Friday, March 23, 2012

The '118': The Modern Elevator Pitch Creating the perfect business pitch in a matter of seconds

This article was written by Jeffrey Hayzlett, in Success Magazine, reprinted by permission

I have always liked the idea of the elevator pitch—that is, the ability to sell yourself and what your company offers in the span of an elevator ride. But the elevator pitch has become too slow for our times. It even sounds slow.

Technology has made everything faster, so your pitch has got to be faster too. Today your “ride” lasts no more than two minutes and sometimes as little as 30 seconds. Message is key, and knowing how to deliver your company’s message and value quickly is essential.

How many sales presentations have you sat through with 100-plus PowerPoint slides and wondered afterward, “I don’t get it. What’s in it for me? How is this relevant to me as a client? Forget the slides of the company’s biggest clients, the awards received last year…. What is the bottom-line value to me as a consumer? And make it quick!”

That’s why I created the “118.” That’s the number of seconds you actually have to win over your prospects… eight seconds to hook them and 110 seconds to reel them in.

Those first eight seconds are crucial (the lean-in factor). In researching the idea I discovered that the length of time the average human can concentrate on something is as little as eight seconds!

You know how you hear something in a conversation and you lean in because you want to hear the rest of it? That’s exactly what you want from your prospect in those first eight seconds of the 118. Aim for speed and immediate relevance. A compelling, attention-grabbing 118 presents who you are and the value of what you do and sells that to anyone. Used effectively, it can only help your business grow bigger.

Your 118 should also describe the thing that separates you from your competition. I don’t care what businesses you are in or what other services you offer—how are you different? How do you convey it? What’s your story and how does that story connect to your prospects?

Leaders need to get away from the bland pronouncements that say, “We do this,” and focus more on “What we do for you.” You’re supposed to understand not just what you’re selling, but what it offers to your prospective client.

Here’s what you’ve got to do in those 118 seconds:
» Grab the attention of your would-be customer.
» Convey who you are.
» Describe what your business offers.
» Explain the promises you will deliver on.

How to Construct Your Own 118

Step 1: Create the First Eight Seconds

The first eight seconds are the most important part of your entire pitch. That’s when you grab the attention of your prospect and let her know you know who she is. If you do not connect in the first eight seconds, then you probably will not have her attention for the remaining 110. This is a great time to compliment something the prospect has done recently and show how you complement her business or at least know what it is that she does.

- The Good: Mentions your product or service and tells how it will help your prospect. “In less than two minutes, I will tell you how the use of [me, my company, my service] will grow your development department 115 percent.”

- The Bad: Mentions what you’re offering, but lacks any reference to what it offers your prospect. “My name is Sam Maybe-Somebody, and my company The Hopeful-Whatever wants to work with your company using our We Think It’s Super Service.”

- The Ugly: Makes no mention of your company or service and how the prospect will benefit. “My name is Sam Nobody, and my company wants to work with your company because we think we can help you.”

Step 2: Convey the Real You

Let your prospects know who you are. They want you to tell them what it is you do most passionately. Do not waste time telling them who you work with or for—they need to know who you are. This is not the time to drop the names of people and companies you’ve worked for in the past, and it is definitely not the time to mention any negative moments in your career. Talk about your passion and excellence!

- The Good: Mentions your experience without namedropping and shares your passion for work that connects to what your prospect needs. “For 15 years, I have lived my passion for designing the most cost-efficient communication systems in the business.”

- The Bad: Briefly mentions your experience and previous responsibilities but puts the spotlight on the previous organization. “For 15 years, I developed communications systems for Zapidio Communications, which focuses on university communication systems.”

- The Ugly: Mentions your previous company and a negative outcome. Does not mention your specific area of expertise. “I used to work for Zapidio Communications and then I was downsized, and I’m looking for freelance work in the communications field.”

Step 3: Describe What Your Business Offers

Let your prospects know who or what your business is. Potential clients want you to tell them what you do better than anyone else. What is your bottom line? Why do they need this information? Provide specifics of what your company does and why you’re the best in the business for the specific needs of your prospects. If you’re pitching marketing expertise, pitch marketing expertise and table discussing your other strengths until later.

- The Good: Has specific details about why your company is effective and the best at what it does. “My company increases the customer satisfaction ratings of struggling companies by using the power of technology to communicate effectively and efficiently through email, social media and Twitter.”

- The Bad: Briefly mentions what your company does, but not specifically enough to address what the prospect needs. “My company works with other companies to help them communicate better with their customers using technology like social media and email.”

- The Ugly: Vaguely refers to what your company does but with no mention of how it will benefit your prospect. “My company works with other companies to help them communicate better.”

Step 4: Explain the Promises You Will Deliver On

Your prospects want more specifics on what your brand offers. Remember: a brand is nothing more than a promise delivered. So what promise are you making to them? Know what will create buzz for your prospects, because if the bottom line is not measurable (sales is not buzz) or directly beneficial to the prospects, then they will have no interest in anything you’re proposing.

- The Good: Has specific details and knowledge about what your company can do for the prospect. “After reviewing the last two quarters of sales from your online web development company, we believe the use of our social media networking program will increase your sales by 25 percent in the next quarter.”

- The Bad: Shows limited knowledge of the prospect’s needs and offers a brief idea of what area you desire to work with. “I’ve been watching your company on the news, and I think that the use of our new machine could increase your production rates.”

- The Ugly: Does not know what the prospect’s needs are and makes no reference to your expertise—only broad and overly general platitudes. “Our company will work hard to address any and every need that you have to grow your company.”

Once you’ve built the message, you’ve got to learn how to deliver it. Look in the mirror and polish your 118—make it shine! Recite it as often as you can so when opportunity knocks, you can open the door and sell.

To capitalize on these opportunities and grow, businesses always need to be selling themselves and the changes they make in everything they do. Not doing it is like squatting with spurs on. You can do it, but it’s gonna leave a mark. In other words, be smart or get stuck.

Nothing sells itself forever. Never stop selling your company… and yourself. Now saddle up and ride. You’ve got work to do!

Brought to you by SCORE, America's small business mentors

Would you know what to do if your competitor opened up shop across the street? Your product was featured on NBC's Today Show? Or, what if your best employee just quit? Sometimes, an entrepreneur needs a sounding board with whom to discuss new business opportunities or looming problems.

In just 60-seconds, we'll show you how to find, develop and nurture a business mentor that will help you through the booms and busts of small business ownership.

0:60 Figure Out What You Need Help With—and Yes, Everyone Needs Help from Time to Time
Pick out the top three challenges you or your business faces—and prioritize them in order of having the biggest impact on your business success.

0:46 Carve Out Time in Your Busy Schedule to Devote to Meeting with a Business Mentor
It's not easy for entrepreneurs to find time to meet with a mentor when so much is happening with the business that appears to be and maybe is, more pressing. But, in order to get help, you have to commit some of your time and energy to meeting with your mentor. It's just like exercise—you'll be glad that you did it and will feel energized when you finished.

0:38 Find a Mentor you Click With
Visit for an online, or “virtual,” mentor; select Mentoring. You will be prompted to ask a question, or enter a few keywords, to help you search for the online SCORE mentor with the expertise you need. When the results from the search are displayed, you can peruse their experience and, in many cases, view a biography that details career information, education and professional affiliations. Then, just select the mentor who best meets your needs.

0:20 Ask Your Question
Now you have a chance to expand on or revise your business question based on learning a little bit more about the mentor you've chosen. Type in your question and click "send". Your SCORE mentor will get back to you via email within 48 hours. You can search for different mentors to help you with different areas of your business and can send up to three messages to mentors each day from the SCORE Web site.

0:11 If Online Mentoring is Not for You, Try Face-to-Face
Not every small business owner, or complex business question, can be fielded properly online. Or, you might just want that in-person contact to meet with consistently—or as needed—to bat around those new ideas. If this is the case, visit and select Mentoring. Enter your zip code, city and state and search for a small business counseling office near you—there are 389 nationwide. Contact the office to set up an appointment and you're on your way.

0:03 Oh, Did we Mention it's Free?
Now, that's advice entrepreneurs can't afford to miss out on.

0:01 And now it’s more convenient!

In the left-hand margin of every newsletter, under the heading “Quick Links” you’ll find quick access to our counseling calendar. All you need to do it click on “Counseling Calendar” and the available counselors, their appointment openings, and their field of expertise will be delayed. You can schedule your own appointment just by clicking the appropriate button. What could be easier?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

How to Raise Money for Your Startup -- Now

This article was written by Jason Fell, January 11, 2012, reprinted by permission

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Raising capital for a startup venture during these difficult economic times has been a major obstacle for many aspiring entrepreneurs. But it's not impossible.

There are several steps budding business owners can take to get in front of prospective investors and to help make sure they pony over the cash you need, says Asheesh Advani, author and co-founder of CircleLending, a peer-to-peer lending service that was acquired by Virgin Money USA in 2007. He now serves as CEO of asset management services company Covestor. Advani was a speaker at Entrepreneur's Growth Conference here on Jan. 11, 2012.

Here are Advani's best tips for landing the money you'll need to get your business off the ground:

Know the different types of investors. There are three types of people who might invest their money in your business idea: friendly investors, hobby angels and professional investors. Friendly investors are the people you know personally, namely friends and family. Hobby angels are individual investors who are most likely professionals themselves who have some money to spare. Professional investors, of course, include venture capitalists, angels and banks. "Professional investors care most about the economics of your business," Advani says. "Whether they understand your business or not, they're required to consider your business idea, as well as countless others."

Make a list of prospects. Scour your industry and your professional network to put together a first group of people and test your business pitch, he says. If the people in this initial group appear to be interested, expand your list of prospects from there.

"When I started my businesses, I wound up raising money from 75 different investors," Advani says. "Not because I wanted to. I needed to."
He suggests keeping track of your contacts, your meetings and your goals for each of the meetings. Keep in touch with the contacts throughout the pitching process.

Set a closing date. Determine a specific, official date for when interested professional investors need to get you the money they promised -- and hold them to it. When dealing with friendly and hobby angels, Advani suggests a "rolling closing date," meaning that you'll accept the investment money as soon as they're willing to give it. Also, be sure to be clear with friendly investors about what happens if the money they invest isn't paid back on time or at all.

"These are people who are close to you, so do everything you can to maintain a good relationship," Advani says.

Use middle men carefully. Third-party groups can be great for two things, Advani says. They can help connect entrepreneurs to individual investors they didn't otherwise know. Examples include peer lending and investing sites Lending Club and Prosper.

Crowd funding sites are another option. These services -- including Pro Founder and Peerbackers -- can help entrepreneurs collect numerous investments from people via social networks.

But be careful about sharing your business idea online, Advani warns. "Before you post a profile on any of these sites, remember that everyone will know what you're planning to do," he says.

5 Ways to Engage your Customers with Video!

This article was written by Pete Lisoskie, CEO,

How can you better leverage this content to drive sales and enhance your communication with site visitors?

Using video content to engage customers and drive new prospects is still an under-utilized strategy with brands big and small. When we ask in our Authority Marketing seminars who uses video for marketing, very few business owners raise their hands. Not only is it relatively inexpensive to use but video content can be leveraged in many different ways and is easy to promote through social media.

Video is powerful! It allows you to connect to your audience on a personal level, builds trust, and holds the prospective customer’s attention longer on your message.

So why is video so important?

• The “virtual” personal connection

• Help you stand out from your competition

• Personal branding

• Builds trust & rapport

• Shows a product or service in action

• Video holds attention longer

Here are the different video types that can be used to engage prospective customers.

· Sales Letter Video

· Content Delivery Video

· Authority Video

· Testimonial Videos

· Before & After Videos

· Webinars

The 5 Secret Video Tips

Now that you know the power of video and the different types of videos you can produce, how do you use video to engage our customers? Here are 5 secret tips on how to get it right:

  1. Tell your Story: The most powerful selling sequence was established by Aristotle and that is Ethos, Pathos, Logos – or establish credibility, appeal to their emotion, and then apply logic to close a sale. With video you can follow the powerful sequence by telling your story and presenting your products and services. You can establish credibility and appeal to emotion.
  1. Start a Video Diary: Video diaries are a great way to show an inside, relaxed viewpoint of a brand or company. You can produce video diaries and promoted your company site through your own YouTube channel.
  1. Use Video to Highlight your Products: Video is a great way to demonstrate how your product works. More powerfully, you can help the customer imagine what it would be like if they owned and used your product which directly appeals to their emotion. If you get them to say, “That’s Me!” or “I Want That!” then you have a sales.
  1. Video Humor to Drive Traffic: Humor, done well, always is a massive hit on the internet. There are so many examples of humorous videos that have gone viral and generated several hundred thousand views. BlendTec is an example of a company that used video to skyrocket views and revenues. Cracked! is another successful example. They went live in 2009 and their episodes have been viewed over 13 million times! So if you have a humorous streak, then apply it to your products or services.
  1. Video as Customer Outreach: What I mean here is the use of video as product tutorials to teach your customers how to use a product of yours. The second, and most powerful way, is to teach them how to submit video testimonials about their experiences with your company. If you want to see how the successful company does this, go to What results is lots of free press for your company in the process.

One thing to remember, video doesn't have to be complicated to record or produce. All it takes is a video camera, a YouTube channel, your motivation, or some willing customers. It's a well-known fact that video makes a site "stickier", and that means longer site visits and lower bounce rates.

Get your video marketing started this week! The longer you wait the greater chance your competition will beat you to the clicks you deserve on the internet.