Category Archives for "In-person marketing"

In-Person Marketing: Advertising

One common misunderstanding is that marketing and advertising are the same thing.  Marketing is the strategy you employ to bring your product, service or cause to your market’s attention and then convert prospects into customers.

Advertising is one method you can employ as part of your marketing strategy.  All an advert does is say: “Here’s a thing and here’s what to do next if you’re interested in it”.

Another misconception is advertising cannot be an in-person approach.  Clearly a great deal of advertising is impersonal, eg hoardings, television, most online advertising despite its alleged targeting.  But advertising can be a step towards a personal business arrangement: “I saw your advert in the window, can you tell me more, please?”

In this post I am not going to write about advertising copy.  This is an enormous topic and I have covered it in various ways in several posts.

Also, I’m not going to write about how to purchase advertising.  I have mentioned this in a few posts as an option in certain circumstances.  The question is do you really need this and if so how can you find expert support?

Local Advertising Opportunities

It is worth asking what advertising opportunities you have in the local marketplace:

  • If you have premises, a good external sign is essential. You need to display your business name, possibly a logo and/or by-line and essential contact information.
  • Shop windows are opportunities to advertise what you sell, through a window display.  I suspect many of the principles of website design apply equally; show them what you sell and tell them how to get it.
  • Printed materials such as business cards, flyers and posters. These can be used in different ways and can be most effective if you can encourage others to distribute them.  The others might be family members and supporters, customers, other businesses especially where they have a complementary offer.  Businesses may expect you distribute their promotional  materials in return.

Collaboration is Important

Let’s pause here and consider the value of helping each other out.  This is really a species of referral marketing.  If you display a poster from another business, you endorse that business.  This is how local business communities can develop, each supporting the work of others.

More Advertising Opportunities

  • Local newspapers and magazines can be effective. Many are free and paid for through adverts.  If they go through every letter box in a neighbourhood, they may be effective sources of publicity.  Usually they include articles of local interest and if you can offer to write for the magazine, you may find another opportunity to get your name known.  Remember though, they are unlikely to accept articles that actively promote your business.
  • Stalls at local events, fairs and markets.
  • Gifts and other items that can carry your business details, eg paper bags.
  • Vehicles can be effective means to advertise.  Cars with well-designed external advertising can have greater impact than vans or lorries.  Perhaps they attract attention because they are less common.
  • Buses carry both external and internal advertising.  Internal advertising may be effective on routes that pass your business premises or bring people into your area.
  • A-boards, sandwich boards and the like can be a nuisance.  However, if they are well-positioned they can make your business premises visible to people walking alongside them.  I am very inclined to read chalk boards – I suppose they imply someone has made an effort and are likely to feature up-to-date offers.

What advertising do you find effective reaching local customers?

In-Person Marketing

This is the final post for now in this sequence about in-person marketing.  I shall add more as new possibilities come to my attention.  My next post will announce what’s coming next!

In-Person Marketing: Interviews

There are different types of interviews.  They can be part of a referral marketing strategy or an enrolment conversation that leads to sales.  This post is about interviews that convey information.

Some aim to draw out information from clients or prospects that can be used in a marketing campaign.  Others to interview you about your business and you need to convey what it is about effectively.

Interviews of Clients or Prospects

The great thing is you have control over the questions asked!  This does not mean you necessarily ask the questions.  You could ask a consultant to interview your clients or prospects on your behalf.  This way you would discuss what you want to find out with the consultant and then leave them to it.  The advantage of using a consultant is your clients may be more willing to open up to them than they are to you, especially if they are still in a working relationship with you.

The important thing to remember is you will record this interview and published it.  The way  you use the interview needs to be negotiated with the interviewee, even if they are happy to collaborate and want to help you.

Possible Uses for Interviews of Clients or Prospects

  • The interview is recorded on video or audio and then displayed online. There may be a camera or sound recorder in the room or the interview can be online.  For marketing purposes, the interviewee must give consent not just in general but to the recording they make.  If there is a part of the interview they are not happy to broadcast, edit it out.  Remember, recording can be done by taking notes and these still need consent if you intend to publish.
  • You plan to display extracts from the interview on your site. You still need consent and there may be an issue about how you attribute the extract.  It is a good idea to get permission even if it is not attributed, if the source is sensitive you must make it impossible to work out who said it.  Usually you will want to do this for social proof and if so a name, designation and photo all help to convey this is a genuine person.  You can ask someone for a testimonial, however there is value interviewing someone in-depth, as they will often contribute helpful comments even ones they haven’t thought about before!
  • Using interviews to inform your marketing strategy. You may find some people would be willing to be interviewed for this purpose because there will be no direct quotes from them on the site.  No-one need know they were ever interviewed.  This purpose can run alongside your search for social proof.  See my posts about testimonials for more information.
  • Finally, interviews can help you find accessible language for your site. Many website owners write in fluent jargon and would benefit by translating their offer into words their market actually uses!

Interviews of You

Much of the above applies to you too!  An interview can be used in similar ways and might draw out of you new and surprising ways of describing your offer.  I want to consider three types of interview you might encounter.

The main thing to remember is answer the questions.  I know politicians never answer the question but you have a business or cause and you do yourself no favours by seeming evasive.


This is where you arrange an interview for your own purposes, perhaps so you can display a video on your website.  You choose someone who knows about what you’re doing and is willing to sit down with you, plan the questions and guide the interview to the conclusions you want.

This is not to say the friendly interviewer can’t be tough with you.  It is best to allow them some space to ask follow-up questions because they might draw new insights from you.  Unless you’re live, you can edit out the worst moments!


This is where you might consent to an interview, perhaps on local radio or TV, and discover the interviewer has not been properly briefed or has no understanding of your field.  You need to be ready for this happening.  As soon as you are in the hands of a third-party, you have less control over what they do.

Prepare for the interview by rehearsing answers to some basic questions.  This equips you to sound as if you know what you’re talking about, even if the questions are not terribly helpful.

Try to help the interviewer by explaining, as soon as you can exactly what you do and the benefits of what you offer.  Hopefully, most interviewers will then get on track.  You may need to feed them ideas, especially if they struggle to find sensible questions.

Don’t assume your interviewer is incompetent.  The reality may be they have not been properly briefed.  Once they understand what you are talking about they may start to ask more searching questions.  Remember, they may conduct several interviews every day and not always get the briefing they need.


Most of us dread the hostile interview and tend to think just about any third-party interview is likely to be hostile.  Most interviewers want to give you an opportunity to talk about your topic and they are not trying to catch you out.  Take any opportunities you can to discuss the interview beforehand and all should be well.

Hostile interviews are rare.  They may happen if you are accused of something.  If so, your aim will be to either clear your name or else apologise and explain what happened and what you are going to do about it.  Either way this nightmare scenario can sometimes be turned to your advantage.

The reason I mention it here is to make the point it is unlikely.  Your interviewer is more likely to be either friendly and competent or friendly and incompetent.  Either way you can make your business or cause better known.

Have you experiences of interviews that have gone well or been disastrous?

In-Person Marketing: Articles in Formal Media

A few years ago, an article in formal media, eg newspapers or magazines, or a feature on television or radio was a breakthrough for businesses or organisations.  Everyone now has access to the Internet and so the value of formal media has changed.

That does not mean they are without value.  Perhaps the way to think about it is the Internet has introduced new possibilities and advantages that complement formal media.  Like everything else, to enhance the value of using formal media, ensure it is part of a considered marketing strategy.

Pros and Cons of Formal Media

Using Formal Media to Reach New Markets

The big advantage of formal media is its potential to introduce your enterprise to new markets.  You are likely to encounter people who do not go online so much and those who have not found you online.

The big disadvantage of formal media is it’s ephemeral.  The article in this week’s paper will be forgotten by next week.  Radio and TV may be temporarily accessible online but will soon be forgotten.  The same material on a website might be seen by the same number of people or more but over a longer period.  There are occasions when something goes viral and the world beats a path to your website but these are rare and can’t be counted upon.

Formal media means exposure to regular consumers of that media.  They are not forced to read it or listen but those who do may become new prospects.

Editorial Control

Another disadvantage of formal media is you do not have editorial control.  The reporter, interviewer and / or editor will have significant control over content and presentation.  This is not to say they will make a bad job of it but there is a problem if they don’t like what you’re offering (or it’s not for them) or they don’t understand it.  Even if you write an article or press release it has been known for its main point to be edited out!

Another advantage of formal media is it gives you authority or social proof.  Edited media works like third-party endorsement.  Many restaurants display newspaper articles in their window.  These include information about the restaurant and boost its credibility.  You can report your published item and perhaps link to an online version if it exists.  The fact that formal media value your work sufficiently to publish it still counts for something!

Using Formal Media to Contact Your Market

You will usually be able to invite readers or listeners to contact you.  On a website they can do this through the click of a button.  Whatever means of communication you offer in formal media is likely to be more effort.  However, those who make the effort are likely to be genuine prospects.

One thing to consider when offering contact details is the best mode of contact.  If you have a shop front, its address is likely to be helpful.  Otherwise consider the likely readership of the paper – are they more likely to use the phone or contact you online?

How to Access Formal Media

If this is likely to be a major part of your local marketing, eg if your market is likely to be older people, then you will need specialist help.  Developing a plan to get you out there, assessing whether it will be worthwhile and then making the contacts are all specialist skills.

Here are a few thoughts to get you started:

  • Be clear about your market and the media they are likely to use.
  • What is it about your offer that is likely to interest your market? You will interest formal media  if they think you will interest their market.
  • Is there anything eye-catching about your offer that can be photographed or filmed?
  • Do you have a story that will engage media outlets?
  • How do you present as a person? This is not necessarily about how you look.  It is also important to consider how you interview, when filmed or in writing.
  • Do you have a marketing plan and are you clear about how formal media will contribute? For example, do you want to increase traffic to your website or increase visitors to your shop?  Are you offering something to people who respond?
  • Are you promoting an ongoing enterprise or a one-off event?

When you have thought through and consulted about these issues, you can approach your media.  You may have contacts who can help you or else you could try a press release.  Visit their website first and find out if they have any guidance for organisations approaching them.


By the way, don’t forget advertising.  Like everything else advertising should be part of your marketing strategy.  The issues in the list above apply equally.  The main point to remember is to do it only of you can afford to lose the costs.  The price is an investment and all investments have their attendant risks.


Many local businesses manage perfectly well without formal media coverage or, more likely, occasional and ad hoc coverage.  When occasional opportunities arise, take them and integrate them into your marketing strategy.

One final point, formal media features more in non-local campaigns.  If you are marketing nationally or internationally, it is a real albeit possibly expensive option.  Many successful businesses manage marketing online as an alternative.  Lots of businesses use both.

How have you used local formal media and how did you integrate it into your marketing strategy?

In-Person Marketing: Video and Audio

It may seem odd to include video and audio among in-person techniques.  The chances are you will feature them on websites or in social media as the main point of access.  However, recordings can be used locally in various ways:

  • Recording videos and audio can be an excellent way of building relationships. I have written about testimonials elsewhere but they are only one approach.  People may be willing to speak about problems they face or issues that concern them.  They may be able to illustrate your product or service in action.
  • Recordings of live events can be a way of sharing ideas locally, beyond those who are able to attend.
  • Whilst podcasts, downloads, websites and social media have become the most frequent ways of accessing recorded material, DVDs still have some utility. This is particularly true of audio recordings that can be listened to whilst the listener does other things such as driving or jogging.  Podcasts and downloads are taking on some of this role but longer material might still benefit from being recorded on static media.
  • Recordings can be used for presentations. Short illustrative recordings are perhaps best for talks, so the speaker can pick up issues and develop them from the recordings or open discussion about them.

Of these the possibilities of recording material that can be used online may be most attractive to local businesses and organisations.  Such recordings are opportunities to build relationships between the people involved.

YouTube is the most popular site for storing videos.  You can create a channel for your organisation and keep all your videos there.  Members, customers and other interested people can be encouraged to subscribe to the channel.

The search engine in YouTube is the second most powerful after Google (who own YouTube).  So, if you can highlight keywords for your video, you can use YouTube to publicise your organisation and point viewers to your website.  If you have a lot of relevant videos, you can build your list through this route.  Maybe show videos on your premises or during presentations and offer people the url for the video or your channel.

There are options for storing your recordings online that enable you to restrict access to selected groups.

Recording Video and Audio

The first step is to decide why you want to make a recording and what you need to record to meet your purpose.

Types of Recording

You will have a number of options.  Live videos are perhaps the easiest to record, although some people find speaking to camera daunting.  The head and shoulders shot is popular and if you are using an editing suite, such as Camtasia, you can illustrate a talk by adding animations.

The same person can talk over a PowerPoint presentation.  This can be a better approach for those who are nervous of cameras.  There are alternatives to PowerPoint, such as Prezi and it is also possible to film MindMaps, using applications such as xmind.  You can in fact film any screen on your computer and zoom in on details.

You can also film events, where people are working or talking together.


You don’t really need any equipment in addition to the camera in a mobile phone or tablet.  Videos from these are usually adequate.  Obviously if you use a purpose-built camera you may produce a higher quality video but it depends on how important quality is.  For example, a video intended for the home page of your site might benefit from additional attention to quality.  Teaching videos, hidden deep within your site, perhaps do not need to be such high quality.

Sound is absolutely crucial, if viewers cannot hear your video, they will switch off.  Most video cameras have good microphones, so the main problem is external noise.  Be aware of this particularly if you are filming outside.  Traffic or people talking in the background can drown out the sound you are seeking to record.  Also wind can overpower a speaker and you may not be aware of this whilst recording.

Lighting is also important but less so than sound.  You can usually see if the image is ridiculously dark.  If you want a particularly sharp image or the film includes whiteboard images, then you may need to invest in lighting.  This is not terribly expensive.


It is worth spending some time editing your film.  This can be cutting and splicing, especially if you have a number of takes to consider.  Camtasia and other video editing suites offers a massive range of special effects that are not hard to include.

It is always worth offering a transcript of the video.  This is easy if you film a speaker reading from a script and may take more time if you need to transcribe it yourself.  Some listeners like to follow a transcript, especially if they are hard of hearing.  Also, Google likes transcripts because the words, if they are on the site and not in a pdf, can be picked up by search engines.  You can sometimes include these in sections that open out at the viewer’s request.

Perhaps this is the least in-person of these in-person techniques but I’m sure there’s still plenty to explore about the potential of recordings for building community groups and businesses.

Do you have examples of recordings that have helped build community?

In-Person Marketing: Your Printed Media

This post is about your printed media for local marketing.  I shall post about printed media produced by others in a couple of weeks’ time.  So, how can you use printed media to promote your business?

Printed media is a key way to drive traffic to your website.  If you can persuade visitors to subscribe to your site, you have a way to keep in touch with your local contacts.  If you are mainly concerned about local marketing, this can be the best way to build your contact list.  It can work faster than SEO if you get it right.

Printed media works for marketing beyond the local of course but it depends on circumstance.  If you travel a lot, for example, printed media can be a good way to promote your services beyond the local.  However, most businesses marketing beyond the local, would support in-person approaches with online methods such as SEO and ads.

The Value of Printed Media

Building your list is as important to local marketing as it is to any other approach.  Printed media is a key element of your approach and assists you in other ways.  Printed media

  • is an excellent short-term aide memoire. It presents useful information and saves you having to dictate complex contact details and your contact does not have to write them down.  It is easy to lose printed media, though.  This does not necessarily mean dropping it somewhere.  Business cards accumulate and finding a particular card becomes increasingly difficult.  Persuade contacts to sign up to your email list because it’s a good way to maintain contact a long time after they forget your printed media.
  • can include information about your business. This might range from a sentence on the back of a business card to a full colour brochure.  All these can link to your website in various ways.  The advantage of such media is its physical presence for a short time, allowing a contact to relax and read about your business at their leisure.
  • well-designed, assists branding. It can tell your story and help contacts become familiar with your logo or house style.
  • can reach large numbers of people who would not search for your services online. Hand it to people in busy places, or post it through letter boxes.
  • can provide support for talks and presentations. It can point to follow-up online information, contacts can get in exchange for their email address, for example.

Types of Printed Media

Here are some basic types of printed media, available for use in local marketing:

  • Business cards are an essential means to establish contact
  • Use leaflets to tell the public about your offer
  • Use more elaborate brochures are to help prospects decide between your offers or to pitch for support from established businesses
  • Information leaflets, can be left around in your shop, for example
  • Notes following a presentation
  • Books can also be a valuable source of information, although they may be a tall order for a small business

Essential Features of Printed Media

Whatever printed medium you use, make sure it includes these basics:

  • Your name and business name should be clearly visible
  • Your website url – on a business card this will be your call to action
  • More than one way to contact you. You might prefer people to call you on your mobile.  If they are reading your documentation late at night they are more likely to choose email and not risk disturbing you by phone or forgetting to call you next day.  Don’t forget social media!
  • If necessary, a brief explanation of what you offer. Depends on space.
  • A call to action, which might normally be to visit your website and sign up for something. It could take the form of an invitation or opportunity to buy something.

The more you think of your printed media as an extension to your website, the better.  This should include branding, so that when someone transitions from paper to online, they know they have found the right place.  Bear in mind, it is better to provide a url that takes the contact to the right page on your website.  If you are making a particular offer, the url should take inquirers to a page about that offer.  Don’t offer them the home page and hope they can navigate to the correct page.  Also, you have to print out the url in full on printed media and so if the page is deeply embedded on your site, you may find the url is very long.  This increases mistakes either in your printed media or when the contact copies it into your browser.

Mistakes in Printed Media

Finally, mistakes …  Get your printed media proof-read.  You may be able to proof-read a business card on your own but anything else, at least ask a few people to read it and look out for errors.  There are professional proof-readers who will help you get everything correct.  Get people to copy any urls into browsers and check they work!  We’re used to the ease of correcting web pages and the full force of a disastrous error in printed media perhaps doesn’t occur to us until we experience it.

How have you experienced effective use of printed media?

In-Person Marketing: Shop-Fronts and Buildings

There are advantages to having shop-fronts or buildings but not always.  I have written about how buildings can be a liability for community groups.  Many of us have experienced arriving at a cold, dark community centre, sitting on uncomfortable chairs and wishing it was over and we were in the pub.

Well-run, comfortable centres can be an asset but it is hard work.

Shop-fronts can be an asset for businesses, especially those that specialise in products that can be carried away.  However, there are issues such as costs, security, theft, safety that need to be addressed.  However, my interest here is how shop-fronts and buildings can work as marketing tools.


The key to any successful on-street business is footfall.  If plenty of people pass by, it is the equivalent of traffic for a website.  The way you lay out your shop, present your goods, resembles conversion.

Increasing footfall is something you can do with others.  Sales are mostly your responsibility.  So, how do you increase footfall and sales?

Collaboration with other traders or organisations can help you increase footfall near your shop-front or community centre.  Community centres can collaborate with local traders to bring people into the area. If it is clear about what it is offering, then it has a role to play in supporting local economic activity.

So, here are a few things to consider doing together.  Some of these activities may be possible alone, but usually they work better where there is collaboration.

  • Shared website promoting the local area.
  • Campaign for local amenities, eg public toilets
  • Support other businesses so they can collaborate. This might involve encouraging businesses likely to draw new people into the area.
  • Events such as an occasional street market. If there is a community centre in the area, events there may draw in new people.
  • Invest in local economic development initiatives, eg an app that helps people find local businesses that sell what they are looking for. This will work better if all the local businesses and organisations can join in.
  • Support initiatives such as local currencies.


Whilst nearby shops might direct customers to your shop, the sales you make are largely your responsibility.  Here are a few things to consider:

  • Window dressing may be an important way to draw people into your shop. Perhaps if you are a grocer most people will know what to expect but otherwise show them what you sell.  Special offers may entice people over the threshold and then they will see what else is on offer.
  • Think about how you build relationships with local customers. If you know what they like, they are likely to come back.  This sort of service can be radically different to the impersonal supermarket experience.  A fifteen minute conversation may mean a customer comes back for years, especially if you remember their preferences.
  • Ask customers to sign up to your email list. This might be a collective list for traders in your area or your own.  This will allow you to tell customers of special offers.
  • Consider a blog! This might not work for everyone but if you can find an angle, combined with an email list, you can publish valuable information.  For example, a food shop could publish recipes and stock the ingredients, a fashion shop could write about style, a jewellers could write about provenance and craft.  Remember lots of people are interested in how to make things and what goes on behind the scenes.

Note how you can introduce online approaches to support your in-store activities.  This is an effective way of using a website or social media, in support of what you are doing on the ground.

How have you promoted your business using a shop-front or building?

In-Person Marketing: Public Speaking Events

When you use public speaking as part of your marketing campaign, you need to plan more than your speech.  Here are three things you need to consider, when organising public speaking events:

How to Find Public Speaking Opportunities

This is, I find, the hardest part of using public speaking for marketing.  You need to be clear about what you’re offering and who you are marketing to.

Ideally, you’re seeking an audience made up of several prospective customers.  So, this is not the same as addressing a meeting of people from the same business or organisation.  You could deliver the same speech to them but you have only one possible customer.  Such an organisation, if impressed by your speech, might refer you to others and so such a meeting might be worthwhile.  However, you need to be clear whether they are able to do that and confident they’ll find your performance worth passing on.

When you set up an event, be clear in advance what you will offer your audience as a call to action.  It is not a good idea to go for a hard sell.  Discuss your call to action with your host in advance.  It is a doubly bad idea not to tell your host if you do go for a hard sell!

As a call to action, it is helpful to offer an opportunity to explore your topic in more depth.  I offer a Community Marketing Conversation, where the participant takes away next steps for their marketing campaign.  Usually this will be a referral and occasionally I make them an offer.

What to Consider When Delivering Your Speech

Your aim throughout the presentation is to build relationships with your audience.

See my previous post about the practicalities of public speaking.  Be clear about whether you are providing notes, especially if you use PowerPoint.  Notes are useful because you can include contact details and details of your offers.

As you approach the end of your talk, ask those who are interested to sign up to your offer.  You can ask them to provide their name, mobile number and email address so you can contact them to arrange a meeting.  Or you can offer dates and times and encourage people to sign up for them.  It is perhaps best to combine these two as people who get to sign up late may find no slots remain they can attend.

You don’t necessarily need to provide your contact details to those who sign up because you will contact them within 48 hours to confirm your arrangements.  If you do want to make sure people can contact you, a handout that lists ways they can support your enterprise will do the trick.  Many people use business cards and these can be the best way of passing on details.

Follow-Up to Your Speech

Hang around and talk to people.  There may be opportunities to ask people to sign up who have so far hesitated.  In any event it is better than making a dash for the door.  You may also be able to find referrals from the people present, if they can think of potential customers for you in the light of your presentation.

Don’t forget to thank your host and check out they are happy with your performance.

Don’t forget to email those who signed up, confirming their meeting.  Don’t assume they entered it in their diary.

On the day, text them with details of the meeting.  This serves as a reminder but also puts your number near the top of their list in case they get lost or delayed.  See my post about sales conversations for more information about what to do when you meet.

And don’t forget to review your presentation as soon as you can.  This way you will remember elements that didn’t go so well.

Have you any experience of presentations and tips you would like to share?

In-Person Marketing: Public Speaking

Public Speaking is a valuable local marketing tool.  This post focuses on speaking itself and the next is about how to organise public speaking as a marketing activity.

My main advice is practice speaking and listen to others speak.  You can learn a lot by listening, even to poor speakers.  You need opportunities to find your voice and become confident in your ability to hold your audience’s attention.  Despite what people say about audiences with the attention span of a gnat, the truth is a good speaker can capture and hold their attention for long periods.

One important aspect of any compelling public speech is the use of stories.  If possible you should have a keynote or origin story, which is a story about you.  Its aim is to build rapport with your audience.  I won’t dwell on this here but refer you to earlier posts about the use of story.

Rhetoric is the process of speaking in public and involves several skills you need to bring together.  It isn’t easy but it is easier than it sounds!


You may on occasion share a platform with someone with a message to some degree opposed to yours.  However, when you are the sole speaker you still need to hone your arguing skills.

Your argument is the strategy you use to engage your audience and keep them with you.  It may include telling a few stories and illustrating the point you want to make.  The argument should culminate in a call to action.  This means those persuaded by your speech can follow-up by taking some action.

The awareness ladder is one way you can structure your argument, starting where your audience is and carrying them forward to the point where they are ready respond.  There are of course other ways of structuring an argument.


Proving something may be part of your argument.  It can be central to your argument or else it may be a minor element.

For proof you need to marshal hard evidence and soft evidence as well as ensuring your narrative makes sense and actually proves what you claim it proves.

I recently attended a debate about the European referendum.  The Brexiter made two mistakes; despite being the most engaging speaker, his account did not stack up.  He claimed the European Union plans to create a single European state, which is not the subject of the referendum and then he went on to show that as 28 countries would have to vote in favour of such a state, it is almost impossible.  First, the chances are the UK would not support such a change as many pro-Europeans would not be in favour of it.  This is not the subject of the referendum, the pro-European speaker actually said he would not support a European state if that was the question for a referendum!  His second mistake was his proof (if we assume each state is 50% likely to join, the chances of agreement is one half raised to the power of 28) actually favours the “remain in Europe” argument.  After all, if a European State were on the agenda it is very unlikely to get the support it needs.  We can stay in Europe confident that we won’t be somehow turned into a single state.

So, make sure your proof proves what you claim it proves because if it doesn’t, it will favour the other side.


The speaker at the European debate had invented what to him was a compelling argument.  He was a good speaker, let down by his own material.

By all means be inventive.  If I were speaking in the same debate, I would argue against the holding of a referendum at all!  I don’t believe the referendums, organised in recent years, have been democratic.  They are divisive and narrow down the debate to a binary decision that in no way mirrors political reality.

If I developed that argument, solely my own as I haven’t seen or read anything like it elsewhere (such arguments are beginning to appear, eg Irvine Welsh), I am confident I’d hold my audience’s attention.  I know this because I broached the topic in a two-minute speech recently and the response was positive, people wanted to hear more (which does not mean they agree with me).

Your invention can be in the argument you choose, the way you structure it and the stories you use to support it.


Memorising relevant passages can be effective.  The chances of you stumbling means the audience will be with you and cheer you on.

However, that is not the main meaning of this point.  Memorising means getting away from your notes.  You remember the flow of your argument and put it into your own words.

This is impressive albeit difficult to do.  Especially in a long talk, it is easy to get off the point or forget the order of the argument.

But memorising frees your eyes to make contact with your audience, so that you can gauge how the talk is going down.


And this brings us to how you deliver your message.  How you stand, what you wear, your tone of voice and the words you use to communicate.

This is an enormous topic and the value of training in public speaking is you receive feedback about how you are coming across and what you can do to improve it.

Figures of speech

Finally, figures of speech are what is normally understood as rhetoric although a small part of what you do when you deliver a speech.

They often involve some form of repetition.  If you can vary the rhythm of your speech and include memorable turns of phrase, it will impress people.  You can’t rely on these techniques alone because on their own they don’t add up to an effective speech.  However, they can be used to spice up a speech and are effective when used to support the other elements in your rhetoric.

This is a fairly standard list of the elements of rhetoric.  What do you find to be the most important consideration when you are speaking to market something?

In-Person Marketing: Sales Conversations

I find sales conversations the hardest part of doing business.  For most of my life, I’ve been sceptical about business.  I believed grants to be ethically superior to business.

I’m not entirely opposed to grants but sceptical about the grant-making industry; what grants can achieve and a project’s sustainability when supported by grants.

Many of the values of community I’ve supported during my working life can be found in business networks.  However, if you enter those networks you are sooner or later going to have sales conversations.

How do You Know it is a Sales Conversation?

Not all business conversations are sales conversations and it is important you know what type of conversation you are having.  Your partner in the conversation also needs to know.

The aim of a one-to-one conversation is not to make a sale.  It is to find out about the other person’s business.  If you are going to help another business it is important you understand their offer and their market.

Sometimes a one-to-one turns into a sales conversation.  I don’t necessarily recommend you try this.  It is better if the initiative comes from the other person.  A question like, “Do you know anyone who might be interested in my offer?” can occasionally result in interest from the person opposite.  This is not necessarily as helpful as a list of possible contacts!

It may at this point be a good idea to adjourn and meet again for the sales conversation.

On Not Being Slimy

Everyone fears the hard sell and most people have built-in slime detectors and will run a mile.  Even more problematic is if they detect hidden slime.  It is amazing how a conversation slips away when people detect hidden sales intentions.  I sometimes have to check back over what I said because people are incredibly sensitive and back off at a hint of sales.

The hard sell is out and the sneaky sell is also out.  So, what’s left?  First, sit down and listen to the other person.  In a sales conversation, the prospect must do the talking.  You ask a few questions and let them talk.

At some stage, assuming you can help, you can ask if they would like to hear how you can help them.

On Not Being Understood

This is a real problem.  Prospects often have a fixed idea of the solution they need.  Sometimes they don’t even know what the problem is.  I’m often approached for a website.  The sales conversation is crucial because prospects do not always need a website.

I don’t sell websites.  I sell local marketing solutions and sometimes they include a website.

If you’re ill, you don’t go to your doctor and demand an antibiotic.  You expect to take time to explain your symptoms and be examined by the doctor.  Usually, you’re relieved there is a cure and happy to do whatever it takes.  You might think you need an antibiotic and you may be right but usually you accept the doctor’s solution.

With your business, the chances are you know more about it than your marketing consultant.  Nevertheless, it is always better to take the opportunity to talk through your problem and discuss possible solutions with the consultant.  That way you can be sure your chosen solution is the right one for your business.

I had a prospect a few months ago who turned me down.  The other day I saw the offer of a website from a competitor they had accepted.  Their new designer is charging a little less than I did and is reproducing their current site with slightly better graphics.

Their solution is in flat html and is actually not an improvement on what they had before.  I failed to get across to them that (1) solutions like this are a waste of money and time, and (2) far more powerful solutions are available than many website designers are offering.

Their new designer has an advantage in that they are selling something simple and easy to understand.  Unfortunately it is the solution they want and not the solution they need.

On Not Saying No

One thing to bear in mind is many prospects do not understand they have two options; yes and no.  Both options are acceptable.  There are many advantages to someone saying no:

  • It saves me time, preparing material for a sale and then discovering there is no sale
  • It keeps communications open and a prospect who says no may be able to support my business in other ways.

What can happen is the cold shoulder.  The prospect goes silent.  I suspect many people say yes to get out of the room and mean no.

I’m sure this is something I’m doing wrong and I share it here because I suspect it is a problem many business people encounter.  The solution?  I’m still working on it but I think it includes at an early stage reassuring your prospect and explaining the advantages of saying no, without making it so attractive that no-one ever says yes!

Closing the Deal

When someone says yes, depending on what is on offer, there are several steps to turning it into a deal.  Leaving aside those who say yes but mean no, there is another group who change their mind.

Clearly, there may be an advantage in having a cooling off period, particularly if you offer a consultancy service.  A programme of work with someone who is full of doubts is unlikely to work to anyone’s advantage.

However, there is something called buyers’ remorse and this often kicks in when you make an expensive purchase.  You will have experienced it.  If there are several days between yes and sealing the deal, it is possible for buyers’ remorse to set in before the payment.

Understand buyers’ remorse is independent of the advantages of sealing the deal.  It is a natural emotional response.  I’ve suggested some ways to counter buyer’s remorse and so I won’t go through that again – especially as I don’t know as yet whether any will work!

A lot depends on your belief in what you sell.  You need to be positive and on the ball.  I can remember times when I simply didn’t think of the right thing to say until afterwards, when it was too late.  The point is a lot of this is down to experience and whilst there are plenty of ideas around, nothing replaces experience.

Please share any approaches you have tried to sales conversations.  Did they work?

In-Person Marketing: Referral Marketing

Last Wednesday, I wrote about networking and how to arrange one-to-one meetings with relevant people.  These meetings are opportunities for referral marketing and that is my topic today.

What is a one-to-one meeting?

Usually, you arrange a one-to-one to get to know someone who you have not met before.  You want to tell them about your business or cause and usually they will want to tell you about theirs.

So, here are some common reasons for a one-to-one:

  • People often make the mistake of believing they are selling to the person sitting across from them.  What you actually need to do is to describe your business (what you offer) and your market (who it is for).  The other person may know one or more people who may be interested in your offer.  This is basic referral marketing.
  • Sharing about your business to explore possible collaboration. You may be notional competitors although usually, if your offers are close, there is room for collaboration.  For small businesses, there’s usually more than enough work to share around.  A good referral of a prospect to another business with a better fit, can have a several advantages.
  • A marketing or enrolment conversation is where you explore your prospect’s needs and either help them find a business that fits their needs or make them an offer.  This is usually an opportunity for them to talk.  You will share information about your business only if you make an offer.
  • You have something to sell and they are a prospect. This is a common reason for a one-to-one and is fine so long as the prospect knows they are a prospect when you arrange the meeting.  Sometimes however someone who is not a prospect may ask for your service during a one-to-one.  Be ready for this even though you do not expect it to happen every time.

Referral Marketing Reaches Further than the People in the Room

Referral marketing happens when you meet to exchange information about your businesses.  It is where you learn about someone else’s business because you might have contacts you can refer to them.  Similarly they learn about your business and may have contacts they can refer to you.

Realistically, your one-to-one is the start of a relationship and this is why a lot of referral marketing takes place in the context of a business breakfast or lunch.  This means participants can build relationships over time.  It can take a while for people to understand your business and who your market is likely to be.

It is easy to forget they need to know both what you offer and who it is for.

Don’t assume the other person understands referral marketing.  One common problem is people look only at the people in the room.  They do not consider the possibility that people in the room know many other people.  They very likely do know people who would be interested in your offer; it’s just that sometimes it takes a while for the penny to drop.

If they do refer you to someone, do not forget to ask for credentials.  Can you mention who referred you to them?  Sometimes they will arrange an introduction for you.

Making Referrals

If you are part of a group of people committed to referral marketing, you will find when you have sales conversations, sometimes it is right to refer the prospect onto another business.  It is as if in one conversation the prospect is talking to several businesses.

It is always helpful to make a good referral.  The prospect will be grateful, assuming it is a good referral, and so will the person to whom you make the referral.

Remember that whilst they are not likely to be a prospect, you can ask them if they know anyone who is.  Occasionally, you may find someone interested in your offer, at which point you can arrange another meeting or switch into your marketing conversation.

I never turn down an offer of a one-to-one because I know this is the way I can spread the word about my business as well as maybe find another business to which I can make referrals.  I am often turned down by businesses when I ask for a one-to-one.  There are lots of reasons why this happens.  It is common that they look at what I am doing and decide my business is not compatible with theirs.  Several times I have been turned down by people who initially say yes.  Usually, I have something in mind that might benefit them.  If I don’t share it, normally it will be because the conversation take us to a new place and I think of something even better.  This is what referral marketers do, they link people to useful contacts.

Use E-Mail to Follow Up

One thing I have started to do is a follow-up email.  This allows me to

  • thank the contact for the meeting
  • remind them of any suggestions I made, provide contact details and suggest anything else I’ve thought of in the meantime
  • respond to any suggestions they made, sometimes they offer to send more information and a reminder can be helpful
  • assure them they are on my database
  • encourage them to sign up to my email list, if they have not already done so

Very few people are this organised, I find.  But I want to take this aspect of my work seriously because to me it is a developmental role.  It is very hard work, finding prospects and the more people who are looking out for your business, the easier it becomes.  It also takes time.  You need to work out how to market your offer.  Understanding what people need to know to find prospects for you takes time to work out.

Have you examples of times when referral marketing has worked for you?  What practices have you found effective?