Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Great Events Require a Script -- for Everyone!

Being trapped in an audience while a sponsor, presenter or VIP rambles on in an endless commercial or self-promotion is a worst-case scenario no one enjoys! But this nightmare is all too common. Too many event organizers put together an event time line with blocks of time portioned out to different speakers -- just tell the speaker he/she will have "this much time" and then turn them loose at the microphone. Definitely a recipe for boredom!

Like so many of my colleagues I attend a lot of events -- breakfasts, lunches, receptions and dinners. I have sat through fifteen minute commercials that on the schedule where slotted for three minutes. I have listened to poor presenters as they stumbled over the same simple material three different ways and wondered when the pain would end; "Are my ears bleeding yet?"

The truth is that 99.9% of us (including me) need help when we are placed in front of an audience, and the best thing a marketer can do is carefully craft a succinct message for the speaker, and hold them to it.

This year I am the chair of the events committee for a great Southern California professionals association. One of the earliest discussion we had was about how much time would be devoted the obligatory association message, sponsor recognitions and event introductions. We agreed that these routine parts of every event should not last more than five minutes. Five. Period. That means bringing sponsors on stage, doing the shout-out about belonging to the association, and any other administrative details that need to happen from the podium.

To accomplish this aggressive goal every person that reaches the stage needs a script, not just a estimated time to talk.

It's hard to put this type of discipline in place, but it is so necessary! Yet it does offer the marketers an opportunity to craft wonderful messages and frees the speakers to relax and enjoy a moment in the spotlight.

My advise to marketers is that you script every word, time everything, and focus on making every moment a less painful experience -- just by taking control of what your audience will hear.

Wouldn't it be great if every event was planned this way?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Managing Stereotypes and Your Professional Image

We all know how important our professional image is to our success (we do, right?). I know I work really hard to establish a good first impression and then continue diligently to be the person I've represented to my clients and network of relationships.

But sometimes my professional image may already be decided simply because of a stereotype -- and you too. This then requires me to make the effort to overcome a stereotype, not for my class, but for myself.

Are you a lawyer? People in general have an impression of lawyers as a class. Are you a marketer? Some people classify you as "sales" while others may have the impression that your "type" are simply a drain on overhead. I am a marketing consultant... in some circles this is maybe a double whammy!

All of this is brought to light in an interview of Laura Morgan Roberts over at Harvard Business School's "Working Knowledge". One quote in particular grabbed my attention:
". . . you must realize that if you aren't managing your own professional image, someone else is. People are constantly observing your behavior and forming theories about your competence, character, and commitment, which are rapidly disseminated throughout your workplace. It is only wise to add your voice in framing others' theories about who you are and what you can accomplish."
As much as ever my success, and yours, depend on what people believe about us. What are you doing to be in charge of your professional image?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Avoiding People Traps at Networking Events

Do you ever find yourself trapped in a dead, unproductive conversation when attending a business event? I know I do at almost every event. Tonight, for instance, I attended a networking mixer hosted by the local venture capital association. Midway through the event I found myself talking to a residential real estate agent . . . . What? Yes! How did he get in here? The worst part was that he didn't really talk -- he would just stand and stare at me as if I was supposed to be holding the conversation together. Thankfully I was able to slip away. And you can too if you use one of these four tried, true and polite techniques:
  • Have an ally at the event that, on signal, can drop into the conversation and state, "I hope it's OK to steal Bruce away but there is someone I need to introduce him to."
  • Be politely blunt by stating, "It was most interesting to meet you. I hope the evening goes well for you. I am going to dive back into the crowd for more networking."
  • Locate someone else nearby that appears to be alone, bring them into the conversation, and once they are focused on each other excuse yourself. "I see someone I need to talk with... It was very nice to meet you and good luck to you both."
  • If the person you are talking to is not a good connection for you, but may be for someone else in attendance, walk him/her to an introduction and then politely excuse yourself.
It is always my advise to never make THE mistake of saying, "I'll give you a call". Too often it is commitment you will never keep.

The whole idea of attending business events is to make productive connections. Be a savvy networker and never waste your or their time.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Wrong Reason for Client Satisfaction Programs

Taking care of clients is pretty much like taking care of a spouse or significant person in a relationship. If you really care, what you do comes from your heart -- not an instruction manual.

Yet, so many firms (lawyers and marketers) miss the opportunity to really connect with their clients because they wish for client satisfaction to be a process of actions, and not actions based on desire. If you want to be really connected to your clients try not to do or be any of these things:
  • "We'll have to do this to keep them" - If you are going through the motions they already know you care more for yourself than them.
  • "If our competition is doing it then we should too" - If you act based on your competition you are already behind.
  • "Our competition isn't doing it and we could use it in our marketing" - When you are focused on what your competition is doing you are not thinking about what your clients really want.
  • "They're talking to our competition" - Again, your competition should never effect what you're doing to help your clients.
  • "This won't cost nearly as much as finding a new client like them" - O.K., now you are just being silly. A great client is worth whatever it takes if you care about their business. Cost is a separate P&L discussion.
  • "We'll look good" - No, you won't. Clients know when you are faking it and sucking up. How about just taking care of what needs doing.
  • "I need the firm to show them I care" - If you need your firm to step up and do what you should have done you are just lazy and looking for an easy way to fail with someone else to blame.
I know there are so many wonderful accountants and attorneys totally focused on doing the right thing for their clients and people. The thinking illustrated in the list above is only an indicator of why failure might be happening more often than can be managed.

Sincere care for people (your clients) cannot be taught in schools or seminars. It's learned by example and mentoring. You have to teach it, evangelize it, tolerate nothing less -- the reward is the stuff of remarkable careers.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Apple Rules!

Two weeks ago I returned to my computer roots.

My first computer was a Macintosh 512. Once purchased I was simply excited about something so miraculous -- no one in my family had any idea why I bought it, and yet only a few weeks later I had to beat them back from the keyboard to do my work (and play my games). My first version of PhotoShop required two disk drives and several disk swaps just to launch the program every time I used it -- and it was magical!

But being a corporate slog, slowly the PC reared it's ugly and user-unfriendly head until one day I no longer even had a Mac in my home.

Skip forward a whole bunch of years and I am funding capital equipment purchases for my own company. Both PC's and Mac's have come a long way. After researching like crazy and talking to IT directors from both sides of the operating system aisle, guess what I did?

You bet'cha. My firm went Apple (heavy, happy sigh). And the magic is still there. Just turn it on and it works! Network connections -- click, done. Install programs -- click, done. It's wonderful!

Some things have been an adjustment. Instead of using Microsoft Office I opted for OpenOffice, an open-source office software suite that plays quite nicely with Microsoft files. Also, there really is no equivalent to Outlook on Mac's, but I am learning to make do with Address Book (I switched to Gmail a long time ago so email was already solved).

Another little thing that can seem big sometimes is the one-button mouse (no left and right clicking). There are add-on mice that have two buttons but I've opted to stick with the original. It just takes time to get used to.

All-in-all I am again a thumbs up, tell you all about it Apple devotee... I better be since I've put money down on it.

If you have a choice I encourage you to take a look at Mac as the computing platform for your business or firm. It is quite . . . freeing!

The Long Arm of the Published Word

In a joyful moment I received an email from a fellow legal marketer plying her trade in Florida. One line from her email was especially rewarding, "I appreciate your posts and ideas and share them w/my group of 60 attorneys in Southwest Florida. It has finally motivated some to start moving out of the "old school" way of thinking."

OK, as a blogger slogging away it is exactly this kind of feedback that will keep me at my keyboard -- and it is exactly this kind of comment that should motivate lawyers and marketers to get their footprint on the internet, RIGHT NOW!

Kevin O'Keefe has long been the evangelist of note for lawyer blogging, just one among so many that will instruct lawyers to get their words on the Internet. This series of posts on Kevin's blog should be a rally cry to anyone near or on the fence.

The random email I received with such a wonderful comment is testimony that being on the Internet is a valuable marketing tactic.

So, what are you going to do? It's your move.

Graphic Artists are Crazy

I might know. I am one. But, not like, "Wooo Hooooo, la la la la la, put me in a rubber room!!" Go online and look at any portfo...