December 19, 2014

Sales and Marketing Advice for Florida business

How to make that first impression count

Be prepared with a value proposition that's clear, concise, and convincing.

Ron Stein | 12/9/2012

You’re at a business reception and then it happens -- someone asks what you do. Yikes! You hesitate for a brief moment and then blurt out that you’re an attorney, sales executive, small business owner, widget manufacturer, or banker.

It’s an opportunity to make a business connection. Yet, people tend to give a message that usually makes the listener yawn, if not confuses them altogether. The listener never feels any kind of intellectual or emotional tug and just nods.

That’s a big problem for most companies. Having a clear value proposition is essential to persuading others that what you offer is something that they just might want to learn more about.

To be effective, a message needs to hit with a lot of substance and a little wow in as few words as possible -- without any hype. It’s critical to presentations, sales material, websites, promotional efforts -- and elevator pitches at networking events.

Taking the time to identify a value proposition is one of the best and lowest cost marketing strategies a company can tackle. But it’s tough to communicate the uniqueness of your company, products, or services in one or two sentences. How do businesses do it?

Start with the facts. What are the top three problems your products or services solve? Describe the type of customer you serve -- both people and companies. What does solving their problem mean to them? Why are you and your company in business? How many years have you done this? Don’t stop with these questions -- think of every possible angle.

Ask people that already buy from you. There’s a reason people have bought from you in the past. Somehow your approach and solutions rang true for them. You might think you know the reasons, but you’ll find out for sure by asking what persuaded them to buy. Call whoever fits your ideal customer profile -- you know, the people you love to do business with. Listen carefully and take notes.

Create stories. Take everything you’ve learned so far and create a mini-story for each audience segment you have about their problems, exactly how you solved them, and what it meant to them. Don’t worry how long the narrative is, the exact words, or if the grammar is perfect. It doesn’t have to be pretty, because only you and your team will read it. Just get it down on paper.

Use the right language. As you put together your mini-stories, use the words and phrases that matter to your target market. Begin with how your customers describe their pain and your value when you interviewed them. Work with plain language that speaks directly to your prospect’s perspective. Be positive, but avoid hype, and never use meaningless jargon. A message will fall flat if the person on the receiving end does not understand or relate to it.

Show them the value. Ultimately, true value is demonstrated by the good things you do for your customers. But at this point, we’re crafting a value proposition statement to use with people who haven’t bought from you yet. Show proof by painting an image of how you’ve created value for existing customers. Quantify your offering’s value in a tangible way -- percentages, dollars, or time.

Pull it all together. Your challenge is to take everything from above and roll that into as few words as possible. You only have several seconds for the reader or listener to decide if what you’re saying is interesting enough to continue. Think of it as a short story that takes only ten seconds to tell. “You know how when [the problem you solve]? Imagine [the outcome your solution produces including one strong quantifiable value]. That’s what we do.“ If you’re in a real-time conversation, you can stop there and if you’ve struck a chord, they’ll ask questions. On your website or in promotional material you can add, “Don’t take our word for it,” and go on to give a statement by a named customer as evidence.

To communicate your company’s value effectively you need to place yourself in the listener's -- or reader’s -- situation. Understand what your ideal target audience perceives as their reality and speak to that. Keep your value proposition statement short and don’t ramble on with generalizations or hyperbole. Clear, concise, and convincing wins every time!


Read earlier columns from Florida Trend's business coach, Ron Stein
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Ron Stein is the founder and President of FastPath Marketing (www.marketing-strategies-guide.com). He has more than 20 years experience in sales, marketing, and business development, working positions ranging from salesman to vice president of sales and marketing to CEO of startups with industry leaders such as Motorola, VideoServer, Paradyne, and SercoNet. Ron is a member of the advisory team at the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, a nationally recognized entrepreneurial and startup accelerator for the state of Florida. He can be reached at 727-398-1855 or Ron@FastPathMarketing.com

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