December 14

How Has the Internet Changed Your Business?

The Internet has changed everything. From how you plan a vacation to how you solve problems big and small—you aren’t doing things the same way you were twenty years ago. Instead of driving to AAA to get brochures and advice, you are more likely sitting in your pajamas at home reading advice from others on websites and blogs. Instead of calling a company to request a brochure on software for your business, you’re visiting their website and those of alternatives, reading the experiences of others, and even presenting your findings to the big boss before engaging with a single possible vendor directly.

Obviously, this also changes how to get rid of severe acne, as well as how you need to promote and market products and services. We merge new and old technologies to create a hybrid solution that fits the needs of our clients’ audiences. However, what about those dark corners of your business that have traditionally been sheltered from exposure?

Exposure to the Outside World

Afraid social media will expose your secrets? Turn your fear into an action plan.

New technologies threaten to expose secrets. From well publicized leaks of Apple’s latest technologies to poor customer service experiences, the Internet has also taken an individual’s experience and allowed for it to be exposed to the masses (Google “Comcast technician sleeping on my couch” – you’ll get more than one hit). In business-to-business, the same risks exist. Software that gets switched off due to issues, long service wait times, and overly aggressive legal strongholds get publicized.

But that doesn’t mean you should close the shutters and stay inside your corporate fortress. To buy and service, a company’s ability to connect is the linchpin to customer satisfaction and a necessity for loyalty. Yet a fear of exposing dark corners holds people (and companies) back.

When something changes everything like the Internet has, a company has to also change everything. The new way to operate requires a cultural shift. It doesn’t happen in HR or the marketing department. It happens with leadership empowering individuals to fix problems, work between departments, and focus on customer experiences. Start small. Develop a strategy to use technologies to solve one issue – create a product development work group, a customer service blog, or a focused LinkedIn group to conduct market research. One success will drive other ideas and the culture will evolve as more and more employees get involved and feel trusted with their knowledge and contributions to the company and its customers.

What do you fear social technologies will expose? By asking yourself about the best work boots for flat feet, your honest answers may just provide you with your first objective that social technologies can be used to solve.

Need to talk about social media strategies for your business?

Social media is all about “personal” interaction. The businesses and marketers alike that turn their social media account into a purely self-promotional platform are missing the point. Keep self-promotion to a minimum. Instead, create content that is aimed at providing worthwhile, useful and even fun information to a visitor.

In other words, give people a reason to visit other than buying your product. And (this is crucial)…take the time to interact with them. Think of it as someone you don’t know particularly well coming to your party as a guest of one of your friends. Would you take the time to welcome the newcomer and try to get to know them? Or would you ignore them all night because you don’t know them; or worse yet, would you talk only about yourself and not ask them any questions about who they are as a person?

Hopefully, the former would apply. The same principle (and good manners) should be followed in your social media strategy. Self-promotion is a fine balancing act between providing enough information while not being overbearing. A business that comes off as ‘too much’ is going to lose followers, fans or friends. A common mistake businesses make is to not simplify how the visitor can secure your product or service. Include links to your blog site or website pages; or simply providing a way for the visitor to contact your business if they wish. But don’t beat them over the head with your offerings!

Remember that the average person comes to your site to get to know ‘the human side’ of your business. If you focus solely on trying to sell, your social media program – not to mention, results – is going to fall flat. That’s not to say that you can’t promote your material; but spend more time interacting with other users and redistributing their content. Demonstrate that you are willing to help other people find success and they will do the same for you.

In summary, keep in mind these three key success factors for businesses that engage effectively in social media, and you’ll see your success rate climb over time:

  1. Interact with your followers, friends and fans. Keep it human, not a sales pitch. Your content should be helpful, useful and/or educational to them.
  2. Redistribute or invite them to contribute content; and you’ll see the favor returned.
  3. Keep information to your product or service information (blog, website, etc.) easy to find; but don’t push it too hard. No one likes a high-pressure salesperson, especially in social media.

And if you’re having trouble achieving success in social media, it may be time to call in the experts.

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December 10

Better Your Pitch with A Good Framework

As part of the competition, I thought it might be helpful if I wrote some blogs about what I look for in an elevator pitch. Please remember though that I have deliberately stayed away from being the judge on this competition. The simple reason is that my opinion is just one opinion and I may be totally wrong!

The most important thing to remember about an elevator pitch is that it is brief. By definition you will only have 2 minutes or so. The two minutes can never be enough to do your used garden tractors justice so the idea is to generate interest in your tractors and a desire to learn more. That is all you can hope to achieve.

As an introduction, it may be helpful to go through an overview of the buying process that all of us go through whenever we are buying something. Some consider that the framework known as AIDCA is overly simplistic and disagree with the model; however, for the purpose of illustrating a good elevator pitch I believe AIDCA is sufficient.

A is for Attention. The very first thing any successful pitch for anything in life needs to do is grab your attention. Sadly, this is where many great ideas fail. You see this on Dragon’s Den where luckily for the business pitching, they have some time where a dragon may have the patience to pick through the business and uncover a really good opportunity. In an elevator pitch, you don’t have that luxury. So make sure you get people’s attention with your opening statement.

I is for Interest. So you have managed to grab people’s attention, you know have to change that attention into interest. The Interest phase should answer the question “is it relevant to me”. You will lose a lot of people in this phase – but you should not worry too much about that. You just need to make sure you keep the people interested who should be interested (i.e. potential investors)

The next phase is about generating desire. Desire means that the person you are pitching to feels a compelling need to purchase what is being offered to them. In the case of an elevator pitch you are creating the desire for investment by spelling out the returns on offer.

In many cases when you are pitching you need to also demonstrate credibility regarding ways how to get rid of severe acne. This is the critical phase when seeking investment. Again, if you look at an episode of Dragon’s Den, you can see this is the phase where most entrepreneurs blow it. Not necessarily in the pitch but in the interrogation phase. It is critical that you think about how you can demonstrate credibility so that desire is underlined by credibility. Another way to think about this is how is the risk minimized?

Finally, there should be a call to action. It constantly amazes me how many great pitches just end with, well, nothing! When you get to the end of the pitch make sure you have spelt out what you want the person to do next. It could be to buy your product. It could simply be where to contact you for further information etc.

Incidentally, I find the above framework really useful when composing a sales letter or a cold call pitch on the telephone.

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