Building An Image: Concise, Consistent

Corrections or additions?

These articles by Bart Jackson and Michele Alperin were prepared

for the December 6, 2000 edition

of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Origins of Charisma: Mark Plante

Yuppies don’t have friends, as the saying goes. They

have contacts. Yet for Mark Plante, networker par excellence,

success depends on deftly blurring these two categories. He speaks

at two meetings this month. On Monday, December 11, at noon in the

Lawrenceville School, Plante will set forth his strategies on

"How to Network a Room" for a meeting of the Women In

Development

of Mercer County. The meeting is open only to members and their

guests.

Call 609-883-8100 for membership information. Plante will also speak

to the Princeton Chamber Business Council on "Networking 101:

The Basics of Meeting People and Building Relationships," on

Wednesday,

December 20, at 7:30 a.m. Cost: $21. Call 609-520-1776.

Plante’s credentials include six years as operations consultant for

Burger King. He was hired by the corporation to carry down the law

to local and district franchisers. Yet he also found that he needed

to help the franchisers meet with and make their wills known to the

upper-echelon corporate executives.

Today, as a motivational speaker, Plante lectures professionally

nearly

100 times a year. "I could speak every day," he notes,

"but

I hate to travel." His entire advertising budget for this venture?

Zero. No Yellow Pages, no website — engagements are received

strictly

by networking and word of mouth. Why is it when Plante talks, people

listen?

"My system is basically quite simple," says Plante.

"Truly,

you can talk to anybody. We are all, in the end, human beings. The

same thing that inspires you to chat, will inspire that top potential

client." If you enter a room without a specific target, e.g. at

a convention cocktail party, you will want to scoop a broad array

of folk into your net. What works for Plante is the natural approach.

Go directly to the bar. It is the most crowded, most

congenial

place, and people are most often in line. Folks in line are just

waiting

for a diversion — let it be you.

Pause a minute, select someone and introduce yourself

(name only) with an outstretched hand. Sounds hackneyed, but two

things

work here. First, claims Plante, "almost no one will refuse your

handshake and the few perfunctory words that accompany it."

Second,

you are just giving your name, not backing it with the profundity

of your corporate sponsorship. Also, you are leaving him open to

respond

with the obvious query. Make him a bit curious about you.

Set up the "Conversation Stack." Initiate those

questions that go straight for her primary interests: herself and

her career. Plante’s favorite is a three-question series that almost

invariably invokes a verbal essay: a) What line of work are you in?

If the convention makes that obvious, ask her position. b) How did

you get into that field? c) Sounds interesting. What would it take

for me — or my young nephew — to get into that field today?

At this point you’ve got your subject not merely talking, but giving

advice. Odds of her wanting to meet with you again are good.

When you have a specific target individual in a room or you

have managed to get that first appointment, the attitude remains the

same, but the approach deepens.

Do your homework. The goal here, Plante insists, is less

to impress people with your knowledge than to show concern and the

importance you place on this meeting. Libraries may well keep

newspaper

files on your target. Find out if he likes duck hunting. Also find

out some good news about the firm’s earnings. Finally, arm yourself

with some rare tidbit about the firm that indicates a fascination

with the business.

Value your subject’s time. Look at the watch before he

does and ask if you are taking up too much of his afternoon.

Follow up — patiently. "You have to keep

remembering,"

notes Plante, "that it may take weeks to get your first

introduction

and several weeks more to line up an actual meeting." He

recommends

a swift, handwritten note after the initial introduction in which

you remind your contact of where you met, who you are, and that you’d

like to meet further. Tell him that you’ll be phoning him. Wait a

few days. Then do it.

Plante’s arsenal includes a host of subtleties and tricks used

to draw people out and get them on his side. "And you always know

you are winning the battle," smiles Mark, "when they stop

talking about themselves and begin asking you about you. Then the

tide has turned in your favor."

Of course no approach works every time, and when things start to go

sour, it’s best to fold your handshake and slip away. But before you

run off and pout, Plante suggests you examine your method and see

if it included any of his major DON’Ts:

1. Don’t accent The Gap. Going after the top broker in

the room is exactly like going after the prettiest girl at the dance.

Don’t make the same mistakes you did in high school. Telling her she’s

gosh awful pretty is a drooling redundancy. Telling her how handsome

you are and beyond someone like her is a put off. So avoid bringing

up your relative stations. Ms. Top Broker will be more charmed by

the services you can offer than how dazzled you are by her

achievements.

2. Don’t push or cling. Avoid the aching craving to stick

in that one last pitch, that clever bon mot. You can’t forge a

lifelong

business partner in the first meeting. Let your target know you’re

alive, interesting, and possibly mutually beneficial. Then leave and

let the intrigue simmer.

3. Don’t lecture — particularly on her business. Show

your knowledge of your target’s company through short comments or

better yet, clever questions. Lengthy expositions aid only sleep.

4. Don’t swoop in as a predator. Desperation or greed

ooze from even the comeliest pores. You can’t hide it. If you enter

eying the room like a hungry ferret, lunge around glad-handing each

person and ditching them when they droop in the Boost-My-Career scale,

it will show. That top broker will see you coming and flee into his

burrow.

5. Do not judge people as losers too quickly. It takes more

than 60 of your precious seconds to discern if a man can help you.

Nor does a woman’s trade alone mark her as worthy of your time. Try

a little less frantic haste, a little more sincere interest.

This gawk, tousle, and shucks method of meeting and treating

everyone as just plain folks may seem a bit childlike. On the other

hand, maybe the very sharpest thing to do is to make business

personal:

Strip away the rank and give the high steppers a chance to set a spell

with their feet up. It works for Mark Plante.

— Bart Jackson

Top Of Page
Building An Image: Concise, Consistent

Just as every human being has a personal identity, so

should every business have a business image. This image defines the

company to its owners and employees as well as to its customers.

"An

image defines for the business itself what it is and what it should

do," says Arlene Schragger, owner of ads Public Relations

and Marketing. For the customer, an image provides "consistency

— knowing what you’re going to get every time."

Schragger, as president of the Mercer New Jersey Association of Women

Business Owners (NJAWBO) chapter, will be facilitating a Marketing

RoundTable on business images on Monday, December 11, at 7:45 a.m.

at Frederick J. Schragger Law Offices, 3131 Princeton Pike, Building

1B. Attendees are asked to design and bring to the workshop a Yellow

Pages eighth or quarter page ad as well as a bumper sticker that

captures

the essence of their business. Cost: $10. Call 609-882-4586.

An image defines the scope and boundaries of a business, both what

the business does and what it does not do. "A business needs to

know where it’s going, what it’s doing, and why it’s there," says

Schragger. New businesses in particular need to clarify who they are.

"Having an image they can look at, something concrete on paper,

helps them to be focused," she says.

As an example, she cites her own business practice. When asked to

introduce her own business, she responds with a statement that

encapsulates

her company’s image: "I will do anything to help my client grow

his or her business, as long as it’s legal." And, indeed, her

services run the gamut: redecorating store windows, decorating office

space, and teaching her clients the basics of networking — what

organizations to join and how to walk, talk, and present themselves.

A well-defined image is also important to the customer; it "tells

people what you do, and they get to know that’s what you do,"

says Schragger. She believes that creating a business image is, in

essence, branding. When branding, a business must decide what it

offers

that is unique and distinguishes it from other identical businesses.

As an example she uses two hypothetical accounting firms, both

providing

all basic accounting services. The first firm’s image may be that

it offers "a million different services" and the second that

it offers "personal services." "Both approaches are

valuable,

but it depends on what you need," says Schragger. A bigger firm

may need the extra services, but a smaller firm may appreciate the

handholding that a more "personal" firm will offer.

To create a business image and put it into practice:

Write down the target market — to whom the business

is trying to sell.

Specify what is unique about the business when compared

to someone else who does the same thing. "A business must

emphasize

its uniqueness and make sure it is part of all the PR, advertising,

and image building they do," says Schragger.

Make sure the image is reality-based and comfortable to

both owners and employees. The image cannot be imposed on a company

from on high. If the company’s employees have not bought into the

image and do not feel part of it, they will not carry it forth.

Be able to deliver what the image promises. "A company

can have lofty images, ideals, and promises," says Schragger,

"but you have to be able to deliver, or people won’t trust you

after the first time."

Ensure that every aspect of the business reflects the

image .

"Everything has to coordinate and carry forth the message,"

says Schragger. "From the shopping bags they use, to the yellow

pages ads, to other ads, brochures, stationery, and uniforms.

Otherwise

it’s scattershot, and a scattershot approach doesn’t ever work as

well."

For Schragger, even her company name helps deliver her business’

image:

the first word, "ads," is both one of the services she offers

as well as her personal initials, and the rest of the company name,

"Public Relations & Marketing," describes what her business

does.

Schragger graduated from Goucher College in 1965 and taught

high school Spanish for two years. After doing an extensive amount

of volunteer work while her children were small, she went to work

as inhouse marketing coordinator for Starr Tours, a motorcoach company

in Trenton. For five years she wrote travel brochures, flyers, and

some of Starr’s ads. She started her own company in 1987.

Schragger is now in her second year as president of the five-year-old

Mercer NJAWBO, which has 55 members. She has high hopes for the

proposed

monthly Marketing Roundtables. At the meetings, which are open to

nonmembers only once before joining, members will critique and support

each other’s growth and development in a variety of marketing areas.

Says Schragger: "We are hoping that this group grows and becomes

an informal board of directors for the members who are involved with

it."

Schragger chose the assignment for the December 11 meeting —

creating

a Yellow Pages ad and a bumper sticker — to help participants

create and express a business image that is consistent and concise.

"Marketing materials are frequently fragmented and not

consistent,"

says Schragger. In addition, she says, what business owners think

their marketing materials say to the public often is not what they

do say. The limited space of a Yellow Pages ad or a bumper sticker

also forces the owner to "be concise and precise and get the

message

down to a very few words."

She believes that the ability to express a business’ image without

a lot of verbiage is also critical to networking. "You may have

only three sentences worth of time to talk to people about your

business,

and then they lose interest. You have to get to the essence in order

to keep people’s attention."

Schragger cites General Electric as a master of the business image.

When she was watching television talk shows on a recent Sunday, she

appreciated the GE ads that expressed its concise and well-tuned

business

image, `GE brings good things to life.’ "GE shows you visually

how they work in plastics and turn on lights in stadiums," says

Schragger. Just as they show and tell the public their image, so does

every business need to do so. "It makes life so much clearer for

the owner and the person who wants to do business."

— Michele Alperin


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