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Archive for networking

30 Seconds-Go!

In the world of small business marketing, there is this thing known as the 30 second commercial.

I shudder at the very name.

Really, the name is a problem. If you think about it as a commercial you’re going into it with the wrong approach. You want to think about it as your Brief Introduction.

You can’t sell me in 30 seconds, so please don’t try. Most people are trying to cram their entire business profile into those 30 seconds. It’s full of jargon, carefully constructed (can you say convoluted?) intricate sentences and it is obviously rehearsed, because no one talks that way.

Much like a commercial. Usually, your 30 seconds sounds just as fake as the woman who loves mopping the floor.

Those 30 seconds shouldn’t be your sales pitch. They should be a teaser that makes me say “I really need to talk to her when we break.” Use that time to interest me, to engage me, to show me what a fun person you’d be to work with, and give me enough information to generate some questions. If I need what you do and I think you’re fun and interesting, I’ll hunt you down. So lets rebuild your introduction.

Shortly after I went into business for myself I learned that whatever it is that we’re selling, what we’re really selling is “I’ll take care of that for you.” So what will you take care of? What problem are you fixing? What pain will you take away? But then turn it into something unexpected. Instead of “I write blogs.” I like to start with “I want to tell your story.” Make me wonder where you’re going with that so I’m still paying attention when you get to the end.

Then make sure people can relate by sounding conversational. I could say “I offer developmental editing services to business professionals looking to increase their credibility by becoming published authors.” Sometimes I do say that. More often in a networking setting I’ll say “I work with professionals to get that half finished book off your laptop and out into the world where it can make a difference.” Give me an example. If I need your service, make me see myself in your description.

Once you’ve gotten my attention, then give me a few more details about the kinds of things you do. What makes you different? Why should I pick you?

Choose wording that comes naturally to you. This may get me blacklisted from the editors guild, but don’t worry so much about complete sentences and grammar. In conversation, some times an incomplete sentence, or something humorously grammatically incorrect, stands out in a good way for emphasis. Speak the way you normally would, but at your best and most eloquent. You have time to practice after all.

Do practice, and then practice some more. The only way to sound natural is to rehearse. Just think about some great speakers, or how about great performers? Have you ever heard a comedian do a stand up routine? They sound as if every word is just made up on the spot. If you attend their show again tomorrow, it will be the same laughs and stories, and it will still sound completely natural. That brilliant, easy assurance comes with practice. Once you’re really good at one version, mix it up a little, choose a different point to highlight. Then practice again. Like a politician, have your sound bytes ready for every opportunity.

When it’s your turn to stand up, smile and watch your body posture. When you smile and relax, the people you’re addressing will also relax. If you can get them smiling, you’re on your way to building a relationship, and that’s where the sales happen.

So if you’re me, your brief introduction looks something like this:

My name is Pamela Potter and I want to tell your story. You know that half finished manuscript on your laptop that you’ve stopped looking at? I work with professionals like you to get those manuscripts finished and out where they make you look good. You know those blog posts that you don’t write because you don’t know what to say? I write those so you don’t have to. Speeches, articles, all those ways you could be getting your message out to the world, but don’t? Well, not everyone gets to be good with words. I do, so lets work together to get your story out where it can make a difference. I’m a ghostwriter and editor and I want to help you change the world.

No list of services. No details about my methods. Just telling my story of how I’m going to fix something that you don’t like. If I touch on a pain that you feel, you’ll make a note. If I intrigue you, you’ll ask for more information. If I don’t resonate, then you aren’t my client and we’re good. Listing the details of everything I can possibly do isn’t going to change your gut reaction.

Most people buy with the heart, not the mind. So reach out to them there. Ditch the details.

Get focused.

I’ve recently been working with several customers who are having some trouble with the idea of the target market. I really, really understand this because it was an issue I struggled with for quite a long time.

Here’s what you really need to know.

Identifying your target market isn’t a limit, it’s a focus.

Suzanne Evans is a coach who really resonates with me. Her approach to helping you find your target market is “who can you help the most”? Who are you driven to serve? Given your knowledge and life experience (not necessarily formal education) who are you best equipped to help succeed in their own journey?

Where can you do the most good?

When I was looking for these answers for my own business, all I could see was that by defining who my target was, I was excluding everyone who didn’t fall under that umbrella. Which causes panic and anxiety in a new business. All those people who can’t be my customers! But that isn’t really how it works.

By clearly defining my target, I know where to look. I have a way to decide which networking events to attend. I know how to phrase my own story about what I do. I know who I want to be reading this blog article. I have some selection criteria on how to choose who to approach at an event. I have a focus.

It does not mean that I have to turn down a client who is outside my target. It doesn’t mean I exclude. My target is generally educated professional women between 40-60. Does that mean if I’m approached by senior gentleman wanting to write a memoir about being enlisted military that I’d say no?

Not a chance. I’d love to work with someone like that. If you know one, please send him a link to my website!

Your target market won’t be written in stone either. You should reevaluate it regularly. Have you had some clients that didn’t work out as well as you’d like? How are they different from the ones who work brilliantly. Are there similarities you can use  to refine your focus? If you started helping older women but you’re finding that your best clients are young mothers, then by all means, adjust things and go after them. Don’t get rid of the great customers you already have, but as you go out to find new clients, use your new understanding of who you love to work with as a guide.

After all, we’d all like to be so busy that we have to pick and choose carefully who we work with. Understanding your target is a way to help you get there.


The first rule

The first rule of professional writing is “have it edited”. I don’t mean for writing professionals, I mean for anyone writing professional copy. Websites, workshops, handouts, fliers, if you are creating something for the whole world to see, have someone, almost anyone, read it for you.

When you look at something you wrote, you can only see what you think it says, not necessarily what is really there. You’ll catch some mistakes, but maybe not the most important ones.

Of course, there are limits. I’m not suggesting that your Facebook posts on behalf of your business need outside editing. They are usually quite short, so any errors are easy to see and generally at the level of a typo, and Facebook viewers are remarkably tolerant of typos. I’m not really talking about blogs. Heaven knows if I had to wait for a 3rd party to edit every blog post I write, I’d never get anything posted. Blog posts, until you become tremendously famous, are usually light and chatty and your audience is likely to forgive a small error or two.

On the other hand, I recently attended a conference and was very impressed with one of the speakers…until I saw her event flier. I was still impressed with her vision and presentation, but it was tempered by her lack of attention to detail. There were 2 major errors that would have been caught by just having one other person look the material over before printing. When you are putting materials out that represent you and your business, you can’t afford to be sloppy in the details. It is counter productive.

Even as a seasoned professional with years of editing experience, I stick by this rule. On the very rare occasions that time pressures cause me to be over confident? It seems that it always comes back to haunt me. Which is very embarrassing. Have your work edited by someone you respect. It doesn’t have to be a paid professional, but it has to be someone other than you.

3 Ways Your Business Bio Can Hurt Your Business.

Are you happy with your business bio?

Most people I talk to aren’t, they just don’t know if it’s important enough to fix. It was pretty torturous to write in the first place and no one wants to mess with it again.

Fix it. It is that important.

For a small business the bio is an important sales tool that most entrepreneurs are ignoring. On the Internet or on your print based materials, if someone is taking the time to read your bio, they are already looking for your product or service. Your bio needs to help them see that YOU are the one they want to buy it from.

Is your current bio doing the job? Here are three ways your current business bio can hurt your bottom line:

It’s badly written.

People say they hate to write their bio. It’s a chore that gets put off until the last possible minute. That shows, and that’s the wrong sort of message to be putting out there. Is your bio clear? Is it concise? Is it properly directed, in tone and vocabulary, to your target market? Did you have it edited before you posted it? All these things can make or break your first impression – you only have a few seconds.

It’s boring.

Corporate speak is for corporations. If you are a small business you need to be personable and approachable. A boring bio suggests you are a boring person with nothing new to offer. An enticing bio needs to sell you as a person at least as much as it sells your professional skills. Be engaging, be fun. If you can make the reader smile you’re already on your way to a sale.

It’s too long.

Your business bio isn’t a full resume. It isn’t designed to tell everything about you. It’s a quick snap shot that should intrigue your audience and encourage them to contact you directly if they want more information. What makes you and your business uniquely different and why do people buy from you? It probably isn’t what you think. If you want to really understand what sets you apart? Ask your clients.

So, are you ready to be honest? Is your bio one of the tortured ones?

Are you ready to fix it? Do you want some help?

It’s all about the platform.

This weekend I attended a conference sponsored by Hay House. (They’re a publishing company.) The first session I attended was by and for writers presented by best selling author Cheryl Richardson and Hay House CEO Reid Tracy.

Every third point was about platform. Possibly every second point. So they are very, very serious about it. Particularly Reid Tracy. He said that when they get a book proposal at Hay House, the first thing they do is read the query letter where you tell them about the idea for your book. If that is at all interesting, the very next thing they do is look at your platform.

So what is the platform?

Your marketing. What have you done. What will you do. Who is your audience and how are you going to reach them. How many of them have you already reached? How do you stay in touch. Do you have a blog? How many followers.

I had no idea that this was the critical turning point that could make or break your book. Apparently, it is. I highly doubt that Reid Tracy is alone on this in the industry.

So what do you need to do? You need to find your people.

Start a Facebook page. Not just your personal account, but a page for your book, or your interest, or yourself as an author or subject matter expert. Use this page to start collecting people who are interested in what you have to say.

Start a blog. Blogs are a way to share your subject matter expertise, ideas, questions, and to reach the people who are interested in what you have to say without them having to invest too much into accessing your message. If you can build a following for your blog, then you’ll already have reached the people who will then want to read your book.

Collect a database. If you offer a newsletter, or if you have a piece of information you’ve written into an e-Book (or if you can think of one that would be interesting) then send it to people via email. Once you have their email addresses, then you can inform them when something new happens. Like the upcoming release of your new book. There are a lot of rules and regulations and guidelines about emails. That’s another topic. Go with a reliable provider like AWebber or MailChimp, they have all the rules worked out so you can follow them.

Buy domains. If you’re going to be a brand then owning the domain that goes with it is a good idea. If the one you really want isn’t available, figure out some permutations that make sense. Try to own the domain for any book titles you’re working with. You can always relinquish or sell them later, it isn’t that big an expense.

Build a website. If you have a subject matter expertise then maybe you have a website devoted to that long before you put your book together. Or if you have a business website, add a section about your interest/cause that your clients and friends can start connecting to.

Answer emails and comments. If people are  taking the time to reach out to you (and they aren’t being ugly about it) then you have given them something they wanted and you have become someone they admire at some level. When they reach out to you, reach back. Maintain those connections.

Reid Tracy highly recommended the book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt. I haven’t read it yet, since I’m currently in the middle of 3 other books, but I have downloaded the kindle version so I’m all set as soon as I finish one of the others in progress. It was just published in May so the details should all be very relevant and Reid said the instructions he lists are extremely detailed and easy to follow.

One question that came up during the session is, shouldn’t I wait and do all this when the book is done and being published? Absolutely not. If you want to go  the traditional route, then without it, you might never be published at all. If you self publish, getting noticed will take that much longer.

And even in our 24/7 media hype twitter fueled world, it still takes a suspiciously long time to become an overnight success. Start reaching out now with what you have. They’ll notice when you have more.

Make time for praise.

How often do you take the time to write a recommendation on LinkedIn?

Usually that answer is ‘not as often as I should’.

Why don’t you?

What tends to stop people is the idea that they don’t know what to say.

Recently my husband’s company made some lay offs. It happens even in the best companies. Actually, the best companies do it regularly to make sure that the people who are there are contributing to keeping that company one of the best. People who don’t contribute, or don’t fit the culture, or are negative… there are lots of reasons to let someone go that have nothing to do with competence, although certainly that is an important reason too.

So what happens when someone you liked working with but didn’t know very well but found pleasant and competent is one of those people who got the axe, and then you get a linked in message asking for a recommendation? Around here you talk to your favorite writing expert and she gives you some guidelines!

1. You weren’t the boss and that will be clear on your recommendation.
LinkedIn makes it clear when you start what your position relative to the person you’re recommending was. A colleague, someone you hired for a specific service, a friend. You’re making your recommendation based on that.

2. LinkedIn will also ask you to pick a few highlights of the service you got that you’re recommending about. This will help you decide which parts of your interaction were most significant to you. Where they helpful? Exceptionally competent? We often find it easier to pick from a list of options, so that’s what LinkedIn gives us to work with. Let that guide you.

3. If you look at the list of options and none of the things listed are what you wanted to focus on, then pick some for the form and then write your paragraph about what you do want to focus on.

4. Remember, it’s a paragraph. 2 at the most. You can be as brief as you want and still say something meaningful. Pick 3 characteristics (or only 2 if that is what comes to mind) and say what you need to say. Then stop. Be genuine. Be positive. Be brief.

5. Don’t over think this. This is the biggest stumbling block. We get caught up in saying things just right. Does this sound too…whatever. This is not a make-or-break document! This is a friendly gesture. Write it as a gesture of friendship or appreciation of service well provided, or professional respect, and then move on.

If you’d like to see examples, check out this recommendation I wrote for the person who built my spiffy new website, or for one of the amazing health coaches I work with. I’ve also been gifted with some great recommendations of my own.

What are you saying?

Nothing forces you to think about what you’re saying like a bad case of laryngitis! For several weeks now I’ve had to think about every word I wanted to let pass my lips because each word is an effort. Or had to be written down. Which is a heck of a way to have a conversation with your family.

I think its been a great exercise for me. It has really reinforced my conviction that how you say what you’re going to say is really critical. If every word is an effort, then you pay very strict attention to what each of those words is, and what impact it is going to have. Is it exactly the right word for the situation? Is it going to convey my meaning precisely without requiring a forced, painful explanation as follow up?

Wouldn’t our professional communication really benefit from that kind of review? To say what needs to be said as clearly and concisely as possible. To make sure your message is conveyed exactly as you wished, for maximum comprehension, the very first time it goes out to your customers? How much thought are you giving to that part of your sales process?

In our world of instantaneous communication, I think we could all benefit from a short period of silence to think about what we’re saying, and how we’re saying it.

But its been 3 weeks now, and I’m really, very ready to go back to talking.

Who are you?

This is not an existentialist, meaning of life question. Its serious. I’ve gotten 5 separate requests just today from people who want to connect via LinkedIn. People who I would not recognize if we were making idle conversation in line at the grocery store, face to face.

When trying to build your LinkedIn network, the very best thing you can do is type over that pithy generic default message that comes up. Just highlight it and type over it! Then take a few seconds to remind me who you are, and why you think we should connect. Are we friends with many of the same people? Did we meet at a networking function? Are you my second cousin twice removed? Who are you?

LinkedIn is about building business connections and relationships. They should be based on something other than you saw my name in someone else’s list.

If I can’t figure out who you are, then I probably won’t connect with you. I’m not that kind of a girl.

My new focus- In Your Voice

I had a really wonderful winter holiday. It was fun, it was relaxing.

It was very productive.

I had the opportunity to learn so many new things and be exposed to so much new information in 2010 that my head was spinning. Much of what I learned and realized is well captured by this talk by Simon Sinek, How Great Leaders Inspire Action, as part of the Better Off TED, Ideas Worth Spreading project. He says, among many other things that really resonated with me “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

My winter break gave me an opportunity to slow down and think things through. I realized I wasn’t going in the right direction for me. I wasn’t inspired enough. I wasn’t excited enough. So I did what I always do when I get confused. I googled.

One of the great questions I found was “What would you do anyway, if you weren’t getting paid.” I thought about that for a long time. Then I asked some friends. “When you call me for help or an opinion, what are you calling me about.”

The answer was pretty clear. Writing.

When people ask me to look something over for them, its always about the writing. How can they say what they said, only better. I love to make words better. I hate things that are unclear or badly expressed.

If I’m going to do that kind of work anyway, which I definitely am, then perhaps that should be the work I do as my business. Because I love it. I’m passionate about it.

And I’m good at it. If I weren’t, people wouldn’t be calling me for help, now would they?

My new business is In Your Voice.

The value of editing.

Yes, I mean the editing in the traditional sense, where someone looks at words that you write and gives you feedback on them. At the very least pointing out homonyms that the spell checker didn’t notice.

This blog is inspired by an article I read today in an online news journal. The author suggested that we “search for visual queues” in a dark room. That would seem to be very odd advice, to search a dark room for a line of people waiting for something. Then I realized we probably were actually looking for ‘cues’.

I’m not perfect. I’m sure my blog has mistakes. But there are levels of care that need to be taken that vary depending on the publication and distribution of a piece of writing. Your Facebook status? The odd typo is no big deal. Most people are typing from a smart phone keyboard of 2.5 inches, we almost expect errors. A blog? Well, its nice when you get all the words right, but if you don’t, your audience is likely to be forgiving, depending on your readership following.

If you’re publishing something that calls itself a Business Magazine? I don’t care if you’re all online all the time or not. That is no excuse for not having someone on staff who reads things before they are published to catch the most egregious of errors.

But for some reason, the expense I’m certain, editing has fallen out of fashion. I’m a voracious reader and the more recently a book was published, the more likely it is that there will be some fairly serious mistakes in word usage or placement or maybe that the story just plain needed some tightening up.

Self publishing is no excuse. There are plenty of people in the world perfectly capable of doing a freelance editing job for you. I’m on my second book with the 3rd sitting in my dropbox waiting for my schedule to open up.

So please, if you’re publishing anything more serious than a blog, or if your blog has a readership of more than 100 people on a regular basis, for pity’s sake, please have someone, anyone literate really, read it before it goes public. Your spouse, your buddy, your kid, just anyone.

Because no matter how interesting your subject, your badly structured sentences and your incomprehensible grammar is going to get in the way of me caring.

‘Are’ going to get in the way. See what I mean?