Archives for November 2006

How to Improve Your Presentation Skills

This morning I received my monthly “The Planning Shop” eNewsletter from Rhonda Abrams.  This lady is an expert marketer!  She really knows how to write – and produce an excellent eNewsletter.  Her books *”Winning Presentations in a Day,” “Business Plan in a Day,” etc.) are excellent.  She does two things extremely well:

1) Gives you valuable and compelling content that you will remember.

2) Tells you exactly what she wants you to do – how to take the next step (buy her books and engage her services.)

And really … isn't that the point of any presentation?  Or marketing campaign?  Or sales call?  Or company meeting?  You get the point.  But does your audience? 

Sign up for Rhonda's eNewsletter or purchase her books; put her advice into practice and your audience will remember more of what you said.  And your audience will know what to do.  All of which will lead to more sales, better understanding, and greater commitment.  Which is really why you give a presentation or launch a marketing campaign.

Unfortunately, too many speakers and marketers take the opposite approach.  Then they wonder why they do not get asked back to speak or why their sales did not improve.  To paraphrase a famous slogan, “It's all about the audience, stupid!”

Giving a presentation is not about you.  It's about your audience!

Why are they there?  (Are the required to be there or do they want to be there?)

Why should they care?  (About you and what you have to say?)

What do they care about?  (What problems, concerns or feelings do they have?)

What advice, information, or solution do you offer? (For them specifically?)

What do you want them to do? (What is your call to action?  The next step?)

How do they do it? (Show them specifically where to go and what to do!)

Rhonda Abrams' advice does not break new ground.  Confucius had the same message many years ago, “I hear and I forget.  I see and I remember.  I do and I understand.”  However, her presentation, marketing and teaching skills are just perfect for today.

Anyone who wants to improve their communications skills will benefit from subscribing to her eNewsletter or purchasing one or more of her books.  Here's how do take the next step:

Click here to go to her website and sign up for the eNewsletter.  You will benefit from her advice and so will your audience!

Review – Winning at Retail

Lately, I have been re-reading some of my favorite business books.  “Winning at Retail” is one of them.  The authors have a solid history as retail consultants and they are passionate about creating and studying successful (and unsuccessful) retail operations.  In the authors words, great retailers understand the importance of two things:

1) Targeting a particular group of customers.

2) Carefully choosing what you'll be great at offering them.

A successful retailer understands that you can not be all things to all people – you must choose a specific target customer and then follow them closely to understand what most influences their buying habits.  And then you must and then you must build your business to become the best in that one area – as your targeted customer perceives it.  You must build your business around your customer.  Learn how to give them more of what they want and less of what they do not want.

“Winning at Retail” builds on the principles of the 1981 marketing classic, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind,” By Al Ries and Jack Trout.  You must learn how to be seen and heard in the overcrowded (and ultra-competitive) marketplace.  In this book, you will learn EST principles (NO, not those kooky Werner Earhardt seminars from the 70's!)  In this case EST is becoming the B(EST ) in one of these five dimensions:

1) Cheap – EST: Winning with Price – (e.g. Wal-Mart, Costco and Dollar General)

2) Big-EST: Winning with Dominant Assortments – (e.g. the “category killers” Best Buy, Home Depot, Home Depot and Barnes & Noble)

3) Hot-EST: Winning with Fashion – (e.g. Chico's, Starbucks and Target)

4) Easy-EST: Winning with Solution-Oriented Service – (e.g. Container Store, Publix and Kohl's)

5) Quick-EST: Winning with Fast Service – (e.g. McDonald's, Walgreens and Kinko's)

As in “Positioning,” it is vital to understand that the target customer's perception of which retailer is the B(EST) at offering something that's important (prices, selection, service, etc.) wins the game – for now!  Because, it is difficult to remain dominant in one of these 5 dimensions.  The marketplace is ultra-competitive and customer preferences are always in flux.

Smaller, independent retailers should not be put off because the author's mainly discuss large retail operations.  Anyone can learn the basic principles and adapt it to their situation.  Actually, because we are so familiar with the successful and unsuccessful retailers used as case studies, it is easy to understand why these EST principles are so vital to success.

I really like this book because it is based in reality – not some theoretical proposition.  The writing is conversational – personal – and the authors' passion for retail shines throughout the book.  They know each of the case studied retailers inside and out.  And – they never stray from their basic principle:  In today's market the customer is in control and successful retailers learn how to give their targeted customers more control in the buying process.  If you want to win at retail today – and in the future – follow your customers.  Learn what is most important to them and then become the best source to provide it!



Winning At Retail.jpg

Winning at Retail

I posted a new photo to Photos.

Upgrade Your Book Purchase

Well Amazon has done it again – yet another technology invention that is extremely useful to certain of their customers.  You can now “upgrade” certain of your book purchases – provided you have purchased a physical copy – from Amazon – and the publishers permits this feature – you can, for @$5.99 obtain electronic rights to that book!

According to the website here are the advantages to “upgrading” your purchases:

1) Start reading the book on-line while you wait for your physical copy to arrive. (DR – Okay, so you can choose to save money on shipping to offset the $5.99 “upgrade” price.  Some value to that.)

2) Add highlights, bookmarks, notes. or tags to any page or section of text.  (DR – all of the advantages of digital delivery.  To be expected.)

3) Print pages, and even copy and paste text from the book.  (DR – All the while doing so legally.  You are not violating copyright because the publisher has sold you this right – for this particular product.)

4) Read your book from any Internet-connected computer, meaning your book is always with you.  (DR – Ultimately, this is the premise of eBooks.  But now, you are not dependent on have a (proprietary book reader or special software.  Just an Internet connection to your Amazon account!)

Amazon informed me that I had already purchased 4 books that would qualify for “upgrades.”  So it looks like only a small number of publishers have signed on to this so far.  Publishers are always a brave lot!  I don't understand why more of them have not licensed Amazon to make the “look inside” the book feature available.  Who would ever have the time or patience to copy one (random) page at a time to avoid actually purchasing the book?

OK – who would want to purchase the “upgrade” and how would they use it?

1) Researchers – who would benefit from having legal digital access to books containing pertinent facts, etc.

2) People who travel a lot – and don't want to carry the extra weight along.  Or who forgot to pack a favorite title, etc.

I fall into both categories so I could see a reason for taking advantage of this service.  And, since this service only pertains to books that I purchase from Amazon (so far) it gives Amazon yet another competitive edge – and a reason for me to confine most of my book purchases to Amazon!



The Mature Music Market

I see a trend emerging.  I have been writing about this topic for the past few months (Modern Marketing, etc.) on this blog.  And now it is official – The New York Times is writing about it!

Here is a link to an article that will appear in this coming Sunday's New York Times “Arts & Leisure” section.  The article is titled, “Rock of Ages,” and is written by Jeff Leeds.  The AARP – formerly known as the “old fogies early bird special” association – has just signed on to sponsor a national tour for Tony Bennett.  The very same Tony Bennett – 80 years young – that the Target corporation got behind.  They were the major sponsor for last night's terrific TV Special “Tony Bennett: An American Classic.”

And what about the AARP?  They hired Elton John to headline a sold-out concert at this year's “AARP: Life @ 50+” convention in Anaheim, CA.  Next year – at their convention in Boston, MA – the headliners will be Rod Stewart and Earth, Wind and Fire. James Taylor is a super start with the AARP crowd.  Hey – I grew up listening to each of these artists!  I am over-50 and I still like to go to concerts and buy records.  And so do a lot of people from my generation – the “Baby Boomers.”

In the “Rock of Ages” article, Leeds quotes statistics that show that the over-50 crowd now accounts for @ 25% of all audio recording sales – and they have about the same % of market share with on-line purchases (albeit buying CD's on-line via, etc. rather than downloading a digital file.)  Marketers and advertisers fell over themselves trying to attract the “Baby Boomer” throughout the golden era of the '60s and '70s.  And now, they are starting to realize that this generation has money, time and a great desire to continue to make and support music – the music that is the soundtrack of their lives.

So, if you are over-50 and you can't find the music you want at your local Tower Records – bankrupt and closing stores – and you can't find it on the radio or TV, where are you going to go?  To Target?  To Nordstom's?  To Starbucks?  Or to a concert tour sponsored by the AARP?  Probably, to all of the above.  I'll see you there!

Why We Write

“Only in writing do you discover what you know.”

– Anne Beattie, author

What a joy to re-read a favorite book! You think that you remember most of the content – or at least the major points.  However, over time your own circumstances change and upon re-reading the book, the context has changed and you gain new insights.

Such was the case for me with “What Clients Love,” by Harry Beckwith.  Harry has enjoyed great success with his series of books (also “Selling the Invisible” and “The Invisible Touch”).  He has had a distinguished career in marketing and advertising and has done a masterful job in sharing his observations and client history with his readers.

This time around, my thoughts were centered on this blog.  Why do I write it?  Does anyone read it?  Does it really matter?  Does anybody care?  Why does anybody blog?

Then it hit me – in Harry's own words, “Writing teaches you that you never write just what you know.  You write what you learn as you're writing… Writing teaches everyone – especially the writer.”

I have been thinking a lot about how to differentiate what I do – consulting, speaking and training.  How do I gain a competitive advantage?  What set me apart?  Why should a client hire me – rather than another consultant?

I found a lot of those answers in Jaynie L. Smith's book, “Creating Competitive Advantage.”  But the hard part – you actually have to write them down on paper – or say them out loud.  You have to learn how to articulate your competitive advantage – in a way that a complete stranger can clearly understand.

And that is what writing does.

You are forced to learn as you write.  Not just to gather information and spit it back out.  No, to think about things – especially as they pertain to yourself – and to express them in your own individual style.

So that is why blogging matters – to me.  Everyday, I learn new things – and improve my communications skills – as I write about the things that matter to me.  I have a long way to go – and a lot to learn as I write.


Death by PowerPoint – Part 2

I was just re-reading “What Clients Love,” by best selling author Harry Beckwith.  Under the heading, “Lincoln Had No Slides at Gettysburg,” Beckwith offers some classic advice about how to avoid the mistakes that arise froman over-dependence on PowerPoint when making a speech or a presentation:

1) You are not selling the slides, you are selling the people who are clicking the slides.

2) When prospects gaze at slides, they are not looking at what you are selling: you and your ideas!

3) Use slides only to illustrate a point that you cannot express as well with words alone.

4) A slide filled only with words is neither a visual nor an aid.

5) Make contact with your audience – you must look into their eyes and let the audience look into your eyes.

Thank you Harry.  Your advice is invaluable.

Personally, I think that many presenters use PowerPoint for their own selfish reasons. Rather than just outline their talking points (so that they remember what they are going to say) presenters create PowerPoint slide shows.  They think – wrongly – that “if my outline presents my ideas in a logical fashion, why not add some graphics and show the audience how clever I am with PowerPoint!”

As Mr. Beckwith reminds us, the audience is not interested in how clever you are.  They are interested in your ideas – as they pertain to their interests.  However, the audience is most interested in you – how capable you are in executing the ideas that you are presenting.  And… how well you connect with your audience – your clients.

I wonder what would have happened if Lincoln had, in fact, used PowerPoint to “enhance” his speech on the battlefield at Gettysburg?  It would have been easy to fit such a short speech (“Four Score and …”) up on a screen.  But would we have remembered the speech?  Or just read the words ourselves?  And, it might have been a challenge to find the right visuals – hard to top the stark visual presented by the battlefield itself. 

Think about this the next time you are preparing for a presentation.  No slide show can ever cover-up your weaknesses.  Present yourself.  Make contact.  Leave a lasting impression.

What Clients Love.jpg

What Clients Love

I posted a new photo to Photos.