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Category: Communications

What’s In it for Me?

You sit down to write your marketing copy. Words flow easily about who you are and what your service or product includes. You can describe the what, where and when with finesse. The only problem is that the reader is going to ask, “What’s in it for me?”

It doesn’t matter if it’s a marketing brochure, a workshop description or website copy. It doesn’t matter if the reader is a devotee. It doesn’t matter how much you think they need your information or how interesting it is. In making a decision to sign up, purchase or read further, your customer is wondering how you can benefit them.

Why is focusing on benefits so hard?

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You’ve Got Something People Want

Chances are as a business owner — especially a service-oriented business — you have something to offer beyond your core service that people want, maybe even need. But you’re not giving or selling that information or wisdom.

Think about your typical day and all the actions you take, the opinions you have, the advice you give, the troubles you troubleshoot. We all have blinds spots when it comes to what comes naturally. We don’t realize there is value in that pool of deep knowledge or interest we’ve spent years cultivating. We don’t think that sharing or selling that advice or information is a possibility. You might be thinking, “It’s just how I do my job.” Or, “Who would want to know that?” Read more

Branding Is for Those Other Folks

The word brand and its counterparts, the mind-boggling (and snooty-sounding) array of words like brand architecture, brand extension, vertical branding, diagonal branding (okay, I made that last one up) are enough to make you not want to bother.

This leads small business people to think branding is only for the Martha Stewarts and Budweisers of the world. But as overused as the word brand is, it’s the only word we have to describe the totality of what a company represents to the outside world. Read more

Do You Call Yourself an I or a We?

As an independent professional, you’re faced with whether to call yourself “I” or “we.” The alternative is to use only a company name and risk producing awkward copy for your website. Awkward, because when you don’t feel comfortable owning that you’re an “I,” but don’t want to claim you’re a “we,” you end up with passive language or other clunky constructions. Worse, you simply can’t express some ideas using only a company name in your verbiage.

I’ve gone back and forth on the issue. I’m coming down on the side of being an “I.” I really am an “I.” I don’t become a “we” because I extend my services by working with other professionals. Not in a true sense, unless this happens on every project, which it doesn’t. Some who all themselves “we” when they’re really an “I” might have a good rationalization. It makes me squeamish so I’ve always avoided “we,” and, well, have a hard time describing my services and client case studies with ease and clarity. Read more

What Do You Really Do?

When asked the question, “What do you do?” most of us reply by reciting a role we play. When you think about it, if you say, “I’m an accountant,” you haven’t really replied to the inherent action part of the question. The doing part. Most of us see ourselves in roles—mother, barista, graphic designer, farmer—which is really just a set of clothes we wear most of our waking hours. It says nothing of who we are, what we care about, what our talents are, how our work makes us feel, what we think we give to the world.

Off and on for the last year or more, I’ve been evaluating my business and asking myself if I’m following my passions enough, serving the people I really want to serve, and putting things out into the world that are a good representation of my skills and talents and values.

In all the resources I’ve come across, one of the most often cited aspects of this exploration is learning how to say what you do without putting people to sleep. “I’m an accountant,” is a surefire way to put someone to sleep. No offense to accountants.

If that accountant were to say “I make one of the most unpleasant days of the year easy for people and sometimes even pleasant,” he or she would have your attention. Everyone wants an unpleasant day to be easier and even pleasant. They’d be curious to know which day you were talking about. Then they’d be curious enough to ask, “Well, how exactly do you do that?”

Now you’re having a conversation because you’ve captured their attention with a need they can relate to. People want to see themselves in there somewhere.

Even if you were a member of a circus, which sounds infinitely more interesting than what most of us do, you’d still cut your listener off. A role as an answer is a dead end. There’s nowhere go. “I take people out of reality to a magical place,” is the kind of answer that starts a conversation.

Recently, at a party, I met a woman who was a third grade teacher. I liked Pam instantly. I was working through exercises myself to answer that very question, “What do you do?” When I asked her what she did, she answered like most of us do.

“Can I help you reframe that?” I asked. “Here’s what you really do. You help shape young minds to thrive in this world.”

Her face lit up and a smile spread across her face like I’d just planted flowers along her career path. We were in a room full of web-savvy people. If she had said “third grade teacher” to anyone in there, she probably would have received only polite nods.

Just then a young woman walked up and introduced herself. When she asked Pam what she did, Pam stood up straight and threw her shoulders back. She looked at me and whispered with a smile, “I’m going to try it out.”

So, what do you really do?

A Presentation Worth Its Salt

an appleMichael Pollan needs little introduction. But even a celebrity journalist can’t rest on his laurels. Much ink is spilled on the common pitfalls of presentations, and the suffering they inflict on audiences everywhere. Yet presentation best practices are still lost on most presenters.

Not so with Pollan who drew a crowd of some 4000 at University of Portland’s Food for Thought conference last Saturday. Pollan, a little incredulous at the crowd’s size, wondered if some of us were in the wrong place. “You’re sure you’re here to see a food writer?” he asked. Read more