Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

Learning Enough about Graphic Design to be Dangerous

My graphic design skills are minimal at best. Still, whenever I write copy for a client’s brochure, flier, or website, I sketch it out to make sure the copy fits. I attended Calibre Systems graphic designer Lauma Wingrove’s workshop this week, titled Build a Flier That Sells, to pick up some pointers to better sketch my ideas and better marry my copy to design.

graphicdesignwordcloudThere’s a psychology behind graphic design, Wingrove said. Color. Placement. Font choices. Shapes. White space. Photos. They all tell the viewer something on a subconscious level and can make or break your message.

One of the biggest mistakes designers make is to cram too much text on a flier. “If it’s not absolutely necessary, leave it out,” Wingrove told participants at the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce Coffee & Conversation workshop. Instead, she said, direct the viewer to your website for more information.

When using text, confine it to a maximum of three fonts and consider the hierarchy, Wingrove said. The first level is read by the viewer and should be noticeable and in your face. It should be in a san serif font. The second level is skimmed by the viewer. The third level is virtually ignored.

Make the text easy to read. All caps are difficult for the brain to decipher, as are drop shadows. Diagonal text draws the eye. Straight line text connotes stability and horizontal text connotes movement.

Being a word guy, my notes don’t reflect much on color or shapes. Wingrove did say to choose colors based on their emotional impact. Dark blue, for instance, signifies stability and confidence. Red, in addition to being the color of love, signifies excitement to the brain. Use yellow to be playful and orange to connote affordability. HubSpot has an excellent infographic on using color in graphic design.

Circles, not surprisingly, suggest unity to the brain. Squares and triangles signify stability.

Two other elements are critical to every design. First and foremost is your audience. Who is your audience and what do they need to know? What is going to attract them? Build your design with your audience in mind.

Also, make sure you have a call to action. After all, you’re building a flier that sells.

I won’t be designing brochures or fliers any time soon. My graphic designer, John Body of BodyShots, will continue to marry my words to a layout that sells. Unfortunately for him, I now have enough knowledge on design to be dangerous.

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Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at Tom@YourConsistentVoice.com.

Unleash your power TW

 

Networking Farmers Build Healthy Businesses

Networking is critical to the success of every entrepreneur. Some hunt, others farm, with the farmers more often than not finding long-term success.

healthfair2I first learned of the networking concept of hunting vs farming when I joined BNI Prosper Alexandria soon after launching my entrepreneurial career. Dr. Ivan Misner, the founder of BNI (Business Networking International), describes hunters as those who sift “through crowds of people until they bag the ideal client, the big customer who can turn their business around.”

On the other hand, “Farmers take a different approach. They don’t waste time looking for the right person; instead, like those who plant seeds and patiently nurture their crops, they seek to form and build relationships wherever they can find them. If they get an immediate payoff, that’s fine, but it’s not their principal goal. They know that the effort expended upfront will pay off in a rich harvest later on—much richer then the hunter’s quick kill—and that truly profitable relationships can’t be rushed.”

I witnessed the benefits of farming firsthand Sunday at the Health & Wellness Fair at Cameron Station in Northern Virginia. Mara Benner of Four Directions Wellness, Mellenie Runion of Truly-Life, and Chuck Nally of ILoveKickboxing.com had connected over cocktails at a West End Business Association (WEBA) happy hour and concocted the idea of the health fair.

They formulated a simple format. Four hours. Information tables for each presenter. Chairs for participants to listen to lectures. A collection of tuna for a local foodbank. Goodie bags for guests. Every half hour, one of the original three co-conspirators along with Erin Monico of The Nutrition Connection provided a presentation. Benner, an integrative healing provider, demonstrated stress reduction techniques. Runion, a creator and supplier of eco skin care products, oddly enough discussed natural skin care products. Nally and his team equipped guests with an opportunity to put on boxing gloves and kick and punch a punching bag. Monico, a dietician and health coach, promoted integrative nutrition.

Door prizes were raffled off between segments.

The format ensured a continuously lively atmosphere where newly arrived guests never experienced a lull.

Benner told me they were hoping for 50 guests, but had far surpassed that with an hour and a half left in the event.

It was by all measures a successful event. It began with farming and ended with farming, because the event itself was another example of farming. There were no hard sells (though I’m sure sales were made), only information provided in literature, lectures, and demonstrations.

The health fair provided an example of how healthy businesses grow through networking farmers. If you are a hunter, I suggest you drop your bow and begin to plant your seeds today.


Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at Tom@YourConsistentVoice.com.

Unleash your power TW

Market to Your Imaginary Friend

Editor’s note: This was first posted on July 7, 2016. It’s being republished today in honor of  Get to Know Your Customers Day, which is observed annually on the third Thursday of each quarter. It’s a day to reach out to your patrons and get to know them better.

Do you remember your childhood imaginary friend? Chances are you had one. A 2004 study by University of Washington and University of Oregon psychologists found that by age seven, 65 perGroup of people pointing at an imaginary object - isolated over a white background Can Stock Photo Inc. Andrescent of children have had an imaginary friend. It could have been a teddy bear you rather uncreatively named Teddy and carried on conversations with, or an invisible playmate called Theodore who understood you completely and always wanted to play the games you wanted to play. Weren’t those highly successful playdates?

They were real to us, too. Oh, we weren’t so psychologically damaged to actually believe they existed temporally. But they were real in our minds. We had sword fights together. Roped cows. Hosted a tea party in our finest gowns. They were our best friends.

We are no longer children, but we adults still need our imaginary friends. As business people, our mature imaginary friends need to be more structured then when we were children. Then, we didn’t have to create imaginary friends. They just came to us. Our minds were wild and free. As adults, we must tap into that wildness and freedom with a purpose. That purpose is to focus your message.

Call them Ideal Clients. Call them Customer Avatars. Call them Buyer Personas. What they really are are imaginary friends for adults. If you talk to them, they will help you to succeed in whatever business you’re in, just as they helped us to succeed in play during our youth.

It doesn’t matter if you’re selling shoes, decks, or graphic design, you must start with knowing your audience’s wants and needs before you can create the message that brings you business. Your imaginary friend is that one person whose wants and needs you know so well you can discuss it with them. Who you can bounce ideas off of to see if they like it or not. Like you did as a child, but this time with a structured purpose.

It’s not only for entrepreneurs. Anyone who is reaching out to others on a mass level needs to create an Ideal Client. Associations would create an Ideal Member. Writers would create an Ideal Reader. Politicians would create an Ideal Constituent.

I like the term Ideal Avatar because it encompasses all those concepts and puts your imaginary friend in a worshiped position, as your clients should be.

Merriam-Webster defines an avatar as the incarnation of a Hindu deity in human form, or the embodiment of a concept or philosophy, often in a person.

When you create your Ideal Avatar you are creating a deity, an incarnation of your perfect client in human form, the embodiment of a concept of who your Buyer Persona is in the philosophy of a person.

This is not a new concept. Software engineer Alan Cooper introduced personas to the world in his 1998 book, The Inmates Are Running the Asylum. But Cooper began unconsciously creating personas in 1983. He tells of taking a walk around a golf course during his lunch breaks, talking to an imaginary friend loosely based on a project manager who would be using the software he was developing.

“As I walked, I would engage myself in a dialogue, play-acting a project manager, loosely based on Kathy, requesting functions and behavior from my program,” Cooper wrote in a 2008 blog. “I often found myself deep in those dialogues, speaking aloud, and gesturing with my arms. Some of the golfers were taken aback by my unexpected presence and unusual behavior, but that didn’t bother me because I found that this play-acting technique was remarkably effective for cutting through complex design questions of functionality and interaction, allowing me to clearly see what was necessary and unnecessary and, more importantly, to differentiate between what was used frequently and what was needed only infrequently.”

Cooper’s first conscious personas came about when he became an entrepreneur. Unable to get engineers to tell him what they wanted created, he went to the customers and asked them what they needed. His interviews uncovered three distinct users, which Cooper decided to name Chuck, Cynthia, and Rob.

“These three were the first true, Goal-Directed, personas.”

The key phrase here is “Goal-Directed.” What do they need so you know how to provide it? That’s your goal.

And, your imaginary friend can tell you. You only have to ask.


Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at Tom@YourConsistentVoice.com.

Unleash your power TW

The Bonus Benefits of Scheduling Social Media Posts

Is continuing education in your field crucial to your continued growth? Do you want to be recognized as an authority in your field? Is it worth it to you to invest a couple of hours a week doing both simultaneously?

smart phone and social media icons Can Stock Photo Inc. NmediaThen set aside a couple of hours a week to schedule social media posts for the coming week.

I schedule my weekly social media posts on Fridays. In addition to scheduling links to my weekly blog twice a week, my promotional book graphics, and my Word of the Week on Sundays, I fill my social media feed with interesting posts from others. Today, we will explore the latter, the benefits from sharing posts from others.

Because I am in the communications field, I post almost exclusively on communication techniques and tactics. If you sell real estate, you will want to post on housing trends, decorating, home remodeling, lawn care, and anything else home-related. If you’re a dentist, you would want to post on oral hygiene, foods to keep your teeth healthy, how smoking leads to tooth loss, and other health-related topics.

Do not post exclusively on homes you have to sell or services you have to offer. Use the 80-20 rule: 80% of your posts should be educational and 20% should be offering your services. If you follow that rule, you will receive the educational benefits, be recognized as an authority in your field, and the couple of hours you spend each week will benefit you personally as well as businesswise.

How, Why, & What

Here is how I do it, why I do it, and what I get out of it.

Buffer_(application)_logoI use two of the most popular social media scheduling tools, Buffer and Hootsuite, to schedule my posts on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+. Facebook has its own scheduling toolhootsuite-2200x800s for business pages and your posts rank higher if you don’t use a third party to schedule posts. Hootsuite is primarily used to schedule my promotional book graphics on Twitter, while I use Buffer to schedule everything else. I just find it easier to track the effectiveness of my promotional tweets if I separate them on the Hootsuite platform.

In addition to the four platforms already mentioned. Hootsuite also allows you to schedule posts for Instagram, WordPress, and YouTube. Buffer doesn’t post WordPress or YouTube, but it does for Pinterest.

Although I do from time to time find good material to share haphazardly, most posts are found systematically. I subscribe to speaking, writing, and marketing email newsletters from Hubspot, SpeakerHub, American Society of Association Executives, Freelance Writing Jobs, Simply Measured, and others. I peruse them looking for good material to post. Usually every newsletter has at least one good item worth reposting. Most times several posts are easily shareable.

Here are three recent examples:

The Marketer’s Toolbox: The 60 Marketing Tools We Use at Buffer

How to Gain Instant Credibility with Public Speaking

The AP Stylebook now includes “they” as a singular, gender-neutral pronoun

An Investment in Credibility & Education

I started out reposting others’ good material to meet the 80-20 rule without having to crank out a lot of original material. I have found in the process that it has, in fact, increased my credibility as an authority in my field by collecting and sharing some of the best material out there.

I also found that I am, in fact, more of an authority in my field because I scan at least every piece I post to ensure it meets my standards of quality (educational, well-written, no spelling or egregious grammatical errors) and read many of them word-for-word.

Those I don’t fully read are now cataloged in my social media feeds. I can go back to my feeds and retrieve a post when I need it. It’s not a perfect catalog system, of course, but for the time invested each week, it works.

Try it for yourself. You, too, may find spending a couple of hours in a free social media classroom furthers your education and gains you credibility in your field. It’s a tremendous investment in you that also benefits others.  Questions? Send me an email.


Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at Tom@YourConsistentVoice.com.

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Imagine if You Had the Secret List of Proven Free Words that Sell

At my Mastermind group this week, Colleen reminded me I had mentioned the 30 most important marketing words at a recent business breakfast, and asked if I could send her the list. “Sure,” I said, not knowing where I may have hidden it. No matter, I’ll just send her the blog I wrote about the top 10, I thought.

top-10-marketing-word-cloudMuch to my surprise, I never actually wrote a blog post about such an item. Perhaps it’s because if you ask 10 marketers to list their top 10 magic words you’ll receive 10 different lists. Or perhaps it’s my senility kicking in. Regardless, I’m here today to rectify that oversight.

While every marketer’s list is different, some words show up regularly because they are truly magic.

Should “Guarantee(d)” be on that list? A 2015 VerticalResponse blog post lists it as No. 5: “Give customers a guarantee to minimize risk perception, so they feel they have everything to gain and nothing to lose.”

A 2014 blog post on the same site, however, lists it as No. 4—of the words you should avoid. “Nothing in life is guaranteed, [Eric] Fischgrund, [founder of marketing and public relations company FischTank] reminds us; so it’s best to stay away from this word. You can still back your product or service, just refrain from using the word ‘guaranteed.’” I agree with Fischgrund. Not on my list.

“Free” shows up on many lists too. My first reaction to “free” is it has the same feel as guaranteed. There is no such thing as a free lunch. It’s free—for the price of giving up your email address. But I use it for that purpose and it works, so it must be good.

Some words show up on virtually every good-word list. And if they don’t, you should avoid that list.

“You” or its derivative “your” is one of those words, and it’s No. 1 on my list. The reason is simple. In every workshop I present or blog I write about communicating with your audience, I urge my listeners and readers to think of their audience’s wants or needs. You must connect with them on their level, not yours. You want to talk directly to them. You want to bring them immediately into the conversation. “You” and “your” does that. “Our” and “we” work too under certain circumstances.

“New” also shows up on most lists, because many people like to be on the cutting edge of whatever is out there. What “you,” “new,” and “free” have in common is they are simple, one-syllable words. The fewer syllables the better in marketing copy. But “new” often feels stale to me and, in the right context, you may wish to use a synonym: state-of-the-art, advanced, cutting-edge, novel, original, fresh, newfangled, or futuristic, for example.

Can I tell you a secret about the word “secret?” “Secret” works too. Many people wish to know the secret of health, wealth, and happiness. Just make sure it’s new information or a new interpretation, otherwise you can be labeled a fraud.

Imagine if these words boosted your sales. Can you picture potential clients reading your copy and wanting what you have to offer? If you can, that’s why “imagine” also makes the list.

“Now” is another monosyllabic word on many lists. We live in a world of instant gratification, so let your customers know your offer is instantaneously available.

“Because” gives your customers and clients a reason to purchase your product: “Because your dog deserves to be happy.” “Because you deserve to feel healthy and be healthy.” “Because peace is an attainable goal.”

“Love” needs no explanation. At least, I hope it needs no explanation.

“Thank you” shows up on few lists, but it should be on everyone’s. Always be thankful to your clients who purchase from you. They have a choice and they chose you.

“Proven” is akin to guaranteed, but if it’s proven, you don’t need a guarantee. Back up your proven methods with testimonials.

So here, in list form, are Tom Pfeifer’s Top 10 secret list of proven free words that draw in your potential customers:

  • You
  • Free
  • New
  • Secret
  • Imagine
  • Now
  • Because
  • Love
  • Thank you
  • Proven

Thank you for reading.


Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at Tom@YourConsistentVoice.com.

 

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To Compete with Cats, Become an Author

funny-cat-watching-a-movie-on-television-in-3d-glassesAre you among the 81% of Americans the Internet says want to be an author?

If you want to successfully compete with your competitor cats, you should be.

Because, as print author and electronic communication aficionado Brian Solis noted at a recent PR Measurement Conference, “We all compete with cats.”

For the uninitiated, video-tracking company Reelseo (now Tubular) counted 2 million cat videos on YouTube in 2014, which had been viewed a staggering 24.6 billion times. Solis was making the case that online marketers compete with cat videos—and many other distractions—for attention from our potential consumers. Therefore, to distract people from watching cat videos long enough to watch your video or to take action on your message, you have to stand out.

What does that have to do with becoming an author? It’s that way in the non-virtual world too. As small business people, you also compete with cats. Your cats are the furry and smooth-skinned competitors who do the same thing you do. To stand out, to distract your potential clients from your competitors, you need to do something very different.

Being an author is a very good way to stand out. Even Solis, who lives in the virtual communications world, has published print books to stand out.

Authors are rare. I was at a networking event in April right after I published my first book. Friends Colleen and Tad attended to kick off their celebratory birthday weekend because our event host was a local craft beer brewery. Colleen’s daughter Erin had come up from Richmond to partake in the festivities. Erin made the comment, “I don’t believe I’ve ever known an author before.” To which I rather stupidly and flippantly replied: “Now you have.”

I said that because I was surprised by her statement. I live in a circle of fellow writers, several of whom are published authors. But that’s my circle. I hadn’t realized how small a circle it was. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports only 136,500 writers and authors were employed in 2014 out of a population of about 320 million. That’s not a lot—.0004%—and I would say most of them are writers but not authors.

I say that because even though I know many authors, most of the writers I know are not authors. In fact, when I published my book, several of my writer friends congratulated me with something to the effect of: “Congratulations. Many of us talk about writing a book, but few of us do.”

If you actually write one, those 81% who are thinking about writing a book are going to think you’re pretty cool because you’ve accomplished something they have only talked about.

Think about it. People talk about being part of the 1%. How about being part of the .0004%? Publishing a book puts you in very, very exclusive territory. It makes you stand out among the cat videos. And it makes you pretty cool in the eyes of just about everyone around you. Even after you say something dorky to Erin.


Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at Tom@YourConsistentVoice.com.

Book cover for Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They'll Applaud!In three chapters, Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! gives you the tools you need to produce a more effective, powerful, and memorable speech. Chapter 1 discusses the rules and good practices of all effective writing. With that foundation set, Chapter 2 sets out the ways in which speech writing differs from other forms of writing, and how spoken language allows you to make your words come alive. Chapter 3 provides you with techniques to write more powerful and memorable speeches through storytelling, timing, and rhetorical devices.
Tom Pfeifer has been a professional communicator for more than 30 years. In Write It, Speak It, he uses research and personal stories to show how you can write speeches they’ll applaud.

Market to Your Imaginary Friend

Group of people pointing at an imaginary object - isolated over a white background Can Stock Photo Inc.  AndresDo you remember your childhood imaginary friend? Chances are you had one. A 2004 study by University of Washington and University of Oregon psychologists found that by age seven, 65 percent of children have had an imaginary friend. It could have been a teddy bear you rather uncreatively named Teddy and carried on conversations with, or an invisible playmate called Theodore who understood you completely and always wanted to play the games you wanted to play. Weren’t those highly successful playdates?

They were real to us, too. Oh, we weren’t so psychologically damaged to actually believe they existed temporally. But they were real in our minds. We had sword fights together. Roped cows. Hosted a tea party in our finest gowns. They were our best friends.

We are no longer children, but we adults still need our imaginary friends. As business people, our mature imaginary friends need to be more structured then when we were children. Then, we didn’t have to create imaginary friends. They just came to us. Our minds were wild and free. As adults, we must tap into that wildness and freedom with a purpose. That purpose is to focus your message.

Call them Ideal Clients. Call them Customer Avatars. Call them Buyer Personas. What they really are are imaginary friends for adults. If you talk to them, they will help you to succeed in whatever business you’re in, just as they helped us to succeed in play during our youth.

It doesn’t matter if you’re selling shoes, decks, or graphic design, you must start with knowing your audience’s wants and needs before you can create the message that brings you business. Your imaginary friend is that one person whose wants and needs you know so well you can discuss it with them. Who you can bounce ideas off of to see if they like it or not. Like you did as a child, but this time with a structured purpose.

It’s not only for entrepreneurs. Anyone who is reaching out to others on a mass level needs to create an Ideal Client. Associations would create an Ideal Member. Writers would create an Ideal Reader. Politicians would create an Ideal Constituent.

I like the term Ideal Avatar because it encompasses all those concepts and puts your imaginary friend in a worshiped position, as your clients should be.

Merriam-Webster defines an avatar as the incarnation of a Hindu deity in human form, or the embodiment of a concept or philosophy, often in a person.

When you create your Ideal Avatar you are creating a deity, an incarnation of your perfect client in human form, the embodiment of a concept of who your Buyer Persona is in the philosophy of a person.

This is not a new concept. Software engineer Alan Cooper introduced personas to the world in his 1998 book, The Inmates Are Running the Asylum. But Cooper began unconsciously creating personas in 1983. He tells of taking a walk around a golf course during his lunch breaks, talking to an imaginary friend loosely based on a project manager who would be using the software he was developing.

“As I walked, I would engage myself in a dialogue, play-acting a project manager, loosely based on Kathy, requesting functions and behavior from my program,” Cooper wrote in a 2008 blog. “I often found myself deep in those dialogues, speaking aloud, and gesturing with my arms. Some of the golfers were taken aback by my unexpected presence and unusual behavior, but that didn’t bother me because I found that this play-acting technique was remarkably effective for cutting through complex design questions of functionality and interaction, allowing me to clearly see what was necessary and unnecessary and, more importantly, to differentiate between what was used frequently and what was needed only infrequently.”

Cooper’s first conscious personas came about when he became an entrepreneur. Unable to get engineers to tell him what they wanted created, he went to the customers and asked them what they needed. His interviews uncovered three distinct users, which Cooper decided to name Chuck, Cynthia, and Rob.

“These three were the first true, Goal-Directed, personas.”

The key phrase here is “Goal-Directed.” What do they need so you know how to provide it? That’s your goal.

And, your imaginary friend can tell you. You only have to ask.


Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at Tom@YourConsistentVoice.com.


From Tom Pfeifer’s upcoming book, How to Target Your Ideal Customer Avatar Like the God She Is. While you’re waiting for that to be published, check out Tom’s current book, Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD!

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