Too Busy Being Fabulous…And Other Roadblocks To Conversations That Matter

An Atheist, A Christian and a Buddhist Walk Into A Bar. . .

The title of the blog post by Andy Braner appeared in my Facebook news feed, and made me dive deeper for the punchline. But, as you’ll see if you’re inclined to do the same, it wasn’t a joke at all. It was the story of a better, albeit unlikely conversation.

You pick the venue — home, school, work, play, sex, religion or rock & roll — what might happen if we had more actual conversations — as opposed to talking at each other…protecting turf, pressing an agenda…pushing for a win? That is what Andy’s story is about.

And it made me think.

What if when we entered the room, we weren’t positioning…strutting our stuff?

I was seated at what I thought would be a quiet table in the corner of a neighborhood spot. While it turned out to be anything but quiet, it was the best seat in the house for off-the-marquis entertainment. A big-voiced guy decided to hold court with everyone within earshot. As a few who knew him approached with a greeting (for reasons I can’t imagine), they became unwitting participants in his performance.

Your day? Oh..I can top your day. Your car? Mine is bigger, better, faster. Your college football team? Can’t really stay on the field with mine (score of the game notwithstanding). The speeding ticket you got? You should have my hook-up — I never get a ticket. And on. And on. And on.

This guy talked constantly. Keeping up with his banter became a game. What would he one-up next? By virtue of decibel level alone, he dominated the room. But little was said. There was no conversation. And judging by how quickly most sought to extricate themselves from his presence, there was no connection.

It was easy to be irritated. But I have to admit that I found myself wondering whether, when it comes to real connection, there is much difference between what I’d just heard, and far too many of the communication opportunities in my life.

“Busy Being Fabulous”

If you’re an Eagles fan you likely recognize this as the title of a track on Long Road Out of Eden. And the song is a poetic description of the problem — not only of the guy in the restaurant, but the reason so many attempts at communication and interactions go nowhere.

I know from personal experience — when I’m preoccupied with being heard, I’m likely too busy to engage in conversation.

Conversations begin in the silence of intentional listening. This is that rare air where the agenda is connecting. Not evangelizing. Not posturing.

It makes little difference whether we’re talking about the marketing message of a brand, the boardroom examination of a strategy, a cause or deeply held belief, or the evening-around-the-table discussions about how the day went — real communication (and progress) will be in proportion to the quality of the conversations taking place. Not the eloquence of the message.

Better conversations begin when egos are checked at the door, posturing and positioning abandoned in favor of finding common ground, and progress measured in terms of bridges built.

We’ve all witnessed, or (he said with embarrassment) even been the loud guy in the restaurant. But if we buy the idea that relationship trumps everything – and I do — some attention to what it takes to have better conversations seems worthy of exploration. So here’s one idea on where we might begin. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Whatever the venue, subject matter or vocabulary, at least part of what it takes to instigate better conversation is a willingness to be intentionally quiet . . . and listen.

The Blurry Line Between Marketing and Business Development (And Does The Label Really Matter)?

Let’s talk about the blurry line between marketing and business development.

I’m not one of those terribly concerned with what we call it. Preoccupation with either the use or elimination of specific labels is often (it seems) more an attempt to dictate language in the interest of controlling a conversation than it is about connecting.

My real interest as a marketing/BD leader lies in finding common ground and building trust with the professionals I aim to assist in more effectively penetrating the market.

So, the fact that, particularly in the legal space, terms like marketing, business development, and client service are often used somewhat interchangeably no longer troubles me much. Do they represent somewhat unique functions? Given my frame of reference, yes. But I’m not at all sure that fact warrants much time.

While inside our teams we need to understand functional differences, I believe a case can be made that the silos created by many of the labels we want to affix hinder progress more than they create clarity of purpose or efficiencies.

Call it what you will, it seems to me that the role of professional service marketers is two fold:

  • To facilitate (at times orchestrate) an actual marketplace connection between the subject matter experts with whom we work, and those in a position to hire them; and,
  • To protect the integrity and enhance the strategic visibility of the firm’s (or individual’s) brand — in the most comprehensive sense of the word.

The methodology by which an individual or team accomplishes these two broad tasks can vary substantially. The size of the firm, number of practice areas or groups, size of the support team, budget allocations — all of these will impact how a marketing team is structured.

But in any case, marketing is not about advertising campaigns. Or great logo design. Or memorable tag lines, events and elevator speeches. Nor is business development about a CRM system, so-called Big Data, research tools, and B-School worthy plans.

All can be valued assets, to be sure. But few will get the job done in isolation.

What Matters? What Makes A Difference? And What Do We Call It?

As we think, rethink and plan for the months ahead, what do you say to some brainstorming around the real keys to successful Marketing efforts?

Here are three bits of fodder to get the conversation rolling.

  • Begin with a strategic approach to Marketing and Business Development that is aligned with the objectives of your firm (basic, I know…but we’ve all seen approaches that instigate more of a tug-of-war than effective go-to-market plans);
  • A solid marketing/BD foundation is scalable — adaptable to the tools and resources at hand;
  • Success begins with smart targeting. This is roll-up-your-sleeves work, We muse about it often in these postings, and without it, even robust and well-funded programs can come up short. Smart targeting gives shape to how we effectively approach the whole ball of wax — what communication should say, what channels and tools to utilize, and how to package and present a pitch that actually connects.

Most of us drift from one side to the other of that blurry line, depending on the day. Those in larger organizations with the resources to do so, may be able to build out discrete functions. But I’m guessing few of us can afford to go long tending to only part of the equation.

So call me a Business Development guy…or a marketer…or just a guy that helps. Titles and labels notwithstanding, the most successful individuals I know in this business find innovative ways to facilitate connections between the marketplace and the professionals with whom we work.

The work of the (very) few who figure this out will ultimately be called professional. And the individuals themselves, trusted advisors.

Slowing Your Roll Is Good For Your Soul

For many, this season precipitates slowing down…at least sporadically. A good thing, since the blur brought on by frenetic pursuit tends to distort perspective.

Slow down enough, and the things that matter most are pretty easy to focus on — family…true friendshippeace (and quiet)…joy.

If we slow enough we might even see the new year as representative of a fresh start. We  might (once again) resolve to improve — maybe even fix some things that too easily interrupt where we invest the moments of each day.

One such personal resolution is to be more mindful of the relationships that make me rich in the only real sense of the word. And to express appropriate appreciation — more regularly, if not more eloquently.

And so I begin here.

  • Thanks to friends. In 2014 you reminded me that relationships are the only things on which you can depend — the only things that last. As always, you gave, expecting nothing in return. You listened, encouraged, and counseled. You are great examples.
  • Thanks to my family — the most important relationships in my life. You make me whole.
  • And thanks to those of you who share in the musings posted here. Your thoughtful comments — online, and otherwise — encourage, instruct and shape an on-going dialogue…personally and professionally.

Thanks to your participation, we’ll do it all again in 2015 — for the thirteenth year! (Someone in this conversation is getting older.)

May your reflections and resolutions in this season be a prelude to a year — rich with the joy of all that matters most.

Two Steps To Better Business Development and Marketing in 2015

It is our annual ritual.

Marketing and business development professionals hunker down to create fresh plans that will make the best use of resources, resonate with management, and somehow penetrate the market more effectively.

We did it last year, and the year before that. And most of us will do it all again twelve months hence.

It should be the theme of a seasonal song.

Come and gather ’round all of the spreadsheets…
All the graphics and PowerPoint decks.
And as we sit by the fire, let’s revise and conspire…
To chart the course that will drive revenue higher.

A few will win, of course. They’ll get recognition, maybe take home an award. Fewer still will actually move the needle.

Tis The Season For A Different Song

If you participate in our conversation here very often, you might be able to guess where I’m headed with this.

The key to a different — and better — conversation a year from now isn’t complicated. There is an approach that will scale to fit any budget, any size group or firm, and it will produce measurable results.

The key can be summarized in these two steps.

  • Begin with Smart Targeting. Often the reason our marketing efforts don’t seem to hit the mark is that all we’re aiming at is the broad side of a great opportunity. The market is vast, and good ideas are plentiful. But success begins with the identification of, and laser focus on a specific and strategic target.
  • Build on a foundation of Listening. Most of the time our efforts begin with a relentless focus on what we should say — what the communication campaign looks like. And we produce great creative work. But this is cart-before-the-horse thinking. For communication that connects and resonates in 2015, listen before you worry about what to say. Business intelligence, competitive research and an ear fine-tuned to the voice of the client will inform and shape the most effective message we can ever create. (This is what we call Intentional Listening.)

It is a simple process. Two steps: target smart; and listen first.

Simple…but not easy.

It is tough to stay focused on a target in the face of scores of seductive opportunities. And then, in our haste to connect, we often short circuit any intentional listening.

And we find ourselves singing the same song…year after year.

This season, if we can exercise discipline around these two simple steps, we might find ourselves humming a different tune when we take stock of 2015.

Want To Communicate And Market? 3 Keys To Language That Resonates

When it comes to the challenges of communicating — telling a story, marketing a practice, stating a case — old dogs often wear blinders. Exhibit A: Yours Truly.

A dear friend was talking about the prevalence of a practice she referred to as speaking in the language of a club. As she spoke, I was probably nodding in complete agreement, imagining I knew exactly what she was talking about.

Every group has one — a lingua franca — a set of words, terms, acronyms and phrases that, over time, morph into a cultural shorthand for everyone in-the-know.

There is an upside when it comes to connecting with “members of the club.” But the downside is that the language, including those aspects that are unique to the identity of the group, inevitably sneak into our everyday vocabulary.

As my friend continues, I’m still nodding in agreement. I have often climbed into the pulpit to announce the problems of a message that utilizes our language and is all about us – without respect to whether it builds a bridge or a barrier.

And then my friend (unintentionally, I’m sure) got personal.

She had moved from a discussion about business to speaking of those everyday conversations — the personal ones over coffee, in the break room or hallway, at lunch and networking events, during the kids’ softball games.

I was still nodding; but with less exuberance. The conversation was causing me to think about moments, even among friends, when the topics I choose and the language I use actually limit communication. Maybe even build barriers.

Now — finally — I was hearing what she was saying with different ears.

Multiple times every single day most of us have golden opportunities to build or strengthen the bridge that enables on-going conversation. This is the fabric of relationship we’re talking about — whether in business, or in a personal context.

Eliminate The Club–Speak

Getting the most out of opportunities to connect, not to mention deepening existing relationship, means eliminating the club-speak from our interactions. And here are three initial steps:

  • Remember that, in the ear of almost anyone with whom you wish to connect, the best conversations probably do not revolve around you;
  • Listen intentionally — to identify what your target cares about;
  • Whenever possible, use the language of your target instead of the language of your group — few things say ”this is all about you” with more clarity.

With almost any target, there is no message that will resonates more.

But Now We’re Back To The Issue With Old Dogs

We rarely learn quickly, do we?

We are most inclined to talk about what we know and care about — what we do, and how we do it. We easily gravitate to our expertise. Our interests. Our causes. Our point of view.

Translation: we sound like every other dog on the block.

Far too often, when I have the opportunity to drive a conversation — albeit with the best of intentions — it is all about me, framed in the language of my own personal interests and concerns. As a result, countless opportunities to build a bridge have been lost.

On the other hand, when I consider the best connectors and communicators I know — whether in business or personal relationships — there is one commonality: their ability to connect is based on a relentless focus on what the target cares about.

If you see me, I’ll be trying to get the blinders off. And to my friend, thanks for the reminder.

Leadership, Communication and the Gift of Self-Awareness

Extraordinary leadership — the kind that inspires and motivates over the long haul — comes with an uncanny awareness of both circumstance and self.

Most of us have known that rare individual who always seems to say the right thing at the right time. We think of it as a gift — being able to connect in even the most challenging moments.

We are drawn to individuals possesing this rare gift — eager to listen. Willing to follow. Expecting to be inspired.

We’ve also all witnessed that guy who seems clueless — eager to have the floor; but, words notwithstanding, with little to contribute.

Yes…I’m looking in the mirror. My earliest such personal recollection is a both-feet-in-the-mouth-moment in 3rd grade. While “performing” in a class dramatic presentation, I forgot my line. I was so preoccupied with my moment in the spotlight — how important my line was and how great it was going to sound — that, not only did I forget the scripted line; I improvised with something highly inappropriate. (Don’t ask for details; suffice to say I remember the sense of humiliation.)

There have been countless instances not unlike that one in 3rd grade when I would have paid any price for a second chance at really connecting.

Almost any price. It turns out that in order to really connect, one must get over one’s self.

A preoccupation with being heard is the most telling sign of one who is unaware of the tenor of the moment.

The Key To Self-Awareness

It sounds counter-intuitive; but self-awareness begins with a tenacious focus on others. It is the sum of strategic silence and intentional listening.

Wherever self-awareness is in short supply, mark it down – there is little listening, a lot of noise (because everyone wants/needs to be heard), and almost no real connecting.

And now we get back to where this started.

Those that inspire us to listen are, themselves, tenacious listeners. To borrow words attributed to the thirteenth-century Saint Francis of Assisi, they do not seek so much to be understood, as to understand.

The byproduct of this brand of listening? An awareness that informs when one should speak, what should be offered, and how a message should be delivered in order to maximize communication.

One-off communiques can certainly connect. But leadership that inspires an individual, a team or a target audience to seek your message and hang on your words is borne of crystal clear self-awareness.

For Marketing Results, Don’t Let The Cart Get In Front Of The Horse

This is one of the great challenges of marketing — keeping the cart in its place.

After all, the cool stuff is in the cart — the engaging, interactive, attention-grabbing things that everyone talks about.

And then there is the fact that all of the things that should come first can be tedious, and for most, just aren’t that much fun. (On the other hand, everyone enjoys providing opinions on the colors in the logo, the font size on the website and the copy in an ad.)

So it’s understandable that we’re easily distracted by the visible, tangible elements.  But if marketing efforts are continually unwieldy, frequently derailed, and rarely take you where you intended, chances are good you’ve allowed the cart to come before the horse.

Putting First Things First

Successful marketing seldom begins with a focus on the high-profile elements of an executable plan. Start by focusing on the catchy tag lines, high-end production, and copy points, and — absent a fat budget and a time-frame flexible enough to cover short-term missteps — you’ll likely watch as your campaign goes nowhere.

In a crowded, noisy marketplace, how do you make a dent? How do you reach your audience if you don’t have an Apple-like budget?

Keep the horse squarely in front of the cart.

In practical terms, this means begin by knowing who your target is. Specifically. For professional service providers this means the name of an individual with hiring authority. Or, as noted below, an individual (or group) that is part of a relationship map leading to the hiring authority. In this context, an industry rarely qualifies as a target. Nor does a company. A target is the person vested with the authority to subscribe to your services.

With the target identified, it’s time to invest in listening. This is the market research piece of the process. A highly functioning listening platform will reveal what your target cares about most, and help you create a relationship map that leads to connection and conversation.

It isn’t sexy. Nobody hums the jingle. It isn’t the focus of black-tie award ceremonies, and doesn’t lead to hanging out with celebrity spokespersons.

But it is the key to marketing success.

Smart targeting takes time. It requires a strategic foundation. But if you’re not putting appropriate resources here, you’re essentially hoping the market targets you.

And listening is just plain difficult (if not downright intrusive to practice and processes you have in place) — especially when you have killer-products / services. The natural tendency is to skip the listening part, and jump right in with your elevator speech, talking points, or list of offerings.

But targeting and listening are where the journey is measured, and roadblocks and detours anticipated.

For every enterprise or professional service practice that wrestles to gain visibility, differentiate itself from the competition, and get the most from each resource invested in marketing, these two steps change the equation.

Invest in this less-than-glamorous roll-up-your-sleeves work, and all that stuff in the cart becomes much more relevant and effective — primarily because it will hit the target.

A Blog Anchors Your Online Strategy — Here’s Why…

McKeown_Kevin_LI 2014Note: Kevin McKeown is a colleague, a friend, and a thought leader on blogging, social media and leadership. I hang on his content, appreciate his contributions to any conversation, and asked him to share the way he thinks in the form of this Guest Post.

Eric, thanks for asking me to share why I believe a blog needs to be the anchor of a professional’s online strategy.

I think of my blogging as the locomotive and other social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ or even email newsletters as the train tracks. I use these tracks to share, distribute, and amplify my blog’s reach. I deeply believe that to own your blog is to take control of your professional destiny. And, I’m not the only person who believes this.

Here’s a triad of influencers (Clark, Singer and Hyatt) making different but related points that underscore the case for owning your blog:

1) Blogging Is More Essential Than Ever

…[F]or organizations and individuals that want to be known for their ideas, the clearest–yet most underrated–path is through blogging. It hasn’t been buzzed about in years, but it’s more essential than ever…

If you want to shape public opinion, you need to be the one creating the narrative. A fascinating study last year by Yahoo Research showed that only 20,000 Twitter users (a mere .05% of the user base at the time) generated 50% of all tweets consumed. A small number of “elite users” sets the conversational tenor, just as in the general world of blogging.

An article lives forever on the web and will be seen around the world.

SM Connection CycleNowadays, we’re measured by the quality of information — not its brand name. If you create high-quality content, you legitimately may become a source as powerful and trusted as the “legacy media.”

Writing is still the clearest and most definitive medium for demonstrating expertise on the web. …In an information-hungry world, there will always be a need for expert content. And there will always be more readers and “retweeters” than there will be creators.

If you want to have an impact, you might as well be the one setting the agenda by blogging your ideas.

Read: If You’re Serious about Ideas, Get Serious About Blogging by Dorie Clark (HBR)

2) Blogging Answers The Long Tail of Search And Social

When you set up your blog as a “hub” for your social strategy, you are best positioned to benefit most from all that top-of-funnel awareness.

With a blog, you have assets to feed each stream in a way that when you do something that matters, you won’t have to worry so much about changes in platforms. You are free to step back and focus on the big-picture things that matter, like an editorial vision.

…Blogs let you think user-centric, not platform-centric.

Blog PhotoWithout blogging, it is difficult to build an ever-increasing amount of content to be discovered via search engines and shared via social. …[E]ach time you publish a blog post, you make it so significant that the industry takes notice.

A perfect example of a brand doing this well is Tesla. Each time they have news, their blog is the central place where it’s shared and whatever is published is amplified not just by social but media of all types. It’s worth following them as an example of a brand that understands the importance of self-publishing and a model you could follow.

Call it blogging, digital publishing, or whatever you prefer: you’ve been able to publish your own ideas, in any format you like, wrapped in your own template, with full access to analytics and ability to monetize how you see fit (or use it to generate organic leads to equal revenue later) and distribute across search, social, and email since the Web existed.

…To give your best content over to someone else as the canonical place makes as little sense now as it ever did. To amplify and share your ideas in OPPs (Other People’s Platforms) in a way that adds value and is efficient for you is the smartest path to digital success.

Read Why Blogging Still Matters: Data, Distribution, and Ownership of Content by Adam Singer (ClickZ).

3) Build Your Blog On A Home Base That You Control

…[W]hen it comes to your platform, you can’t afford to build your house on a rented lot. And Facebook continues to teach the same lesson.

Like Twitter, Facebook is an important part of my platform. But it’s not integral. It’s too fickle for that. Owners make rules, not tenants. And Facebook owns the lot.

Facebook, Platforms you don't controlI was an early adopter and advocate of social media. I still am. But I encourage everyone interested in growing a platform to begin with a home base that you control. Use other services to expand your reach, but build your house on your own lot.

Few things in life are truly stable, but some things are more stable than others. I bought MichaelHyatt.com in 1998. It’s been through a lot of iterations, but it’s always been mine. Ownership provides stability because you set the rules.

This means that you post your primary content on your own blog.

Read Don’t Build Your Social Media House on a Rented Lot by Mike Hyatt

How Did I Evolve Into A Blogger?

I started listening online via Twitter to gain perspective and enhance my professional development. I began to tweet but a 140-characters wasn’t enough. I turned the digital dials more in my favor by blogging. Plus, the act of listening to blog well helped me understand the conversation around the colliding forces of social networking, leadership and the business of relationships.

Over time you’ll realize that by calling out others in your posts, you facilitate a level of connection that fosters the relationships necessary to extend your knowledge and network. The people I cite have colleagues, associates, friends and family who will share my posts across their social circles if my content is good.

So, I find that by anchoring myself online with a blog, Google sees the signals (E.g. my posts being shared on social networks) and rewards me with better search results. Today, my blog is not just a tool for fostering and developing business but also a creative outlet for my writing.

Conclusion

22london-marathon_4-articleLargeBuilding an online persona that equals or exceeds your offline reputation is a marathon, not a sprint. Focus on quality content and long-term connections. As Adam Singer says, “What’s popular is typically easy, but what’s easy isn’t always what produces the best results.”

To reiterate:

  • Blogging is more essential than ever.
  • Blogging answers the long tail of search and social.
  • Build your blog on a home base that you control.

Make sure you own and control your blog like comments from Clark, Singer and Hyatt advocate.

How are you developing your online persona? Do you control the platform that serves as the hub of your digital presence?

LexBlog LogoKevin McKeown (@KevinMcKeown) is president of LexBlog. His blog is Leadership Close Up. LexBlog empowers lawyers to increase their visibility and accelerate business relationships online. With LexBlog’s help, legal professionals use their subject matter expertise to drive powerful business development through blogging and social media. Visit LexBlog.com. LexBlog also hosts LXBN, the world’s largest network of professional blogs. With more than 8,000 authors, LXBN is the only media source featuring the latest lawyer-generated commentary on news and issues from around the globe. Visit LXBN.com.

A Marketing Lesson For The Price Of Breakfast

Everyone has a story like this. Many of us have more than one. But I’m still taken aback when it happens.

I left my room in a well known national chain, and headed down to the quasi-high-toned restaurant attached to the hotel.

Truth be known, the restaurant is probably a reluctant player in the whole breakfast thing. It’s an operation of one of the big name restaurateurs in the area, and wouldn’t strike you as the kind of place that would think an egg worth scrambling, much less care to mess with an omelette. But proximity to the hotel likely weighs in the decision.

Road warriors know the drill. Frequent-staying comes with a (little) perk here and there. This particular stay included complimentary breakfast. So, heeding mom’s counsel, I aimed to enjoy the most important meal of the day. Along with a cup of black coffee (mom would not be particularly proud).

But this early morning experience was about to be all about the restaurant — not about the customer. When I presented my breakfast certificate, I could tell something was awry.

Clearly perplexed, the waiter flagged down the manager. They whispered between themselves, and then the manager articulated (?) the dilemma. “You only have the yellow copy of your breakfast coupon.”

I felt reprimanded, and I knew not why.

She provided explanation. I should have presented a two-part certificate — the yellow, which lay before us, and a white version, which I reasoned must have become separated 17 floors and 10 minutes away.

For an instant the manager appeared to wrestle with the issue. What might be done? I explained that I had checked in the day before, would be here all week, and the hotel might be able to verify my creds.

But this wasn’t part of the plan. And process won out. Without the white copy of my certificate, this high-end big name restaurant had no way for the server to get credit for having served me breakfast.

I didn’t want that to happen. And since this was clearly my fault, and the morning schedule did not allow time to retrieve the stray white certificate, I meekly copped to my shortcoming, and asked for permission to charge breakfast to my room.

At this point it might be fair to note that I frequent both the hotel and the restaurant. Or, I used to frequent the restaurant. Sometimes 3 or 4 times in a work week for lunch or dinner.

But the experience they consistently deliver says “We are special — and you are oh-so-fortunate we are here.”

This was an excellent reminder that — whatever our endeavor — the experience we deliver will eventually trump a reputation, a quality product / service, and any glossy ad or eloquent marketing message.

Scores of restaurants serve a pretty darn good breakfast.

And in today’s market, the experience you deliver IS your marketing message.

Making “Client-Centered” More Than A Marketing Copy Point

Everyone talks about being client-centered.

Those who back up all the talk with real substance are rare.

The legendary father of advertising, David Ogilvy, was so committed to acting in the client’s best interest, that in the early days some thought the preoccupation a product of eccentricity.

On one occasion in the late 1950′s he and his team had been invited to make a presentation and pitch for the advertising and marketing account of Greyhound Bus Lines. When Ogilvy entered the pitch room, in true Mad Men fashion the art boards of a competitor’s creative presentation stared him in the face.

When it came his time to speak, Ogilvy turned to the assembled Greyhound execs and informed them that, though confident and proud of the presentation he and his team had created, the ideal solution to Greyhound’s advertising needs had already been presented — by one of his competitors.

Hence launched the successful and long-running Leave The Driving To Us campaign.

David Ogilvy didn’t build one of the most successful and decorated advertising agencies in the world by making a habit of selling work for the competition. But he did have the reputation of consistently acting in what he believed to be the best interest of the client.

Yes! We Are Client Centered (Really, We Are)

If it could be spoken into existence, we would all be masters in the art of being client-centered.

Peruse websites and marketing collateral and it is clear that the idea of coming at things from the client’s point of view is deemed worthy of marquis status.

But as anyone truly committed to it knows, client-centeredness is not as simple as crafting a headline and a few eloquent proclamations. Even award-winning attempts to script it into the offerings of a service organization often come up short when tested against what clients say and believe.

Why? Because client-centeredness is an attribute that either resides at the core of an organization, or tends to be easily brushed aside when push comes to shove in decisive moments.

When present, the client-centered attribute is manifest in experiences that communicate far more effectively than the best website service description ever written.

The Path To Trusted Advisor Status

I’m betting most of us remember a handful of times when the experience we received transcended any tangible marketing claim or promise. With deference to that old adage, we possess first-hand knowledge that experiences speak louder than words. 

Yet, it is easy to do precious little beyond talking about great client service. If we talk about it long enough, maybe it will be real!

Two things are worth noting. First, the experience you deliver IS your marketing message. Talk about it in collateral materials, announce it on your website and proclaim it until you lose your voice; but if what you say doesn’t align with the experiences you deliver, one message will be loud and clear — your game is all talk.

Second — the only real path to trusted advisor status is to consistently deliver an experience that demonstrates the client’s interests and concerns are paramount. Nothing will differentiate you in the market place more emphatically or more quickly.

And just in case it sounds like I’m suggesting your written message doesn’t matter, let’s pause. I believe in the power of the pen. I have been a writer since before I had a career. This is not a suggestion that the content on your website isn’t important. It is to say that when marketing content doesn’t align with the market’s experience, no amount of award-winning prose will help.

Client-centeredness is not a copy point. Copy points don’t live, and they are easily dismissed or forgotten.

Being client-centered is the byproduct of a core belief. And as is so often the case, the communication of core beliefs is most profound when seen and experienced. It is a fortunate consequence for the rare few who operate from a client-centered position that the experiences we deliver are memorable, differentiators and the most articulate marketing message possible.

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