• branding

    Will branding win you advocates?

    A business creates its position in the market place by developing a Brand. The brand is its identity, based on its core competencies. It is how customers recognise it. Brand recognition comes through familiarity with the company logo, the livery on its vans, the style of its retail premises and its promotional literature.

    But most of all, a brand is recognised by the experience it delivers. And that has to be consistent.  Every experience of the company has to deliver the same kind of experience. Customers develop an expectation of the business, and the business must ensure that it regularly meets that expectation.

    The paradox of branding is that you want to become generic (like Hoover, Sellotape or Coke) and you also need to identify the One Defining Element that distinguishes your company from all others. If you can achieve that, all competitors will be seen as followers or, at best, lookalikes.

    The brand has value, just like a Google ranking. It determines where the company stands in the list of choices made by customers.

    Innocent Drinks went from a standing start in 1999 to handing over to Coca Cola in 2010 for £100 million, selling their versions of a product (fruit smoothies) that they did not invent. However, they began with a cheeky tone of voice in communicating with their customers, who thought, “Good product, fun people.” That is now their trademark style, their brand.

    A good marketing strategy is to create a strong brand, make it recognisable and then make it very well known. Customers believe that a well known brand is better than a less well known brand. That’s what is meant by brand equity.

    Now let make a very important distinction between brand value and brand values. Brand value is the same as brand equity – the financial benefit of being better known than other alternatives, which may allow you to charge a premium for what you do or sell.

    Brand values, however, are about why you are in business, and how you do your business. For example, the retailer Marks and Spencer has always made it their policy to accept the return of merchandise without question. That is their style and it reflects their values.

    When your brand has a clear set of values, you attract customers and staff who share those values, and they form your tribe. Their reason for doing business with you goes beyond the transaction’s value. Doing business with you becomes an expression of themselves, and they become your advocates. That should be your main purpose in marketing – to cultivate advocates.

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  • Phillip Khan-Panni

    By your grammar shall they know you

    The Bible says, By their fruits (works) shall ye know them (Matthew 7:20). In the business world, and especially when it comes to recruitment, it is equally true to say By your grammar shall they know you.

    Correct grammar is the mark of education and erudition, both desirable attributes at the higher levels of employment. Grammar is more than a set of rules: it is the process that gives your communications clarity and meaning. Let’s set aside exceptions to the rule, and even those historical ambiguities that are trotted out as excuses for ignoring the rules of grammar.

    Instead, let’s take two examples that I encountered in The Times this morning, a journal that should be setting a better example. One example is the common wrong choice of two words that look similar but which have directly opposite meanings. The other is simply a confusion between the subject and object in a sentence.

    In the Weekend section, agony aunt Marie O’Riordan was asked how to ditch wild friends from university days. Her reply included this: “Start by making yourself available only on rare occasions … This infers that you are expanding your social circle.” It does not. It implies that.

    To infer is to gain an understanding of something. To imply is to let others gain that understanding. “Infer” means you receive or deduce it, while “imply” means you give it. She could, of course, have said, “(the friends) will infer that you are expanding your social circle.” See the difference? You imply, they infer.

    The second solecism was in the Saturday Review, and was perpetrated by Matthew Parris, a man who should know better. Reviewing Charles Moore’s biography of Margaret Thatcher, he wrote this: “As to her father, Alderman Roberts (whom Moore suggests may have been etc.)” It’s a common misuse of the word ‘whom’.

    Take out the words “Moore suggests” and you are left with “whom may have been etc.” Clearly it should be “who may have been.”  Who is the subject of the sentence. It would have been easier to get it right if he had written either “who, Moore suggests, may have been ,,,” or “who may have been …, according to Moore.” When you clearly separate the subordinate clause “Moore suggests” by the use of commas, or by placing it at the end, you can easily tell what is right.

    Correct grammar makes for greater precision in communication. It also avoids creating an unfavourable impression of the writer. Worth doing, wouldn’t you say?

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  • Wouldn’t you like to have the Voice of Leadership?


    What makes you a ‘must have’ in your business sector?

    How effectively are you putting that across?

    Send for your free e-book: The Voice of Leadership

    The American Management Association states that no matter how compelling the vision or how brilliant the strategy, without leadership communication there is no execution.

    Your great ideas, your grand plan, will lie dormant and may never see the light of day … without excellent communication skills. In fact, many a new idea or invention has had to await the communication skills of someone other than the originator.

    Let me ask you this: Who invented the sewing machine? Although Isaac Singer gets the credit, it was actually Elias Howe who came up with the idea. Singer was just better at the execution; better at making it happen and then at telling the world about it.

    You know the Post-It Note? Who invented that? Arthur Fry, who worked for 3M, saw the potential in the weak glue that was developed (by accident?) by Spencer Silver, a 3M research scientist. But Arthur Fry got the credit.

    The American, John J. Loud, invented the ballpoint pen as long ago as 1888, but he couldn’t get the ink to flow properly. 50 years later the Hungarian, Laszlo Biro, used printing ink, and in 1943 produced the first ballpoint pens for the RAF. And then Biro became the generic term for ballpoint pens.

    Ever heard of the Dynabook? Developed back in 1968, it pre-dated webpads and the iPad. But it did not have the benefit of Steve Jobs’s marketing genius.

    So how does this relate to you?

    If you are in a leadership role you have things to say: ideas, values and strategies that represent your purpose. You need your people to buy into them.

    Sometimes it takes an external eye or ear to give you feedback, guide your thinking, sharpen your message and the way you put it across. It’s what I do.

    Throughout history there have been remarkable leaders who have moved their followers to heroic efforts, to defy the odds against them, to make magic where lesser leaders would have merely presided over the same old same old.

    The Voice of Leadership is a short e-book that takes a look at the powerful speeches of:

    • Abraham Lincoln,
    • Jack Kennedy,
    • Barack Obama,
    • Martin Luther King
    • Winston Churchill and others.

    It provides a checklist of the principles of leadership and it offers some easily-remembered tips on sounding like a leader.

    In fact, it’s more than that. It will probably stimulate your own ideas on leadership. But you can read it and decide for yourself.

    I wrote it. And who am I? Currently UK Business Speaker of the Year and past winner of a cluster of public speaking titles, including UK champion a record seven times, Anglo-Irish champion three times, and second in the World Championship of Public Speaking.

    In addition, I have written eight business books on communication skills. The latest is just out. The FT Guide to Making Business Presentations. Expect to see it in Amazon and leading book stores later this month. Why not write a review?

    The Voice of Leadership is my gift to you. You may send for it without paying a penny or committing yourself in any way. Just send an email to phillip@speakingandpresentationskills.com“>phillip@speakingandpresentationskills.com with Voice of Leadership in the subject line.

    Why am I offering you this e-book as a gift? Because I believe it is always better to demonstrate than to claim. If you like my ideas in The Voice of Leadership you may consider inviting me to discuss how I could make a difference to your own leadership and communication style.

    Later this month I’ll be making available a six-module online training programme. It will simplify the process of improving your business presentation skills. Let me know if you wish to be informed when the programme is ready. You’ll be able to take any one module or all six.

    You’ll find it here: http://www.pkpcommunicators.com when it’s ready.

    But now, send for your free copy of The Voice of Leadership with an email to: phillip@speakingandpresentationskills.com“>phillip@speakingandpresentationskills.com.

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  • Let me tell you a story …

    Make a point, tell a story; tell a story, make a point. That’s an easy enough mantra to follow in speeches and presentations, but what kind of story should you tell?

    The three factors that work in story telling are:
    1. They illustrate the point and are easy to understand and remember
    2. We are all conditioned, from childhood, to like stories
    3. They can connect with your listeners’ backgrounds

    The first two are fairly obvious, but the third one often surprises people when I raise it during my training courses. Backgrounds?

    Let’s take an extreme example, just to make the point. Suppose you are pitching to the owner of a small business. Did you stop to consider why he started that business? One such small business owner told me, only the other day, “I started this business because no one would give me a job.”

    Another (geeky) micro business owner told me his technical expertise is such that he is always in demand, and he doesn’t have to market himself.

    For people like them, you may want to avoid stories about gregarious situations and talk, instead, about self sufficiency and the virtues of independence. Talk about the injustice of bureaucracy and the triumph of the ‘small’ over the ‘large’.

    At the same time, be aware of your own background story, and avoid pleading your own position. Remember, the main purpose of the story is to advance your business case, not to entertain or to beat the drum of self interest.

    Think about how movies can touch your own emotions. That’s the power of story telling.Go ye and do likewise.

    Phillip

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  • Who would you trust to sharpen your presentation skills?

    Is presentation skills training a waste of time and money?

    Sadly, most of the time it is. Presentation Skills courses have attracted some opprobrium because they can be ‘same old, same old’ – routine trudges through PowerPoint slides and cliché-ridden accounts of platform skills. And soon afterwards people return to what they were doing before. (Hand on heart, have you changed the way you present, after being on such a course?)

    It doesn’t have to be that way.

    Presentations should never be linear descriptions of a business offering, with slides in attendance, however slickly put together. They should be about reaching the hearts of your hearers and bringing about a change in their thinking, attitudes or behaviour.

    Not everyone knows how to bring that about. But the best speakers do.

    Let me ask you this: if you were looking for some tennis coaching, would you prefer to engage Roger Federer or someone who qualified through a tennis academy? I would choose Federer in a heartbeat, for two reasons:

    1. Roger knows everything that a tennis coach can tell you
    2. In addition, he knows what it takes to win

    Any number of coaches can teach you technique. A champion can give you something extra. Technique is something you need to practise, anyway, if you want to be good. What you get from a champion is insight into what it takes to be ‘special’.

    Business presentations should be designed to achieve results. They should also project that certain ‘specialness’ which lies at the heart of your business proposition. If you’d like to know more about that, give me a call.

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  • Making good contact with your audience

    It was the Final of the annual Anglo-Irish public speaking contest. A long-standing Toastmaster with a good record in these contests took to the stage, and the largely Irish audience pulsed expectantly.

    It was a brilliant text, full of clever linguistic jokes, puns and even verbal pictures. But one minute into the speech, the audience’s expectations had been replaced by a sympathetic tolerance, as they disconnected from the speaker and waited politely for him to finish.

    What went wrong?

    Two things: first, it was a written text, not a spoken one. The text that’s written to be read is not the same as the text that’s written to be said.

    Secondly, it was a recitation from memory. The speaker spoke AT the audience, not TO them. They sensed it and reacted accordingly.

    The language was too clever to be received and understood on the run, at 150 words a minute. Some of the vocabulary was unfamiliar, the sentences were long, and the meaning of some sentences was obscured by subordinate clauses. It’s like telling a story, and breaking off in the middle to give some background material that adds nothing to the story, but gets in the way.

    The speaker had written the text, and on the stage he was focused on recalling all 900 words (or thereabouts) in the right order. You could see it in his eyes. That’s one of the biggest dangers of delivering a speech from memory.

    The next speaker started by throwing fortune cookies into the audience, which engaged their attention immediately. He then related his message to the message in his own fortune cookie, speaking to the audience in terms that they readily understood and could relate to. So of course he won.

    To help you avoid a misconnection with your next speech or presentation, when you are preparing your material just imagine a member of your audience asking you these three questions:

    1. What exactly do you want me to understand and remember?
    2. Why should I care about that?
    3. Why do I need to hear that from you (and not someone else)?

    When you are delivering your speech, imagine that same person sitting somewhere near the front, waiting for you to answer those 3 questions.

    As you address that person, you will ‘feel’ a connection with the audience. It will make a huge difference to the outcome.

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  • The 5th Level of Competence

    I was talking to a Sales consultant recently, and he was asking me about my special skills. It’s a conversation I have had before, when I was exploring the skills of a friend or colleague. Now the boot was on the other foot.

    At some point I said, “I don’t know what I know.”

    I explained that I could articulate the subject matter of my training courses, as I have done on my website and in promotional literature or ads promoting specific courses, but that would not really explain my special skills. It’s a common problem, and one that you must have encountered yourself.

    Think about situations when you have been training or helping someone to solve a problem within your area of expertise. Under pressure, you come out with insights that derive from a deep understanding of your subject – wisdom that you’d find hard to explain or call to mind out of context.

    You could call that the fifth level of competence. It’s what distinguishes the true expert from the specialist.

    The other four levels are well known:
    1. unconscious incompetence, when the person is unaware of a deficiency in knowledge or skill
    2. conscious incompetence, when the person realises that deficiency, perhaps when trying to apply it
    3. conscious competence, when the person can apply the skill at will, recognising the level of competence and noticing how it improves with practice
    4. unconscious competence, when the skill or competence becomes automatic and second nature, like driving a car

    Some people progress further. Their knowledge of their subject moves to a higher level, so that they understand the principles underlying it, and can enable others to cope with any problems within it. Unconscious competence is about being able to carry out the skills themselves. The fifth level is about becoming expert and developing ‘wisdom’.

    Think about medical consultants, or lawyers who can find unexpected interpretations of the law. They, too, would find it hard to tell you what they know, but it’s much more than the stuff you’ll find in text books.

    When it comes to communication in business – speaking, leadership, presentations, sales letters and such like, I don’t know what I know. But I know I’m at the fifth level of competence.

    Phillip

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  • What’s the story?

    Make a point, tell a story; tell a story, make a point. That’s an easy enough mantra to follow in speeches and presentations, but what kind of story should you tell?

    The three factors that work in story telling are:

    1. They illustrate the point and are easy to understand and remember
    2. We are all conditioned, from childhood, to like stories
    3. They can connect with your listeners’ backgrounds

    The first two are fairly obvious, but the third one often surprises people when I raise it during my training courses. Backgrounds?

    Let’s take an extreme example, just to make the point. Suppose you are pitching to the owner of a small business. Did you stop to consider why he started that business? One such small business owner told me, only the other day, “I started this business because no one would give me a job.”

    Another (geeky) micro business owner told me his technical expertise is such that he is always in demand, and he doesn’t have to market himself.

    For people like them, you may want to avoid stories about gregarious situations and talk, instead, about self sufficiency and the virtues of independence. Talk about the injustice of bureaucracy and the triumph of the ‘small’ over the ‘large’.

    At the same time, be aware of your own background story, and avoid pleading your own position. Remember, the main purpose of the story is to advance your business case, not to entertain or to beat the drum of self interest.

    Think about how movies can touch your own emotions. That’s the power of story telling. Go ye and do likewise.

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  • What exactly is Database Marketing?

    Small businesses don’t always have a Marketing Plan. And when someone suggests Database Marketing, they often ask:”What the heck is Database Marketing?” or, if they know what it is, “Isn’t Database Marketing only for the big boys?”

    The answer is No. You do not need an expensive system to set up a Database. You can use a simple spreadsheet to record the essential information about your customers.

    These are the details your system should record:

    Recency: date of last purchase

    Frequency: how many purchases made

    Money: total spend with you so far

    Average order: Money divided by Frequency

    Trend: are the Frequency and Average rising or falling?

    Your marketing should focus on Recency, Frequency and Money – the RFM factors, as they are called in Direct Marketing.

    Those who bought from you recently, and often, are the ones most likely to buy from you again, because they have accepted you as a preferred supplier, and do not need much reminding of the benefits of doing business with you.

    And those who buy frequently could quite readily be persuaded to shorten the gap between purchases or to order something new between their regular purchases.

    The total money spent with you will also determine how important they are to your business, and how profitable.

    Obviously, Recency, Frequency and Money will have different values in different businesses.

    For example, the gaps for buying computers will usually be much greater than for consumables like stationery. You should monitor all gaps and learn what is normal for each type of product, not only among your own customers, but in the industry.

    It adds important information to your Database – information that can guide your Marketing decisions.

    The other factor to consider is creativity – copywriting and design. Start with an email to phillip@speakingandpresentationskills.com“>phillip@speakingandpresentationskills.com or call 0845 165 9240 . The initial consultation is free.

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  • When is a Yes not a Yes?

    When I introduced Michael to Derek, a Methodist minister, the conversation turned to ethics and morality. “Are you allowed to lie?” asked Michael, a little aggressively.

    Pausing just fractionally, Derek replied, “In certain circumstance, yes. It’s called Situational Ethics. That’s when your answer is simply a way of saying Mind Your Own Business.”

    Michael was not satisfied. “A lie is a lie,” he maintained, “and a clergyman should set the example by never telling a lie.”

    A lie is defined as telling an untruth with the intention to deceive. However, if someone asks you a personal question, when they are not entitled to know the truth, do you have to answer truthfully? Do you have to empower them with the knowledge?

    Now imagine a situation in another country, somewhere in the Far East, for example. Your boss has written an article and asks your opinion of it. To tell him the truth would not only upset him but cause him to lose face. You are, after all, less senior to him, and it would be presumptuous to indicate that you could do a better job.

    What would you do? Would you lie? Of course you would, because you would be giving him the respect of his position, and you’d want to avoid hurting his feelings.

    In every case, telling an untruth carries the intention to deceive, but it may be to avoid empowering the other person or to prevent discomfort or loss of face. It may even be to protect someone from the person asking the question.

    The philosopher Immanuel Kant argued that lying is always morally wrong. In the examples I have given, you may feel that there are exceptions, but some will argue that there is a change in the moral climate that makes lying more common these days. They may also claim that lying corrupts the process of free rational choice. A third consequence may be that it subordinates a person through fear of the questioner.

    In cultures that avoid saying “No” the distinction may be less well defined. In the Bahasa Indonesia language there are a dozen ways to say “No” and many ways to say, “I’m saying Yes but I mean No.”

    And when I’ve been training in cross culture abroad, some other nations have said they feel that way about Britain and ask, When is a Yes not a Yes?

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