Archive for the 'Social Media' Category

The power of building customer communities

Incredibly, in 2017, here’s a question many small business owners ask: “We have a website, do we need a social media strategy, too?”

The answer is the same as for why you have an email address even though you have a phone.  It’s not either/or, but rather both/and. Because as outstanding and handy as your website may be, there’s one increasingly important capability you need that most websites aren’t good at: community building.

Once customers find you, returning to that beautiful website of yours will be of decreasing interest to them. It’s not that your new stuff - products, how-to information, order status, special offerings, etc. - is no longer of interest to customers. It’s just that they don’t want to have to come back to your website to get it. More and more, customers are saying to businesses, “I like what you offer, but I won’t be returning to your website much, because I’m very busy. Why don’t you follow me home with the new stuff?”

This is what customers and prospects mean when they join your community by giving you permission to connect with them and send them offers and helpful information by email, text messaging, Twitter, Facebook, etc. They just want the new stuff, including updates to your website. Even when they return to buy something on your e-commerce platform, they expect to enter your website through the offer page you sent them, not from your homepage.

Building online customer communities - and getting permission to follow customers home - is how a small business transcends being competitive and achieves the pinnacle position: relevance. As you may know, I define a business social media strategy as building customer communities. But by my definition, social media is much older and more comprehensive than the online platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, etc. Your customer community strategy includes everything you do to build, connect with and serve those communities, including: email marketing, customer loyalty programs, the new social media activity, and, of course, the original social media: face-to-face.

In the old days - way back in 2003 - your customer list was just names on an accounts receivable report or sales forecast. Today, those customers are part of your business’s community, which also includes prospects who’re just becoming interested in you. But unlike the passive customer list of old - and visitors to your website - this community is functioning and dynamic, with fast-evolving expectations you have to meet or they’ll defect to another community.

Another important component of building customer communities is allowing prospects and customers to see your corporate values. Increasingly, prospects will turn into customers, and customers will become loyal, because they’re attracted to what your company stands for, which is evident in the values you demonstrate, including online. For example:

1. Are your brand elements - brand promise and image - all about you and your stuff, or do they sound like something that would benefit your customer community?

2. When delivering information, is it all about you, or does it contribute to the community?

3. What’s the tone of your marketing message? “Tone” is how brand messages are incorporated as you serve the community, from crassly commercial to almost subliminal. You should strike a tone balance between serving the community and making a sale.

Notice all of these demonstrate values that favor relationships more and transactions less.

In a world where everything you sell is a commodity, value - product, price, service - is the threshold of a customer community, but values are the foundation. Value is easy to find these days. But when community members are attracted to your values, they keep coming back and bring their friends.

Write this on a rock … Build and serve customer communities with a website and social media strategy that demonstrates your values.

Face-to-Face: Old School fundamental and New School cool

For 172 years, communication technologies have sought relevance in an increasingly noisy universe.

Now, well into the 21st century, there is actual management pain from an embarrassment of riches of communication innovations. And this discomfort is especially keen when staying connecting with customers: Should you call? Email? Text? How about IM?

And when should you use social media platforms? I’ve had customers who want me to connect with them on Twitter. Others send me notes on LinkedIn.

But in an era where there’s an app for everything, there is one connection method we must never be guilty of minimizing. From Morse to Millennials, in-person connection has retained its relevance as Old School fundamental and New School cool.

Indeed, face-to-face is the original social media.

Today, social media euphoria is being 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 human interaction. Consider this story:

A sales manager (whose gray hair was not premature) noticed the sales performance of one of his rookies was below budget for the third consecutive month. Of course, he questioned the numbers previously but had allowed his better judgment to be swayed by plausible explanations. Now the newbie’s sales was trending, but in the wrong direction.

Upon more pointed probing, the manager discovered the reason for loss of production: too much electronic and not enough in-person connections. The rookie was relying too heavily on virtual communication at the expense of opportunities to get in front of the customer.

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

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

From telegraph to Twitter there is one connection option whose relevance has borne witness to every one of the others: in-person contact. Let’s remember John Naisbitt’s prophesy from his 1982 book, Megatrends: “The more high tech we have, the more high touch we will want.”

Write this on a rock … As the original social media, face-to-face will always be relevant.

Video: Disregard the “Nu-uh!”€ Effect at your own peril

In this week's video I explain how User Generated Content can produce a "Nu-uh!" effect against your small business.

Disregard the “Nu-uh!”€ Effect at your own peril from Jim Blasingame on Vimeo.

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!

Take this week’s poll HERE!

Watch Jim’s videos HERE!

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!




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