Posts Tagged ‘strategic storytelling’

How to Keep Your Annual Appeal Out of the Circular File

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

The week before Thanksgiving, along with the inevitable flood of holiday gift catalogues in the mail, comes the inevitable flood of annual appeals from your alma mater and any good cause you may have supported in the past, along with requests from many causes you haven’t.

If you’re like me, I’m sure you toss the ones you don’t really care about, which constitute at least 90 percent of the mail, and set aside the ones you want to review for tax-deductible giving before the end of the calendar year.

So what makes a direct mail annual appeal worth opening, let alone reading—let alone responding to with a donation?

Just saying what you do and why it’s important aren’t enough to save an appeal from the circular file. Here are three key criteria to an effective annual appeal:

1) A Qualified Mailing List

This may seem obvious, but given the amount of junk mail we all receive, it’s certainly not always followed. Especially for non-profits that need to watch every dollar spent, it is well worth the time and investment to create and maintain an up-to-date database of qualified donors who have given in the past.

You can amplify this list through effective lead generation materials on your website—free, valuable content that your site visitors will want to download in exchange for their contact information. Understand the people you are trying to attract as donors, what they care about, what motivates them, what they would want to receive that is relevant to your work and helps to educate. Create quality content to give away in exchange for the contact information you need to expand your list of potential donors.

2) A Compelling Story

The best way to bring home the positive impact of your non-profit’s work is to tell a story that illustrates how your efforts benefited those you intend to help. Journalists use this approach all the time to explain a complicated issue—like rising gas prices—by telling the story from a local point of view. Readers can more readily identify with an abstract issue if it’s explained in personal terms.

To hold your audience, your story needs to have emotional impact that’s earned, not forced. People don’t want to feel manipulated. Stick to the truth. If your work is really good, you’ll have plenty of compelling anecdotes that can be woven into your narrative.

3) Great Visuals

A picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words. Not everyone will read a long appeal letter, no matter how well crafted. Use quality photos that illustrate how you help—not grip-and-grin snapshots of donors at events—to help tell your story and draw your reader into your appeal. It also pays to invest in a professional graphic designer to lay out your story in a way that is compelling and easy to follow.

In addition to the above, be sure to get your appeal in the mail in time for it to arrive a month to six weeks before December 31, so recipients won’t miss it in the Christmas rush. And do a thorough evaluation of your appeal’s effectiveness when you’ve received all your donations.

There are many, many good causes out there, all competing for donations. Your chances of raising money for your good works are significantly better if you have a solid mailing list and a great, humane story, well presented, to share with your qualified donors.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Seven Ways to Repeat Your Message and Get Noticed

Monday, October 1st, 2012

There’s a golden rule in public speaking:

Tell your audience what you’re going to tell them.

Tell them.

Then tell them what you told them.

When it comes to delivering a memorable message, repetition is key. With so much information battering us for attention every second—from emails, texts, tweets, social network posts; on our smart phones, radio, TV; not to mention from live beings in our midst—it’s amazing that we can remember anything at all.

The Rule of Seven
So how many times do you need to repeat your marketing message for your ideal customer to pay attention, remember and follow your call-to-action?

The annoying answer is—it depends. If you’re an expert in a small but clearly defined niche, you may have a dedicated following who just need to hear your advice once to take action.

But if you’re competing in a crowded marketplace, you need to repeat and repeat and repeat. Some marketing pros cite the Rule of Seven—a minimum of seven times to repeat your message in order to be noticed. It’s probably no coincidence that seven is the average number of bits of information that we can hold in our short-term, conscious memory.

Vary the Medium to Develop Your Message
This doesn’t mean you need to repeat the exact same message in the exact same format, over and over. In fact, it helps if you promote your message with some variety, so your ideal client doesn’t yawn and move on because she’s heard it already. There’s a balance to be struck between reinforcing your message and annoying the people you’re trying to convince with too much of the same thing.

So here are seven ways to get your message across in different styles and formats:

  1. Blog about it. Tell a story about how your helped solve a problem for a client. Be sure she’s someone your target audience can identify with. Tweet about your blog post, using keywords that your target audience is likely to use for search.
  2. Create a video of your client explaining how you helped her solve that problem. Embed it on your website homepage, post it on your social networking sites and tweet to your followers.
  3. Create a short guide to solving that problem, optimize it with keywords and post it on your website as a download in exchange for email addresses. Promote it through your social networks.
  4. Promote a free webinar about how to solve that problem in greater detail, using  your email list of qualified potential clients and social networks.
  5. Do the webinar. Offer participants a discount for your product or service.
  6. Guest post on a blog with a significant audience of potential clients about how to solve that problem. Link to your website and your problem-solving download.
  7. Get yourself an interview on your local business radio show and tell your story. Promote your next webinar.

And so on. You can, of course, also tell your story through traditional advertising, such as newspaper ads, if your budget allows. The point is to think creatively, across media that your ideal client favors, and plan your promotional push within a short enough period that will help you to reinforce your message multiple times.

As you develop your campaign, be sure to measure results. Which tactic garnered the most inquiries? Which gave you the best return on your investment of time and resources? Experiment, test and refine. With each new round of repetition, you’ll have a better shot that your ideal client will actually be listening.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

 

How to Be Yourself and Stop Hiding Behind Your Website Content

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

I read a lot of websites. Market research for clients, competitor analysis, my own information search—it all adds up to a lot of words on screen. And quite frankly, much of it is, well, garbage, to be polite.

It’s not that the content isn’t informative. It’s not that it doesn’t answer my questions. It’s just hard to read. And I’m not talking about lack of good grammar, though there’s plenty of reason to gripe about that.

Don’t Sound Like a Robot
What bothers me most about many web sites, especially sites for professional services, is that they seem to be written by automatons. The language is stiff, formal, like content you’d find in a term paper. In an effort to sound professional, the writer comes off sounding aloof—not someone I’d want to spend time with.

It’s a pitfall in all forms of business writing—using complicated sentences and big words to sound intelligent. But really, what we all want is to deal with a warm-blooded person on the other end of the website, someone we can identify with, someone we’d enjoy meeting over a cup of coffee for a good conversation and help solving a problem.

Keep It Conversational
I know how hard it is just to be yourself online. It’s natural to feel vulnerable when you put yourself out there. We all need boundaries to protect our privacy, especially on the Internet.

At the same time, to connect with your ideal client, you really need to push past any urge to spiff up your web content with lots of long phrases, fancy terms and—please, no—business jargon. No one really talks like that unless she’s trying too hard to impress. And it shows.

So here are a few ways to keep your web content down-to-earth and personal:

  1. Choose strong nouns and active verbs. They always beat overwrought vocabulary and circuitous sentence structure, no matter what the genre. It’s fine to use unusual, interesting words—as long as your target audience speaks that way, too.
  2. Use the second person, you, to speak directly to your audience, as you would in a conversation. Don’t feel you need to use third person he/she/they to be polite or more appropriate. That will only distance you from your reader.
  3. Capture your natural voice in your writing. How would you explain this topic to a good friend? That’s the tone you want to emulate online. The best way to test your content for conversational tone is to read it out loud when you’re through writing. If you hesitate because the sentences are confusing, get stuck on pronouncing big words or get bored listening to yourself, it’s time to revise.
  4. Anticipate your reader’s questions and answer them in a logical sequence. This achieves two goals: Your copy will be easy to read, and your reader will feel understood and keep reading.
  5. Avoid foul language. This is an exception to the point about capturing your natural voice—if you tend to curse a lot, that’s your business, but it doesn’t belong on your professional website. Even today when just about anything goes, many readers will be turned off by words that get bleeped on most TV shows. Occasionally, cursing in context can be very effective, but it should be used with full intention, not carelessly.

For more suggestions on how to write web copy that works, check out this post: Five Reasons Why Your Website Content Isn’t Working—and How to Fix It.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

 

 

The Solid Gold, No-fail Key to Marketing Success

Monday, August 20th, 2012

About 15 years ago, when I had just started as marketing director for a small New England college, I bumped into one of the faculty as we collected our mail. When I introduced myself, he balked. “So, you’re going to give us the Madison Avenue treatment,” he said, making no effort to hide his disdain.

We later became friends, but his remarks unnerved me. I was new to my job and had just been given the role of marketing head a short week after arriving to direct the college’s communications efforts. I really didn’t know what I was doing, and his comments made me feel like I was leading some tainted effort to snare potential students with sleazy sales pitches.

Marketing Must Be Authentic to Persuade
Of course, that’s a common misperception of marketing, with a basis in truth. Traditional advertising manipulates our emotions to get us to buy. But we’re long past the days when the Don Drapers of the world could push out one-way messaging without consumer push-back (unless, of course, the product was a total dud).

Marketing (which includes advertising), especially on today’s consumer-driven Internet frontier, has to be authentic to persuade. Messaging is no longer one-way. Consumers have many options to research products and services online; reviews, forums, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs and more provide ample ways to confirm or deny marketing claims. Bad reviews spread with the speed of data transmission.

While the fear of someone sinking your business with a critique that goes viral may be enough motivation to be authentic, here’s a much better reason: Integrity is the key to effective marketing.

Be True to Yourself and Honest with Your Clients
Whether you’re creating content for your website, a blog post or a tweet, be true to yourself and you’ll never have to worry about making promises that you can’t fulfill even if you mean well, getting business under false pretenses, or overextending yourself and undercutting expectations.

I share this because marketing can seem such an overwhelming and unpleasant prospect, a necessary evil when you’re a small business owner who already has far too much to accomplish each day. It’s often the lowest priority on your to-do list, the tightest budget item. You know you have to do it to get business, but, like my former college colleague, you avoid it or hold your nose.

Discover Your Strengths to Reach Those You Help Most
So, consider this: Marketing is certainly challenging. It involves a lot of time and attention to detail and strategy and follow-through. But marketing is also one of the best ways I know to discover your strengths, the true value of your work and how you’re helping others. Developing a solid strategy forces you to think rigorously about your ideal client, the problems and mistakes she struggles with, and how you help her to find solutions. Telling your true story becomes a source of pride in all of your hard work and accomplishments, as well as a means to get the word out and find more great clients to help. Honest client feedback enables you to do even better.

While I was marketing director at that college, I made a solid commitment never to create any false advertising. Sometimes I had to rein in enthusiastic colleagues who wanted to oversell their programs. Sometimes I had to say no. I worked hard to find and tell honest stories, and the college attracted more qualified students.

The same will hold true for your business. Be authentic, serve with excellence, market with integrity, and your work with thrive.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

10 Things You Should Know About Your Ideal Client

Monday, July 9th, 2012

To have an effective marketing strategy, you need to know whom you’re selling to. That seems pretty obvious, but it’s a step all too often missed when we have a product or service we think is really great and put all our effort into talking it up, rather than communicating from the point of view of those we hope to attract.

For a website to work, you need content that solves a problem or answers a pressing question for your ideal client. It’s all about providing useful information that she’s already seeking.

To Understand Your Ideal Client, Get Inside Her Head
So, how do you know what your ideal client wants? Even before doing surveys, focus groups or other research, the first step is to get a clear handle on whom you want to sell to. Here are 10 basic questions (and related details) to ask yourself about your ideal client. You can draw on what you know of your existing client base or imagine whom you’d really like to attract to your business.

Some of these may require you to stretch your imagination, but if you work through this exercise, you’ll have a much better sense of the kind of person you’re actually trying to reach:

  1. How old is your ideal client? What gender? Ethnicity? (For the sake of simplicity, I’m using female pronouns here.)
  2. Is she employed? What’s her annual income?
  3. What’s the highest level of education she’s completed?
  4. What’s her relationship status?
  5. Does she have children? How old? What kind of school do they attend?
  6. What’s her life style? Does she walk, drive or use public transit to get around? If she drives, what kind of car? What kind of home and community does she live in? Where does she buy her clothes? What community organizations doe she volunteer for, if any? What does she do for a vacation? Is she involved in a religious community? Politics?
  7. What does she do for fun?
  8. What’s her news source? What books and magazines does she read? What blogs does she follow?
  9. Is she active on Facebook? Twitter? Other social media? Or does she find the idea of social networking online a waste of time, intimidating or an invasion of privacy?
  10. What wakes her up in the middle of the night? What’s the biggest challenge she’s facing right now?

Your answers will help you to develop an avatar of your ideal client. You can even go so far as to give her a name and find a picture in a magazine that fits her description, to help you visualize.

Keep this profile front and center in your mind whenever you’re developing a new marketing strategy or writing new content for your website or blog. If you can really get inside your ideal client’s head, you’ll better understand her motivations, what’s driving her to seek out your help through your business—and how you can better provide the solutions she needs.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

PowerPoint Presentations Don’t Have to Be Boring

Monday, February 27th, 2012

We’ve all sat through them. Workshops, lectures and classes where the speaker uses a projector with a PowerPoint presentation to lead the audience through key points. Often there are handouts of the slides, so you can follow along without taking notes.

The only problem is this: Unless there’s a good story that ties together all the bullet points and data, you and everyone else around you are probably going to forget what you learned and toss the handout into the circular file when you get back to your office.

The good news is that PowerPoint offers a wide range of options for visually stunning and compelling presentations. But it takes thought, planning and some playfulness with visuals to create a memorable message.

Here are some key elements for an effective PowerPoint presentation:

Know Your Audience
This is my marketing mantra. Understand whom you’re speaking to. Why have they come to your presentation? What’s the problem they’re trying to solve, and how is the information you’re presenting going to help them? Keep this foremost in your mind as you plan your slides.

Identify Your Desired Outcome
What do you want your audience to learn from your presentation? Are you teaching a new concept? Making a case for a favorable decision on a project? Structure your content in a logical sequence that enables your audience to connect the dots.

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
There’s only so much information that any of us can absorb and retain. Don’t overload your slides with too many bullet points or too much data. Set priorities and organize content for each slide around one key point.

Tell a Story
There are several ways to do this. You can use a metaphor, such as a journey or sporting event to tie together the elements of your presentation. Or you can integrate anecdotes into your presentation, stories that illustrate key points involving people and dilemmas your audience can relate to. Make this the heart of your presentation. It helps to map our your ideas in a storyboard format, so you can see how it all fits together, before creating your slides.

Use Great Visuals
As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Introduce key concepts with images that illustrate your points. You can include a simple line of text or just let the image stand on its own. There are many royalty-free stock image sites; some require payment per image and others are free. My current favorite source for free images is CompFight, which enables you easily to search Flickr Creative Commons. There are also a wide variety of government sites that offer free content. Be sure to read and comply with all licensing agreements.

Add Movement
PowerPoint enables you to isolate elements of your graphics and text so that you can stage the appearance of information and visuals. Used sparingly, animation can help you to build your explanations point by point, as well as add some fun to your stills. Just don’t overdo it, because too much animation can end up being a distraction.

You can find more ideas about how to create great PowerPoint presentations at BeyondBulletPoints and intriguing ways to display complex data at PresentationZen.

 

How to Tell Stories That Sell

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Emotional power. A character you identify with. Conflict and resolution. Surprise. Intrinsic truth. All qualities of great fiction—and all qualities that make for a great marketing story.

Think about it. What makes your work memorable isn’t an in-your-face sales pitch. Anyone who ties you up with ego-first talk or clogs up content with text about how great she is will surely cause you to excuse yourself as quickly as possible or click away.

What we all remember best are stories—stories that grab us, that move us, that we know in our guts are true, that teach, that inspire.

Using stories to sell is the hot trend in all genres of marketing these days. But how to do it well? You don’t want to be the boring guy at the party who rambles on and on and loses his punch line in the telling.

Here are some basic elements to keep in mind, borrowed from the world of fiction writing, that will help you craft a memorable story about your good work:

Build Your Story Around a Compelling Character Your Client Can Relate To
Great characters—flawed, complex, human—are at the heart of all great fiction. For a story to sell your work, you need to focus on someone who came to you for help, someone down-to-earth, with problems and interests that reflect your target client.

Give some telling details about the person. What brought her to you? If there isn’t an issue with confidentiality, use her name, describe some aspect of her personal circumstances, mannerisms, appearance. Enable the reader or listener to picture her and feel a connection.

Describe a Problem and How You Solved It
This is the marketing version of the classic conflict-resolution structure of any work of fiction. Your main character comes to you for help. What is she struggling with? How did you draw her out, listen to her concerns and then come up with the perfect solution to her problem? What was her reaction? What was the outcome of your work together?

It’s most persuasive if you can show the actual benefit—an eleventh-hour computer fix that enabled your client to meet her deadline, a student who won first place in a poetry recitation competition because you tutored him in the use of mnemonics, an injured athlete who regained the ability to compete because of your excellent massage therapy.

Pique your audience’s interest with a problem-solution that’s unexpected. Don’t settle for the typical story that any of your competitors could tell. Demonstrate what’s unique, creative and thoughtful about the way you helped your client. And if the story has some humor, all the better.

Use Telling Quotes and Details that Establish Your Authority
We can all see through fake testimonial stories—the ones that are so general, they sound made-up. When you create a story to sell your work, like any good fiction writer, be sure to use specific details that are unique to the situation, to your professions, that feel real because they are true.

If your client/central character said something truly unique and memorable, using words that no one could have put in her mouth, to describe her feelings about how you made a difference in her life, be sure to include that. Often, a powerful quote that drives home the point of your story is best placed at the end, where the words will resonate long after your reader clicks away from your website.

Above all, be sure that everything about your story is true and verifiable. Nothing undercuts your work more quickly and completely than exaggeration and out-right lies.

Of course, if you do great work, you won’t be at a loss for great stories that prove it.

 

Enough With the “Ten Best” Blog Posts: Give Me a Great Story

Monday, January 30th, 2012

A client recently told me, when I suggested he start blogging to build his consulting practice, that he was reluctant to do so. Most bloggers, he said, just write anything that comes to their heads. He was concerned that if he started blogging, he’d just “dumb down” his subject matter.

Though I strongly disagree with his premise, and we’re in the midst of an ongoing conversation about the strategy and craft of blogging, he also has a point.

A lot of blogs ramble, a lot of writing lacks strategic focus and many bloggers could use a good editor.

There is plenty of excellent content online about how to avoid that. Copyblogger Media has built a highly successful business teaching how to write effective blogs that help you sell your product or service. I’ve learned a great deal from them and recommend their free Copywriting 101 course for anyone new to blogging or who needs to sharpen their focus and improve their style.

Formulaic + Predictable = Boring + Not Worth Reading
At the same time, however, I think my client is onto a deeper problem with the current state of blogging. Among more experienced bloggers, I find a lot of writing has become so formulaic that it’s boring and predictable.

Yes, lists work. Yes, there is a fine art to writing effective headlines that compel your reader to open your post. Yes, chunking your copy into shorter paragraphs with smart subheads that make the post easy to skim is essential for busy, time-pressed readers.

Still, I think we can do much better. After all, marketing is essentially all about telling a good, true story. So why not apply key elements of fiction writing—story arc, the telling detail, dialogue, scenes, voice, prose rhythm, character development—to our blog stories?

Art and Craft of Fiction Writing + Blog Format = Great, Compelling Stories
Look at how the field of journalism has evolved over the past few decades to encompass the genre of narrative nonfiction (pioneered by writers like Tom Wolfe, Joan Didion, Norman Mailer, John McPhee and Tracy Kidder), reporting that tells nonfiction stories with the art and skill of a novelist. Why can’t blogs tell great, compelling marketing stories with the art and skill of a short-short story writer?

I’d rather read a great story that truly demonstrates the value of your work over another list of ten “bests” any day. Both, if well-crafted with a strategic focus, will undoubtedly capture your ideal client’s attention—with one major difference: The list will keep them skimming for a minute or two; the story will stick with them after they go offline.

I’ll have more to say about how to apply the art and craft of fiction writing to marketing blogs in future posts. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts. What are some of the best examples of storytelling on marketing blogs that you’ve come across? What made them work for you?

What Makes Your Marketing Video Worth Watching

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

For any marketing mix, video is now an essential channel for communicating your message. Consider this:

But with all that competition, what makes a video worth watching? Our attention spans are getting shorter, and if the content doesn’t grab us in the first ten seconds, most viewers will click away.

There’s the obvious answer: video content must to speak to the needs of your ideal client.

Great Videos Depend on a Strong Storyline, Great Visuals and Surprise
Beyond that, a clearly developed storyline, excellent visuals and production values, the element of surprise—all help break through the cacophony of messages and ill-lit, poorly framed, garbled, rambling video that too often gets slapped up on websites in a vain attempt to keep up with Internet marketing trends.

Great marketing video can take so many forms because the visual medium allows for so much creativity. I recently came across this wonderful, whimsical example of video storytelling created by CognitiveMedia, a British animation studio, to promote author Stephen Johnson’s book Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation (2010).

CognitiveMedia specializes in a form of visual storytelling that they call “live scribing.” Andrew Park, the artist and illustrator behind the drawing hand in the video, works with large corporations at conferences and events, transforming ideas into pictures in real time. This video, narrated by author Johnson, takes that practice and speeds it up to create the animation.

A Fresh Mix of Compelling Story and Whimsical Visuals
What I love about the result is how you hear Johnson’s enthusiasm as he tells a tight, compelling story about complex, abstract concepts, while you watch the evolving, fun, clever illustrations that make the ideas so easily understood. It’s a fresh approach that feels like an animated graphic short story. And you’ve gotta love those turtles.

The topic, storyline and video drew me in enough to check out the book on Amazon, and I’m now in the midst of enjoying it on my Kindle. So, the video worked, and the book delivers.

Even if you don’t have a corporate budget for a production of this nature (the video was made for Penguin Books), I hope it encourages you to think beyond a dry talking-head discourse, to push the envelope of creativity and artistry in your video productions. Whatever your strategic goals, remember: it’s all about telling a great story—using compelling, clarifying words and engaging visuals—that’s worth your viewer’s time.

 

The Dale Carnegie Guide to Winning Web Content

Monday, January 9th, 2012

In 1936, Dale Carnegie—a successful Midwestern bacon salesman, failed actor and popular lecturer on public speaking—published How to Win Friends and Influence People. The book, based on Carnegie’s experience in sales and adult education, went through 17 printings in its first year and has since sold more than 15 million copies worldwide.

With good reason. Carnegie’s insightful advice goes to the heart of building quality relationships, and holds as true today as it did just over 75 years ago. What fascinates me is how well his guidelines apply to creating excellent web content.

For starters, Carnegie’s writing style is personal, thoughtful and engaging—a great example of content that draws you in with intriguing, easily skimmed headlines and solid advice.

He understood his target audience and never spoke down, but offered practical, time-tested ways to build a following that easily translate to internet marketing.

Here, for example, are Carnegie’s “Six ways to make people like you”:

1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
This is another way of saying love your market. If you don’t love the people you hope to serve and really care to know everything about them, you’re in the wrong business.

2. Smile.
Maintain a positive, engaging tone in your web content. Your goal is to help, explain, teach and encourage your ideal client to solve her problems, and, in the process, demonstrate how you can be of assistance.

3. Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
Give outstanding, personal service to your clients. All the rest is commentary.

4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
There’s no other way to develop a clear understanding of your ideal clients’ needs and problems than to spend time listening. A sure-fire way to create a website that bombs is to do the opposite—talk all about your great product or service without bothering to find out what your market wants.

5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
This is the essence of solid web content. Write with your ideal client clearly in mind. What is the problem she’s trying to solve? What are her values? What are her favorite pass-times? What keeps her up at night?

6. Make the other person feel important—and do it sincerely.
If you’re faking it, because you don’t really care or you don’t really respect your customers, they’ll know. This goes back to the first point: pick a market that you genuinely care about. Write from the heart about what you do and how you can help. Be sincere in your work. Your customers will thank you.

If you’ve never read Carnegie, his advice is well worth your time. And if you have, give the book a second look. While it’s easy to get distracted by all of the new and ever-evolving tools for websites and social media, the basics of good communication and relationship building—what Carnegie describes so well—never really change.