Every venue of communication has a window of opportunity. The window for generic holiday eCards has opened and shut. Finis. Done. It has been taken over by the mob. If you have clients and want to do a holiday outreach, read on.
Why do I say this? In my email inbox today, I had over 20 holiday eCards. Their were some nice ones, but most, I think missed the mark. No bah humbug intended, I love the holidays. In the 20 days leading to Xmas, my whole family sings a holiday tune each night. Each of my three children pick a song and put an ornament on a wall hanging xmas tree that grandma made for them. A new tradition, with fun and meaning for a 2, 4 and 5 year old. We put the time in. Parenting, like a business relationship is about the time. It would not matter what we did. I could spend the time telling my 5 year old about the “big bang” and the origin of the universe (her favorite story). It’s about putting in the time.
I’m not here to make a commentary on the spirit of the holidays, this is pure, good business advice. I hope you read it in time.
First, a history lesson: Holiday eCards emerged with the advent of email. It was a natural fit. Easy to do and send. You could reach out to clients that you may never go to the expense of mailing a card to. On the receiving end, it was a new thing, unique and unexpected.
This is not the case today. Today, if I wanted, I could send a generic holiday email to my 10,000+ linkedIN connections for less than $1. I asked one of my engineers on the actual server time cost… it really is less than $1. This is not taking into account the persons time to pick a holiday design, choose a generic, well wishing slogan, and click the send button.
This year, I initially thought about sending an eCard. I’m a technology person and it seemed “logical”. Thank you to April, Jenny & Mike from Broadlook for stopping me. Broadlook sent out hand – signed cards this year.
The axiom that I’ve learned in this:
The impact of your holiday outreach is in direct proportion to the time and care you put in.
I like to classify things. From the cards that I got, I thought I would put together a continuum of impact.
Generic holiday eCard – These simply suck. Stop sending them. Few people care unless you are the only one sending them a card. FAIL
Animated holiday eCard – These were cool and fun…3 years ago. Please stop sending these as well. (Mom can you hear me?) FAIL
Company branded holiday eCard – The same as Generic company eCard, except sporting a company logo on top of the usual snowflakes and mistletoe. For the 3rd time…please stop sending these. FAIL
Holiday Photo eCard – This is acceptable and hats off to the team at Entice Labs who sent out a great eCard. Why was it great? It had a picture of their entire company. For me, it was nice to see people I had met once a trade show and had talked to several times. This passes my “time and caring” litmus test. At some point, all business at the company had to stop so they could go outside and take a group photo. Nice touch. PASS
Personalized eCard – When I say “personalized” I mean that someone took the time to write something. Not a simple one liner, but a well thought out something. One of the best cards I got this year was 3 pages from a family run business, who lost a husband and father to a tragic accident. The card was a thank you, a year synopsis of how the business was faring and a heart felt holiday greeting. Yes it was mass-mailed, but the content took several hours to write. They put the time in. PASS
New Media eCards – Last year, this was cool, and for those who haven’t seen it yet, it can still be cool this year. If you have no idea what I am talking about, see http://www.elfyourself.com. If you wait until next year, it won’t be cool. PASS (this year) FAIL (next year)
What did Broadlook send this year? We went with hand written cards.
Our card features our new company mascot, Captain Archer. 180 pounds of love and the chagrin to the cleaning company. We lost Archer’s Mom & our 1st company mascot, Captain Janeway to cancer this year. I miss her.
Igor & Janeway as a puppy in the 1st Broadlook office in 2002. 400 sq ft of fun!
Steven Covey published The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People and it was a great book.
When Dr. Covey came out with a new book, The 8th Habit, I was skeptical. Why didn’t he think up the 8th habit right from the start?
Now I understand it. Ideas evolve. We are the sum total of your experiences at any point in time. You create a set of rules that you believe are universal. In my case, I am the author of The Seven Laws of Internet Search.
The Original Laws …
7. Measurable Results
It has been about a year and a half and now, guess what? I came up with another Law of Internet Search. The 8th law could not have been created by me…unless I was able to observe people learning and implementing the first seven laws in their Internet search activity.
Here is what I observed: The Internet is “non-homogeneous”. The idea of homogeneity also resonated with me as I wrote the original seven laws. I played with the idea of a Law of Non-homogeneity. This means that the Internet exists in many different formats and there is no way to query everything, with a single method or game plan.
“Non-Homogeneous” sounds ugly. To define something with “non” in front of it…it would be like cheating. Each of the seven laws of Internet Search is meant to be a simple axiom of advice. I failed to get my concept of Homogeneity into the laws.
Why did I fail? It is simple. Each of the seven laws is a solution. Whereas “non-homogeneous” or “non-homogeneity” was talking about a problem.
What was I trying to get at? It is also simple. The Internet is not homogeneous, therefore, many different methods are needed to search it. It is those very search mechanisms that the 8th Law takes into account. The 8th law is The Law of Environment.
In fact, the 8th Law is so important, I have moved it the top spot in The Laws of Internet Search. It is now The 1st Law of Internet Search.
To understand the Law of Environment. Get your mind around the concept of the Internet having many modalities. Many sites, each with it’s own set of rules or search environment.
Next. There are some simple questions to ask. What is the access method? What are the sites restrictions? Etc
In addition to the simple questions about the environment, the more advanced Internet search may want to dive into further understand the full capabilities of the search environment.
Once the simple questions about the environment are answered, the Internet search can proceed with quantifiable expectations on what to expect from their chosen search medium.
For example, it is important to understand that Google will only give you a maximum of 1000 results from any search. Even if Google reports that their are 2450 results, you only have access to the first 1000. Understanding this is understanding the limitation of the environment.
Here are the The Laws of Internet Search, Reloaded
8. Measurable Results
Dr. Steven Covey, now I understand. Looking forward to the ninth law.
Companies and the minds within them evolve over time. I have experienced it firsthand in founding Broadlook Technologies and steering its growth over the last 6 years. Core competencies change, competitive landscapes change, opportunities come and go and through all this there is your corporate identity and messaging. There is internal messaging, external messaging and…
THE ELEVATOR PITCH
While internal messaging may be something like “don’t complain about the 150 lbs slobbering behemoth of a dog the CEO brings in with him” (if they do, I bring in her soon to be 200 lb offspring), I am not focusing on that here. Today I am concerned (sometimes, up at night) about external messaging; that which is projected outwards to the marketplace. What brought this to my attention was my wandering around the booths at the recent Onrec conference in Chicago. Innately, I am very curious person; I want to understand. So I made the rounds to each vendor booth and simply asked them.
“So what do you do”?
For the most part, I was horrified with the experience.
Why? It was NOT because what I heard was awful. In fact, many pitches were excellent. I was horrified because it made me question and run to the Broadlook booth. Was my team excellent, or not so excellent?
Let me digress…Understand this is an area of pride for me, Dan Hughes (one of Broadlook’s co-founders) and I rock at the trade shows. People line up to get a peek at our latest solutions. We have well crafted pitches, regardless if we are talking to a recruiter, recruiting manager, sales rep or CEO.
How did my team at Broadlook Technologies do with their pitches?
Mixed results. Some were very good and some were poor. Next step, I called each of my reps that were not attending the show.
“This is Donato, I want you to call my cell phone back ASAP. I won’t pick up my cell phone. Leave me a message as if I was a prospect at a trade show and I asked you.”
“So what do you do?”
Armed with a larger sample size, it was hard for me to accept that Broadlook Technologies was, as it relates to elevator pitches…average. We filled out all sectors of the bell curve. That hurt. The blame was solely mine and I needed to do something about it. Average sucks.
Fast forward. Today Broadlook Technologies rocks the pitch.
How did Broadlook get there?
I did a deep dive into researching elevator pitch. Most of the research, materials and advice I found was related to making a pitch to get financing. In reality, this type of elevator pitch is 2-3 minutes long and is too lengthy for a trade show pitch. I needed techniques for a 20-30 second pitch, not 2-3 minutes.
Most of what I learned is that people have mastered copying each other. Like almost all writing in all industries, industry “experts” are copying 5 of the top 10 something’s from one place or another to build their top 10 list of something else.
I’ve never been good at that.
So it was time for fieldwork. Thus, for those that saw me in October conferences with my camera, I was learning. At the first conference, I was in not helping with the pitches; I recorded them as-is. The camera was cheap, and the audio quality was lack-luster. At the second conference, I had a new Sony HD camera. Video was great but the audio was poor with all the background noise. By the 3rd conference, I added directional microphone. By the 4th conference in October, I learned what made a great pitch and I was able to coach the people I was recording. After the 4th conference, I was confident enough to put together a 60-minute webinar: “The Art of the Elevator Pitch”. It went over very well for the vendors attending the Kennedy conference. In the webinar, I talked about elements of a good pitch as well as how to measure and coach a pitch. Info on measuring and coaching was absolutely void, so I feel I made a break-through contribution. What good is teaching something if you don’t have the tools to measure effectiveness and coach the topic?
This was a fun experience. In total I did about 60 recordings. 38 of the recordings made it into this blog entry. The ones I cut out were either very bad, or the video/audio quality was poor. I am not a videographer, some pitches were fantastic, but my camera skills were not and the end result was unusable. My end goal was to (1) share what I learned about pitches and (2) give the vendors that spent time with me a venue to get them some exposure.
If anyone that I excluded wants to be included, contact me and we can record your pitch via Skype and I will post it on a future blog. I’ll be adding an “elevator pitch” section to my blog, as I intend on continuing my research.
Much of the existing literature on the Internet about elevator pitches included 8-10 points to remember. Trying to remember 8-10 concepts at the same time can be paralyzing. I wanted to bring the whole process down a few, simple, memorable steps that anyone can implement. After my research and fieldwork I can up with a three-step process to build your elevator pitch. Enjoy the videos!
1. Talk about a problem. What is the problem in the market that caused you to create your product or service?
Sales reps spend 30% of their time prospecting. They use the Internet inefficiently. They manually picking through web sites… cutting & pasting contact information. They do this because the leads they are getting are stale and overused.
2. How do you solve that problem? Be concise and clear.
Broadlook provides solutions that harness names, titles, emails, phone numbers and bio’s from the Internet. You choose the sectors or companies to target. The data is fresh. The data is actionable. Think about it: The most powerful list is the one no-one else has. We can help you build that list.
3. What makes you unique? Don’t use generic terms like the “best”, craft a something that truly differentiates you in the market.
Below is a group of the first 30 or so pitches I recorded. Each video consists of 5-10 pitches.