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What’s More Important: Your Story…Or How You Tell It?

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It’s the Public Relations version of the chicken and the egg debate. What factor carries more weight when it comes to effectively communicating a story or message? Is it the quality of content or is it how you present it and to whom?

I’ve given this quite a bit of thought. As a Public Relations consultant, I’ve had to. At the core of what I do is help people write and share their personal or professional “stories.” After nearly a decade, I think I have the answer. Before what I share what it is, I first want to make a few things clear.

Even the best story won’t get noticed if…

It’s not told. This may sound more obvious than helpful, but it’s where so many people get stuck – the beginning. It’s challenging to put something into words, especially when that “something” is important to you. Conversely, you may think you’ve told your story or shared your message, but it doesn’t accurately capture the emotion or value you want to convey. If a story is not told, or told correctly it will never get the attention it deserves.

It’s hard to understand. Even if you put into words everything you want to say, that doesn’t mean that it is content that will get noticed. If your story is poorly written it will be hard to grasp the core message. It also won’t be enjoyable to read, which will turn people off before they get too far in.

It’s irrelevant. One of the easiest ways to annoy people is to waste their time with a story or message that is irrelevant to their interests or purposes. Worse yet, this can negatively impact your reputation and cause people to tune you out even if you do have a valuable message to share with them later on.

Even the most clever presentation will be ignored if…

It’s lacking a real story. All the glitz and graphics in the world won’t overshadow a story that has no real story. I most often see this when clients want media attention for something that’s not really newsworthy. No matter how you spin it, you’re just not going to get national media coverage for hiring a new account executive at your mid-sized firm.

It’s hitting the wrong audience. Think of what you’re trying to sell and who is most likely to buy it. It’s important to meet your target audience where they are. How do they consume media? If you’re trying to share the story of your fashion business with a local sports reporter, the chances are just about 100% that they are not interested in publishing it – at least under their column. When pulling media lists or targeting a demographic, check and re-check that you’re hitting the right audience.

It doesn’t provide value to others. If the story you’re telling is solely self-promotional, you’re not going to connect with your readers. As humans, we need to know what’s in it for us. It’s perfectly fine to have some personal gain from the story, but this needs to accompanied by a component of service, helpfulness, insight or entertainment.

The Answer

As your gut might tell you, it takes both a strong story and powerful presentation to have the best possible outcome. Either of these on their own simply isn’t enough. Throughout my career I have seen examples that reinforce this conclusion again and again. A client will come to me wanting to gain media attention for something that simply isn’t newsworthy. There’s no angle or reason anyone else would care about that particular topic. It sounds harsh, but my job is to be honest and, at times, deliver the hard truth. After all, it can save a client both money and frustration.

Or the opposite might be true. They have a great story to tell, newsworthy through and through, but the way in which it was crafted doesn’t do it justice. A story told poorly might as well be a story that is never told, because you’re not really telling the true story. It’s hidden. In this instance, there is something I can do to help. When a client comes to me with a genuinely good story to tell, it’s like striking gold. It’s extremely fulfilling when I’m able to set the story free and get it in front of the right people to amplify its reach.

If you feel you have a story to tell, keep in mind that it takes both solid content and smart dissemination to effectively share your message. That’s not to say every story or message needs to be the wittiest, most captivating thing people will ever read, but at minimum it needs to hit the points I mentioned above.

And if you’re still not sure if you have an interesting story to tell, or that it’s not being shared as well as it could be, ask a professional communicator! We know what to look for…and we’ll give you the good, the bad and the ugly.

What untold story do you have to tell? Practice your “pitch” by leaving a teaser in the comments below!

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Posted by on February 11, 2019 in Business, Business & Success, Life

 

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7 Mistakes that Push Away New Business

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


7 Mistakes that Push Away New Business

When you’re fortunate to have new business come knocking at your door, it’s still far from a done deal. Winning over a client takes time, patience and strategy. In my industry, things always begin with an initial client phone call or an in-person meeting. This casual, first meeting is the opportunity for both parties to feel each other out. Do our visions and values align? Do we share realistic expectations for what can be accomplished with the given budget and time frame? Most importantly, is there chemistry? No, nothing romantic, just a good synergy that will help create a productive working relationship.

Even if all of these things appear to be on target, there are still quite a few ways in which I can push away this new business, if I’m not careful. While the ability to read a client and build a strong connection from the start isn’t something you can necessarily teach, there are a few obvious mistakes you should avoid when trying to win over a new client. Save yourself some future regret but taking note of the next seven items on this list!

  1. Being unresponsive

The first mistake you can make is to be anything but highly responsive to your prospective client. This is the first impression you make. If they call you to learn more about your services, respond to them same day. Even if you’re not able to connect by phone, the least you can do is email them to set up a time for a future phone call or meeting. Carry this level of responsiveness into every phase of working with this client. Chronically late responses are a red flag to the client that you may not be the easiest person work with.

  1. Acting like you have all the answers

In your first client meeting, don’t come in there like you have all the answers. You don’t. You’re meeting this client for the first time and you likely know little about the industry and nothing about their business (more than a website and social media can tell you). I know in my case, people call me in because there are serious internal problems taking place. This is something you can’t know simply by Googling them. Come ready to listen, take notes and ask questions.

  1. Lacking examples of your insight and experiences

While you don’t want to come in acting like you know everything about the client’s particular business, you do want to walk in ready to prove your knowledge and expertise. Offer plenty of examples of past client success stories that relate to the services you may provide to this new client. Real-world examples are not only powerful, they are memorable. Additionally, be prepared to offer some examples of new ideas you have, tailored to the client’s needs. Make them feel like you’re offering fresh solutions and not something canned that you provide to every client.

  1. Pushing a client toward a final decision in your first meeting

Let the first meeting be a no-pressure zone. If you do a good job selling yourself, there is no need to pressure a new client into making a final decision as to whether they want to work with you right then and there. In fact, it’s likely going to be in your favor to have them sleep on the ideas you presented and to get even more excited about them! Don’t be so desperate to close the deal that you end up closing the door on yourself.

  1. Leaving the first meeting with no action plan

Just because you’re not going to pressure the new client into a final decision doesn’t mean you can’t have a clear path for the next steps you will take toward that final decision. You need to leave the meeting with an action plan in place. If possible, leave with the ball in your court. That means it’s on you to get the client a proposal or follow-up with additional information to help them make a decision. This gives you the power to reach out to them on your terms, rather than waiting to hear back from the client.

  1. Not following-up

This loops back to mistake number one and the need to be responsive. Just as it’s important to be responsive, it’s equally important to initiate a response. Give the client some space after your first meeting and after you’ve provided them with a proposal and an outline of next steps. Then, about one week later (or if they specified how much time they need), follow-up! Keep it short and sincere. Ask them if they have any additional questions you can answer. Or if a new idea has come to you, share that with them – along with your enthusiasm for working with them soon. These techniques enable you to stay in touch without nagging them.

  1. Charging a new client for your business development time

Another mistake that pushes away new business is charging for things like your first consultation meeting, putting together a proposal or any other initial communications. If you’re properly vetting your leads, you should be closing just about every new client meeting you take. Your time spent in business development stands to yield far more profit in the long-run than the couple hundred dollars you may make charging your client for every interaction. Furthermore, the practice of nickel and diming a client is sure to make them question your business practices and possibly scare them off altogether. Do your homework, qualify your leads and then invest that initial time at no cost, knowing you have a great shot at making it back ten-fold!

Have you made any of these same mistakes and found that it pushed away new business? Or can you think of something else that is missing from this list? Share your ideas by leaving a comment below!

 
 

How to Bring Media Attention to Your Place of Business

how to bring media attention to your place of business

If your business has a brick and mortar location, it could be highly valuable to earn on-site media coverage to showcase your space and give your customers better insight into what you do and who you are. But how does a business attract media attention? If you’re among the lucky few, the media might find you; however this is not commonly the case!

Instead, you need to take matters into your own hands by developing a strategy to get in front of your desired media outlets and make it undeniable as to why they should feature your place of business in an upcoming news segment.

Take a look at a few of our tried and true tips for bringing media attention to your place of business – and commit to trying these out for yourself in 2019!

1. Find the right angle.

It takes a lot more than saying “Hey, come out and do a story on my business so I can attract more customers!” Of course that’s the underlying motive for basically every business wishing to earn media coverage, however you need to paint a more interesting picture for the media. You need to find the right angle. Some options might include a special anniversary or milestone for your business. Or maybe it’s something related to a holiday, special occasion or piece of history in your local community. If you’re really struggling to find a compelling angle, think of how you can tie your story back to something charitable or “feel good.”

 2. Put effort into your pitch.

With the right angle lined up, don’t skimp on the quality of your pitch. The key to a perfect pitch is to find the right balance of being direct, courteous and creative. Make sure to address the WIFM (What’s In It For Me) so that the media can clearly see how this would interest their audience. With a quality pitch and a creative angle, you will drastically increase your chances of getting picked up.

 3. Follow-up and follow-through. 

Now that you have their attention, you need to follow-up with your pitch. If you get an interested response, act quickly. Nail down the time and location of the interview – and all the nitty gritty details. Quickly decide who will be on air and their key talking points. Make it as easy and seamless as possible for the media to cover a great story and you will form the foundation for a long-term relationship that could yield more coverage in the future!

On the flip side, should you get a “No” response, or no response at all, you need to follow-through. Be persistent, but friendly. In your follow-up email ask for a courtesy “No” if they have left you hanging, simply so you can close the books on this pitch. If they do say “No” kindly ask for a piece of advice as to how you can better pitch to them in the future. Maybe they don’t cover that beat – but you might be able to find a new angle in the future that does align with their topics.

 4. Make the most of the media coverage.

If you’ve successfully earned media coverage for your business, be your own best publicity! Ask how soon a link to the story will be ready and set a strategy for sharing. You’ll want to get this out on your social media outlets (personal and business) as well as finding a place for it on your website. Depending upon the coverage, you might also want to further promote it with sponsored social media posts, or create a blog post to tell the story of the behind-the-scenes aspect of the day. There is no limit as to how you can share quality content!

 5. Don’t lose momentum – plan for the future!

Finally and most importantly, don’t lose momentum. You deserve a pat on the back for a successful media pitch, but then it’s time to get back to work. How can you harness the power of this first feature story? Are there other outlets that may now be interested in doing a story as well? Can you find a new angle? Or maybe your strategy is to let a little time pass and then pitch a new angle in the next month or so. The more media coverage you get in a moderate amount of time, the more people will wonder what all the buzz is about!

Have you had success in earning press coverage at your place of business? Share your success story or ask a question that we can help you answer!

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2019 in Business, Business & Success

 

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How to Master Customer Support for your Small Business (Contribution from Keith Coppersmith)

The following post comes to us from Keith Coppersmith, an experienced business consultant who serves small businesses and startups.


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How to Master Customer Support for your Small Business

Did you know that 51% of customers stop doing business after just one negative experience? Research further shows that businesses lose over $62 billion every year on poor customer service.

Precisely because of that, wise small business owners don’t look at great customer support as a cost. For them, this is a chance to increase sales and boost brand loyalty.

Now, when it comes to providing spotless customer support, there is always room for improvement. Here are a few great tactics that will help you take your customer relationships to the next level.

Don’t Overcomplicate Customer Conversations

Providing customer support is not an opportunity for you to showcase your impressive industry knowledge. When reaching out to you, a customer expects to get a specific answer that solves their problem.

Using overly complex technical jargon may cause miscommunication issues and hurt user experience. It may even seem as if you yourself don’t know the answer to the question. To keep your customers happy, you need to speak their language. Simple and effective explanations will boost their satisfaction and motivate them to buy from you again.

Help your Customers Make Payments Faster

The flexibility of your services can get you a long way. Let’s take an example of invoicing, as this is one of the major problems businesses face. Stats say that 64% of businesses have unpaid invoices that have gone unpaid for at least 60 days.

Sure, in the short term, you need to find the right financing method to boost your bottom line. For example, you can improve cash flow with invoice finance. This financing option brings numerous benefits to small businesses and startups. First, invoice finance firms usually pay businesses about 80% of the total sum within 48 hours, meaning you’ll get your money fast. Second, unlike with bank loans, there are no high-interest rates. Finally, invoicing doesn’t hurt user experience and helps you maintain stronger client relationships.

Sure, these are all short-term solutions. To boost your cash flow in the long run, you need to manage your late payments strategically. Here are a few ideas to incorporate into your customer support:

  • Offer multiple payment options to boost their buying experience and encourage them to buy from you.
  • B2B businesses should also have a billing policy, where they would clearly state when and how you want to get paid and how you will handle late payments.
  • Send invoices on time to get customers to take them seriously.
  • Automate your rebilling process. With the help of the right software, your customers will be able to track their payments directly from an app, get informed about any failed payments, and get actionable tips to solve these problems faster.

Answer Customer Questions in Real-Time

The demands of a modern customer have changed. They now use multiple channels to communicate with brands. Unsurprisingly, they expect businesses to use these channels, too. Research says most customers expect to get an answer within 2 hours, while 84% of them don’t want to wait longer than a day.

Precisely because of that, you need to need to provide multichannel customer services. Update your contact information on your site regularly and get listed on all major business directories. You should also provide your email address, links to social media support profiles, and live chats. Multichannel communication increases user satisfaction and helps them resolve the problem faster.

Leverage the Power of Social Networks

Many brands have started seeing the value of social networks in building customer relationships. First, you can use AI-powered software like chatbots to provide customers with timely and relevant answers. Today’s chatbots are smart and they’re constantly learning from customer interactions to understand their intent and give relevant feedback.

You can also use social monitoring tools to track your brand/product mentions on social networks and participate in customers’ conversations instantly. These tools give you a great opportunity to identify customers experiencing problems with your products, help them fix these problems effectively, and turn them into brand advocates.

Collect Customer Feedback Regularly

There are numerous metrics you can track to assess your small business’ performance. And, one of the most important ones is customer satisfaction. You need to understand how your customers feel about your brand, what they like, appreciate, or hate about it.

Collecting customer feedback is one of the most significant aspects of customer support, given that 91% of unhappy customers won’t complain about poor experiences with your brand. They will simply leave you for your competitors.

There are numerous ways to do gather user feedback. I’ve already mentioned the importance of social listening and AI-powered chatbots. These tools let you see what questions your customers usually ask and what problems they experience.

You could also create a dedicated feedback form on your website and even reach out to a customer that abandoned the shopping cart. Live chat support can also be effective. Once a customer support agent helps a customer, they can send them feedback. Finally, you can always call a customer and ask them for their opinions directly.

Over to You

With the rise of sophisticated customer relationship management tools, providing subpar customer services are not acceptable anymore. You need to provide timely customer support, answer customer feedback professionally, and customize your customer services. This way, you will build stronger customer relationships and increase brand loyalty.

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About the Author: Keith Coppersmith is an Adelaide based business consultant with a degree in Media Management. With experience in numerous small businesses and startups, he enjoys giving advice on all things marketing.

 

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7 Things I Will Never Have as a Business Owner

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


7 Things I Will Never Have as a Business Owner

While there are many advantages to being your own boss, there are also certain things you may never experience again (for the most part). Depending upon how you look at it, this could be a win-win scenario. Either way, now six years into running my own business, I’ve realized that there are a few things I will likely never have as a business owner.

A Day Completely Free From Work

The upside to running my own business, I can work from anywhere. The downside, I can work from anywhere. For this reason, my work followers me anywhere I have internet access. And even without internet access, it’s still on my mind. I’m not likely to ever go completely “offline” for more than a day, but that’s because I prefer to stay on top of my work and grow my business. When you’re passionate about what you do, you’re not always craving that next vacation!

Limited Vacation Days

Speaking of vacation, I can time off whenever I feel like it and as often as I want to. It still holds true that my work will be something I carry with me, but I doubt anyone feels too sorry when I’m checking emails from the Bahamas. Being a business owner is about balance. I can take unlimited vacation days, but I’m still responsible for delivering what I promised to my clients. Time management is key.

A Tax Return

I gave up hope a long time ago that I would ever see a tax return. As a business owner, I pay not only at tax time, but I pay quarterly throughout the year leading up to it. It’s important to point out that my clients don’t withhold taxes in their payments, so it’s strictly on me to make sure I am paying the fair and appropriate amount of taxes based on my income. Similar to having unlimited vacation days, I don’t expect anyone to feel bad for my tax situation. After all, if I’m paying more it means I’m earning more. But I have to laugh at the commercials that suggest I use my tax return for this or that. It’s been nearly a decade since the IRS wrote me a check.

Normal Work Hours

For better – and worse – I don’t have set “normal” work hours. It works out for the most part that I’m in front of my computer between 9 and 4, but there will be times I’m taking a 8pm conference call or I’m online at 6am to clean up my inbox. On the upside, I can also go offline for a couple hours in the morning to get in a work out, or in the afternoon to catch a nap. I’m so far removed from the concept of a 9-5 job that I doubt I would last long in that work environment again.

A Fixed Income

As a business owner, my income is anything but fixed. I have a meager paycheck I receive each month from my business for tax purposes, but I also receive distributions throughout the year however I see fit. Every year and every month, my income is up to me. I have to constantly and consistently satisfy my current clients and keep my pipeline full of new clients. In a crazy scenario, every client could decide to discontinue their services and I would be left at square one. On the flip side (and the more common scenario), I take on additional clients each month and grow my income.

It’s not common that many people can increase their monthly “salary” by a couple thousand dollars in a month by providing the same services they’re already providing to others. For this reason and many others, I love owning a business, and owning my income.

Someone Else Controlling My Schedule

Because no single client owns 100% of my time, they do not have control of my schedule. I remember my life prior to entrepreneurship where I would have someone slap a meeting or conference call on my schedule and so long as it was during normal work hours I had no leverage to push back. I had to stop whatever I was doing to be there. Now, when a client requests a meeting, they provide me with several options and I have the ability to select what works best for me. If I can’t make a meeting, my clients don’t know if it’s because of a work conflict or a hair appointment (or more commonly it doesn’t work with my toddler’s nap schedule). I control my own schedule and strategically plan my days to be efficient and convenient.

A Boring Day

As a business owner, there is no such thing as a boring day. Often the excitement comes from exceeding a client’s expectation or receiving a great lead for new business. Other times, “excitement” is the rush of an emergency or crisis that you have to resolve. Even if I carve a free afternoon to go offline from work, I’m not strapped to my office. I can run errands, do something relaxing or spend time with my kids. Every day and every email is different. The hours fly by and I wouldn’t ever want to return to the days of watching the clock!

Are you a business owner? Can you relate to some of the things I’ve mentioned or do you have an idea of your own to add? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment!

 

Top 10 Blog Posts on Life and Entrepreneurship in 2018

Top 10 Blog Posts on Life and Entrepreneurship in 2018

Happy New Year’s Eve! Whether your plans to ring in the New Year are big and fancy or small and casual, at midnight tonight our clocks will all tick forward to 2019.

While today is a day that we tend to start looking toward the future and planning for the New Year, there’s one more thing we need to do to close this chapter on 2018. Join me as I take one last look back at 2018 and the topics that hundreds of thousands of you have enjoyed over these past 52 weeks.

#10 – Five New Year’s Resolutions for Better Time Management

If you’re like most people, better time management is a New Year’s resolution you set for yourself just about every January. Start 2019 off right with a new plan for your time management strategy. With fresh ideas and a renewed commitment, you will set yourself up for more success and less stress both personally and professionally.

Read the original blog here.

#9 – How to Win Back a Client

Client relationships aren’t unlike any other relationship we have in our lives. Breakups are hard and sometimes you really want to win someone back, especially if they’ve been good to you. Check out this blog post for tips and best practices to win back a client, and grow your business.

Read the original blog here.

#8 – When Should You Outsource a Task?

There are several key indicators of a task that could and should be outsourced. Read this popular blog post to learn what they are and how to apply them to your own to-do list this New Year.

Read the original blog here.

#7 – Married to an Entrepreneur: 8 Tips to Survive and Thrive

Whether you’ve been married to an entrepreneur or business owner your whole marriage or this is something completely new for you, there are some tried and true secrets to success I’ve discovered from my own experience. Learn what they are in this blog post!

Read the original blog here.

#6 – 11 Tips to Become a Better Public Speaker

Public speaking is a gift, and it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. However, there are some exercises you can do to enhance the necessary skills to become an effective speaker. Even if you don’t foresee the need to speak to groups of hundreds of people in your near future, being a good speaker will help you with everything from small client meetings to convincing your kids to do their chores.

Read the original blog here.

#5 – Love or Hate Infographics, They Work! Here’s Why.

Do you have a love-hate relationship with infographics? I get it. Sometimes this buzzword makes my skin crawl, especially when clients think it’s the solution for just about every communication problem out there. But there is a time and place where infographics can be highly effective. Learn what that is in this popular blog post.

Read the original blog here.

#4 – 7 Tips for Productive Conference Calls

If conference calls often feel like a huge road block in your work day, you’re in good company. I’ve struggled with making conference calls more efficient, and dare I say enjoyable, for years. Here’s what I learned about improving the effectiveness of conference calls.

Read the original blog here.

#3 – 6 Ways to Grow Your Media Relationships

Forging meaningful relationships with key media contacts is helpful for any business owner and entrepreneur. It’s especially helpful for those of us who are in charge of advertising, marketing or public relations for a business. In this blog you’ll learn six ways you can grow your own media relationships in 2019.

Read the original blog here.

#2 – 5 Things Consultants and Freelancers Need to Stop Doing

We often read about what we should be doing, but this blog take the opposite approach of pointing out some really harmful habits of consultants and freelancers that need to stop in 2019. Learn what they are in this blog.

Read the original blog here.

#1 – How Public Relations Makes Advertising More Effective

And finally, at #1 is the most popular blog from 2018. This is something that many business owners and entrepreneurs don’t really take time to think about, but it’s so important for any business – especially if they want their advertising dollars to work harder for them. Start 2019 off right by learning how public relations makes paid advertising more effective.

Read the original blog here.

Which of these top 10 blog posts on life and entrepreneurship inspired you the most? What topics would you like to see me touch upon in 2019? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2018 in Business, Business & Success, Life

 

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Twas the Day Before Christmas (The Business Owner’s Version)

twas the day before christmas

(As retold by a mom and entrepreneur)

Twas the day before Christmas, when all through the house
not a computer was running, not even a mouse.
Cords and chargers were stowed with care,
in hopes we had strength to leave them there.

One sleepy critter was nestled snug in her bed,
while visions of toy mice danced in her head.
For once taking a cue from my jolly, gray cat,
I settled my brain for a short winter’s nap.

Is it possible to tune out all of the clatter,
to focus on Christmas and what truly mattered?
No doubt it would feel different to completely unwind,
what’s the worst that could happen, we’d have a good time?

So from now until New Years, the blog posts can wait
there are loved ones to hug and cookies to bake.
This short disconnect will help creativity soar
and inspire me to write better than ever before!

Until then, don’t worry what to do with your time,
make your own holidays as relaxing as I’ve made mine.
Here’s my final wish before the exit I make,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a short break!”

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2018 in Business, Business & Success

 

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