The self-introduction is such a simple and effective way to build awareness for you and your firm. Often called the “elevator speech,” I prefer “self-intro” because delivering a speech in an elevator is absurd. Plus, the goal is to engage in a dialogue, not deliver a monologue. When asked “what do you do?,” seize this opportunity. A compelling self-intro is a catalyst for someone to ask you follow-up questions. Before you know it, you’ll be engaged in a stellar conversation. Conversation leads to connection: the ultimate goal.
I understand that it’s awkward talking about yourself because you fear sounding pompous. As a result, most of us self-introduce poorly. But done well, it’s an authentic, two-way, targeted marketing communication tool that can instantly create a favorable impression for you and your firm.
I recommend having two versions of your self-intro. The short version should be about 10-15 words. Mine sounds like this: “I’m a consultant & speaker helping AEC firms fight commoditization to win new business.”
Here are the key elements (using my example above). Include your occupation (consultant & speaker), target audience (AEC firms) and specific benefits received from working with you (win new business). The key is to craft something you’d say to a friend. If it is too canned, you’ll sound like a cheesy pre-recorded salesbot and you’ll never use it.
For the long version of your self-intro, start off with a question that demonstrates that you understand a commonly held challenge facing your target audience. I would ask, “you know how AEC firms are often perceived as commodities? Well, as a consultant & speaker, I help firms fight commoditization to win new business.” According to Michael Port, author of Book Yourself Solid, you might elaborate on your services or add an example of a “wow” success story. This would start off with something like, “can I share a story about a firm similar to yours that we helped?” Then you share that story.
I recently led a workshop on this topic for my Toastmaster’s club. Here are some areas where people struggled. By only stating your occupation, “I’m a marketer,” you instantly commodify yourself. Another pitfall is saying what’s true, but not unique. For example, “I work in marketing for an architecture firm.” Remember, this is a positioning statement which is about differentiation. Finally, watch for language that looks impressive when written but sounds ridiculous when telling a friend. If you include business cliches like “synergize, best of breed, core competency, win-win or paradigm shift,” then punch yourself in the mouth and start over.
The exercise of writing your self-intro forces you to narrow your focus and prioritize. Start working on your 10-15 word short version to pique enough interest that you’ll be asked follow-up questions. When your self-introduction is clear and concise, like the premise of a great movie, then others can easily spread your message like a blockbuster referral.
People do business with people they know. So, how do you get to know the right people that can hire or team with your firm? As an introvert who would rather spend time designing or writing, networking doesn’t come easy for me. I’ve had to push myself beyond my comfort zone. By following the four networking tips below, I have built an effective network and you can too.
1. Get Involved Where Your Clients Gather
Focus your time where your target clients gather. Since LecoursDesign’s niche is the A/E/C industry, I’ve found SMPS, AIA, and USGBC to be fertile ground for connecting with potential clients. But it’s not enough to simply join an organization or show up for meetings. In fact, meaningless small talk often pervades big monthly meetings. The place where meaningful relationships are built is working side-by-side on a committee or serving on the Board of Directors. Embed yourself where clients can get to know you on a personal level.
2. Volunteer Where You Are Passionate
Give your time to causes that you are passionate about. Even better if you can donate some expertise where they can be noticed by a potential client. Let me give you an example. I’m passionate about sustainability so serving as Marketing Chair of the USGBC-SD Chapter allows me to demonstrate my expertise to potential clients. For example, I designed the USGBC name tags above. Volunteering also allows you to practice new skills that a paying client might find too risky (you rarely get fired volunteering). When I started with USGBC, I knew very little about email marketing. The lessons I learned in managing e-mail blasts for USGBC directly informed the free monthly advice I send out monthly via email.
3. Obey the Law (of Reciprocity)
Give and you will get. The universe supports Newton’s third law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. According to Michael Port in Book Yourself Solid, share what you know, whom you know, and how you feel. You’ll be amazed with what comes back to you.
With networking, it’s more important to be interested, than interesting. It’s a myth that the most charismatic person in the room is the most effective networker. That guy (you know the type), the most interesting man in the world from the Dos Equis commercials, is usually perceived as a slick, self-interested, charlatan. When meeting someone for the first time, or fifth time, be interested in them. Ask about what they are working on, what problems they are facing, fun things they are doing outside of work, or about their family. Take it upon yourself to move quickly out of small talk land, and into genuine conversation. Show up to your event with good questions in your back pocket, and you’ll leave with meaningful contacts’ business cards in your front pocket.
4. Position Yourself as an Expert
I’ve found the best way get in front of my target audience as an expert is through public speaking. When I speak on Branding or Presentations at conferences or workshops, it always amazes me how many people come up afterward to give me their business card. This type of “pull” strategy of content marketing is so much more effective than “push strategy” of cold calling or advertising. If public speaking isn’t your thing, make it your thing by joining a local Toastmasters chapter because public speaking is a learned skill. But if you aren’t ready to speak publicly, start with writing. The trade organizations and publications your target reads are always hungry for fresh content. For example, I write for the SMPS-SD Newsletter that then gets repurposed into their blog. Find out who the editor of publication is that you’d like to submit to. Then, send a letter or call to introduce yourself. Ask how they would like to receive submission ideas, and if they ever need expert sources for articles written by others. Don’t sell your story ideas in your first contact. After you build a relationship, then propose an article where you can share useful knowledge (see tip #3 above) while demonstrating your expertise. If it gets published, be sure to send copies to your target audience.
Recently, I had a really great marketing day. I’d like to share with you a few habits that led to my success. I didn’t invent these, and, you may have heard them before. The following tactics have been effective for me in marketing my firm, LecoursDesign, and should also work for you.
1. Present Proposals in Person
The morning of my really great marketing day started with a meeting I requested to present a proposal to re-design the KTU+A website. I could have faxed or e-mailed the proposal and checked it off my to-do list. But, I’ve found a much higher success rate by presenting proposals in person. It shows a deeper commitment to the project, allows the client to get to know you better, and allows for the opportunity to answer questions about process or pricing in real-time.
2. Volunteer and Network Where Your Clients Are
Later the same morning, I ran into the Marketing Director and VP of KTU+A at a networking event where they handed me the signed proposal that I had just presented. Hooray! I previously served on the Board of Directors of Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) with the Marketing Director from KTU+A. She and I were also in the same Toastmasters group where she’d heard my speeches about the capabilities of LecoursDesign. So, when the RFP for their website came out, we were already well positioned in the mind of our new client.
3. Get In Front of Your Clients as an Expert
By noon of my great marketing day, I was on-stage at the recent USGBC / SMPS Luncheon. Being introduced to the audience as a Board Member and Marketing Co-Chair for the U.S. Green Building Council, San Diego Chapter elevated my awareness with 150 potential clients. One of which, the owner of Green Office Projects, introduced himself to me and inquired about the services of LecoursDesign. This was a lead that fits perfectly with our niche: building brands at the intersection of Architecture and CleanTech. Did it lead to a new project? You’ll have to wait until next issue to find out…
I’ve found recent success by dedicating 4 hours each Wednesday to marketing. I know it’s easy to neglect marketing when you are busy. But with long sales cycles, you can’t afford to wait until things get slow to nurture the marketing tree and expect consistent, high quality fruit.