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Robert Middleton
Marketing Coach-Consultant
Boulder Creek, California
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Playing Marketing Ball: How to Get to First Base

Are you still struggling to get attention and interest for your business? If you learn how to play 'Marketing Ball' and deliver a message that shows you understand the challenges your prospects are experiencing, you attention factor will soar.
Written Mar 27, 2009, read 4018 times since then.
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Networking events and social gatherings pose great opportunities to build business relationships and get the word out about your company and the services you provide. 

The scenario is familiar: a room full of people mingling and discussing business, trying to make connections. When a potential client approaches you and asks the ultimate question, "What do you do?" your answer is crucial. This is your chance to put yourself in position to score a sale, but you must respond in a way that attracts their attention, or the opportunity will pass and the person will move on. You may never get another chance.

The key is to make a good first impression and appeal to your prospective clients' needs. But how do you do this? Is there a reliable way to get attention with just a few words and avoid the "glazed-over look" from prospects?

You can get this attention and interest by knowing exactly what to say.  It's like swinging at a baseball - you either strike out, go foul, or make a solid connection. Your response to their question about what you do, when phrased properly, will get you solidly on first base. Here's how:

Play Marketing Ball

Marketing Ball is a model based on a diagram of a baseball diamond. It takes some of the mystery out of the marketing and sales process. 

Start at home plate, go around the bases, and then back to home. Getting home means you've "scored" by winning a new client. But before you score, you need to get to first base – where you have your prospect's attention. 

First base is where every business needs to get to before anything else – in a brochure, an advertisement, a web site, or a simple verbal introduction. If you don't get to first base, you're out of the game. After you're on first base, it's easier to get around the diamond. Second base is where a prospect is ready to explore working with you. Third base is when a client is ready to buy from you, and home base is when the sale is actually consummated.

First base is the most crucial and is deceptively simple. Just like in a baseball game, it is the initial hit of every sale. In networking situations, the hit comes when the person you're speaking to shows some interest and wants to know more. You have four different ways to get onto first base, and some are more effective than others. In fact, the first two hardly ever result in a hit, but people persist in using them.

1. Label

The majority of business people use labels to get attention. When asked what they do, they respond with: "I'm an accountant (or a management consultant, an executive coach, or a widget salesperson)." Those labels may be accurate, but they sure aren't very attention-getting. 

People develop their own pictures of what those labels mean. What stereotypes can you think of for lawyers or used car salespeople? Are these pictures always accurate? Of course not. Let's take accountants, for example. People tend to think accountants are boring. So when you reply to the question about what you do with the label, "I'm an accountant," in the back of most people's minds they think you're boring. Not much of an attention-getting marketing impression is it?

So forget labels. Don't ever lead with your label. It makes people pigeonhole you and it works against you almost every single time. 

2. Process

When people stop using labels to introduce themselves, they often start using a process to describe what they do. Again, consider our intrepid accountant who, rejected every time he used the accountant label, now tells people that he prepares taxes and does financial statements. 

This is a little better, but not much. A process doesn't answer the question on everyone's mind: "What's in it for me? You prepare taxes and do financial statements. So what? What's the advantage, the thing that will help my business?" When you talk about what you do in terms of a process, you become a commodity. After all, every accountant prepares taxes and does financial statements. There's nothing to distinguish you and, once again, you fail to get attention.

3. Solution

Undeterred, our persistent accountant learns that he must speak in terms that mean something to the prospect. Now he emerges with the statement or "Audio Logo": "I help people in the restaurant business reduce their taxes and increase their cash flow."  

This is a whole lot better. Mr. Accountant has targeted his market and clearly expressed a desirable result or solution he can accomplish for his clients. Using a solution-oriented response will get the accountant, and you, on first base more often. To spark interest, say who you work with and the solution you provide for them.

Here are some examples:

"I work for high tech companies to improve the communication skills of their technical managers."

"I help writers who want to get their first book published quickly."

"I offer training for leaders who want to beat the competition more often."

"I provide equipment for hospitals that gives a six month return on investment."

If you're speaking to the right person, all of these are likely to get you onto first base. And this is usually as far as most business people go.

However, solution-oriented Audio Logos don't always yield maximum interest. When you tell someone the solution or result you provide, it often sounds just too good to be true. The inward response goes something like, "Well, of course he's promising that, but can he really deliver?" 

People are, by nature, skeptical, and it's easy to arouse skepticism with a solution-oriented Audio Logo. To a writer who's been trying to get a book published for years, the promise of getting it published quickly isn't even close to reality. So they can't hear what you're saying. 

4. Problem

Let's go back to the accountant example. He's been getting some results with his solution-oriented Audio Logo, but not enough to satisfy him. So instead he tries a response based on a problem: "I help people in the restaurant business who are tired of paying too much taxes and having terrible cash flow."

When you use a problem-oriented Audio Logo you communicate to your prospect that you understand their suffering. You don't even have to tell them yet what you can do for them. They'll automatically understand:

"Yeah, I'm paying too much in taxes and my cash flow is terrible. I wonder what he has that can help me?" This invariably leads to a "that's for me" response. The accountant is immediately on first base. With a problem-oriented Audio Logo, you hit nerves that none of the other approaches can touch.

Create Your Own Problem-Oriented Audio Logo

What is the big difference between the solution-oriented and problem-oriented Audio Logo? The solution-oriented response is about what the accountant will do. The problem-oriented is about how the prospect is suffering. In the second, one hundred percent of the attention is on the prospect. The accountant is actually out of the picture. And what are people most interested in? Themselves.

To develop a problem-oriented Audio Logo, start with the problems, issues, and challenges your clients face, and express them in simple terms. Don't talk about how you do what you do or even how you can help them; talk about the pain they're going through. This approach may seem negative, but people will respond positively because your words will go to the heart of what's not working in their business. They will immediately want to know what you can do to make things better.

Here are the previous solution-oriented Audio Logos turned around into problem-oriented ones:

"I work for high tech companies whose technical managers are alienating their staffs."

"I help writers who are frustrated that it's taking so long to get that first book published."

"I offer training for leaders who are discouraged that they keep getting beat by the competition."

"I provide equipment for hospitals that are anxious about return on investment." 

You may be amazed by the interested reaction you get from a problem-oriented Audio Logo. People will often respond by telling you in great detail what their problem is, which then gives you the opportunity to discuss your solutions and see if there is a fit.

Perfect Your Swing

Identify the struggle, frustration, discouragement, or anxiety your prospects experience, put it into an Audio Logo, and test it on several people to gauge their reaction. Fine-tune it until it clicks and you'll get a whole new level of attention and interest. You'll be on first base and ready to move towards second.

Keep practicing, but don't worry about getting a home run. Imagine using an Audio Logo and getting this response: "Wow, you help people with that problem? That's incredible! I've been looking for someone like you for years! We have a half million-dollar budget to solve this problem. Is that enough? Can you come over right away?"

Yes, that would be nice, but it's a fantasy. It's not going to happen. Instead, be satisfied with getting prospects onto first base and gradually working them around the bases until you bring them home. 

Ultimately, you'll score more sales.

Learn more about the author, Robert Middleton.

Comment on this article

  • Sales Coach, Success Coach, Business Coach 
Portland, Oregon 
Tshombe Brown
    Posted by Tshombe Brown, Portland, Oregon | Mar 28, 2009

    Robert,

    This is brilliant. I love how you clearly articulate why independent professionals consistently struggle to get to first base and illustrate exactly how to fix this challenge for immediate results.

    Thank you for the step-by-step tutorial, complete with "before" and "after" examples.

    Every indie/solo professional should read and implement this article.

    Too bad there's not a rating higher than a 10, because this one hits the mark.

  • Seattle Business Coach / Seattle Leadership Coach / Executive Coach / Author / Speaker 
Seattle, Washington 
Hsuan-Hua Chang, PCC, LMBA
    Posted by Hsuan-Hua Chang, PCC, LMBA, Seattle, Washington | Mar 28, 2009

    Interesting point. I heard it before and haven't used it much. I am willing to practice the swing!

    Just modified my profile accordingly - "I work with small business owners and leaders who are overwhelmed by tasks and performance."

    Thanks for sharing. Have a good weekend!

  • Markitect 
Berlin, Connecticut 
Bill Doerr
    Posted by Bill Doerr, Berlin, Connecticut | Mar 28, 2009

    Robert --

    As always, a(nother!) insight-full piece on what is arguably the key 'moment-of-truth' where the 'dance' begins . . . for better or worse.

    I still remember the meme training you gave me years ago . . . nice to see you've kept the edges sharpened! Good show!

    Best . . . Bill

  • Personal Trainer for Hair 
Seattle, Washington 
Dawn Renee Mallory
    Posted by Dawn Renee Mallory, Seattle, Washington | Mar 28, 2009

    I have never heard the approach defined as a baseball game, and it is most appropo! I shall be digging into my mind and mouth to make sure I am working on game face getting instead of sales making glaze. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D16Hk-U45v8&fmt=18

  • Interior Designer, Kitchen + Bath Designer 
Seattle, Washington 
Marie Lail Blackburn
    Posted by Marie Lail Blackburn, Seattle, Washington | Mar 28, 2009

    This is great. I like the way you clearly explain how to reframe your thinking to consider your clients' point of view. I'm going to have to dig into this and come up with an "audio logo" that touches my client in a meaningful way. Thank you.

  • Catering 
Seattle, Washington 
Edie Pierson
    Posted by Edie Pierson, Seattle, Washington | Mar 28, 2009

    I have heard this before but it never made an impact on me until now. Thank you. I have some work to do.

  • Brand Consultant 
Phoenix, Arizona 
Ken Peters
    Posted by Ken Peters, Phoenix, Arizona | Mar 28, 2009

    Robert,

    Very interesting. You're articles are always very thought-provoking.

    As I read this, I realized that our biznik profiles offer an opportunity to literally spell out a written version of our Audio Logo. So, I went to your profile to see what yours says. It reads:

    I've been a marketing coach, consultant, speaker, and trainer since 1984. I specialize in working with Independent Professionals such as consultants, coaches, trainers, speakers, and marketing, design and financial professionals.

    Okay, I'm feeling that. I'm a design professional, so I'd be in your core demographic. That is a little longer than the examples in your article. How long do you think is too long for an Audio Logo? Upon reading that I walk away with the idea that you can help me market my business, which will help me make more money. Is that what you want me to leave with (which would be effective, I think), or is it leaving anything out?

    Of course, I had to go to my own biznik profile to see what I'd put there for myself (I'd forgotten). My first sentence reads:

    I give my clients an unfair advantage over their competition by providing great design grounded in smart strategic thinking.

    Give it to me straight... what do you think of it?

    I had forgotten that that was the exact verbiage I had put there. Upon review, I think it stands up pretty well – in an extremely condensed and oversimplified way. My logical mind wants to expand on the idea, but my marketing mind knows it needs to be brief, clever, and impacting.

    I think at Nike it must have gone something like:

    First Draft: We provide shoes and apparel that help people achieve their athletic and fitness goals.

    Second Draft: We help people do it:

    Final: Just do it

    :)

    Thanks for the article

  • Mediator, Legal Advisor, Litigation Attorney, Mediation & Litigation Instructor 
Emeryville, California 
Shahrad Milanfar
    Posted by Shahrad Milanfar, Emeryville, California | Mar 28, 2009

    Well done, Robert!!

  • Merchant Account Consultant 
Los Angeles, California 
James Freeman
    Posted by James Freeman, Los Angeles, California | Mar 28, 2009

    Great post, Rob!

  • Managing Director 
Manchester United Kingdom 
Ian Brodie
    Posted by Ian Brodie, Manchester United Kingdom | Mar 28, 2009

    Robert - great article as ever. For anyone new to Robert's work, I thoroughly recommend Robert's Infoguru manual and other material over at www.actionplan.com. It really changed the way I looked at marketing (and I was already a very experienced marketer).

    Ken, some feedback from me rather than Robert - hope you find it helpful: it's worth remembering that your audio logo to use at a networking meeting is not the same as a tagline on an advert like Nike's. It doesn't have to be so punchy & clever - in fact "clever" can sometimes be counterproductive - it doesn't sound natural in conversation - it sounds preplanned and false like you're trying to sell them something rather than genuinely converse with them.

    In terms of your audio logo I'd say it was generally good - but you need to be more sepecific about which clients you serve and what benefits you bring.

    If you look at Robert's audio logo it's very clear who he helps - independent professionals. (By the way, from listening to some of his audio programmes I'm pretty sure the thing on his site isn't how he'd introduce himself face to face. It would normally be more like "I help independent professionals (such as XYZ) who are struggling to attract as many new clients...")

    He's also clear on the benefits - attracting more clients. Many audio logos are too generic - they say grow sales or (like yours) beat their competition. But you need to be a bit more specific about the problems you help them solve otherwise it just sounds like every elses generic pitch. Is it getting more clients? Lowering costs? Building better long-term relationships - etc.

    Hope that's helpful

    Ian

    PS Robert's audio logo has moved on somewhat to talking about professionals who want to make a contribution - rather than struggling to attract enough new clients. But I felt it easier to explain the problem oriented one.

  • Marketing, Advertising & PR Consultant 
Meadow Vista, California 
Stewart Feldman
    Posted by Stewart Feldman, Meadow Vista, California | Mar 28, 2009

    Robert,

    This article is concise and easy to absorb. No matter whether a business offers a product or service, the model you describe works toward achieving success. Thanks for your insight and experience!

    Stewart

  • Brand Consultant 
Phoenix, Arizona 
Ken Peters
    Posted by Ken Peters, Phoenix, Arizona | Mar 28, 2009

    Ian,

    Thanks for the feedback. The Nike comment was only an attempt at humor :)

    Of course, the text from the biznik profiles was never originally intended to be an audio logo, per se, but I thought it was an interesting experiment to look at a few and see what they said. I personally don't have an "audio logo", but Robert's article got me thinking about one. The text that I cited from my biznik profile is a version of something I use often in my marketing materials, and the "unfair advantage" part has received quite a bit of positive feedback. I was curious what Robert would say about that. Still am.

    As you say, it's one thing to write the statement into something, and another to naturally speak it in conversation. I can't imagine having a conversation where I'd recite that line verbatim. It would sound canned, but frankly, so do the "good" examples cited in the article. I think any audio logo would, because at it's core, it's a sales pitch, and you know when you're being sold, no matter how cleverly.

    It's a tough proposition. I see the benefit. If you're going to have to say something, say it as well as you can. But, parsing what you do down to 20-30 words can be pretty tough. For instance, you said my text was generic, because it didn't say for whom I provided my services. The answer, frankly, is businesses of all sizes in all industries, worldwide. Essentially, everybody and anybody. Our client roster includes start-ups as well as Fortune 75 corporations. How do you parse that down?

    What we do for each client is unique, because each client is unique. The bottom line though, is we use the power of design and branding, grounded in smart strategic thinking, to help them differentiate in a cluttered market, get noticed, make meaningful emotional connections with consumers that create revenue and lead to lasting bonds and brand loyalty. We design and brand every consumer touchpoint, from printed collateral, to the experiences of interacting with a web site, a retail space, a product, an employee, etc. etc. It's incredibly detailed. You see the problem. How do you parse it down, and keep it meaningful? I think you have to advertise to an extent. Be clever, but not too clever. Pique interest so you can expand with something more in depth.

    Great conversation. Thanks for the input.

  • Motivation Analyst and Sales Trainer 
Carmel, California 
John Voris
    Posted by John Voris, Carmel, California | Mar 29, 2009

    I am very familiar with your approach. It is far more effective than any other technique available. I have seen it in action.

    My question is: how do you market something that makes claims that seem impossible?

    What if a simple technique was available to eliminate rejection in the sales environment? That does not mean you will never feel it again but rather you can anticipate it and therefore avoid it.

    Nevertheless, first based is a severe challenge. This is my last obstacle to swift and effective marketing. Any suggestions?

  • Business Development Coach 
Arlington, Texas 
Shallie Bey
    Posted by Shallie Bey, Arlington, Texas | Mar 29, 2009

    Robert, thanks for a great post. I recently learned of the Marketing Ball concept during a conversation with a friend who is one of your students. It is a wonderful way to grasp what one is trying to accomplish at the various steps in the marketing process. I particularly enjoy what you are saying about describing the solution rather than applying a label.

  • Sex Expert, Pleasure Coach 
San Jose, California 
Chrystal Bougon
    Posted by Chrystal Bougon, San Jose, California | Mar 29, 2009

    Love the article and it was great meeting you at our Biznik.com networking meeting last week. I will definitely sign up for your ezine! I am inspired to double check my Biznik profile, too.

  • Managing Director 
Manchester United Kingdom 
Ian Brodie
    Posted by Ian Brodie, Manchester United Kingdom | Mar 30, 2009

    Ken,

    You highlight a really tricky problem for audio logos/elevator pitches - how do you focus down your message to something meaningful that will resonate with people if it's suitable for "everyone"?

    I'm lucky in that I can describe my target clients in a brief sentence. Many other businesses can't because their offer is more "generic" - sounds like you're in that camp. In that case you have a few options:

    1) Talk about your most desired target clients. When I ask a number of my own clients who their products are targeted for they often say "anyone" or "any SME" or somethign similar. But as you know, that makes it really difficult for people to connect or (in the case of people who could refer others to you) to see who could be a referral for you. I find that if I drill further though, even though they have clients ranging from small businesses to giant multi-nationals - in reality the "sweet spot" where they are likely to have most success is more focused - like "North West based manufacturers" or "service businesses with a turnover of between £1m and £20m" or whatever. It might seem that by only mentioning your "sweet spot" you risk losing referrals to good potential clients outside that sweet spot. But the reality is that if you are too generic you tend to get no referrals. Conversely, if you position yourself as specialising in clients in your "sweet spot" it raises perception of you as an expert and you actually get interest from people outside the sweet spot.

    2) Your focus doesn't have to be by client "type" (industry, geography, etc.). It can be by the type of problem they face. For a career counsellor it could be "I help individuals who are struggling to cope with major transitions in their careers" for example. Fo a supply chain consultant it could be "I specialise in helpign companies who have inefficient operations and too much inventory clogging up their system". In your case it could be something like "we help companies who want to make meaningful emotional connections with their customers through...." or something describing either the problem or the desires of companies likely to want to work with you. There must be some characteristics or features of companies likely to be "hot prospects" for you - something to do with what they are looking for and why they would want to work with you rather than an alternative marketing/branding/design firm. It doesn't have to be about what industry they're in or where they are. By focusing on those characteristics you help listeners understand whether they or others are suitable for what you're talking about.

    3) You can use what I call "temporary specialisation". I find that if you focus on specific target clients for a period of time, then move on to other clients in sequence, you end up with better results that in you try to focus on all of them at once with a more generic message. An example: a friend of mine is a business coach who works with all types of client to help them achieve their goals. For ages he went to a regular networking/leads swapping event and got very few referrals - despite being an excellent coach and very articulate. What he did was just too intangible for other group members to see who it applied to. However, one week he mentioned to the group that he would soon be running a workshop for therapists to help them to earn more money ethically. That week he got 8 referrals and continued to get more referrals to therapists over the next 6 months without ever mentioning it again. He was able to "temporarily specialise" in this way for limited time periods (for example on financial advisers a month or so later) and get far more referrals and clients than using his more generic positioning.

    This is obviously not an easy area with simple answers. But the more you can find a way help the people you are talking to understand who your services would be of the most benefit to; the more business you are likely to win.

    Ian

  • Brand Consultant 
Phoenix, Arizona 
Ken Peters
    Posted by Ken Peters, Phoenix, Arizona | Mar 30, 2009

    Ian,

    Thanks for the response and your thoughtful insight.

    Again, I see the potential value of wordsmithing a good audio logo, but I'm not sure if you're doing yourself more harm than good. If we're at an event, and I ask you what you do, and your response is, "I provide equipment for hospitals that gives a six month return on investment", you've immediately annoyed me. Why? Because the answer borders on a snarky dodge of saying outright that you're a salesman. You've given me the impression that you're avoiding a direct answer, and I'm wondering why. I'm also wondering what the equipment you sell is, but frankly, I don't really care, because I don't like that you're sacrificing being direct for "setting me up" with a clever line. Essentially, an answer like that is akin to saying, "I maintain the community to ensure safe, clean, and healthy living and working environments," when what you mean to say is, "I'm a garbage man".

    On a slightly different, but related note...

    A very powerful – but often far too neglected – business tool is your business card. In any networking situation where an audio logo is important, a business card is "mission critical". The card is the tangible object people will keep, and what they will use to remember you long after the event is over. As a designer, I have a rather unique card (I'd better). Aside from metaphorically and visually denoting what I do, it takes the unusual step of literally spelling it out. The following paragraph is what appears on the front of my card (the logo stands alone on the back). When reading this, you must imagine you're holding a card with three rounded corners, and one square corner:

    Hello. For your safety and well being, this unique business card has been thoughtfully designed with three rounded corners. While we’re not aware of any statistics regarding business-card-related injuries, we feel it stands to reason that a business card with three rounded corners is at least 75% safer than your average business card. (Sure, we could have rounded all four corners, but what would life be without a little risk?) We hope this attention to detail fosters good will and communicates our commitment to smart design. When you think about it, this card neatly sums up what it is that we do best: Look out for our clients’ interests by creating good will through smart design and communication that’s always well rounded and sometimes a little edgy. That’s us. Nocturnal Graphic Design Studio, LLC. Ken Peters, Creative Director ken@nocturnaldesign.com ph: 480.688.4207 View samples from our portfolio at www.nocturnaldesign.com

    Yep, that's ALL on the card (of course, it's designed for maximum legibility with a clean, sans serif font, appropriate leading and kerning, and margins that keep it from looking "stuffed" onto the card). It's a lot, but people read it EVERY TIME I hand out my card. And, EVERY TIME they laugh, and comment how much they like it.

    Our conversation got me thinking about how much that text works like an audio logo.

    When I hand that card out in a meeting it becomes a topic of conversation for a few minutes. People love it. It immediately sets forth what I do, what I'm about, and establishes that I'm creative, and look at things differently. It illustrates that I can take an ordinary and ubiquitous object like a business card, and do something incredibly unique with it, and communicate creatively.

    Recently, when I went to a networking event, the card became the star. It rippled throughout the event, was passed around, and people were actually hunting through the crowd looking for their connections saying, "you've got to see this guy's card". I passed out tons of cards that night, and it opened the doors to a lot of conversations.

    I guess what I'm getting at is that your audio logo, and your card, and everything else about you, should work together to create a cohesive branded impression. As they say, you only get one chance to make a first impression, so make a good one.

    Ken

  • Marketing Coach-Consultant 
Boulder Creek, California 
Robert  Middleton
    Posted by Robert Middleton, Boulder Creek, California | Mar 30, 2009

    Hi Everyone,

    I've been so busy over the past few days that I didn't even realize my article had been published, let alone commented on so much. Great discussion here, especially between Ian and Ken.

    Let me make a few general comments. An Audio Logo serves a few purposes. One is to get the attention and interest of a potential client. The other is to be grounded about your own business.

    Since marketing is about communication, if you have a vague, confusing or indistinct message you are neither getting the attention you want nor are you clear yourself about what you offer.

    The first thing is to get very clear about what you offer. There are actually four parts to your marketing message and I call this "Marketing Syntax."

    1. Your target market. Perhaps the most important of all. You must have a very clear idea of who your ideal clients are.

    2. Your problem/challenge/pain statement. What is not working or missing for your ideal clients? If there isn't a problem, why do they need you in the first place?

    3. Your solution/outcome statement. What do your clients get if they work with you? What's that big outcome that you can promise?

    4. Story. What's an example of a ideal client who had a problem that you provided a solution for? Sometimes, the story format, by itself, is the most effective Audio Logo because it's a real example of working with a real person who had a real problem and ultimately got a real result.

    What you need to watch out for is trying to get your Audio Logo perfect. No such thing. Instead, make sure it's real and that after using it someone gets a real sense of who you work with and what you can do for them. Then they'll want to know more.

    The other mistake is to think that the Audio Logo is the most important part of the marketing process for Independent Professionals; it's not.

    The most important part is what follows - what I call the "Marketing Conversation."

    I see people use perfect Audio Logos who have no clue about what to do once they get the attention and interest of someone! Remember, even if you use a great Audio Logo, nobody is going to jump up and down excitedly and throw money at you!

    The Audio Logo is just a way to start a conversation that can lead to an appointment and then lead to a sale.

    And almost everyone is hopeless at this.

    At a recent networking event I met a young man whose service I was interest in. His message was fine - I got what he did and it got my attention. And then he filled me in on some of the details which was fine as well. And then I gave him my card and told him to call me. And then he said, "Ok, I'll call you or you call me, whatever." Well, he hasn't called!

    That's what I call "blowing the marketing conversation."

    I'd bet more on a person who can have a conversation that leads to a follow up call and an appointment, than on someone who used a perfect Audio Logo and waited for everyone to call them back.

    Perhaps I'll write next about Marketing Conversations. I promise you, that they are one of the big keys to attracting all the clients you need.

    Cheers, Robert

    P.S. I cover all of this in my in-depth online program called "The Fast Track to More Clients," which is part of my Action Plan Marketing Club. Please check it out!

  • Int'l Freight Forwarding 
Auburn, Washington 
Cheryl Wilson
    Posted by Cheryl Wilson, Auburn, Washington | Mar 31, 2009

    Absolutely wonderful! I am new to marketing and have been struggling. Thanks so much for the detail. I have alot of work to do.

  • Marketing Coach-Consultant 
Boulder Creek, California 
Robert  Middleton
    Posted by Robert Middleton, Boulder Creek, California | Mar 31, 2009

    Hi Cheryl, the reason people struggle is that they have no idea what they are doing, but think they do! Marketing is not magical, it is a discipline that is very practical.

    However it took me years to decode this discipline because most small businesses and marketing books are about tactics and strategies, not the underlying workings of how people are actually attracted to a business.

    Good luck. But before you go to work, make sure you study what works!

    Cheers, Robert

  • Sales Coach, Success Coach, Business Coach 
Portland, Oregon 
Tshombe Brown
    Posted by Tshombe Brown, Portland, Oregon | Mar 31, 2009

    Hey thanks, Robert. I think you're brilliant.

    I also think a great follow-up to this would be to submit the newsletter article (some content of which you already included above about the health insurance salesman who still hasn't followed up with you -- who was probably too disorganized to do so. Let's just hope he's somehow on your newsletter list, or on Biznik reading this right now) you mailed out today to your list, titled "It's NOT the economy, stupid!"

  • Marketing Coach-Consultant 
Boulder Creek, California 
Robert  Middleton
    Posted by Robert Middleton, Boulder Creek, California | Apr 01, 2009

    Hi, Tshombe, I just submitted that article, with a little editing. You can find it under my profile now.

    Cheers, Robert

  • metaphysical shop owner, counselor, and reader 
Renton, Washington 
Jeannie Keyes
    Posted by Jeannie Keyes, Renton, Washington | Apr 02, 2009

    Enjoyed the article, Robert! Also, enjoyed the comments and the comments on the comments. Marketing has been my major problem and I love your ideas. They prompted my creative juices immediately - so much so that I had to keep pulling myself out of reverie because I wanted MORE info. I was also thinking that I wish I could turn on a lamp and take notes - I'm in bed and can't sleep and noticed the message flashing on my blkbry so here I am. Now battery is going. Thanks for article! Jeannie

  • Life, Prosperity, and Small Business Coach. Author. Speaker. Trainer. Singer/Songwriter. 
Seattle, Washington 
Kate Phillips
    Posted by Kate Phillips, Seattle, Washington | Apr 02, 2009

    Fantastic article, Robert. I've always thought the "problem/solution" thing sounded a little too "pat," and I live the idea of focusing on the problem - identifying the problem!

    Also enjoyed what Ken had to say... now I want a business card!

  • Optician/Owner 
Seattle, Washington 
Michele Bayle
    Posted by Michele Bayle, Seattle, Washington | Apr 02, 2009

    Robert, you got me to first base! You know when you have a "sticky" description of your business when people what to know more. Your article was perfect for me and I look forward to using my new found knowledge.

    I will read more on your page.

    Here is my new sound bite: Wink Eyewear does more than enable you to see…our styles ensure that your personality is more fully seen.

  • multi-media artist 
cincinnati, Ohio 
sabrina mantle
    Posted by sabrina mantle, cincinnati, Ohio | Apr 02, 2009

    Great article! Makes the concept easy to understand and I can see how that would really work, just have to think a little about how I could apply that to my art biz. Have to admit one of my problems is I have had time defining what owning my art does for a client, how is it different from all the other art in the world. What problems do they have I could solve...hmm...

  • Yoga instructor 
Redmond, Washington 
Lesley Hobbs
    Posted by Lesley Hobbs, Redmond, Washington | Apr 02, 2009

    Robert, Thank you for your timely post. Hitting the right note in my "elevator" spiel has proven difficult and your article's attention to detail and precise suggestions are valuable. I'm looking forward to what you have to say about Marketing Conversations.

  • Yoga instructor 
Redmond, Washington 
Lesley Hobbs
    Posted by Lesley Hobbs, Redmond, Washington | Apr 02, 2009

    Robert, Thank you for your timely post. Hitting the right note in my "elevator" spiel has proven difficult and your article's attention to detail and precise suggestions are valuable. I'm looking forward to what you have to say about Marketing Conversations.

  • Owner Floatation Center 
San Francisco, California 
Kane Mantyla
    Posted by Kane Mantyla, San Francisco, California | Apr 02, 2009

    I help people who feel like they don't have enough time to take care of all of their responsibilities including their health and personal happiness.

    How do I do that, you ask???

    I assist busy people into the deepest relaxation achievable; resulting in optimized health, increased productivity, and deep joy in this very moment.


    How did I do coach :) www.floatmatrix.com

  • Business Owner 
Fountain Valley, California 
Tom Tolman
    Posted by Tom Tolman, Fountain Valley, California | Apr 02, 2009

    Hi Robert:

    Nicely done. I think you cover a lot of salient ground in a simple straightforward way. If you are a baseball fan you know that practicing/perfecting fundamentals are the key to consistent success. I do think that you may even be able to stretch a "single into a double" if you could include the USP "unique selling proposition" of your product or service into the audio logo. For example:

    "I help writers who are frustrated that it's taking so long to get that first book published." USP-We have found that our specialized training reduces the amount of time that a writer gets published by six months.

    "I offer training for leaders who are discouraged that they keep getting beat by the competition." USP- After our unique one on one training, leaders have found that they have been able to eliminate or compete head to head with their largest competitors immediately.

    "I provide equipment for hospitals that are anxious about return on investment." USP-In fact we guarantee a 100% return on their investment in our equipment within six months.

    This should then be able to briefly but completely describe what you do and differentiate yourself from competition at the same time.

    Thanks again!

  • R E Broker/Trainer/Speaker/Coach 
San Francisco, California 
Larisa Troche
    Posted by Larisa Troche, San Francisco, California | Apr 02, 2009

    Robert, Excellent as always, of course. And exceedingly timely because I was once again in the throes of a mental conversation about sytematizing my businesses - even to thinking of scripts, and your baseball analogy really creates a useful visual which will help me fill in some of the blanks. And the quality of the comment streams made me slow down and read through for the additional tips. Thanks!

  • Speaker/Trainer/Health Coach/ Intl. Business Developer 
Bellingham, Washington 
Carrie Stone
    Posted by Carrie Stone, Bellingham, Washington | Apr 02, 2009

    Great post!! I have heard training on elevator speeches before, but this is the best! Very useful and helpful for anyone in any profession.

  • Investments/Financial Planning 
Gig Harbor/Tacoma/Seattle/Bellevue, Washington 
Cheri Johnson
    Posted by Cheri Johnson, Gig Harbor/Tacoma/Seattle/Bellevue, Washington | Apr 02, 2009

    I am struggling with sounding either too specific or too general. I develop and manage financial and investment strategies for individuals, families and business owners to help them reach financial goals. Each of those groups have distinctly different needs, so how do I sound relevant and solution-based without sounding stuffy and generic? Even reading my comments here makes me sound boring. The truth is, my personal style is warm and client-focused. How do I put that into an audio logo? C.

  • Marketing Coach-Consultant 
Boulder Creek, California 
Robert  Middleton
    Posted by Robert Middleton, Boulder Creek, California | Apr 02, 2009

    Thanks for all the comments everyone. Looks like this article hit a home run!

    Cheri, start by thinking of the problems, worries and concerns people have about investing right now. Now is a good time to talk about that. I have 100% of my money out of the stock market and have no idea what to do right now.

    If I heard someone say, "We work with people who are confused and scared about investing right now and don't know what to do," you'd have my undivided attention.

    It's funny, that no matter how many times I tell people to "talk about problems first,"instead, they come up with a solution statement a good percentage of the time.

    Think problem, pain, predicament, challenge, issue, struggle, frustration, what's missing and what's not working. Then articulate that in a very straightforward way: "I work with people who have problem X."

    Why is this so hard? Because you are focused on the wrong person - you - and what you do. And nobody really cares about that. When you talk problems, the focus is not on you but on the prospect.

    With a little practice, this becomes natural and because you get better response when you do this, you tend to keep doing it!

    Cheers, Robert

  • Marketing Coach-Consultant 
Boulder Creek, California 
Robert  Middleton
    Posted by Robert Middleton, Boulder Creek, California | Apr 02, 2009

    By the way, you can't put how you are being in an Audio Logo. It's hopeless. Just be that way. You can't pretend how you are being or that, "I'm a warm and client-focused financial planner." Won't work.

    Just find a way to communicate this warmly and with client-focus: "We work with people who are confused and scared about investing right now and don't know what to do."

    Cheers, Robert

  • Marketing Coach-Consultant 
Boulder Creek, California 
Robert  Middleton
    Posted by Robert Middleton, Boulder Creek, California | Apr 02, 2009

    Tom,

    Your Problem-focused Audio Logos followed by the Outcome or Solution are perfect... except...

    You never want to say these right after each other. You want to let the problem sink in and wait for a response. Then you can reply with the Outcome statement.

    This is where we get into the art of the Marketing Conversation. What you say is important, but when and how you say it is just as important. Timing is everything.

    Often people are saying a lot of the right things but they are not listening closely enough and trying to "score points" with the perfect words. Again, hopeless. Use your problem-oriented Audio Logo and then spend the rest of the time listening.

    There are exceptions. One a cold call, you'd probably want to use both. If you are standing up and introducing yourself at a networking group, you'd also want to follow the problem with the outcome.

    The key to making this work is to look at how people actually react and respond, not like you want them to.

    What we want is for people to jump up and down excitedly when we tell what we do and preferably throw money at us! Ain't gonna happen. Marketing is a step-by-step process where you get some attention and then work at developing a relationship.

    Cheers, Robert

  • Investments/Financial Planning 
Gig Harbor/Tacoma/Seattle/Bellevue, Washington 
Cheri Johnson
    Posted by Cheri Johnson, Gig Harbor/Tacoma/Seattle/Bellevue, Washington | Apr 02, 2009

    Excellent. Thanks. Oh, by the way, "I work with people who are confused and scared about the investment markets right now and don't know what to do!" I would be happy to share some ideas with you, please contact me if you'd like to discuss your situation! C.

  • Professional Organizer & Productivity Consultant 
Lake Stevens, Washington 
Monika Kristofferson
    Posted by Monika Kristofferson, Lake Stevens, Washington | Apr 03, 2009

    Great information-thank you for taking the time to share it!

    Monika

  • Practical Marketing Expert, Business Lifestyle Architect, Speaker, Author 
Seattle, Washington 
Stacy Karacostas
    Posted by Stacy Karacostas, Seattle, Washington | Apr 03, 2009

    Hi Robert, First, let me extend an official welcome to the Biznik community. I've followed your work for years (we're in the same field) and always agree with what you have to say.

    I've found the problem-oriented elevator speech to be really effective and fun, because you see people nodding in agreement so you know you've struck a chord. Love that!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Stacy

    Stacy Karacostas Practical Marketing Expert http://www.success-stream.com

  • Seattle Interior Designer & Organizer 
Seattle, Washington 
Sara Eizen
    Posted by Sara Eizen, Seattle, Washington | Apr 03, 2009

    What is left to say about this incredible, well of information of an article that hasn't already been said? I wish I could say I've taken the time to read all the comments but I haven't been able to because I'm so engrossed with what you put in the article. I actually cut & pasted the 4 steps you called out on creating the audio logo and plan on working on mine over the weekend. Thank you Robert for sharing your knowledge, articles like this are one of the best parts of being a Biznik!!!! Look forward to reading more of your articles.

  • Leadership & Life Coach 
Kingston, Ontario Canada 
Marcia Dorfman
    Posted by Marcia Dorfman, Kingston, Ontario Canada | Apr 04, 2009

    Robert - I learned this from you years ago, and clearly have forgotten it! i.e about expressing the pain or suffering my potential client is experiencing. I know exactly how I am going to amend my audio logo now. I love the Marketing Ball metaphor - it's so visual that the picture is embedded in my brain now. Thank you so much.

    p.s. I work with busy professionals who are overwhelmed by the pressures of work and life and want to dare to be in charge of their own destiny!

  • Interior Design Maven 
Mercer Island, Washington 
Dawn Wilkinson
    Posted by Dawn Wilkinson, Mercer Island, Washington | Apr 09, 2009

    Very valuable information, thank you for sharing. Recognizing that I'm doing some things right on, and other areas that are need of an overhaul!

  • Managing Director 
Manchester United Kingdom 
Ian Brodie
    Posted by Ian Brodie, Manchester United Kingdom | Jul 09, 2009

    Ken,

    A hugely belated reply to your point about the "audio logo" sounding a bit false or like you're avoiding the question "what do you do?".

    You make a good point. I get really frustrated by people who say thing like "I help CEOs sleep better at night" or "I'm changing the world of education one school at a time". It just comes across as cheesy.

    But I don't think an audio logo in the form Robert suggests comes across that way. In fact it's much more helpful than saying "I'm an accountant" or "I'm a builder". What does that really mean? Who do I provide my services to? What do they get out of it?

    Where I do think there's a big danger is in coming across as too scripted. If I ask someone what they do and I get the impression that they are just playing back a script they've run through a thousand times then I instantly switch off. They're not connecting with me, they're just going through the motions.

    I know I've certainly fallen into the trap of sounding too scripted or pre-prepared before and I've had to work at getting more spontaneous and "in the moment". It's a tricky one to avoid. Mike Schultz wrote a good article on this subject which complements Robert's: http://www.servicesmarketingblog.com/answering-the-most-difficult-question-in-all-of-business

    Ian

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