Posts Tagged ‘Target’

The Baseball Rule of Personal Branding

Friday, January 8th, 2010

StrikeThree strikes and you’re out. You may do all the personal branding and business marketing imaginable. But, if you can’t move through the bases of new business development, you’re OUT.

Marketing is getting easy and easier. But your sales from social media marketing are probably getting worse, if you see any results at all. Why? You’re only ready to strike out. You’re not prepared for success.

Here’s what I mean. Marketing is really simple now. Just tweet and link to your website or article.  That gets you in the game really fast.

Over time, you attract followers – including qualified prospects. This means people (like me) need what you’re selling – and have money to pay you. We click on relevant tweets with links. That gets us onto your website or an article you’ve written.  You seem like you know what you’re talking about.

If you were prepared to succeed, we would be your customers within 24-48 hours. But, two-thirds of business people aren’t ready for the most important conversation you can have: talking to a qualified prospect.

Can You Recognize a Qualified Prospect?
In case you don’t know, here’s what qualified prospect looks and sounds like.

  1. We have a problem we’ve identified, even if it’s not the “right” one.
  2. We could use expert guidance to understand the consequences or tentacles of the problem.
  3. We need your help to define the right sized solution, especially because what we need may not be exactly what we think we need.
  4. We need simple to understand pricing information, so we know what you deliver for our money.
  5. We can afford to solve the problem, and more importantly: you created a feeling of urgency to get to it right away. You’ve amplified the downsides of leaving things as-is. Alternatively, you’ve made our mouths water thinking about the pay-offs we get from working with you.

How a Direct Message Gets You Up to Bat
A qualified prospect probably sends you a direct message to begin the attempt to work with you. Learn to recognize it. Here’s an typical exchange.

PROSPECT to YOU: Do you do handle (insert problem/solution)
YOU to PROSPECT: Absolutely! What’s your project?
PROSPECT to YOU: Briefly (insert quick spec). Can you email me (insert my email)?

Then, you and the prospect email back and forth a bit, even talk directly. This is where you strike out. It’s like we’ve put a softball onto a T-ball stand in front of you. How do you miss?

When you are obviously unprepared with relationship-building skills, including the right questions, along with examples, success stories, roadmaps, references and budgets: you unwittingly reveal you’re no major league expert.

STRIKE 1
You ask about the “project,” not the challenge we’re facing or opportunity we’re trying to capitalize on.

You don’t have the time or you lack the communication skills to help prospects define what we need. You’re unprepared to lead us with questions or examples that capture the downstream consequences of our problems or the upside of solving them.

Sad, because the single greatest factor in your getting a job is your participation in defining it. If only you were ready with the right questions.

STRIKE 2
You poke around in your prospects’ pockets.  We’ve taken an inexpert stab at defining our project (which is what you call our problem when you talk to us). Now you want us to tell you what we should pay you.

Your bad. Don’t rely on customers to come up with your price. Once you’ve defined the problem accurately, produce a price list that describes similar jobs, reflecting a range of costs. Maybe you have a menu of functionality or customization, based on objectives. How about terms and timelines? Time is money.

STRIKE 3
You don’t have samples and references.

Maybe you’re too busy working to get your site together.  Maybe you forget to save your work and you have no idea how to ask for a reference letter. Or maybe, you’ve thought about the business you’re promoting, but you don’t really do it.  You don’t have to be a veteran to win over prospects, but if you’re a newbie: you must partner with someone who has samples and references.

How to Go All the Way with a Prospect

Get down the fundamentals of the game.

  1. Write and practice clear, crisp and compelling questions that get you the information you need, and inspire the prospect to do business with you. Make a FAQ cheat sheet for yourself. This allows you to get back quickly via email or be ready to lead conversations on-the-spot.
  2. Prepare a price list with job descriptions and timelines.
  3. Put your samples together with highlights of outcomes they helped achieve. Make these easy to see on your website, or send in a email. Post testimonials.

It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame. Get prepared to win.

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Who’s The Target, Target?

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

You know who did me a “Fay-vah?” You’ll never guess. Target. Actually, you‘d never think of it as a “fay-vah.”  It would normally be called the rudest possible customer “service.” Apparently, in the upside world that blames our entire economic misery on the robber barons at AIG, Lehman Bros (okay, I lost a lot of money on that one, too) et al, we have forgotten that consumer confidence drives purchases (and the stock market).

I wouldn’t call it consumer confidence anymore. Let’s call it pain tolerance. Shopping – that’s right, spending MONEY that greases the machine for all of us, is almost too hard to do at most retailers.

Here’s a ditty about one of devolving shopping experiences I endured in several stores this weekend. On Sunday evening, with my last bit of retail courage, Jon and I went to a Target Supreme (okay, Super) Store on La Cienega in Los Angeles. It’s quite a drive from Bel Air, but this Target is really big and open late. The check out gal kept smelling a bottle of Axe body wash Jon bought, checking him out with a lot more focus than she had for the other items in our usual Targetmanical shopping spree. “Oooooo,” she sang over and over like Diana Ross, “this is the nicest thing I’ve smelled all day,” as she rubbed the plastic bottle. Fine, Jon’s a handsome man, he smells good and apparently she’s spent the day with foul smelling products or people or whatever she’s comparing it/him to.

The real problem is revealed when we drive, like the last little piggy, all the way home. “Did you bring in another bag?” Jon asks me. Because Jon is the most chivalrous, strong and just darn helpful man in the world, my answer is no. When we arrived home, as usual, I entered the house empty handed and was immediately attacked with pent up affection by our two small dogs. I find holding bags impedes my participation in their wildly enthusiastic greeting ritual.

We realize the Target smell good girl didn’t give us all our bags. Oddly, the body wash is with us, but not the Mother’s Day cards and a small fortune in (and week’s supply, which is five bags of) dog snacks. For some reason, our dogs snack, they don’t get treats. I think we say, “snack,” because our dogs don’t do anything to “earn” a life size fake bacon strip or tiny adorable fake porterhouse steak. So, to be honest, we just ask the dogs, “Would you like a snack?”  We’re those kind of straightforward people.

We also find a leaking diet Rockstar emptying into a thin plastic Target bag – sorry, we forgot to bring our canvas bags, which would have soaked in a Rorschach stain to remember.

We drive back to Target, in some part because 7-11 has Terminator cups that Jon is collecting, and there are two or three 7-11 stores along the way. If there’s an action movie opening, we drink a lot of slurpees.

We arrive back at Supreme Target and stand in line at its customer no-service area. The gals behind the counter are screaming and laughing and talking and look like unwashed, bloated homeless people in red vests. They are as rude and crude as high school detention students.

The one with the hair that hasn’t been washed this year, finds our ungiven bag. “You musta lef it here,” she raps at us. We nod because we’ve learned from grade school that there’s no retort that transforms bullies into decent people. Jon has the physical means to change their brains, but we are decent people and she and her sister-in-customer-service are girl-bullies, so that’s not an option.

We present the punctured Rockstar can. “Ah dohn no what ya kin do with dat. Yoh bought a 4 pack and ya dohn bring me dah 4 pack,” she emits linguistically. I suggest we go and get a replacement can. We (Jon) does. Then we wait 20 minutes while she looks at our receipt like an immigration officer at the Mexican border scrutinizing our passports as we pass through the swine flu inspection gate.

I have experienced this and chronicled it in order to sound an alarm about our economy, even as the stock market inches upward this quarter. To everyone who is wondering why retail sales are down, you know why. It’s that no one can successfully or pleasantly shop. If I told you my whole day, including asking 5 dumbstruck clerks (all grown ups) where I could find cabinet baby locks at Bed, Bath and Beyond Hell, and trying to buy a cup of coffee at a giant Starbucks that didn’t have hot coffee, you would remind me to never leave the house.

Back at Target, she says, “Ah am doin you a FAY-VAH, you uhnerstan? So dohn you be nuhthin but nice to me. Ah am doin you a FAY-VAH, a FAH-VAH you uhnerstan? Ah dohn work in dat department. Ah’m not involved with the drinks or nuthin you have a problem with.”

No, I “dohn unnerstan.” Your store’s check out person doesn’t give me all my stuff, I’m sent home with a leaking can in a four pack and I’m tired of begging clerks to clerk. I go find the manager. A young man whose soiled red vest is flapping open above his untucked shirt, is identified by another cashier as the manager. I quickly share my problem. His eyes dart and his mouth is slack. “I really ain’t no manajah. He on lunch, so he ask me to take over. You wanna fill out a customer card?” says the “acting manager.”

I leave the store. Jon grips the dog treats and holds a new Rockstar aloft like a prize. “I got her to replace ours,” he says after a negotiation where small countries could have been bought and sold during the same time.

So, Target – cut out all those hipster ads targeting people like me, who are “swing shoppers,” so-called because we’re as likely to shop at Neiman Marcus as we are at Target. We drive luxury cars but we wash them ourselves. Hence we visit Target with credit cards that have no balances because we pay our bills.

Invest the money you’re draining with your ads into recruitment and training for your clerks. Same for you Bed, Bath and Beyond My Tolerance for Dazed, Confused and Angry, Unkempt Clerks. Same for you Saks Fifth Avenue, making an appointment at La Mer for a free “half-hour makeover” that that didn’t involve any making over, just a bait and switch sales pitch for seriously over-hyped kelp-fed hope in a jar. Honestly, I didn’t wear make-up to work for this?

Give your people some attention because they’re not paying any to the traffic you’re driving with your uber-cool ads and giant 20% off any-item-in-the-store-if-you-can-find-one coupons. And, don’t get me started on the Saks “make-up artist” who told me about his mother being happy to be hit by a car and enjoy being a quadriplegic now that “her kids are grown.” Wow, that’s a mid-day downer.

So, how is your brand “represented” at customer touch points?

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