Can marketing and social media coexist?

I posted this as a comment on a LinkedIn discussion forum in the group “Marketing Your Printing Company.”  I’ve pretty much thought of this as my approach since I started down the social media trail.  It’s kinda nice to have it down a paper though.

I think we need to look at the entire process of a sale. The old adage is you need seven impressions on a prospect to make a sale. When I was a headhunter I tracked the numbers and found this more or less accurate.

With social media however – what constitutes an impression? We know back in the “dark ages,” an impression was a phone call or personal letter. With the advent of the internet, emails were also thrown into the mix. But does an email carry the same weight a letter? Probably not. And for that matter, does a word processed letter carry the same weight as one hand addressed? Again, probably not.

Facebook, Twitter ... oh my, what's best!

When we bring social media into the equation, we have to also look at the weight factor. If you’re receiving the same tweet as 400 or even 4000 other people – what’s that worth. Minimal at best. If the tweet includes a @yourname, then it’s worth more. And if the tweet gets your prospect or customer to go to your site or blog (and hopefully stay there for a few minutes), it could be worth as much as a phone conversation. Social media is just another avenue to make impressions. And after enough quality impressions, the goal of gaining or retaining business … should be realized. But quality isn’t about tweeting to the universe and expecting magic.

I’m not a big believer in social media as a lead generation tool. But then again I’m not a big believer in any campaign that doesn’t start with a targeted prospect that you know at least some information on. But with social media, you can gather information on your prospect. For example by using Twitter, you can find out an awful lot about someone. From their tweets you can see what they’re interested in, and if they blog – you find out what they’re passionate about. I’d be hard pressed to find a better avenue into someone’s head than this. But you must have the patience and desire to use this information constructively.

My social media methodology is not to generate random leads, but to build relationships and credibility with people I enjoy spending time with. Through my blogs, comments, tweets and other content I put out there – I hope to come across as someone who people will entrust their business with. That’s assuming what I was offering was pertinent, and that’s assuming I was offering something at all. Most importantly, I hope I would attract the type of people I share interests with and who I want to do business with.

Now my business is different from most. I would suppose the more unique the company is, the more applicable my methodology would be. Heck, I’ve been working on an “elevator speech” for four years trying to succinctly describe what I do – but still to no avail.

Regardless – as in any marketing effort, results from social media marketing take time. It’s no short cut – no matter what the “gurus” profess. Whatever the road you take to your company on, it’s going to take work and persistence. It’s kind of like Thomas Edison said, “Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”

All this bring’s up a bigger question. What is the purpose of social media? Is the purpose of a blog different from that of Twitter or even Facebook? Much attention is made of the financial implications of marketing “socially.” But is that really why we do it? Is marketing the reason why we stay up way later than we should, and wake up saying good morning to our Facebook friends and Twitter followers before even our family, just down the hall.

I’m willing to think … probably not.

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If you like what you read … please Tweet and follow me on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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Would you follow your own firm’s social media site?

Currently, the next  “great thing” – is marketing your business on Twitter and Facebook.  Being in the direct marketing arena … it’s no different here.  But, I really don’t see a whole lot of benefit for a lot of a these companies that have jumped on the bandwagon … at least how they’re doing it.

Social media ... the Holy Grail?

Social media is really nothing other than another vehicle to communicate with and deliver content.  Now, because of the interactive nature of it … it has enormous potential.  But to realize that potential, companies have to be creative and deliver content that is conducive to interactivity.  Now let’s see what going on and what could go on (at least from my observations).

Current situation:

  1. Basic talk about what the company does and what their services are.  This could be done on a web site since it doesn’t change very often.
  2. Announcement of events / press.  I see companies announce things going on with them and things going on in their communities.  Not bad I suppose.  But most of this content can delivered via print or email assuming they have contact info (which they should if they are followers).  In fact, that would be more effective since a message could be altered to fit the recipient.
  3. Announcements of internal blog posting.  This a good use due to the hot links and the potential to inform your clients and followers of new information and advice that may help them.  Unfortunately, very few printers have blogs and write any original content.  There is great opportunity here to present your firm as the expert.
  4. Referring other relevant industry information.  The key word here is relevant.  This can be a good use of social media.  It can keep a company’s customers and prospects abreast of  “stuff” going on their industry (i.e. trend, tips, etc.).  The problem I see here is that everybody mentions the same articles.  And most of them are about how “print isn’t dying.”  Enough already.

I summary – a couple of the above applications make sense and are probably worth the time and effort of the social media upkeep.  But aside from blog comments, they don’t accommodate any interactivity, thus missing the real potential of social media.

What a company should do:

  1. Don’t push your services.  Unless a service is new, your following probably already knows what you do and what equipment you have.  Save this for the website.
  2. Announce your events, relevant community items and your blog postings.  Social media is a targeted efficient way to show that your firm is alive, from a personal sense.
  3. Create a Twitter or Facebook forum pertaining to the business they do with you.  Best Buy does it and they answer every Tweet.  In the digital printing industry, it could involve a discussion on gathering and  preparing data for 1:1 marketing jobs.  Having your followers interact with each other creates a community … a place that they will come back to – giving your firm more opportunities to stay in front of them.
  4. Create a mini job board.  Again, this could be as easy announcing opportunities your clients have on Twitter and Facebook.  Nothing provides you with more kudos than helping advance somebody’s career or helping your clients with an important employment need.
  5. Create a “Doing good things” forum.  Have your clients post causes near and dear to their heart.  This creates camaraderie amongst your followers and let’s them “take a break” from just work issues.  People do have lives outside of work.

Social media like Twitter and Facebook is not there to boost your short-term ROI.  It’s about building relationships, a community, one that will benefit you in the long run – especially at times when the market is not so great, like now.

Your online community needs to be a place where your followers and clients will go back to again and again.  Be a conduit for help.  The more you give, the stronger your bonds will be.  Look at your community as a “general contractor,” for building your clients and followers businesses.

Also, involved members will help you in your “construction” efforts by getting the word out and referring people your way.  You will be considered the expert – somewhere someone can go to get their printing problems solved … whatever those may be.

Your social media presence is a living, growing organism.  If you feed it with the right food and nurture it … it will give great rewards and satisfaction.  But remember, it takes time and attention – and if you don’t give that, it’ll wither and die.

And most of all ask yourself:  Would you follow your own firm?  If so, you’re on the right track.  Just be patient.  If not … well, you have some work to do.

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I can be reached on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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Why after only one try … we quit?

It seems we live in a world of black or white.  Either we’re all in or not at all.  Most of us treat our marketing and sales like this too.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but this last year I’ve seen a awful lot of customer and loyalty marketing.  For every credit card transaction, I have a loyalty card.  “You’re our customer and we love you.”  Now don’t get me wrong – I’m all into loyalty programs.  Even if most of them are poorly designed and poorly executed.  They’re still an attempt.  Better than nothing.

We also still have the same old ‘throwing up whatever and hope that something sticks’ marketing.  It doesn’t matter if our targets don’t have any idea who we are or have any intention of buying what we have to offer – we’re sure going to get in front of them.  Hey, one in hundred better than, well – I actually don’t know if it’s better than anything.

It has to be one or the other.  Wrong.

A couple of months ago, I went stopped into a printer in Billings, Montana, here where I live, to get a letterhead and business card quote.  They will remain nameless.  Now they have a good reputation, very nice facilities and were pleasant.  I met them in person – not over the phone or online.  I even showed enough interest to ask and receive a plant tour.

A day later I received my quote via email.  I decided not to pursue the job, but they didn’t know that because I never heard from them.  No call.  No further emails.  Nothing.  I can’t believe that business is so good that anyone who doesn’t buy upon first impression is not worthy of doing business with.  But it seems like that.

They say it costs between five ten times more to get business from a new customer than from an existing one.  Does this also apply to a prospect who has made effort to find who you are and ask for quote?  I rather doubt it.

How many companies out there have drawers full of quotes that never turned into live jobs.  What’s being done with them?  Maybe a follow-up call … maybe?  Or if a call is made, is it just a message? On that note – check out my post on leaving a message: : “The Eleventh Commandment.”

Here’s my holiday project for all you:

Take a few minutes away from your driving around town delivering presents and cheer to those valued clients of yours.

Go through that quote drawer, that pile of business cards, that outdated contact list on your iPhone or BlackBerry and find those that made that made the effort to give you a chance, a chance to do business with them.

Give them a little cheer.  Who knows, once 2012 rolls around and everyone pulls their head out of the eggnog bowl … maybe they’ll give you another chance.

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You can find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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Don’t fool yourself … your customers don’t care about you.

Your customers and especially your prospects – don’t care about you. They don’t care about the products you’re selling, and they don’t care about your company. If they did, then they would return your phone calls. They wouldn’t check their phone when you’re talking to them. They’d respond to your direct mail, and they’d get excited about the stuff you’re offering, stuff you know would be good for them.

All the sales advice, all the sales books and whatever other help you find can’t change that. They really don’t care. For the most part, you’re just another added burden – filling their time and mind space with just another agenda item. Your customers want less … not more!

All the sales gurus, sales trainers and sales coaches talk about empathy and relationship selling. But how much is this advice is actually put into action. At the end of the day … you’re probably just selling. You have something to sell and you’re damn sure going to find someone to sell it to.

Unless you’re going to just play the numbers, make enough calls and eventually hope something sticks – it’s only going to get worse. Time and attention is a resource that is rapidly depleting. And every day there’s something new taking their own little piece of it.

Unless you want to be a casualty of this inevitability, you’re going to have to prove to your customers and prospects you truly deserve the they attention they’re willing to give you.

Stress is everywhere

Empathize, really get into their lives. Put down your briefcase, your samples and your sales playbook. That person you’ve targeted is not just a prospect – a way for you to make quota. They’re a person … just like you.  They have families just like you. And those families take priority. They may have a parent that they’re thinking of putting in a nursing home. Their son may have autism. They may be stressing over how they’re going to pay for their daughter’s college. None of these things have any to do with their business or their job – a job they’re trying to subtract from, not add to. In their mind, you are really just another addition – another slice of their time, time they don’t have enough.

Back when I recruited, my candidates had to figure out what effect they had on their last employer. How did they make them money, how did they save them money … and most of all, how did they make their bosses lives easier? Those that focused on the latter, almost always got an offer. All of a sudden the employer looked at the candidate differently. What effect could this person have on their life (personally as well as professionally)? Maybe they would be someone they could depend on so they could see their son play soccer after school – or their daughter’s play. These are things that matter at the end of the day

Print, or whatever you sell, may not make the same impact in a someone’s life that a new employee would – but that doesn’t mean you and your product can’t make an impact. You just have to find that impact. How you can fit into the story in your prospect’s life, and how you can make it a better one?

People don’t buy features, they don’t really even buy ROI. What they buy is what that ROI will do for them and their life, most often their life outside that office they’re sitting in. The best way to learn this is listen. By listening, rather pitching, you’ll find out what’s important to them, and what they’ll react to. I wrote a post a couple of months ago called “The Talking Stick.”  Read it – and you’ll get my point.

It amazes me how telemarketers can be so arrogant. They think that schwag they’re pushing is so important as to call me unsolicited at 9:00 at night. I didn’t give them permission to call me – let alone at the climax of NCIS.

You probably aren’t calling your prospects or even customers at night – but you’re probably calling them when it works for you, not them. How high up on their priority list are you? Probably not as high as you think. Have you taken the time to really get to know who they are and what matters to them? That’s the only way to move up the list.

Have you taken the time to figure out how your “stuff” is going to make your prospect’s life better … not just improve their company’s nebulous ROI, an ROI you may be paying more attention to than they are. In this time of oversaturation of information and choices, businesses that delve into the realities of life and how the personal and professional overlap – will be allowed in their customers lives. Those that don’t will be just another intrusion.

Imagine if one of your suppliers took the time to get to know you … really get to know you. Would you do business with them – would you let that person into your life?

I would guess you would.

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Follow me on Twitter at @clayforsberg 

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Buy local … or not

The chorus to “Buy Local” has become the new “Buy American.” This is especially the case with the corporate shenanigans going on. GE doesn’t pay taxes. The executives of Well Fargo and B of A should be in jail and Wal-mart is getting sued for discrimination by just about every woman who worked there in the last 10 years.  And even those companies, like the beloved Apple – make their computers and iPods in China with Korean parts.

The only way us common folk can fight back is to buy local. And it makes sense. Only 15% of the revenue from a big box store like Wal-mart or Target finds its way into the local economy – while the rest goes to suppliers, stockholders and c-level management to points unknown. Compare that to 45+% that stays in town with a locally owned store. Hard to argue with those numbers. You buy locally and you help your neighbor and probably yourself as well.

Main Street – Red Lodge, Montana

While buying locally may cost a few more cents on the dollar, I would hope that most us would be willing to help out fellow neighbors. And by patronizing local business, in theory you should get better service. After all – your neighbors know you and they can take advantage of that fact.

Technically local businesses should have an unfair advantage. In addition to their knowledge of their customers, they can adjust to local market conditions. In the time it takes for a big box store to even get market intelligence – their local competition is out the gate with a new product line and a promotion to match. Combine that with their superior customer service – any price premium should be discounted.

In theory, this should be the case. But such is not necessarily the way it is.

Recently, I’ve been helping out my parents in Montana. As with most people in their 70’s and 80’s, health-care is a constant issue. And central to elderly health-care is prescription drugs and their relationship with the pharmacy. Such is the case with my parents and their primary pharmacy – which is locally owned.

My parents have been very good customer of Pharmacy One, for twenty plus years. You would think that sort of relationship would warrant at the very least, good service. Rather than go into copious detail, lets just say … the help is rude, seldom is a prescription sent out when promised, and they charge extra to put something in the mail.

Yet this business will be the first to complain about the invasion of the corporate behemoths, Walgreen and CVS. “They can’t compete because of the bulk buying advantage the giants have. The can’t compete against their advertising budgets. No mention is made of the fact that Pharmacy One has been a member of the Billings community for decades, serving generations of customers. Nor is there any mention of the advantage they have because of their key location right on the ground floor of the main hospital in the city.

Their negative attitude is evident with of their employees. It’s as if they’re just waiting for the proverbial “other shoe to fall.” And they act, when that shoes drops, they’ll be waiting in line for a bed at the shelter on Montana Ave. They don’t say it, but it’s almost like it’s a requirement to shop there if you live in Billings. After all,  they’re a local business – and aren’t you supposed to support local business.

Here’s my conundrum . I am adamantly in favor of buying local. Personally I think by bringing the power back to Main Street we can retake our country and our lives from the unscrupulous corporate hacks that have hijacked our futures. This extra flow of money into our communities can go to help our children’s schools, our elderly, and our less fortunate – on top of it, our own wallets.

But all you local businesses – please help me out. I don’t want to spend my money at business only because it’s local. I’m willing to you give the first chance if your local, and I may even give you a second chance if you screw up. But you have to show me you want my business and you care about me. If you don’t already know me – take the time to get to know me. Then call me by my name – and remember what I buy. If you get a deal on something you know I like, let me know and let me share in your savings. Show me you’re part of the community and want to make it better, like the chain stores can’t. Make me part of your extended family – and I’ll do the same and I’ll be loyal. It won’t matter if I have to pay a couple of dollars more – you’re family.

But to justify those couple of dollars, you have to show it and meet me half way. I don’t want a “woe is me” attitude from your employees – or you. I want you to understand that having a business in my community, in my neighborhood – is not a right, it’s a privilege … a privilege that can be taken away by me, and my friends and neighbors. If you’re cool with all this – then you’ll have a great customer. You’ll have great customer that’s loyal and will refer his friends to you.

My conditions may seem a bit harsh, but they have to be. Owning a business isn’t supposed to be easy. But at least you know where I stand and you can act accordingly. Most people just defect and run to the big box stores without any notice. I’m laying my cards on the table.

I wish just being local was enough for me to be a customer “forever after.” But I think giving you the first (and second) chance, and being my default choice is more than fair.

Now the next move is yours.

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If you’re on Twitter please follow me … there’s cool stuff happening over there too @clayforsberg.

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Why I hate Groupon!

January 31, 2013 update: Yesterday LivingSocial, Groupon’s main competitor, announced a 2012 $650 million loss.

This post has brewing inside me for a couple of months now. I think it started when I heard that Groupon had turned down a $6 billion buyout offer from Google. I couldn’t see how these guys could turn down $6 billion. Maybe they had other ideas for company – a grand vision to jump-start humanity and right the world’s wrongs. I doubt it. Were not talking about Twitter or Facebook, here. Groupon is a damn coupon company.

Now here’s why I hate Groupon.

Groupon sucks!

1. Groupon is all about consumption. “We want you to buy and buy now.” It doesn’t make a difference what it is … just get out there and buy it. This model is just so archaic that in a time where conservation and sustainability, not endless consumption, should be in the front of our minds – Groupon is about the just the opposite. There’s even a Groupon Now mobile app to reminds us we’re hungry and bored. Where will it end?

2. Not only is Groupon about consumption, they don’t care what they fling at you. They are non-discriminatory carnival barkers. In a world of the Long Tail and focused marketing, where we expect not to be bombarded but by irrelevant advertising – Groupon’s all about it. I’m fifty-two years old and I don’t want to marketed diapers. Been there and done that. My data is flying all over the place – grab some of it and tell me about things that might matter to me. I have to manage enough information as it is … don’t spam me.

3. Groupon is a one night stand for businesses. Now I know I shouldn’t feel sorry for the lemmings out there masquerading as business owners – but I kind of do. How can you not be mesmerized by the all attention and media fawning Groupon’s been getting. “If I don’t jump on I’ll miss the a chance to be part of the “second coming.” If a merchant is lucky, a Groupon promotion will bring in a surge of traffic. The business better be ready to handle this influx. If they’re not, not only will they not get repeat business – they’ll get negative word of mouth.

And speaking of repeat business. Will all these new customers want to come back if they’re not getting 50% off? Hard to say. And what sort of future communication will there be with these customers. If the merchant doesn’t a have a follow-up loyalty program in place, there won’t be any. Groupon doesn’t offer one. Maybe these are a couple of reasons, according to several independent reports – as much as 40% of businesses that use Groupon once, don’t use it again. I’m sure there’s conflicting reports otherwise, depending on who you talked to – but having it even surface as much as it has, raises concerns.

4. And finally, the last reason (at least for the purpose of this piece) really isn’t Groupon’s fault, but I have to say it anyway. I’m so over hearing about next “great thing,” “the killer app,” and company that will change our lives once and for all and lead us into enlightenment. Why isn’t it that we can’t all just like, well … what we each want to like. Why is it that we have to always be alerted of the next “crusade to the cliff.” I haven’t grown a tail and a pointy nose and my eyesight’s fine (at least with my glasses). Groupon is a coupon company. It may wear a pretty dress  and a nice pair of shoes … but it’s still a coupon company.

If I could click my heals and wake up in my “Perfect World” … it world be a world where we reward giving, not consuming … and the businesses I patronize understand that. It would be where we could enjoy our journey with less, not more … where conservation and conversation are the priority, not an afterthought.

I love Twitter and what it’s meant to the world and specifically to me. I’m not a big fan of Facebook – but I can’t help but give it kudos for being part solution to the healing of some of the earth’s ills. And it’s bad enough we have Foursquare. But at least I can see some potential in it. But Groupon.

Oh, gotta go, just got an offer for half off on a tanning session. Wonder how much time I have left?

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A successful blog post is when the comment flow provides more insight than the post itself. Please comment and add to the flow.

If you like this post please feel free to Tweet away. I can be found on Twitter at @clayforsberg.

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Update:  March 23, 2011 (5:00 pm)

It seems since I wrote this post – there’s been a lot of Groupon news. It’s not good. Seems like I’m not the only one that feels as I do. According to TechCrunch Groupon’s revenue in February 2011 fell 30% to $62 million And if that wasn’t enough, their President and COO,. Rob Solomon, has decided to part ways with the company. Hmmm!

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“Raise Your Glass” What we can all learn from PINK

Even if you don’t like what’s going on with contemporary music these days … read this anyway!

Sunday night, I watched the American Music Awards on television.  I’ve been waiting for this for several day now, if for no reason than see Pink perform may current favorite song .  Little did I know it would be the topic of this article.  I figured the performance would be good, but it was something that transcended music for me … it clarified how I want to do business.  Here’s what I learned – or as Pink says, “the dealio.

Start with a great product. Pink’s song ‘Raise Your Glass,’ is a great song.  In a year of memorable music, it may be the toast of the group.  It’s catchy and it has uplifting fun lyrics.  And it gets you up and moving.  While your business may not have your clients “dancing in the streets,” what you offer them sure should make them happy, and remember you for what you provided.

Adapt but stay true to yourself. For those of you not familiar with Pink, let me summarize.  She’s an edgy, scowling, rock and roll diva known for her unpredictable, ‘over the top stage antics.’  Heck, in the last Grammys she entered flying over the crowd, singing upside down on a trapeze. Sunday night, due to her present physical condition, there was no trapeze.  Pink is pregnant.  But that didn’t stop her from being Pink.  On the most elaborate stage set of the night, Pink was all over the stage dancing and rocking out, ebit in flats rather than the normal stiletto heels.  But she was still Pink.

The printing is in a major state of upheaval.  Its members are all over the place searching for ways to stay relevant in the changing communications environment.  Whether its web to print, social media, variable data printing or QR codes, printing companies are desperately looking for any way to engage and retain its customer base.  While change is definitely needed, too many of us have lost our way and forgotten that first and foremost we are communication delivery providers.  If we concern ourselves with making sure our clients get out the right message, at the right time, using the right medium to THEIR clients  … we’ll be all right.

Share the spotlight and trust your team. Pink’s performance was more like a circus than anything and she was the ringmaster.  The stage was full of activity – all the time.  There were dancers everywhere, seeming to all be creating their own routines on the fly.  There were flips, trampolines and jumps.  There was even skate boarders on ramps flying in back of, in front of, and all around her.  A good portion of time the time the cameras weren’t even on Pink as she sang. While the whole extravaganza seemed a random hodgepodge of frenzied activity, it was all carefully choreographed .  As she moved throughout  the song, she joined in with whoever she was around, supporting them.  She was the backbone … but her team was the rest.  Pink was the one that connected all the dots.

Running a company in this environment is a not unlike this.  We need to orchestrate the whole process and keep everybody together on the central task … but at the same time, let them do their thing, using their expertise.  After all, aren’t our companies are really nothing other than the people we have in them.

Leave a lasting impression. Overall the awards were relatively boring.  Aside from Pink, I really won’t remember much it after a few days.  I’m sure that most people in the audience at the Nokia Center probably feels the same.  But it wasn’t enough just for Pink to put on the best performance of the night.  Her song ended with streamers, balloons and glitter falling from the ceiling … glitter a lot of the celebrities will be pulling out of their hair well after they’ve left.

While I don’t endorse treating your clients like they’re at a birthday party for six-year olds, you still  have to leave them when an impression they will remember.  That last few minutes of a sales call, a job delivery or even a phone call is what will stick with them.  Make it count.

And finally, have fun. At one point in ‘Raise Your Glass,’ Pink sings “don’t be serious.”  And she does it with a smile and a giggle.  And as she struts off the stage, she rubbed her pregnant belly.  She wasn’t trying to mask her emotions to maintain her edgy reputation.   She was having fun, and you knew.  And the fun was contagious.

It’s easy to get all caught in the gloom and doom of what we hear and see in our industry everyday.  We read about firms closing every week.  None of us are immune from this news.  But how we react to it is up to us.  You don’t have to show you be on the bandwagon to bankruptcy.  Be a leader.  Be the than one that your clients want be around, the one that they want to associate with … the one they want to do business with.

“Raise Your Glass!”

You have to check out Pink’s performance on the AMAs.

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Also check me out on Twitter at @clayforsberg.

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