."
  3. From page 237 - The Ten Rules of Business Manners.  These alone will make a big difference in growing your business and developing relationships.  If you do nothing else from this book but practice these, you will have made a huge impact on  your business.  My favorites are #1 - Wait until the other person has finished talking before you speak. and #9 - Be kind.   These all seem to be so obvious, yet very few people really practice these behaviors.
  4. I'm a coach and trainer, so I really like great questions.  The questions in the appendix starting on 260 are wonderful.  If you answer them yearly, you will really have a great guide to growing yourself and your business.

In short, buy the book, read it and re-read it.  Then start practicing bit by bit.  You'll really notice a difference in your business and your clients.

I'd love to hear what you get out of What Clients Love by Harry Beckwith.  Leave a comment here.

Book Review: Selling The Invisible by Harry Beckwith

Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith is not aimed at the small or solo professional.  It is directed at salespeople and marketing in organizations that sell services.  And by services, he's talking about companies like Federal Express, American Express, Levi's and Dayton's (The book was written in 1997, so you need to make some allowances.).  

So why am I even bothering to review this book, when it is clearly not aimed at my target market?  

Because Selling the Invisible should be required reading for all professionals. 

Mr. Beckwith has a clearer understanding of what is going on in the minds of your clients and prospective clients in regards to your service than any other author I've read.  In order to really be successful, you need to understand what people are thinking before, during and after they do business with you.  Most marketing books focus on product, and even the ones that focus on servicea don't really do a good job of explaining WHY people prefer one service over another or what can impact the decision, or why they buy or don't at all.  Selling the Invisible not only explains what's going on in the minds of your current and prospective clients, he also details what you can do about it.   Some of the things he says don't apply to the independent professional, but the reasoning and understanding do.

The examples Harry Beckwith gives are also clear and explicit, so that you can easily understand the point he's getting at.  This is especially important for things like branding and niche marketing, which are often the opposite of what most professionals believe.  Narrowing focus (Harry calls this positioning) is probably one of my favorite examples in the book because it's one of the main things I work on with many of my clients.  He gives the example of Scandinavian Airlines in 1980.  They decided to position themselves exclusively as "The Business Traveler's Airline" after sustaining massive losses.  The airline focused it's marketing and advertising on business travelers and developed their brand in that direction.  As a result, they gained not only business travelers, but more tourists. They had the highest percentage of business travelers and the lowest tourist fares in Europe.

There are many other great examples for understanding marketing and business development for services in the book as well.   You will really be able to understand what works for you and more importantly, why.  This book won't tell you how to market your practice, but it will give you a much better understanding of what works - which can only improve your business development and growth.

Read this book once, twice, even more and you will really grow as a result.

Let me know your thoughts here on Selling the Invisible as well, after you've read it.

Consistency is Key in Growing Your Business

There are 3 parts to creating reliable, steady growth for your business.  The first part we've talked about a lot - where and how to find clients or referral partners.  The second is consistently working to develop relationships and get known.  The third part is knowing how much is enough to gain clients.  By that I mean,  how many people do you need to talk to in order to get one paying client.  This is often referred to as the sales funnel.  I'll focus on that in a later post.

Today, I want to talk about consistency.  Consistency is showing up and participating day after day, week after week, and month after month in whatever networking or other marketing methods you have chosen to employ.  It takes a while for people to get to know you enough to think of you when they're ready to buy or hire and to trust you enough to want to hire or buy from you.  How long that time period is will depend on what service you provide.  If you'r a coach or a financial advisor, it's going to take a  lot longer to establish that relationship than if you clean carpet.  You'll talk to some people who will become your clients immediately, but they are the exception rather than the rule and not what you build your business on.

Showing up one time is not effective in getting clients.   You can't lose weight or build muscle that way - you can't build your business that way either.  You must pick  your approach and keep doing it until you are sure it either is or is not working.  A rule of thumb for any service business is at LEAST three or six months to a year.

Consistency builds upon itself, just like it does in exercise or weight loss.  The more you do, the more you gain and the easier it becomes. 

I see a lot of professionals taking the start-stop approach to developing  their business.  I call this the feast or famine cycle.   People run out of work and then start marketing like crazy until they get more work and then they stop marketing.  This is not a way to grow your business.  You'll find it more and more effort just to maintain your existing business doing marketing this way.  It's a lot like yo-yo dieting and exercise.  Every time you stop exercising and gain the weight back, you are actually losing muscle so it becomes harder and harder to lose those pounds.

Work on building your marketing muscles consistently so that you can steadily grow your business over time with less effort.

"I hate to admit this, but mediocre marketing with commitment works better than brilliant marketing without commitment."

-- Jay Conrad Levinson (author of the Guerilla Marketing series)

Next time we'll talk about the third part - How much marketing is enough? (or What Does Your Sales Funnel Look Like?)

What networking groups should I attend?

This is one of the questions I am most frequently asked.  Sometimes it's asked in the form of a statement:  "I don't know any networking groups." and sometimes people just ask me where they should go.  The short answer really depends on two other questions: 

1) Do you get clients by referral or directly?  If you get clients mostly by referrals (Not the ones from existing clients - we'll talk about how to generate more of those later), who are your best referral partners?   This question leads directly to the second question.

2) If you get clients directly, who are they and where do they go?    If you get clients through referral, who are your referral partners and where do they go?

This leads directly to the answer:

You network where you are most likely to find prospective clients or referral partners.  Period.  It's really that simple. 

Ideally these are also things you enjoy doing as well.   If you hate golf, don't join a golf club just because you will find prospective clients there.  There will be should be enough points of common ground that you and your best prospects and referrals partners share that you will enjoy the time you are spending networking.   Otherwise, you really need to look at who your best clients are - if you don't have a lot in common with them, they really aren't your best clients and there's a whole other group that would be a better fit.

If you're not sure how to figure out who your best clients are and what they do - check out my blog posts on how to identify your ideal client.   If you don't have any clients who fit what your idea is, find some people who do and ask them what they do and where they go.  If you're not trying to sell anything most people are delighted to give you a few minutes of their time.  Note that this is also a great way to start developing a relationship.  It's a win-win.

Don't limit your definition of networking groups to traditional business groups like LBN, BNI or chambers of commerce.  There are also philaphthropic and development groups like the Rotary Club, Optimists Club, Toastmasters, Lion's Club, Kiwanis, etc.  And any social group where you interact on a regular basis and get to know the other members can be considered a networking group.  Examples of this are country clubs, golf clubs, tennis clubs, hockey clubs, the PTA, Church and Synagogue groups, nonprofits where you are an active member and serve on a committee can be great places to network as well. 

If you regularly work in the same coffee shop and it's a busy place, that's a great place to network too.  Before we moved, I always made a point to work one day a week at the Coffee Beanery near where I lived.  It was a busy place where a lot of small business owners congregated and I regularly saw a lot of colleagues and prospective clients that way. 

Look for other benefits besides meeting prospective clients in the networking groups you choose.  The more enthusiastic you can be and the more you enjoy your time there, the more your networking efforts will pay off.

Which Is More Effective - A Mail Newletter or an Email Newsletter (E-Zine)?

It's a good question - suprisingly so.  Most companies have switched to only sending out electronic newsletters because of the expense.  It can be quite costly to send out a printed newsletter between the printing and postage.  Electronic newsletters, in comparison, cost less than a penny per newsletter.

Sounds like a great deal, but how many people are actually reading those newsletters?  The statistics can be quite misleading.   Direct mail is usually measured in response rates, which means that the recipient has opened the newsletter, read it and taken action on the contents.  The average response rate for direct mail is anywhere from 1% to 1 1/2%. ( I checked various different sources for both including aweber.com, Gallup, the AMA, etc.)    The number of people who have opened and read that newsletter is much larger, but unknown.

Electronic newsletters are usually measured in open rates, which means that the recipient has opened the email.  It does not mean that they have read it or taken action on it.  The open rates I saw on the web for electronic newsletters, or e-zines, were all over the map (try googling "average open rate electronic newsletter" and you'll see what I mean).   Most came between 10% - 25%.  Now this sounds much higher, but remember that it's an open rate, not a response rate.  Of that 10% - 25%, how many actually read and take action on the newsletter?   I couldn't find any statistics on that.  One thing I noticed was that all the statistics were somewhat old - and yet the rate of spam increases exponentially daily.   I have a hard time believing that most people even open or see e-zines anymore.  A lot get buried in an inbox filled with junk emails or caught by a spam filter.  I'd be suprised to find that the open rate is much more than 1% - 2% now.

So what to do?   Direct mail costs a lot, but you've got a better chance of someone reading it.  Newsletters are much cheaper and easier to send, but not as likely to get read.

And then there's blogs and twitter, just to add to the confusion and noise - how do you get your message out without it costing a fortune or getting buried in the general din?

I would recommend doing a mix of as much as your time and budget allow.  I'm pretty sure very few people read my blog, but it's enough that it's worth it to post weekly.   The same goes for my monthly newsletters.   With the low cost,  only a few people have to read them to make it worth it.

I use direct mail for personalized individual messages and the occasional printed newsletter (maybe once a year).  I do a lot more personalized notes than newsletters.

What will you do?

"Endless Referrals" by Bob Burg

"Endless Referrals" by Bob Burg, "Get Clients Now" by C.J. Hayden and "Book Yourself Solid" by Michael Port are among the core books that I use with many of my clients.   In combination, they make a fantanstic business development program for the non-sales professional.  "Get Clients Now" provides the structure, "Book Yourself Solid" provides the focus and "Endless Referrals" talks about how to develop the relationships you need to grow your business.

Bob Burg was here in June with Motor City Connect. Don't worry if you missed him.  You can find everything he talked about in his books.

All three books talk about the "know, like and trust" factor that's mandatory for anyone who sells a service, such as an attorney, chiropractor, coach or consultant.   "Endless Referrals" focuses exclusively on it.   Bob talks about how to get to know people enough to be able to ask for and get quality referrals, and maintain that relationship over time.

The first few chapters talk about building rapport, the process of developing trust.  He gives 10 'Feel-Good Questions©'  that help you get to know someone and create a connection with them.  He also guides the reader on how to adjust these questions for social events of any kind using the "F-O-R-M" (Family, Occupation, Recreation, Message) method.  I highly recommend studying these questions and using them at your next networking event.  Watch your network grow as you get proficient at this process.  This is by far the clearest process of how to create connection with someone that I have seen so far.

The next few things Burg focuses on are how to ask for referrals so that you actually get them.  Most people just aks if you know "anyone."   I have news for you - there is no one by that name.  It's not likely to get you referrals because it's too general.  He shows you how to narrow it down so that you make the frame of reference manageable for most people without making it too narrow (Tina Morrow at XYZ Company).

Burg also talks about how to get a testimonial that actually supports your business.  I really appreciated that section, after receiving some testimonials that were either unreadable or not what I do. I'm sure you've gotten a few of those too.

I would go to other resources rather than "Endless Referrals for information on internet and other business development strategies, but there is nothing better than "Endless Referrals" for how to build trust and follow up. 

"Endless Referrals" is not the only book you need for your business if you provide a service, but it's a good place to start. 

The Real Magic of Business Development is Consistency

I was talking to a client the other day and she said, "I guess I was looking for a magic bullet or something."   I see that a lot when I talk to people.   It shows up in all sorts of areas, not just business development.  Weight loss, job hunting and career planning are all great examples of where I see this mindset.  They are looking for an easy, simple solution. 

The funny thing is that most solutions are simple.  What they are usually not is easy.  It's simple to lose weight - eat less and burn more calories. It is not easy to lose weight.  There's a fairly simple process for finding a job - again, simple not easy.

What usually makes it difficult is all the things that get in the way of you doing it in the first place or you wouldn't be struggling.  There is no quick answer to weight loss, finding a job or growing a business.  It takes time and consistent work.  You can make the work more efficient and effective, but it still takes consistent work over time. 

For business development for professionals, the formula is simple:

  1. Be very clear on who you want to work with (your ideal client) and focus on talking to them.
  2. Be clear on what solutions you provide to their problems.
  3. Focus on building relationships and providing value, not selling.
  4. Communicate to your ideal clients regularly and often.  They must know, like and trust you before they will be ready to buy from you.

The hows might vary slightly - you might prefer to blog, rather than do public speaking for example, but basically that's it.  Simple, but not necessarily easy.  Most people do not track their business development activities, so they often think they are doing more than they are.  It takes an average of seven to nine times of contacting someone before they are ready to buy, but most people give up after the third or fourth time.

Having a system and support to keep you on track and accountable really helps create consistency.    There are many different kinds of systems.  You can create your own and or use something someone else has created.  I use "Get Clients Now!" Outlook, and other tools.  It really doesn't matter as long as you do something that allows you to measure and track your activities.  Ideally, it will make it easier.

Also resolve and deal with the obstacles that come up when you start using your system and working on your business or career development.  If it's fear, get support and work through it.  If it's time management, stress or other issues - identify the problem and get help to get a solution.  Don't let it derail you.  There are always obstacles and for every obstacle, there is always a solution, and usually more than one.

Be consistent and use a system - there's your magic bullet.

Just Say "No"

One of the things that my clients have to working is learning to say “no” and to really focus on what will bring them the best return on investment for their time and dollars, both of which are extremely limited for most professionals. C.J. Hayden has just published an excellent article on this topic that I highly recommend. You can find it at http://www.getclientsnow.com/just-say-no.htm.

Beyond The Basics: Relationship Building Skills – BBCC Professional Edge Unplugged April 7, 2010 Highlights

Lori Williams and I co-presented “Beyond The Basics: Relationship Building Skills” at the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce Professional Edge Unplugged on April 7, 2010 to a full room. The discussion was exciting and it was wonderful to see how many potential business collaborators were sitting in the room and realized it as we progressed through the program. We covered branding, referral partners and strategic alliances. I will be presenting some of the relevant concepts in future blogs. The Greek Isles Coney Island was a great location and the Chamber did a phenomenal job of promoting the event. Lori and I were thrilled to be able to provide value to chamber members and help them develop and grow. Many of the members made connections that will be very valuable in their future business that day.

Barbi Krass of Colorworks Studio, one of the attendees, had this to say about the presentation:

”Lori, Elisabeth, I thoroughly enjoyed your workshop this morning. The presentation was very helpful in sorting out bottom lines for us all and the information was delivered in a way we could certainly relate to.“ 

Elisabeth Garbeil and Lori Williams, Co-presentors at BBCC Professional Edge Unplugged, April 7, 2010

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