Archive for Allie Casey

Libraries–Do They Carry Books?

photo_3494_20090110open bookIt’s no secret that libraries enjoy tough economic conditions. I don’t mean that they aren’t affected by budget cuts and layoffs–they are–what I mean is library patronage sky rockets when incomes go down. Try parking at your local library these days and it’s likely you will be jockeying for a parking space.

I must say that really threw me on a recent visit is that my library doesn’t seem to support books–just videos. Book shelves have been shrinking in the past several months and the middle isle formerly covered with tables and chairs for study–now houses as many DVD racks as possible (still allowing for fire codes) and tables and chairs have been relegated to the corners behind  the ever-dwindling book racks.

I understand that as a fast-food nation the tendency is to consume stories and information the same way. No seat down dinners here. No–just grab your flick and run it through the plastic case remover and under the scanner on your dash out the door (probably to a waiting get-away car.) No seating, no savoring, no skimming of chapters –I’m waiting for libraries with the drive-thru window. I’m not talking about the book drop-off slot, I’m thinking more like order your DVD buy shouting your selection into a crackly speaker box and pick it up at the next window. These must exist–someone please write and tell me about your drive-thru DVD store –oops–I mean library.

Me? I still prefer words on a page.  What are your thoughts?

Marketing and Selling Your Product or Service with Stories

1131461_slate_tablet

Don’t underestimate the lure of a compelling story to sell your product or service. Everyone relates to stories. Stories create the emotional connection that inspires people to buy.

Use stories to market your brand. Consider the products that have been created around folk tales, lore, myth or desire. Paul Newman’s products support his desire to help kids with health challenges. Ben and Jerry were two young guys that loved fun and ice cream and created a business model around those passions.

If you want customers to connect with you don’t be shy about incorporating your story into your marketing. Describe the circumstances that propelled you to start your business. What problem did you have that needed solving? Was necessity the mother-of-invention for your product? Did you feel an intuitive pull you couldn’t ignore? Were you fulfilling a childhood dream? Did an unfortunate event spur you to create a service others needed?

Encourage your customers to tell their stories. People love to talk about their experiences so make it easy for them.

Here are a few ways to help your raving customers generate good stories:

  • Hold a contest.  Give a prize for the funniest, most inspirational, or unexpected good result that came from using your product or service.
  • Give an instant discount or bonus for an original 7-word story praising your product. Use social networking sites to reach more people.
  • Make story telling easy by creating a fill-in-the blanks form or supply the first sentence of a story to jump start your customer’s creative juices. Remind them to tell the truth—this is creative non-fiction not fantasy.
  • Collect the stories and create a book featuring your customers. The book can be used to encourage new customers to contribute to the next edition.

Start collecting customer stories today–it’s the most effective marketing you can do and you can’t beat the price.

Job Function–Avoid Costly Misundersandings with Clear Communication

1181346_person_maskMisunderstanding a job role causes more issues than simply lost production. Customer complaints, lost business, public safety or legal issues are all at stake.

Clear communication takes more than a paragraph in a handbook or a few sentences uttered by human resources or a manager. Ideally, the job function conversation should occur not only during the interview and orientation process but throughout the first ninety days.

Here are a few ways to clearly communicate the role of a job to decrease misunderstandings:

  1. Verbally describe the role including tasks and expectations. The challenge here is to be both specific and broad. Use stories and examples to help create a picture that words alone fail to illustrate. Communicate the desired outcome graphically.
  2. Written job descriptions are critical to compliance.  Don’t rely on an initialed checklist indicating the new hire has read and understood the information. Written communication alone does not address questions adequately and leaves the new hire without an appropriate venue for voicing questions or concerns. Take the time to review and expand the job description using real examples.
  3. Use a detailed description of a typical day or scenarios the new hire might encounter. Again, using a story format helps put the new hire into the picture.
  4. Describe situations outside the job description the new hire would be expected to handle. Give end-result expectations and examples.
  5. After giving a verbal and written description ask for feedback in the form of a summary–not a list or recitation–but a description of how they see the function and their role in making it happen. Ask how they would handle a situation and encourage details about the end results. Listen for any disconnects between their “idea” of the job and the actual expectations of the job. What is not being said is more important than what is being said.
  6. Ask for where they see their biggest challenge in their job. Ask for a strategy for achieving results. Do not let “hopefully, I can…” be an acceptable answer. Hope is not a strategy. Too frequently new hires are skilled at giving the appropriate answers but have no intentions or aptitude for actually doing the function.

Clearly communicating policy, processes and job function is a part of your job if you hire or manage people. Spend more time on this critical message upfront and enjoy fewer misunderstandings in the future.

If you want more tips you can use on the job be sure to get your FREE 6 part audio series by putting your name and email in the boxes to your upper right. Now, pick up a copy of Misunderstood! The Fast Guide to Communicating at Work-What to Say, How to Say It and When to Shut Up, for dozens of tips and techniques that can change your life.

How to Use Communication Skills to Market Your Business

431214_paper_peopleIf you’re a business owner or entrepreneur, who is looking for effective ways to market your business, you probably don’t think of your communication skills as a promotional tool.

All communication is a form of marketing or selling, no matter who you are speaking with. By sharpening your inter-personal skills you can increase the perceived value of your products and services.

Here are a few tips you can use to hone your soft skills for solid results:

1.  Smile more frequently. Wait—you probably think this is silly but the truth is that smiling changes everything. If you’re working long hours, trying to overcome challenges and dealing with frustrations you probably aren’t smiling much.

If you answer the phone or worse greet a customer in person while you’re managing the business of business, it’s unlikely that you’ll greet them with a smile. If you do remember to smile, I’m betting it won’t be genuine. This is unacceptable. You have a business because of those customers. Treat them with respect. Smile.

Smiling sends a powerful message about you and your business.  A stress-free, heartfelt smile invites clients or prospective customers to relax and trust you.  That’s a potent marketing tool. Don’t forget to smile when answering the phone. The tone and pitch of your voice will be more inviting—and people can tell if you’re smiling or not.

The best salespeople keep a small mirror by their phones to remind them to smile when they make or answer a call. Another tip is to post a note that says “smile-you’re making money” by your phone.

Studies show that men smile less frequently than women.  Perhaps they feel that smiling is sign of weakness, or they want to let you know who is in charge or they feel that an emotionless face helps to set boundaries.  The truth is that grinning while saying “no” to someone helps to preserve a business relationship. Whatever the reason, let it go and smile more. It costs nothing and the returns are priceless.

2. Clean up your conversation. This isn’t a reminder to lose the four-letter words from your conversations (that should go without saying.) It is a reminder to eliminate  rambling thoughts, garbled grammar, mumbling and jargon, from  your communication. You don’t hear yourself as others do so record a few phone calls and casual conversations to see how you really sound to others. After listening to the play back, ask yourself if you would do business with you?

This doesn’t mean you need to speak with grammatical perfection or even in complete sentences–that’s not how people talk.  It’s a nudge to take a moment to think about your purpose and intentions for what you are about to say in an effort to make it easier for others to follow you.

If your printed marketing materials send one message but your verbal communication sends another that’s a congruency problem. Get them aligned to increase your credibility!

3. Ask more questions. Listen more than talk. Your customers will tell you everything you need to know about what to market and what products they need. You’re in business to solve their problems so make sure you know what their problems are. Don’t assume you know. Ask questions. Do surveys. Invite suggestions. Don’t market a product you’re in love with but doesn’t serve the needs of your customer. Pay attention and ask clarifying questions. Your business depends on it.

These three essential communication skills don’t cost time or money but they can increase your value to your market.  Smile.

The Myth that Verbal and Visual Communication are More Important than Words

stop- Exit

The popular but erroneous claim spouted by speakers (and some organizations) that body language and the sound of your voice is more important than words (to the tune of 93%)  misinterprets the findings of the original studies conducted by Dr. Albert Mehrabian.

According to Mehrabian[1], the three elements (words, tone, body language) account differently for our liking for the person who puts forward a message concerning their feelings: words account for 7%, tone of voice accounts for 38%, and body language accounts for 55% of the liking. They are often abbreviated as the “3 Vs” for Verbal, Vocal & Visual.

This 7/38/55% Rule has been misinterpreted as applying to all communication. It’s just not true.

Our actions or visual clues take precedence over words ONLY when the two are sending different messages when someone is speaking about feelings.  If I verbally agree with you while looking away and shrugging you might realize I’m not true to my words even though you heard me agree.

If the 3 elements  did apply to all communication, well, we wouldn’t need words  much would we? It would be akin to living in a silent movie without the captions. But, I ask you to spend some time watching a movie with the sound off (no captions) and see just how long you’ll be able to follow the story (and get it right.)

So are words important? You bet.

A single word can change a life. Words can make marriages and break marriages. Words can inform, educate and direct.  They can soothe, console and convey sympathy. They can inspire and spark our imagination.  Words cause pain, elation, anger, hope, and disappointment.

Yes, all three communication elements add to our message. Words alone without tone have caused untold misunderstandings. Consider email. The receiver often adds the tone and just as often gets it wrong!

Ultimately, all the elements need to send a congruent message if we want the interpretation to be as we intended.

______________________

To learn more, pick up a copy of Misunderstood! The Fast Guide to Communicating at Work–what to Say, How to Say It and When to Shut Up.

^ a b Mehrabian, Albert (1971). Silent Messages (1st ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. ISBN 0-534-00910-7.

 

How to Quickly Communicate with Anyone and Avoid Misunderstanding

1005753_jpear1earOne of the great understandings in life is the realization that not everyone thinks the same way that you do. And so it goes with communication.

Misunderstandings occur when you fail to communicate in the way others want to want to listen. The solution is to make a shift in your style that better matches the recipient. You do this by using words, intonation, pacing and gestures that resonant with them.

The challenge is to incorporate this into your daily communication.

Here are some guidelines for making a quick determination of communication style types:

  • When greeting someone for the first time, notice how quickly they move. Is it quick and determined or slower and relaxed?
  • What about their gestures? Are they sharp and staccato, animated, measured or barely visible?
  • Is their posture displaying confidence, timidity, friendliness or overload?
  • Do they appear approachable or inaccessible? Do they make direct eye contact or shy away?
  • What emotion does their face reveal? Do they have an easy smile and grinning eyes, a polite half-smile and concerned eyes, little or no smile with darting eyes or a resolute mouth and purposeful eyes?

You can begin to make changes in the way you approach and communicate with others by noticing these physical characteristics. Make it a game to observe the people you work with, on the street and at home.

Quickly shift your energy and physicality to better match theirs and watch what happens. Think of this as dancing with different partners. You don’t need to become someone else you simply need to learn how to move together so you glide smoothly across the room without stepping on each others toes.

The study of communication styles is exhaustive but if you apply this simple method you can begin to communicate with less effort and enjoy fewer misunderstandings.

If you would like to learn 29 more tips and techniques just grab your FREE 6-part audio series on “The Power of Effective Communication” by putting your name and email in the boxes on your upper right.  Or simply pick up a copy of Misunderstood! The Fast Guide to Communicating at Work-What to Say, How to Say It and When to Shut Up. Get it today at Amazon.