Monthly Archives: October 2015

How Ghostwriting Leads To Spirited Marketing Communications

 

Halloween arrives this weekend, and with it, costumed hordes of kids will descend on our neighborhoods demanding a king’s ransom of candy before moving on to another home. Kids wear costumes to pretend to be something else, such as superheroes, vampires and ghosts, all with the goal of earning a strong candy-based ROI. In the corporate world, when it comes to writing and marketing communications, people also pretend to be someone else. They’re called ghostwriters. I should know – I’m a ghostwriter too.

Ghostwriting does not refer to a translucent, sheet-covered entity scribbling out content; rather it’s a long-standing practice of one person writing content for another. In a typical scenario, a writer authors an article or thought leadership piece on the behalf of another (client or manager). If the content is published, it will appear under the byline of the client or manager, not the ghostwriter.

For example, let’s say I write and publish a thought leadership paper on behalf of a client named Frank N. Stein, and the article is published in a leading magazine. It will appear in the publication as having been written by “Frank N. Stein”. I don’t receive direct attribution (credit) for writing the paper; my client does, hence the term “ghostwriting”.

Ghostwriting is usually associated with publishing the following types of content:

  • Articles
  • Thought Leadership Papers
  • White Papers
  • Books

This content is published through both print and online media, including magazines, self-publishing books through Amazon, LinkedIn and company websites. Some companies have voracious appetites for publishing their own content on proprietary platforms, like LinkedIn company pages, corporate websites and client newsletters. For these firms, ghostwriters play a key role in delivering a regular flow of content, which allows company resources to focus on other high value tasks.

Ghostwriting can move the needle of your marketing communications ROI like an EMF meter in a haunted house. How so? Ghostwriters bring an outside, unbiased perspective to content creation, and with clear subject matter expertise. Every piece of content that a company creates and publishes is an opportunity to expand its influence. A few ghostwriting examples:

  1. A thought leadership paper outlining an effective approach to data management will resonate with investment firms struggling to control disparate data sources.
  1. An article detailing cost-basis accounting and reporting builds credibility and the company’s position as an expert in the field.
  1. A research paper examining complex performance attribution concepts demonstrates expertise and establishes the company as a leading voice in the industry.
  1. A newsletter sent to clients of an investment firm communicating performance results, investment rationale and outlook provides clients with peace of mind, transparency and accountability.

Aside from these examples, ghostwriters add value by writing case studies, crafting tag lines and slogans, creating product sheets, responding to proposals and designing pitches. Having a third-party, objective view removes organizational myopia. It also challenges the status quo and looks for ways to improve the company’s value proposition.

While Halloween is one day per year, ghostwriting occurs year round. It’s not a supernatural phenomenon for companies to fear, but a living, breathing process that adds exceptional value.

No tricks, just treats.

 

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Filed under Ghostwriting, Small Business

Drive For Show Or Putt For Dough: Selling Benefits vs. Features

A few days ago, I sat in the 1970’s-like office of my family’s auto mechanic, waiting for routine work to be completed. While I sat there, flipping through a random assortment of magazines, in walked a salesperson. His golf shirt and khakis stood out in the shop’s sea of dirty, oily denim. He had a small duffel bag from which he handed out several cheap, plastic cups adorned with his company’s logo.

I continued to skim through a magazine as Golf-shirt chatted up the shop’s office manager while he waited for the owner. He was affable and professional – a true salesperson. He wasn’t overbearing, but spoke nonstop, barely allowing the office manager a chance to speak. Golf-shirt’s focus changed the moment the shop owner appeared and directed him into an open-door office only a few feet from the lobby. This proximity allowed me to hear the meeting play out in its entirety.

Strong Off The Tee

After a few light-hearted, ice-breaking comments, Golf-shirt got down to the business at hand. What followed was an example of where the business development process often breaks down: explaining ad nauseam the features of a product instead of its benefits. Golf-shirt’s pitch involved an in-depth review of a collection of tools he was selling. This review covered the full gamut of features and technical specs, along with his description of how they were top-of-the line, world-class products. Clearly, this was an impressive array of power tools, and any mechanic would be lucky to get his hands on them.

From the type of material used in the construction of the tools, to the speed with which the tools operated, Golf-shirt’s pitch only described what the tools could do. It lacked the more important part: what the tools could do for the prospect. Not surprisingly, the marketing materials (which I glimpsed at the counter during checkout) he left behind also had a singular focus on features.

In doing so, Golf-shirt never addressed how the new power tools could help (benefit) the shop owner. It wasn’t hard to imagine the owner’s glossy-eyed, disinterested look. It struck me while I sat there overhearing this conversation: like he did with the office manager, Golf-shirt did all of the talking. With such a one-way exchange of information, how could he possibly understand the shop owner’s pain points and thereby position the benefits of his products? A kindly older man, the shop owner was courteous enough to allow Golf-shirt to finish his pitch, before ushering him out of the door and returning to work.

Play From The Fairway

Business development is challenging.

Why make it harder on yourself than it has to be? Golf-shirt, had he taken the time to listen and understand some of the shop owner’s issues, could have translated product features into benefits in a way that would resonate with the shop owner.

  • Will the new power tools help the shop owner work on more vehicles, thereby improving his income?
  • Or, will the new tools help the shop owner improve productivity, by doing more, faster?

While these are examples from Golf-shirt’s meeting, the same concept (focusing on benefits) applies to any company, in any industry. Software firms have extensive technical specifications describing the architecture supporting their products. While these are both necessary and useful in front of the right audience (IT, Development), this level of detail is overwhelming and less helpful to other key stakeholders.

Features describe the product or service, and may not mean much to a prospect. Benefits describe how the product or service can help the prospect. Successful business development professionals know that identifying, understanding and solving your prospect’s pain points is key to building trust and winning new business.

Putt for Dough

Marketing materials play an important role in the business development process. One-page and two-page product flyers often list features, rather than the benefits that can be realized from using the product. A few examples of features listed in the marketing collateral Golf-shirt left behind, along with others I’ve seen firms (such as software companies) use:

  1. Titanium chassis
  2. 1500 ft.-lbs. of torque
  3. Web-based or server architecture
  4. Accepts external data feeds
  5. Numerous import/export tools
  6. Custom reporting platform

The above list of features, rewritten as benefits, to show value to prospects:

  1. Strong, tough and durable; built to last
  2. Power through difficult jobs with ease
  3. Flexibility and scalability to meet needs of companies of all sizes
  4. Eliminate data quality issues by seamlessly combining multiple data sources
  5. Get the information you need, when you need it
  6. Save time, money and resources by automating reporting tasks with one click

Being able to recognize and understand your client or prospect’s challenges, and use this knowledge to focus on benefits in all of your marketing communications (pitches, RFPs, collateral) helps business development efforts. It establishes credibility, builds trust and fosters partnership. Further, it leads to your prospect visualizing using the product or service and having a visceral reaction where they see themselves benefitting from it. Once you’ve done this, you’ve created significant value. As business development professionals know well, creating value for prospects is a surefire way to convert them into clients.

Benefits = value. Value = new business.

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Be Like Mike: 9 Ways You Can Be Successful Like Michael Jordan

Most successful people can point to a defining moment in the evolution of their success. It’s a moment that will stand out as their magnum opus. For Michael Jordan, it happened on June 11, 1997 during the NBA Finals. Jordan overcame a crippling stomach illness to score 38 points to lead his Chicago Bulls team to a critical Game Five victory over the Utah Jazz.

This remarkable testament to the indefatigable human spirit encapsulates Michael Jordan’s career, greatness and success. This one single event, in a sea of many others, cemented his status as the greatest player in NBA history. Michael Jordan’s career exemplifies nine success traits that serve as a primer for entrepreneurs and business leaders alike.

Determination

“Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” Jim Valvano.

Business leaders and athletes rarely nail it the first time. Success is the result of ongoing efforts to produce a better result than before. By the time businesspeople and athletes achieve incredible success, they’ve often failed many times over. Michael Jordan has said that he’s failed over and over, and that’s why he’s a success. Determination.

Fearlessness

“Once You Become Fearless, Life Becomes Limitless.” Unknown.

Michael Jordan was fearless: he was unafraid of his opponents, failure or success. While fear of failure is a motivator for some, fear of success inhibits others. Fear, in one form or another is a limiting factor. Strip away fear and all that’s left is a clear path forward.

Ambition

“Big results require big ambitions.” Heraclitus.

Successful people, like Michael Jordan, are extraordinarily ambitious. Jordan had the audacity to think and dream big, and the results speak for themselves. An oft-used inspirational canard for athletes: Michael Jordan was cut from his high school varsity basketball team as a sophomore, but his strong ambition drove him to make the varsity team the following season. At times, people may try to belittle your ambitions, but ignore the naysayers and follow the path to fulfillment.

Goal Setting

“I’m a firm believer in goal setting. Step by step. I can’t see any other way of accomplishing anything.” Michael Jordan.

Michael Jordan, and other business leaders, set goals and the steps required. Setting goals and putting them in writing is a key to success. Doing so provides you with a blueprint to follow, and to keep you on task when things inevitably go awry. Having a plan and following it is what separates great people who achieve tremendous success and those that don’t.

Visualization

“Visualization lets you concentrate on all the positive aspects of your game.” Curtis Strange.

The process of visualizing allows you to see yourself as successful before it happens, conditioning your mind and body to work toward that objective. Michael Jordan has said many times that he visualized taking the winning shot or making the winning free throws long before it actually happened. For business leaders, it’s no different. They visualize success before it happens and use that visualization as a guide to success. Visualize yourself accomplishing your objectives, and it will be so.

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“The way to get started is to quit talking and start doing.” Walt Disney.

You might have ambition, maybe you set goals, and perhaps you visualize success. If you don’t take action, nothing will happen. Successful people take action, without worrying about the outcome. By taking action, you’re moving yourself toward accomplishing your goals. Have the courage to take that first, often scariest, step. Take action, get moving and you’ll never look back! As Nike’s slogan says, “Just Do It.” Michael Jordan did it.

Focus

“The successful warrior is the average man, with a laser-like focus.” Bruce Lee.

In Game One of the 1992 NBA Finals, Michael Jordan set a record with 35 points in the first half. “I was in a zone. What can I say?” said Jordan later. This expression, ‘in a zone’, has been used by athletes to describe their state of mind when they’ve produced extraordinary results. When you have a strong focus on a task or objective, you’ll do whatever it takes to succeed. And you won’t let obstacles get in your way. Whether it’s searching for a new job, creating and implementing a comprehensive marketing plan, or bringing a new idea to market, having a laser-like focus will help you become a successful business warrior.

Confidence

“Confidence is going after Moby Dick in a rowboat and taking the tartar sauce with you.” Zig Ziglar.

Nothing great has ever been achieved without confidence. Michael Jordan had such unwavering confidence in himself it bordered on arrogance. He didn’t just think he was going to beat you – he knew it. It’s when we have the confidence to go beyond our previous limits that we can accomplish something extraordinary.

Belief

“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.” Henry Ford.

Underpinning all of the success traits listed above is belief. It fuels confidence, sharpens focus, prompts action, promotes visualization, creates goals, drives ambition, strips fear and strengthens determination. Michael Jordan believed he was going to be a great basketball player; that was the foundation upon which everything else was built. Believe you can do it and you will.

Success is NOT a four-letter word

No one sets out to be below average or even mediocre. The difference between those that have achieved tremendous success and those who haven’t yet can be found in the above traits. We can all be successful if we embrace these traits and define what success looks like. Michael Jordan embodies success like few others, yet anyone can follow his example. Be like Mike – spread your wings and write your own success story.

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Filed under Leadership, Small Business, Success

Why Your Company Should Use Case Studies to Shift Sales Into High Gear

Gears

Case studies have long been a marketing tool used by consulting firms to demonstrate value. However, any company that sells products or services can leverage case studies to drive sales with new clients and increase sales from existing clients.

Regardless, they are a powerful tool in the sales process and companies from all industries should use them to drive business. There are several key reasons case studies can help your company drive sales and should be part of your sales arsenal. Before discussing these key attributes, let’s review the proper format.

Navigating Case Study Format 

Go With the Flows

1. Background/Challenge

This section describes a client’s pain point (s) that your company’s products/services helped overcome. Demonstrating an understanding of specific pain points will resonate far more with prospects than simply saying, “We understand your issue with ‘X’”.

Think about it this way: would you rather see a doctor that has an understanding and experience treating your specific medical ailment or one that doesn’t?

2. Diagnosis/Solution

Once a company has hired your firm, or purchased one of its products or services, the real work begins. From start to finish, whether for a quick one-day installation of carpet or a multi-year implementation of a data, trading and reporting system for a financial services firm, establishing a good working relationship with your client’s staff is a critical success factor.

A compelling case study will show your prospect several things: an ability to work with people and teams, analyze problems and craft realistic solutions. The Diagnosis/Solution section demonstrates your company’s ability to help prospects navigate through change of varying complexity. Given the detail necessary to provide a sufficient description of your company’s involvement, this component of a case study should be the longest.

3. Results/Impact

This is where the rubber meets the road.

Companies buy products and services or hire other firms to produce tangible results. For some, the goal is improving operating efficiency; for others, driving top-line growth is the desired outcome. Either way, if your firm has helped clients achieve their objectives, then this is where you describe those results.

The Results/Impact section should include a brief summary of the background and teamwork components, and conclude with the tangible results your company delivered. Numbers speak more loudly than words, so quantify results wherever possible.

  • Did your client’s sales increase? If so, by what percentage?
  • Were you able to help them reduce errors, or improve productivity?

These are tangible results and, quite often, clients will be happy to share this information – if you ask. With this in hand, you can draft a robust and compelling Results/Impact section that illustrates your company’s value proposition.

Having covered the format of a case study, let’s look at why case studies are such a powerful weapon in a company’s sales arsenal.

How Case Studies Can Accelerate Sales

Boost Sales

1. Proof of Concept

‘Been there, done that.’

This is strongest value that a case study provides to your prospect. It shows your firm’s ability to solve pain points that your prospect is currently experiencing. When you can articulate that you have already solved the same problem they face, that experience is worth its weight in gold.

2. Focuses on Benefits, Not Features

Too often, the sales process bogs down when trying to communicate value, in the form of features (“With us, you get ‘X’, ‘Y’ and ‘Z’). For a prospect that is struggling with an issue, hearing about the benefits they’ll gain (“Here’s how we’ve helped others and can help you, too) is far more important. Illustrating benefits helps a prospect understand how your product/service can address their pain point. A list of features only describes characteristics of a product/service, which is relatively meaningless to the prospect.

3. Highlights Competencies

Before buying a product or service, companies want to know that your firm has the expertise to support them. Not only can you present a viable solution to their pain, but you also have the expertise to implement the recommended solution. And post implementation, it shows that you have the knowledge and wherewithal to help the client deal with the issues that will inevitably arise.

4. Illustrates Client Relationship Skills

It’s been said that, all things considered, people buy from people they like. Case studies can demonstrate your company’s likability in that they describe how well your company and its people work with others. Perhaps you had to bridge the gap between two internal stakeholder groups, or help teams understand the value they’ll gain from releasing a death-grip on outdated legacy processes. Either way, it shows your ability to empathize and respect others, while moving the project forward.

5. Shows Ability to Produce Results

When you can deliver results for clients, they will continue to buy your products and services. Case studies show that you have real-life experience producing meaningful results, and gives client and prospects with a strong reason to buy your products or services.

Who benefits from using case studies to drive sales? 

Time to Improve

In short, any company.

For example, financial services firms use case studies to articulate the ways in which they produce value, whether through investment performance or improving efficiency of operations teams. Case studies help IT companies illustrate the value they’ve produced for clients by enhancing security, stability and organization of technology architecture. Recruiting firms use case studies to describe how they’ve delivered value for clients by leading hard-to-find placements or time-consuming searches.

Case studies improve your company’s credibility, brand awareness and sales growth. They can also build and reinforce relationships and trust with clients and prospects. If you’re not using case studies to shift sales into high gear, what’s holding you back?

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