12 Tips for effective customer workshops

Seminars / workshops are a great tool to show thought leadership, promote yourPostit note workshop BD LRx product/service and most importantly engage with potential and existing customers alike.

Here are 12 tips to help you maximise the customer engagement/learning opportunity:

  1. Facilitate don’t Lecture – effective presenters engage conversation and guide the learning process, rather than talk down to audiences. The participants are your best tool, acknowledge them by integrating them & their knowledge into your delivery.
  2. Ask the audience what they expect  – Everyone turns up with different expectations. Do a quick poll around the room as to what people are expecting to get from the day. Make sure you either cover that material or acknowledge up front you will not be covering it.  Write up key themes on a flip chart to ensure you do actually cover the topics requested. At the end go back to list and acknowledge each issue. Also get them to introduce themselves, it helps participants work out who to target and avoid during the breaks.
  3. Don’t over script – Have structure and flow to the content you deliver. Go with the flow of the participant questions and their hot topics. I will use a standard set of slides, but speak differently to them dependant on the audience, using my arsenal of stories/examples to illustrate points, dependant on the audience. You are the subject matter expert, so trust yourself to deliver the magic.
  4. Death by PowerPoint: Never, never read power point slides – your PowerPoint is a supporting actor, you are the main act.  Get a balance between text, diagrams and other graphics on your slides. The worst presentations/ seminars I have attended all either had text only slides or too many low quality images. Remember the power of the message is inversely proportional to the number of words and if a diagram or picture is worth a 1000 words. Use istock.com or the like to get some professional low cost royalty free images and take the time to create powerful diagrams. Also use a good projector and leave lights on and blinds open.
  5. Use attendee examples:  Get people to apply the knowledge on the spot and share back their thoughts  – people will observe flaws in other people well  before themselves. Using examples from the attendees will make it a more personalised & relevant experience.
  6. Use flip charts / white boards: Work out your key messages from the seminar and keep referencing them on a flip chart. Also when answer questions putting some key annotations on a white board will accelerate learning. The vast majority of people prefer visual learning/comprehension over verbal or kinaesthetic.
  7. Manage time: You own the flow and interaction. Shut down persistent know it all’s or major diversions. Likewise poll opinions from quiet participants. If you have multiple speakers use an Master of Ceremonies (MC), it may even pay to get a professional facilitator in. Don’t run overtime.
  8. Put additional reading in hand-out material to pass on to non attendees:  Add a few articles / white papers to the hand out material over and above the power point slides. Make it easy for a non attendee to get an idea of what your core messages are, if they are handed the material post event.
  9. Subtle Selling / stay true to your brand:  95% thought leadership, 5% direct sales. Be clear on what impression you want to leave behind, style, brand positioning etc. The best sales methodology is a subtle thought leadership approach. Do not forget to put your logo and contact details on material and mention what services you offer without over doing it.
  10. Make a stand: as an expert in your field the participants expect you to have an opinion. The events where I have expressed a strong opinion and opened the floor up to debate, have been the most engaging workshops I have run.
  11. Continually develop your material: Constantly tweak your material based on audience feedback and new information that comes to hand.
  12. Entertain & enjoy it:if you have fun so will the audience. Great business is not boring. If your subject matter expert is a boring speaker: coach him, give him a co presenter, don’t leave him on stage for too long

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Give us a call if you would like a hand with coaching your team on creating high impact workshop delivery.

Growth Management Consulting also runs in-house workshops on a range of topics including: Business Planning, Pitching, Investment Ready as well as facilitating board/management team off sites and other business events.

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Start With Why – Using PurposeTo Motivate Action

start with whySimon Sinek’s book “Start with why – “How great leaders inspire people to take action” is a must read for all business owners and marketers alike. Be prepared to be inspired and start asking yourself what is your WHY?

His seemingly simple concept of engaging people with your purpose or “cause” (the “Why”), before bombarding them with the how & what (the typical features benefit sale pitch) is so simple, yet powerful. It is easy to see how this can transform your customer engagement, beyond a simple transactional relationship into that Nevada of life time loyal customer.

By purpose he is not talking about making money, which is the result that comes from achieving your purpose. He is talking about the inner connecting thought that gets people engage in what you do. This core motivating purpose, is the same concept that Daniel Pink’s book Drive is all about. You can read more on Daniel Pink’s take on purpose in my blog post – “Forget about incentives for your staff”

Simon’s approach is a great tool for building that instant bond with your target customers , using the common ground of “a matter of principle”, before attempting to bait them into your product value proposition. Simon’s approach is well illustrated by using  Apple as an example. Compare the two sales messages below:

The What / How Sell: (how most companies sell)

  • We make great computers.
  • They’re beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly.
  • Wanna buy one?

The Why / How / What  Sell : (how apple sell)

  • Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo.
  • We believe in thinking differently.
  • The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly.
  • And we happen to make great computers.
  • Wanna buy one?

Watch at least the first 8 mins of Simon Sinek’s 18 min TED Video (below)

Take the time to uncover your “Why” and get your customers appreciating the true value of your offering.

The “Start With Why” methodology is a quick way to qualify potential customers in or out. People who get your purpose, will quickly build powerful relationships with you.

If you do not connect on the “Why” with your customers,  be prepared for the typical transactional relationship that can quickly fall into the death spiral of price haggling.

Simon Sinek’s book is available on kindle and paper, well worth the investment.  You can read more about his methodology on his web site

Your Business is Customer Centric – Yeah Right!

Ineffective websites – not talking the language of customers

Most businesses in NZ suck at marketing.  They under invest in sales activities and in many cases waste marketing spend creating campaigns, websites and newsletters that do not appeal to their target audience.

Too often the “just do it” drive and focus on “pretty” means businesses do not take the time to extract a powerful core message, “story” and purpose to drive their business and marketing campaigns. All this results in what I call “crap in – crap out” marketing and business planning. Evident by the number of company web sites that have weak selling messages and non- focused businesses selling to everyone.

What I am suggesting is slow down long enough to analyse your customers world and re-purpose your business on what’s important – your customer.

Most web design companies do not have the capability to extract your core marketing messages; they lack the breadth of business and market knowledge. Like any process the better the input  (the design brief) the better the output – you need to own the brief.

When asked – most if not all businesses will proclaim they are customer centric.  If you asked all of your staff “what does our business do?”, how many unprompted would mention the problem you solve for your customers vs how you solve it or what your core “craft” is.

An emphatic focus on the customer and solving their pain is crucial element of all business success.

Ask a business that creates software, what sort of business they are and they will invariably come back with “we are a software company”.  This is not surprising, given they spend most of their life thinking and creating software products.  The reality is their customers do not care at all about the software, they primarily care about what the software does for them (how they measure success).  No matter what your craft is whether it’s: software, science, baking cakes or fixing bicycles it is never about your craft for the purchaser.  Your customers are primarily interested in WIFM (what’s in it for me) and that will include how they measure success.
In the B2B environment more often than not customers want increased sales, productivity or cost reduction. In the B2C place in many cases it comes back to some form of “experience”. What pain or problem are you solving for your customer? What is your customer’s measure of success?

 Successful businesses base all their business activities around solving customer problems, continually reference and reinforce their key selling points and how their customers measure success.

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Make sure your web sites lead story is about solving the customer’s problem and the outcome they get, rather than how you solve it. Use the language of your customer not your internal how we do it language. Once you hook them with the what, then tell them how, not before.

Don’t forget the three most power tools for communicating customer success are: customer stories, contrast (with and without your product) and quantifying the outcome they get.

The better and more succinct the definition of your customer pain and your solutions outcome, the more powerful your marketing and other business activities will become.

Suffering “the curse of knowledge”, we are simply to close and pre-occupied with how we solve the problem, to articulate the new buyer trigger points. My suggestion is get a 3rd party who understands your craft to help unravel the customer need, to create a better creative briefs and core purpose to drive business activities.

This focus on customer equally works for your business planning and day to day operations. You can use the power of a succinct purpose to empower your staff to make better decisions on the fly.  Remember the Williams Formula One Team mantra – we make the car go faster. Any one on the team can make decisions on the spot: does this activity make the car go faster? Then lets do it!

 How does your business stack up?

 Customer centric test:

  1. Does your website use your customer’s language (outcomes) or yours? (Features or benefits)
  2. Do you begin customer discussions with how you will solve, rather than the problem or outcome?
  3. Have you asked current customers, Particularly repeat customers, why they buy from you? Have you included their response in your messaging?
  4. Do you use the customer problem to help decide what you do and don’t do in your business?
  5. If any of your staff were asked what do you do – will they give a customer centric response?

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.