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How to Give Customers What They Need, Not What They Want

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!


How to Give Customers What They Need, Not What They WantWhether you refer to them as clients, customers or accounts, your experience working with any of these groups has likely presented you with the tough decision to either give a business what they want or to give them what they really need.

If you are lucky, these two areas overlap and you look like a hero as you deliver favorable results to your smiling clients. All is right in the world!

But sooner or later, after enough years in the business and after working with enough people, you will find yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place as you deal with clients who bring you ideas that you know are not going to help them achieve their goals.

Henry Ford alludes to this conflict in his quote, “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” Often, customers are too close to their own business to see the bigger picture of what it really needs to get to the next level. They will ask for a bandage to fix a gaping wound, when really the underlying problem – and its solution – is much deeper.

So how do you gracefully persuade customers to accept your recommendations for what they need when this differs from what they want? Let’s take a look at five steps that will get you headed in the right direction.

Be kind, but honest when sharing your opinion and expertise

There is never a need to be rude or condescending when informing clients that you do not believe their ideas will achieve the results they desire. Remember, they have sought out your expertise because they want your input. Strive to build a relationship based upon kindness and honesty so that you are able to openly share your opinion and they are well received by your clients. The more your clients trust you and the more your track record of advice has panned out in their favor, the more likely they are to listen to your recommendations in the future.

Offer real examples backing up why something may not be in their best interest

Some clients will want to see proof as to why their idea is not good for their business. Do your research and offer real examples or statistics of other businesses that have used a similar idea or strategy only to have it yield less than desirable results. Another method is to back up your own ideas with research and examples. Don’t just tell your clients, show them why you and many others have found your idea to be of greater benefit.

Give them (only good) options from which they may choose

Give your clients a sense of control and involvement by presenting them with options from which they may choose. The key is to give them only options that will help achieve the same overarching goal. By controlling the options presented, you can help steer your clients toward only good decisions, whether they know it or not.

Get them excited about these options!

Your clients may come to you with a “bad” idea because another business did it (likely in a different industry, with different goals and a different budget) and it looked cool so now they want to do it too. They’re excited about it and for that reason alone it’s attractive. Use this “shiny object syndrome” to your benefit by turning your “better” options into other, shinier objects that catch their eye. Your excitement for these options will get them excited as well. Best of all, they should love that these ideas are new and different from what another business has already done. They will get to be among the first!

Offer praise and encouragement (even if it was your idea)

Finally, step off your soapbox, get down from your high horse and take a back seat to receiving the glory when your ideas deliver the results you’ve promised to your clients. All the credit you could want will make its way to you in the form of a nice paycheck. Until then, be a cheerleader for your client and offer praise and encouragement for their smart decisions that have helped them to achieve their goal.

How have you had to delicately steer your customers toward what they need, and not just what they want? Share your personal experience by commenting below!

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Posted by on June 5, 2017 in Business & Success

 

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Why Didn’t My Press Release Get Picked Up?

Upset disappointed young businessman sitting with hands on head

Whether we PR professionals want to come to terms with it or not, the media is not our mouthpiece that will print exactly what we want, when we want it. They are the ultimate gatekeepers who determine the extent of media exposure that will be granted to us or our clients. The sheer volume of press releases that cross their desk each and every day ensures that only a fraction will receive review, and an even fewer number will be published in some capacity.

But don’t despair! Rarely is an ignored press release a direct reflection on your business or your media relations skills. Rather it could be any number of possible circumstances. Take a look:

It wasn’t really news.

The hard truth is that you’re likely to think everything your organization does is newsworthy because, well, it involves you. It can sometimes require taking a step back and role playing a reporter to determine whether or not something is worthy of media attention. Just because it’s not a good fit for the media, doesn’t mean you can’t promote it in other ways. Utilize your website, blog, social media, and newsletter to tell your story.

It was overly promotional.

Be sure to learn the best practices of writing a press release. Your headline can make or break your chances of getting picked-up. If you start off overly promotional, with a heavy focus on your business or brand, this is a huge red flag to a reporter that this isn’t a helpful “news hint,” it’s a PR tactic. As much as a client may want to see their name in the title, explain to them that this isn’t the best media-bait.

You’ve used this angle, again and again.

Is your strategy to, every month, announce the new businesses to whom you’ve sold services or goods? The first time you do this is the best chance you’ll have at gaining media attention. Every press release after that is beating a dead horse, in the eyes of the media. Reserve this angle for a truly noteworthy client, or present your new client information in a unique way. It’s easy for the media to spot a template press release which will quickly get you tossed in the “no” file.

It got stuck in spam.

There are major benefits to using an email platform like Mail Chimp or Constant Contact to send out your press releases. However, they can increase your chances of getting you sent to a spam folder. I’ve had my own clients’ emails skip my inbox and head straight for the spam folder, even after I marked previous messages from the same sender as “not spam.” The bottom line is to track your analytics, as these email platforms allow you to do. If it seems like a low percentage of contacts are opening your email, it may be due to their spam filters.

It was poorly written.

Another hard truth is that your press release may been poorly written to a point that your media contacts couldn’t see the value in the information you were sharing. I again reference the best practices of press releases to ensure you have the greatest advantage of getting picked up. You need to write to the media’s preference, not your own. Learn to embrace AP style!

You relied solely on a “Wire” for distribution.

You are likely familiar with PR wire services such as PRWeb, PR Newswire, and Business Wire. I have yet to have a client truly benefit from any pick-ups received from such services. I believe the value lies in personal contact, not some syndication service. Even if you’re hitting a list of several hundred media contacts, you are far more able to personalize your messaging and track their engagement from traditional email. Don’t waste your time or money!

You gave up too soon.

Finally, and most importantly, you may have just given up too soon. I have yet to receive a single complaint from a member of the media for sending out the same press release twice, each with a unique headline. Sometimes you hit them on a busy news day when they just don’t have the capacity to cover your story. A few days later might be the perfect timing for when they need a story like yours. Try and try and again – but two times is the perfect number. Anything more than that could work against you.

Most importantly, don’t drive yourself crazy over-analyzing the reasons your press release may have been overlooked – and don’t stop trying! Tomorrow is another news day.

Can you empathize with this experience? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment.

 

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2017 in Business & Success, Life

 

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5 Tips for Running a Productive Business Meeting

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!


5 Tips for Running a Productive Business MeetingThe dreaded business meeting. So often it starts with chitchat about the weather and then spins off into random discussions where no resolutions or courses of action are identified. Inevitably the meeting runs over its allotted time and all attendees leave wondering what was accomplished. There’s no follow-up and trying to find a date for the next meeting that suits everyone’s schedule is an impossible feat – if you want it to happen this year.

Does this sound familiar? It’s a scenario that is all too common – and completely avoidable if only the right organizational methods were applied. The changes we need to make to revamp an unproductive business meeting are quite simple, too. Having led countless business meetings on behalf of clients, I have identified five very simple, yet very effective tools for running a productive meeting.

If you’re ready to stop wasting hours of your life that result in nothing more than the need for another meeting, I urge you to implement the following suggestions today!

  1. Come with an agenda

Set yourself up for success by developing an agenda in advance of your meeting and having enough copies for all attendees. This will help guide everyone through the meeting’s core discussion points and quite literally, keep everyone on the same page.

As you develop your agenda, you’ll also be able to capture all of your thoughts so that you’re not struggling to remember them during the meeting. You can help move things along quickly by researching statistics, options or prices that may come up as a point of discussion. Anticipate what some attendees might ask and have the answer already provided.

  1. Bring your laptop or tablet

Be sure to bring your laptop or tablet with you! For the longest time, I wanted to travel light so I would carry only paper and a pen into a meeting. This changed when I realized how much more efficient I could be (whether leading the meeting or simply attending) when I had full access to documents, emails, etc.

If people need to see a document or reference an email, everything is right at your fingertips. I also take notes directly on the agenda on my laptop and am ready to send out the summary as soon as the meeting wraps up. This saves me the time of coming back to my office and having to transcribe and organize my notes.

Additionally, encourage other attendees to also bring their devices. Select a meeting space that at least has WiFi – even better would be a meeting space with a TV or projector that allows attendees to share their screen for everyone to see, as needed.

  1. Have a point person in charge

We have all likely attended a meeting where there appears to be no single person leading the discussion. Or, there is the meeting where everyone appears to be the leader and even more confusion ensues. The person who leads the meeting doesn’t have to be (and likely shouldn’t be) the highest position within the organization. Foremost, you want someone who is reliable and who has good organizational skills.

I have led many business meetings and it really requires only a small amount of time before and after the meeting to take on this responsibility. My favorite part is that I often get to delegate tasks to other attendees as we move through the agenda. It’s amazing how people will begin to chip in more when they know someone else has already taken the lead of organizing the meetings.

  1. Set the next meeting(s) during this meeting

When you are trying to get any more than 2 people together to meet, you need to schedule all future meetings out well in advance. Accommodating 3+ schedules can seem harder than rocket science (and maybe it is). You can avoid the slew of “Reply All” emails by scheduling the next meeting before you adjourn.

People can immediately pull out their calendars and in real-time tell you what will work and what won’t. If you know you’ll need many more meetings in the future, go ahead and schedule them all! The best method is to set a recurring day and time (i.e. the first Monday of the month at Noon). And if you’re still struggling to coordinate schedules, check out www.doodle.com – it’s a free tool and a lifesaver for scheduling meetings, especially with other busy people.

  1. Send out a summary of notes, highlighting action items

Finally, even the most organized business meeting can still fail to be productive if there is not some sort of follow-up with the attendees to remind them who is responsible for what. The person leading the meeting (or another designated note taker) should summarize the notes and send them out to all attendees within 1-2 days of the meeting.

These notes should outline important discussion points, decisions that were made and outstanding action items that need resolved before the next meeting. I like to develop a system that makes this visually easy to digest. For example, I color code people’s names and highlight that task in the appropriate color to show who is responsible. I also bold and underline any questions that need input from the group so they are easy to pick out. The more organized you are, the more responsive people will be. Most importantly, remind people of the next meeting!

Business meetings are a necessary evil. For as many times as we have all sat through a boring or unproductive meeting, there are just as many opportunities to take the lead and make your time together worth so much more. Try practicing these five tips at your next meeting – I am confident they will make a big difference!

What other tips have helped you run a productive business meeting? Share your expertise by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2017 in Business & Success

 

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How to Professionally Fire a Client

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!


How to Professionally Fire a ClientIn an ideal world, we would all become best friends with our clients and enjoy the work we do for them so much that we would wonder why we’re actually being paid. But in reality, some clients push us to the point of resolving that no amount of cash is enough to offset the stress and anxiety they add to our lives.

If you’re forced to make the tough decision of whether or not to cut ties with a client, it’s important to do so with professionalism and class. Even a strained client relationship has the potential to yield future leads and recommendations if you make the effort to leave with a mutual understanding.

Take a look at this list of common “problem clients” and how you can professionally approach each with a breakup line better than “Let’s see other people.”


The offense: Late (or nonexistent) payments

Everyone has a rare moment or two when a payment gets lost in the shuffle or maybe a particularly hectic month that causes you to make a late payment. But for this type of client, it happens all the time! It’s like they pay no attention nor do they care about your payment policy (i.e. net 30 days), yet they still want all their services delivered on time.

What you wish you could say: “I’m wasting way too much time pleading for your payments and acting like I actually believe your endless excuses.”

What you should say: “I enjoy working with you, but you are consistently late with making payments while I continue to meet your project deadlines. Out of respect for my time and for my other clients, I can no longer accommodate this relationship.”

Words of wisdom: After poking and prodding this type of client with reminders about making their payment, you might finally receive a check (sometimes with a nice “forgive me” note) and be tempted to continue the cycle with just “one more chance.” Just keep in mind that this relationship will continue to add stress to your day and steal time from your other clients. If you do feel compelled to stick with them, suggest that they move to quarterly payments (so that you’re only hunting down checks every 3 months) or invest in a system where you can automatically charge their account – businesses do it all the time!


The offense: Wants the moon and the stars on a shoestring budget

In my personal experience, these clients have been among my smallest accounts, yet ate up more of my time than clients paying 10x as much! They are great at micromanaging and wearing you down with negotiations on your pricing and requests for “just one more thing.” While you always want to under-promise and over-deliver for your clients, this business model is simply not sustainable.

What you wish you could say: “You are impossible to please and we’re losing money on you.”

What you should say: “I’ve carefully considered my workload and unfortunately I can no longer accommodate your needs at this time.”

Words of wisdom: The first red flag that you’re dealing with this type of client often occurs as early as contract negotiation. They may try to talk you down on price while refusing to take out any of the services you propose. Use your gut to decide whether to proceed with working with them, but keep in mind that the relationship cannot go on if you are constantly taking a loss each month on their billable hours versus the amount they are actually paying you. It’s not fair to you or to your other clients.


The offense: Verbally abusive

In personal relationships, we are far less likely to accept verbal abuse; yet so often we allow this to go on for far too long in business relationships. This type of client is one that is directly or indirectly demeaning and negative towards you or your staff. They may yell and swear at you, threaten you, or ever so subtly and indirectly put down your work. Whether the verbal abuse is obvious or subliminal, you cannot stay in this relationship.

What you wish you could say: “I dread interacting with you and no amount of money could offset the emotional damage you have caused.”

What you should say: “I strive to provide my clients with the best service possible and unfortunately I am no longer able to do that for you because of the difference in our work cultures and communication styles.”

Words of wisdom: The bottom line is no one ever deserves to be verbally abused and you must end a client relationship immediately if this occurs. I promise you, it never gets better. No amount of money is worth this stress.


The offense: Doesn’t respect time or boundaries

This type of client is toxic because they can really disrupt your work-life balance. They don’t respect your time by expecting you to meet tight deadlines, canceling meetings at the last minute, asking you to start a project and then changing directions or failing to get you the information you need to do your job. They also encroach on boundaries by expecting you to be available in the evenings and on the weekends and to be doing work for them during this time.

What you wish you could say: “You may pay me for my time, but you don’t control all of it. I need time to do other things that simply don’t involve you.”

What you should say: “It’s one of my top priorities to provide adequate time and attention to all of my clients. Due to my current workload, I am unable to commit to the hours you need from me and I cannot continue our partnership.”

Words of wisdom: There will come a time when important projects require you to work late into the evenings or on the weekends. However, this should not be the case for most of this client’s projects. If they insist that all of their work is propriety, where does that leave your other clients on your list? While you may be doing work for your clients, you are still your own boss and must maintain a sense of control over your time by letting go of clients who don’t respect these necessary boundaries.


The offense: Bigger problems are brewing within the business

This client wants you to have the magic solution to fix all of the problems within their business even when this task goes far beyond your area of expertise. For example, the client is asking for a new website, but really this is merely a bandage on a gaping wound of mismanagement, a weak business model and an unhealthy company culture.

What you wish you could say: “You are a mix bag of problems and bad decisions. It would take an entire overhaul of your business to prevent you from inevitable bankruptcy.”

What you should say: “While I would be happy to provide you with services that fall within my area of expertise, it’s come to my attention that you need help in additional areas that would impact the success of my work. At this time, I cannot take on your project until you have first resolved these other important matters.”

Words of wisdom: No one has all the answers – or expects anyone else to. If your client looks to you to be their marketing director as well as their business partner, investor, therapist and cheerleader…don’t walk away, run! Unless they acknowledge a good understanding of these other problems and demonstrate their determination to fix them, this is a toxic relationship that will only bring you both down.

Have you ever had to make the tough decision to fire a client? What was the determining factor and how did you handle it? Share your experiences by commenting below! 

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2016 in Business & Success

 

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3 Qualities of a Great Photograph

Photography, just like any other form of art, is subjective. Individually, we each have our own preferences which can be seen in the type of photographs we take as well as the art we choose to hang on the walls in our homes.

So how can you select an image to represent your business or brand that will appeal to the majority of your target audience?

Speaking from a public relations and marketing perspective, there are three common qualities that make up a great photograph that you should keep in mind when selecting the images you use to grow your brand. Take a look!

Lighting Quality

Lighting is critical to taking a great photograph. When possible, opt for natural lighting to create a soft ambiance. Flash photography can also produce some stand out images when used correctly. After all, photography literally means “painting with light,” so learning to master your lighting is key to producing a great photograph.

For this photo, lighting is part of the object itself, making for a unique shot!

For this photo, lighting is part of the object itself, making for a unique shot!

Composition and Attention to Detail

The best photographs have an element of visual balance. Guidelines like “the rule of thirds” are helpful for knowing how to spot an image with great visual balance. Why does composition matter so much? Because it helps to create an image that is stimulating and captivating. When seeing such an image, your audience will spend more time looking at it which means a greater opportunity for them to connect with your brand. Once you know “the rules,” you can also choose to strategically break them to capture an photo that is different from what we’re used to seeing, thus making it more memorable.

This photo follows the "rules of thirds" which results in a great visual balance.

This photo follows the “rules of thirds” which results in a great visual balance.

Your Subject Makes a Statement

Finally, a great photograph does more than just capturing the image of an object or scene; it makes a statement. Some of the simplest photographs, when shot creatively, tell a story far more fascinating than a lesser-quality photograph of something far flashier. It’s really not so much what you’re photographing as it is how you photograph it. Dare to look at something from a new angle, position it in a unique way and make it something someone wants to know more about!

An image like this is great for sparking interest and getting readers to want to know more about what it represents.

An image like this is great for sparking interest and getting readers to want to know more about what it represents.

Are you a beginner to intermediate photographer? Did you find these tips helpful? Please let us know by adding a comment below!

 
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Posted by on August 29, 2016 in Photography

 

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How to Use Natural Lighting When Taking Photographs

How to Use Natural Lighting When Taking Photographs

Last week on the Bennis Inc blog, we wrote about why the best photographers use the manual settings on their camera. Among the benefits, was that you gain a lot more control over lighting and are better able to harness the power of natural lighting. To keep our “photography theme” going, we’re now focusing this week’s specifically on how to (and why you should) use natural lighting!

When taking a photograph, one of the most important things to consider is the quality of your lighting. For example, balanced soft light helps set the scene for a beautiful portrait. Simply put, the right lighting can turn an ordinary image into an eye-catching work of art. But you have to first have (even just a basic) understanding of how to make the most of your natural light, as this will be the most common lighting you’ll have at your disposal. Take a look at these helpful tips!

Manual Settings

Knowing how to change your settings on your camera to adapt to your surroundings can play a big part in achieving a well-exposed photograph, especially when using natural outdoor lighting. Aperture and shutter speed are the most important settings to consider when working with natural lighting. Using these manual settings is imperative so that you can chose how little or how much light to allow into your lens. When it comes to exposure, F numbers are what control your aperture. It may seem lightly counterintuitive, but the lower the number, the more light you let. For shutter speed, the faster the setting, the less light that will enter in your lens.

Direction of your subject

The next step toward using natural lighting to your advantage is to know where to place your subject in regards to the sun. When photographing a person, it’s important to not have them facing the sun for several reasons. Doing so will impact your exposure and it will also cause your subject to squint, which doesn’t help produce a great photo either! Instead of facing into the sun, use your natural outdoor lighting as your back light by placing your subject with their back against the sun. Another way to creatively use natural lighting to your advantage is to play up the sun by creating shadows. You can create flattering shadows by using shade and/or shooting a “peak-a-boo” effect by photographing behind another object such as a flower or plant.

Using Natural Lighting Indoors

Some beginner photographers might think the only way to use natural lighting is during an outdoor shoot. This is simply not true, as there are ways to take advantage of natural lighting when shooting certain subjects indoors as well. The best locations for using natural lighting indoors is in a room where you have large, open windows to work with. Once you have found your ideal spot, place your subject a few feet away from the window to take full advantage of this type of natural lighting. Another expert tip is to have your subject face directly into the window or at least turn a 45-degree angle so that the shadowing appears softer and more gradual.

Editing Process

Once you devote a lot of time and energy into capturing hundreds (if not thousands) of shots, the idea of post editing all of these images can be a daunting task. This is all the more reason to pay special attention to your lighting and to use natural lighting to your full advantage. It will save you a lot of post editing work!

You photos will still need some editing to achieve their full potential, and that’s to be expected. When shooting a photograph on an overcast day, it is almost always necessary to touch up your lighting with editing software post-shoot. Don’t be afraid of the editing process! Tweaking your lighting ever so slightly can really make a difference in the quality of your final product, making the time you put into capturing and perfecting it all worth it.

Are you a photographer who likes to use natural lighting when shooting? If so, please share your best practices by commenting below.

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2016 in Photography, Technology

 

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How to Use Pinterest to Grow Your Brand

How to Use Pinterest to Grow Your Brand

Pinterest is a stand-alone Visual Social Network centered on sharing images that link to content. Depending upon your business and industry, Pinterest can be a powerful tool for marketing your products or services and growing your brand. Even individual people can grow their personal brand through the type of content they share or “pin” to their boards.

Whether you have a well-established and popular Pinterest profile, or whether you’re just getting started (like we are at Bennis Inc), there are many tips and best practices for growing your influence. Here are just a few of pieces of wisdom we have gained from our personal experience with establishing a business presence on Pinterest. Take a look!

Plan Your Pins to Win

Start by creating just a few board topics that are directly related to your business and brand. Focus on getting 3-5 boards filled with interesting and quality content before spreading out to create new boards. As potential followers explore your profile, they will be more impressed to see several quality boards than a ton of boards that are hardly utilized.

As you explore Pinterest for content to share (in addition to sharing your own content), you may come across other users that really sync with your brand. Follow them! Not only will this provide a stream of quality content for the future, you just might earn their following in return.

Establish Yourself as an Expert in Your Field

Remember, Pinterest is all about visual content! In order to get noticed, you need your pins to visually stand out. This may mean creating some custom graphics that include the title of your article within the photo. You’ll see this is a very popular way people share content on Pinterest and that’s because it’s effective! People easily grasp what your content is about, which increases the chance they will click and share.

While it’s okay to re-pin other users’ content, you want to also share your original content (i.e. blog, articles, images) to establish yourself as an expert in your field. For example, a photographer won’t get too much respect if he is only sharing other people’s photos that are not his own. Be genuine, just like you would on any other social media platform!

Share Your Content Across Other Social Media Platforms

Speaking of other social media platforms, you can really leverage the full power of your content by taking what you share on Pinterest and also sharing this on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin.

Additionally, you want to be sure people who are reading your original content, such as on your website or blog, have an easy way to find you on Pinterest as well as pin your content to their own boards. This is as simple as adding some social media buttons to the top and/or bottom of every post. Though it may seem obvious, it is often overlooked!

How have you navigated your business strategy on Pinterest? Share your thoughts and ideas by commenting below!

And don’t forget to follow Bennis Inc on Pinterest! We’re just getting started and have a lot of great things coming soon.

 

 

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