Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It’s Not About Me… It’s About You

Technical writing can be a chore.  However, it educates our clients about our capabilities and is often required to win work.  Whether you’re writing a lengthy proposal package, two page letter of interest, or a short hand written thank you note, keep your audience in mind.

It’s fast and easy to start writing about what we know best.  Ourselves.

“[Company name] provides our clients with the following services…”

We would love to work on this project.”

Our mission at [company name] is to help our clients.”

There’s nothing errant about these statements, but sometimes we can make them more personal and direct by focusing on the client, their issues, and how their business will improve with our help.

Consider the increased impact of:

You mentioned the importance of xyz to your project.  Your concerns will be addressed through….”

Your project is an exciting one. We would love to help you meet your project goals.”

“Thank you for your consideration.”

A former supervisor of mine taught me an interesting exercise.  Each time I wrote a proposal, we circled statements that started with mention of our firm, by name, or with a pronoun such as “we”. It was amazing how quickly these instances accrued when we didn’t pay attention.

Talking about yourself first and frequently is not wrong, but recognizing when you do it gives you the opportunity to make your document more relevant and personal for your reader.

Help your client see that it’s not about you.  Instead, it’s very much about them.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What is Marketing?

I was catching up with a friend and telling her about starting a consulting business.  Then, she asked me a completely valid question. “What is marketing?”

When marketing comes up in conversation, many assume it is graphic design, sales, publicity, or advertising. (Even Microsoft Word tells us they are legitimate substitutes!)

These words are definitely important elements of marketing, but are no more marketing than a tire is a car.  Certainly, a good car has tires, but there are other important components.

Four areas commonly referred to as “the 4 Ps” make up marketing: Product, Price, Promotion, and Placement (or distribution).  This means marketing is everything that involves your product or service, your existing or potential customers, and how you make decisions related to them.  In a very real way, everything in business (including you!) is marketing.

Subsets of marketing include sales and advertising, but also, consumer behavior, customer service, retail, community involvement, networking, marketing research and data management, public relations, new product development, business to business marketing, and international marketing. The secret is shaping and integrating these elements purposefully to best represent yourself and your product to those who need you in the marketplace.

All that said, marketing is very much an art and a science. It is not black and white, but suggests an outline. How we color is up to us, as long as we consider, plan, and implement the necessary pieces.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Man, a Can, a Plan

My mom bought my brother a cookbook called, A Man, a Can, a Plan. It suggests quick meals that are as easy as mixing and heating various combinations of canned pantry foods.  (Yum!)

A plan is needed for something as simple as fixing a quick meal, but more importantly, we need a strategy in our business, personal, and professional lives to show us where to go and how to get there.

I’ll agree with you right off the bat.  Creating a plan sounds like a pain.  Who has time to research, brainstorm, and document a vision and how you will execute it?  Who wants to monitor what a competitor is doing, establish a target market, or find ways to improve?  And revisiting and tweaking that plan so it reflects changes within your company or in the marketplace?  Forget it!

The truth is; however, we can’t afford not to plan.

It is easy to be busy and go about daily tasks without a clear and specific strategy. But priorities shift.  Our internal and external environments, along with our vision, change. Without focus, we lose sight of what is important. We stay comfortable, urgently putting out the same fires every day. 

We need to be proactive.  We need to take our business, our personal life, and our career, into our own hands. 

Even a man with a can has a plan!  But it shouldn’t stop there...

How could strategy work for you?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

And Away We Go!

Is there anything scarier than starting your own business?
Roaches?  Snakes?  Likely so, but I’m finding that starting a small business can be pretty darn scary too.
My family and friends include a number of entrepreneurs.  Insurance agents, doctors, engineers, restaurant and childcare professionals… you name it!  These people are courageous and admirable risk-takers.  They know their talents and strengths, and went out on their own, knowing they were capable of great things.
Inspired by these individuals, becoming an entrepreneur has always been in the back of my head.  However, somehow, the timing was never quite right.  That little voice questions if the timing is truly perfect.  A pinch of fear asks if this courageous and risk-taking path could be mine too?
Dale Carnegie says that the best way to conquer fear is to imagine the worst case scenario.  Once you come to terms with that, any result is better (or at least no worse) than expected.
Steve Jobs wisely noted that, “Almost everything, all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure: These things just fall away in the face of death.”
So what is there to lose? 
Are there things I won’t know?  You bet!  Will I learn some lessons and fall on my face along the way?  Likely so!  But that’s the beauty of risk!  Pushing yourself to see what you have the potential to become!  Trying so you never have to wonder “What if…?” 
What an amazing opportunity!  With that, I make my leap.