Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Make Your Next Pitch Your Best: Here's How

Last week I pitched a startup concept I have created in an event held by Dice.com at Draper University in San Mateo.  I was honored to be included in the final round of three presenters who were given 10 minutes to pitch directly to none other than Tim Draper in front of a studio audience at Draper University of Heroes.

Sales presentations, marketing pitches, and VC pitches all have this in common: you have a limited amount of time to get your point across. Your presentation has everything to do with your brand and how you want others to experience.

You have one shot with a presentation. How can you use it most effectively?


1)  Own your brand through visuals.
Your brand is your brand.  When I present something as Lucky 13, I’d be missing the point if I put it on a standard blue and white corporate powerpoint deck. That’s not what the company is, and that’s not how I should visually present it.   Everything from the Powerpoint designs I choose to the clothes I wear directly reflect the brand I want to embody. Let’s just say there’s a lot of red, and not a lot of boring suits.

In another example, the other night I had the pleasure of hearing expert crisis manager Judy Smith, the real life Olivia Pope (“Scandal”), speak.  She mentioned that while clothes aren’t her main concern, she does have a noted tendency to wear white.  When her brand is about fixing and clearing people’s names, I’m sure you see why white is the perfect choice.

2)  Prioritize interaction, i.e. Don’t read from your slides.
Sure, it's more comfortable to walk in the door with heavily loaded slides in case you panic and want to read. Don’t do it. Your pitch is a rare opportunity to have in-person interaction with your target, whether it’s a market, a partner, or another key audience.  Use the time to make eye contact, and keep your eye on THEM, not your Powerpoint. (Make eye contact, but not toooooo much eye contact. Draw the line at creepy.)

3) Relate.
If you’re introducing a new product or concept, which is exactly the point of many pitches, then how are you presenting your concept?  Hit the ground running by positioning your new offering in terms of something the listener is likely to have experienced, recognize, or – ideally – identify with. My pitch had to do with a shortcoming in the existing legal system. I wanted people to immediately relate and feel the frustration – so you can bet my first slide was of a jury summons!

It’s worth noting that many presentations aren’t delivered in person anymore.  These three tips will immediately improve your online presentations and screenshares as well.

As a final note, while people have agreed to hear your presentation, the fact is we all value your time. Be considerate of others’ time – even if they’re being generous with it – so they know you don’t take it for granted. And while you have them, try to make your presentation not only informative but engaging.  Work is work, but it’s not against the rules to have a little fun.  Short of being in a court of law [don’t get me started], presentations have an aim, but they’re also about building relationships and connecting with people.

Good luck with your next presentation – let me know how it goes!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Listen to the Questions You Hate the Most

Consulting is a fun but challenging business. Why? Because clients come for marketing advice to build a strong strategy and it becomes my job to tell people things they might not actually want to hear.  The most annoying questions you get about your business are the ones I encourage you to think about.  They indicate where there's a disconnect between what you do and how you understand it and how other people hear what you do and how they understand it!  Have you heard any of these questions from well-meaning people around you?

Examples of questions you don't like to hear - and what to do about them:

"I don't understand your business name"
People have all sorts of business names for all sorts of reasons. In a world where people are looking for a reason not to give you their precious time, you need a business name that works for you.  It becomes the beginning of your story. Why is my business Lucky 13? Because I don't believe luck is so random - it's tongue in cheek.

(See also: "I don't get your logo!")

How to get it right: Take a step back; remove ego from the conversation.  Oftentimes we name our business because it means something personal or we thought it was cute, or it's our own name.  But be willing to leave the breathing room for your business name to do some of the work for you. Be willing to rebrand it if it isn't working for you and doesn't seem likely to.  Remember, the biggest brands in the world have changed names, logos, or packaging to create stronger marketing foundations.  If they did it, so can you.

"So...I don't really get it. What do you do?" 
This one hurts, particularly since, whatever you do, you probably do it well.  Unfortunately communicating that to others is part of helping them identify their need for what you do. Simply put: If people don't actually understand what you do, they can't support it. Worse: they can't spread the word about it for you. And this is the foundation of the best marketing; creating an impression so clear that others carry the torch or spread the news for you.

How to get it right: Get your Elevator Pitch down pat.

"Your website is difficult to navigate"
Your website is your 24/7 storefront.  If it doesn't make information easy to access and then easy to act upon, you have failed. I don't care how beautiful it is, how much you paid for it, or how much your friends and family ooh and ahh when they see it.  We're not focused on the people who are personally invested in enjoying it. I want you to think about the people who came to your website and left ("bounced").  If your website hides key information, it is a #fail.

How to get it right:  Consult with a web strategist before building your site.  If you go straight to a designer, their focus is on aesthetics; their job is not to know what will work best for your business.  If you talk to someone who understands your goals both short-term and long-term, they can help you figure out how to organize information for a great user experience. The benefit of a great user experience? Users STAY and they DO. That's what you want - an audience who is finding what they need on your site and acting on it.  It's worth laying the groundwork and, as a bonus it will make the entire web development process go faster.

"You will have to put some effort into marketing"
For many people, this is shocking.  Years ago, you were good at what you did, whether it was running a nice restaurant or medical practice, providing a service or selling a good, and word of mouth did the work for you. Now, as communities are more dispersed and people are presented with numerous options, we have to be craftier and contribute to getting the word out.  Here you spent your time getting to the top of your game in what you do, and now you have to learn the marketing game?  It's unfair and it's frustrating, but it can be done with minimal stress.

How to get it right: Build a custom marketing strategy that plays up your strengths, that hits the outreach most likely to give you big payback (read: use your time wisely) and include elements you enjoy doing. There are a number of different ways to market, but if you go with the items/medium that interest you, you're more likely to stick to it. And, as we all know, sticking to it is most of what makes for success.

Have you heard one of these questions or do you think you'd like to "get it right"?  Contact us to request a complimentary marketing and communications consultation and we'll see how Lucky 13 Strategies can help take something off your plate! 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Get Your #GivingTuesday On

Your company shows who it is in various ways.  You have products and services, the clients or customers you connect with - these are the tangibles.  The intangibles are what can really round out your brand.

Today, better known as #GivingTuesday, consider how you've positioned yourself in the community.  What organizations do you align with? Which causes does your business stand for and why?

Today Lucky 13 Strategies is reminded of our alliance with our friends and colleagues at:

 Real Medicine Foundation, an international humanitarian aid and relief organization that takes a "whole person" approach to healing and rebuilding communities. I have worked with this organization in various capacities for years and have seen firsthand the work they do to respond quickly and thoroughly to address longstanding problems at their roots.  RMF is currently in the Philippines to begin rebuilding capacity following Typhoon Haiyan.

MVS Dragonheart Foundation
 The mission of the Michael Vincent Sage Dragonheart Foundation is to raise awareness and support research into the early diagnosis and prevention of sudden cardiac arrest, including bystander awareness education, CPR training, and availability of automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) in schools, athletic facilities, and other public forums.  I was honored to know Michael Sage, and the Foundation that has been built out of love has had considerable impact providing resources and defibrillators where they are needed.

mAssKickers FoundationAs the power of the Internet provides more information about one’s new diagnosis, the need for a website geared towards the newly diagnosed patient and his loved ones has emerged.  Founded by brain tumor survivor (and pal to yours truly) Eric Galvez, MKF meets that need with resources, community, and inspiration to keep up a fighting attitude and empower survivors.

If you support a cause, use #GivingTuesday to support them in new ways beyond just donating (do that, too!)  Spread the word about them through your social media accounts, look for new ways to donate to them (for example, make them your smile.amazon.com beneficiary, so every time you shop for your business, they get a %!), and make a renewed commitment to further their cause and keep community involvement part of your larger business mission.

Happy #GivingTuesday, everyone!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Before You Send Out That Press Release...

Nothing is more exciting than preparing a large announcement in a press release. Hooray, a press release! News! Developments!

How can you make the most of your press release?  
Let’s think one step further: what happens after the press release?  Are you prepared for the attention on your company that will follow? 

1.   Use Your Words!

     Have you been investing in adwords?  Are you trying to incorporate certain keywords into your content?  Don’t leave them out of your press release. Particularly if your press release will be on your website (as it should! See below!), consider implementing keywords you want to grab.

2.   How Important Is Your News?

There are a number of excellent wire services. That said, not all news needs to be paid for and put on the wire. Smaller news updates are worthy of being included on your website but do not need to be widely distributed.  If you put out a Businesswire or Marketwire release every time someone in your office sneezes, it can create the impression that you don’t know what big news is.  But you do! So show them. Put out major news releases only when you really have something to say.

In general, the wider distribution (wire) releases will tend to be items that create industry buzz, that highlight a major step for the company, or that are timed as the company is trying to obtain investor interest or media interest. Other items can go directly to your website.

3.   Action Items
Great! You have news. Now what?  Consider if there is an action item that can be included in the press release.  What can someone who is interested in your press release do now?  Contact you?  Meet you at an upcoming event or conference? Go to a specific page on your website to learn more about that product or development?  You've got their attention, now you have to figure out what to do with it.

4.   A Chapter In Your Story
If you anticipate another news development coming soon, consider setting the stage.  Think of your press releases as an ongoing storyline that should have some sort of continuity. They should relate to the "chapter" before (read: your last press release) and they should set groundwork for anything that may be coming.  Remind your readers what has happened recently at the company and prepare them for what the company hopes for next.  Support the impression that your company is a growing, thriving entity on a journey they want to be part of.

5.   Polish Your Website
Your PR is a satellite of a much bigger communications package. Take a quick review of your website.  Is the current site messaging consistent with how you’re presenting your company in the press release?

Now look at individual pieces. Does your press release quote executives? If so, take a look at their profiles. Does your PR talk about a new product? If so, make sure there’s a page of information about it dedicated on your site.  And so on.

6.   Shine Up Your LinkedIn Profile
That too! These days, that's one of the first places people go for business information. 

7.   Improve Site Lead Capture
Great, someone loved your press release and went to your site to learn more! Now what?   Make sure your website captures contact information from interested parties, even beginning with a basic mailing list signup. Giving others your contact information isn’t enough- you need theirs in order to do effective marketing down the line. Oh yeah, and make sure these lead captures, general email addresses, etc. work. I can’t tell you the number of times we’ll find out that someone’s info@ address was a dead end. Oops!

8.   Have a Newsroom
As you put out press releases, make sure they’re easily accessible from your website in an easily accessed, distinct area.  Consider using a blog mechanism to make them easily searchable.

By thinking of your press release as one piece of the bigger communications strategy for your business, you can make them work much harder for you. Good luck and happy writing.

If you have a question about your press strategy, how to write a press release, or how to improve your corporate communications, contact Lucky 13 Strategies for a complimentary consultation. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Do Better Business Marketing: The Difference Between Features and Benefits

Your bread is your ante. Now what?
When I ask people what their company does or sells, they quickly start to describe the features of their product and service. It's a reflex, this rattling off of details and descriptors of what they are able to do, like a charming talking catalog.  And that is great- I mean, if your company doesn't have anything to offer, you'd be up a creek. 

But are the details of what you do the real selling point?  Arguably, no.  The basics of what you do is your ante to be in the game, your entry fee to even play.  The finer points that distinguish you, set you apart, and make you better are the "benefits" that your future customers are looking for.  If you're rattling off your features you are telling your market what you want them to hear, and not focusing enough on what they want to hear. 

To improve your marketing communications, take a moment and put yourself in the mind of your consumer. And not just any consumer- your ideal best customer. What do they care about? Begin thinking about your distinction points from there.  Why? Because if you focus from the wrong angle, you will be able to describe differentiating points about what you do, but it won't be the points that actually matter.  

example:  A gym in downtown San Diego might focus on how many classes they offer.  Great! You have a gym, you have classes! Congratulations, you now have enough ante to even be considered among the other 3-5 San Diego gym and fitness fliers sitting in my mailbox on any given day. 

You're in an urban area, suffice to say your local demographic is largely young professionals.  Consider it this way: your target market young professional generally will care about three things: getting a solid workout that makes good use of the free time they don't have, being in a cool environment worthy of their attendance, and being able to shower and get off to work or wherever they're off to next. And yet most of the fliers I see focus on a weak shot of an empty room of equipment -and pricing!  

As I read in a great article today, "If the best thing you can say about your product or service is that it's on sale, you haven't said a lot." (source: Beth Smith, CEO of Smith Browning Direct, Inc., as quoted in "All Systems Grow: Power Promotion")  Sit with that.

The need to bring your benefits (not just your features!) into sharp focus in your marketing communications applies to both businesses and individual professional resumes.  Often I see resumes that list a skill set - a good communicator, responsible for a big department, expertise in such-and-such software, you name it.  These are lines on a resume; they don't paint a picture of a professional individual and how they uniquely fit into my organization.  What is missing is the brand - what is setting this candidate apart from the other 200 resumes responding to the ad?  Having a skill set in a resume is the ante to play. Now you have to double down on your brand.

Lilly Ghahremani offers small business marketing and communications coaching. For a complimentary consultation about your San Diego business marketing (or anywhere else in the country!), please contact us anytime.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Why Marketing Coaching Works for Small Businesses

So it's a Monday and you're diving into your day, once again overwhelmed with the amount of marketing for your small business that needs to be done. Where to start?

Maybe you should start with marketing coaching.

Many small businesses use business coaches, which is great.  Marketing coaching hones in specifically not just on holding you to your goals and action items, but helping you make the list.  Because, let's be honest, you don't just need someone to remind you to do something. You may need some creative new options, an outside perspective, and reminders about important marketing items you should be - but aren't - doing.

The reason marketing coaching works is that there are no secrets - you learn how to uphold the marketing program for your own business. This means that if you ever want to (or have to) take the wheels off and go off on your own, the knowledge isn't locked up in your consultant and you have gained the value of learning how to market as well as having some of the marketing completed.  Marketing drives much of how your business operates (or should operate), so you simply can't afford to detach this function.

In addition to getting fresh ideas and guidance in creating and executing marketing initiatives, a good marketing coach can help you determine how to most efficiently use the resources at your disposal, so you don't duplicate resources.  Marketing coaching can help you coordinate your marketing efforts while not requiring you to hire or pay for things you can reasonably do yourself.


Marketing coaching may be right for your business if:
   -You know you want to do marketing and aren't sure where's best to start
   -You have a small team but can't afford a full-time marketing person
   -You are good at executing things, given clear and concise direction
   -You want to fully control your marketing program
   -You want to build on your marketing efforts in the future
   -You are open to outside advice and experienced perspectives
   -You want to do something fresh with your marketing
   -You are facing a new marketing or business challenge

Take Lucky 13 Strategies up on a complimentary consultation about your small business marketing program today by calling (310) 663-6756.  

Lilly Ghahremani is a small business marketing coach and communications strategist.  She specializes in teaching businesses and entrepreneurs how to use their time effectively to accomplish fundamental and creative marketing tasks to brand and promote their businesses.  Lucky 13 Strategies' small business marketing services are available in San Diego and across the country.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What Photos Does Your Small Business Need?

When you book time with a photographer to capture photos for your small business, it's your responsibility to make the most of the photo shoot. How can you do this?

1) Know how you will use your photos
Your photographer will bring their skills and their equipment, but you need to think about the various ways you are likely to use photos. Will they go on your website? On brochures? On fliers? Banners? What size will they need to be reproduced to? This sort of information will be important to your photographer.

2) Pick the right photographer
Photographers are artists and they specialize in areas - some do portrait, some do event, etc.  Will the bulk of your photographs be of individual objects? Will they be of people interacting?  Choose an artist whose technical skill matches what you're hoping for and whose style meshes with your brand. For example, one of my fitness clients chose a photographer with a gritty style that emphasizes the sweat, muscles, and action in their shots. A soft wedding photographer wouldn't be a match.  If you can do so, show your photographer some examples of a style you'd like to emulate.

3) Know what photos you need
Don't go into a photo shoot without a shot list. You'll make better use of your time (and the photographer's!) by thinking ahead.  Don't confuse this with micromanaging, which you shouldn't do-the photographer is the professional for a reason.

-People (individual & specific groups)
-Objects (products, product sets)
-Situations (interacting with clients/customers, clients/customers using what you do, meetings, etc.)

Remember to include photos that depict the end result you want the client to feel (Relief? Happiness? Family togetherness? Success?)  You're not just selling your product or service, you're selling how it will affect their lives. Show that.

4) Think ahead
A photo shoot can be good for much more than just the immediate project. For example: if the photographer is coming to your office to shoot executive photos for your website, find out [ahead of time] if they're open to helping you with creating some basic stock photography you can use and reuse as needed (office space, desk photos, etc.).  I always recommend that a business own its own bank of photography. Purchased stock photography is extremely helpful, but isn't tailored to your business and the rights aren't endless.  It's much easier to work with what you know is yours, all yours.

If you're a San Diego small business and have a marketing question or would like guidance on your photography for marketing pieces, feel free to contact me.