The CADRE Blog

I Couldn’t Care Less About Your Elevator Pitch!

by Derek Coburn

I Couldn’t Care Less About Your Elevator Pitch!

Can we all agree that elevator pitches, when used as suggested, are completely annoying and ineffective?

The definition of an elevator pitch is an overview of a product, service or person, designed to get a conversation started. The word I have a problem with is “started.” If I’ve never met you before, and 10 seconds into our conversation you’re telling me how awesome your service is, you’re much more likely to annoy me than impress me. Just because we’re standing next to each other doesn’t mean you have permission to roll out a display of how effectively you can use adjectives to describe your business. The experience of having someone launch into their unique value proposition immediately after meeting is a lot like receiving an e-newsletter you didn’t subscribe to or having a pop-up ad show up on your screen. It’s ineffective because no matter how fine-tuned your pitch, I’m not going to care about your product or service until I’ve had a chance to develop some interest. And this will only happen if you show me that you are likable and authentic first.

I am blown away by how many people, when meeting someone for the first time, go right into their elevator pitch. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to do business with someone who did this. We’ve all been conditioned to ask people what they do. Fair enough. But instead of just saying you’re an accountant, many people see this stock conversation-starter as their cue to present their brand positioning – at the expense of being genuine. If I wasn’t interested in talking about taxes before we met 10 minutes ago, I’m not going to suddenly become interested because you tell me you’re “a vanguard who navigates the rough oceans of W2s to safely guide your clients to the happy island of tax deductions.”

When you meet someone new, why not ask why they’re at a particular event, where they’re from, which company they’re with in this building (if you are actually in an elevator), whether they’re playing golf this afternoon…? If you only have time for a 30-second exchange, I think that time is better spent getting to know the person and determining whether it would make sense to reconnect in the future. I like what Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, had to say in his book Delivering Happiness. If you are able to figure out how to be truly interested in someone with the goal of building a friendship instead of trying to get something out of that person, the funny thing is that almost always, something happens later down the line that ends up benefitting either your business or yourself personally.

Now, I am not suggesting that you shouldn’t have a brief, effective way to tell your story. What I am suggesting is that there is a time and a place for it. If you have a nice 1-2 minute conversation with someone after meeting for the first time and identify mutual interests (or develop mutual respect), the door is open to tell your story more genuinely some other time because you’ve earned that person’s attention. And of course, you need a concise description of what you do and how you’re different at the ready for when you receive new referrals and inquiries.

So you see, I have nothing against elevator pitches in and of themselves.

In fact, I am proud to be one of the judges for NFTE’s (Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship) upcoming elevator pitch competition, Back to School, Back to Business. NFTE is a truly amazing non-profit led locally in DC by the inspirational Julie Kantor. Its mission is to provide programs that inspire young people from low-income communities to stay in school, recognize business opportunities, and plan successful futures. This event will feature elevator pitches from 25 emerging high school entrepreneurs from NFTE classes throughout the region. It will give these students the opportunity to practice their presentation skills in front of some of Washington’s top leaders, while sharing their business ideas. More importantly, this will hopefully allow them to transcend their pitches into meaningful connections. If you want to be inspired by some wonderful kids, and network with some of DC’s top executives and entrepreneurs, I cannot recommend it enough. You can register here.

Despite the fact that these kids will be there to showcase their businesses, something tells me that when they meet another teenager at school or through one of their activities, they don’t lead with their elevator pitch. High school students are not walking around asking each other what they do. I think we could all take a lesson from them in understanding that our business is not who we are. When we have the forum to pitch what we do, we should have a great story to tell. But when we’re meeting someone for the first time, perhaps we could just focus on getting to know them a little better.

Do you use an elevator pitch effectively when meeting someone for the first time? Have you ever been so impressed by a person’s elevator pitch, when it was one of the first things they said, that you became a client?

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What Fast Gourmet Could Learn from the Soup Nazi

by Derek Coburn

What Fast Gourmet Could Learn from the Soup Nazi 

I think Fast Gourmet, a new sandwich spot in town, has the best sandwiches in DC. But I have a big problem with them: They are anything but fast. I’ve been there twice now, and each time, I’ve waited about 30 minutes. For a sandwich! How can a business call itself “Fast Gourmet”… and not be fast?

I think that, like many businesses, they haven’t really thought about who their target customer is, and they’re trying to appeal to everyone. They’re trying to be too remarkable with their messaging, and it isn’t necessary because their food is great (the Cuban and Chivito are both excellent). When you try to cast too wide a net and appeal to the masses – in this case, people who want fast food and people who want gourmet food – you risk losing the customers you really want.

Fast Gourmet is a walk-up sandwich joint that occupies a gas station convenience store. I heard about it from my friends at the Affinity Lab, the awesome shared workspace where we operate cadre. Were it not for the great WOM (word of mouth) Fast Gourmet has generated through their customers and Yelp, I doubt many people would go there expecting a great sandwich. But everyone who has been there raves about the sandwiches. The problem is that a number of folks have said they won’t go back because they had to wait so long for their food.

There’s an important distinction to be made here: Fast Gourmet has lost these customers not because it took a long time to get their food, but because they were expecting fast and didn’t get it. There are plenty of people in DC who would gladly wait if it meant having the best sandwich they’ve ever eaten. They just want their expectations met.

There are not many people out there demanding “fast” and “gourmet,” and it would be nearly impossible to deliver on both of these promises. If you have the best sandwiches in town, that’s the only promise you need to make. Axing “fast” from the name would be a start. But what if they took it a step further? They could call themselves “Slow Gourmet” or “Gas Station Gourmet,” and focus on what they really deliver: Sandwiches that are the best because they meticulously take their time with each one. This would discourage the “fast” crowd and set the right expectations for those whose first priority is high quality. If you appreciate great food, you’ll wait (or call ahead, which I plan on doing next time).

Presenting your brand, and running your business, in a way that connects with your target clients while actively steering others away can be risky, but it can really pay off. You may remember the Seinfeld episode called “The Soup Nazi” about a soup stand owner with a fiery temper and a strict code of conduct for his customers. He screamed at them and refused service if they did not comply (“No soup for you!”), but his soup was so good, he had lines around the block.

Fast Gourmet could learn a thing or two from The Soup Nazi, and some real-life restaurants that have identified their ideal customer and taken bold steps to accommodate them with no hesitation about alienating other types of customers. For example, the owner of McDain’s Restaurant near Pittsburgh recently banned children under the age of 6 because they regularly disrupted his customers’ meals. This move generated a strong response from both camps, but of the 2,000 emails he received, a ratio of 11:1 supported his decision.

Another great example of catering to your ideal customer while dissuading the rest comes from local restaurant Rogue24, courtesy of the Eater DC blog (which is a great resource for all things food in Washington, DC). Before dining here, you are required to sign a two-page contract that includes, among other things, giving up your right to use a cell phone or camera during your meal. Chef/Owner RJ Cooper states, “All guests should be able to enjoy the experiences that surround them at Rogue24 free of distraction.” There were a ton of comments in the blog bashing this concept, but I’m sure Cooper doesn’t mind, given that Rogue24 is booked 3-4 weeks out. Incidentally, I doubt he ever considered calling the place “Fast Rogue24,” given that its 16- and 24-course experiences take at least 3 hours.

The lesson: You don’t have to appeal to everyone. If you try to, you may end up disappointing your ideal customers while not even satisfying the less than ideal ones. Does your brand highlight what you do best? Do you know of any businesses that are so confident in what they provide that they’re willing to steer away the masses in order to build loyalty among their best clients and prospects?

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Are You In The Right Place At The Right Time?

by Derek Coburn


Are You In The Right Place At The Right Time?

My wife and I recently went to see one of our favorite bands, My Morning Jacket, at Red Rocks in Denver. It ended up being one of the best concerts that either of us has ever been to – but getting there took some unexpected effort.

We arrived somewhat late (missed the opener, but in time for MMJ) and therefore had to park over one mile from the entrance. This was far from an easy stroll. We had to walk uphill, through fields, and uphill some more. When we finally arrived at what appeared to be the entrance, we were met with what looked like 1,000 steps we’d have to climb in order to get in. Halfway up the steps was a guy selling cold water for $3 a bottle. He was able to charge a nice premium (though less than his competitors inside the venue, where bottled water was $6). I wondered at that moment if there could possibly be a better place to sell water- anywhere! This enterprising guy had found the optimal location for selling his product. He had something people wanted; at the exact moment they wanted it!

A lot of us spend a tremendous amount of time trying to FIND potential clients, so that we can reach out to them. However, I don’t think businesses spend enough time positioning themselves (or their products) so that they are FOUND when someone is looking for what they have. In this scenario, the music fans weren’t thinking about buying water when they parked their cars. But they certainly did by the time they were halfway up the never-ending staircase – and there was the man with the water.

How easy is it for a prospective client to find you at just the right moment, when they most want what you provide?

Most businesses still focus on “outbound marketing” in order to find prospects. This includes tactics such as general (vs. targeted) advertising, direct mail, email blasts (where permission has not been granted) and cold calling. These methods used to work, but both technology and consumers have changed. In the current landscape this type of marketing is more likely to be perceived as an intrusion, and there are plenty of ways to filter it out.

In the book Inbound Marketing, co-author Brian Halligan, CEO & Founder of Hubspot, shares insight into how to use “inbound marketing” to make it easier for prospects to find you. Today most people rely on their friends and Google to make decisions. We’ve looked previously at whether you’re making it easy for your “raving fans” to identify opportunities for you when triggering events come up in conversation. Now, how easy are you making it for people to find you online at the moment that they want what you have to offer?

Dr. Alan Glazier is an optometrist, and the owner of Shady Grove Eye & Vision Care in Rockville, MD.  He is also an authority on search engine optimization (SEO) and social media in the healthcare field. In his fantastic book, Searchial Marketing, he tells how he shifted his focus from outbound marketing to making it easy for potential patients to find him. A few years ago he was spending nearly $10,000 a month on traditional marketing. He cut this off entirely and started concentrating on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, as well as SEO. Despite slashing his monthly marketing budget from $10,000 to almost nothing, his practice has grown. Right now, if you were to google “Optometrist Rockville” his practice will show up first in the organic search rankings.

Do you know if, or where, your business shows up in Google when someone searches for you, directly or otherwise? Is it easy for people to find you when they’re thirsty?

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Too Busy? Buy Some Time!

by Derek Coburn

Too Busy? Buy Some Time!

Lately I’ve been hearing a lot of people say they’re too busy. Too busy to keep up with new business, too busy to spend more time with their families, too busy to grab a drink… Something tells me most of these folks are not spending their time as wisely as they could (wasting it responding to unimportant emails, hanging out on Facebook too much, watching TV, etc.), but I’ll save that for another day.

Let’s assume, for purposes of this article, that no one is wasting time and everyone is being as productive as possible. Most people believe their time is limited and they cannot acquire more of it. I completely disagree. I assume you understand the benefits of hiring staff or childcare to free up your time (professionally and personally). However, I’d like to encourage you to take a look at some of the more innocent-looking culprits that could be stealing time away from you, and then consider how you can offload them. Here are some examples of how I buy time, and what I get in return.

Cost: $120
Frequency: 26x a year
Time Purchased: 3 hours

Dog Walker
Cost: $10
Frequency: 3x a week
Time Purchased: 30 minutes

I now share, along with some friends, a part-time “House Manager,” who does a little bit of everything including grocery shopping, dry cleaning, running errands, and meeting technicians at the house.

House Manager
Cost: $150
Frequency: 1x a week
Time Purchased: 10 hours

Shopping online can save a lot of time as well. We buy most of our everyday, non-perishable items on the trifecta of and They share the same cart for bulk orders, and offer free next-day shipping if you spend $45. (They also save all of your purchases, so reordering is a snap.) We spend about $100 a week and pay about 5% more than we would pay at a store – but we save time that we’d otherwise squander on travel, parking, standing in line, etc.
Cost: $5 premium (over local stores)
Frequency: 4x a month
Time Purchased: 1 hour

We take our dog Bodie to Planet Pet for doggie daycare. They recently started offering a pick up/drop off service for $6. It used to take us 15 minutes total drive/parking time plus another 5 minutes waiting for a caregiver to bring Bodie out. This was a no-brainer.

Doggie Daycare Pick Up/Drop Off
Cost: $6
Frequency: 3x a week
Time Purchased: 20 minutes

I could keep going, but you get the idea.

Most people assume that because I run two businesses, I must work 20 hours a day or neglect my family. While I certainly work hard, and could always spend more time with my family, I’m pretty satisfied with the balance in my life. This is because whenever I’m doing something other than working on something important for one of my businesses, dedicating time to my family, or pursuing personal interests, I ask myself how I can offload whatever that something is. If you did the math on the examples above, you’d find that for $13,676 annually, I’m outsourcing 780 hours of my time. That’s only $17.53 an hour.

Let’s say you outsourced the same amount of time and spent half of it (390 hours) with your family or traveling, and the remaining 390 focused on your most profitable activities. If your hourly rate at your most productive is $250, you would earn an extra $97,500 annually. And unlike hiring an additional staff member, there are no upfront costs (money or time) for any of the items mentioned.

If you started outsourcing everything I listed (though I realize not everything applies to everyone), you would only pay $263 in exchange for 15 hours in the first week. What could you accomplish with an extra 15 hours a week? What have you outsourced to free up more of your time?

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I Don’t Need to Be on Facebook for Business

by Derek Coburn

I Don’t Need to Be on Facebook for Business

This is a comment I still hear frequently from successful professionals, typically with the explanation “given my line of work,” as though only certain types of professionals need to participate in social media. This is true – as long as your business doesn’t involve relationships with any actual people! The point of Facebook and other social media sites is not necessarily to “do business.” Rather, they provide a convenient platform for developing new relationships and strengthening existing ones.

Some people are put off by the idea of mixing their business and personal lives. However, as Gary Vaynerchuk writes in his excellent book, The Thank You Economy, “we are living through the early days of a dramatic cultural shift that is bringing us back full circle, and that the world we live and work in now operates in a way that is surprisingly similar to the one our great-grandparents knew. Social media has transformed our world into one great big small town, dominated, as all vibrant towns used to be, by the strength of relationships, the currency of caring, and the power of word of mouth.”

To crystallize his point, he says “If you’re lucky enough to spend any time around eighty- or ninety-year-olds…they’ll reminisce about how retailers and local businesses made it a point to know your name and make you feel like family when you walked in.” Fact: People work with and buy from people they like, and they’re much more apt to like you if you take an interest in their lives.

In case you’re still not sold, here are a few concrete examples of how Facebook and LinkedIn recently helped my business:

  • A client posted on Facebook that her kids had left for summer camp and she was feeling lonely in an empty house. I called her the next day and chatted with her for 10 minutes. She was incredibly appreciative, and one week later I received a referral from her. I didn’t ask for a referral and had no motive for calling her other than to cheer her up. But by genuinely caring for what she was going through and connecting with her on a personal level, I reaped a solid business benefit.
  • Using some great technology, Outlook Social Connector (only available for Outlook 2010, which is excellent and worth the upgrade for many reasons) incorporates LinkedIn and Facebook updates right into your Outlook email, so you can see what’s going on with anyone you’re about to email. (When you enter the person’s address, his or her feed shows up on your screen.) This is how I recently learned about a client’s move to another law firm. When attorneys change firms, a number of things have to be addressed financially – registering for new benefits, analyzing former benefits, looking at how compensation is distributed, etc. They have to make quick decisions, on top of contacting their clients and moving their practice. I contacted him to assure him that my firm would take as much as possible off his plate. He would have called me eventually, but I was able to step in and give him one less thing to worry about during a busy and stressful time – all because I saw his updated employer information from LinkedIn.
  • The Outlook integration helped me on another recent occasion. I was getting ready to send a client an email when I saw that she was grieving the loss of her father, who, according to her Facebook status update, had just passed. I was about to follow up on some outstanding paperwork, but seeing this prevented me from bothering her. There is no specific result here, except that the Facebook update put me in a position to respect her and what she was going through. What business wouldn’t benefit from knowing what their clients are up to (or what mood they’re in) before reaching out to them?

If you are not active on these platforms, or not present on them at all, I would suggest in the very least using them to take the pulse of your clients before interacting with them. If you’re still reluctant, why? Do you believe that social media sites do not apply to your business?


Positioning Your Toothpaste

by Derek Coburn

Positioning Your Toothpaste 

The correct way to position toothpaste.

It is obviously very important to focus on positioning your brand to attract new clients. What might not be so obvious is that there are probably a number of small things you could do for your existing clients that would make a big difference – like positioning your toothpaste. Bear with me….

Recently my lovely wife, Melanie (who is typically very laid back), became annoyed with me. Apparently I “always” leave the toothpaste tube lying flat, and this was her biggest pet peeve about me. Who knew? I was irritating her on a daily basis, and I had no idea.

Now, the logical side of me was thinking “How come you never said anything?” But anyone who’s married knows that this would not have been the correct response. And if you think about it, isn’t waiting for my wife to tell me something’s bugging her as bad as waiting for my clients to tell me if I could do something better? If I had ever asked her if I was doing anything that irked her, she would have told me, and I would have done something about it sooner.

I have since rectified my toothpaste positioning issue, and she has thanked me for it on a number of occasions. What’s great about this is it doesn’t take me any additional time or energy to do it her way the right way – yet this small tweak has made an already great relationship even better. This has me wondering what little things I could change to improve the already great relationships I have with my clients. Do I send email to those who would prefer traditional mail? Could my online content be easier to use? Do I check in too often, or not enough?

Kristina Bouweiri of Reston Limo is an outstanding marketer. One of her great marketing ideas was profiled here recently by Jeremy Epstein of Never Stop Marketing. Another excellent idea of hers is regularly hosting focus groups for her clients to learn how she can improve her service. She could allocate this time to working on her big-picture strategy or brand in the hopes of bringing in new clients. Instead she’s finding ways to add even more value for clients who already love what she provides, and they’ll likely generate plenty of Word of Mouth as a result of the extra attention she’s giving them. It’s a wise decision.

Focus groups may not work for you if it would be too hard to bring everyone together in person, but this is where technology can work wonders. You can create an email survey using a service like Wufoo, or post a poll on your Facebook page. Most likely you won’t hear back from everyone, but those who do respond will provide you with valuable feedback that didn’t require much time or money to obtain.

Have you ever learned about something you were doing that was seemingly harmless, but less than ideal for your clients? Do you have a process for communicating with your best clients to find out how you can improve? Are you sure your toothpaste is positioned properly?

I’d love to hear your comments, and would appreciate you sharing this with anyone you think may be interested. Thank you!


Ted Leonsis Is In the Business of Making Grown Men Cry

by Derek Coburn

Ted Leonsis

I recently had the privilege, courtesy of Jenny Shtipelman of EagleBank, of hearing Ted Leonsis speak at one of their exclusive events. Ted is the founder, chairman and majority owner of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns three professional sports teams – the Washington Capitals (NHL), the Washington Wizards (NBA) and the Washington Mystics (WNBA) – as well as Verizon Center. As usual, Ted was outstanding and made everyone feel as though he was having a one-on-one conversation with them. He offered plenty of great advice and hit on more topics than I can possibly cover here, but there are a few gems I’d like to share with you.

Last year while on his home treadmill, Ted happened upon a replay of the 1969 Jets-Colts Superbowl game on ESPN Classic. Growing up he had gone to Jets games with his father every Sunday (tickets were $7 then). That year, when he was just 12, they watched the Superbowl together on TV. Seeing the game again stirred up a host of memories not just of the game, but the entire experience: Sharing the moment with his father and calling all of their relatives afterward. Missing school to attend the ticker tape parade with his dad and 500,000 other New Yorkers. Ted became emotional and started to cry. Unfortunately for him, his wife came into the room to find him weeping on the treadmill and asked if everything was okay. His reply? “Joe Namath.” Then he told us, “This is the business I’m in. Making grown men cry, and creating memories that last 50 years.”

This story highlights one of my favorite things about this man: He understands that everything he does serves a much greater purpose than what may be perceived as the core offering. He gave two other examples that speak to this point:

  • He believes, and I happen to agree, that sports teams play a major role in the social and cultural fabric of a city. It would be hard for anyone in DC who recalls what 7th Street was like 15 years ago to argue. This once-depressed area is now responsible for $400M in tax revenue for the city!
  • He acknowledged that he is not in the sports business, but the media business. Read another way, he is in the business of communicating with his fans (clients). And he does so actively. He has 30,000 subscribers to his blog, and over 17,000 followers on Twitter.

While on the surface it may appear that Ted Leonsis’ business involves “just” owning the Caps, Wizards and Mystics, he is really in the media/economic development/making grown men cry business. All of these are part of The Business of Happiness – the name of his most recent book (which is well worth the read). Businesses of all kinds can benefit from taking this broader perspective, and in particular, embracing the idea of being in the media business, no matter what business you think you’re in.

So, what business are you in?

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Don’t Try To Be More Remarkable

by Derek Coburn

…Unless you can really deliver. We live in a time when, unfortunately, most businesses are so mediocre that you can stand out just by being pretty good. If you excel in a few areas and stick to what you know, you’re already well ahead of the pack. However, your reputation could take a hit if you attempt to take it up a notch by adding benefits or options – and then don’t deliver the goods.

To illustrate the point, I was recently boarding a flight and was greeted at the gate with several “Now Offering Wi-Fi on Domestic Flights” posters. On the plane, I eagerly pulled out my laptop to catch up on email, only to find no Internet connection available. I then read the fine print, which said the promised Wi-Fi was only offered on “select flights.” So, instead of a having customer who would have happily read a book during his flight, the airline created a disappointed customer who felt they did not meet his expectations.

Here’s another example. A few weeks ago, I took one of our cars to a Washington, DC dealership for an oil change. While waiting to pay, I noticed a sign that read “Please help yourself to a pastry!” What a great idea! There was one small problem, however: The empty basket beneath the sign. Worse yet, a lack of crumbs suggested the basket had not seen pastry in some time (if ever). I hadn’t even been thinking about donuts – and now I was hungry. Up to that point, the dealership had provided a very good experience. But instead of having a satisfied customer, they failed by creating an expectation they did not deliver on. My friend and fellow WBJ guest blogger, Ingar Grev, touched on this in a recent post as well.

The same principle applies to social media. More and more businesses are establishing a presence on social networks to make it easier for clients and prospective clients to communicate with them. This is obviously a good thing. But if you establish a presence online, be prepared to maintain it. If, for example, you fail to answer a question in a timely manner on Facebook, the excuse “I don’t check Facebook very often” will not erase the unfavorable impression you’ve made. This can be especially unfortunate if you are typically very responsive via other forms of communication. You don’t have to go overboard; just add good content, start conversations and pay attention. The Facebook Pages for local businesses Exhibit Edge and Information Experts are great examples of how to do just this.

I’m not suggesting that anyone avoid having an online presence (for a later discussion), and I’m certainly not suggesting that anyone strive to be merely “above average.” However, if you raise client expectations in your effort to be remarkable, it is imperative that you meet those expectations.

Are there any businesses that made a negative impression on you by trying to add a feature and failing to follow through?


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Your Brochure Is Great (and It’s in My Trashcan)!

by Derek Coburn

Do you use brochures, folders or any other type of print material to promote your business to prospective clients or strategic partners? You may want to rethink this approach.

I’m amazed by the number of professionals who leave information behind for me to read after we meet. Do they think I put it on my desk and schedule a time to read it, or carry it around until I have a free moment? I don’t. In fact, nine times out of 10 I immediately throw it out.

This may sound harsh, but honestly, do you read through the brochures people give you? Chances are they’re not reading yours either. To be clear, I’m not dismissing print materials altogether. Providing brochures, pamphlets and the like to qualified prospects who are interested in the specifics of your business can be very useful. I’m questioning the effectiveness of handing them out to people as a way to help introduce your business.

Your likely best-case scenario is that it will impress ONE person. The recipients are obviously not going to mail your brochure to their network. And if the content is truly remarkable, you want it to be shared with as many prospects as possible, right? As The Rise To The Top’s David Siteman Garland put it in his great book Smarter, Faster, Cheaper, your content should be like peanut butter – easily spreadable.

I suggest focusing your marketing resources on content that can be passed along with minimal effort. For this reason, having a great website, like those of r2integrated, Cynergy and Never Stop Marketing, is a worthwhile investment. It lets you showcase your business, provide numerous ways to learn more – and it takes all of a minute for people to share the link.

Video is something else you should consider using to promote your business. When I refer someone with a software development need to Cynergy, I email this video. Content like this is both highly effective and shareable. Prospects and strategic partners can easily send it to one (or 50) potential clients…unlike that awesome (and costly) brochure they threw away two weeks ago.

What are some examples of sharable content that is working well for you?


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Are you making it hard for your “Raving Fans” to recommend you?

by Derek Coburn

If you do a great job for your clients and provide a remarkable experience, I’m sure they gladly suggest you when someone asks them for a recommendation in your line of work. While this is a great thing, how often do you think your clients and strategic partners are approached with this specific type of request?

In my role as “Personal CFO” for some of my clients at Washington Financial Group, if my only request for help is to ask them to think of me when someone asks if they know a good financial advisor, I would be making it hard for them to help me as much as they would like to. Sure, some of our clients and strategic partners are go-to resources for their network, so it’s common for people to ask them for referrals for all kinds of services. But I’m willing to bet that for the majority of our clients, there’s no particular reason why people would come to them for advice regarding our specific line of work.

Rather than taking a passive approach and letting the people in your network wait around to be asked if they know a good (fill in your occupation), you can be more proactive by making them aware of a variety of life or business circumstances where your service might be needed. This should allow for them to better identify an opportunity for recommending you.

Case in point. My world-class personal trainer, Roger Brown of Train Like A Pro, is a very personable guy who has intimate conversations with his clients every day. Heck, I sometimes feel like he doubles as my therapist given what I reveal to him about my life. Obviously, most of us would not think to ask our personal trainer if he or she knows a good financial advisor. But in the past six months alone, Roger has recommended me to three of his clients.

I opened the door to this by letting him know that a good prospective client for me could be someone who is looking to sell their business or transition to a new firm or career. My list of triggering events also includes buying a home, having a child, or being concerned about the health or finances of aging parents. I know his clients talk to him about all kinds of things. If they happen to mention any of the above, Roger knows he’s talking to a good prospect for me.

If you provide your clients and strategic partners with this kind of information – specific situations where you could be of value – they will be much better able to identify introductions for you. Based on your line of work, what are some of the events or transitions that could indicate a potential opportunity for you?

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