Transcription: Mid-Year Marketing Accelerator Webinar

Good morning, everybody, and welcome to Mid-Year Marketing Accelerator.  Tune up and fast-track your marketing.  I’m Sharon Berman.  Really, what I should have called this Webinar is the Demise of the Annual Marketing Plan and why the demise of an annual marketing plan. Let’s think about it a minute when we think about the shortened business cycle today.  For example, think about Nokia.  It seems like 20 minutes ago, everybody who had a phone had a Nokia and today, we’re reading about how they’re fighting to stay in business.  You have RIM, Research in Motion, the maker of the Blackberry.  Remember when everybody had a Blackberry and that was a cool phone and it was a phone that everybody wanted and today, you look at somebody with a Blackberry and you say, “Oh, my god, that looks so dated.”  Or think of the Flipcam.  It seems like Flipcams were the cool item for about six months and then all of a sudden, they were obsolete.  And even when you think about Dewey and LeBoeuf or Dewey LeBoeuf, when you think about the fact that they were planning to repay their partners starting in 2014 in a world where it’s such a shortened business cycle, what’s the role of an annual marketing plan?  It doesn’t make sense any more.  Today what we need to be looking at is something much faster, something like a six-month marketing plan and that’s the point of today’s session is in just a few days, we’re going to have six months left until the end of the year and if we grab it right now, we can really make a difference with a six-month marketing plan and make a difference in your year.

So before we get started, my name again is Sharon Berman; my company is Berbay Corporation Marketing and Public Relations and we work with professional services, businesses to create visibility and credibility to accelerate revenue growth.  I’d love to hear your questions.  Let me go through the Webinar and I’ll answer those that we have time for.  So please just enter them on your computer and I will be keeping my eyes open for them.

O.K.  It’s decision time.  We have six months left in the year and the year is divided, of course, into two halves, but the first six months are very different from the second six months.  For the first half of the year, we’re really looking at a blank slate.  When you think about January 1, you may have an idea about what the year is going to be like; you may think about what the economy is like, what your practice area is like, if the real estate market’s more challenging or are there going to be more or less corporate transactions.  But you really don’t know and there hasn’t been a sounding board yet.  But now we have six months of data.  So we do know what’s happened and we do have a way to craft our responses to it and that’s what makes the second half of the year so powerful.  It’s also the fact that we’re really paving the way for next year.  It’s not just the second half of the year, but what we do now is going to make a difference in whether we slog into 2013 or whether we have paved the way so that we can catapult into it.  So there’s more impact in the second half than the first half.

The decision node is July 1 in many ways because six months gives you enough time to make a difference in your marketing.  Decision node because you can continue doing what you’re doing and you may be having a great year and you just want to continue as I see it—call it “letting the rope out” and just doing what you’re doing and continuing with the same momentum and that’s great.  It may be a more challenging year.  But whatever, it’s a decision like “Am I going to make a difference with what’s left?  Am I going to focus and choose to make a difference or am I just going to let it go on as it has been going?  Nothing wrong with either decision, but it is a decision.  So the action step here is for you to make your decision.

O.K.  In putting this together and putting my thoughts together, the analogy that kept coming up for me—it was—call it Nascar Racing or auto racing, Long Beach Grand Prix, that sort of thing—the cars with their engines going very fast and so you’ll see that analogy all through here.

First, your engine.  To make your engine run right, to go at 160 or 200 miles an hour, you need to have the right tools to make your engine go right.  What are those tools?

Of course, a calendar.  And I say of course because I know some people do their planning and they don’t have their calendar on their wall right in front of them or they don’t have their calendar at their ready.  That’s, of course—number one, you’re going to need your calendar right there.  It’s important to be very specific if you’re going to make a difference here.  So that calendar and tracking what is going to happen when is what is going to make the difference and we’ll be talking more about that.

Your database.  Call it a mailing list, call it whatever you want to call it.  It’s the core of your marketing program and my test for this is right now, today, if you had a glowing article on the front page of the Wall Street Journal about you, could you blast it out to everybody within 24 hours or would you be having to run around and look inside your drawers for where’s that stack of business cards or “Oh, my gosh, we’ve haven’t updated it since the holiday card list last year.”  So how do you communicate with people if you don’t have a database?  Yes, there are other ways in terms of social media, but this is a critical part of your marketing and it’s a critical of having your tools.

The other thing you’re going to need are your markers—mileage markers is what I mean, your benchmarks.  Do you know what’s going to be happening for the balance of the year.  Do you know when you’re going to be attending that conference, when your talk is slated, when the article you wrote is going to be published, when your firm is going to have its holiday party?  Those are really important mileage markers to get on your calendar.  So the action step here is to make sure you have all of your tools and to get your engine running.

O.K.  Think about the race car as it slides into the pit.  We all have that image of the team swarming over it.  You can’t do this without a team and that’s true whether a sole practitioner or whether you’re in a larger firm and those who are in larger firms doesn’t necessarily they have more of a team than anybody else.  So who is on your team?  This could be your business coach or your mentor, if you have one.  It could be your assistant who does all your marketing with you, a paralegal who does some of your marketing or those who have expressed interest in marketing which I’m sure a lot of times, there are people around us who are really interested in not only doing what they’re being paid to do specifically, but also to be doing more marketing.  You might have an internal marketing coordinator, an in-house marketing department.  You may have a search engine optimization consultant or somebody that you work with.  You may have a Findlaw or a Lexis/Nexis website and I’m saying that not in order to sell more Findlaw or Lexis/Nexis services for you to go buy more of those, but for you to explore and make sure you know what you already have in terms of your contract because what we find a lot of times that people don’t know that they are entitled to more than they’re actually getting because they haven’t asked for it.  So Lexis/Nexis or Findlaw or whoever it is is part of your team.  You may have a firm like ours, an outsource PR and marketing department.  The point is that you’re not alone, that you need to marshal your resources, whatever they are.  The people who are on your team are those who think have your best interests at heart and you need to communicate with them and let them know that they are part of your team, that you value their opinion and that you want—for instance, sometimes you’re working with—call it a vendor or website development person or a company or a firm and they don’t know that you really value what they have to say in their suggestions and they may just be thinking that you just want them to do whatever you tell them to do.  Let them know that you really want their opinion of “Am I doing this right?  What can I be doing more of?  How can I get more out of this?”  That’s really important.  And the other thing is that you are not alone.

O.K., what we’re moving on to now is talking about tuning up your engine, tuning up your marketing for the balance of a year and one of the first things I’d like you to think about is whether you can articulate value.  This is really a challenge and if you’ve talked with most professionals, it’s very difficult for them to articulate value and to do it in a way that’s succinct and that’s memorable and I know that when we ask sometimes and we ask prospective clients or clients, “How would you articulate your value,” you get sort of a deer-in-the-headlight look.  It’s like, “What do you mean?  Oh, yeah, of course I do.”  And then we may get a twenty-minute answer–and this is not to knock what anybody’s saying, but it’s just a challenge-I’m challenging you and it is a challenge to start thinking about how you can articulate value and to do it in ten or fifteen words so that people get it right away what you do.  Think about the alternate benefit of what you’re bringing a client, for example, whether if you’re an insurance professional and you’re advising businesses on their insurance needs, the ultimate benefit is the peace of mind and the ability to sleep at night.  This could be true of somebody who’s, let’s say for instance, an estate planning attorney.  You have to dig down and think, “Yes, I’m delivering a tax return, but what is that really doing for them?  What is the value of that?”  And this is critical, number one, because we all have such a short attention span that you need to be able to deliver that right away.  It’s a way to differentiate yourself because most professionals that clients talk to or your competitors are not going to be able to do it because they haven’t thought about it and it’s a way to really make yourself become memorable in your market’s mind.

And articulating value is different than a tagline.  A tagline can be memorable and succinct, but it doesn’t exactly communicate the value.  For instance, our value is that we create visibility and credibility that fuel revenue growth. That’s telling our markets what we do.  Our tagline is we turn how into wow which is great and it sort of says what we do, but it’s not the value statement of creating visibility and credibility that fuel revenue growth.  Another example is—I think this is a fabulous tagline for somebody who works with entrepreneurs to really make their businesses hum.  “This firm turns chaos into cash.”  I love that statement; I’m not sure I consider it as articulating the value.  So I’m issuing this challenge in terms of figuring out how to articulate the value and because it’s usually short, people give it short shrift and that’s why so many people say, “We have so many business cards.  We have a commitment to excellence” because it’s like, “Oh, my god, I can’t really think that hard.  What’s the value?  O.K.  We have a commitment to excellence.”  So don’t let it go at that.  I challenge you as part of your tune-up to figure out how to articulate your value.

O.K.  All right.  Tune-up—and this where I always envision it as looking around and seeing what’s lying on the ground around you or picking the low-hanging fruit in a sense, very valuable fruit, but low-hanging fruit and that is what did you do the first half of the year that you can bring more marketing mileage out of in the second half.  For example, did you give a talk and if you gave that talk, is it posted on your website?  Did you mention the fact that you gave the walk on Linkedin?  Can you convert that talk into an article?  Can you make a webinar out of that talk?  How can you get more marketing mileage out of everything that you did the first half?   And that could be—let’s think about what else that could be.  Let’s say you attended a conference.  You didn’t even exhibit.  What did you learn at that conference?  Can you write a letter to prospects and clients about “Here are the trends I saw” or “Here are the mistakes that people are making and here’s how we can help you avoid them.”  Can you take the material that you learned at the conference as an attendee and convert it into an article or a talk?  There’s so much that we do that we just are also busy and running around that we really don’t stop and think “how much more marketing mileage can I get from this.”

The other thing is in terms of tuning up your marketing, you might be thinking about the successes during the first half of the year.  For example, did you do two transactions in food distribution, the food distribution space, let’s say, and maybe last year you did one transaction in that space.  Well, O.K., to me, you’ve just become an expert, all right?  If you repackage that—and that’s what this tune-up is all about is leveraging what you’ve done, repackaging it and maximizing the marketing mileage that you get from it.  So, for example, what can you do with the successes from the past six months?  Take this food distribution.  If your market is that of entrepreneurs, let’s say, you can’t market to—say, “Oh, my market is that of entrepreneurs.”  Entrepreneurs is not like saying, “My market is that of Jello.”  Entrepreneurs do not go all the one space to meet and congregate the same as high-net-worth individuals.  You cannot find those high-net-worth individuals.  It’s very difficult to find them all hanging out waiting to hear what you have to say, but if you can talk about the fact that I have expertise in food distribution or I have expertise in automotive manufacturing, then you give them something to hang your hat on and not only will people say to you—the reason that people back away from this is because they’re afraid that then “Oh, everybody’s going to think I just do food distribution and they’re not going to come to me if it’s an auto manufacturer.”  But if people remember what you do, then they’ll come to you and say, “Sharon, we know that you work with professional services, but we have a manufacturing company that really wants to increase its visibility in the business space.  Can you help them with that?”  So it’s that sort of thing that because they remember what you do, they’re more apt to come to you and ask about something else, as opposed to being plain vanilla.  So think about how you can slice and dice, how can you repackage the things that you did the past six months.  And also, too, I may be throwing out terms that I want to make sure that you know.  One of them would be—if I’ve mentioned the term article, I’m referring to a bylined article.  A bylined article’s an article that’s written under your name as opposed to that of a reporter.  So think about everything lying around that you can repackage and leverage for the second half of the year.

Now, before you accelerate—if you’re in a race car, before you accelerate, the first thing you’re going to do you want to eliminate drag, right?  Let’s not even talk about using up the gas.  Let’s talk about eliminating drag.  So there are different kinds of weight that cause drag that you want to get rid of.  You want get rid of the figurative weight.  That’s the weight between your ears and that’s, for example—when you say, “That doesn’t work.  Direct mail doesn’t work.  We tried that before.  We did it before.  It didn’t work.  I’m not good at that.  I’m not good at networking.  I’m not good at speaking.  I’m not good at writing.”  The other one I hear a lot is “No one’s going to look for my practice area on line.  Search engine optimization doesn’t make sense for my firm because nobody’s going to be searching for us on line.”  Or it could be—the weight between your ears could just be paralysis by analysis.  It’s like, “Oh, my god, no, I just can’t get it right.  I can’t that letter right.  I can’t get it out because I just don’t know if it’s exactly where I want it to be.”  At some point, you just have to pull the trigger and the feedback that you get will make the next letter better.  So you want to eliminate—and before you can even eliminate the weight between your ears, you have to identify it.  We all have those tapes going on such a continuous basis that we first have to identify it and then we can say, “O.K., that didn’t work.   That doesn’t mean it’s not going to work this time.”  And that’s really true in terms of it didn’t work last time; well, re-examine it.  Did it not work because you weren’t consistent at it?  Maybe you sent out one direct mail piece and you needed to send out two or three before you saw if there was really—you need consistency in some things or if you’re running an ad, you need consistency.  “We’ve tried it before.”  Well, the truth is there’s really very little new in marketing.  It’s just how you’re doing things.  I mean yes, there’s an on-line world and that’s burgeoning, but it’s always a matter of how you’re doing it.  Maybe it didn’t work before because you didn’t execute it in a way that made it work.  So let’s try it again.  Let’s think about it again.

O.K.  And the one I really want to address is “No one is looking for my firm or for my practice area on line.  Nobody’s going to look for the kind of corporate work we do on line.”  That’s really a myth.  Everybody is searching for everything on line and I am consistently surprised by the kinds of firms who tell me that they get work because people find them on the web and they are not even optimizing their website.  So think about the potential there if somebody is optimizing their website.

O.K.  So I would encourage you to rethink some of the weight between your ears.  Then you want to get rid of some of the literal weight.  That would be, for example, people say, “We don’t want to start a new brochure because we still have a thousand of the old brochures in our closet even though we did them ten years ago and we just want to use them up” or “You know what, we did the website a few years ago.  We know it’s not right.  It doesn’t reflect who we are, but we just don’t want to do a new website.”   So get rid of that kind of—to me, that’s literally drag and weight.  I was having lunch with somebody the other day—and this is actually going back to talking about “No one’s looking for my firm on line” and he was telling me, “This is an international firm, a global firm, serves the middle market.”  And he was saying that when he—they have a nice website, but they don’t optimize and he was saying that when he went to search for others in his practice area just to see where the firm came up, they were nowhere to be found like in the first three or four pages and we talked about it because how much business is this firm losing in terms of—that’s being captured by smaller firms that are optimizing and being found on line.  One of the great things about the web is that it absolutely levels the playing field so that the firms of a smaller size can have a presence that’s much greater than it might be in the real world.  So you need to maximize that opportunity.  The action step is to fix what’s holding you down.

O.K.  Now, also rev up continuing to eliminate drag.  What you want to do is reduce resistance.  There’s resistance everywhere, O.K., resistance in terms of budget.  I haven’t met the firm yet—I don’t care how big they are—that has an unlimited budget or feels they have enough money for marketing, O.K.  It’s always a balance of “If we spend it on this, then we’re not spending it on that.”  In terms of budget, in terms of reducing resistance, you do what you can with what you have.  If that means you do it in black and white instead of four-color, that’s what you do.  The fact is that you do it.

The process.  Are things too cumbersome right now?  In your process, are there too many cooks in the kitchen?  Do you have to perhaps go to somebody and diplomatically say, “You know what, this is a really important project.  We need to finish this website or we need to determine how we’re going to handle social media, but nothing’s going to happen because we have too many cooks in the kitchen.  How can you work to reduce the resistance when it comes to that process?”

Focus.  I was just reading a fabulous article about focus and somebody was talking about how much they get done before breakfast and what they did is they started getting up fifteen minutes earlier—and they’re not even a morning person.  They just said, “You know what, this is the time when I can focus and really making most of it.”  Think about how can allow yourself to focus—and I have to say allow yourself because a lot of times, a lot of us feel guilty if we’re not available every minute, if we don’t have our e-mail up, if we don’t have the ringer on the phone.  You are allowed to take some time to focus and to eliminate distractions.  You can shut off your e-mail notification.  You can minimize your e-mails, put the ringer off and allow yourself to focus because that’s really what’s going to make you more productive and help you accelerate your marketing for the balance of the year.

Look at how you can eliminate the roadblocks.  Now, for reducing resistance, I also have seasonality on here because seasonality, whether it’s the summer and people going on vacations or whether it’s a holiday time, create resistance; it creates drag unless we really focus on overcoming it.  For example, if you know that in August, it’s really hard to get hold of a lot of people because everybody’s on vacation, then think about what else you can be doing that’s going to maximize your time then so that you’re really overcoming that resistance.  If you know that you yourself shut off as of December 15,then know that that’s the end of the year basically and that you want to have, instead of a December 31 cutoff date, it’s December 15.  So make sure that you work with your own resistance and your own working with seasonality.

O.K.  Just to reiterate.  In terms of reducing resistance and especially with budgets, do what you can.  We’ve had a controversial discussion.  I brought back a brochure done by a professional.  It was clearly done by—the professional did it himself.  It was clear.  There weren’t any typos.  It was clean.  It wasn’t the way that we would have done it, but my feeling was that this person did it.  He has a brochure.  He’s handing it out to me.  That’s important.  He did it.  He did; he worked with what he had.  Some people think, “Well, he shouldn’t have done it.”  Maybe it wasn’t as professional looking as somebody else would have liked.  My thing is that he did it and I give him credit for doing it and all marketing is evolutionary.  So it’ll be better next time or he’ll have more money next time.  So just work with what you have and the action step is to choose one area and reduce resistance.

All right.  Next thing.  In terms of revving up, what you want to do is you want to streamline.  How do you streamline?  You systematize, you organize and you make things as turnkey as possible.  Isn’t it wonderful when you can say, “Yeah, we have a system for that.  We have a system for getting our newsletter done.  We have a system for—we know when somebody comes back from a meeting”–and they have a business card from a new person they want to keep track of or they want to keep communicating with, they know that business card goes to Sam and Sam enters it.  They have a system for that.  They know who updates the website and when it gets done.  They know when the newsletter is supposed to go out.  So look at how you can systematize things.  Think about where is everybody stumbling around and going from office to office and saying, “How do we do that?  How does that?  Who do we get there?  Who’s updating the website?  Do you remember who the website person is?” or “Who handles our Linkedin?”  I mean develop a process and let people know what that process is.  For example, we were talking with a firm and they were telling us that they have stumbling blocks in terms of getting their newsletter out.  Over and over, they’ve hit roadblocks because the attorneys are busy with trying to do other things and it’s like, “O.K.  Well, maybe there’s got to be another way to do that.”  Hire an outside writer.  Hire a firm that does newsletters.  In terms of how do you systematize, get things done and eliminate those roadblocks.  How do you streamline things.  So the action step here is to choose one marketing tactic and to streamline it.

O.K.  Accelerate.  We want to accelerate our marketing for the balance of the year.  What do we want to accelerate?  We can’t accelerate everything or else we’re just going to be all over the place and nothing’s going to get done.  So think about what do you want to accelerate.  Do you want to accelerate visibility and where do you want to accelerate that visibility?  What do you want to be visible for?  What do you want to be known for?  Credibility.  What do you want people to know you for in terms of your expertise?  Be very specific.  Who do you want to know about that in terms of accelerating your recognition for your credibility?  We want to accelerate our on-line presence.  How do you want to accelerate that in terms of do you want more leads from your on-line presence and are you getting leads now?  Are you getting leads?  Are you getting people who click through—let’s say you’re running a paper click campaign or people are getting to the website, but they’re not sticking?  What is it specifically that you want to accelerate, the phone calls, the quality of the leads?  Be very specific.  You want to accelerate your reach.  If you want to accelerate your reach, what I’m talking about is do you want to accelerate your communication channels?  Do you have a social media campaign?  Is everybody on Linkedin and do you use it, not just do you have a profile, but are you posting things that are happening within the firm?  And do you want to accelerate your frequency?  Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to accelerate frequency.  For example, if you have a newsletter—I’m using this as an example—accelerate doesn’t necessarily mean doing it more often.  It might mean if you’re getting the results that you want, it might mean looking at how you can shorten it and do it more often or it can mean how do you do it better and that’s another part of accelerating.  How can you focus and make something better in terms of what you’re already doing?  It’s your business development, for example.

We often hear, “I network.  I have lunches out.  I just don’t think I’m getting the results.  I’m always out there.”  O.K.  Maybe it’s a matter of more focus.  For example, I know that sometimes I had to learn.  Sometimes I was caught off guard.  I’d sit down for lunch and people would say, “Well, what’s new?”  And I’d be sort of tongue-tied and then—now I really am prepared before I go to a lunch or a networking meeting.  “What’s new?”  Well, this is what’s new.  We’re working on A, B and C.  Oh, we just had a great success with this.”  I mean are you being strategic in terms of your networking?  Can you get more out of it?  Do you approach a lunch or breakfast with your idea of what you want the next step to be.  Yeah, it would be great if he said, “I have a piece of business for you,” but it’s maybe just asking them who else they know or how else they’re doing they’re networking.  So you can look at other opportunities for you or you can bring them perhaps an idea about a person you’d like to introduce them to which leads me to another point.

When we meet with prospective clients, they’re often surprised when we ask them—we’ll ask them about the referral sources and where their business comes from and they’re often very surprised and taken aback and really have to think about it when we say, “And so what about your outbound referrals?  Who do you give referrals to?”  Maybe that’s something you want to accelerate.  If you want to get more referrals in, are you giving referrals out and can you give  more referrals out and are you listening when you’re talking with others?  Are you probing?  Are you asking “And who do you use for your banker and who’s your employment law attorney and now do you feel about the insurance professionals that you’re working with?”  And you would be surprised at the kind of opportunities you can generate to make referrals to others.  O.K.  So think about where you want to accelerate.  You can’t accelerate everything.  Think about what you want to accelerate and pick one thing.  Determine your focus.

Now here’s where the rubber meets the road in terms of just do it.  What’s going to happen when?  This is where your calendar comes in.  You have your mile markers.  You know the conference you’re going to be attending.  You know the conference you’re going to be exhibiting at.  Do you know when you do your holiday cards?  Do you have a holiday event that you go to?  Do you give Thanksgiving cards?  Do you know when you’re article’s going to be published?  Start working backwards and looking at those and saying, “O.K., what do I need to do now in order to get more out of this than I did in past years?”  For example, we’re working right now with a client who came to us.  He has attended a conference for several years and this year he came to us and we hadn’t worked with him before.  This year he came to us and said, “I’ve been going to this conference for several years in a row.  I want to really get a lot more out of it this year.  Can you help me do that?”  And we worked with him in terms of upgrading the materials that he was handing out.  He was just attending this conference, but upgrading the kinds of materials he’s handing out, working with him in terms of a networking strategy and most importantly, talking with him now in terms of a follow-up strategy because that’s where you’re going to make the difference and it’s a long-term process, but he’s already smart enough to understand that he’s doing these things anyway so why doesn’t he get more out of what he’s doing and see how he can get more return.  It may not happen immediately, but it will happen because he’s focusing on it and looking at how there’s more potential there.

O.K.  If you have a conference in November and it’s a hot conference, you want to be talking to your prospective clients now and referral sources and getting on their calendar for dinner or planning a dinner where you entertain clients because if you wait till a month before that conference, they’re already going to be booked.  So think about now.  What’s your networking strategy going to be now.  Especially this is important if you’re going to have a booth.  I mean if you had a booth there last year, are you going to have fresh material and you’re going to need a lead time to do that.  If you’re attending the conference, it’s time to be asking people “Are you going to be there?  Let’s look at how we can get together.”  If it’s your holiday cards, is the list clean and up-to-date now so that you can do this smoothly and think about what else you might to be doing to make that even more effective as opposed to everybody running around saying, “Oh, my god, each name appears four times on this list.”

Also, be thinking about—I call this traffic thinking.  When you’re in traffic, what is it in the next six months that happens—let’s say it happens every year, whether it’s a state tax deadline or the corporate tax deadline or something like that, what is it that happens every year that you always think about maybe a work before and think, “Oh, my god, wouldn’t it have been great if I’d got a letter to clients or if we had done a seminar on this or if we had done something more about this.”  Thank about that now so you have a little bit of lead time and you really can capitalize on what’s out there.  This is where accelerating your marketing comes into play and really focusing and really looking at that calendar and looking at the next six months.  What is a blessing about this six months to me is that we can all get our minds around six months and look at the specifics and the details in a much easier way than we can with looking at one year.  I don’t about for you, but for me, when I look at a one-year annual marketing plan after the month seven, it becomes really fuzzy and I’ll say, “O.K., I’ll deal with it when I get there.”  But looking at six months, you know what’s going to happen as much as anybody can know what’s going to happen.  So just focus, think about the things we’ve already talked about and as it says, just do it.

O.K.  Overcoming your obstacles.  Think about December 31 and where if we were standing on—and I always think of it as standing on a day on a calendar—if you were standing on December 31, right now looking back, what is the one marketing project that if you had completed by December 31, you will look back and say, “Oh, my god, look what we did.  What an accomplishment.”  It may be overhauling your website.  It may be learning how to use social media and becoming more proficient with Linkedin and Facebook and Twitter.  It may be deciding that you’re going to put together a seminar program and implementing it and so you get two seminars under your belt or two webinars under your belt by the end of the year.  Think about one major project that you can focus on and have done by the end of the year and you can do that.  We have six months now.  I mean if you break it down step by step, if you’re very specific, if you create accountability—put your team together and create accountability so that everybody knows what they are responsible for—and one important thing is to have brief meetings or phone calls regularly and frequently so that you can talk about what everybody is doing, where everybody is and also creating accountability because people know that you haven’t just said, “O.K., we get to overhaul the website and he said that before, we’ll just forget about it.”  But they know that somebody in a sense is watching.  So think about what that major project is that’s going to make you feel like you accomplished something significant by the end of the year.

You also want to think about the fact if you’ve installed several times before, think about getting help.  Do you need a coach?  Do you need an outsource marketing firm?  Sometimes just having a mentor or somebody that can encourage you and say, “O.K., what did you do today and what did you do this week and you said you were going to write the copy for three pages of the website by the end of the week and did you do that?”  Having somebody like that can really help move it along.  So select that daunting project and move on.

O.K.  Staying ahead of the curve.  If you’re driving around this racetrack and you’re revving up and you’re accelerating, you want to know what’s around the bend and you want to also be ahead of everybody around the curve so that you can maintain your lead.  O.K.?  There are different ways to do this and number one, I want to say this is not about—you don’t have to have something that’s breakthrough because most people aren’t going to do anything.  So the fact the fact that you’re doing something is going to differentiate you right away.  This isn’t about who’s smarter, who’s more innovative.  It’s basically who is repackaging their material, who is putting together something that’s going to look new and shiny and differentiate you from your competitors.  And I’ll talk more about the specifics of that, but, for example, identify what is around the bend.  For example, you have either—what are the big court decisions that may be coming down in the next six or eight months?  IRS decisions, there are definitely some of those, different tax decisions, legislative decisions, regulatory decisions.  Why don’t you think now about how you can position yourself to be the media expert for that, to let the media know that you’ve been thinking about what the impact is either way.  If this happens, this is going to be the impact;  if this happens, here’s the impact.  Letting the media know that you are a resource for them, letting your clients and prospective clients know that you’re a resource for them.  For example, one of the most impressive things I saw in the last six months was with the employment law decision, the Brinker decision which was a big decision, that one law firm put out an e-mail before anybody really knew exactly when the decision was going to come down, but put out an e-mail and said, “Look, when it comes down, we’re going to have a conference call or webinar like the next day.  Just know that as soon as it comes down, we are the people you can turn to.”  To me, that was very impressive as opposed to all the other e-mails I got after that said, “O.K., now the decision’s come down and we’re going to have our conference call three days from now.”   Some of these are not surprises.  I mean if we all really think ahead and think “what’s going to happening,” we can position ourselves to be ahead of the curve.

O.K.  another thing I suggest.  Look at your competitors’ websites.  I mean you can get some great ideas.  I’m not encouraging you to copy, but you can get some great ideas in terms of what are they doing, what are their messages, how can you make those your own, once again not copying, not infringing, but it’s how can you say those in your own words, how can you take that one step further and make it different, make it your own so that it’s going to differentiate you and put you ahead of the curve.

Another idea is how can you package your own intellectual property.  There are a million and one, for example, IP litigators.  Some are better than others, but what can differentiate somebody who may not necessarily be the smartest or the best is how they’re packaging their own intellectual property.  Are they doing an e-book?  E-books are not going to becomes best sellers, but if you have a book in hand, that differentiates you and you get that buzz around it for a long time; you can keep a second printing or whatever.  All right.  Put together a learning program.  I mean it’s the same material everybody else has, but you’re the one who’s packaging it and giving it away to—and when I say giving it away, I say giving it away in a good sense because that’s how professionals market themselves.  Maybe put it into a webinar.  But it’s the same material.  You’re just becoming creative about how you’re packaging it which puts you in front of your competitors.

So think about what’s going to put you ahead.  There’s opportunities out there.  There’s always opportunities.

O.K.  One thing is I always say it’s really whether you do something.  Most people aren’t doing anything.  There’s a lot of talk; there are a lot of ideas.  Somebody once said there are file drawers full of ideas.  It’s whether somebody is actually putting it into play and that’s what this is all about in terms of staying ahead of the curve.

O.K.  Questions.  I’m going to answer a few questions and then I’ll wrap up.  (pause)  O.K. , question:  “I struggle with communicating our value.  I feel like I know the value I bring, but it doesn’t seem to get across to potential clients.  How do I fine tune this?”  That’s a great question.  I would start by talking with current clients and asking them how they see the value, how they articulate the value that you bring and then, of course, compare it to the words that you’re using right now.  What I do is also test it with them and say, “Look, this is how we’re articulating our value.  Does that seem to align with what you’re saying?”  And I would brainstorm because a lot of this is brainstorming in terms of ask them how to describe.  Maybe you brainstorm with them in terms of how to articulate—the words they would use in terms of articulating value.  You might consider getting a few clients together and asking them to brainstorm, buying them lunch or something like that.  Also, I know a lot of professionals and probably some of you who are listening right now have advisory boards—I’d definitely bring this question to an advisory board saying, “Here’s how we are articulating value and it doesn’t feel like it’s getting across.”  And I think one of the best ways would be to present that to clients and ask them for their feedback in terms of what other words they would use or how they would describe the value that you bring.

The next question, I’m moving on.  “How do you overcome the perception that your services are simply a cost of doing business?”  That’s a really good question.  Let me think about that for a minute.  My question to you would be, “Can you articulate the value that you bring?”  I think some of that—the question is how do you overcome the perception that your services are simply a cost of doing business. My first statement is it sounds like you think that your services are a cost of simply doing business and that’s going to be the first hurdle to overcome because for most professionals, their services are more than a cost of doing business in terms of there’s more value there that you’re bringing.  You’re doing it differently than anybody else.  You bring your own expertise and experience.  You come from a different background than anybody else and to me, it’s really your own belief in this that you are going to be the better choice and I’d  really work on your value statement for that and I would say that sometimes—I went through a period of really feeling like, “There are a million and one PR firms and really everybody could do the same job.”  That’s not true at all.  Somebody had to really bang into my head that everybody has value because we have different perspectives; we come from different backgrounds; we all do it differently; we all will not get the same results.  And I’m sure that’s true with you.  So I think it’s something about more.  I’d be happy to talk with you off-line about that.  E-mail me at Berman@Berbay.com.  My phone number is 310-405-7345.

Thank you very much for your attention to this.   I want to just wrap up with just one more slide here which doesn’t seem to be coming up.  O.K.  What I want to wrap up with really—think about where you want to be on December 31, 2012.  Where do you want to be on December 31, 2012?  What would make you feel like, “Oh, my gosh, these six months have been so productive.  I got so many leads, potential for so much more new business or a lot of new business?”  Decide where you want to be.  Look back from that date, look back and see what you have to do to get there.  Be very specific.  Nail it down and then step on it.  Thank you very much, everybody.   I appreciate your attention and look forward to having you listen in on our next webinar.

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