Monday, March 12, 2018

Improve Your Business Pipeline with a Story

When you are given the opportunity to make a client presentation, what is your action plan?  At this point you have completed the “go-no-go” process and are looking forward to winning new business. Don’t let your competition or ego get in the way. Frame your next presentation as a journey and you will win.  If you understand that humans are wired to listen to stories, is the story you're planning to tell compelling? Is the client listening?  Since your story and the stories of your firm are more involved than a 30-minute presentation, your biggest challenge will be deciding where to start and where to end. You can lose the audience in a heartbeat when you assume they have more knowledge than you do or when you bury them in jargon.  Being yourself might be a cliché, but the journey begins with who you and your firm really are. The middle is filled with what the client really needs you to solve.

The owner of an engineering firm I consulted with a few years ago had received a heart transplant and from that started his own business.  What do you think was his story during client presentations?  His message was simple and his journey was clear.  He did a superb job of quickly introducing the value his firm brought to the important client issues while wrapping the journey in his ability to overcome obstacles.  He made clients believe he cared about their needs and would deliver the solution they needed.  The client saw the world a little differently after his presentation.

What can you learn from this? Do your presentations make the client see the world differently? Your presentation team must be passionate about what they are doing.  The quality of the client solution is important and how you wrap it in your narrative is key.  Although there is not a best way to deliver a client presentation, there is definitely a bad way: Don't make it appear to be a formula. You have a plan and each team member plays a part.  Rehearsing eliminates the outcome that your presentation sounded like a Google response to a trivia question.

The presentation could be defined as the art of persuasion.  When we need to persuade, when we need to move people away from one way of doing things towards another, stories are the way to go.  What is really at the center of all business activity: Persuasion.

Clients relate to stories because they give continuity to the facts and case studies that every short-listed  firm is showing them during the interviews. Stories connects us and engage our clients. They give meaning to what we communicate. It allows clients to relate to your solution on another level.

Is your presentation an exercise in brand superiority?  Does your brand matter to the client?  One of the intended outcomes of your presentation is to create an emotional bond with the client. Never waste precious presentation minutes slapping yourself on the back.  Stories make your brand unique and act as the glue to tie all the other parts together.  There is no better way to differentiate your firm from your competition.

When our presentations include great stories, as opposed to ‘just’ communicating, we create meaning and reinforce a common sense of purpose. We get the client to enter our playing field where common goals and solutions are easily recognized. If this makes sense to you, presentation coaching might be a cost-effective way to improve your performance.  Contact for information.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Paradigm of Creativity: Change Business Outcomes

A lot has been written over the years about creativity.  People who market professional services are thought to be creative.  Creativity is expected, if you want to enter this business.  What do you know about creativity?

Many think it is simply a right brain condition where creative people have strengths while left brain folks are better suited for the technical, numbers and details of the industry.  Viewing creativity as solely the realm of one side of the brain limits ideas and possibilities. It fails to respect how creativity impacts science and rational thinking. Creativity comes from an assortment of traditional and non-traditional sources.
Are you a broker of possibility and hope? 
If not, you need to look at your creativity in the context of emotional intelligence. The chart shows how both sides of the brain come into play. The quadrants of emotional intelligence include: Self-Awareness, Social-Awareness, Relationship Management and Self-Management.  Understanding each of these will enable you to unleash your inner and sometimes hidden creative forces.
You might be asking yourself how creativity comes into play with your relationships.  Vision, influence and leadership drive creativity to support your relationships. 
Have you gotten tired of people saying, “Think outside the box?”  The creative marketing professional doesn’t think outside the box, they create a new box.   Marketers don’t like to play on a level playing field.  They are under constant pressure to create a competitive advantage.  If they believe they are on a level playing field, they will look like a community college against a Clemson in the National Championship game.   The services that your firm delivers to clients are like hundreds of others.  How do you make yourself and your firm memorable to clients?  The internet has made it easy for clients to assess the capabilities of firms they want to do business with.   In an industry that considers sales a dirty word, the word creativity brings on images of crazy, outrageous, and unwise.  Therefore, your creativity must be tempered by your flexibility and adaptability.  Management realizes that traditional marketing and the status quo no longer build business.  A change agent must be a leader first. 
 Think about what these people had to say about creativity:
“A truly creative person rids him or herself of all self-imposed limitations.” Gerald G. Champoski
“Creativity is a highfalutin word for the work I have to do between now and Tuesday.” Ray Kroc
“Creation is a drug I can't do without.” Cecil B. DeMille
It is interesting that the movie maker, De Mille, and the entrepreneur, Kroc founder of McDonalds, both viewed creativity as essential for their work.  You should feel the same way.
Six Myths Of Creativity
A groundbreaking study about innovation in the workplace uncovered six myths of creativity. The study, conducted by Teresa Amabile, a professor and head of the entrepreneurial management unit at Harvard Business School, was summarized in a Fast Company article, "The 6 Myths of Creativity."  Here is what she found:
• Creativity comes from creative types: The reality is that anyone with normal intelligence is capable of doing some degree of creative work.
• Money is a creativity motivator: The reality is that money isn't everything.
• Time pressure fuels creativity: The reality is that time pressure stifles creativity because people can't deeply engage with the problem.
• Fear forces breakthroughs: The reality is that creativity is positively associated with joy and love, and negatively is associated with anger, fear and anxiety.
• Competition beats collaboration: The reality is that the most creative teams are those that have the confidence to share and debate ideas.
• A streamlined organization is a creative organization: The reality is that creativity suffers greatly during a downsizing.
How do these findings relate to the conditions in your firm?

You now know that both sides of the brain are important in the creative process.  Do you ever believe something in your gut but are afraid to offer the idea or proceed?  Intuition is one of the strongest ways to deliver your creative process.  There are other things to consider, if maximizing your inherent creativity is a goal in your career path.  Don’t second guess yourself or live in the pit of self-doubt.  Accept criticism but don’t accept it as an absolute. Observe and learn from your mistakes.  Become a risk taker.  
Break free from the naysayers, external constraints, internal biases and fear of reprisals or consequences.  Your curiosity should compel you to ask questions.  Marketers who are afraid to ask questions continue to play on a level playing field.   We are all solution providers and are, to one extent or another, creative people.  If you are having problems with this, stop asking “why” and start asking “why not.”  The paradigm shifts when you use creativity to change the outcomes of your firm's business opportunities. The change agent is yesterday's news.
You will be well prepared to become a broker of possibility and hope. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Massage: Social Media and Your 2017 Marketing Plan

Every firm that has included social media in its 2017 Marketing Plan, should take a lesson from a media expert from the 1960's. In the 1962, Marshall McLuhan created a firestorm with his book,  The Medium is the Massage.  McLuhan, a Canadian professor and communications theorist, adopted the term "massage" to denote the effect each medium has on the human senses, taking inventory of the "effects" of numerous media in terms of how they "massage" the senses.

McLuhan believed that modern audiences have found current media to be soothing, enjoyable, and relaxing; however, the pleasure we find in new media is deceiving, as the changes between society and technology are not the same and he thought were perpetuating an Age of Anxiety.  And, so it is with Social Media.

He coined the phrase “the medium is the message” which summarized his view of the potent influence of television, computers, and other electronic disseminators of information in shaping styles of thinking and thought, whether in sociology, art, science, or religion. He regarded the printed book as an institution fated to disappear.  Yet, 50 years later, printed books are still around.  His views on media were right on target.

In 1982, John Naisbitt wrote Mega Trends, a book that accurately predicted socio-economic trends for the next several decades.  He predicted that as we rely more on technology, we will feel the need for more human interaction.  He believed that “high tech required high touch.”  People will always want to be connected despite the impact of technology that keeps us apart.  Communities, neighborhoods, work and church were places where these connections have traditionally been made.

Today, human connection is more often made through social networks. The landscape of the work environment has changed as well.  Although social networks do connect us, they don’t connect us in a physical way.  This is not the networking that is done during a cocktail reception when you meet people face-to-face. Thus, it is time to take another look at McLuhan and peel back the onion of social media to determine whether it is simply a massage of our senses or an important place to conduct business.  Some believe the title of McLuhan's book was an accident made by a typesetter. Yes, before computer printing and email, someone actually had to set the type that appeared on the printed page. However, when it was brought to McLuhan’s attention, he proclaimed that was the perfect word.  The important thing about communications is that words matter.
Everything social from LinkedIn to Twitter to Facebook has an impact on our senses that goes beyond the content of the communications.  When people tweet their locations and what they are doing tonight, is it really important communications or something that makes them feel good? Therefore, in a real way, social media is a massage.  It gives us everything we expect from a good body massage.  We feel different when we are finished.
Communications, on the other hand, is about the message.  This brings us full circle to the purpose of Business Development Professionals and that is providing training for professional services firms in the areas of marketing and business development.  It is about understanding how to deliver consistent and clear messages to clients. 

Messages that move your business proposition forward.  There is no doubt that social media has a place in doing this.  When it is done correctly, there is power in social media. Firms need to understand that a social media component in their marketing plan is not a guarantee of success.  No matter how cool the CEO thinks it is to have a large following on Twitter, it is still the content of the messaging that will make the difference in attracting clients.
Is social media part of your marketing plan because everyone is doing it and it is the cost of doing business today?  Is it the massage that makes you feel good about what your firm has done in the past?  Is social media the message and not the content of what you are trying to communicate?  Every firm needs to honestly answer these questions. Many firms are simply trying the even the playing field.  Our training programs and consulting services have a module on client communications.  Here are three tips you can use to assess your social media strategy:

1.    Is your firm considered a thought leader in the industry?

2.    If they aren’t already, have your industry experts start posting articles/blog on your website

3.    Start tracking all communications sent through social media.  In short time, you will understand whether social media is the message, massage or vital component of your marketing strategy.

Finally, if the communication stands on its own and is important for your clients to understand, using other media should be part of your comprehensive marketing plan. 
For example, most firms will announce major projects or successes on their social media platform and website, but also deliver press releases to industry media, including magazines.  On the other hand, what you had for dinner or whether your daughter won her basketball game, is probably not worthy of a press release.  Remember, if you or your firm posted it, every client and potential client can read it.  For this reason alone, you should make all of your communications worth reading.  Go some place else for a good massage.  If you really want to feel good, buy a dog from a shelter.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Memorable Presentation: 6 Steps to Success

What are the chances that the audience or selection committee will remember what you said in your last presentation?  Everyone is challenged when they are faced with creating and delivering a presentation. 
When a project is on the line for a client presentation, the consequences are high and nothing can be left to chance. Selection is the only way to verify it was memorable.
It is hard enough to think about how you measure up against the competition, but how about measuring up against the client’s perception of your presentation?  Research shows us that after a 10 minute presentation, your audience will remember only 50% of what they heard.  By the next day that memory will be reduced to 25% and within a week only 10% will be remembered.  Hopefully, the selection committee makes their decision at the end of the first day.

6 keys to making a memorable presentation

The following should help anyone who is tasked with making a presentation and enable firms to raise the bar on the success of their client project presentations.  It goes without saying that you need to know your material and that notes, if used at all, should be minimal.  However, much more is needed to make your next presentation memorable.

I was taught a long time ago that there should only be three parts to a presentation: 
1. Tell them what you plan to say.
2. Tell them.
3. Recap what you told them and give them a call to action. 

Science tells us that the human mind can only retain 3 to 7 points from a presentation in the short term.  Too often in client presentations, principals want to throw in everything, including the kitchen sink.  It is the job of the marketing professionals to reign in the free thinkers and focus the presentation on the client’s needs.
The question still remains as to how you make that process memorable.

It begins with the central message.  You should have one message you want the audience/client to remember.  Although this needs to be concise and short, it must be repeated as the common thread running through the entire presentation.  Is the main point trust, competence, experience, depth of staff, or some other important element?  You need to remember it is one point and not all of the above.
Memorable presentations are easy to understand.  Leave the jargon for industry conferences and complex information for design meetings.  Jargon combined with complexity results in confusion on the part of your audience.  Condensing your body of work into a 30-minute presentation can only confuse a client who was ready to hire you. Don't make it hard for your client to say yes.

Every firm will use visuals in their presentations. Use of visuals takes the retention factor from 10% to 65%.  The key to this statistic is relevant visuals.  I worked with one architect who would fly an airplane over a proposed building site prior to a presentation.  He would take the visuals from that and turn them into powerful elements in his presentation.   Visuals of previous work are worthless unless they clearly leave a positive impression in the client’s mind of what their dream will look like.
I have written several blogs that point out the importance of stories.  Memorable presentations are filled with stories and anecdotes.

 Stories create images that remind our audiences of their life experiences, challenges and successes.  The audience visualizes your idea without seeing an actual visual on the screen.

I am reminded of a prestigious museum project in the Midwest where some of the world’s most renowned architects were invited to make presentations.  While all the others had a project team show up with dozens of displays, one architect showed up empty handed.  He walked over to where the selection committee was seated, took off his overcoat and scarf, sat down and asked, “Do you have any questions.” They did. He answered and was awarded the job.

When I was the marketing director for a national trade association in the construction industry, I was in charge of the process for selecting an advertising agency.  Three of the agencies came in with polished dog and pony shows and teams of agency professionals.  They presented relevant experience with design and construction firms as well as trade associations. The president of the last firm showed up by himself with a leather case.  After introductions with the selection committee, he sat down at the table and stated, “I don’t do this often.  Most of my business comes from word of mouth.” He spent the next 45 minutes having a conversation with the committee.  Occasionally, he would reach into his case and pull out an example of his work.  Later that afternoon, he was retained as the association’s advertising agency.
Do these examples represent the exception to the rule, or do they show us what happens when creativity meets at the intersection of preference and selection?  You and your firms have thousands of stories to tell.  What do you pull out of the case when a project is on the line?

Next, the presentation has to have movement and action.  If several members of the team have been assigned speaking roles, they all can’t assume the same position in front of the selection committee.  If you are doing a solo presentation in front of an audience, you must leave the comfort of the podium and move across the stage.  Memorable presentations connect with the audience and it is crystallized when the presenter connects through body language and movement.  Pace and pausing for affect are critical in delivering a memorable presentation.  Some of the most memorable speeches have lived on in our memories because of the way the speaker used inflection in delivering the message.  There is no room for a monotone voice in a memorable presentation.  Of course, your audience might remember the monotone, but they won’t remember the message.
Finally, the memorable presentation must include a call to action.  As you recap what you told the audience and hammer home the common thread once again, you must challenge them with something to do.  Winning the job is the real purpose of the client presentation.  It could go something like this:  “We came here today to show you we are a trusted firm in the industry and have shown you a clear process for making your project a success.  You wouldn’t have invited us, if we were not qualified or our project team lacked the experience needed for your project.  We are excited about sharing your dream and seeing it fulfilled. 

When you weigh the pros and cons of the firms interviewed for this project, we want to be the firm chosen to move forward with this project with you.  We simply want to be partners with you on this journey.”  A simple recap and call to action is the way to end a memorable presentation.

Nearing the 155th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, I would be remiss, if I didn’t end with a reminder of one of the most memorable presentations in the history of our nation.  Without a white board or PowerPoint presentation, Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address four months after the battle that turned the tide on the war.

"Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation: conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” begins the address.    The visual is a nation at war and a bloody battlefield. It was simple and concise. Lasting only two minutes and less than 200 words, the Gettysburg Address will be remembered for centuries.  Think about this the next time you are conflicted about the fancy graphics, swirling transitions and video clips you are considering for your presentation.  These might make us feel good, but it is the perception of the audience where the rubber meets the road.  When you implement these six steps, you will take a cool presentation and make it memorable.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Face It: Three Ways to Overcome Communication Barriers

Only the fear of death is ranked higher than the fear of public speaking on the list of what people fear the most.  It is no different for professionals in our industry.
I have developed a Communications Skills program for industry professionals and written about use of jargon and communication pitfalls to avoid in previous articles.  However, before we get into the dog days of summer , I thought it would be helpful to continue the dialogue on communications skills. 

Why are face-to-face communications skills important?

Remember, there is no emotion, body language, tone or facial expression in a written communication. 
Social networking is really about the written word and many in the industry have come to rely on this for their primary communication links.  Even communication on the telephone lacks many of the tools you use in face-to-face meetings.  Firms that use Hangout, Skype, Microsoft Lync or Go To Meeting bridge many of the communication barriers but are in no way equal to a face-to-face encounter.  The fear factor is higher when we are asked to present to a group or even an individual.  Whether you are just starting out in the business development
arena or a seasoned professional who could benefit from improved client communications, this article is for you.

Today, I want to review the three skills that are essential for building trusting relationships with clients. 
The first skill is your voice.  I had an economics professor in college who made a boring class absolutely intolerable because of the tone of his voice.  He had a monotone cadence and would cough or clear his throat after every other sentence.  The pitch of some voices brings the same reaction as scratching on a chalk board.  If this is you, you need to practice voice control.  You could find a voice coach or simply contact your local Toastmaster club for assistance.  Improve your voice and you will see immediate results in client reaction to your presentations.

Are you an introvert, shy or quiet person?  None of these qualifies you to be a poor speaker.  You just need to expand your comfort zone.  Speaking with a client requires a clear and strong voice.  This is not to be confused with shouting.  Listen to great speakers and learn how they project their words.  A simple search of YouTube will get you on the right track. 
Confidence is the second skill you must master. 
Why would your client give you a million dollar deal, if she doesn’t believe what you are telling her?  Are you afraid to look the client in the eyes when you are making your presentation?  The client is more likely to give you careful attention when you make it a point to make eye contact first.  However, you don’t want to get into a staring contest.  Look down to take a note or remove something from your briefcase.  This makes it easier for the client to pay attention to you because she has had a chance to check you out without having to do so while listening to you.  Are you excited about what your firm has to offer, or  does your facial expression remind the client of someone who has just gotten out of bed? 

Confidence in what you are presenting will make the client more interested in selecting your firm than you are in selling it.  Understanding the nuances of the client’s business, the industry, and market is the beginning of your homework.  How he thinks and reacts to pressure points is probably the hardest area to quantify.  However, when you have done all of the required homework, your confidence will soar.  Remember what legendary basketball coach Bob Knight has to say about preparation, “The key is not the "will to win" . . . everybody has that. It is the will to prepare to win that is important.”
Remember, you client likes you or you wouldn’t have been given the opportunity to stand in front of him or her to make the presentation.  The same is true when you have been asked to make a presentation in front of a group.

Finally, you don’t want your body language to betray you or sabotage your message. Experts tell us body language accounts for between 55% and 65% of our communication. 
 Just what is body language?

It is carriage, facial expressions, and gestures. All go into establishing your presence and making a connection with the audience. Gestures can be made with your hands, arms, shoulder, torso, legs, feet or a combination of these but hand gestures are probably the most common. What does the client think of your message when you present it with your arms crossed against your chest?  If you are confident, why are you slouching and not standing tall? Many speakers worry about their hands and keep them in their pockets.  However, appropriate use of your hands can result in a marked increase in the understanding and retention of your message. Correctly used, hand gestures can help you say more in less time, show what you mean without having to resort to visuals, signal your conviction and confidence and add texture and dimension to your material and ideas.
This might seem simplistic but don’t forget to smile.  In fact, you should practice pleasant expressions in front of a mirror.  Try it until you see one you like and then hold it for 15 seconds and repeat it.  Remind yourself of this expression as you go about your daily business until it becomes a memory.  The conditions that surround you during a client presentation or speech in front of a large group can be uncertain and frightening.  But, this memory will keep your expression pleasant and positive.

Whether you are presenting to one person or a hundred, you still have to deal with nerves.  Everyone gets nervous before a major presentation.  My simple advice: Take a breath!
I went with my wife to a Lamaze class when we were expecting our first child.  I still remember the breathing exercises that were intended to calm the mother during childbirth.  Similar breathing exercises are used by public speakers because they release fear, lower stress levels and  enhance their speaking voice.

Incorporating these tips into your client presentations or speeches in front of groups will help you be more effective and enable your message to be understood clearly. The bottom line to clear client communications is the bottom line.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Seinfeld Rules of Business Development

Jerry Seinfeld is one of the wealthiest Hollywood stars mainly because he participated in a popular sitcom about nothing. Every producer has a formula for making a profitable sitcom and none of them until Larry David, the producer/creator of Seinfeld, thought they could be successful doing a 30 minute weekly sitcom about nothing.

I am not saying that because business development in professional service firms is the most ambiguous business discipline your plan can be about nothing. Business development at a very basic level must be defined in your firm and your people must know how it works. Since business development is different in scope from everything else your firm does, it is important to define it. For example, does everyone in your firm know the difference between marketing and business development? Every firm in the country will benefit if they understand and employ the Seinfeld Rules of Business Development.

What are the Seinfeld business development rules?

1. Just because it used to work doesn’t mean it will work in the future.

2. Every leader needs a committed team.

3. Skill alone can only take you so far.

4. Rely on bold ideas to separate yourself from the competition.

5. Sell a story people can relate to.

Successful firms in our industry have a deep understanding of all business functions and often try to put the square function of business development into the round hole of other business functions. Inherent in successful business development is the ability to leverage all your firm’s capabilities so a client will see success in selecting your firm. Not only a successful project, but also personal, team and organizational wins.

The reason business development efforts lose effectiveness over time is because most firms simply keep using the same tactics that worked in the past for the challenges they are facing today. Although there is a need for old school thinking in a business development strategy, keeping tactics because your don’t need to “recreate the wheel”, is the first step to failure. If you understand the concept of zero-based budgeting, you will understand my concept of zero-based business development planning. Management has a hard time forgetting what has worked in the past. Therefore, it takes a confident business development/marketing group to move management away from proven strategies to something new and different. When was the last time you took a bold business development idea to management?


This brings us to the second rule: Every leader needs a committed team. Jerry Seinfeld had an above average stand up career before he took off with Seinfeld. Suffice it to say that he would not be worth $800 million today, if he had relied on a touring standup comedy career. Although Seinfeld was about nothing, the characters had depth and had interesting interactions between each other. The actors were grood comedians in their own right, but Jerry was the star. When the leader starts out with humility and is not worried about who gets the credit, the team excels. The team is committed. The problem for firms with uncertain business development success is a management and/or a business development team that is not committed or a leader more interested in self-promotion.

After Jerry Seinfeld was committed to the show, Larry David could have sought out other highly talented, established comedians to fill the roster. However,he understood that skill alone can only take you so far. There is a chemistry needed for success in business development as there is a chemistry needed for comedy to work. Too much of any individual ingredient spoils the whole thing. How is the chemistry working in your firm?


Does your firm promote project managers to business development because they are good with clients? Many firms do this and are disappointed when goals are not achieved. Skills can only take you so far, especially when the skills are not connected directly to business development or marketing. This is where training can reap huge results.

In small firms, marketing and business development might be managed by one person. It might be a firm principal rather than a marketing services professional. Larger firms are capable of supporting separate departments. These are the firms where team chemistry is extremely important. However, even small firms need to look at the chemistry connection.

Can you imagine when Larry David pitched the network about a sitcom that was about nothing. The executives knew David and Seinfeld, but a show about nothing, really. One executive took a chance on 13 episodes and the rest is television history. Do you have a bold idea that is just as big, but you are afraid to present it to your management. There are four things that can happen to your idea: You sell it to management, it is successful and your firm profits. You sell it to management and they don’t see your vision and vote against it. You decide not to sell it to management and nothing happens ( I mean even what worked in the past no longer works). A competitor comes up with the same idea, gets her management team to run with it and they win the big project. Would you even tell your management team you had the same idea but you were afraid to tell them about it. Of course, if they turned you down, you could say, “I told you so!” The latter is probably not a good response if you plan to work for the firm for an extended period of time. However, if they turned you down, they might have a better appreciation of your ideas and vision in the future. Follow the advice of Daniel Burnham, “Make no little plans; They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make bigplans; aim high in hope and work…” Big ideas worked in Chicago.

Finally, the most important rule is to sell a story. For Seinfeld it was a story that average people could relate to. It wasn’t just New Yorkers who understood the relationship issues between Jerry, George, Kramer and Elaine, it was everybody.

Your firm’s story is a little different. Your story must be one that a client will invest in. If your firm has industry experts, use them to tell the story. Tell project stories from the client’s perspective. Understand market conditions, how well your firm is prepared for current conditions, your client’s industry and how the client’s history is connected to yours. Then, tell the story.Nothing made Seinfeld the most profitable sitcome in history. The Seinfeld rules might be just what your firm needs to make its own history. When you make the bold step, please let us know how we can help by contacting us at


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Change: Taking Control of Your Future through Connection Priority

Change is often difficult to predict in our industry.  One reason is because our industry spans across
multiple industries where change often occurs at different intervals.  The healthcare industry is an example of constant changes over the last 25 years. Every 10 years or so, the pundits tell us the industry is going through revolutionary change.  Yet, the industry continues to grow and need our services. 

Firms selling services in this market have learned how to keep up by being connected to institutions and developing relationships with leaders.  Hospitals have gone through acquisitions and mergers during this time.  These changes alone have made it difficult to stay on top of who is in charge of what.
The oil industry is one of the biggest change agent industries in the world.  They make multi-billion dollar investments on exploration that will not pay back for 20 years.  They use a method called scenario planning.  Yet, there are firms in our industry that stay connected despite the constant changes in oil and energy markets.

Of course, there is volatility in other markets as well. But, the examples listed above should suffice for the purposes of this article.  The butterfly affect in weather explains how even the flapping of butterfly wings thousands of miles away can cause disruptions in weather patterns here at home. What can cause disruptions in your firm and your firm's clients?
Marketing services professionals respond to thousands of clients requests each year.  In a world of constant change, they need to understand how and why those requests have come to them.  To be successful in this climate, you need to understand the competitive nature of the markets your firm works in, the corporate culture of the clients you want to work with and internal strengths and weaknesses of your firm.  In other words, you need to be connected.

Questions that need to be answered in order for you to be really connected include: Can you see patterns in a story your client is telling you?  What is your firm’s mission and how do you find common ground in your role as marketing services professional?  There is a cause and effect.  What if everyone in your firm is not on the same page?  Some people in your firm might not be clear about your purpose.  We are hard wired to have a need to have a purpose. You are the change agents connecting your people to clients and often management to frontline staff.  You must build bridges.
When was the last time you thought of yourself as a bridge builder. Bridges make life better when there are connections between two shores with a body of water flowing underneath.  What gives you the power and edge is the ability to build bridges between people, people and clients, clients and vendors and even clients and clients.  The world in turmoil flows underneath the bridges built by marketing services professionals. When the dots have been jumbled by change, it is your ability to connect the dots that will bring success to your career and your firm.

In addition to bridge builder, you must be seen as an advocate, seeker, counselor, interrogator and communicator.
When you give clients perspective and guidance, you are also giving them hope.  Not the simple hope that tomorrow will be a better day but the realistic hope that the project they are planning will be a success with your firm at the helm.  Do you look at yourself as someone who can bring stability to your clients when things are changing all around them?

When you work strategically with a client are you prepared to ask, “What if and if then?”  Vince Lombardi is often misquoted as saying, “Winning isn’t everything, it is the only thing,” when he actually said, “Preparing to win is everything.” 
In a world of change, preparation is the key to success for every marketing services professional.  Improving how you connect with everyone will integrate preparation into all of your actions.  Integrated preparation with true connections will build client trust and acceptance of your firm’s superior ability to complete their project. That is an outcome everyone is looking for, even in a world of change.