As an entrepreneur, you will undoubtedly find yourself rubbing elbows with prospective customers everywhere you go. Whether it’s at an industry specific trade show or in line at the grocery store, when the conversation turns to you and your business, you have one chance to explain what you do. But how can you make a strong enough impression on someone you’ve just met that will lead him or her back to your business?
People deal with a flood of information every single day, and making an impression that will cut through distractions and mental filters is no small feat. Most of the time, when people ask what you do, they are really asking, “What can you do for me?”
This leaves the door wide open for you to make a lasting impression.
Here are four tips to make your conversation stick with any potential customer you encounter:
1. Make Your Story Memorable
In casual conversation, you will most likely reach the topic of how you got to where you are, or how you came to work in your industry. This is a great opportunity to share something about yourself that makes you unique.
Get personal. Share a great obstacle you’ve overcome. Tell an anecdote about who or what inspires you.
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For example, I often recount the story of how, at the age of 24, I went from being over $1 million in debt and working every waking hour of every day, to having an epiphany that allowed me to create my first multimillion-dollar company and forming the foundation of what has now made me a marketing expert.
A dry, step-by-step account of business school or your funding search won’t be memorable to anyone. Share the best part of your story, not all the boring details.
2. Hone Your Message
A vague description of your business or product will be forgotten in a hurry. If your message isn’t properly honed, you’ll miss your chance at creating a lasting impression on any prospect you have a conversation with.
Telling someone “I’m a financial planner” won’t resonate nearly as much as, “I specialize in helping people over the age of 40 design the retirement of their dreams, without the worry of having to pay for it.”
One is bland and lumps you in with all the other professionals in your industry. The other, however, shows that you have a plan of action—your description is about what you can do for a customer, not just your job title.
3. Provide a Unique Advantage
Make a point to separate your business from the competition. Of course, this is something you’ll have to think through beforehand, but when you decide what the advantage is, be sure to bring it up.
Most people will expect you to say that you offer the lowest prices or highest quality. Instead, give them something unexpected, like a restriction-free return policy or lifetime access to a database of supplemental information. This is your chance to truly separate yourself from any and all competitors, and show prospects an advantage they won’t soon forget.
Take Zappos' CEO Tony Hsieh, for example. He could say, “I have a website that sells shoes,” or he could demonstrate his unique advantage by stating, “I operate an online shoe company that offers customers free shipping with a one-year guarantee. If they’re not completely satisfied with their purchase, I’ll even pay to have their shoes shipped back to me.”
4. Develop a Good Analogy
People love to communicate on common terms, so find something identifiable about your product or service that you can compare to something familiar to everyone.
Saying you sell “high-quality furniture” isn’t nearly as memorable as “I only deal in the Rolls-Royce of dining room tables.” A company like Rolls-Royce is so well-established, and so well-known for luxury and quality, that this analogy is easily understood by any prospect. Find a popular brand that is well-known for whatever quality you would like to present, and develop your analogy from there. Want to be known for speed? Customer service? Locations around the world? Contributions to charity? Find an iconic company that represents your ideals and draw a comparison for your prospects.
Oh and let’s not forget, before you and your prospect part ways, it would be a good idea to hand them your business card. Don't simply place your company name and contact information on the front of the card—use the back of the card, too. The back of your business card is a great place to add a summary of your unique advantages.
Every new person you meet is an opportunity. Even if they are not your target customer at that very moment, if your conversation is memorable enough, they may pass along your information to someone who is in need of what you have to offer. By separating yourself from the constant flow of forgettable information, you further position yourself and your company ahead of the competition. When the need for your product or service arises, you will be the first thing your prospect thinks of.
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Known as “The Entrepreneur’s Marketing Champion,” OPEN Cardmember Charles Gaudet is a provocative marketing expert for entrepreneurs and small business owners who know their business could (and should) be doing a lot better than it’s doing now. He can be found at PredictableProfits.com.
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