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Jim Higgins, ProForma Branding Excellence

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Your Prospects Buy From The Heart Not The Head

A question from one of my clients, a consultant, came in the other day asking me if I really believed it was worth the time networking online versus networking in person. After all, aren’t relationships really developed in person? Isn’t online a really impersonal, not-so-effective way to develop rapport and connection with people?

I was really glad he asked me that question because I could personally relate to the doubt and uncertainty about how much the online world can really offer true bonding in business relationships.

So let me tell you the story of me and Jayne.

A few years ago, I had a business friend and colleague, a lawyer in a major New York firm. Interestingly, he was really big into Twitter and had a huge following – mostly other lawyers.

Anyway, I noticed one of his followers commenting on his tweets. They were interesting and I started following her. She followed me back.

And then we struck up a Twitter-versation. Since Jayne was in Cleveland and I was in N.Y., we “brought the cloud down closer to the ground” when we  spoke on the phone.

At the time, I was co-hosting a monthly networking event for lawyers and accountants. I mentioned it to my new Twitter friend, never thinking she’d take me up on my invitation to attend.

At the next event, Jayne showed up as a surprise! It was fantastic – we just bonded even more and became great business friends. Take note –  Jayne had the initiative to get herself on an airplane to experience new relationships and opportunity!

Soon after Jayne went to another firm- now as a partner – and we maintained our connection and friendship.

When I moved to L.A., Jayne and I stayed in touch and our friendship grew.

Jayne became a leader in her new firm, launching the Women’s Initiative. She also had a very strong leadership role with the Cleveland YWCA which designed and led a Women’s Leadership Program.

She recommended me as a speaker at both the Cleveland Y and her firm.

It took time, but because Jayne and I followed one another on Twitter, I landed two amazing clients and have the most inspiring friend!

Jayne didn’t recommend me because I had the most advanced letters after my name or credentials. She recommended me because she felt a bond to my values and mission – and I to hers.

Relationships may begin virtually but they can and will turn very personal if you “bring the cloud to the ground.”

People buy from the heart, but they justify their choices from the head. (you can tweet that)

Why? Because despite how logical people think they are, they are driven to act via powerful emotional triggers.

Jeff Walker, online marketing master calls these mental triggers, noting they can become our biggest “weapons of mass influence”.

My friend Linda could sell sand in the desert. I was always amazed by how she did it.

She sold commodity-priced women’s underwear to retail buyers  – a very tough bunch.

But she bonded and became friendly with the buyers. She really liked them. She called them “her girls.” She invited them to stay at her house when they were in town for market buying weeks. She went to dinner and “girl events” with them. They liked her. She listened to them and learned all about their challenges and concerns.

They gave her lots and lots of orders even though her products were not any better or cheaper than the competition.

People buy from the heart,  justify from the head.

There are 3 things to remember about how people buy, whether you connect online or in person:

  1. People believe they are buying from logic, but they are justifying decisions from the deepest part of their hearts. (another way of saying this is they buy what and whom they WANT, not necessarily what they NEED).
  2. You have to earn their devotion before you will earn their dollars.
  3. When they like you they will cut through all kinds of red tape and remove obstacles FOR YOU, and make the path to doing business a breeze.

Mark Vincent Hansen, co-author of Chicken Soup For The Soul said it so clearly: “People don’t buy with their head but with their heart. The heart is closer to the wallet than the head”.

So how do you build really solid relationships online?

The exact same principles apply but you start a bit differently.

The beginning connection is the key – whether via email, or tweet, or video, or webinar, you need to:

  1. Give people the feeling that you have relevance to them.
  2. You need to give them a sense that you care about THEM and their interests and challenges in order to create an emotional trigger.
  3. You need to let them know you understand their needs, challenges, concerns – building that emotional bond.
  4. You need to be patient enough not to rush into pitching them – it destroys any emotional bond and trust you have built.
  5. You need to connect the dots – building the bridge from their desired goals  to solutions you have to helping them achieve these dreams and goals.

Linked In, webinars, podcasts, emails, blogs – they are all avenues to connect with great business people. But connecting with them online is only the first step.

You need to open their hearts before their minds will ever let them give your their credit card and business.

Do you have a story or a question about connecting and building relationships online?

I love hearing about your experiences and questions – and so does our business community.

Please share in the comment box below- I will respond to all questions.

Wait, before you go, I have a special business building gift, a free tool for you… Enjoy!

 A Super Simple Niche Selector Cheat Sheet!


Niche Focus Pocus

I’ve been writing quite a bit about the highs, lows, and lessons learned in building my new online business division.  One of my very first challenges has been selecting my niche market focus.

Guess what I’ve realized?!  The same marketing principles in the face-to-face business world hold true in the online world!

niche networking photo for blog

I’ll explain…but first let me take you back a bit to the most unforgettable marketing lesson of my life.

A number of years ago, when I was an exec in the corporate world, I was responsible for product development and marketing women’s bras. (Yes, I know, a rather unusual industry).

Well, at that time I was a newbie marketer and I needed to find a way to get our products sold into department stores. (Remember those big buildings we drove to, where we tried stuff on, paid for it with cash or credit cards, and then took the stuff home?) There was intense competition to get bra buyers to buy new styles. They were trying to select out vs. add in – unless you gave them a darn good reason to buy.

So how to get our small brand bought and sold into a sea of bras?

Well at the time, sports bras were just starting to get talked about. And in the early 80’s, tennis was a very hot sport for women. This was the era of Billy Jean King, Chris Evert, and Evonne Goolagong.

Now, at that time, I didn’t play tennis or know much about it. But I knew sports bras were only going to get bigger and more important in the bra world.

And we didn’t have a unique product or brand direction in our entire line.

So I did a little research and found out that from a numbers standpoint, women tennis fans and players were a meaningful market- maybe not compared to the entire bra market, but appreciable nonetheless. More importantly, women who were into sports had a big need, and they were a very eager, enthusiastic market. Women tennis players were buying millions of dollars of tennis clothes and other accessories each year. Intuitively, I knew we were perfectly positioned to get noticed and capture our slice of the sport bra market – if we acted fast and smart. I knew we could carve out a healthy niche market.

Ultimately, we got Evonne Goolagang, winner of 14 Grand Slam tennis titles,  to be our spokesperson for The Tennis Bra. Our sales took off and we became known as a major player in the Sports Bra market.

Ok, that’s nice for the tangible product world. But what about the online marketing world? Is niche marketing as necessary?

Good question.

I’ll answer it in one word:


The online business world is filled with vast opportunity – almost endless in fact.

That’s the good news. The flip side of the coin is that it’s over-packed with products, services, and content.

In such a noisy world, the only way to gain traction is by FOCUSING.

You’ve got to focus on a niche, your slice of the market, to get noticed, attract an audience, and resonate with that audience if you want your business to succeed.

No Niche Focus? Your Biz Is Doomed

Many people believe that a niche is an industry or a demographic. Those factors contribute to a niche but my experience has shown that the more FOCUSED the niche, the more successful you can become.

Why? Because even a tiny niche is powerful IF the need and desire for products or services is high.

Some case studies:

My friend Marcia is in the business valuations arena  (she helps companies determine how much they are really worth if they want to be sold). Her clients are primarily attorneys who handle trust and estates matters. Her niche is NOT all lawyers – just trust and estates lawyers.

My colleague Kathleen has an embroidery business. She has an unbelievable niche that emanated out of her love of Cowboy and Rodeo related things. Her niche: women who love cowboy-related things: boots, hats, rodeos , etc. Her facebook page, Cowgirl Heart and Soul has over 15000 followers!

My friend Catherine has a love of luxury and travel so she’s turning her passion into a business and targeting the luxury traveler.

There Is No Niche Magic – Just Strategy

Whether or not to niche your business is not the question… The real question is How To Select The Right Niche?.

Well there are 3 things you must focus on when selecting your ideal niche:

1. You’ve got to find the niche interesting and appealing. If you don’t, you wont continue doing the work to cultivate and nurture this niche. David Geffen, music and entertainment mogul, was crazy about folk music back in the 70’s. Impassioned about this music niche, he helped folk megastars like Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, and The Eagles get their start in the LA club scene. The rest is history.

2. You’ve got to KNOW YOUR NICHE inside and out  – who they are, what makes them tick, what their problems are, what keeps them up at night, what they are hungry for, and how they purchase. That takes some research – but so does any business initiative if it’s to become successful. When your niche knows you understand their world and their issues and their buzz words, they immediately are drawn to you over others who are not as familiar with their world.

I didn’t know a thing about the public accounting profession when I started working with those clients. I learned quickly about their needs, their challenges, their busy season, their firm structures, and what kept them up at night (usually their clients). Then I was able to attract more clients in that arena because they knew I understood their business and challenges.

3. You’ve got to learn where your niche can be reached and communicate with them in their language, speaking directly to their needs and wants. Where are they congregating – online and in person. Where do they search, what articles do they read?

It’s a pretty simple formula. But most business people get lazy – or more commonly – fearful. They believe if they narrow their market they’ll reduce the business opportunity. Not! Your potential will only increase when you zero in on a target market plus it will make your marketing efforts SO much easier. You won’t have to be everywhere to get noticed – just where your ideal niche is.

I know – it is a bit counter-intuitive but the more focused your niche, the more you will get noticed and loved by your audience.

So start capturing your slice of success pie.

WAIT! Before you leave…  to help you “Know Your Niche”, I’ve got a special free gift for you

 A Super Simple Niche Selector Cheat Sheet!


Oh, and if you have a great niche story or a question, I would love for you to share in the comment box below!

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