Generate Leads with
an Educational Seminar
March 1, 2011 Marketing Tips
Consumers prefer to purchase products/services from experts within a field/industry. Given this trend, it makes good sense to establish your expertise in your field by presenting a seminar or webinar.
Educational seminars are effective vehicles for conveying your expertise in a given area—and a great way to generate leads. If you can work with a suitable membership based organization to sponsor the seminar, such as a Rotary chapter, Junior League, Chamber of Commerce, Senior center, etc. so much the better. By working with a third party organization the title of “expert” is reinforced as you are then presenting on behalf of the sponsor organization–not soliciting participants directly. The additional benefit is that you will reach a whole new set of prospects with an implied endorsement from the sponsoring organization. Furthermore, these organizations typically promote their own educational programs, which keeps your expense to a minimum to conduct the presentation. But, keep in mind that it might take 2 months (or more) lead time to get on their calendars–so, if you decide to pursue a sponsored seminar, be sure to plan ahead.
Another option along the same lines would be to invite people to attend an online seminar or “webinar”. Webinars offer some of the same advantages, but require much less lead time. You present your topic to a targeted audience and establish your credentials and expertise. One of the advantages is that participants can attend from the convenience of their office or home. With VoIP (voice over internet protocol) it’s easier than ever to present or participate in a webinar. No telephones are necessary. The only tools you need to present a webinar are a computer with high speed internet access, a microphone (many computers have them built in), a PowerPoint presentation, and you are ready. Video can also be incorporated into your presentation with the simple addition of a webcam. If you are thinking about presenting a webinar for the first time, I recommend that you adopt a “walk before you run” approach and begin with audio only. Once you’ve perfected the audio delivery, you can then move on to video.
Webinars are inexpensive, easy to produce and require much less lead time. Two vendors I recommend are Instant Presenter and WebEx. Instant Presenter is the less expensive of the two. To keep your marketing expense to promote the webinar to a minimum, invite customers to attend via email. You can also record the webinar for future use (i.e. as a tool for converting visitors to leads on your website, etc.)
Caution: Avoid the Sales Pitch
In your presentation, be careful to present yourself as an educator would–without an obvious bias. In other words, avoid making your seminar a 45 minute commercial about your business. In fact, the less you attempt to sell your audience on your products/services, the more likely your audience will be to approach you following the presentation with business inquiries. By not making a sales pitch, you establish credibility and build trust–two criteria which are essential for closing the business leads you will generate.
at will be around to serve their needs for many years to come.
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January 2nd, 2011 Marketing Tips
Given the economic woes that we are grappling with, people are thirsty for a little inspiration. So, my challenge for small businesses in 2011 is: Quench the thirst. Serve a refreshing pitcher full of inspiration at a time when there are few to be found. In addition to the spiritual and cosmic benefits for yourself and your business, adopting an inspirational approach to your marketing can greatly enhance your brand, as well as your bottom line.
For example, you might consider initiating a community service project to assist the needy in your area. Sponsoring charitable events generates community good will, enhances your image and improves customer loyalty. Furthermore, community service projects typically receive ample press coverage. But being inspirational doesn’t just mean you have to engage in charitable work. You can inspire with your marketing messages. To inspire is to influence positively. Take this opportunity to review your advertising messages. Are they focused on how they enhance or improve the lives of your customers? In other words, does your marketing focus on the benefits of your products/services?
Take a look around at the advertisements you see. I’d like to hear from you. What’s the most inspirational message you’ve come across recently? I was just flipping through a glossy magazine and came across two fertility clinic ads: One inspirational and the other completely ineffective. The former featured a compelling headline “We are beginnings”, along with an image of two pairs of shoes (one infant, the other adult) side-by-side on a hard wood floor. There’s a terrific combination of copy and images in this ad that clearly conveys the benefit that this center will help you have a baby. The latter ad featured a picture of the group of physicians with a list of their services under their photo. There’s nothing whatsoever in the second ad that’s benefit oriented or that even attempts to influence. And, very easily with a simple headline, like “We are beginnings” they could have inspired someone to pick up the phone and call for an appointment.
In 2011, you need to make every communication count. So, fill your marketing pitcher full of lip smacking, satisfyingly inspirational messages that not only bring customers to your door, but have them returning with cups in hand for refills.
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Life is Good!
December 14th, 2010 Marketing Tips
At a recent women’s networking meeting I attended, nearly every business woman present reported being busier than ever. After hearing so many of their fellows report that business was good, many of the women in the room concluded (tongue in cheek) that the recession was a media myth. Approximately 20 women attended the event, representing many diverse industries including insurance, real estate, accounting, banking/finance, medical body sculpting, cosmetics, canine couture, home jewelry sales, an employment agency and several others. How is it that amid the worst recession in decades, this eclectic group of women could all be doing so well? You may speculate about the sincerity of the group. Perhaps these women were indulging in some posturing, attempting to put a brave face on a bad situation? Possible. But, it might also be possible that these successful women have discovered one or more of the keys to thriving in a recession. Let me share with you why I believe the latter.
1. These entrepreneurs and business owners were demonstrating how they became successful. They were actively networking with other business women (aka potential customers) to promote their business and develop new leads.
2. Next, look at the story they chose to share with the others at the event: I am a success. Nothing breeds success like success. As consumers, we are attracted to success. We demand it and anything less than stellar performance in the products/services we consume leaves us searching for something new and better.
My advice for other business owners who are reading this post: Learn something from these women. Regardless of declining revenues, keep reaching out for new business opportunities through every channel available to you. And, whenever you are communicating with customers, be sure to focus your message on your latest success. Share details about an award you have just won, an inspiring story about a customer you helped, or even how well you finished the year financially (thanks to all of your wonderful customers, of course!) Whatever the case may be, use these stories to instill confidence in your current, past and potential customers that yours is a thriving business that will be around to serve their needs for many years to come.
Sharing Creates Twintimacy
July 9th, 2010 Marketing Tips
If this title seems odd for a business blog, it shouldn’t. Haven’t you heard about Twitter? It’s all about sharing. Twitter users post small nuggets of information and links to relevant news for their followers. Sharing knowledge and experiences in this way creates intimacy (or twintimacy) among their followers. This is also known as “building rapport” or “relationship building.” In a tough economic climate, we need solid relationships. So, my advice to readers is to be generous with your thoughts and experience, especially with your customer base. The more you establish yourself as a resource among your current, past and potential customers, the more likely they will be to reach out to you when they are in need of your products/services. Whether you tweet about it, host a free workshop, or email a newsletter, there are benefits aplenty to be realized from sharing your expertise.
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inner sales person
May 17th, 2010 Marketing Tips
I am always amused when I hear someone say “I hate sales people.” What they should really say is that they hate bad sales people, because everything is sales. We are all sales people at heart. When we speak to a teacher at our child’s school, when we speak to a neighbor, or engage in a discussion with a colleague at work, we are constantly selling our ideas and beliefs. Some are more effective sales people than others. It all boils down to how well they communicate thoughts and concepts. The same is true for marketing. My catchy formula for successful marketing communication is this: Understand the need. Match the need. Generate the lead. If you truly understand your clients’ and prospects’ needs, you will be able to share relevant information about your company’s products/services that meet those needs (the match). If you have communicated the benefits of using your products/services effectively, you will generate a lead. Let me drill down on these concepts for you. Understanding needs requires you to research and ask good questions. In other words, never assume you know, ask.
What do they need?
What is the budget?
What is the deadline/purchase timeline?
When you have gathered good solid data, then offer to meet their needs with your products/services. Emphasize the benefits of using your products and/or services—the “what’s in it for me” aspect. If you do this, you will generate sales leads that, hopefully, you will be able to convert into sales. Once upon a time, I was a sales rep for WGUF-FM, a Smooth Jazz radio station in Naples, FL. One of my accounts was the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club. The resort hadn’t been spending any money with our station, so obviously, my goal was to change that. I got the appointment with the decision maker and made the big mistake: I prepared a proposal in advance. I had no idea what their needs were when I walked in to that appointment. Fortunately, I have always been naturally inquisitive and before I took out my proposal I asked lots of questions. It turns out that they wanted to drive lunch traffic to their seaside cafe during their off season and were interested in having us host a series of live broadcasts on site. A series of live remote broadcasts came with a much larger price tag than the proposal I had ready and waiting in my briefcase. Thus, I quickly abandoned my ready made proposal and offered to return at a later date (which I scheduled then and there) with specifics on the lunchtime broadcasts. Had I not asked questions at the beginning of the meeting and just blindly presented my proposal, chances are things would have turned out very differently. As it so happened, they wound up becoming my number one billing account and one of the top billing accounts for the station. So, I say again, embrace your inner sales person. But, be a good one. Get to know your customers’ needs, and speak to those needs in your marketing communications.
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It Pays to be Nice
April 29th, 2010 Marketing Tips
On a lark, I recently took this online personality test and the result came back as “unusually personable” According to this test, I am “on the ball, assertive, and have energy to carry out your best ideas. Not to mention the fact that people just enjoy being around you. Compared to others who are outgoing, you have an unusually warm nature.” In short, I am nice. Not that I needed a personality test to tell me this about myself. I readily admit that I enjoy making other people happy. Some cynics might sneer at my desire to please others. But, I am a believer in the “power of positivity.” As I understand it, the essence of the theory is that positive actions lead to positive reactions. Further, the more positive energy you put out, the more you receive in kind. In less mystical terms, it pays to be nice. Now, let me qualify this by stating that I do not claim to be an angel or saintly in any way. It isn’t as though I have never had a negative thought, or made an unflattering remark. (Just ask my husband.) But, I have found that the nicer you are to people, the nicer they are to you. So, that’s how I try to conduct myself on a daily basis. It has been very effective for me. By being nice to others, not only do I feel good, but more often than not when I ask for something, I get it—which brings us to the point about how it pays to be nice.
When we consistently behave toward others in a nice/positive manner, our efforts are repaid in kind. In the business community, the payday for all these niceties includes increased sales, improved market share, better customer satisfaction ratings, higher customer retention and repeat business.
So, what qualifies as “nice?” As it applies to matters of sales and marketing, being nice is doing all the things our customers want and need so they may achieve their objectives. “Nice” means anticipating the needs of our clients, following through when they ask us to do something, and meeting established deadlines. Presenting a “can do” attitude, that clearly communicates that we can be depended upon to deliver quality products/services is another great way of being nice. Remembering our customers’ buying preferences, history and personal background are other effective means for demonstrating how nice we can be. In fact, in business, being “nice” could be synonymous with providing “great customer service.” Does it pay to give great customer service? Of course, it does. So, be nice. Be nice to your customers and ensure that your employees are nice to your customers, as well. Your bottom line will be glad you did because it pays to be nice.
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Turn Adversity Into Opportunity
March 29th, 2010 Marketing Tips
When there is a lot of negative energy blowing around, business people are often swept into a whirlwind of negative thought that can lead to bad decision making. These days, with all the media reporting about the increased cost of living and our economic slump, it would be easy to fall into that trap. But, what the media isn’t sharing is that there are still plenty of profitable businesses out there. One of my clients grew by 18% in 2007 and is poised to beat those numbers in 2008. Are they just fortunate to “be in the right industry, in the right place, at the right time?” Or, could they have built a better business plan? I believe the latter. I refuse to be a fatalist. Successful people and businesses are made not created. In other words, you control your own business destiny, even in a down economy. Adversity can be turned into opportunity. It takes some planning, research and objectivity, but it can be done.
This topic reminds me of a situation I faced as the Advertising Services Manager for a newspaper. Part of my responsibility included annual special section revenue of about $2 million. When I joined the company, our Super Saver supplement, a monthly coupon tabloid, had been steadily losing revenue. The sales management team, in response to feedback from their sales staff, was pushing me to either pull the section, or change it to a glossy, magazine format to be more like the competition. I resisted making either of these moves. First, changing the format of the publication would have been cost prohibitive. Secondly, the advertisers who were using Super Saver were experiencing such terrific results, it seemed like the product was effective. Our rates were competitive, so it didn’t seem as if we were being beaten on price. We needed to stop the hemorrhaging, but clearly more data was required before we could make a change. So, we conducted focus groups to poll readers and advertisers on their areas of satisfaction/dissatisfaction with the publication. What we discovered was that readers and advertisers liked the Super Saver section just the way it was. There were a few comments related to navigation. But, the biggest request they had was for more coupons—that is, more advertisers! Armed with this information, I formulated a plan to re-launch the section to the sales staff. I had my designers create a refreshed Super Saver masthead, and incorporated a new index design to make the section more user-friendly. We then held a sales rally to unveil the “new and improved” section to the sales staff. At the sales rally, I played excerpts from the focus group video, so that the sales staff could see and hear for themselves how much people enjoyed our Super Saver product, etc. We also distributed new sales collateral materials, reflecting the refreshed branding for the section. Suffice to say, the re-launch did the trick. The staff had something to be excited about again. It wasn’t a new product, but suddenly it had new appeal. Sales skyrocketed for the section, more than doubling from one issue to the next. This experience was educational on many levels. I learned once again that adversity can become opportunity—and that a little objective research goes a long way in identifying those opportunities. Another thing I gleaned from this experience was, never forget to sell your sellers. Whether or not they are in a formal sales role, everyone on your staff with customer contact should be kept up to date and informed about the features and benefits of your products and services. In this situation, I also had the benefit of fresh perspective. I was new to the company and not entrenched in the organizations “accepted beliefs.” Sometimes, it takes an objective party who is removed from the situation to see the complete picture.
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Insider Tips for Writing Press Releases
February 29th, 2010 Uncategorized
Here is a tip from a media insider: News rooms are notoriously short staffed. Take newspapers for instance. To fill their news hole, many news room staffers will look for well written, topical press releases in their email inboxes (which makes it easier to “cut and paste”) and run them with very little editing. This need for material creates a great opportunity for business owners to generate some exposure for their organizations. But, pay close attention to the key phrases here: “well written” and “topical.” Submitting poorly written releases on ho-hum topics will not likely result in much coverage.
A well written news release is one that does not waste space with unnecessary detail, or flowery phrasing. The first paragraph of the release needs to briefly summarize the topic with emphasis on the Five Ws: Who? What? Where? When? Why? The remainder of the release should be the relevant back story to support the focus of the first paragraph.
In terms of “topicality,” your release will be deemed more newsworthy if it is connected to another story of major prominence, either locally or nationally. Local media outlets like to take a national topic and give it some local flavor. In other words, they want to highlight how a national trend might be touching the folks in their circulation, viewing or listening areas.
I was able to generate incredible media exposure for one client by tapping into the media buzz surrounding the lead-paint toy recalls this past fall. My client was a gourmet grocery store that had just opened in the market place. There wasn’t a natural tie in for them on this topic. We created one. As a community service, we hosted a lead-paint testing event at their store to assist concerned parents with identifying toys and other children’s items that were contaminated with lead based paint. The event was a hit, bringing dozens of new customers to their store, as well as media representatives from three television stations, two newspapers and a local radio station.
Idea starter: Think about a story that is in the news right now, like soaring gasoline prices. Now, consider how you might attach your business to the issue—in a positive manner, of course. The topic may not seem like a natural fit, but don’t let that dissuade you. Think creatively and you might develop an idea that will pay huge dividends in media coverage. And, if you need help writing that press release, please feel free to give me a call.
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Great Customer Service
from Top to Bottom
January 29th, 2010 Uncategorized
Anyone who knows me knows that I adore good customer service. Well, really, who doesn’t? But, seriously, I am a customer service connoisseur. As a consumer, I am constantly evaluating the service I receive at all points of contact. It’s second nature to me. I am a marketing consultant, and prior to that a sales trainer, sales executive and many moons ago, a waitress. So, a great portion of my life has been dedicated to providing great customer service. And, unlike many, when I experience really great customer service, I make sure to let people know about it. I tip generously, I write notes to supervisors, and now I’m writing about it on my blog. So, let me tell you about how impressed I am with Starbucks and their attention to customer service, at every level of the organization. I am a daily (okay, twice daily) “decaf-grande-nonfat-twoSplenda-latte” drinker. I use the Starbucks in Montgomeryville, Pennsylvania on Bethlehem Pike/Rt. 309. The staff there is friendly and the service is always terrific, both inside and via the drive through. But, there are several of their baristas who take customer service to a higher level. In particular, one girl name Stephanie really stands out. As a consultant, my mantra is
“know your customer.” And, wow, does Stephanie know me. Every time I come through the drive through, she writes my name—spelled correctly, mind you—on my cup before I arrive at the window to pay. Stephanie has also taken the time to learn the names of my children, the school they attend, and their favorite activities. My children beg me to go to Starbucks just to see “Miss Stephanie.” Okay, they like the crispy squares and chocolate chunk cookies, too. The point is, I know for a fact that I spend more money at Starbucks than I would otherwise as a direct result of Stephanie’s outstanding customer service. (Anyone taking notes here?) So, it is safe to say that I am a Starbucks fan for more reasons than simply the fabulous flavor of my favorite latte. Then, by chance I had the opportunity to experience how great service can be from a Starbucks executive. Here’s the story.
My father-in-law, Bernie Bamford, is one of the world’s greatest gabbers. He loves to chat with people, young and old. Without a doubt, his interpersonal skills contributed greatly to his success as a commercial real estate broker. His better half, Peg, is incredible, too, by the way. I couldn’t have asked for better in-laws. This past fall, Bernie and Peg traveled to Ireland to do some research on the Bamford family tree. While waiting to board their trans-Atlantic flight, Bernie struck up a conversation with someone and the topic turned to coffee—specifically, Starbucks. Bernie doesn’t care for Starbucks coffee, he thinks it’s too strong—a point he was sure to emphasize to this individual. Only months later when a Starbucks gift card arrived in the mail, did Bernie realize that the gentleman with whom he’d shared his thoughts was actually employed by Starbucks. Knowing what a Starbucks “fanista” I am, Bernie gave the gift card to me the next time he and Peg came to visit. I read the lovely note accompanying the card, and decided to Google the author. I couldn’t quite make out the first name (and Bernie couldn’t remember) but the last name was clearly “Lindstrom.” Imagine my surprise when it turns out that there was indeed a Lindstrom at Starbucks Corporation. In fact, Mark Lindstrom is listed on the Starbucks.com website as a senior officer of the corporation—the Senior Vice President in charge of the Western Division. Could my father-in-law, in a chance meeting in an airport, have really unknowingly told the Sr. V.P. of Starbucks that he didn’t think their coffee was so hot? Not certain that I had located the right Lindstrom, I uncovered Mark Lindstrom’s email address and sent him a note relating the story of the gift card and expressing our thanks. Sure enough, he replied to my email within the hour and confirmed that he had indeed sent the card. Here is what he wrote in his reply:
Thank you for the e-mail. Not necessary, but appreciated. Bernie did tell me that you are the big Starbucks fan in the family. Thanks! In the land of WaWa we will take all the fans we can get! Please tell your father in law we introduced an “everyday” coffee that is very welcoming to customers who, like Bernie, have told us for years, “Your coffee is way to strong for me.” It is called Pike Place Roast. Rich, full body, but not so strong. I’m a Latte drinker myself (our coffee is even to strong for me) but this new coffee is one I really enjoy. Thanks again for the e-mail and tell Peg and Bernie I send my best.
I loved that Mark emailed me back with this note. This is customer service at its finest. And, I find it encouraging that a culture of great customer service is clearly embraced at the highest levels of their organization. With this kind of leadership, it’s no wonder that Starbucks has risen to such greatness. And, if they keep hiring baristas like Stephanie, I am confident their current challenges will eventually fade away. Because, even in the tightest of times, I don’t want to go to WaWa, Dunkin Donuts or McDonald’s for my latte for a variety of reasons. The topmost in my mind is that, at any of those establishments, I am not a person with a name and a family. I am a number. Their servers never stop to ask my name, or the names of my kids. I will return to Starbucks time and time again, paying a premium price for my latte, because they go out of their way to make me feel welcome. Take a lesson from Starbucks: Great customer service keeps people coming back again and again. Back to top