Thursday, May 29, 2008

Targeted Boondoggle VS. Event Sponsorship: Let's Do the Math

I attended yet another boondoggle poker party last night hosted by two outstanding service providers in Southern California and I know their hosting money was so well spent. I am a supporter of sponsoring industry and community events and yet, if your goal is to get the best bang for your limited buck a targeted boondoggle is THE way to go. I've written about this in the past and it keeps surfacing as such a strong relationship development tactic.

Let's say you have $2K to spend on "something" that will generate new opportunities. If you spend that money to sponsor an industry or community event the dollar amount will usually provide you with a minor sponsorship package. You get your name or logo in a program and on a couple of announcements; you get tickets to the event; and the opportunity to briefly mingle with event attendees -- hopefully you can turn a one minute conversation with a couple of folks into an business opportunity.

Now, take that same $2K -- Invite a select group of referral contacts and potential client executives to spend the evening playing tournament poker at your home or appropriate location. Your spend is location (if other than your home), finger food and drinks, cigars (optional) and playing cards and chips. What you receive in return is what I experienced last night.

Of the twelve men attending I already knew four, the rest where strangers to me. After spending four hours laughing, telling stories, raising, bluffing, losing heart-breakers and doing knuckle slams and high-fives I know I could call any of the twelve today, and they would answer.

Isn't bonding GREAT!

Do not ever overlook the opportunity to create special moments through targeted boondoggling. The results go so much further than normal sponsorships and activities.

Friday, May 23, 2008

"Lead, Follow, Or Get Out Of The Way"

I had the pleasure of witnessing the 60 mini-seminar conducted by Robert Fortunato & Mindy Danna of ForStrategy Consulting, Inc. entitled "Lead, Follow, Or Get Out Of The Way". It was the second time I'd seen the seminar and was just as amazed at what they taught.

If you are looking for a mini-seminar that will wake up your people, I encourage you to contact Robert and Mindy right away. They impart career changing knowledge!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Birthdays and Personal Moments of Importance

It means a lot that we remember and do anything to mark the significant moments in the life's of people we desire to be close to -- this is important for you to remember. These dates elevate us in the moment and goodness knows we can never have enough special days to feel good about ourselves. Here is my short list of moments to remember and acknowledge within your business network:
  • Birthdays - Is there a day more important than this one? It is "our day" and anyone that gives this to us matters.
  • Wedding Anniversaries - It's a big day in a good marriage.
  • Date of Hire - It is a huge moment when we get hired to the position we desire. It is even more gratifying when others acknowledge our accomplishment.
  • Favorite Holiday - Everyone has a favorite holiday. Mine is Christmas. I have a friend that goes weird over Halloween. Letting people know that you remember that "this is their favorite holiday" is a good thing.
  • Giant Business Moments - "Isn't today the anniversary of the billion dollar XYZ deal?" Giant business moments always have a great aftertaste.
There may be other special moments you might acknowledge.... I have a friend that offers a toast to the breakup of the Beatles every April 10. I have another business friend that always knows the opening date for deer hunting in Wisconsin (we have lunch to talk about hunting, fishing and all things Wisconsin if he isn't able to fly back for the opening).

I can imagine there are at least two days of the year that are special for everyone in your network -- probably more like four or five. Get to know those dates let them know you remember what is special to them every year.

Monday, May 12, 2008

How Good is Your Personal Commercial?

I know that when I am telling someone what I and my company do I am fighting a battle of diminishing attention from my audience. Unfortunately, not paying attention to commercials is something we all learn to do just from watching TV and listening to radio our whole life -- and our business pitch is simply a first-person commercial.

Many TV advertisers understand the psychology of this conditioning and have gone to great extremes to create 30-60 second entertainment experiences.

I was at a networking event a few days ago and emcee's recited brief commercials about sponsors as the sponsor came to the stage to introduce award recipients. But before handing out an award each sponsor reiterated the commercial for themselves we had just heard. You can imagine the audience was not very interested and had to be hushed several times as they talked among themselves.

So how can my personal or company commercial overcome the instinct of my audience to not listen?

Well, especially at networking events, your commercial needs to be sharp, concise and maybe even entertaining.

For years the title on my business cards read, "Marketing Catalyst". You can imagine the title alone got people interested in hearing more about me. "Well," I would reply, "I am a connector for business professionals." I help people like you to connect to the referral relationships they're seeking to drive new business." I would finish by asking, "Whom can I help you meet?"

One lawyer I know would introduce himself by stating, "I make millionaires." OK, tell me that statement wouldn't grab your attention.

Think carefully about your commercial and create something that starts a conversation -- not finishes it.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Time is Precious to the Life of Your Practice

Imagine that instead of receiving money for work you where paid minutes of life.

Years ago I watched a science/social fiction short story (maybe on Twilight Zone or similar show) in which the monetary unit of exchange was life minutes -- run out of minutes and you die. Not much work in that society for bankruptcy attorneys . . . .

But, surprise! Most legal and accounting practices live in that society right now. Think about it. At most traditional model firms success is tracked by how much time you bill, not by how much money your time harvests. As your billable hours decrease your firm is less likely to desire your services.

So, is your job to bill time (do the work you trained to do) or is it to find clients to maintain the time that can be billed?

I say both. Whether you earn time for your practice by soliciting work internally or by bringing in new clients from outside you have to pursue new sources of time.

Maybe your teachers did not talk about this much while you were in college, and maybe the partners at your firm have not brought it up much either, but learning to earn time is crucial to the life of your practice.

I am not too sure where I am going with this post. Maybe I am just writing after spending too much time this week with professionals that lamented about having no ability to ensure their future. Maybe I am writing because after hearing their lament I can look around and see so many companies and professionals that make their living by helping lawyers and accountants to learn the skills they need to earn time.

I do know that the hyper-achievers I work with are not afraid to learn new skills and have succeeded accordingly.

I encourage anyone that needs time units for success to reach out and learn how to find more time -- before your practice runs out of life.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Marketing Success in a Down Economy #10 - Shrink Your Menu and Promote Your Signature Dish

Chef Gordon Ramsey hosted a show called Kitchen Nightmares in which he visited failing restaurants and acted as a troubleshooter to help improve the establishments in just one week. I observed two key issues that appeared to be foundational problems at almost every restaurant he worked to turn around:

1) The restaurant had far too many offerings on the their menu -- in trying appeal to every taste bud that might possibly walk through the door the menus were bloated and chefs were overwhelmed.

2) The restaurants were not known for a signature dish or cuisine -- their brand was mediocrity and bland food instead of being "the best place to go for __________".

This is an important marketing lesson for professional services providers in the midst of a down-market. It is so much easier to be well-known for one thing than it is to be kind-of-known for a bunch of stuff.

My suggestion is that you figure out your firm's foundational expertise and get rid of every other offering on your menu. Your marketing efforts and budget will go a lot further and produce significantly better ROI. And if you've lost sight of what your foundational expertise is just ask your best clients. They will tell you what you're good at.

This is my last post in this series on marketing in a down market. I hope you have found some kernel to chew on. I am always grateful to get your thoughts and ideas and am happy to publish your good ideas here for all to share.

(Return to Marketing Success in a Down Economy index)

Friday, May 02, 2008

Marketing Success in a Down Economy #9 - Relaxation Promotes a Healthy Perspective

Have you ever had the experience of being inside an intense situation where something needed to be done and time was running out -- all the while everything you tried wasn't working and the harder you pushed the worse it got? I have, and marketing in time's that feel tough can be just like that.

It's like being in high school and trying to impress the young man or woman you've fallen for and no matter what you wind up feeling like a total dork! When we want something really bad it just seems to keep slipping further away.

PLEASE, step back and RELAX!

Yup, it is easy to say and hard to do. But if you do not learn how to chill out with regularity you will lose perspective and all of your marketing genius will come tumbling down. Here are some tips for chilling in the midst of battle:
  • Play hooky once a week. Yup, I said that. Sleep in late, read the paper front to back, walk on the beach, and then go to work to chase the day -- or just walk away after lunch. There is nothing like "taking care of me" to recharge your strength.
  • Take regular three-day weekends. If your marketing efforts have hit the wall, one extra day off will not be a deal-breaker.
  • Listen to guided-imagery CD's before you go to sleep. I have found that the effect of focused meditation has tremendous payoff in my professional life.
  • Schedule fun activities with your marketing team (insert fun stuff to do here).
  • Close your office door and take a nap. If you do not have an office door to close go to your car and take that nap. If you are not comfortable doing that just go for drive for about 45 minutes.
  • Call a friend that has nothing to do with your business or a family member and have a nice chat. Take your time.
The point is that intensity often breeds work without result. Figure out your way to step back from the battle and you will be rewarded with the perspective you need to succeed.

Each of us has our own way of checking out. What is yours?

(Return to Marketing Success in a Down Economy index)

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