What is Your Story? And How Should You Tell It.

We all have a story. Each one is unique and dynamic and tells the world who we are, what we believe and why we do what we do. As a business professional, your story is extremely important, and not just from a credibility standpoint. Your story is what you relay to your clients, explaining why they should do business with you and not your competitor. Your clients need to hear, absorb and connect with your story and make it theirs.

Some Stories Others Have Told

Here are some examples of stories I’ve heard over the years from others in business. They all tell why someone got involved in their current profession, whether it was due to tragedy, passion or a sense of duty.

· One estate planning attorney tells how his parents ran a restaurant and his mother was unprepared when his father suddenly died. Neither of his parents had made any preparations for who would take over and what would happen with other financial holdings they had. He is passionate about helping families create documents with their future in mind.

· A financial professional spoke about how her parents divorced, and her mother almost lost the family home. Her father had always taken care of the finances, so her mother was entirely out of her element after the divorce. The result: She went into financial planning to help women like her mother succeed.

· A real estate agent took his passion for real estate investment and turned it into his profession. The result: He now helps other find the homes of their dreams and invest in other properties.

· A former nonprofit executive traveled the world helping those in need and wanted to continue her work after she left her job. The result: As an entrepreneur she started her own coffee company, exporting beans from Asia and Africa, and sending money back that helps improve the lives of farmers, widows and orphans. She still lives her passion to help others, while providing a quality cup of coffee to the public.

· A former teacher who loved helping her students untangle their family issues eventually became a marriage and family therapist. The result: She now works with youngsters and their parents and can offer more options than before.

How to Tell Your Story

Now that you have a better idea of others’ stories, here are some tips on how to tell yours.

• Frame your story. Your audience (customer) has to understand why you’re sharing this story.

• Understand your audience and what their wants and needs are. This will help frame the story.

• Tell it with feeling. Your audience needs to connect with your message on a visceral level.

• Keep it concise. It’s easy to go off on a tangent. To avoid this, make your story as brief as possible.

· Include some details.

• Listen to what others are saying. How are they presenting their stories? What tips can you pick up from them?

How you present your story matters. You don’t have to be a great writer to tell a good story. You, do, however, have to believe what you are telling your audience and say it with conviction. People want to know that they have a connection with you. Once you establish that connection it’s up to you to fin


Publish or Perish: The New Rallying Cry for Businesses that Want and Need an Online Presence

Publish or perish, a long-time requirement in academia has left the ivy-covered walls of college campuses and has become the rallying cry for businesses as well.
Search engines are demanding new, relevant content and companies have had to find ways to fulfill that need— not such an easy task when the rules on how to do it change almost daily.

Publish or Perish Rules

To help you better grasp what to do with your online content, here are some rules.
•    Be Relevant—Online content, and I cannot stress this enough, must be relevant to your topic. For example, if you sell apples you write about apples, apple orchards, recipes for apples, why apples are healthy for you, how apples compare to other fruits, and where people might purchase your apples, etc.
•    Be Direct and Concise—Make sure your text is to the point. Google picks up the first 50 to 60 characters of a description. Choose your working carefully. If it doesn’t explain who you are and what you do then potential customers won’t find you.
•    Include Active Verbs— When someone goes to your website, you want them to take action. What type of action would that be? Is it to get them to drill down for more information? To contact you for an appointment? Or to make a purchase? Your text should reflect what action you would like them to take.
•    Be Informative—Search engines, Google, in particular, prefer web pages that have at least 300 words and articles with a minimum of 500 words. Although some companies have had great results with longer more involved content (2500 words or more). If you’re going to post a long article or blog, make certain it contains information that will bring value to the reader.
•    Repurpose Content—If you’ve written an article, you can take some points from it and create a tweet. Or use it for a blog or a blog series. You don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel.
•    Curate Content—Determine the information your customers or followers are looking for. Then find and share the best of the information on this topic.
These are only a few of the ways you can create relevant content for your website, blog, online articles, etc.


Copywriting By Any Other Name Is NOT the Same

While the phrase “a rose is a rose is a rose,” may have some truth in it, copywriting by another other name is not the same. The written word takes on numerous forms, from essays to poetry to journalism, and a multitude of categories in between. There seems to be a belief among many business professionals that once they mastered the essay in high school or college, they conquered all forms of the written word, including marketing. While they certainly learned how to construct a sentence and paragraph and link them together to tell a story, they didn’t necessarily learn how to spin that story for a specific audience, and that is what successful marketing demands. Your audience is not interested in what you do or how you do it. The only question they want answered is how you are going to solve their problem.

How do you know if what you’ve written is hitting your customer’s sweet spot? Ask another party to review it; preferably someone who has experience in writing marketing materials. I stress this because having your office manager or partner review it is fine, but if they don’t know how to present the material properly, then that second pair of eyes will just be wasted. You’ll still end up with an ineffectual marketing piece.

A professional marketing and business writer can:
• Deliver content that gets directly to the point or the heart of the matter.
• Use words and phrases in such a way that they will have an emotional impact on your audience.
• Develop calls to action that will induce your customer to act, whether that is to call or email you, stop by your place of business, or purchase your product or service.
• The right marketing writer can persuade customers and help them realize your product or service will either solve their problem or provide additional convenience to their lives.
• Save you time, money and, most of all, the frustration that can accompany a project.
• Give you the time you need to devote to what you do best—running your business.


5 Ways to Make a Good Impression with Your Clients

Do your customers respect your expertise? Do they seek out your advice when they have a challenge and carefully weigh what you tell them? They should. Your clients have hired you because they believe a) you can solve their current challenge and b) they see you as the authority in that area. That’s half the battle. Now all you have to do is show them that they made the right decision.
Here are five ways to make a good impression on your clients:

1. Be honest. No one wants to feel as if they’ve been hoodwinked. If a client requests something that you don’t have the capability to do, don’t lie and say you do. Instead, create alliances with others who can offer that product and service, so that when you do have a request for it, you can fulfill your clients’ wishes by offering a good referral.

2. Be realistic. Don’t promise your client the moon when you know you cannot deliver. It’s always better to under promise and over deliver. The same goes for pricing. Make sure you cover any incidental expenses you may incur in your quote. If you come in under that amount, charge your client less. They’ll love you for that.

3. Be diplomatic. Remember the credo that the client is always right. Arguing with your client isn’t going to get you anywhere, except possibly the loss of a client. Instead, find another way to provide the advice or information without making your client feel as if they’re in the wrong.

4. Be helpful. Send your clients a newsletter, letter or just an email telling them about a product or service that you believe will help their business grow. People love to get things for free and will remember that you thought of them.

5. Be a referral source. When you meet people who may need your clients’ products or services, send them their way. By doing this, your business relationship becomes much more reciprocal and long-lasting.
There are certainly more than five ways to “wow” your clients. The list above should be a good starting point, though. Show your clients how much you value them and they will return the favor.


Asking for Help is a Good Thing

If you’re a small business owner you probably try to do everything on your own. As your business grows it may time to realize that you have to bring others on board, such as an office manager, bookkeeper, web designer and maybe even someone to help you with your communications.
As a small business owner I know how easy it is to take everything on your shoulders and forget that there are other professionals who can help you get things accomplished. We tend to think of our business, products or services as ours alone. And it’s difficult to believe that anyone else will care as much about our business as we do.
Although there may be some truth this, let’s face it, there are just not enough hours in the week to get everything done that needs to be done. At some point, you have to give in and hire vendors, contractors or employees to help you get it all done.
That doesn’t mean hiring anyone willy nilly. You have to vet the vendors you work with, the contractors you use and the employees you hire. Make sure they understand your ethics and principles and what you expect them to do. Always put things in writing so that no misunderstandings occur, and make sure they sign off on it. Your reputation is at stake.
That’s what being a leader and a successful small business owner is about. By asking for help you may have to give up a little control, however, in return your business will continue to move forward at the pace you want it to under the protection of people you trust.