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  • Writer's pictureSam Salerno

"Wait, what do you do Exactly?"

Updated: Mar 11, 2018

The prime question of 90% of all small talk is the classic, "So, what do you do?"

It's a terrible question that pigeonholes a lot of people, but, for creative entrepreneurs, it can an especially slippery slope. Break the typical three-to-four word answer like, "I'm a marriage counselor," or "I'm a insurance salesman," and you risk losing their interest or dominating the conversation.

Not good when you're looking to land a potential client.

I've found that a good way around this blunder, for my particular line of work, is to quickly say, "I help individuals and businesses be awesome-er by building out a killer marketing plan and online presence." It's long, but the verbage is intriguing. Then, after the usual compulsory nod and the blank smile/stare combo, if they look to be in the least bit interested, I'll whip out my handy dandy notebook and flat out show them what I do.

So I thought I'd write a blog post about it.

Welcome to my brain on paper.

All of my work typically begins in a blank Moleskine notebook marked up by a fine tip, no-bleed Sharpie pen.

[The first thing I usually hear when I show my notes is praise for my handwriting. Sure, I actually worked hard on my handwriting to make it look the way it does, but, at the end of the day, cool handwriting doesn't pay the bills (although I wouldn't be opposed to getting paid for some commission work if you're that big of a fan).]

During every meeting with a client, I take notes. Lots of notes. Even for things that are unrelated to what we're meeting about. You mentioned something about wanting to travel more? I'll just scrawl that in the margin to bring up later. You wish you had more time to spend with your family? Then let's write that down and think about what we can do to make that happen.

If you don't write it down, it's likely to be forgotten.

If it's forgotten, you can't work with it.

The photo above shows the notes I took as I was working with a new client this afternoon. We're in the beginning stages of mapping things out, but this was a really solid and exciting session.

Besides helping you remember what you talked about, what do notes do? Well, taking notes gets you listening, and that's the most important thing you can do when wanting to help a business step up their game. Ask people questions like, "Where is your business right now with fostering new customers?" and "What do you want your customers to feel when they experience your brand or business?" I use these questions to get the ball rolling, although sometimes (like today), you just click with a client and everything just flows.

marketing theory.

After asking questions, taking notes, and getting a feel for where a business is at, I'm usually asked, "So, how can you help?" And now that I've gathered the data, my creative brain explodes.

First, I go into a bit of marketing theory. I can go for days on this, but the basics of it are: if you want to make more money, you need to smartly spend more money. If your current customer base isn't forking over the green, and you're scared of losing money and decide to cut the marketing budget, guess what? You just committed business suicide.

It sounds counterintuitive, but your best bet is to actually ramp up your marketing budget and find ways to temporarily cut other costs. Why? Getting old customers to purchase again or new customers to make their first purchase is the only way your business can make more money!

I can obviously keep going, but I'll spare you.

Building a Value Ladder.

Next, I'll again use what I've learned from listening and help a client think through and often reframe their offerings in a value ladder.

Chiropractors are the classic example for this.

Tell me if this offer sounds familiar: "Free 30 minute massage and spine alignment!" Who doesn't want that?! You call the office to see if it's true, and 99% of the time it is. Just leave your name, phone number, and email address, and you'll get setup with an appointment tomorrow. You go to the appointment, get your massage, have a guy break your back, and you're feeling great. But wait, did you know that your back was that messed up? Fortunately for you, there's an "affordable" monthly wellness plan that will get you back to tip-top shape in just three months. Are you interested?

Classic value ladders like this one are what keep chiropractors in business for the long term. They give you something of value, you develop a relationship with them, and then your free appointment turns into a three month paid commitment.

Every business operates like this to some degree, whether they realize it or not. Gym memberships, financial advisors, insurance salespeople, authors, pool repairmen, you name it. Successful businesses, however, are fully aware of their value ladder, and operate in a way that gets people plugged in to it.

So, after going over some marketing theory, I'll help businesses see how they can revamp and reframe their offerings so that they are consistently attracting new customers while nurturing their current customers.

Putting it all together

At this point in the work, my creative juices are through the roof. We've developed some solid offerings that will give customers real value while simultaneously boosting revenue. Now comes the hands-on, nitty-gritty work where we've just got to build the platform we'll use to promote it.

Many people race to social media for marketing, and for good reason. If you want to broadcast your message to a crap ton of people and you've got a cell phone, then you're in business.

But social media can't be the end all be all for marketing.

That burden should rest on a business website.

A website is your corner of the internet. There are no rules and regulations (for the most part) about what you post. Colors, layouts, verbage, etc. – you have direct control over all it. If you use Facebook, you're limited to what it offers (and it's advertising fees); the same goes with Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google, YouTube, and other platforms.

The best thing to use these platforms for is to craft and promote specific offers that get people to go back to a custom, user-friendly/tested website that will convert those leads into new customers.

As a business development strategist, I help businesses create compelling offers for their value ladders, and then connect those offers to an engaging, website who's main purpose isn't just to show products and services but to create new customers.

The End

You can probably tell why it's difficult for entrepreneurs like me to encapsulate all they do in a three to four word phrase. There's a lot that goes into being a business development strategist.

Every business is unique. Even multi-location businesses have different managers and customer bases. Figuring out how to reach those people, how to offer value, how to boost business, that's where the exciting challenge exists. No two situations are the same.

So, as an entrepreneur, I would be doing myself a disservice by not explaining that everything I laid out in this blog is something that I want to help YOU with. If you are a business owner, or your thinking through a new business idea and you need help getting some traction, I would be over the moon if you shot me a message and we set up a time to chat.

No more small talk.

Let's get to work.


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