You’ve already seen variations of these “predictions” written hundreds of times since last fall. It’s likely you’ve been asked “what’s our strategy for video?” or “what’s our budget for visuals?” The trap is being set: You’re about to spend money without a clear strategy or direction. Read more…
If your product or service is truly one-of-a-kind and in demand, congratulations. For you, the name of the game is to practice mistake-free marketing. If, on the other hand, your offer is only slightly differentiated – especially within a crowded market – it can be a never-ending challenge to stand out.
Retweeting, liking and referencing the thoughts of others, especially those who command massive online audiences, isn’t a bad start. But it’s not thought leadership. True thought leadership is available in only a few flavors including original insights (notice I didn’t say content, because that isn’t, ipso facto, valuable), “relatable stories” and strong arguments made boldly and publicly. There may be others, but let’s focus on these three.
The HIMSS18 show floor is about to open and you’re psyching yourself up with Alec Baldwin’s line from Glengarry Glen Ross, “always be closing!” But I’m going to suggest that you adjust your approach this year: instead, challenge yourself to always be listening.
Yes, many sales techniques encourage you to start with questions, but these are mostly for qualifying a prospect, not for truly engaging with them. To engage, you must listen actively, stitching together a potentially circuitous thread of answers on the fly to construct a narrative. This unique narrative is what will ultimately help you close – albeit several conversations later, however.
Active questioning and listening is your direct pathway to a prospect’s heart and mind. It’s a way to connect your story to theirs in a meaningful way. But it must start with them and their unique challenges. And, according to researchers, asking many follow-up questions, assuming they are not gratuitous, can actually increase your likeability.
Over the past few HIMSS conferences, I’ve closely studied interactions taking place in booths, the food courts, cocktail receptions and common areas. I’ve played the prospect, worked the booth and done my own prospecting with potential clients. Although my observations are far from scientific, without exception the longest and most animated exchanges were those where the obvious “vendor” was asking and nodding more than presenting. Likewise, my best conversations were certainly asymmetrical: Let’s call it 70/30 in favor of them.
So, what does this mean for you at HIMSS? I’d suggest at least a 60/40 split in favor of listening. And, to prepare for active listening, consider these skills we teach our “brand journalists” as they prepare to engage with patients, physicians, practice managers, hospital executives, payer executives and others across healthcare to build stories for our clients:
· Know your industry well, especially any breaking news that could be on the mind of the person to whom you’re speaking (subscribe to a few news feeds on your phone and consult them during breakfast – consider Modern Healthcare, Politico eHealth and FierceHealthcare).
· Develop a set of starter questions to get the ball rolling for each new conversation – begin more personally (what’s your role? what are you learning here?) and then move into their unique challenges and existing workarounds.
· Resist the temptation to insert your messaging and phrasing into their narrative – you want to understand their challenges and how they describe them, not simply deliver your messages (at least not yet). Don’t finish their sentences or give them words – it’s okay if they pause.
· Don’t rush them, even if it’s clear they’re not a buyer – what they can teach you through listening now can be a valuable asset for future conversations with legitimate prospects.
· Write down notes after each conversation, perhaps in the notes app on your phone – even a few keywords can help you discern patterns that will inform subsequent conversations during and after HIMSS.
Much is written today about brand storytelling – after all, it’s the foundation for our business, but this “skillset” isn’t always part of booth training or sales training overall. Some are born with it. Others must work to develop it. If you’re in the latter camp, I’d suggest starting with active listening as described above. And, if you’ll be going to HIMSS18, why not start that listening this year?
If you’d like to learn more about active listening, brand storytelling or brand journalism, drop me a line or, better yet, let’s set up some time to listen to one another at HIMSS18 in Vegas.
We’re told that some aspiring journalists are first assigned their own obituary. It teaches them how hard it is to capture meaning in a few words. Try doing your own, you’ll see.
Great journalists don’t rely on words, they rely on stories. Marketers agonize over single words or phrases, but they’d be better off investing in capturing stories.
Investing time in the story – that’s our secret. No shortcuts allowed. Our agency practices brand journalism, and here’s why you want it: Our approach produces more engaging content that performs better across earned, owned and paid media.
Brand journalism isn’t just an eloquent (or algorithmic) assemblage of words. We, like the counterparts we admire in traditional journalism, search for meaning in a story by literally reporting on it authentically, honestly and objectively. Your brand’s story isn’t a story without a someone in need at its center.
In our case, clients are the story, and we are happy stewards of their brands. As I step into a new role as general manager, I am certain of one thing: Here, your story will be well told. I’m certain because I know the investments we’re making in people, partnerships and processes to advance the craft of brand journalism.
Let me leave you with a job description recently posted for the Sacramento Business Journal. What struck me was that if I changed just a few words, it would largely describe skills we look for in new hires (…source building, sharp interviewing techniques, strong analytical and investigative reporting skills, clear writing, document use). Doesn’t sound like your typical PR person does it?
If you’re interested in brand journalism or simply want to compare experiences, shoot me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What if the next big blue-collar job was coding? That’s the question posed in a recent Wired story. The author asks, “What if we regarded code not as a high-stakes, sexy affair, but the equivalent of skilled work at a Chrysler plant?” Put into terms a “Trumped up” country would certainly understand, coding clearly needs a PR campaign, not just to make it approachable to blue collar workers, but also so that our president can better grasp the economics of lifting his base. Rhetoric won’t open the coal mine, but one can make a living coding within eyesight of the nearest mine shaft.
Excerpt from Scott Bauman’s LinkedIn Article, Read More…