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Beyond Branding: What Is Your Unique Selling Proposition?

Beyond Branding: What Is Your Unique Selling Proposition? by Dave Bresler

I am pleased to share the results of another Around the Horn forum session. The question at hand, this time, was, “What is your USP?” USP stands for Unique Selling Proposition—what sets you apart from the pack.

It’s a People Thing

People-centered philosophies were the focus for many of our participants. Their USPs dealt with themes like empathy and trust.

As a consultant at the session said, “People do business with you first, then your product, and finally, the company.” Your USP is the reason people want to do business with you instead of your competitor. People do business with people.

A mover said, “I don’t manage moves; I manage emotions.” A consultant said she “zeroes in on how to set up stories.”

A CPA called herself “a human being who empathizes with her clients and knows the ins and outs of tax and audit.” She said she “bridges the gap to financial literacy.” Similarly, a financial advisor called herself “the champion and personal CFO” for her clients.

Someone who does telecommunication audits—finding areas where his clients are being billed too much and could be saving money—said, “I don’t talk about business. I become a friend and give of myself.”

Master of the Trade

USPs also frequently focused on expertise. People like to know they are getting the best for their money.

The mover who said he manages emotions also said, “We offer a handheld, unique, guided, specific service.” He said he “will walk away from jobs,” as well, showing that he cares about quality more than quantity.

One participant—an attorney who is on a panel of 15 attorneys who advise the state judicial system and has significant visibility in the New York marketplace—said his small firm is a “sophisticated firm offering large-firm employment and litigation support at small-firm rates.”

An IT services provider said he “has a pedigree.” He said, “I was the IT director at a financial firm and am a cyber security expert. I protect the data integrity of my clients.”

About 25 years ago, during the early days of the Internet, someone said of his IT business, “In the age of the Information Superhighway, we provide the seatbelts and airbags.”

A USP Is Not a Platitude

There might be dozens or even hundreds of other companies a client could choose from, all of which provide the same product or service you provide. A good unique selling proposition tells your potential clients why they should choose you over all those competitors.

It’s not enough to say you’re bigger, better, faster, smarter. Those are platitudes.

Simply saying you “provide a good service” is like saying you breathe. Everyone does that. What makes you different? What makes you appear special to potential clients? What will they get from you that they won’t get elsewhere?

“Branding” is a clichéd buzzword these days, but what it really boils down to is this: “What do people think of when they think of you?” When someone says Coca-Cola or IBM or Google, you immediately have a perception of what those names signify. That’s what makes those brands who they are.

What makes you stand out from the crowd? What do people think of when they hear your company’s name? Feel free to share your USP.

Dave Bresler
President of Network!Network!
Phone: 914-924-1297
Contact us using this online form.

How to Present Like a Pro

How to Present Like a Pro by Dave Bresler

We’ve all attended numerous presentations at functions such as trade shows. We’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly.

But what makes good presentations good? Remember that speaking engagements often lead to connections, providing you with a wellspring of prospects or lead sources. This was the discussion at a recent Around the Horn forum session. A financial advisor in attendance pointed out that he has never spoken in a meeting where he has not gotten at least one lead. Don’t underestimate the potential returns from a good presentation!

So how do you make a good presentation?

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What Can You Do in Your Business During a Slow Period? If Business Is Slow, Do You Rest?

What Can You Do in Your Business During a Slow Period? If Business Is Slow, Do You Rest? by Dave Bresler

Last October, during a recent Around the Horn session, a business owner asked what he could do during a slow period. 

  • The first suggestion was an obvious one — don’t stop marketing your business, both in high and low demand periods.
  • The next recommendation came from a group member who works as a professional presentation instructor: Take the show on the road and make presentations at trade shows and conventions.
  • A marketing consultant commented that if the business owner hunkered down in difficult times, it’s already too late. Instead, they should have taken steps to make themselves top of mind, thus farming referrals during the good times.
  • Another idea was to use interns to do prep work so the business owner can do more important things.

The corollary is you should always have a full pipeline. Track your referrals! I always say, “If you don’t know where your referrals come from, track your business and you’ll find them — then be good to those who refer you.” In other words, give them referrals when appropriate or do something nice for them so that you stay top of mind.

What do you do during a slow period in your business?

Dave Bresler
President of Network!Network!
Phone: 914-924-1297
Contact us using this online form.

What Happens When a Client Sees You as an Employee?

What Happens When a Client Sees You as an Employee by Dave Bresler

As an independent contractor, what happens if a client treats you like an employee? This question was asked of attendees at a recent Around the Horn session.

There were many great suggestions on how to handle this issue

  • Stop giving free advice! Billing clients is one way of calling their attention to the fact that maybe their behavior is not appropriate. 
  • Don’t give clients the actual solution — keep them interested. 
  • Point them in the direction of the solution (if your business is not solution-oriented). 
  • Have a contract. A contract states the terms of engagement and the client either signs it or you, as the business owner, don’t engage. Many creatives tend not to have contracts. 
  • Have an agenda with goals for every meeting. Without an agenda, meetings tend to be directionless. 
  • Write a tight spec so when clients ask you for extras, you can point out that their request is not in the original spec and then provide them an estimate of how much that extra work will cost. 
  • Be candid, respectful and specific: define what’s billable (in the spec) and what isn’t (not in the spec). 

How have you handled the issue of a client treating you like an employee? Let us know! Visit Network!Network!

Dave Bresler
President of Network!Network!
Phone: 914-924-1297
Contact us using this online form.

Knowing When to Walk Away

Knowing When to Walk Away by Dave Bresler

When should you walk away from potential business?

This was the question posed during a recent Around the Horn session. The answers were as varied as the members of the group:

  • A sales trainer believed that time is critical. If you believe a potential customer is not ready, be upfront with them, then walk away. 
  • A consultant said an account is only an account when it pays. Ask the prospect and believe them when they say they’re bad customers. If your culture and style don’t fit with the client, don’t do business together. Be transparent – don’t let secrets get in the way. The way you do anything is the way you do everything
  • An investment advisor said not to do business with people who won’t comply, which makes perfect sense. 
  • A graphic and web designer said to identify your ideal client, stay near that ideal, then understand the warning signs that show they’re not ideal. 

Look for a qualifier – ask what the prospect’s decision criteria is. If they don’t have any criteria, even if they have a budget, you don’t know if you’ll be paid because you don’t know what you have to do to satisfy their needs. 

To qualify a prospect, you want to find out if

    • They have a budget and the money is actually allocated.
    • They have a timeline.
    • You are dealing with a decision maker, not just someone who’s going to recommend you.
    • They have an approved project.

People will tell you who they are. During an interview with a prospect, follow your gut – if you think someone’s the wrong number, 99 times out of 100, they are.

Dave Bresler
President of Network!Network!
Phone: 914-924-1297
Contact us using this online form.

When Approaching a Potential Customer, Always Go for No!

When Approaching a Potential Customer, Always Go for No! by Dave Bresler

What do you do as a business professional when a prospect won’t follow up? This was one of the concerns from a member during a recent Around the Horn session. There were many suggestions for how to handle this challenge:

  • Always go for no. You don’t want to deal with wishy-washy people. You want to make sure you’re not wasting time with somebody who’s not going do business with you—it will save you energy because you won’t have to deal with somebody who’s not a real prospect, irrespective of any of the other qualifying questions.
  • Call the potential customer—if you can get them on the phone, you can have a conversation with them. Remind them where and when you met and ask if they have any questions.
  • Send an email and ask if the prospect has any questions—if you don’t hear back, it’s no. Make a telephone call or re-forward the email with the subject line “Did you get my email?” If they do not seem to be following up, use your judgement. You could ask if you can call them in 6 months, and if they’re real, this will provoke a response.
  • Perhaps the prospect needs to be at a crisis point—they need to feel the pain. They may not be ready to make a decision, or maybe they’re not getting back to you because they have nothing to add to the conversation. You need to ascertain whether or not they have a sufficient level of pain to be in a position to make a decision.
  • Don’t feel bad if a prospect doesn’t return your calls—it’s not personal. You may have found somebody who seemed very enthusiastic about doing business in the beginning, and then after a while, they changed their mind.
  • Put them on a business newsletter email list and include helpful tips that keep you top of mind—always a good marketing tool.

The expertise shared during this Around the Horn session came from various professionals with years of experience, including an IT consultant, the owner of a trade show marketing service company, and a woman who once owned a company with her husband but is now entrenched in corporate America.

Dave Bresler
President of Network!Network!
Phone: 914-924-1297
Contact us using this online form.

How Can You Deal with a Bumpy Market?

How Can You Deal with a Bumpy Market by Dave Bresler

When markets move, how can any negative effects it may have on your enterprise be reduced? This was the question posed from a business owner during a recent Around the Horn session.

One of the group members commented that it’s a matter of critical mass. Anticipate the bump and bring on interns (typically for low pay). Have these interns complete other duties when demand is low. Someone else pointed out that students make good interns, especially students in your field.

Another member suggested that the business owner makes their team more efficient so more work gets done in less time. This is not always possible, of course, but making processes more efficient would help. Another suggestion was for the entrepreneur to be the champion for a new plan or process.

How have you made your business more stable during a bumpy period?

Dave Bresler
President of Network!Network!
Phone: 914-924-1297
Contact us using this online form.

How Do You Create Depth Within Your Organization?

How Do You Create Depth Within Your Organization? by Dave Bresler

As a business owner, what happens if you want to take some time away from the daily operations of your business? Do you have someone with whom you are confident in their abilities to handle the reins, to manage the helm?

You must find subordinates who can fill in for you if you go on vacation (or so you can go on vacation). You will also need support if you and/or members of your family fall ill, or if you have other obligations that must be honored.

Here are a few suggestions on finding that right person to fill your shoes in your absence:

  • “Don’t simply delegate; teach them how to run the business. This will inspire and generate leaders rather than people who just ‘do the job.’”
  • “When a subordinate comes up with solutions, they own it.”
  • “Infrastructure and Process will enable both your time away and also contribute to an exit/succession plan.”
  • “Identifying the right person, obviously, is critical to the success of this process.”
  • “Find people who can deal with people and then train them to do the technical work.”
  • “Look in odd places – waiters, service personnel who come to support your business.”
  • “Communicate and be transparent: What are the possibilities? What do they need to improve in order to be considered? What is happening in the marketplace and in the business that they should be aware of?”
  • “Create an atmosphere where everyone is valued for who they are. The cream will rise.”

Avoid burnout and find someone to take the reins so you can rest and recharge your batteries. For more tips and ideas, visit Network!Network!

Dave Bresler
President of Network!Network!
Phone: 914-924-1297
Contact us using this online form.

Is Cold Calling Giving You the Chills?

Is Cold Calling Giving You the Chills? By Dave Bresler

{Read in 2.5 minutes} How do we get back to a less digital, more personal kind of marketing? It used to be possible to reach a potential client by picking up the phone and – if you could convince the gatekeeper to put you through – you could gain a brand new connection.

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Learning From Your Peers At Network!Network!

Learning From Your Peers At Network!Network! By Dave Bresler

Network!Network! is a New York-based networking group for business leaders from all sectors.

The power of learning from others’ experiences is on full display each time Network!Network! holds one of its 12 monthly roundtables. One of our favorite parts of each meeting is what we call Around the Horn.

During the Around the Horn session, business owners help each other by detailing challenging situations they have faced. The other group members may ask questions to assure that they understand the problem, and then offer an analogous experience they have had, along with the manner in which they dealt with it so that the person with the problem can craft his or her own solution from the experiences of the others. Below we have selected two situations that members have experienced, along with suggested solutions:

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