Test your BHAG

What is the uniting force in your business? Running and working in high growth companies is hard work and we are often losing sight of what we are all about.

Daniel Pink in his book Drive he outlined three core drivers for people: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.  (Note:  For those who have not read this great book watch the 10 minute animated summary)

Nothing binds a business like a clear and succinct BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) and a clear purpose.  I am not talking about the traditional boring mission statements that lime the walls of corporate offices, full of: Corporate blah blah… typically lots of words taken from a corporate speak bingo competition.

What I am talking about is a mantra or Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) that is worth waking up for in the morning and going the extra mile.

Ingredients of BHAGs that work are:

  • Compelling and gripping: people understand straight away
  • Action orientated
  • Bold: bordering on arrogant and unattainable
  • Clear: who, what, where, by when
  • Types: target, common foe, role model, internal transformation
  • SUCCINCT: The power of message is inversely proportional to its length

Have a look at some of the founding BHAGs for some of industries great companies noting this is what they started with…

  • Microsoft: “A computer on every desk and in every home”
  • Amazon: “Every book, ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds. Also: Earth’s most customer centric company”
  • Ford: “Democratize the automobile”  (1900’s)
  • Twitter:  “To become “the pulse” of the planet”
  • Giro Sport Design: “Become the Nike of the cycling industry”
  • Nike: “Crush Adidas” (1960’s)

Brian Gaynor spoke at Springboard this month citing “New Zealand  business owners, in comparison to Australian counterparts, lacked ambition”.  Check your BHAG against the above list. Do not fall into the trap of being another conservative Kiwi company without big ambition.

Here are a few ideas from local examples (note: not their actual BHAG)

  • Biomatters:  “Tools on every biologist’s desktop”
  • E-spatial : “THE location intelligence behind all major New Zealand enterprise solutions”
  • Sale finder: “New Zealand’s ultimate consumer research tool”

When it comes to purpose statements – these are just clear concise versions of your value proposition in the language of your clients. More on this later – a topic for another blog post.  In the meantime, you can read value propositions revisited, creating succinct messages, No value proposition = No business from old posts.

Example Purpose: Spike mail: “Building qualified and engaged buyers versus creating lists”  – note no reference to their core craft of email marketing.

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9 Traits to Excite an Investor and Prosper…

Will your company get investor interest and, more importantly, will it prosper?

Too many companies I see pitching for investment pitch a product or a technology, not a company.  Fixing the product pitch is a relatively easy task in comparison to fixing the business pitch, mainly because most businesses don’t have a strategy or even a plan. Sorry, “build it and they will come” doesn’t count. 

Test your company against this list to see if you are investment ready:

  1. A product that we understand –  the problem and the solutionno matter how complex the science is behind your company, it must have a simple explanationof the problem you solve for customers and the value you give your customers and end users.
  2. Validated market demand for the productif it’s a new venture what third party proof do you have (eg. market research, etc) that people will buy your product at a price, you can make money from it. If it’s in the market already, excite us about your sales growth story.
  3. A trend driving increased demand – creating the “perfect storm” – what is going on in your target market that says this demand will continue and ideally increase?
  4. A sustainable competitive advantage how are you going to defend yourself against the competition when it wakes up?
  5. Clear, quantified metrics as to how the business makes moneyhow well defined is you business – finance model? Can you model your sales process (eg. x dollars spent on Google ad words = y dollars sales)? At least understand the financial model and your capacity constraints.
  6. A clear and easily communicated business plan/strategy – including go-to market –  a clear and concisestrategy and plan is a long way towards achieving greatness. Give us confidence you have a tangible way to reach customers and meet demand.
  7. An experienced teamNothing happens without a committed and well-equipped team. What relevant experience does your team have? Remember always employ people smarter than you.
  8. Clear return for investoris your valuation set at a point where the investor can actually make a return? Remember no exit plan = no investment.
  9. Fun people working on cool stufffun and cool mean different things to different people – but like pornography it is obvious when it is, or isn’t. 

I consistently see in the New Zealand market place, time and time again, businesses get caught up with the product, technology or science and are wasting their efforts because they failed to stop and look at the bigger picture of a full go-to market plan and strategy.

Debbie Humphrey and I have launched a new investment ready programme called Business Dominoes to help business owners both recognise this strategy gap and fill it. All of our clients from the first intake are raving about the transformation their business stimulated from this programme. Debbie and I believe you are expert at driving your company, you just need a hand as to where to drive to and who you should take with you.

Milestone Map-Plan

Need to communicate your business plan to attention deficit stakeholders? … or perhaps just get smart feedback on your plan.

Creating a one-page milestone map-plan on a chart is a great way to keep you, your team and advisors focused. With a small list of tactics and key measures you have a far greater chance of achieving your desired end result.

Many business growth strategies fall apart at the transition point between creating key strategic themes and establishing a set of measurable tactical tasks and goals.  Too many businesses end up with huge lists of tactics, most of which will only get token attention, with the end result being  the plan never being executed.

This technique will force you up front, to prioritise and rationalise your tactical list of things to do. The milestone map-plan is a great way to succinctly communicate your business plan both past, present and future to all stakeholders of your business. Particularly when you are seeking intelligent feedback and buy-in from potential investors and staff whose attention spans are limited.

A fictitious example of a web company is shown below to illustrate the technique. (click the chart image for larger view)

Tips on using the milestone map-plan:

  • Limit yourself to max of 10 milestones per year – prioritise the top 10 that will influence or measure success
  • Split your milestones across different functional areas.  Add rows to suit your business but make sure you include at least finance, market, process and people.
  • List the last 1-2 years to help provide flow
  • Include additional boxes on key risks and your competitor’s response, both historic and forecast.
  • Do not fill the chart with activities that will naturally happen unless they help with the understanding of the plan
  • This is not a product roadmap –list only major product releases/events
  • Put it up on the wall by your desk for daily review

The milestone map-plan is great for helping all staff members focus on tasks that will help you achieve your goals, as well as showing the dependencies of tasks.

If you find yourself or your staff overtime not executing tasks on the plan then its time to challenge the map-plan and test out whether “the plan is still relevant”. If not change the map-plan otherwise re prioritise your work.

Put your plan up for continual challenge with advisors and staff. Do not be afraid to throw it out when the environment changes. Do not fall into the trap of “the law of committees”

If a committee is allowed to discuss something long enough, it will inevitably vote to implement their idea, simply because so much work has already been done on it.”

If the plan is no good say so and do something about it.

Succinct visual tools like this and the business model canvas, create powerful discussions very quickly and maximise interaction time.
More importantly they increase the probability of success.

Creating Powerful Succinct Messages That Sell

Succinct communication wins every time in this instant time poor world – whether the end game is selling a business, an idea, a product or service or just communicating a plan of action.

“It’s not what you say, it’s what they remember and can be bothered to pass on”

The best material delivered in the wrong manner will go nowhere. Most people make their pitches too vague, too long and too boring. Hence they never get passed onto target audiences and never go viral.

Below are my top 5 communication tips for sales and investment pitches – whether it’s an elevator pitch, full blown sales proposal or coffee with a potential investor.

1: Earn your audience’s attention (be engaging)

Open with something that gets their attention. Remember that only 7% of a message’s impact comes from the words, the rest comes from body language 55%, and tone of voice at 38%. Passion and confidence cannot be faked, equally so the format of the written word matters.

Don’t forget to excite the sensors – Props (physical things) are great memory hooks. Smell and taste are often forgotten.

2: Be Succinct

Use sound bites (10-30 second statements) and headline concepts.

Think like a journalist – what would be your grabbing headline and how can you compact the main message into the first min of your presentation?

Use the inverted pyramid of information – basic journalistic tool.  The power of a message is inversely proportional to its length (less is more).

 

In creating effective messages you need to decide what not to say.

Changing the order of your sound bites is the easiest way to improve it’s impact and effectiveness.

3: Contrast is the best conversion tool (life before and after)

Illustrate your value proposition by contrasting what the customer’s life will be like before and after they have purchased, or with and without your product/service.

Make it simple black and white, not a million shades of grey.

4: Always quantify gain (be specific)

Be specific in what you say, if it’s faster – how much faster? Use this with contrast. Likewise do not use vague descriptions eg “a customer…”, name them, be specific it has greater impact.

5: Customer stories win minds and get results

Short relevant and concise, quantified customer stories using contrast provide the most efficient way to give others a message they will empathise with, process and pass on.

Research by the “sales brain team” showed the following results to the effectiveness (probability of closing a sale) of 4 different proofs of value:

1: Customer Case (80%)
2: Demonstration (60 – 100%)
3: Data (20 – 60%)
4: Vision (10-40%)

Read the Book “Neuromarketing”– “Selling to the old brain” …. Best book I have ever read on sales.  http://www.salesbrain.com/

“WIFM  – What’s in it for me”

The golden rule for all communication is: “always use your audience’s language of success”, not yours. Work out what is the highest gain for your target audience (financial, strategic or personal gain)

Your first goal is always to excite interest in the outcome (the WHAT). When the audience get the relevance of the outcome they will ask the HOW questions. At this point you have them baited. The How (the technology or process) is your domain, not your customers, they just want a result.

Too often business people attempt to sell their business by talking about their product or craft rather than the “true value/outcome” the client is seeking. This is your language not theirs.

Avoid “The curse of knowledge”

Insiders are the worst at reviewing messages for external audiences, they are handicapped by knowing too much, assuming.  Use an experienced external advisor to help extract your core messages and test their impact for first time listeners.

More on this topic: see other www.succinct.co.nz blog posts on this topics in the GMC top tips:

–       “Link between simple strategy pitch and success
–       “Value propositions revisited
–        ” 90 sec Elevator Pitch

Check out www.Succcinct-Stories.com we can help you prepare your next marcoms brief, test your sales or investment proposal or just help you get your elevator pitch sorted.  This also holds true to how you communicate your business strategy and plan to your stakeholders and team to get engagement.

Link between simple strategy pitch and success

Link between simple strategy pitch and success

Can you easily articulate your business strategy less than 60 secs?

Most business owners get that they need a product elevator pitch for sales, but have you considered whether you have a strategy pitch for your stakeholders?

Strategy without execution is just a waste of time. If your staff fail to “get” what your strategy is all about, how are they going to engage with it, think out of the box and work as a team to achieve the goals set out in it? Do not expect your team to read that strategy document you diligently prepared or mind read. How many of your staff could tell you what the company’s growth strategy is?

“A business plan is a document that investors ask for but never read” whether you are raising capital or inspiring your team – you are responsible for creating the interest in your strategy and delivering it in a manner that people will engage with and act on.

After helping many business owners over the years with their investment pitch I have come to the conclusion that: the leaders who fail in the ability to deliver a succinct version of their business strategy, will fail to grow beyond where they are now – irrespective of investment or not.  This is evident when I see companies year after year going nowwhere – failing to achieve the growth talked about but never delivered.

Too many businesses suffer from the lack of clarity, wasting time with a team not empowered to say no to stray activities “off strategy, basically letting fate decide what they should be focusing on. In many of these cases the business owner has it all in his head but fails to communicate it. Or worst still a non- connected or busy management team that have parts of it but are not aligned.

High growth businesses live in a chaotic world, most staff living on the edge chasing tails. Failure to articulate your business strategy to your stakeholders (team, board, investors) is just as bad as not having a strategy at all.

My advice is take your business plan / strategy and condense it down to less than five key statements – themes that people get.   Eg Market share is king, more important than profits.  The power of the message is inversely proportional to the number of words used.

This condensing could even be considered as a bolt-on-phase to your existing planning technique.

Creating and expressing your business strategy as an elevator pitch is a mind bender, but the resulting clarity is empowering.  The conversations that you and your team will have around condensing your strategy is a worthwhile exercise in its self.

Some tips:

  • Have a go at presenting your business strategy verbally: no props or power point, can you do it? Have your strategy challenged by someone fresh outside your business or a new employee.
  • Use an external facilitator who excels at this to help accelerate the extraction of the core strategy and listen with fresh ears – BTW this is GMC’s speciality 🙂
  • Use diagrams and pictures to focus thinking, business model canvas, balanced score card diagrams
  • Engage specialist graphical recording – facilitation techniques to record and stimulate complex enterprise strategies and problems. This powerful technique is relatively rare in NZ. Here is a link to one of the many you tube clips explaining this technique.  Two NZ providers GMC work with are: www.motive8.co.nz/ and  www.martincoates.com contact GMC if you want to give it a go.
  • Everything can be simplified, strategy does not need to be complex

Irrespective of whether you are thinking of raising capital or not, creating clarity and simplicity in your business strategy is key to getting staff, board and potential investors engaged and actually achieving goals.

If you can clearly and succinctly articulate your strategy you have a far higher chance of actually executing it.

10 tips for creating interest in technology companies

Most deals are completed by not who we talk to, but who our audiences talk to… “Its not what you say, it’s what they pass on that counts”

The acid test of your pitch is did it get passed on and ultimately did it go viral.

Talking  in the language of our target audience not ours takes practice. If you are a scientist and/or technologist seeking endorsement and funding from investors, start talking their language.

Here are 10 tips to creating effective pitches:

  1. Get attention be different – Opening WOW.
    Stand out from the crowd, wake people up.   Just because you have their physical presence you do not have their mind.
    Don’t be boring.
  2. Be succinct  – Talk in simple 10-30 sec sound bites, create a 3 min version first.
    Long messages are hard to process and seldom get passed on. The power of your message is inversely proportional to the number of words used.
  3. Build simple context for relevance
    The more complex the technology, the greater the need to add a 10-30 sec statement that simply explains why we should care about this topic and why is it relevant to other people.
  4. Customer Stories engage audiences
    The most powerful way to explain a technology is to give us an example client, their problem and what difference your solution makes for them.  Customer cases are proven to be 80% efficient in closing sales. Ignore the temptation to explain how your technology works – its secondary, almost irrelevant, wait to be asked.
  5. Contrast & quantify outcomes not technology– (with & without)
    Build on your customer story by quantifying the difference your product made comparing life before and after your product. Audiences like black and white, not complicated shades of grey.
  6. Explain your business model – including how you make money and go to market.
    Use the business model canvas or a variant of it to illustrate your business model in a page.
  7. How you say it is more relevant than what you say
    Research showed that message impact is determined 7% by content, the rest is by body language and voice (vocal variety). Don’t make your pitch boring by the way you deliver it.
  8. Investors invest in people first – technology second
    Tell us something about your team and why with them on board this project/venture will succeed.
  9. Be clear about both where you are today and what your BHAG is
    inspire use with your vision, but show us how you will get from where you are to the end goal
  10. Be true yourself and your brand
    Authenticity and personality counts- have a character and a way and be proud of it

And do not forget to listen … pitching is all about baiting an audience to begin an intelligent  two way conversation…

more on this topic including an elevator pitch template >

Differentiation for Services Coy’s

My twin and I are different…

So we all know we need to have a USP (unique selling proposition)  – Elevator Pitch. But what about when you are in the services business ? …”we are the best” or a derivative of it “we are the leaders” fails miserably on the unique test.

Unfortunately unless the output of your service is significant – it is useless at differentiating you, in fact doing a great job is what I call a hygiene factor – something any decent professional will give.

Very seldom, if at all, it is the firm that differentiates the service provider. There is always someone else that has the “expert team” or “boutique personal service”. We need to hunt further than that.

Think about how you choose your last: Dentist, lawyer, architectural designer or business adviser?

Differentiating in the services game is hard, as the string of poor web sites  are testimony too.

My guess it came down to one of these:

  • Referral from a trusted source – the great thing here is price is often eliminated with a great referral. So make sure all your endorsements are succinct and powerful and not hidden away,
  • They stood out from the pack in some way. This could be from:
    • Making a stand eg Being thought leaders or just different
    • You just liked them, because they are “like you”.

Notice I am not talking about a logo or fancy tag line. It is more about your approach, attitude or way you are. Once you are conscious of what your customers like, give them more of it. Make sure that this “way” is consistent across your entire organisation. Have you ever fired someone because they did not adhere to your company values – brand attitude?

It still blows me away when I see people referring to their craft rather than a measure of success from the client’s perspective. Here is classic from a web site “Accounting is our passion,” If accounting is your passion, enjoy yourself. But what can you do for me?

For something completely different check out this law firm www.valoremlaw.com/ (see the tease below)

They are making a stand:  “the billable hour is dead”

 

Check your web site out,  how much of relevance do you offer your clients?

Some more ideas on standing out from the crowd:

  • Share customer stories, highlighting what your customers got beyond your basic service
  • Make sure all your headline stories on your promotional material talk the language of your customers need and success – not yours
  • On referrals, make sure you make it easy for people to refer you:
  • Be clear on what you do and don’t do. give them a simple sound bite to pass on…
    Particularly if there is some overlap of your services with them.
  • Be clear on what market segment you are after.
  • Make sure you have a LinkedIn profile and its up to date (google is great at finding you here)
  • Reciprocate – people you give referrals, will give you ones in retutn
  • Your existing and past customers will give you the best referrals, they know you. Always ask for an endorsement and highlight rather than hide them on your web site. Third party endorsements have an 80% probability of closing a sale.
  • Google yourself and see what people see of you. Do it on an I-pad and see how your web site looks – influencer’s are generally busy people and they steal time by using these portable devices

More GMC articles on Networking or Pitching , or if you want more information specific to  selling professional services I found a great resource here  http://www.marcusletter.com/Differentiation.htm