Take Command of Your Online Brand

“Reputation, reputation, reputation. Oh, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself and what remains is bestial. My reputation, Iago, my reputation!” (Cassio)  Othello Act II, Scene 3

According to WebpageFX, a digital marketing and SEO company headquartered in Harrisburg, PA, about 25% of a company’s market value is directly based on its reputation.  Along with word-of-mouth reviews, which are indisputably powerful but nevertheless comparatively limited, a company’s reputation is significantly impacted through online sources.  Management of your organization’s online reputation, which is part of your brand, is a must-do.

The online reputation starts with the look and content of the company website and also encompasses reviewing sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List and Trip Advisor and the array of social media platforms from Snapchat to Facebook.  If you throw in content marketing campaigns that are distributed through email marketing, I wonder if the 25% impact figure is generous enough?

WebpageFX also reports that organization leaders now take online reputation management very seriously and 15% of organizations have followed through on an online reputation management strategy and 87% agree that managing online reputation risks is even more important than managing strategic risks.  Think about it—strategic risks are potentially costly, but when paid and unpaid haters flood the comments section of an influential site, the hapless company that perhaps has done no real harm can be shoved into the abyss.

Online attackers spew a shocking amount of vitriol and their diatribes seem to have a million-year half-life.  Blackmail can be involved as well.  I’ve personally witnessed the strong-arming of the General Manager of a lovely B & B by –are you ready for this?– a retired police officer who faked a problem in his guest room, refused to be placated by what most would accept as fair settlement for the “inconvenience” and threatened to ruin the business with bad Trip Advisor and Yelp reviews if his request for a free two- night stay (worth $450) was not granted.  Rumor has it that he’s played the game to the detriment of several small guest houses across the country.  A shoot-out at the OK Corral might be easier to win.

WebpageFX data showed that 91% of consumers search businesses online.  When I’ve gone to meet new clients, in particular someone who has been referred to me and whom I’ve not met,  they frequently mention that they’ve read this blog and viewed my website.  80% of consumers (presumably B2B and B2C) changed their mind about doing business with a company and 67% will not buy from a company that has received from one to three negative reviews.

Regarding social media sites, participation on the various social media platforms is a given for most Freelance consultants, business owners and corporate and not-for-profit leaders. The extent of your B2B client’s social media engagement as regards their external labor force along with your time and inclination, will determine which social media platforms that you’ll use. Maybe you’ll use one or two platforms, plus publish long-form content sent out as an ongoing email marketing campaign.

Just because you don’t use every available social media platform doesn’t mean that you should ignore those that you don’t use. To the contrary, claim all business listings and social media platform addresses, so that a competitor or imposter cannot assume your identity.  Start with your website. Your business name should belong to you alone. Protect your business and buy when possible your business domain name in the .biz and .net formats.  if there is a name that is similar to your company name and it becomes available, buy it and save yourself the potential for headaches down the road. Ensure that an imposter cannot claim your name and make sport of you, bear false witness, or commit other devious acts.

On your preferred social media platforms, maintain a reasonably active and consistent presence as you bring value to your readers.  Post content that will benefit your organization’s reputation and sales revenues.  WordPress allows posting to LinkedIn and my 100 or so connections expect to hear from me every Tuesday.

Finally, if you should receive any negative feedback online, respond quickly and diplomatically. Demonstrate that you regret the mishap and you intend to make amends.  As you publicly clean up the mess, you may win a few customers who like the fact that you’re human and you care.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

IMG_0015    Tall Ships Parade in Boston Harbor June 16, 2017

21st Century Email Marketing Tactics

Email marketing is dead.  Long live email marketing.  The pervasiveness of spamming has forever damaged the reputation of email marketing and yet the practice refuses to quietly fade away.  I’ll say that’s because email marketing remains a useful B2B communication platform.  It’s just that marketers need to be smart about how to utilize this valuable resource.  Email marketing in the 21st century means content marketing that addresses topics that interests your clients and delivers value to them and to you.  When planning an email marketing campaign, content is king.

Content does not mean sending out a stream of tweets that describe banal banter such as what’s going on in your office today, accompanied by an image of your morning coffee and pastry sitting next to your laptop.  Your clients are not interested in “fake news” that results in a slew of annoying emails that feature revelations about your perspectives only and are filled with links to Instagram photos of what you found to be amusing as you walked to the post office.

Content marketing means sharing relevant information that will make your clients  become better informed and help them do their jobs better.  You accomplish that by producing original material that addresses topics that your clients feel are useful and distributing it on a consistent basis through your weekly blog or monthly newsletter,

The logistics of that distribution are up to you, whether you develop an opt-in email list and distribute content through a marketing service like Constant Contact or Mail Chimp, or if you post your blog or newsletter on a site like WordPress, that is visited by numerous readers, some of whom may be your clients.  In the latter scenario, there is usually an opportunity to subscribe to your content through alerts, individual emails or an RSS feed.

Regardless of your distribution platform, readers and clients appreciate an email /content marketing strategy that is customized and therefore more personal.  Developing an editorial calendar adds seasonal relevance to the topics that you present, for example, as does occasionally letting your content be influenced by the news or changes in government or tax policy.  It’s time-consuming, but the content that your organization provides weekly or monthly demonstrates your authority as evidenced by your expertise and judgment, as well as your opinions (don’t hesitate to have them!).  Freelance consulting specialists must always enhance the perception of our bona rides and content marketing plays a significant role.

As you write, learn to occasionally weave one or two of your products or services into the narrative because after all, the real purpose of producing and distributing content in B2B emails is to create billable hours (sales).  This could take the form of a client success story or news that you’ll appear on a panel, with a link to register embedded in your post.

If your email/ content marketing is sent through a marketing service as an individual email addressed to each subscriber, you are advised to pay particular attention to the subject line.  According to Silverpop’s 2016 Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark Study, the mean open rate of emails sent is merely 20 %, meaning that four out of five email marketing communications are deleted.  A 2015 analysis of over 40 million emails  conducted by Mail Chimp revealed that some of the most effective subject lines are (60 – 87% open rate) :

1. (Insert business name) Sales and Marketing Newsletter

2. Eye on the (insert business name) Update (insert the week or month time frame)

3. (Insert business name and date) News Bulletin

4. (Insert business name) Newsletter, with date

5. (Insert business name) Invites You!

6. Happy Holidays From (insert business name)

In 2014, Digital Marketer analyzed 125 million emails that the company sent that year and found that your business name, along with the words urgent, upgrade, alert, new, available, free delivery and newsletter are among the most persuasive. Oh, and what’s the secret to writing a good email subject line, along with using the key words that charm readers? Make the subject line describe the email topic!

So the moral of the story is, don’t dismiss email marketing as being hopelessly retro and inferior to social media posts.  Instead, think about how to update and adapt its use to fit your needs and the interests of your clients.  If your clients are among your Facebook friends on your Fan Page or they follow your tweets, then by all means continue.  You might consider how some of that content and images might be repurposed to become part of long-form content in a blog or newsletter.  Several recent studies have found that clients respond well to long-form content.  You’ll figure it out and reap the benefits,

Thanks for reading,

kim

Portfolio Style Consulting

The typical Freelance consultant offers to the marketplace a flagship tangible or intangible professional service that is accompanied by several quasi-related supporting services that s/he is qualified to deliver, according to the needs and budgets of clients.

Freelance consultants find it necessary to create multiple revenue streams generated from an array of  services as a way to make the Freelance life financially and professionally rewarding.  Even in the best of times, consulting projects can have infamously long sales cycles and Freelancers must guard against significant revenue gaps. Furthermore, offering more services is a way to attract more clients and billable hours.

While some Freelancers are able to make a good living in consultation with just one or two clients, an arrangement that is no doubt considerably less stressful and time-consuming than juggling several responsibilities, each with its own location, decision-makers, deadliness, cultures and invoicing rhythms, that is nonetheless a very vulnerable position.  Just as the tide comes in, it eventually recedes; any client can choose to decrease billable hours or terminate the relationship altogether, just because.

So we spread our eggs amongst several baskets as a way to appeal to a broader range of clients and mitigate risk.  We must be aware, however, that explaining our various competencies in trust-inspiring language that successfully bundles everything together under one inclusive brand umbrella is perhaps the greatest challenge of marketing and selling the services of a Freelance consultancy.

Like it or not, clients tend to pigeon-hole the consulting contractors that they know, to make it easier to remember whom to call when the need for external expertise arises.  As a result, the Freelancer has two self-branding promotional tasks that will help clients understand how and when our services might be useful:

  1. Position oneself as a highly knowledgeable and trustworthy expert.
  2. Become known as the go-to consulting expert for a given competency.

Convincing “verbal packaging” is urgently needed.  I’ve recently seen the term portfolio suggested as an elegantly simple way to describe how Freelancers help clients to achieve mission-critical goals.  The portfolio system allows Freelancers to present our unique skill sets, the sum of our experience and judgment and the outcomes we regularly deliver, packaged similarly to financial services products, a format that is familiar to your prospects.

Your portfolios will contain marketing, rather than financial, strategies but that does not diminish their value. Plus, clients will agree that diversified portfolios provide the smartest investment solutions and that is what the successful Freelance consultant delivers, every time.

Like a financial services expert sells the advantages of his/her investment portfolios, assign value to and spotlight the ROI derived from the services available through the portfolios contained under the umbrella of your consultancy.  Introduce the portfolio system to your consulting practice by first categorizing and grouping your services into distinct portfolios and then articulating the benefits and outcomes associated with each.  Develop “verbal packaging” to tie them together in a way that helps prospective clients to understand how and when to do business with you.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Spring Training: Perfecting Your Elevator Pitch

We get only one chance to make a good first impression and beyond the visual presentation that your clothing and accessories communicate, followed by how you greet those that you meet (with a pleasantly firm handshake, friendly eye contact and a warm smile), what you say means a great deal.

In business-related gatherings or meetings the direct communication of your elevator pitch must grab the attention of the listener, inspire confidence and entice him/her to want to hear more.  Your elevator pitch is a sales technique wrapped in a conversational tone that piques the interest or even curiosity of the prospects, referral sources, investors, or strategic partners that you meet and entices them to want to know more about you and what you do.  Your elevator pitch is Step 2 in the process of meeting and winning over a VIP (getting the meeting is Step 1).

An elevator pitch (or elevator speech) is your official business introduction.  In it, you state what you do, for whom you do it and the outcomes and/or benefits that you provide to your clients, all in about 30 seconds.  As the story goes you step into the elevator, encounter someone who would like to know who you are and you roll out your spiel between floors.

A well-designed and delivered elevator pitch answers the (unspoken) question, “What can you do for me?” If good luck is on your side, you’ll have a business card handed to you, with a request to call that afternoon at 5:15 PM.  Your elevator pitch should address at least three of the following points:

  • The problem or need that you solve, i.e., the purpose or mission of your venture.
  • Identify your usual or ideal target clients (for-profit, not-for-profit, life sciences professionals, B2B, B2G, Fortune 1000, etc.).
  • Identify one or two of the primary results that your organization provides.
  • Name one or two of the primary benefits that your clients receive as a result of your services.

Depending on what you do, your (heavy-hitting) client list, the person or group that you’re addressing, or your mood, don’t shy away from getting a little bold about the value that you bring.  Even introverts can step up in their own quietly determined way.  If you have some credible (and demonstrable) metrics to attach to the outcomes and results that you produce, so much the better.  That is, if you can truthfully say, for example,  that 9 out of 10 of the marketing campaigns that you design for clients are routinely associated with a 15% increase in top line (gross) revenues within a 12 month period, then include that information in your elevator pitch.

Alternatively, you can keep your pitch very stripped-down and simple and state something like, “You know when this (problem or need) crops up? I fix it.”

Ideally, whoever you’re speaking with will want to hear more but if s/he doesn’t give much of a response, that means you are not speaking with a prospective client and it’s useful to know that up front.  Your elevator pitch will separate the wheat from the chaff and help you recognize who deserves your time and who does not.

If you’ve delivered a good elevator pitch that portrays you as a knowledgeable and trustworthy professional, you may get a client or you may get a referral.  You could also get an invitation to appear on a panel, speak at a business association meeting, or an inquiry about your teaching skills.  An effective elevator pitch is an integral component of the first impression that you make.  Be certain that what you say communicates your brand in the best possible way and it will open doors for you.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

 

A Press Kit That Tells Your Brand Story

It is true that social media and content marketing have forever transformed marketing strategies and advertising campaigns.  How brands reach out and engage with current and potential customers to communicate marketing messages, reinforce the brand and provide product information has become highly targeted and granular, often interactive and as a result, rather personal and designed to build relationships and a community.

The various social media platforms can be wonderful additions to your marketing and advertising plans, but they’ve not yet vanquished the trusty throwback that is the press kit. The press kit remains viable and is a must-have promotional tool for every organization—for-profit or not-for-profit, large, small, solopreneur, or start-up. Also known as a media kit, the press kit can be considered a resume for your business and with it you can create a narrative for your organization, in electronic format or as hard copy enclosed in a folder that you personally hand out.

Your press kit can contain any number of resources that inform recipients about your company and it can be customized to promote objectives you’d like to achieve. Business editors and journalists targeted to receive a press release, prospective clients that you plan to court, potential investors and business partners are among those who are press kit candidates.  Below is a list of ingredients that will help you tell your brand story:

1. Company Fact Sheet (known as the one sheet)

  • When and where the company was founded and its current location
  • Is the company privately or publicly held (date of initial public offering, if applicable)?
  • Company mission statement
  • Two or three of the most prominent clients if B2B, or largest target customer groups if B2C
  • Primary products or services
  • Number of employees
  • Company legal structure (corporation or limited liability company)
  • Website address and social media links

2. Photos

  • Professionally done headshots of the founder(s) and the leadership team (as high resolution images suitable for print or online publications)
  • A photo of the building where your office is located and/or a photo of the office entryway or reception area

3. Press releases

  • Selected press releases that have been sent to media outlets
  • Links to (selected) articles that have been written about the organization
  • Links to (selected) industry related articles written by the founder(s) or other company leaders

4. Videos

  • A three-minute clip of the founder(s) giving an overview of the company story, or announcing a new product or strategic partnership (if production budget is available)
  • If the founder(s) has been interviewed on television or radio to speak about the company or the industry, include a three-minute clip.

Business editors and journalists will be more willing to feature or include your company in an article if you can quickly email a press kit that gives them some background information.  If you plan to contact media outlets to announce a new product or service, for example, or let the public know that you will participate in a noteworthy charity event in your metro area,  put together an online media kit before you send the press release.

Before you hit the send button, call the publication and confirm who should receive the information.  A day or two after sending, call to confirm that it was received and ask if additional information would be appreciated.  Offer to send your press kit. Invite the reporter to your office for a casual chat or a formal interview (you can hand out the hard copy press kit if you’ve not yet sent the online version).

If attracting prestige clients to join your roster is the goal, your press kit can be an effective marketing tool that helps to convince those prospects that you are capable, trustworthy and have a good track record.  Prospects will learn the basics about you, your leadership team, the history of your company. They’ll see that you’ve worked with other good clients and that media outlets have written about, or quoted you (if you include press clippings).

Financial and business performance information, such as year-end balance sheets, growth and earnings statistics and other key performance indicators will please potential investors and partners and allow them to quickly understand the financial position of the company. Your press kit can potentially help to persuade certain of them to enter discussions that could result in an infusion of cash that would propel your venture to the next level.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Social Media Platforms: Review and Reassess

According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in March – April 2016, 68% of all U.S. adults use FaceBook; 28% use Instagram; 25% are on LinkedIn; 26% use Pinterest; and 21% use Twitter.  I’d consider that a compelling reason to ramp up your social media game, that is, if your can expect your customers to respond.  Not only that, participating in social media makes your business more appealing to the all-powerful Google algorithm and your place on the list is guaranteed to rise.  You might even land on page one.  Visibility, coupled with a story that resonates, is what marketing is all about.

The secret sauce of social media for your business is first, work with platforms that allow you to reach your customers and second, supply the style of content that will effectively tell your brand story and hold the attention of your customers, while using media formats that you have the time and money to produce.

Theoretically, social media is free advertising that lets you promote your brand, but there are costs associated with its production.  Time is the largest cost and if you include videos now and again, there will be video production costs.  Also remember that when in business, your job is to find and maintain clients.  Social media have a greater or lesser place in business, depending on your products and services, but it’s not the center of the universe.  If social media play a pivotal role in your marketing strategy based on the ROI generated, consider outsourcing the function to a fellow Freelancer.

Pinterest

The Pinterest platform allows members to “pin, ” that is post, photos and videos to what is called a pinboard and the format has made Pinterest an excellent vehicle to tell a brand story in visuals.  If the products or services that your company provides can tell and promote your brand story in a series of lovely photographs or catchy short videos—florists, fashion designers, interior designers, restaurateurs, pastry chefs and special event planners —then this platform is ideal for you.

As of January 2017, there are 150 million Pinterest users and 80 million are outside of the U.S.  Just over 80% are female.  The practice of “re-pinning” favored postings helps content to go viral and pushes you to the top of Google searches that could result in your name appearing on “trending” lists on sites like Yahoo News.

Infographics, those pictures, charts and graphs that also include text and give you yet another way to utilize visuals that help readers to quickly understand your narrative. are a great fit for Pinterest (and also Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn).  If you have the ability and time, use Photoshop to create a customized infographic, but do investigate the several free templates available as you evaluate what could be suitable for your story.  Much depends on the information that you’d like to share.  Some data will look best in bar graphs or pie charts; other elements of your brand story could be more captivating if presented in storyboard format.

Snapchat

Here it is, the platform that millennials love.  As of January 2017, the typical Snapchat user is female and under 34 years old (70% for both parameters).  41% of the 18-24 age group in the U.S. check into Snapchat every day, mostly on their smartphones. The platform has 300 million users worldwide (November 2016).

Your content will self-destruct in 24 hours, so your text and images must be memorable because tomorrow they will be gone.  But that’s sort of the fun part.  Snapchat is meant to be fun and ephemeral, like champagne bubbles in a pretty flute.

Restaurant owners can post photos of the daily specials.  Art galleries can post a piece or two of an artist’s work and announce his/her exhibit that will happen that evening.  Retail stores can advertise one-day sales.  Florists can can use their smart phones to make a short video on of themselves and the flowers that they’ll bring into the shop from that morning’s flower market.  Food trucks can send a photo of where you can find them for the day.

Twitter

As of January 2017 there are nearly  320 million users tweeting around the globe and 82% of those users are on a mobile device when they do.  Users skew slightly more female and the demographic sweet spot is 18-50 years.  Twitter revolutionized social media and along the way, impacted how many of us communicate, thanks to the 140 character limit on tweets that caused us to pare down and condense our sentences.  Twitter has also taken part in social revolutions, most notably the Arab Spring of 2010-2012 that rocked from Tunisia to Persia.

Use Twitter to give real-time updates from an event you’re attending.  Send photos, videos, or links to articles and share your professional insights.  Invite readers to respond with their opinions and create the opportunity to engage with your audience.  Add Twitter to your PR campaign and send out news of your speaking engagements.  Include Twitter in your customer service protocol and invite customers to make suggestions that might improve service and help you better understand how to meet or exceed expectations.  A few might even thank you for a job well done and make you look good to many prospective customers !

YouTube

One billion global citizens post videos to powerhouse YouTube and 180 million of those aspiring videographers are in the U.S. (January 2017) and many of the posted videos are of high quality. Thousands of YouTube users have created their own successful channels that sometimes rival network and cable television shows.  The platform is overwhelmingly about entertainment, but if you conduct tutorials and workshops, you might be able to build for yourself a nice little paid speaking career by posting a few of your workshops and picking up subscribers to your channel.  Maybe 23 minutes of education and 5 or 6 minutes total of intro and recap would work?

If you don’t mind being on camera for extended periods, you can hire someone to film  a behind-the-scenes view of you at work, especially if you do something that has the potential to capture viewer interest, like planning a wedding—talking to the couple (anonymously, of course), speaking with vendors and doing whatever it takes to efficiently pull together a lovely and memorable day.

You may want a system to help you manage your content across platforms and for that I recommend Hootsuite, that is if you’re inclined to invest $20/month in a service that allows you to schedule and track your many forms of content from one dashboard.  Pulling all the threads together will allow you to see the big picture, make it easy to see where you can re-use content and can only improve your social media strategy, impact and ROI.

In closing, I’ll remind you of social media best practices and encourage you to create content that can be expected to have value for the followers.  Pace the delivery of your content and do not overwhelm.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Social Media Platform Review

Unless you are an incredibly well-connected Freelance consultant who is out there making a killing and maybe even turning business away (yes, I know a half-dozen people who fit that description but it ain’t me!), social media plays some role in your branding and marketing strategies.  Each platform has its uses and will be a good fit for some businesses and maybe not so much for others.  The platforms are all free, but remember that time is a valuable and limited asset.  No matter how responsive to social media marketing your venture is, Freelancers and small business owners cannot maintain a presence on every platform,  unless you outsource the function (but if the dollars are there, then it could be worth the investment).

As carefully as you manage your money, likewise manage the time you apply to the social media portion of your marketing strategy (and I mean portion, because social media is not the alpha and omega of marketing).  Get started by first asking yourself what you would like your broader marketing strategy to achieve and then what each platform can do to support that aim.

Everything always starts with your clients, your target markets.  Who are they and what kinds of social marketing might they respond to? B2B clients will require a different approach and will have different expectations than B2C customers, for example.  Next, think about what you would like social media outreach to do for you?

Is your objective to promote products or services, or promote awareness of your brand story (that is, who you are, what motivated you to go into business, what your venture sells and something of your values and priorities as regards the business)? Might you like to build relationships and a community of customers who will also talk to each other and you? Does supporting customer service have a place in your social media objectives?

Finally, how do you want to express your story narrative? You will notice that my blog content is exclusively text (but I did include images in two posts and a video in another, a couple of years ago).  I’d like to include photos sometimes, but I don’t have time to hunt down freebies online, so I chose to research, write and present topics that you might want to read about in text format.

Facebook

The biggest of the platforms with about 1.86 billion users (February 2017) around the world, who represent an all-encompassing demographic spectrum.  There are somewhat more women users than men and the bulk of the age demographic is 25-60 years.  47% of Americans say that Facebook is their primary influencer when it comes to making purchases (Forbes Magazine).

Especially those who are in B2C and for some in B2B, Facebook will bring excellent ROI.  In-store events and promotions, speaking engagements, your workshops and other events can be announced to Facebook Friends.  Content provided in text, photos, or video can be uploaded.  You can create groups and build communities, or post a customer survey.  Share behind-the-scenes information about your business and what it takes to do what you do and in the process engage with customers, strengthen your brand and build relationships.

Does that sound like too much work and too much sharing? Then create a Fan Page and limit your presence to basic info.  Be aware that your presentation of text, photos and other content should be relaxed and welcoming, to create a personal feel (but remember that business is nevertheless the context).

Instagram

You’ll find 500 million users around the world here and 80% are outside of the U.S. On average, 95 million photos and videos are shared every day, with many accessed on a mobile device (present your content accordingly).  At least 42% of teens in the U.S. follow Instagram, with the demographic sweet spot 14-35 years and slightly skewed to female.  Instagram is about photo sharing, very short video trailers and concise text posting that includes a hashtag # that helps to spread your content.  Add a link to your profile bio.  Decide if you want a public or members-only account. Links cannot be shared.

Visual storytelling, behind-the-scenes photo montages, social selling, brand awareness, engaging with customers and creating relationships are good uses of this platform. If you are in public relations or special event/conference planning, then you will find worthwhile B2B use, otherwise it’s B2C as far as I can tell.

LinkedIn

As of January 2017, LinkedIn has 467 million users globally and it’s considered the gold standard B2B social media platform, very effective for communicating one’s personal brand.  I think most users place it at the junction of free website and online curriculum vitae. Business ventures large and small,  Freelance consultants, corporate and nonprofit leaders,  physicians and dentists, any employee who harbors professional aspirations and most college students  have a LinkedIn profile page. Recruiters use of the platform as well, to identify potential candidates for job openings and their success has motivated  thousands of companies to post job openings on the site.

LinkedIn is an excellent platform on which to build a community of professional colleagues through your connections and share with them your professional story, successes, highlights and other updates. This blog posts to my LinkedIn page and my connections receive notice of its arrival.  Your connections will also share their stories and there is great opportunity to be in touch and nurture relationships.

Professional portfolios, videos, white papers, newsletters, blogs, infographics and SlideShare presentations can be added to your profile page to add depth to your brand story.  Links to articles or studies that could interest your connections can be posted. Recommendations and endorsements let others verify your professional bona fides and you can return the favor.

In the Groups section, you’ll engage with colleagues within your industry, or with alumni of your school. Topics of interest are explored through posted questions and group members can respond and in the process get to know one another and possibly, forge  relationships that lead to doing business.

We’ll continue next week with overviews of more commonly used social media platforms.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

 

Upgrade To A Branded Elevator Pitch

Think about it.  Your elevator pitch and your personal brand are co-dependent.  The two share a mission-critical objective, to create a positive and memorable first impression of you and your enterprise when you meet personal and professional contacts.  The all-important self-introduction known as the elevator pitch is, while brief and simple, nevertheless your most important marketing tool, because it’s often how people first get to know you and your business.

From the opening line to the final sentence, your elevator pitch is Step 1 in  communicating your personal brand.  Its content must be clear and concise, and persuade people that you are worth knowing and doing business with.  Build the introduction to your brand by choosing two or three of your services or products to use as talking points; write them down and rehearse your pitch frequently.  Like a singer or musician, memorize the melody of the song that is your elevator pitch and improvise as needed.

Your delivery is as important as its content.  Polish your presentation by speaking in a pleasant and energetic tone of voice.  Exude a welcoming and friendly demeanor as you greet people with a smile, all the while standing up straight and maintaining eye contact, as you extend your right arm to initiate a comfortably firm hand shake and give your name.

Networking is a 365 days a year activity and your elevator pitch can easily be tailored to fit any context, whether you’re at a holiday party or a business association event.  Purely social events usually do not require mention of your business life, unless the topic comes up a little later, as you chat with your new acquaintances.

What matters most is that your pitch ensures that you are perceived as competent, credible and authentic.  When introducing your professional role, use easy-to-understand, jargon-free language as you succinctly describe two or three of the services you provide (What you do) that solve two or three problems that your clients encounter and must resolve (Why you do it).  Depending on who you’re meeting, you may choose to reveal the types of organizations that you work with (for Whom you do it) and the value (benefits and outcomes) that are achieved when clients work with you.

Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, famously said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Take the time to develop an elevator pitch that creates a trust-building first impression for prospective clients, influencers and referral sources and serves as an effective first touchpoint for your personal brand.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Add Value to Your LinkedIn Profile

Like so many of us, I gradually allowed myself to ignore LinkedIn.  I’m embarrassed to tell you that I logged in again last month, after a two-year hiatus.  I completely undervalued the free, widely used and beneficial resource that is LinkedIn.  It’s time to take another look.

Over the years I built up a solid profile, complete with endorsements, recommendations, a photo and even a SlideShare presentation and about once a year, I’d do an update and refresh.  After my inexcusably lengthy absence, I was happy to discover new profile enhancements that can showcase ambitious professionals and make us look very capable to both  connections and prospective clients or employers.

If you’re job hunting, or if you are self-employed and in constant search of project work, these features can be a real plus.  I think a visit to candidates’ profiles is a must-do for most hiring managers.  My profile strength is now at the All-Star level! Here are my upgrades:

  • LINK.  My favorite new feature is the website link that all professional experience listings now offer.  Click on the link; copy/paste the organization web address into the dialogue box; see the nice image that pops into the visuals box; click continue, then click add to profile and presto!  Your profile will now feature eye-catching images that entice interested parties to explore your affiliated organizations and the expertise that you contribute.  You can also link a photo, document, presentation, or a video and provide good  insight  into the organization and your role there.
  • SPOTLIGHT.  Above your profile photo and headline  job listing, notice the ticker tape of skills spotlight options that you can click on, fill in and add still more  information to showcase your expertise, professional activities and achievements.  I saw questions that  pertained to groups and acitivities that I participated in at school; articles that I might have recently published; and work samples or special projects that I’d like to add to my profile.
  • GROUPS.  Regular readers may recall that in October, I completed first round judging for an organization that presents awards to C- Suite level women in business (there are also mixed gender European, Asian/Pacific and American business awards that I do not judge). The organizers invited me to join the unlisted LinkedIn group for award judges and I was happy to do so.  I plan to follow discussions and find out what I can learn and contribute.  Remember to also join your college alumni group, which can be great resources professionally and personally.
  • UPDATES.  Regular readers may also recall that I recently performed editing, photo editing and self-publishing project management for a history book that was launched in September.  I finally posted that info in the update section on the home page and uploaded the book cover photo.

Other enhancements that may fit your situation might include:

  • HEADLINE. When you add a new employment listing, LinkedIn automatically makes the new job title your headline and for some, this may not be ideal.  Some of the traditionally employed might make a lateral move, temporarily upsetting the upward linear career slope.  Freelance consultants may take a part-time job that likewise enhances the overall skill set,  but may not be worthy of the branding headline.  Consider revising your headline, even if it will not precisely adhere to your official job title. Your mission is personal brand enhancement and LinkedIn, while often viewed by prospective employers, is not your official CV.  Furthermore, consider reordering your list of professional positions to give prominence to what you want to highlight.  In edit profile, click on the up and down arrows to the right of the job title and see a 4 prong icon.  Use that to drag and facilitate your job reorder.
  • URL. Rather than keeping the auto-generated LinkedIn profile URL, visit your profile page, click on edit profile, see the link directly below your photo and click again to set up a customized URL for your profile.
  • CREDENTIALS. On the profile page, click edit profile and beneath your photo and URL, see “add a section to your profile.” Below that, see “view more” and click there, to reveal an array of enhancements you can add to your profile, including certifications, patents, special projects and your professional publications.
  • RESPOND.  When connections celebrate a success— work anniversary, post a good update, move to a new job, or publish a blog post that you find interesting—send a LinkedIn email to comment and congratualte.
  • PURGE. Delete connections that no longer make sense, or those who ignore your questions or other outreach.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

5 Customer Survey Questions That Work

Every once in a while, it makes sense to address your client feedback metric, so that you will receive some lived-experience insight into your operation’s strengths and weaknesses.  You need to learn what can be done better, which service delivery or other operational processes might be simplified and what clients would like to see more of.

The smartest way to begin the client feedback process is to decide what you want to know and what purpose that information will serve.  Are you trying to develop new products or services, so that you’ll be able to give clients what they want before they know they want it? Or is business dwindling and you’re in damage control mode, attempting to win back clients?

Some market research questions are best explored through the eyes of clients and others around the conference table with your leadership team (or maybe your front-line staff, who have loads of on-the-ground experience that they’d love to share). Let’s examine when it makes sense to query your clients and when you’ll learn more from in-house research.  Given below are five standard yet very clever survey questions, some that apply to clients and others that apply to you and your team:

  1. What are the challenges that clients (in a given industry or category) are facing?
  2. Which of these problems is our organization equipped to address?
  3. What solutions are we offering now and what can we/should we add, re-tool, or quit?
  4. How effective are our solutions—what do clients most often hire us to do?
  5. What do we do next?

Note that questions 1 and 4 would best be put to your clients and that questions 2, 3 & 5 involve business strategy and would be addressed in-house, once you’ve spoken with selected clients to figure out questions 1 and 4.

How you conduct the client survey deserves some thought, as well. It might be best for Freelance consultants and small business owners to run a low-key survey by setting up an environment that enables comfortable and candid conversation.  Consider making the process informal and perhaps even seemingly impromptu.  Larger companies may feel comfortable running a formal focus group, perhaps facilitated by an outside market research firm.

Question 1: What are the primary challenges facing your client’s organization?

Whether the client comes to you or you go the client, start by asking a “how are things going in your office” question, or inquire about the next big project or objective (whether or not it would involve your organization). Find out what’s going on and let the client talk.

Questions 2 and 3: Which challenges do you want to solve? How will that be done?

Given the expertise and resources you have, coupled with the client’s inclination to contract for the necessary billable hours, which additional client challenges might you be asked to take on (or what can you cleverly propose to be hired to do)? Can your organization successfully deliver the desired outcomes, or will you need to subcontract some portion? Can you learn how clients are managing these responsibilities now? Is there a competitor who gets hired to do that work , or is nothing being done because the client isn’t sure what to do, or lacks the budget to complete the job?

Question 4: Have our solutions satisfactorily resolved the clients’ challenges?

What project did the client hire you to do? What are the projects that your organization is most often hired to do? How does do clients feel about your performance—is your expertise and ability to deliver the service trusted and respected by clients? Does it seem that you’ll receive more business from several of your clients, on a similar project or another type?

Question 5: What do you do next, based on client responses?

Now here is the judgment call for you and the team. The essence of the process is interpreting the data compiled.  What can you realistically do, based on the responses from clients in questions 1 and 4 and the opportunities and strengths within your organization, as noted in questions 2, 3 and 5?

Remember, it is most likely possible to beta test a new or re-tooled service  with a trusted client who would receive a reduced project fee in exchange for helping your organization to perfect the business model.

Thanks for reading,

Kim