Sizzling Strategic Thinking Tips for Your Business

March 25, 2011

Ever get the feeling you have seen and heard it all when it comes to ‘Business 101’? It all just starts to sounds the same?  Me too! Here’s the great news, I attended a seminar last week as part of The Link’s ‘A Seat At The Table’ Executive Development Program around ‘Strategic Thinking’ and the facilitator, Doug Mendenhall of Get Spark!, knocked it out of the park for me.

Here’s what I walked away thinking more deeply about:

1)      People hate to be sold to, but they love to buy ….a compelling story about your particular service or product. What’s compelling about your offerings? The more compelling you are to be bought; the easier it is to sell.

 

2)      To be compelling means that people believe that you are trusting. Thus, the key is establishing authority in their minds. Find something that is compelling that you can become an authority on.

 

3)      The key to thinking strategically about your business, is to begin the start of each day with no agenda other than thinking through what you have learned to date and applying those lessons to creating your next iteration.

 

4)      An iteration is a plan for an intended outcome, whether that means getting the buy in from your executive team or moving product off a shelf.  Your goal should be to identify the key variables that determine your sales effectiveness and continually experiment with refining an iteration that can be measured and result in you reaching your sales goals.

 

5)      The key is to ditch the experimented iteration as soon as you have given it sufficient time to be tested and find that the results are not sufficient and move on to your next more disciplined and evolved iteration.

 

6)      If I were to ask you what 1 thing you could do each day that makes the largest impact in your business, what would it be? If you don’t know, send me an email at katie@legacybuildercoaching.com and we will arrange a complimentary consultation to uncover your one thing.

 

7)      Are people running to you or from you in your business? If they are running, you should focus on your presence because you can create who you want to be in a minute by simply deciding who you want to be, creating that presence, committing to it and practicing it.

 

8)      In order to create momentum for your strategic focus, keep in mind this simple and universal formula.  Build 5 positives, i.e. things that are happening today that are contributing to your forward momentum, with 1 critique, i.e. a driving variable that could shift your progress ahead.

 

9)      Rather than being your business’s ‘Chief Doing Officer’, work on becoming your own ‘Chief Thinking Officer’

 

10)   Don’t focus on CHANGING, think about CREATING a new way of achieving your intended outcomes. It’s so much easier that way!

 

Thank you Doug Mendenhall of Get Spark! and Cindy Tortorici of The Link’s ‘A Seat At The Table’ Executive Development Program.

 

Advertisements

How to Write Your Most Effective Blog Posts

February 7, 2011

I am more than likely even guiltier than you are of writing my blog posts without much strategic forethought as I recently learned I should be applying.  To help myself and YOU become more effective at writing your blog posts, here are some critical tips from my colleague Susan Rich of Rich Writing:

1) Apply the ‘Inverted Pyramid’ structure that is used by journalists: pick the main fact, arrange others in descending order of importance, when done, simply stop writing.

2) Invest the majority of your time in designing your headline and your first two sentences. Focus on how you can consolidate your message and how you can incorporate critical keywords for your target audience into these sentences.

3) Develop your content around your own personal brand and by showing how you can help others. Work to resonate with your blog reading audience by including anecdotes and personal stories. Also make sure your biography allows you audience to truly get to know you.

4) In order to create an intriguing headline, use one of these three styles: ‘list’ (3 ways to loose weight quickly), ‘ask an open question’ (Do you want to loose weight quickly?) or ‘excite’ (Get thin thighs fast!)

5) Consider why you are writing and what your goal is for doing so. Then decide how frequently you will commit to writing. Consistency is key. Also, consider how people will find out about your blog, what communities you are trying to tap into and how you plan to convert your readers to a sale.

6) Give some forethought into what your blog posts are promising. Every post needs a purpose. Make sure you are stating that purpose in your headline and your first two sentences (redundant point her for good reason!)

7) Be sure to use simple language, to simplify complex ideas and emphasize communication.

8) To add extra zest, write in the present tense, use action verbs rather than a passive voice.

“Inspire curiosity or promise a result and you WILL attract followers!”  Thank you Susan–you are a true gem!

Any other tips from my fellow bloggers out there? What did we miss here? Do tell!


Savvy Sales Swagger

July 28, 2010

Does it surprise you to learn that 80% of sales are made after the 5th contact with a new client?  The common denominator for small business owners and entrepreneurs is the challenge of how to close on sales more often and with greater ease and confidence.  I have found this to be the most common missing piece of the entrepreneurial puzzle for new business owners as well as for tenured business people as the marketplace has changed so dramatically in our ‘challenged’ economy.  For example, approximately 20 other people are competing for your potential client’s money, so how can you best rise above the chatter in this  buyers market? Here are some savvy sales tips from Jan Hart and Lisa Hart, of  Back 2 Our Roots:

1) The new emerging sales rules abide by the 4 R’s: Reach, Relevance, Relationships, and Resilience. Key takeaways: You need to be in more places than ever before (networking, social media, industry events, etc), potential prospects want more value, results and proven ROI than ever before, you have to be reliable, consistent and trustworthy, you need to plan on everything taking longer (sales cycles are now being drawn out even longer), you must aggressively network and golden rule: you must follow-up with your prospects throughout and after the sales cycle.

2) Always be prospecting. Seize every opportunity and situation you find yourself in both personally and professionally as an opportunity to identify a prospect/potential new client/referral. Be creative-think outside the box to find and create leads. Tap into your sphere of influence. Follow-up on leads. Be persistent, not pushy.

3) Analyze your customers. Understand their key needs and challenges, discover their hot buttons and determine their intentions upfront so you do not waste time with prospects who don’t have the need or budget for your service/product.

4) Make sales presentations: Find any opportunity that you can to address a group of potential clients/ i.e. your target market and make your value proposition come alive, tailor it to your audience, communicate your key benefit.

5) Be prepared to overcome objections: Objections means that your prospect is interested and is merely trying to alleviate risk. The most common objections are regarding time, value, money, location, quality, trust-so be prepared to provide alternative solutions to all of those aspects of your business.

6) Close the deal! This is the most critical part of the sales process–remembering to ask for the business.  Know when it is time to stop selling (typically after the prospect has said a series of ‘Yes’s’ to your open-ended questions) and start test closing (offering ‘if/then’ trial closes) and then be ready to close for a written commitment for your services and products: “Which package of services would you like to sign up for today”, “When would the best day be for me to deliver you your purchases today?”

7) Follow through. Ask for testimonials, referrals, arrange a reunion, thank them with a handwritten note and a gift.

In closing-remember that people buy from people they like and who they trust.  Become a trusted advisor to your prospects and focus single-handedly on helping your clients solve their problems–and in time, they will have solved all of yours!


Best Business Practices: Media Tips

March 23, 2010

After having completed a taped radio and television interview, I am now preparing for an upcoming live cable television interview and I wanted to share some media tips that I was recently given by NYC based media expert Jeff Bloch. Getting media exposure is a key step towards building your brand, establishing your expert credibility and sharing with the world what you do for a living and how they can find you. Who doesn’t want some of that?

1. PREPARE-Before you talk to a reporter, know your story. Focus your broad knowledge of your subject into three key messages that tell a complete story. Think about what you would like the headline to be, and what you want the reporter – and your audience – to remember. Often, the messages state a problem/situation, followed by a solution/next step, and finally offer the credibility of your organization to provide that solution or input.

2. THINK NEWS- Messages should offer some information that is new, that goes beyond what others have said, or that identifies a new issue or trend. Don’t sensationalize, but think about what can make your story more interesting, more compelling.

3. SUPPORT YOUR STORY WITH SPECIFICS-Facts/figures-don’t worry about citing particularly daunting numbers, rather just provide some context with numbers that will allow the audience to better appreciate the scope of your work, examples, anecdotes, quotable language-in other words vivid words and well-turned phrases that are catchy but not too clever and will help to crystallize your story.

4. CONSIDER THE AUDIENCE-Whom are you trying to reach? Consumers, potential business customers, decision-makers? Make sure your messages and your supporting information are tailored to your audience. Avoid jargon – use language they will understand. When possible, put a face on it, meaning, give an example of a person or situation that your audience can relate to and appreciate.

5. DEVELOP-Develop a list of questions that are likely to be asked. Be prepared for obvious negative questions, but also be ready to answer the supposedly “easy” ones, such as “Tell me about this study / your company / your perspective on this issue.” Keep up with the news in the days before your interview and be ready to deal with related events or developments.

6. DELIVER-Once the interview begins-take control. Don’t wait for the reporter to guide you through your story. Begin at the beginning, deliver your messages early and often, explain, re-contextualize, repeat yourself as necessary. If you are reacting to news, hold your ground. If you are promoting a story, don’t make the reporter “pull teeth” to get it.

7. USE FLAGS-Phrases such as “What’s most important…” “The key thing is…” “There are three critical factors…” signal to the reporter and the audience that you’re about to say something vital.

8. BUILD BRIDGES-Don’t just answer the question. Find the ways to go beyond the answer to your message. Be more expansive, offer additional information, return to an earlier point. Make sure you spend more time on your story than on other, less important, topics.

9. TURN NEGATIVES INTO POSITIVES-Don’t be defensive and don’t over-explain your response to the negative. Instead, deal with the negative – without repeating any negative language – and then bridge to a message. Remember to end on a positive.


Taking Your Invention to the Market

February 2, 2010

I have received inquiries about how to go about sourcing manufacturers, particularly early in the short run stage, both domestically and in China as well as how best navigate the route to market with one’s invention or product line.  Here are guidelines from inventor expert Bob Dematteis, whose inventions exceed $25 million a year to companies like Sears, Wal-Mart and Kroeger:

A smart inventor will build a team as soon as possible. The four principal team members will be you, a patent attorney, a manufacturing expert and a marketing expert. Again, keep in mind that sales generate income, which will generate profits or royalties. And, since inventors are usually not very good at sales, your marketing expert is the most important key member you will want on your team as early in development as possible.

An inventor can brainstorm the basic concept and even make a crude prototype. But prototyping should not be advanced without substantial input from the marketing expert. After all, this marketing expert (or group) is the one that is going to generate the sales. It makes no sense to spend your valuable time and money on developing an idea that no one wants to buy. Having the right marketing person on your team, at the earliest possible moment, will ensure that you will be developing your invention with all the right attributes. This marketing expert will provide valuable input into evaluating the invention and can even provide sales projections.

The simple flow chart below shows how the initial invention evaluation process dovetails with your patent protection process. You basically have three alternatives to start the patent protection process of an idea while it is being evaluated.

The first and best alternative is to evaluate your invention’s merits and its sales potential with an expert you know and trust. Second, if you do not know any trusted experts, you can use confidentiality agreements. Third, if you want to spend the extra money and speculate on having your invention ready for mass production and producing income in a year, you can file a simple, provisional patent application for as little as $75.

As you can imagine, many larger companies will not sign confidentiality agreements as a matter of policy. Filing a provisional patent application can replace the need to use confidentiality agreements and serves to protect your invention’s priority date (the date you file for patent protection). If you file a provisional application you can more openly talk to and interview those marketing experts working with larger companies. The downside of filing a provisional application at an early stage is that you will be incurring the higher costs of filing the regular patent a year later. One year is not necessarily a lot of time to build your team and fully develop your invention. But it should be adequate if you plan your development well.

All three methods are viable approaches for inventors and have their merits. You only need to determine which works best for you in your particular situation. To give you a little insight into my invention activities, I prefer to work either with those marketing experts I know and trust, or using confidentiality agreements with those I do not know well. Any company that will not sign one of my confidentiality agreements I will not consider as a viable team member. And, I will never sign one of their agreements, which invariably protects them a lot more than you.

Figure 6-1 Invention Evaluation – Patent Protection Flow Chart

In your pursuit of finding that key team member, a marketing expert, you will want to interview them based upon several factors. Just remember that some marketing experts will not have any interest in selling your invention and others will simply not have the ability. You would be wise to keep searching until you find just the right match.

If you receive a lukewarm response from one or more, don’t give up right away. Try to field, as many objections as possible from the interviewees to better understand why the objections exist. These problems can invariably become opportunities once they are resolved. Discuss the various alternatives with the expert.

Finding the right marketing expert for your team can quickly propel your efforts forward and can even encourage manufacturers to invest their resources to gear up to manufacture your new invention.

Smart marketing experts who understand the benefits to your invention and have the right contacts can pre-sell your product based upon some simple prototypes. Think about it… can your marketing expert get a commitment for an initial sample order of $20,000 [for instance]? Then it would be easy to assume that subsequent orders from others would probably total 10 times (or more) that amount. With pre-sold orders, it is a lot easier for your manufacturing team member to make a commitment to spend its resources and get the product launched and producing income.



Blogger Basics

January 29, 2010

Hollis Gillespie, author and expert writing instructor, has imparted her ‘must-do’s’ to help you blog you way  to financial freedom as well as position yourself as a blogger.  Here’s what she has to say:

1. Focus your content: Decide what is your ONE thing that you are going to write about…it doesn’t have to be BIG, it just has to be big to YOU.  Connect with your voice and your unique narrative-do not obsess about grammatical perfection.

2. Best sites to help you monetize your blog: Problogger.net & Copyblogger.com

3. Killer Blogs=Traffic=Income

4. Six characteristics of killer blogs: Post often, forget perfection, write like you speak, specific subject matter, know your audience, keep it short.

5. Migrate your blog content to your own domain: Reserve your own domain name on GoDaddy.com and then employ the services of http://www.techadvocatesolutions.com to integrate all of your blog/website needs.

6. Explore sites you like, take a ‘news’ post and write an opinion piece on it.

Check out Google.com/trends

-Set up Google Alerts for your subject matter (www.google.com/alerts)

-See what is popular in the blogosphere: Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit

7.Investigate options for affiliate marketing on your blog(Amazon.com has a program)

8. Create a PayPal Merchant account that allows you to accept credit card purchases on your site

9. Research top blogs in your category (www.technorati.com) and guest blog on them

10. Advertise your blogs on your Twitter account and Facebook Fan Page


Strategy Execution

May 27, 2009

COBRA: The X Factor in Strategy Execution

COBRA: The X Factor in Strategy Execution by Patrick D. Curran (my father) is a long overdue book on a critically important issue–optimizing strategy execution in a competitive global marketplace. COBRA was developed over 30 years of working with clients in the fast-moving consumer goods industry. Here are the key ideas:

* To prosper in turbulent times, you need a strategy that exploits current and emerging opportunities (an aligned strategy) and an organization that can execute the strategy (an aligned organization).
* More companies fail from faulty execution than from faulty strategy.
* When the organization cannot execute the strategy, three factors explain most of the problems most of the time: the structure, the system and the culture—what we call the 3 Points of Pressure.
* When not aligned, the 3 Point of Pressure form disruptive boundaries that block the flow of information, expertise and energy–execution suffers and strategy fails.
* COBRA (Crossing Organizational Boundaries Reinforcing Alignments) is a guided process for aligning the organization with the strategy, so that execution can be optimized.

3 Points of Pressure

1. The System is the great flywheel of execution.

The best performance management systems have five components working together like the fingers of a hand:
5 components of performance management systems: Strategy, Key Indicators, Tracking, Coaching, Review.
They are simple in design and disciplined in execution: operating within and across functional lines, focusing on both internal productivity and customer satisfaction. It is remarkable, how often the system can breakdown by becoming too complex, too centralized, or too slow.

2. The Structure can be-a roadblock or an expressway to market.

The following factors need to be aligned with the strategy to optimize execution:

* Formal Structure: Does it provide both economies of scale and customer satisfaction?
* Boundary Mgmt.: Are boundaries between functions/levels deliberately managed?
* Core Processes: Are core business processes efficient and effective?
* Bridging Structures: Are bridging structures used to deal with complex issues?

3. The Culture can foster passion and purpose or conflict and entitlement.
The following cultural factors need to be aligned with the strategy to optimize execution:

* Leadership
* Vision & Values
* Norms
* Core Competencies

This book is now available for review and purchase at Amazon.com.  For further information on the author, Patrick D. Curran, please go to http://www.cobra-scan.com.