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Walking the fine marketing line: how no-pressure initiative pays off

The man hesitated in front of the side-by-side restaurants, unsure which one to venture into. The first was intriguing, but somewhat exotic-sounding--maybe too exotic for the man's tastes. The second was a well-known national name that offered a predictable, if unspectacular, experience.

A few moments later, out of the first restaurant came a smiling employee. He had been clearing tables, observed the man's tentative interest and moved swiftly to engage him.

"We have excellent specials today," the employee declared, extending a menu as he gestured toward the door. "Feel free to come inside and look for yourself."

The initiative clinched the deal, but that wasn't all. It was the manner in which the employee conducted himself--it was welcoming, yet non-aggressive.

Anyone who has tried to strike that balance between being assertive without being pushy knows how fine a line that can be. It is a nuanced, immensely valuable skill with application for anyone working in a service industry. Let's say you are a financial planner or an attorney, to cite two examples, and are looking to distinguish yourself from others in your field.

One hugely effective approach is to take the initiative to meet people where they are, quite literally, and then guide them, step by step, to the point of a sale. Just like the employee clearing tables who spots a potential patron.

Also important is not to get discouraged if someone decides to check out the neighboring restaurant, or walks away in a huff entirely.

In teaching Amway Independent Business Owners through the World Wide DreamBuilders training-and-support organization, Bill Hawkins voices a business principle equally true in a host of other fields: don't get overly attached to any one prospective client of business partner.

Hawkins, an Amway Executive Diamond and longtime WWDB leader, emphasizes the importance of "posture," or positioning yourself powerfully in interactions. It's not a "power play" of arrogance, but a clear indication that your success does not depend on any one individual but on your ability to help a number of people, who identify themselves through their own initiative and ongoing desire.

In the realm of financial planners, one noted professional in the Chicago-area market is Jim Flanagan of Bentron Financial Group, with offices in Naperville and Oak Park. As accomplished as he has become over the past 20-plus years, Flanagan does not rest on any laurels or wait by his phone in the hopes that it will keep ringing.

Instead, he has scheduled a series of free presentations where he highlights a challenge facing a certain segment of the population--those in or approaching retirement--and educates them about their options. These talks have compelling titles (akin to menu "specials," if you will): "Can You Afford to Retire?" and "Health Care in Retirement" and "Understanding Social Security: A Look at the Bigger Picture."

And, of course, he travels throughout the region, to Oak Brook, Lombard, Plainfield, River Grove and points elsewhere--meeting people where they are, while most of his peers are at home.

So whether it's your own enterprise, or that of a public relations or marketing client of yours in the Chicago area or beyond, consider what steps you can take to walk that fine line. Over time, by learning to read the marketplace's "body language"--the types of communication that resonate with your target audience--and by developing a reputation for no-pressure initiative, you may well enjoy a growing line of customers seeking your services.

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