Archive for August, 2009

It’s really quite simple when you think about it.  Salespeople should be looking to work for companies that fully understand, embrace and implement social media campaigns. It’s a “no brainer”!

Competitor companies A and B have similar products, services and pricing. Both have visibility and decent historical exposure to the desired target markets. Compensation and employee benefit plans are virtually identical. All things considered, it’s really a toss up. But company A has decided to integrate social media/Web 2.0 strategies into its marketing efforts and company B has not.

If job offers came from both companies, why in the world would a salesperson choose to work for company B?

Planned and implemented properly, social media is a salesperson’s best friend. Why? It breaks down the biggest barrier to closing a deal–lack of trust. The research is mounting by the minute. A company that engages its prospects and clients is far more likely to build trust and secure testimonials. While there will always be an art to the sales profession, the task is facilitated greatly when a third party makes a referral. Social media streamlines and exponentially multiplies “word of mouth” advertising–by expert consensus, the very best kind.

Will Web 2.0 make all sales teams obsolete? Will sales departments change their names to “order taking centers”? Doubtful on both counts. But for those of us who have been out cold calling off phone book lists, this is a major improvement.

Anything that removes an objection before it occurs makes a salesperson smile. It’s one less hurdle, one less headache and one step closer to a nice commission.


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Since the late 1980’s, (I guess I’m getting old, but I prefer that to the alternative), I’ve been actively involved in local charities in the Greater Boston area. Two of my favorites are Rotary and Kiwanis.

I joined the West Roxbury/Roslindale Rotary Club in 1989 and have since been its VP three times and President on four separate occasions. Kiwanis came a bit later, but I’ve also served as both VP and President of that group.

(There are many reasons to join service organizations. Mine was simply that I wanted to give something back to my community. Others are joining with networking in mind. I like my reason better, but if you participate actively and have an ethical streak in you, business will come your way over time.)

Despite intense competition for donations and membership, both Rotary and Kiwanis are flourishing in the West Roxbury and Roslindale section of Boston. My clubs are even teaming up as “partners in service” by coordinating fundraising strategies and participating in joint activities such as the upcoming Rotary vs. Kiwanis softball game to benefit the Jason Roberts Challenger Program (a baseball league for “differently abled” kids).

People sometimes see these groups as non-profit “dinosaurs” or relics of a time when men dominated all business organizations, including service clubs. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The men and women of Rotary and Kiwanis are doing great things, helping lots of people (especially children) and adding tremendous value to the communities they serve.

I have found my experiences in Rotary and Kiwanis to be highly fulfilling, both personally and professionally, and I encourage my readers to consider joining one of these great organizations. Find a club near you at http://www.rotary.org or http://www.kiwanis.org. Stop by a meeting as a guest and see what they’re all about. You won’t be disappointed.

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Research indicates that our attention spans are getting more and more limited. It’s absolutely pervasive. Are you still there? Probably not, but for the three people who are still reading, please bear with me.

Without getting into all the causes, let’s deal with the reality. Nobody has the time or inclination to read a mountain of papers explaining the intricacies of your business. Not prospects, investors, bankers, employees or clients. According to a recent study, if you are pitching a new business concept to venture capitalists, you better have them hooked in the first 42 seconds (source: Growthink) or you will probably never see a dime, even if you have the greatest idea in the history of the planet!

If you do nothing else today, create a great elevator speech–a concise, interesting “sell” that will convince a contact that there is good reason to spend valuable time investigating the merits of your company or cause. What do you stand for? What makes you special? Why are you better than or different from the competition? Why should I spend another second with you?

Want an example from current events?

Like him or hate him, Barack Obama had a highly effective, well delivered elevator speech. He repeated it constantly for two years. I’m NOT George Bush. CHANGE. YES, WE CAN! John McCain had no elevator speech and even tried to borrow the word “change” from Obama. He did little to differentiate himself from Bush OR Obama.

The country bought Barack’s elevator speech and, for better or worse, he is now called President Barack Obama.

Remember, customers buy your marketing first. Good products and service will help you retain them, but you have to get their attention. Ask yourself why anyone should do business with you. Research the competition. Set yourself apart. Be ready to tell a short but compelling story next time you bump into someone in an elevator. If you do this properly, you will have laid the foundation for all future advertising, marketing, sales, HR and community initiatives.

This process may not be easy at first…but it’s truly worth the effort. If you think you can’t do it, don’t give up…I say: “YES, YOU CAN!!!”

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Through years of business and community networking, I have developed strong relationships with many companies in and around the Boston area.

If you need a referral to any type of business, let me know. I will only refer you to qualified, customer friendly, ethical and community oriented business owners. Here are some examples:

Entertaiment Companies
Web Designers
Computer Repair
Mortgage Brokers
Financial Planners
Strategic Planners
Venture Capital experts
and many more

For Realtors, I’m a bit limited on a local level.  You absolutely must call LaRosa Real Estate in West Roxbury at 617-323-0866. Ask for Marilyn and tell her that her “younger brother” sent you. (I haven’t aged well…she’s my Mom but we pass for siblings! :))

If you’re a business owner and want to be part of my network. Contact me at jslconsulting@comcast.net.

If you fit the criteria and have quality testimonials, we can talk.

John LaRosa
Business Consultant

*Yes, there are ethical attorneys out there…it’s not a contradiction in terms!

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I have met with many business owners over the years, and one of the most important questions I’ve asked them is: Who is your target audience? Unfortunately, the answer I have most often received is: “Whoever will buy my stuff!” This response is both insufficient and dangerous.

Targeting is a crucial element to any advertising, marketing, PR or HR campaign…especially in difficult economic times, when resources are limited. If they are to survive, companies need to focus expenditures on the right prospects in the right areas. They must identify need, “pain” and price points. They must analyze margins on specific goods and services and gear their communications toward attracting the customers to these profitable items. In short, they must do their homework.

Targeting is both art and science, and effective targeting requires research and effort. It’s not enough to hang a shingle and hope people will come to the shop. It’s not enough to build a web site and wait for orders. Well before the “grand opening” (preferably), businesses must KNOW who their ideal customers are, why these individuals need their products or services, why they are different or better than the competition and how they plan to reach and influence key prospects over time.

Targeting, repetition and exposure are the keys to great communications and recruiting campaigns. If a business fails to perform its due diligence on the targeting component, the entire equation is skewed–this will lead to wasted time, energy and resources…and eventually to another vacant storefront or unvisited web site!

Most start-ups fail. Data varies, but the numbers generally exceed 80% within the first three to five years of operation. Why does this pattern hold true in good times and bad? Business owners tend to know their own product or service, but generally have NO MARKETING EXPERTISE. And when they find out what business consultants or agencies charge, they balk immediately and choose to skip the most important meetings they will ever have.

Strategy must precede tactics. Do your homework. Get some help from experts if you know how to make a pizza but have never written a business plan. Identify your real target audience and have a well researched, cost effective strategy to reach them in a way that is consistent, memorable and persuasive.

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Many business clients want to “try things out” in an attempt to grow their companies. I hear things like:

“Let’s run an ad for a month and see what happens.”
“What if I did a video–would that be a good idea?”
“What do you think of  ‘Constant Contact’?”
“Should I join BNI?”
“I need better web site content–can you write something up for me?”
“Should I pay for search engine optimization?”
“How about Facebook–could I get some business there?”

While I certainly can help with specific tactics, and will charge for my time, I prefer to give my clients a chance to succeed so they will recommend me to their friends! That’s why I provide a complimentary initial consultation and a strategic analysis of current communications. I then formalize this “back to basics” approach with a framework called “B.R.AC.E.”, which stands for Budgeting, Research, Action Plan, Communication and Evaluation. Absent this type of exercise, clients tend to waste money on poorly targeted initiatives that are difficult to quantify.

How much money have you budgeted for external communications?

What about staff?

Are you reaching and engaging the right people (and how do you know)?

Do you make a compelling argument for using your business?

What are your short and long term goals and objectives?

What’s your plan and how will you decide if it is working?

A cost effective communications plan is well researched, repeatable, flexible and measurable. And, particularly in difficult times, it is absolutely essential.

Using “B.R.A.C.E.” as a foundation will simultaneously reduce your costs and increase your market share.

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In a difficult economy, it’s important for companies to take the time to reassess their business strategies. Time and time again, I have encountered sole proprietors (and even some CEO’s!) who rush to tactical measures before having any good reasons to do so. The inevitable result is a complete waste of time, effort and resources.

“I need to get up on Facebook and Twitter.”
“We need to fix and optimize our web site.”
“I want to run a TV ad for a week or two to see if it works.”

The list could go on indefinitely, and all these tools could be effective–but STOP BEFORE YOU SPEND and ask yourself some basic questions:

  1. Why should anyone do business with me?
  2. How is my company different or better than the competition?
  3. What is my target market?
  4. Who are my current customers?
  5. Why do these customers stay with me?
  6. What kind of human and financial resources do I have at my disposal?

Start with these as an exercise. You would be amazed at the number of business owners who simply cannot answer “101” level questions.

Without value propositions, a solid business plan and a marketing strategy based on sound research, all the tactics and tools in the world will not solve your problems. Get back to basics first. If you don’t, you are building a house on a foundation of sand.

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