It’s Moving Day – Find Me Now at SteveWoodruff.com

This will be the final post here at Connection Agent (I think!). As I announced earlier this week, I’ve decided to launch an entirely new site: SteveWoodruff.com

The theme: Discover Your Fit. Because that’s what I do – help businesses and individuals discover their purpose, set new direction, refine their offerings, and craft a clear message.

To say I’m excited about the new direction my business has taken in the last few years is an understatement. It’s really not just a business to me – it’s a mission.

If  you’re a subscriber to Connection Agent, just click here to subscribe to the new feed. Bonus – you can also sign up at the same time for my astonishingly brief and occasionally brilliant e-newsletter, Clarity Blend.

Double Bonus - when you sign up, you’ll get a free download of my brand-spanking-new e-book, Make Yourself Clear: Six Steps to De-fogging Your Direction and Your Message.

Discover Your Fit: The new website for Connection Agent is SteveWoodruff.com

Discover Your Fit: The new website for Connection Agent is SteveWoodruff.com

This book not only contains a distillation of my thinking, developed over many years, but includes many of my go-to people such as Ann Handley, CC Chapman, John Jantsch, Carrie Wilkerson, Dave Kerpen, Tom Martin, Carol Roth, Greg Hartle, Lisa Petrilli, Anthony Iannarino, Phil Gerbyshak, Chris Brogan, Tom Clifford, Dan Rockwell, Jay Baer, Chris Westfall, Susan Cain, Charles H Green, Lou Imbriano, Seth Godin, Peter Shankman, Brian Moran, Michael Port, Alli Worthington, Les McKeown, Bob Burg, Ellen Cagnassola, Mack Collier, Drew McLellan, and Chris Guillebeau. Links to blog posts, Twitter profiles, books – it’s a resource bonanza!

I thank you for being part of my network of readers and collaborators, and look forward to many more years exploring and growing together.

Now…let’s go brew up some Clarity!

Be Clear with Clarity Therapy!

My Second-to-Last Post at Connection Agent Blog

Connection Agent is going away? Yes. And, no.

This week, I’ll be launching a new website at SteveWoodruff.com, which will be the new home for all my writings about marketing (my pharma biz, Impactiviti, retains its own separate identity and site).

So this blog, and the Clarity Therapy blog, will be superseded by a professionally designed and hosted site. The overarching theme will be the message that has been at the core of my work for many years: Discovering Your Fit.

(sneak peek – not quite live yet!)

For a long time here at Connection Agent, I’ve blogged about marketing – and leadership – and network-building – and branding – and blogging/social media – and entrepreneurial business. Since October of 2006, in fact, where my very first post, How to Waste 10,000 Billboards (critiquing UPS’s marketing), still resonates today.

However, over a thousand posts later, I’ve sometimes wondered if I’ve been wasting everyone’s time. Because, truth be told, I often felt a bit like an impostor.

Why? Well, I wasn’t quite sure where my passions about these topics was heading. And there were lots of people with deeper expertise in all those areas.

Lesson for entrepreneurs: keep at something long enough, and the market will tell you what you should be doing. <—(tweet this)

Turns out that my strong suit all along was helping people figure out their purpose, and then set a new direction and distill a compelling message. Really quickly. It took years of just doing it – intuitively – before my mission became clear.

There’s no job description for that, so I made it up (Clarity Therapy). And, it encompasses pretty much everything that I’ve been writing about all along.

I’m still the Connection Agent, and still committed to building opportunity networks that will help businesses and individuals find ideal work. But it’s time to step up and take on the challenge of seeing new generations of talented people find their optimal role in life.

I believe deeply that when we Discover Our Fit, we stand the best chance of changing the world of work, and fulfilling our purpose.

So…let’s do this!

Assuming that all the Internet plumbing does its work*, I’ll see you later this week, over at SteveWoodruff.com (and for some of you, I’ll see you in Chicago at the SOBCon conference)!

*in my final post, I’ll put up all the links to move your feeds and subscriptions over to the new site. There is also a free e-book you’ll be able to download, titled Make Yourself Clear! – Six Steps to De-Fogging Your Direction and Your Message.

When Your Market Says to Pivot

pivot roadI’m all for a well-thought-out go-to-market strategy. But I’ve often advised consultants and other small businesses to leave your directional map at about 80% – and let the market inform you about the remaining 20%.

Why? Because you WILL pivot, to some extent – and your customers will show you where and how.

A recent example from my experience – I’ve been doing Clarity Therapy sessions for a variety of individuals and companies for a couple of years now. Typically, these are one-day intensive sessions, with a few months of minor follow-up.

I did not, however, anticipate performing any kind of ongoing business coaching. I saw Clarity Therapy as an event, not a long-term process. Until clients starting asking for more. A lot more. And a wealth of helpful lessons from past experience began to come to the surface.

Turns out that being an outside voice giving perspective on overall business structure, specific creative offerings, client account management, and staffing (plus identifying resources via networking) is a much bigger need than I realized.

The most interesting revelation of all: how lonely it is to be a small business owner or solo consultant. I mean, I knew that, right? I AM one. But it didn’t really occur to me how important it is for us to have an outlet, a peer, a mentor, a friend – who can come alongside for the long-term and help get a business to a new level. There are short-term and one-shot needs, but clients are saying to also think about the deeper, longer haul. Bonus: that approach actually suits me quite well. I prefer those kind of business relationships.

Truth is, there’s a lot of stuff we just can’t say to customers, employees, colleagues, even family members. It’s frustrating, and the lack of a healthy outlet and fresh perspective clogs our mind and heart.

So, I now find myself offering business coaching for people and businesses seeking to grow and needing outside advice and encouragement. It’s not really a change of direction, just a natural extension that I didn’t anticipate.

How about you? How have your customers caused you to pivot? I’ve seen a number of my social media people evolve over time and it’s pretty fascinating. What’s your story?

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Meaningless Marketing

{Note: I am now blogging at my brand-spanking-new site, SteveWoodruff.com. Just click here to subscribe to the new feed. Bonus – you can also sign up at the same time for my astonishingly brief  yet brilliant e-newsletter, Clarity Blend (see sample), and when you sign up, you’ll get a free download of my helpful new e-book, Make Yourself Clear: Six Steps to De-fogging Your Direction and Your Message.}

If your company name and tagline could mean a whole bunch of different things to a whole bunch of different people, it’s meaningless.

  • Global Technical Solutions – Where Technology Drives Customer Value. Meaningless.
  • Dwilgoq – It’s on!! Meaningless.
  • The Robert Higgins Group – We mean business. Meaningless.

In the FogTake a stand! You can’t do everything for everyone, so define your niche and project a clear message. Get out of the fog.

I do realize that it is a challenge in this URL-crowded era to find a unique name. But at least try to have a descriptor – a verbal business card – that tells us what you’re about.

I interacted this week with Marc Pitman. His title: The Fundraising Coach. The summary he gives of himself on Google+: Committed to making it ridiculously easy for people to find fundraising training.

Bingo. I know EXACTLY where to put Marc in the universe of suppliers. But if, instead, his title was: The Business Coach - well, then I’d be unable to place him in memory. If his verbal business card was: I help people find what they need to succeed – despite the cute rhyme, he’d be another MBE (meaningless business entity).

It may help you in business to have your MBA. But if you’re working on your MBE, you’re making life far more difficult than it should be – for your customers, and ultimately, for you. You need to Claim Your Market[place].

If you think you’ve got a case of MBE, let’s talk. Maybe a dose of Clarity Therapy is just what you need to get more meaningful.

Ping me at: steve at stevewoodruff dot com.

photo credit: VinothChandar via photopin cc

De-Fogging Your Business (or Career)

{Note: I am now blogging at my brand-spanking-new site, SteveWoodruff.com. Just click here to subscribe to the new feed. Bonus – you can also sign up at the same time for my astonishingly brief  yet brilliant e-newsletter, Clarity Blend (see sample), and when you sign up, you’ll get a free download of my helpful new e-book, Make Yourself Clear: Six Steps to De-fogging Your Direction and Your Message.}

I’ve been doing a lot of Clarity Therapy lately.

What is Clarity Therapy? It’s an intensive one-on-one time where we dig deep to uncover your professional DNA, and come up with your unique direction, story, and message.

Clarity Therapy is like de-fogging the mirror and the windshield. When we see ourselves and our purpose clearly, we move forward with confidence. <—(click to tweet this).

Clarity Therapy for businesses – a half-day or full-day session – brings us to a 20/20 view of the following:

ClarityONBiz

Clarity Therapy for careers – a half-day session for individuals in transition – gets us here:

ClarityONCareer

Our goal: defining a you-based business or role. AND – we use M&Ms for props. Because gaining insight should be delicious!

If you’d like to learn more, contact me (steve at stevewoodruff.com). I can forward you all the details, and about as many testimonials as you’d ever like to see (from people just like you who wanted an objective “therapist” to help clear the fog).

And, yes, we can do these sessions over Skype.

You want one huge bonus? Here it is – the clearer your message, the easier it is for people to connect and refer you. Including me, the Connection Agent.

Don’t Be JAGA

Read this series of tweets from the bottom up.

JAGA2

Take a look at your website. Are you using commodity generalizations that sound just like the next company?

Do you want to compete in a noisy marketplace? Here’s job one – Don’t be JAGA! Lift the fog!!!

Be a Fog-Lifter (part 3) – Distill

{Note: I am now blogging at my brand-spanking-new site, SteveWoodruff.com. Just click here to subscribe to the new feed. Bonus – you can also sign up at the same time for my astonishingly brief  yet brilliant e-newsletter, Clarity Blend (see sample), and when you sign up, you’ll get a free download of my helpful new e-book, Make Yourself Clear: Six Steps to De-fogging Your Direction and Your Message.}

I’m fascinated by the process of fermentation and distillation. I’ll watch documentaries on the process, and find myself longing to spend an entire year traveling the world just to see more closely how wine, beer, whiskey, and other spirits are made.

{I’m guessing a lot of us would enjoy that tour…any sponsors out there?? :>}

MoonshineAlso, when it comes to ideas and words, distillation fascinates me. How do we boil down a plethora of concepts and messages into a distilled, compact, light-giving phrase? Can we take our business and boil it down to a clear summary?

You may not be able to offer your customers moonshine, but you can serve them a 100-proof message. <<–(click to tweet this).

Here’s how: Aim for 10 words. Craft a summary message that can be given out in 10 words of less. Aim for clarity, not comprehensiveness.

How did FedEx do this? The World on Time. Allstate’s striking and unforgettable message? You’re in good hands. How about blogger Dan Rockwell (Helping leaders reach higher in 300 words or less)? Can you grab one word and build your message around it, like Mark Schaefer (Grow)?

Brief. Punchy. Memorable. Non-technical.

Your <10 word message may be a quick tagline, or it may be a brief sentence, but either way, it’s compressed, like a verbal business card.

So, let’s get practical:

Start by creating this factual summary statement: I do (this) for (customers) in order to (end result) with (my particular differentiating quality). Excellent – you’re already at 40 proof.

Now, try to come up with an illustration or analogy that short-cuts right to the point in a vivid fashion. You’ve just jumped to 80 proof!

Finally, create a compact phrase that you can give to someone before the elevator door even closes. Think of this final product as a memory dart, not an elevator speech. You’re now at 100 proof!

We all need to break through the mists in the minds of our customers with a beam of distilled enlightenment. That’s lifting the fog.

(Part 1 – Job Number One is here. Part 2 – Steal! – is here.)

Learn more about Steve’s Clarity Therapy services.

Be a Fog-Lifter (part 2) – Steal!

{Note: I am now blogging at my brand-spanking-new site, SteveWoodruff.com. Just click here to subscribe to the new feed. Bonus – you can also sign up at the same time for my astonishingly brief  yet brilliant e-newsletter, Clarity Blend (see sample), and when you sign up, you’ll get a free download of my helpful new e-book, Make Yourself Clear: Six Steps to De-fogging Your Direction and Your Message.}

(part 1 is here)

Once we realize that the minds of our potential and actual clients are filled with static, distraction, clutter, and everything-but-you, it becomes clear that we have a one primary task above all others.

Break through the noise. Lift the fog.

It is not up to our customers to figure us out. Throwing a bunch of words against a wall and hoping something sticks isn’t a strategy; it’s just lazy. <<–(click to tweet this)

It’s up to us to give a clear, relevant, and memorable message. How?

First, we settle on ONE differentiating offering (see part 1) as our lead-in. We may do more than one thing (as an individual or a business), but we want to be known as the go-to for something.

The next part sounds shady – you need to steal. Yes, I said steal! What you want to hijack is a pre-existing idea, image, or thing in the mind of the person, and make it yours.

Consider these two approaches:

“Our state-of-the-art coffee grinding, brewing, and dispensing solution combines leading technology with consumer-friendly aesthetics in order to provide an optimal beverage experience.”

- vs. -

“We’re the BMW of coffeemakers.”

thief

What have you done? You’ve “stolen” (OK, borrowed if you like) the BMW reputation for high-end quality, sleekness, and luxury pricing, and bridged it to your product/company in the customer’s mind. Your offering, by association, moves from unknown and commodity status to an aspirational identity.

You’ve lifted the fog by giving the customer an easy shortcut to understanding. You are now placed on an existing memory hook. And, you’ve also potentially gained some reverb marketing – that is, every time this person sees a BMW on the road, guess what just might reverberate in their mind?

You – and your offering. You clever thief. There are many marketing approaches in the world. But do you see how John Jantsch made his memorable?

The most direct and memorable way into the mind of your (potential) customer is to latch onto something already there. After a Clarity Therapy session, my clients never look at M&Ms the same again. Why? It’s one of my props, and it has tremendous reverb value. I didn’t need to create something new. Just “steal” something that was already there.

What image or analogy will you use to bridge quickly and memorably into the mind of your audience?

The Clarity of FedEx

FedEx planeThe World On Time.

Those four words summarize the FedEx marketing message. And, it’s brilliant.

What do I care about if I’m going to use a package shipping/delivery service? Reach and speed. Reliability. The heft to get it done fast and consistently. FedEx says they’ll get it anywhere (the world), and I can count on it (on time).

That’s what I care about if I’m an individual, a corporate professional, or a supply chain director.

The World On Time.

Contrast this with UPS’s misguided efforts to sell common people on the concept of “Logistics”, their phrase “Synchronizing the world of commerce” painted on trucks, and the sad effort to personalize a color (“What can Brown do for you?”).

That kind of marketing message is too much effort, trying to educate an entire marketplace with abstractions. Leave logistics to the supply-chain, operations-level people.

The World On Time is all I need to know. That’s the power of a clear, succinct, on-target message.

That’s clarity.

BE CLEAR: Tell Your Story

The Hobbit StoryHumans are hard-wired to tell and remember stories. That’s why smart business people wrap up their message in a narrative.

Master storytellers tap into our need to see a beginning, a progression, and a destination.

What’s your story? As a professional or as a business, you have one – do you tell it? It’s a vital part of having a memorable, clear message.

See what I mean in this one-minute (ish) video:


People will forget a list of facts and offerings. But we’ll remember your story.

(there seems to be a rash of posts about storytelling all of a sudden: here and here and here, for instance!)

___________

Is your professional direction and message CLEAR? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> BE CLEAR: Narrowing Your Focus

>> BE CLEAR: Drop the Buzzwords

BE CLEAR: Drop the Buzzwords

Do you want your customers to be dazed and confused? All you have to do is cloak your message in a blizzard of buzzwords.

Obviously, I don’t recommend that. We all want to reside in the memory box of our (potential) clients. More words = more fog.

Instead, use simple, clear words.

See what I mean in this one-minute video:


It’s always tempting to adopt the impressive-sounding biz language that buzzes around us like a pack of mosquitoes. Swat them away and use clarity of speech if you want to have a memorable impact!

___________

Is your professional direction and message CLEAR? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> BE CLEAR: Narrowing Your Focus

De-Fragmenting Your Business

As I talk in-depth to small business people (including consultants), I am seeing a pattern over and over again. I think it may actually be endemic for most businesses. Fragmentation.

(apologies, in advance, for the Ugly Graphic!)

What do I mean? Well, over time, offerings become more diverse or less focused (sometimes in response to a rapidly-evolving marketplace), and messages get muddled. Soon, customers are really not sure what we do anymore – instead of being the default “go-to” for some very specific service or product, we’re…a supplier of something, broadly speaking.

In fact, this fragmentation subtly leads us into the habit of broadly speaking, instead of having a precise message. And, like a hard drive with too much scattered data, our messaging becomes inefficient. Hence, the need for regular de-fragmentation.

I see this in larger settings as well, such as pharmaceutical training departments. Courses, programs, workshops – they get added over time to address specific needs, and where once there may have been a strategically-designed curriculum, now there is fragmentation – particularly in a fast-evolving setting.

In fact, this is common among individuals – people who reach a point in their career where they’ve done a bunch of things, but are no longer clear on what their true core competencies and their ideal direction really are. Personal/professional fragmentation.

Have you experienced this? What have you done to de-frag your business and get back to a clear focus?

___________

Is your professional direction and message CLEAR? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Discovering Your Professional DNA

>> Don’t Do These Three Things on LinkedIn

50 Shades of Grey Marketing: No Audience for That!

That’s the theme of my guest post today on Carol Roth‘s blog: There Is No Audience for 50 Shades of Grey Marketing.

Excerpt:

The land of grey is where commodities dwell. It’s where businesses walk in circles, broadcasting noise into the void with the hope that a clear echo will return. Healthy business development begins by coming out into the sunshine and leaving all those indefinite shades of grey behind… (read the entire post)

Related – my recent guest post on Marketing Profs Daily Fix blog: How to Fight Fog and Overcome Clarity Deficit Disorder.

Excerpt:

Often, our marketing resembles a storefront with a streaky window and a jumbled display. It’s too much effort to try to understand what’s being offered. It’s not your customer’s job to figure you out. It’s YOUR job to cut through all the fog in less than half a minute with vivid, memorable language…(read the entire post)

___________

Is your business hard to spot in the fog? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Why I Don’t Buy the One-Minute Elevator Speech

>> Want to Be Memorable? Use Word Pictures!

Want to be Memorable? Use Word Pictures!

I was reading one of the typical articles about crafting your elevator speech – you know the one-minute summary of who you are, what you do, the features and benefits, etc.

I get the idea, but that’s about 50 seconds and 35 floors too long. People don’t have the headspace to absorb, process, and remember all that. And if they can’t remember it simply, how can they pass a referral along?

The answer: word pictures.

I remember talking to Shannon Whitley last year about the various creative programming projects he’s worked on, including all kinds of interfaces to other platforms. I blurted out, “Oh – so you’re the API Guy!”

That’s a very short compass of words, which can be uttered before the elevator door even closes. If you need help with anything to do with APIs, Shannon is THE go-to expert. Period. Memorable. Refer-able.

Let’s take a glance over at my tweetstream. There’s…C.C. Chapman. Now C.C. is a challenge, because he does so many different things well – all having to do with the use of media (all forms) in marketing. To my mind, he’s like a one-man marketing prism, a stained-glass window of media. But that doesn’t quite capture the consulting and expertise factor. The pushing-the-envelope stuff that’s always been part of his approach. Maybe he’s more of a Media Navigator. Have to think about that one more…

Then there’s my friend Sarah Morgan, who works in the pharma sphere (we were among the first pharma social media troublemakers), but that’s not what her blogging is about. Her Twitter bio states, “Bascially, I write.” – but that’s not really descriptive enough of Sarah. She writes heart-words.

Dan Rockwell (@LeadershipFreak) and I just exchanged messages. I could see him getting into an elevator with someone, and respond to the inevitable “What do you do?” question with three words: “I speak leader.”

These short, memorable expressions create images in the minds of others. They are meant to convey, not just information, but word pictures. You can spend thousands on advertising, but there is nothing as powerful as a well-chosen word picture.

That’s what will make you stick, when everyone else is forgotten.

___________

How’s your message? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Make Your Life a Story, not a List

>> Are You Standing Out in the Field?

Make Your Life a Story, Not A List

I was on LinkedIn again yesterday, in preparation for a call with someone who had been downsized, and found myself sighing, for the umpteenth time, over the format of an on-line resume.

Another list.

This job title. That company. This short list of tasks. Even some undefined insider acronyms. Just swap out the particulars and you could be any one of a billion commodity people.

Don’t undersell yourself. You’re not a list!

When people hire me to help re-write their LinkedIn profiles, I employ some of my Clarity Therapy process to extract three things from them:

  • What they’re really good at and want to do more of;
  • The story of how they got to where they are;
  • The key point of brilliance they want to “sell” to their next employer.

Then, we go back through the profile and turn it into a story. The main themes leading to the new desired role are woven into the past job responsibilities, highlighting the individual’s greatest strength and accomplishments, and showing how they lead in the direction being pursued.

Bullet points and biz-speak words don’t paint a clear picture. They leave you undifferentiated. A resume should not merely be a summary of facts; it needs to tell a story. Your story. And it needs to strongly suggest what your next chapter should be.

Your next employer doesn’t have the time to help you figure out who you are and where you’re going. That’s YOUR next job, before you seek your next job!

___________

How’s your message? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Transcendent Communications

>> Are You Standing Out in the Field?

Free Clarity Therapy in Chicago? Yes!

Last year, pre-SOBCon, I came out to Chicago early and had a chance to meet with several folks for free Clarity Therapy sessions(I called it Brand Therapy then). It was a delightful time and much closer relationships with at least 3 people developed as a result.

So, we’re going to do it again this year! (What is Clarity Therapy?)

On Wednesday and Thursday this week, I’m going to open up a few 90-minute slots to help people – free of charge – figure out their professional DNA and direction. This will take place at (or near) Hotel 71 in downtown Chicago.

Available times:

Thursday May 3: 9:30 am | 2:30 pm | 4 pm (sorry – all booked!)

Send me an e-mail (steve at connectionagent dot com) and let me know if you’d like to take advantage of this free offer, and what time(s) you would prefer. There are already two slots that are on the verge of being spoken for, so don’t hesitate!

(here’s a blog post from last week by Tom Martin describing why Clarity Therapy is important – even for a branding/marketing pro!)

People Buy Your Story

Recently, I was sitting through a capabilities overview from an agency in my pharma network, and it was filled with all the usual elements – we do this, we do that, customer logos, etc., etc. There was actually one potentially distinguishing message buried in there, which was encouraging; but then, toward the end, mention was made that the company has been in business for 20+ years.

And…and…nothing. The ball was teed up, but the 3-wood remained in the golf bag. There was the chance to tell a story – the company story – and it was missed. Any company in business that long has a lot of success, a interesting pathway of evolution, and a great way to build a bridge with the listener by using corporate history to be memorable.

Some years ago, I was evaluating a training company’s marketing and website, and was seeing all the typical verbiage and bullet points – just like everyone else, we do this and this and this. But buried in the web copy was a key point – one of the principals of the company had long experience on the pharma client side of the fence. I told them that their story was the distinguishing message: “We’ve walked in your shoes.” Most of the competitor companies did not have that same story.

When people are evaluating potential providers, one of the distinguishing elements that they subconsciously want to know is the story – why you exist, how you got to where you are now, how you’ve succeeded and evolved. This isn’t just customer case studies – it’s your profile, neatly wrapped with a bow of purpose and progress. People forget bullet points. They remember compelling stories.

There is a story behind my business practice of Clarity Therapy: it is an “accidental” business. I was helping partner companies figure out their professional DNA and message for years as part of my pharma client-vendor matchmaking service (Impactiviti), and I finally came to realize that this analytical ability was a unique skill that met a vast market need. To lead people and companies to an epiphany of their identity in a few hours time? How valuable is that? Yet it came about organically, not as part of pre-planned strategy.

Three entrepreneurs whom I deeply respect (Anthony Iannarino, Lisa Petrilli, Greg Hartle) all have great business stories that happen to be woven in to remarkable medical histories. Carrie Wilkerson (The Barefoot Executive) masterfully weaves her life story into her constant “you can do it, too!” entrepreneurial message. This past weekend’s winner of the Master’s golf tournament, Bubba Watson (pictured above – emotion is a powerful element, no?) has a wonderful story – he’s never taken a golf lesson, but just does what he does as a self-taught athlete.

Apple, Dell, the 3-M Post-it Note, WD-40 – all have memorable stories behind them. And we like to buy into something bigger than ourselves, something that transcends the ordinary, something that is a non-commodity.

Do you have a personal or corporate story? You do – but you may be so close to it, you may take it so much for granted that you haven’t teased it out. It’s one of the first things I do when I sit down with a client to help them get clear about their message – I pull out the story and help them see it.

Yes, people buy what you’re offering. But they also buy the story behind it. Don’t deprive them (and yourself!) of one of your most powerful marketing tools!

___________

Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Part 1: Your Distinguishing Offering

>> Part 2: Your Go-To Market Message (in 10 words or less)

Your Go-To-Market Message (in 10 words or less)

In Part 1 of this brief series (We Do This, and this, and this, and this, and…), we looked at the necessity of having a very clear offering. Amazingly, many companies and consultants fail to make a permanent impression on others because they are tempted to offer too much.

Others, who might be potential customers, or valuable sources of referrals.

Once you’re clear on your offering, the next step is to define and distill a core message – in my Clarity Therapy process, I help create something that is 10 words or less. The goal is to be able to impart your key message before the elevator door even closes (think elevator phrase, not elevator speech!)

When I summarize my client-vendor referral business (Impactiviti), I tell people that I have a win-win business: bringing great clients and top vendor-partners together (I often follow that by saying “Impactiviti is the eHarmony of pharma marketing and training” – but that’s the analogy, which we’ll cover in part 4).

People have a very limited memory space, and lots of distractions. That’s why you need a message that is concise, compelling, and sticky. And, critically important: TRANSFERABLE. Every person who hears and absorbs your message is a potential source of referrals.

I recently had a delightful coffee with a successful business professional in Connecticut, George Bradt. I remarked how much I liked the summary message describing what he writes in his Forbes columns:

As we talked about branding and organizational DNA, he proceeded to give a very concise summary of his company‘s well-defined offering, its clear message, the background story (that’s part 3 in this series), and 2 fabulous analogies. I was impressed. Very rarely have I sat down with someone that had such clarity about their business identity (if you plan to on-board a high-level executive and want to increase your chances of success – call George!)

So, picture yourself bumping into a prospective customer at a trade show, just minutes before the next session starts. After introductions, she says, “I recall seeing your name before, but what is it that you do?” Can you, in one sentence, give her the distilled essence, in such a way that she’ll still remember it after the session – and, be able to tell her friend over lunch about you in 10 words or less?

All the time and effort we spend on our marketing materials, websites, pitch decks, and industry events – is it well-spent if we do not have, embedded in all of it, a very clear and memorable message that cuts through all the marketplace noise and clutter?

Try to come up with this message (it’s a lot harder than you think!). We often have trouble seeing our own offerings/message clearly because “You can’t read the label of the jar you’re in.” But once you take the step of getting a clear message, it is immensely liberating, even confidence-building. You, your employees, your customers, and your bottom line will be glad you did!

Coming in part 3: People Buy Your Story

___________

Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Customers Walking Past You

>> Four Questions for your Future

We Do This (and this and this and this and…)

Last week, I sat down to enjoy dinner with about 15 people, none of whom I had met face-to-face before (on-line connections with some of them). Which means that you begin to ask the standard get-to-know-you questions.

On this occasion, I did not have the following exchange (thankfully!) – but you’ve been there, right?

“So, what does your company do?”

“Glad you asked! We have a whole suite of enterprise human performance development resource platforms, addressing everything from talent identification, people management, on-line training, payroll obfuscation optimization, restroom supply chain aggregation, Pony Express scheduling, and cupcakes. How about you?”

Now, I don’t know about you, but for me, this kind of exchange sheds more darkness than light! Maybe you’re a great person, and maybe you offer something of genuine value, but you’re firing so many bullet points at me that I have to put on a Kevlar vest.

And tomorrow, when someone asks me, “Hey, do you know someone who can help me with such-and-such?” – do you think this new contact is going to be even a blip on my radar screen? No. Because the offering is not clear.

That’s the first thing we uncover during a Clarity Therapy session – What’s your key offering? It’s one of the Core Four elements we uncover in determining your professional DNA and message.

It’s always amazing to me how poorly-defined a company’s offering can be – it’s as if we don’t want to miss out on any potential revenue, so we say we do 10 things, when in fact only one or two of those things are truly aligned with our strengths and our desired goals. Which makes us….forgettable.

If you do everything, then in the mind of potential customers and network-referrers, you do….nothing. You have no memory hook, nothing distinguishing. You disappear into the mist.

What does Starbucks do? Coffee. Everything else they offer is secondary, planets revolving around the caffeinated sun. What does a small company like Vosges Chocolate do? Chocolate! What do they not do? Everything else.

So, before coming up with a marketing message or an advertising campaign, I urge my clients to take a deep breath and walk with me through the process of clearing the fog and getting a clear view of their DNA. Once we know what you really do well, what your greatest value is to potential customers, then we can proceed to your go-to-market message. Marketing without a clear identity is like attempting target practice with a shotgun – lots of noise, but nothing hitting the bulls-eye.

Coming in Part 2: Your Go-To-Market Message

___________

Hire Steve Woodruff as your Clarity Therapist

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Customers Walking Past You

>> Fearing Obsolescence? Four Questions for your Future

Customers Walking Past You

I live in a small-ish town in northern NJ. We have a Main Street with a bunch of small shops, most of which don’t work very hard to pull me in.

And sometimes, I have no clue why I should care. The message or the offering aren’t clear, or perhaps the face of the store is just a confusing jumble.

I, and my wallet, keep on walking past.

While your business may not be in a retail zone, you surely have a “storefront” in the minds of customers. They look and they see…what? Something very clear, that they could turn or explain to a friend in 15 seconds? Or a jumble?

As my friend Carrie Wilkerson says, focus on just one thing.

Own a differentiating quality. Own a market niche. Own a word. Make your real or virtual storefront so clear that any passerby who needs what you have to offer knows exactly where to turn in.

Once upon a time, a General Store could thrive. Those days are over. If your brand is a general list of everything from A to Z, you lose.

——————

Hire Steve Woodruff as your Brand Therapist

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Role Your Own

>> Networking on Purpose

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

(image credit)

Are You A Go-To?

“I am the go-to person/company/brand for ______________.”

Can you fill in that blank? Right now – off the tip of your tongue?

As a consultant, or brand, or business, this is your most important, distilled message. Because if you can’t state it, how can you expect your clients (actual and potential) to know it?

Define yourself. Own your professional real estate. I mean – you do want customers to go-to you, right?

————-

Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Finding Your DNA

>> Choose Your Lane

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

Hello Chicago: Free Brand Therapy!

Tomorrow (Wed April 27th) I unexpectedly have a free afternoon in Chicago. While I could thoroughly enjoy a lakeside walk and picture-taking safari, I’d actually rather get to know some of my contacts in Chicago better. So….

I’m offering three free Brand Therapy sessions (~60-90 minutes) for entrepreneurs/small business types who’d like to sit down, and not only get better acquainted, but also brainstorm your brand positioning. It’s something I love to do (read the comments in the linked post) and  if I can get to know some folks better and provide a little help – why not?

I’ll be in the vicinity of the Hotel 71 area.

Interested? E-mail me quickly and let me know (steve at connectionagent dot com).

Also, if anyone wants to get together for a quick dinner/tweetup meeting Wednesday evening – let’s pull it together!

- Steve

The Voice behind the Avatar

I recently had the privilege of being interviewed by Matthew Ray Scott for his Marketing Story Podcast series.

Matthew is an excellent interviewer. I, however, have ordered a new USB microphone/headset after listening to the audio. My current setup is not totally up to par (ooops!).

Much of the interview focuses on small business use of social media. However, somewhat unexpectedly, I kinda spilled the beans on some of my long-term dreams, and my growing vision about how I want to see us use social networking in order to fundamentally change how we approach business.

So – what’s the voice (and heart and soul) behind the avatar? Give a listen and discuss your perspectives (also available for free via iTunes under “Marketing Stories”). And see how our dreams match up!

————-

Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog

Twitter: @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Irrational Brand Attachment

For years, I’ve thought about – with a combination of amusement and amazement – the incredible, and irrational, attachment people have to sports teams. Never have gotten around to writing a blog post about it, until I read Seth Godin’s post this morning about Irrational Commitment.

Seth talks more about the irrational commitment of parents and entrepreneurs, but from a marketing and branding point of view, the perspective applies to sports teams.

Now I consider myself to be a pretty rational and pragmatic sort – perhaps overly so. I am not a season-ticket holder for any team, I do not glue myself to the TV for every game, I don’t go around wearing uniform shirts for any sports team. Yet, growing up in central Connecticut, I was a Red Sox fan (baseball) and New York Giants fan (football), and still, to this day, there is an irrational attachment to those teams. And, I am really happy that Vanderbilt’s football team cracked the Top 25 this week!

Here’s the thing: there’s really no reason for it. It’s a bunch of overpaid guys (well, the pros anyway), who really have no necessary regional attachment, whom I don’t know in the least – but because they happen to have a home stadium somewhere in an area meaningful to me (I live there, or used to, or went to school there), there is attachment. And for the fanatic, that can mean shelling out hundreds of dollars to attend games, buy swag, wear shirts and hats with the gang markings, etc. etc. And, in some cases (especially soccer in other countries), getting into serious and even deadly fights.

It makes no sense. Yet those logos, those uniform colors, that team name, somehow become an extension of us, even when all the faces have changed.

Talk about marketing nirvana! If only we could have customers with THAT kind of fanatical, even irrational attachment!

There, I finally got that out of my system. What do you think? Why do we get so irrationally attached to teams in this way??

(image credit)

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Your Personal Brand – Does it Matter?

I was at a facilitation workshop last week, at which I gave an impromptu “from the heart” mini-talk on personal branding.

People often question if they “need” a personal brand. Here’s the news – you already HAVE a personal brand. The only questions are, what is it? And are you projecting it effectively?

When people see you, think of you, and relate to you, words and images and feelings come to mind. That is your personal brand. If people who know you think “friendly,” “diligent,” “kind,” when they see you and talk about you, you are well on your way to possessing a positive personal brand. Of course, you can easily see the flip side of this as well…

So, you have a brand. Do you know what it is? What distinguishes you from the teeming hordes of humanity? What are you known for? Here, you need some self-examination, maybe some personality profiling (I found the Gallup books on Strengths to be particularly helpful), and some honest friends to help you distill it down.

What you’ll find is a constellation of qualities, and perhaps 1-5 characteristics that really stand out. Those are what you build your brand on. And, once you really have a grasp on it, you can communicate to people much more effectively what you’re all about. Where you fit in. Even what your future business endeavors should look like. You project your brand NOW – but you can project it more effectively when you actually know what it IS, and feel comfortable in your own skin.

Here’s another reason why identifying your personal brand is so important – it frees you for paralyzing comparisons of yourself to others. Yes, there are many people whose gifts and abilities I’ve envied and still envy (sorry, 10th commandment breaker here) – but I’m reconciled to being who I am, and tossing the only hat I really have in the ring – my own.

What is my personal brand? I listen, analyze, distill, and rapidly find the core, then communicate it fairly effectively. There’s a lot more to Steve Woodruff, the brand, but that is the chief distinguishing trait. And, it’s a gift. It’s a hard-wired capability that I’ve been given, sought to cultivate, even built a consulting business around. The fact is, it’s just ME. And as I look to short-, mid-, and long-term personal & professional goals that brew in my mind and heart, the areas of endeavor that I’d like to pursue always have that personal brand at the center. Because it’s who I am.

Let’s make one distinction. There is your personal brand essence, which is that grouping of personality traits, character traits, strengths, and capabilities that make you you. Then there is your personal brand role, which is how you function in the world and marketplace. Your role may change, but your essence remains the same, and hopefully, your functional and professional role is increasingly aligned with who you (essentially) are.

I’ve had live and on-line conversations with several people in the last 2 weeks who are wrestling with how to define themselves, and project their personal brand. As it turns out, my core competencies of analyzing,  distilling, and expressing makes that a very enjoyable and meaningful exercise.

You don’t have to be a personal branding guru, or a consultant, a blogger, or an entrepreneur, to have and project a brand. You simply have to have a pulse. And a willingness to discover what really makes you tick. You DO have a brand, and you DO have something to offer. What endeavor could more rewarding and noble than identifying that brand and running with it?

(Update: some related thoughts on differentiation from blogging friend Jane Chin here)

Related prior post: Personal Branding

Zemanta Pixie
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 152 other followers