Posted 14th July 2011.
OK, so we understand how a blog can build your credibility and establish your personality. And we've figured out what we're going to focus on.
But what on earth do we write about? Where do all the ideas come from?
Well, when you start up your blog, it should be no problem. If you're not initially bursting with ideas in the area you've decided to focus on, then you've picked the wrong area.
That doesn't mean you can just write about anything in that area though. Early on, concentrate on creating your “core content”. Core Content is the central set of ideas, principles, beliefs and insights that you have about your subject area. It's your best stuff that you teach your clients.
Later on, it's OK to do lighter, fluffier posts. Say something controversial. Riff on something off-topic.
But initially you need to establish your reputation with your very best material.
It could be a set of “how to” guides for the key topics in your area of focus. Or it could be a series of posts going into depth in one subect like this series I'm doing on blogs.
But get your good stuff out there quickly.
When those initial ideas dry up – and they will if you blog for any length of time – you need to get more disciplined about creating content.
Keep a notebook or voice recorder with you to capture ideas as they happen. Believe me, if you don't you'll forget them.
Get into the habit of observing life from the viewpoint of your blog. If you write a blog about leadership, for example, then when you're watching sports, or the TV, or kids playing, or a cat stalking a bird or whatever – think about how you could learn something about leadership from that example.
Bring in stories from your daily life, and your history. Your readers will find stories and anecdotes that illustrate a point rather more entertaining and engaging than straight “you should do this” all the time.
Block out time in your calendar to work on content. Set up an editorial calendar (there's a wordpress plugin for that, of course) and stick to it.
The more content you create, the better and faster you'll get at creating it. And don't argue that you're too busy – Chris Brogan and Seth Godin both post almost daily. And they're busy guys too.
The next post in the series is my very best tip on creating content that wins you clients…
Posted 31st March 2011.
Did you listen to my recent Authority Marketing Podcast interview with Drayton Bird? Hasn't he led an amazing life?
The interview reminded me of something I've long felt but never spoken about before. Something I describe as one of Marketing's biggest “half truths”.
Have you ever heard anyone say “your clients aren't interested in you – only what you can do for them”? Or “they don't care what you do – only the result they'll get”? Or the old classic “clients are tuned into WIIFM – what's in it for me”?
Well, of course, that's marketing 101. Real basics.
But it's also only half the story.
Here's the thing: weren't you fascinated by Drayton's anecdotes about his experiences, for example? And what are the most popular programmes on TV? The soap operas or character-based dramas like House or CSI.
We humans are fascinated by interesting characters. We want to know why House is the way he is – not just watch him cure the patient. We want to see the interplay between Grissom and Sara – not just the solution to the crime.
And vitally important for professionals – those stories lend credibility to our expertise. We hear Drayton's stories of studying human nature in his parents' pub. Of researching direct marketing more than anyone else. Of learning from the greats. And of making mistake after mistake until he got it right.
And so we think “yes – he must know what he's doing”.
So although clients initially focus on what's in it for them – what results you'll deliver for them. They're also interested in your story. What is it in your backstory that makes you credible to deliver those results.
And that means that as a consultant, a coach or other advisor, you need an interesting and credibility-bestowing backstory.
I don't mean you make one up. But you look at your story and pick out the elements that make you credible in what you do.
Did you obsessively research your subject, for example? Or have you, like Drayton, “made every mistake in the book and then some” – you've got the experience and scars that mean you can steer your clients away from the problems you hit.
Perhaps you're the champion of the little guy (or big guy) like them. Or maybe you've been the guy behind the scenes pulling the strings making others like them successful.
Or maybe it's a combination of those things.
In the next post I'll run through some of the most effective “stories” you can have.
But for now, just think about your own story and what elements of it give you the most credibility in what you do.
PS – it's not just people that people are interested in the backstory of. One of the most successful print advertisements of all time was the legendary Claude Hopkins' ad for Schlitz Beer shown here.
Did the ad focus on the refreshing taste, or how the beer would make you feel? Was it all about the result?
Nope. it talked about the 50 years of brewing experience. It described the care they took selecting the hops from Bohemia. It detailed the supervision of the process, the cleanliness, the purity, the filtration and the storage.
In short, it gave the backstory of the beer. It gave credibility to the claim that it was the best beer in the world.
And the impact for Schlitz? It went from fifth in the market to first in a few months and stayed there for years.
That's the power of a good backstory. One that goes beyond just WIIFM.
Posted 4th January 2008.
Finding a selling “style” congruent with your personality and your experience is a crucial determinant of your business development success.
One of the best pieces of advice I received early in my sales career was from a consulting industry veteran who urged me to “find my own style” in order to sell effectively. I've found the advice to be as relevant today as it was over a decade ago when I was just making the transition from managing large consulting projects to selling them.
One of the stages all professionals must go through in their careers is to learn to build relationships with senior client executives. To move from being a “do-er” to a trusted business advisor.
In my case I struggled early on to adapt to this. The role models and teachers I had were great – highly effective relationship builders. But I just couldn't seem to do the things they did. The techniques they used just didn't seem to work for me.
Luckily one of my mentors gave me the clue to finding my own style. “Look at those other guys.” he said, “You can't do what they do or say what they say because you're not them. You don't have the same experience or the same capabilities. You have to achieve the same outcomes in different ways. Ways that work for you”.
When we talked over what he meant, he highlighted two main areas:
- Adapting the words you use to fit in with your natural language patterns
- Making sure your personal positioning – your source of credibility – is based on your actual experience and capabilities.
When it comes to language, I see mistakes most often when it comes to scripts – for example for cold calls, or elevator speeches. These can be really helpful to focus communication and avoid the umms and ahhs that creep in to our speech when we're under pressure. But many of the scripts I've seen include language that I can't imagine anyone other than a character from a 19th century novel using.
For example: “In researching your firm prior to calling you today, I noticed that….”
Really, does anyone you know speak like this? Do you?
The idea is great – show you've done your homework. And most of the cold-call scripts people showcase contain great thoughts and are well structured and proven in the field.
Don't change those aspects. But please, please, before launching them on your own potential customers, adapt the language so it fits with your style.
I don't mean major changes. If you've got a good script don't change the structure or the key words – especially if you're new to sales. You run the risk of changing the very elements that make the script work.
But do make sure that you can use the words naturally – they fit with your way of speaking. If you wouldn't say the phrase “in researching your company prior to this call” in real life, then it won't sound natural. Try “When I was researching your company before this call”. You keep the structure and the critical words like “research” – but gain a naturalness which will shine through.
The other key area where your style is important – probably even more than with your language – is what I call your “source of credibility”.
One of the crucial criteria for effective sales is that the customer trusts that your product really does do what you say it does. When the product or service you sell is complex or intangible, customers rely very heavily on their impression of you yourself for that trust and credibility – since they can't see, touch or easily “test drive” the product itself.
You need to think through why your customer should trust your opinion and your advice – and position yourself in that way. In my case, I was trying to copy successful business developers whose source of credibility was their many years experience as senior executives in business, or the fact that they were part of the same “old boys network”.
But the strategies they adopted and the words they used didn't work for me – because I didn't have the same source of credibility. I couldn't talk to senior executives about the business challenges they faced as if I had faced the same ones running my company – because I hadn't.
But what I did have was many years as a consultant successfully helping clients overcome similar challenges. I was able to use this track record as my source of credibility – my invitation to the “top table conversation”. And from there I was able to build strong business level relationships with senior executives – relationships that led to major sales.
Similarly, any business developer needs to build on their own source of credibility. By thinking about what qualifies them to talk with authority about their product or service they should get an excellent start.