Whether you are in a media interview, investor pitch, sales meeting or speaking in front of a crowd, you need to know how to handle questions and get your point across calmly and effectively.
But how do you get back on topic when a question leads you down a different path? Or when an interviewer has different intentions to you? One way is by using a bridging phrase – but beware not all bridging phrases promise an easy way to cross back over to your key messages.
So what is a bridging phrase?
A bridging phrase helps you transition from one topic to another seamlessly (if done correctly), making them valuable for any business owner, spokesperson, salesperson or professional to have up their sleeve to use when the moment requires.
The first part of the sentence needs to acknowledge what has been said or asked while still allowing the opportunity to change the subject or add information. The second part of the bridging phrase provides the chance to change the message while sounding as though you are about to deliver valuable information. In other words, you want a sentence that will help you bring the conversation back to what matters to your target audience. Here are some examples:
While it has been that way…
People have said that but…
Yes, I agree though would add…
I’m not sure that is the case, let me tell you why…
We/I take a different approach…
While that has been public opinion…
That reminds me of…
While we are on the subject…
I wouldn’t say that, but what I would say is…
Let me put that in context…
To put this in perspective…
That is a common misconception…
What is more concerning is…
What I believe is…
It has been my experience that…
I have found that…
What many people don’t know is…
What you may not be aware of is…
What people need to know is…
What our customers have found…
What this new research suggests…
The heart of the matter is…
While it sounds simple, mastering the art of bridging can take a lot of practice. As you converse today, look at how you naturally change the subject. Chances are you may say one of the following:
“Keep in mind that…”
Granted not all will be appropriate in a professional setting but it is essential to be in touch with your authentic voice. When you are, you can start experimenting with bridging phrases that sound like your natural voice or at least feel more natural to you.
Beware of bridging to avoid questions
If you want an example of someone using bridging phrases to avoid a line of questioning, listen to a journalist interviewing a politician. You will no doubt hear a few of their favourite bridging phrases like:
“What the most important point/issue here is…”
“What we need to remember is…”
“What we need to consider is…”
“Before I answer that I need to explain…”
When someone uses a bridging phrase to avoid a topic, it usually comes with no (or minimal) acknowledgement of the question asked. It is also undeniable that they are trying to spin things in a different direction – and generally for self-serving purposes not for the value of the target audience. While this approach can help to get some points across there is a high chance the journalist or interviewer will hit the issue harder in the next question they ask.
While your customers may not press you like a journalist if you bridge to avoid their questions you can lose trust and credibility in their eyes.
Try reframing the question
If you come across loaded questions or more confronting objections try reframing the question in your mind to still acknowledge and answer it, but give an answer that is more aligned with your messaging and interests.
For example, if a customer was to question “How can you justify the price of your product when [your competitor] only charges $X?” You could reframe the question to “What value can you provide that is over and above what [your competitor] offers?” You will still answer their question but from a more powerful and positive position.
The bottom line is you need to be prepared
To be able to bridge topics effectively you need to be prepared. Know what you want to get across, plan for questions and objections, have some bridging phrases ready and practice reframing questions and answering them from a more positive perspective.
Whether you are considering making a small logo tweak or a complete personality change, here are four questions you should ask before you go down the road of rebranding.
What does rebranding mean to you?
A rebrand can mean many things to many people, so it is important you are clear on what you want and what it means to you. For some, it is a simple update to their logo and messaging, but for others, it is a complete brand change, that may include a new logo, brand personality and even business name.
As you can imagine there are significant differences in cost – and not all are financial. If you want to make a big brand change, and you have been operating for a while, there are a few more things you need to consider like:
- What is the goodwill associated with your brand (your reputation and implied credibility)?
- How recognisable is your brand to your customers and potential customers?
- Have you done a lot of work on SEO that you could lose should you change name and domain name?
Why do you want to rebrand?
This is the most important question to answer when thinking about rebranding, and you need to answer it honestly. Is the rebrand because you want or need a change or is it because the customer you want to target is disconnected from your brand?
Doing a complete rebrand can be a big marketing task, and in many ways, you will be starting again so make sure it is for the right reasons. If the reason behind your rebrand is that you want or need a change to feel more energised in your business again, then look at a slight logo update or a change of messaging as opposed to a full rebrand.
Who are your customers and what do they want from your brand?
Your customers should always be at the forefront of any brand decision you make. After all, if they don’t feel connected with your brand they won’t buy from you, and that is a BIG problem!
Look at who your customers are and what they are likely to respond to. Say for instance you want your favourite colour pink reflected in your logo, but your clients are mostly male, it may not be the wisest choice. While this is a basic example, the same applies to the rest of your brand.
Don’t make the mistake of making your brand entirely about you. While you do need to have a connection to it for authenticity, and you may have even founded your company out of a personal need or frustration you are not your customer.
Where are you going?
Peek into the future, what do you want to achieve with your brand? What are the values, vision and mission of your business? What difference do you want to make in the lives of others? What do you want to be known for? What growth and innovation plans do you have? What goals do you want to achieve? Where do you want to be in three, five and ten years?
Now ask yourself, what kind of brand will get you there? What story do you need to tell and sell to capture the minds and hearts of customers and potential customers?
That is the brand you need to create or keep.
We live in a world that is becoming increasingly connected; yet disconnected at the same time. While it has never been easier to communicate with anyone, anywhere in the world, we lose something when we stay behind the veil of technology – deeper relationships.
We forget that relationships underpin every business transaction. The deeper the relationship, the more profound and profitable it becomes.
Your customers crave connection – real connection – from the businesses they buy from. They don’t want to interact with a faceless business, hear from general autoresponders or enquire only through a web form. They want a real relationship, a real person – they want you.
Whether you are B2B or B2C, online or offline, product or service based, personal branding has never been more important. But where do you start, particularly if you’ve been hiding behind your brand for some time?
Start by being authentic
So often in business, we play a role. While this can help us to keep boundaries between our personal and professional lives, these same boundaries can also stop us from being who we are and building deeper relationships with our clients and contacts.
While you should keep a level of mystery about you, make sure you aren’t hiding the real you. It is alright to show vulnerability and humanity at times; it will often make you more relatable and accessible to your customers and followers.
Day in and day out we market our products and services but what about ourselves? You are unique. No one else has the same knowledge, opinions and experience as you do. No one will see the world through your same perspective.
Own it and use it to your advantage. Talk about what makes you different and what value you personally bring to the table. Share your opinion and experience. Answer media callouts where you (not just your brand) could give input.
If you struggle to talk about yourself, or you are humble to a fault, have an opinion-based blog or a tip segment in your newsletter that is credited to you, not just your brand. Also, use your biography, LinkedIn profile and testimonials to do the selling for you.
Give yourself a voice inside and outside your brand to showcase your personal experience and expertise.
Be seen and heard
To build your personal brand, you need to be seen and heard (sorry introverts there is no way around this one!).
While this does involve building your online presence and demonstrating thought leadership through blogs, articles, media interviews and social media, all of which you can do from your office, you also need to get out into the world. Spread your message through networking, speaking and building relationships with others.
Start seeing yourself as a product you need to market. Pinpoint your unique selling points and the problems you solve and launch yourself out into the marketplace. You’ll find it helps your business marketing too.
With business becoming more global and much of our networking and marketing done online, it can be hard to build a personal relationship with our customers – particularly when we will never meet many of them. But one way to get around this is through an up to date headshot.
As simple as it sounds having a photo on your social media profiles, or even on your email and business card, allows your customer to see and connect with you even though you aren’t in front of them.
With personal branding on my mind lately, I knew it was time to (finally) update my headshot – it was just one of those tasks that kept creeping down my to-do list – perhaps you can relate?
Well in case you too have been putting it off, I thought I would share my experience with you to show it isn’t too scary or time-consuming (like some of you think it is); in fact, it can be pretty fun! So here goes…
After deciding it was time to get a new headshot for my LinkedIn profile I had a chance meeting with Elysia from Brisbane Headshots. She was funny, friendly and disarming (everything an introvert like me wants in a photographer), so I booked in to get my headshots done.
Elysia took me in via the Powder Room a gorgeous hair and makeup salon right next door who specialise in professional hair and makeup for headshots and weddings. My stylist Barbara was warm and friendly and took the time to chat about the look she would create to make sure I was comfortable. While she worked her magic, I sat back and sipped tea.
Then it came time to meet Paul, the lead photographer. We had a quick chat about outfit choices and the type of photos I was after (a natural headshot). He was softly spoken, but a true professional, and he quickly put me at ease. He even took the time to show me the photos to make sure I was happy and had the whole shoot wrapped up in less than half an hour. Later that afternoon I received my proofs and in less than a week I had my final photos!
So if you are putting off your headshots, I highly recommend getting them done. Your customers want a greater connection with the people behind the brands they do business with…but more on that in the next blog!
In the age of innovation, creativity is essential for your business growth and survival. With creativity ideas are born, problems are solved, industries are disrupted, competitors are overturned and customers are engaged. Without it, you become stuck, stale and predictable.
Your ability to think creatively and act fast is often the difference between being the disruptor or being the disrupted.
To ensure you stay ahead of your industry and keep your creative juices flowing here are six ways to overcome creative blocks.
1. Ask questions
Nothing kills creativity faster than accepting things the way they are. To find new ideas, create better products, develop faster processes and disrupt value chains you need to question everything.
When you continually ask questions, you train your brain to keep searching for answers. This sparks your creativity and ensures you continue to find new, better, and faster ways of doing things.
2. Create distance
Sometimes creativity needs space. Take a break, go for a walk, start another task or even take some time to productively procrastinate.
When creative blocks are strong, distance gives you greater perspective and clarity, and it can also give you the time you need to replenish your creative juices and get out of your own way.
3. Utilise high emotions
While emotions can at times be a barrier to our creativity, high levels of emotion can often fuel it.
Think about how creative and resourceful we can be in the fight-or-flight zone. We tend to have greater clarity, sharper problem-solving skills and find easier to think outside the box. When you are in a high emotional state, try to harness the passion and energy of the emotion and use it in into your creative process.
4. Shift perspectives
Sometimes the key to giving your creativity a boost is to discover different perspectives.
Approach the problem, solution, idea or opportunity at hand through someone else’s point of view. This process of role playing can often uncover issues or ideas that haven’t yet been considered.
But don’t just limit yourself to the stakeholders involved in the issue at hand, also consider how your competitors or other entrepreneurs would think and act if they were in your shoes.
5. Don’t edit your creativity
Perfection has no place in the creative process. When you are brainstorming or questioning, let no idea or thought be off limits.
Lift the pressure of being right or wrong and qualify the ideas later. Great ideas have a habit of forming out of bad ones so let your creativity flow.
6. Reign it in
Be specific, look at one problem, solution or idea at a time. Studies have consistently shown that we are more creative when we operate within boundaries.
While you don’t want to put limits on your creative ideas, you do want to work within clear boundaries to get the greatest return.
As research and experience are showing us, customers want more than products and services from brands they buy from; they want a story to tell and be part of.
While we can often fall into the trap of trying to be the loudest in the marketplace to get attention and stand out from our competitors, the truth is you don’t win the heart of your customer by them following your voice; you win it by finding theirs.
To help you break through the noise of a competitive marketplace and win the heart of your customers, here are three ways to build a customer-centric business.
Don’t fill a gap, fill a void
As entrepreneurs, we are often told to “look for a gap in the market” to find our next big idea. But to be truly significant in the lives of your customers you need to fill more than a gap, you need to fill a void.
While a finding a gap in the market can signify an opportunity, you will often get greater traction from finding and filling a void in your customers’ lives. When you fill a void, you are already creating something your customer wants and it is more a case of awakening the desire and motivation to buy, instead of the hard job of creating it.
Don’t speak before you listen
In business we can often be in a rush to create products and services based on the problem we see, not realising our customers might have a different perspective.
When you are creating new products and services, take the time to ask your customers for feedback and listen. It may turn out that you are solving the wrong problem, that there’s a bigger problem you are missing, or that your new product or service will have more uses than you realised. Your customers are and always will be your greatest source of learning.
Don’t sell a product, champion a cause
The moment you start selling a product or service by its features and benefits you start competing with everyone else in your industry. But when you sell the experience, tell the story, share the vision or champion a cause your customers start buying something else entirely.
Give your customers something to believe in, hope for, aspire to and be part of. While a customer may come to you because they want to buy your products, services or expertise, your role in their lives doesn’t need to stop there.
There are other fundamental human needs like safety, security, love, a sense of belonging, recognition and living up to one’s potential, that you can meet in the way you position your business. When you look at the bigger picture like this, you win the love and respect of your customers and put yourself in a completely different league to your competitors.
How can you build a more customer-centric business?
When it comes to building momentum for your startup, a great idea and team will only get you so far. Sooner or later you’ll need to find those first few brave souls who are willing to give you a chance – your innovators and early adopters.
But how do you find them and how do they find you? Here are four tips to help you find your innovators and early adopters and get their attention.
1. Understand their motivations
Innovators like to stay up with the latest trends, almost to the point of being obsessive. They like being the first to try or buy a product, and they are often willing to pay a premium to get it. They’re the first in line and are often prepared to wait around for hours just to get a hold of the product they want. When it comes to purchase decisions, innovators are self-confident. They purchase a product because they want to, and are less likely to be influenced by the opinion of others.
Early adopters are very similar but tend to be more motivated by what others think of them when making a purchase. While early adopters are opinion leaders, and will often introduce family and friends to new products and ideas, their purchase decisions will often be driven by a need to be respected and admired by those close to them.
2. Become the expert
As we’ve established innovators and early adopters, want to be in-the-know. They read, research and consume information to identify trends, find new products and explore new solutions for existing problems.
That is why the best way to get the attention of innovators and early adopters is to be the go-to expert. Identify what they will want and need to know and give it to them.
Talk about new trends and industry developments. Talk about their problems and new ways to solve them. Give them the cutting edge, forward thinking, ‘inside information’ they are looking for that will help you to build their trust in your product or service.
3. Go where your customers are
With a greater understanding of the motivations of your innovators and early adopters, you can then start to identify the market segments that might qualify as your first customers.
From here you can determine their needs, wants, frustrations, challenges and most importantly start to uncover behavioural patterns regarding the media they would consume, the people they would listen to, the places they would visit and so on.
Once you have this, go where your customers are. Follow their footsteps. Very soon you will be able to identify who your early adopters are and get a better idea of what they want from you and the messages they will best respond to.
4. Leverage social media
Have a few theories on who your early adopters could be? Use social media to test and confirm which theory is right.
Social media is a highly leveraged, low-cost way to identify early adopters. Giving you the ability to use targeted advertising to test different demographics, geographics and even psychographics you can quickly and easily see which segment will take action first.
This not only gives you a clearer picture on your early adopters, but it also provides a platform to continue to educate customers, build buzz, capture contact details and ultimately sell your product, service or idea.
Do you have any tricks for identifying innovators and adopters?
We all know that marketing and promotion is an essential part of business – but what if it takes you well beyond your comfort zone and seems to conflict with the essence of who you are?
This is for the shy, humble and introverted entrepreneurs among us, the ones who would rather stay in their office than get out and network, and the ones who feel inauthentic and at times even arrogant when singing their praises.
Here are four ways you can help build credibility and customer base without feeling like you are bashing, bragging or boring people with your sales message.
1. If you don’t want to talk, listen
Don’t want to be the centre of attention? Then make your market the centre of attention. Get good at asking questions and be even better at listening. Find the hidden opportunities, the secret frustrations, and the bigger problems that your customers aren’t aware of. Listen to what others in your industry are saying and how customers are responding.
Listening will give you something far more powerful than your own words – it will give you your customers’ words and they will convert sales much faster.
2. If you don’t want to be the face, be the voice
Don’t want your name up in lights? Then find ways to create impact from the shadows. There are so many marketing activities and tools that can help introverts play the role of an extrovert.
If you don’t want to speak on stage or camera, write blogs, articles, books and opinion pieces, do podcasts and be active on social media. Be the consistent, powerful voice that drives your company.
3. If you don’t want to sell, solve
Don’t like selling? Then start solving. Selling implies work; you are trying to convince someone to buy something they don’t need or want. Solving implies value; you are providing the solution to fill an existing need or want. Tell stories of how you have helped customers in similar positions, offer guidance based on your experience, and information based on your expertise.
Solving will relieve your performance anxiety and help you to feel more comfortable in talking about your products, services and experience. It will also ensure that potential customers always feel like they have received value when talking to you.
4. If you don’t want to shout your praises, find someone who will
Don’t feel comfortable with promoting yourself? Find others who are. One of the best marketing strategies for shy or introverted business owners is to form strategic alliances with business owners who are the complete opposite of them. Find the extrovert, the networker, the sales extraordinaire and help them to fall in love with your products or services.
Turn them into raving fans, offer commissions for sales, let them white label your products or services and look for ways to package your offering together.
So don’t think you can’t compete with your boisterous, extroverted, self-promoting competitors. You can very quickly turn your challenge into your edge with a little leverage and creative thinking.