“I’m terrified to pitch my services.”

September 20, 2006

The Scream One of my clients recently said this – and this fear of “the pitch” is common in all sizes and types of organizations. On a board and asked to raise funds? Ouch, I’ve got to – like – ask my friends for money?? Looking for funding for your start-up? Yes, you’ve got to “pitch” to investors or banks. Trying to generate revenue from your business? Yep, somebody (and more than one body) needs to buy from you.

But, here’s the thing. The less you focus on “selling” the more you’re likely to close the deal. The old hard sell (and cold calls) just don’t work. So, relax. You don’t have to be a “killer” sales person. Focus on connecting with the person, having an interesting conversation. Personally, I find the less I worry about the so-called pitch, the more business I close. So, by all means fine-tune your value statements, learn how to listen, learn how to write a presentation or plan that fits the audience…but forget the canned high-pressure sales jabber.

Related Post:
The Non-Profit Elevator Pitch

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The Non-Profit Elevator Pitch

April 27, 2006

elevator I freely (and often) admit I’m an old bleeding heart do-gooder and yet, many non-profits pitches leave me – well – both unmoved and un-bleeding (if that’s a word). So, when I ran across this post, The Nonprofit Elevator Speech, it really resonated with me.

Here are her key points:

1. Don’t just repeat your mission statement. Mission statements are often “pie in the sky” or full of buzzwords that don’t actually say what you do.

2. Tell us what you do and who you do it for. Donors want to know how their support makes a difference on the ground.

3. Share a quantitative result. How many people did you help last year? How many acres did you save? Whatever it is you measure, throw in a stat about your accomplishments.

(Personally, I like the small card Habitat for Humanity sends out that shows what my contribution will buy – $10 for a box of nails and so on.)

4. Provide some perspective. Put your work in context, in one sentence. Why is what you do so important? What’s the scale of the problem?

5. Spell out the opportunity. Complete this sentence: “With some additional resources, we could . . .”

I’d add: Don’t get too obsessive about making your pitch short. (The ol’ “seven words or less” and “bumper sticker” ideas that float around.) No, you don’t want to read ’em a book, but you do want to tell them enough to get their interest. Maybe they’ll even ride along another floor to find out more (then, you’ve got ’em!)

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How to Write a Press Release

March 9, 2006

The short answer: Don’t bother.

Why am I contradicting everything you’ve read in marketing texts and be told in marketing seminars? Here’s the deal:

1. It takes time (and talent). If you’re not already a good writer (and enjoy it) – writing a press release is like sweating blood. (Trust me, it’s hard for us pros too. Sometimes the words just do not flow.) You could spend that time far better talking to an existing customer or selling to a new one or doing some personal networking with the local newspaper editor.

2. You’ll get lost in the crowd. Unless you live in a very, very small town, just emailing or faxing your release to even just local publications won’t get you very far. Editors and reporters are already drowning in emails and faxes – all touting “new” “innovative” “leading edge” stuff. They want quick, memorable, newsworthy information. And, even if your press release is a thing of beauty, it can still get lost in the piles if you don’t personally call and follow up.

If you’re looking for national coverage – those PR wires will get it out there (for a fee), but good luck getting any notice. (That’s why the big PR firms charge big bucks. They have the contacts and methods to get you noticed. But even then, “overnight success” can take months.) Also, “big city” and high-profile editors will often just flat ignore a “cold call” press release or follow-up. (You won’t make it past the spam filter, receptionist or voice mail.)

So – if you really want to get some great publicity – remember, it takes a whole lot more than a press release. Think about your goals, your strategy and how you can best reach your targets. Also, remember the media are people too, with limited time and a job to do.

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Your logo isn’t your brand.

March 2, 2006

I had dinner the other night with one of my blogging buddies, Bruce Fryer. He was telling me of the problems he’s having just getting a simple logo done (He was trying one of the cheapo Internet logo farms.) Bruce, being a master marketer, well knows the difference between a logo and a brand, so he was trying to be as cost-effective as possible. Unfortunately, other folks often get suckered by creative agencies selling a “branding program” that consists of a very costly logo wrapped in some high-level marketing speak re positioning and imaging.

Well, here’s the deal. I love Habitat for Humanity but I couldn’t tell you what their logo looks like (exactly) if you held a gun to my Mother’s head. It’s an abstract design with a house and some people and that’s as close as I can get. They recently changed it and I’ve not got a clue which is the old and which is the new. Target’s I can identify – it’s certainly simple enough – but the logo isn’t why I’m a fan.

So, a brand is not a cool logo – it is also not a web site, t-shirt, or coffee cup. All four have been touted to me by companies as “we’re branded.” Of course, it’s important to look professional and great style can get someone’s attention, but a logo never closed a deal or made a business. (I admit I’ve occasionally bought a bottle of wine because of the cool label but that was pure – and affordable – impulse. If the wine wasn’t good I never bought another bottle. I wouldn’t want to bet my business success on there being a continuous, large number of new impulse buyers.)

Think about it. Do you continually return to your favorite restaurant because you like their matchbooks? Ever bought a piece of software because you liked the color of the box? Did you increase your annual contribution to Habitat because you like their new logo (‘fess up, did you even notice it?)

Before you spend time (and money) with the creative team – do your strategy, know your targets and think about how you’re truly different (Be real. Don’t use buzzwords such as “quality” and “innovative.”). Focus on how can you position for long-term growth and sustainability.

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The power of words

March 2, 2006

Sure, we’ve read the articles, but emotionally our reaction is how can “global warming” be bad? The word “global” is certainly innocent enough and “warming” is typically a good thing (hot chocolate, cookies, home fires burning). Seth Godin lays it all out for us in The problem with “global warming.” He’s talking about it from a marketing viewpoint. If we called it, for example, “Impending doom” – we’d probably get a lot more people excited. As it is, evangelicals have teamed with environmentalists – something I never thought I’d see.

So, next time you’re writing something, keep in mind the power of (the right) words. Think about it, would you order something called a toothfish? Well, the poor thing was renamed “Chilean Sea Bass” and is now overfished to the point of near-extinction.

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Strategy & Advertising

February 28, 2006

As Holly Buchanan notes, “Holy Cow. I’m speechless.” Well, not really (who, me?) She’s talking about the startling world-shaking news that the big ad agency Grey Worldwide has realized that it’s important to have a strategy (?!) Here’s part of what Grey had to say:

“In recent times, we’ve not had great clarity in our strategy. One of the huge wastes of time is to use creative teams to get to a strategic insight. That was often a problem on Mars (a former Grey account), where we’d work up 15 different commercials to get to the few that were right on,” said Mr. Mellors. “It would have been easier to start with a strong strategic brief.” Grey had strategic planners on staff, but they didn’t work together as a team.

Wow! If I were one of their clients, I’d be on the phone right now, asking for a big retroactive refund!

I grant you that “strategic planning” has gotten a lot of negative press – and justifiably so in many cases. Way too people have confused the means for the ends and consultants have numbed our brains with complicated methodologies that inhibit real work. But, if you’re creating without a plan – that’s rather like a surgeon deciding to start cutting and see what they find (Lots of interesting stuff in there!)

Holly’s got a lot more useful perspective, based on her background as a creative director – so click on over and read her entire post.

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