You are standing in the famed elevator or in the hallway of a conference and someone approaches you to make introductions – what do you say about yourself? The second and third and fourth statement are all easy compared to the first one, which in some cases may remain the only one you have the chance to make.
The words and statements you choose to define you and what you offer in that first encounter may determine if there will be further opportunities to talk. This is what a marketing conversation is all about – saying enough that captures your focus and the end result you deliver without getting too bogged down into details that may not be important to the other person.
In our last conversation, we talked about the components of your brand essence. Today we’re putting theory to practice. The content of this exercise is based upon work with Gerry Lantz, founder, Stories That Work (watch the video here). Let’s take out a pen and a pad of paper and write down three things about you:
1. What do you stand for? Your focus.
2. What end results do you deliver? Your offer.
3. What words are more natural to describe you? Your experience.
This is a good start. Now go back and take a look at it and consider if your list is unique to you or could be describing someone else just as easily. Modify as appropriate. I know, it’s not easy thinking about yourself as a product and service. Yet that is exactly how you need to approach this exercise.
For each of those characteristics, you will then write a brief story that illustrates it. When you reread notice if there are words you can isolate as original, that say this could only be you. When I talk about my Italian heritage, for example, you know that not too many other marketers and communicators would fit precisely that description. Actually, I often just say I was “made in Italy,” which is an even more memorable statement.
Now that you’ve defined who you are, let’s decide what you mean to others. To do that, you will write down three statements that define:
1. What you value.
2. Your character.
3. What you care about.
These will help you in describing what others see and experience with you. As you go through the exercise, consider that the experience is a key component of your brand. It will be remembered far beyond what you said and what you did — investing extra time in getting feedback and validating if your three statements are communicated clearly will pay off big returns.
Hold on to your notes and practice composing a natural sounding statement in your own words. Next time you meet someone new, especially at a networking event, you will have the opportunity to engage in a marketing conversation. Remember to apply your story to the other person by targeting the circumstance that brings you together in the introduction.
Then talk about their problem, not your process. I am amazed at how many experienced sales people keep forgetting this crucial point. Once the conversation is well under way, you may follow with the results needed, which go to your biggest benefit, one that can be verified.
At this stage you will introduce the value you provide to deliver your results, your differentiating point or what advertising agencies call the unique selling proposition (USP). Then it’s story time; no need to launch in elaborate monologues, the operating work here is brief. Think mini as in conserving time and attention for all.
The most important part of the marketing conversation is saved for last – action. Once you exchange cards, you have the opportunity to offer a follow up by promising to share an article, link, make an introduction, or a subsequent call to meet and keep the new contact and conversation going.
Marketing conversations are succinct articulations of your brand essence. Through them you express your values and voice as well as how you relate to readers, potential clients who may seek to use your services and advice, and the larger community in the blogosphere.
If your goal for marketing conversations is deeper connections, you may be interested in practicing the art by reading a new series at Conversation Agent I called connection kata.
With New World attitude and Italian style, Fast Company expert blogger and Conversation Agent Valeria Maltoni demonstrates her unique talent for synthesizing marketing, public relations, and communications. See how customer relationships are always conversations, and why this knowledge is essential to doing business in the Information Age. Valeria also blogs at the Marketing Profs Daily Fix and Marketing 2.0.