Archive for the 'Networking' Category

Long before Facebook there was face-to-face

Since Samuel Morse’s first telegraph in 1844, communication technologies have sought relevance in an increasingly noisy universe. What hath God wrought, indeed.

Almost 170 years later, there is actual management pain from an embarrassment of riches of communication innovations. And this discomfort is especially keen when connecting with customers electronically: Should you call, email, text, or instant message? And when should you use social media?

But from telegraph to Twitter, one constant has retained its relevancy: in-person connection. What is face-to-face contact if not the original social media?

In businesses, social media euphoria must ultimately be tempered with ROI reality. And as useful as each new communication resource proves to be, they are, after all, merely tools to leverage physical efforts, not eliminate the basic human need for interacting in person. Consider this story:

A sales manager (whose gray hair was not premature) noticed the performance of one of his people was off for the third consecutive month. Up to now, he had allowed his better judgment to be swayed by plausible explanations. Now there was a downward trend.

Upon more pointed probing, the manager discovered the reason for loss of production was too much electronic contact and not enough in-person. The rookie was relying heavily on virtual tools and missing face-time opportunities with the customer.

It turns out lack of training and “rubber-meets-the-road” experience left him uncomfortable and unprepared to ask for and conduct meetings, like a proposal presentation. Consequently, he wasn’t benefiting from how the success rate of growing customer relationships can increase when certain critical steps are conducted in person. This manager immediately established a training program that set standards for how and when to integrate all customer connection tools, including face-to-face.

If your company’s sales performance isn’t trending upward, perhaps your salespeople need help getting in front of customers, particularly at critical steps. Like the manager above, you may need to establish specific and measurable standards for when face-to-face meetings should take place.

From phone to Facebook, one connection option whose relevancy has borne witness to all of the others: in-person contact. Let’s remember John Naisbitt’s prophesy from Megatrends: “The more high tech we have, the more high touch we will want.”

Face-to-face is the original social media.

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Be sure to listen to segments from The Small Business Advocate Show® related to social media. I report on how small businesses are doing with their social media strategy, specifically that two-thirds of those polled are successful or expect to be successful.

Is your social media strategy providing a return on investment?

Disregard the “Nu-uh!” Effect at your own peril

Once upon a time, but not that long ago, a brand message could be successful even if it was close to a work of fiction.

Created by Madison Avenue wordsmiths, copy for an ad or brochure was crafted to manipulate and motivate using puffery, a legal term referring to acceptable marketing exaggeration. And most of the time it worked.

In fact, generations of consumers allowed themselves to be manipulated by puffery that became part of the sound track of our lives. For examples:

“Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh, what a relief it is.”

“Put a tiger in your tank.”

“The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup.”

Here’s a local example:

“Largest inventory in the tri-state area.”

In the past, I’ve revealed how the 10,000-year-old Age of the Seller paradigm has shifted in favor of the Age of the Customer. The differentiator is control of the information, and your customer now owns that advantage, including the truth about your products, services, and marketplace behavior. This control is derived in part from something called user generated content, or UGC.

UGC is word-of-mouth on digital steroids; the commercial equivalent of political fact-checking. Today a successful brand message will look less like Madison Avenue manipulation and more like the good, the bad, and the ugly of your business discussed by customers in online communities, like Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube. You’ll benefit from good UGC one day and try to recover from negative UGC the next.

Negative UGC produces what I call the “Nu-uh!” Effect. It’s what someone posts online when your brand message doesn’t meet their expectations. If you say you have the freshest salad bar in town and one person writes “Nu-uh!” on Facebook or Yelp, that’s your new brand message until you find a way to redeem yourself.

A “Nu-uh!” could refute your claim in any number of ways, from a well-written critique to “Dude! Seriously?!” Either way, if you’re getting responses like this to your brand messaging, anyone who gives you a “Nu-uh!” raspberry is, at that moment, the co-owner of your brand.

Since no business, product, service, or relationship is perfect, the over-arching goal of your brand strategy in the Age of the Customer is to have more positive UGC than negative and, if possible, leave no ”Nu-uh!” unresolved.

UGC represents the two-edged sword by which brands large and small will either flourish or die.

Disregard the power of UGC and the “Nu-uh!” effect at your own peril.

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Check out more of Jim’s great content HERE!

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The original social media is face-to-face

Ever since Samuel Morse invented the telegraph in 1844, each new communication technology has sought relevance in an increasingly noisy universe.

Today there is actual management pain from an embarrassment of riches of communication options. This discomfort is especially keen when connecting with customers electronically: Should you email or send a text message? How about IM? And when should you use one of the social media options?

But from telegraph to telephones to Twitter, there has been one constant that has retained its relevance and impact: in person connection. As I’ve said before, face-to-face contact is the original social media.

For small businesses, social media adoption has always needed to be tempered by ROI reality. And as useful as each new communication resource proves to be, they are after all, merely tools to leverage our physical efforts, not eliminate the basic human need for interacting in person. Consider this story:

A sales manager (whose gray hair was not premature) noticed the sales volume of one of his rookies was below budget for the third consecutive month. Of course, he had questioned the numbers previously but had allowed his better judgment to be swayed by plausible explanations. Now there was a downward trend.

Upon more pointed probing, the manager discovered the reason for loss of production: too much electronic contact and not enough face-to-face. The rookie was relying too heavily on virtual tools and missing opportunities to meet with customers in person.

It turns out lack of training and rubber-meets-the-road experience left the rookie uncomfortable and unprepared to ask for and conduct face-to-face meetings, like proposal presentations. Consequently, he wasn’t benefiting from how the success rate of growing customer relationships can increase when certain critical steps are conducted in person. This manager immediately developed a training program that established standards for how and when to integrate all customer connection tools, including the face-to-face imperative.

If your sales could use some help trending upward, perhaps your salespeople need training to get in front of prospects and customers, particularly at the critical step of gaining an initial meeting. Like the manager above, you may need to establish specific and measurable standards for when face-to-face meetings should take place.

There is one connection option that has borne witness to all of the others and continues to be as powerful as ever: face-to-face.

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Check out my interviews below with other Braintrust members about face-to-face communication on The Small Business Advocate Show®

Nothing tops face-to-face when communicating with employees - with John Dini

Face-to-face is still the original social media - with Joanne Black

Check out more of Jim’s great content HERE!

Take this week’s poll HERE!

Watch Jim’s videos HERE!

The new class of small business influencers

In The Age of the Seller, three groups mattered to a business for sales growth: suspects, prospects and customers. Let’s talk about these in order of appearance.

A suspect is anybody and everybody; think of the names in the local phone book. Initially, a business has no relationship with a suspect until contact is made in some way. Then, if the qualifying criteria turns them into a prospect, the relationship develops further until they’re converted into a customer, or not. For 10,000 years, of these three, only prospects and customers were influencers of a business.

In the Age of the Customer, which was born of the Internet, businesses have to learn how to operate where influencers are not only evaluating their traditional activity, but their online presence as well. And in the new Age, there are now three influencers: the original two, plus a new one.

The new influencer is users, and their impact is only online.

Like suspects in the original Age, users are people you probably have not yet developed a business relationship with. Unlike suspects, users become influencers of your business in at least five ways, but only if you have an Internet presence:

  1. Users find you online and appraise your offerings, information, and behavior before you know they exist.
  2. Users can influence others by posting their appraisal – good or not so much – on any of the commenting (Yelp) or social media platforms (Facebook). And even if the appraisal is not good, you still get the next three.
  3. The very act of users finding you, especially if they leave a commenting trail, reveals themselves to you.
  4. Some form of contact information (email, handle, cookie, etc.) is left behind.
  5. You can assume that the user has at least a tacit interest in what you do and sell.

Users are suspects on steroids. I have identified them as a new class of prospect, because as they wield their influence, they actually self-qualify themselves without any direct cost or involvement by you. How much could that impact your prospect development plan?

If you’re still unimpressed with the potential of this new group of influencers to your business, remember this: The drivers of value for the big social media platforms are not customers, but hundreds of millions of users. And every small business has the ability to convert a user into a paying customer in a way that makes Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn green with envy.

Develop a strategy to turn users into your new class of prospects.

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I have written and talked extensively on the new influencers and other facets of The Age of the Customer. Click here to listen, read or watch.

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

Watch Jim’s videos HERE!

Take this week’s poll HERE!

Social media and the Tour de France

The 99th Tour de France is underway as the pinnacle of bicycle races. Small businesses can learn a lot from how Tour teams execute their strategy.

Perhaps you’ve seen a Tour competitor “breakaway” and leave behind the peloton (the biggest bunch of riders). Whereupon one of the commentators will say, “Someone better chase him down,” before he gets out of sight and glides across the finish line unchallenged.

But the “chasing down” only happens once it’s clear that the breakaway has the “legs” and isn’t going to fizzle back into the pack. Making a countermove on an ill-advised dash just wastes energy.

Whenever something new comes to the marketplace, our response should be to determine if the shiny new object has legs, or is an ill-fated breakaway. Wise managers don’t chase down fads.

Three years ago, I predicted that while social media might be a craze, it is not a fad. This means when the dust settles on the hype about new rules, we will be left with something more intuitive to a business than the unfortunate term “social media” – productive and powerful new tools.

These tools are powerful because they help small businesses create online customer communities. And they’re productive because anyone can use them without spending a lot of precious capital.

We wanted to know where our small business audience was on keeping social media breakaway leaders in sight, so recently we asked this question:

“How much of a commitment has your business made toward a social media strategy?” Here’s what we learned:

Only 13% of our respondents said, “We have a social media strategy and it’s working.” Almost four of ten said, “We have a social media strategy, but not sure if it’s working,” while 31% said they want a social media strategy, “but can’t seem to make it happen.” And one-fifth of our sample said, “We’re doing nothing with social media on purpose.”

Every day that goes by, qualified prospects will increasingly come from online activity – including communities you build and join – and less from traditional prospecting methods.

The good news is you don’t have to win the social media race, but you do have to participate. And like almost half of our survey respondents, you must keep the leaders in sight.

If, like the other half of our survey, you’re struggling with a social media strategy, hire a 20-something to help you.

You don’t have to win the social media race, but you have to keep the winners in sight.

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Recently on The Small Business Advocate Show I talked more about what small business can learn from the Tour de France about social media.

I also spoke with Dan Burrus, one of the world’s leading technology forecasters and business strategists and Technotrends, about how to integrate social into your media strategy. Click on one of the links below to download or listen to our conversations.

What we can learn about social media from the Tour de France

Social has become much more than media

Make sure your media strategy integrates all the options

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

The Facebook lesson about the value of users

What would you say about a company that has 900 million people – one out of every 13 Earthlings – using its consumable product virtually every day? That’s an unbelievable marketing and product adoption success story, isn’t it?

As you probably have figured out, this company is Facebook, the world’s largest social media platform. And its consumable product is the time, attention and information these 900 million users give Facebook every time they log in.

The future of social media platforms, used to help us connect with and build communities among friends, family and customers, is no longer being debated. Social media may seem like a craze, but it’s not a fad and isn’t going away. But the future of social media platforms as publically traded companies is another matter, primarily because of their business model.

The business challenge for Facebook is that it doesn’t have 900 million customers, it has 900 million users. The distinction is that a user pays you a visit and a customer pays you money. Facebook is really good at getting users to engage and re-engage. But now that it’s a public company, there is new scrutiny from investors and fish-eyed analysts on how effective it will be long-term at getting advertising customers to pay for access to these users.

A few months ago, when Facebook first announced plans to go public, we asked our audience if they thought Facebook’s stock “… will prove to be a good investment?” Only nine percent said, “Yes,” with the rest not optimistic about the stock, especially for the long-term.

Recently, the weekend after Facebook’s initial public offering (IPO) launched – perhaps we should say, belly-flopped – amid more hype than we’ve seen since the “dot bomb” days of 1999, we wanted to see if our audience would “Like” the stock any better as a long-term investment, so we asked, “Do you want Facebook stock in your retirement portfolio?” Only 8% said yes.

It’s very encouraging how these two polls demonstrate that small business owners consistently understand the business model difference between the value of a user verses a customer. But the lesson isn’t that users are bad. Indeed, your small business’s digital users – who want to get to know you online before they buy – are the new breed of prospects: future customers who, unlike Facebook’s users, may one day pay you more than a visit.

Thank you, Facebook, for providing small businesses with a valuable lesson about users and customers.

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I talked more about the lessons small businesses can learn from Facebook on The Small Business Advocate Show. Click click on the links below to listen or download.

Lessons Facebook can teach small business about users

Why small business users are different from Facebook’s

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

Take this week’s poll HERE!




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