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Go through that quote drawer, that pile of business cards, that outdated contact list on your iPhone or BlackBerry and find those that made that made the effort to give you a chance, a chance to do business with them.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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“The Death of a Salesman,” circa 2011

In 1949, Arthur Miller released his iconic play, “Death of a Salesman.”  The sales landscape of sixty years ago is eerily similar to that of today.  America, and world for that fact, isn’t creating sales jobs like before.  Of course you’ll see ads for them in newspapers and on job boards – but the position is not nearly as prevalent as it once was.

Willy Loman

Why is this and what are the ramifications?

Up to about ten years ago every product and service to be sold by somebody. You had to have either a “face to face” or at least “phone to phone” conversation to make a transaction, a sale.  This isn’t the case anymore.  With the internet you can buy virtually anything online.  You can even buy a house in another country by just going online and making an offer, let alone ordering a book or getting a picture developed and delivered to your house.  And all this happens with no salesman … just bits and bytes.

By cutting out the salesman, companies can hawk their wares cheaper.  In many industries, if you don’t compete online … you don’t compete.  Having a rock bottom price seems to be the basis to doing business these days.  But when your business competes on price, there’s little room for anything else – and that anything else is sales and service.

Anyone can tell you that customer service in 2010 is nothing like it used to be.  It’s not that companies are intentionally instructing their staff to treat their customers like trash. They just don’t have resources to hire the more and better people needed to perform better sales and customer service.  Try going to a big box store like Home Depot or Wal-Mart.  You have a better chance finding Bigfoot on the floor than a salesman.

This preoccupation on price has created a void of sales and customer service expertise.  The middle class used to be filled with salesmen and saleswomen of all types, all striving for the American dream.  Not so much anymore, these jobs just aren’t out there … or at least in the numbers they were.

What does all this mean?  Are we as consumers relegated to an existence of interaction with our computer screen for our fix of consumption?  Maybe not.

As a business person, you can take one of two paths.  You can follow the lemmings to the cliff, as most do.  All it takes is structuring your business around keeping costs low and selling low.  Hopefully enough people will see value in this strategy and you’ll make a “go of it.”

Or in the words of Robert Frost, you can take the road less traveled.  This road might very well revert back the business values of our parents – before the internet.  Now I’m not condoning getting in a time machine and going back to England in 1810 and joining the Luddites.  Technology is wonderful and it has it’s purpose.  But maybe the pendulum can swing back a bit.  Maybe there is a place for the salesman in today’s economy.  In fact, maybe this is actually what can set your firm apart … and make it remarkable in the eyes of your customers.

Ironically, the company most known for its customer service in today’s world is also at the forefront of technology, Apple.  If you go to an Apple Store, you’ll find no shortage of sales reps to help you (the blue shirts).  And no they’re not just customer service reps – they sell.  My daughter spent two years on the floor at an Apple store.  Their sales training is excellent and thorough.  And their service goes beyond just their retail stores.  You can actually talk to a person for tech support on the phone also.  How’s all this working for Apple.  At the penning of this post their stock price was $288, an all time high.

Again, what does all this mean.  In the case of Apple and its products, you pay a premium.  You pay for the service.  You pay for getting sold by a top-notch sales person.  You pay for better design.  You pay for being a member of the Apple tribe.  And all this costs Apple money.  But why can’t your firm do it this way. Is there anything saying you must have rock bottom prices – and with that the lack of the amenities … amenities like sales and service.  Don’t tell me you can do both – because with any consistency you can’t.

But undertaking a strategy of “taking the road less traveled” and providing a premium offering first means starting with a product or service that is worth paying a premium for.  Apple has, so they can build on it.  But building on it means creating an environment of  excellence throughout your firm where nothing else is accepted.  It also means hiring the best, paying them accordingly and making sure they stay.

I can’t tell you how to attack your market using the Apple methodology.  Only you know your market.  And it probably means only part of the market will actually be your market.  But considering the size of the “lemming pack,” your market should be big enough for you to not only survive, but thrive.

Just remember – you probably can’t do it without Willy Loman.  And if you look, he’s still out there looking to sell … and just maybe your customers want to see him.

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If you like this … please Tweet it and follow me on Twitter @clayforsberg

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Brilliant self-promotion … or egotism?

I find this whole personal branding thing that’s hot right now very interesting.  With all the social media and visibility outlets available, i.e. Facebook, LinkedIN, Twitter, etc., one came spend so time branding, that there’s no time for anything else.  It’s not uncommon for twenty-five year old kids to have 500 Facebook friends and 5000 Twitter followers.  And aside from time, this exposure costs them nothing.  Now whether they do anything with it … another story.

Back when I was twenty-five, twenty-five years ago (interesting how that calculated), there wasn’t any social media.  What are you going to get your name out there … put a poster of your mug on a telephone pole on the way to the local party destination?  The best you could hope for is your friends wrote your number down on a piece of paper and hung next to the their home phone on the wall.  Now a wall is a Facebook homepage.

This brings me to the point of this post. The last year, I’ve been delving into the current music scene.  Through Alex, my daughter (age twenty), I’ve received a crash course.

Eminem

One thing I’ve noticed is a lot of the current top performers say their name in their songs; Lady Gaga, Jason Deroa, Soulja Boy, Ludacris and so on.  Now what’s prompting this recent trend.  This never happened back in my day.  In fact I don’t even remember it happening even five years ago.  You had Eminem and his alter-ego Slim Shady.  But that was a character – not so much an exercise in self-promotion.

Alex’s friend, Jason, attributes it to egotism.  Jason, do I sense a bit of jealousy … maybe just a bit.? Maybe he’s right.  There’s been a ton of articles written recently on this age group, Generation Y.  They’re lazy, they feel they’re entitled, etc.  Funny how the authors of these articles are all Baby Boomers, go figure!

Now it brings us to the question … “Brilliant self-promotion or egotism?”

In this day and age, we are bombarded with stimuli.  There’s more information than we know what to do with.  To try to get yourself into line to be heard is … well, enough said.

But there’s another thing I noticed different in the music industry these days – specifically on radio.  Now with the iPod, you know what song is playing, who’s playing it, what album it’s on and in lot of case what the album cover looks like.  Recognition isn’t an issue … or is it?

Take my situation.  I have an iPod, but it’s a Shuffle.  It has no screen, only buttons.  I don’t know who’s playing what.  I downloaded songs from my daughter and my memory isn’t quite what was :-(.  But I’m in the vast minority here.  Virtually nobody has the iPod Shuffle, just me.

But here’s the kicker, back to the radio. I listen to the radio … and whole lot of other people do too.  This is where we are exposed to music that we will ultimately buy and put on our computers and iPods.  These days they don’t tell you who playing the song anymore! I can’t count the number of time I’ve called a radio station to find out who played a song I liked that I heard.

Maybe Lady Gaga, Ludacris and a lot of the other mega-stars realized this too?  If they don’t promote their brand in their product … who’s going to know it’s them (especially in the early stages of their careers)?

Brilliant self-promotion … or egotism?  I’d say the former.

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If you like this … please Tweet it and follow me on Twitter @clayforsberg

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Why are we doing it … social media that is?

It wasn’t till about five months ago I really stated getting into social media.  Up to that point I had a Facebook account but there was nothing in it, not even a photo of myself.  I had a Twitter account but I really didn’t what it was for and I was scared to tweet.  I didn’t even what LinkedIN was.

I had a blog … and had written a few posts over the previous year, but my efforts were so inconsistent and posting sporadic that I really couldn’t be considered a blogger.  Getting out a post was like “giving birth” for me (if I can imagine, being a male, what that’s like).

But then in March of this year I decided, “I’m going to get on this social media bandwagon.”  “I’m going to grow fur – and like the rest of the lemmings, trudge to to the cliff … and jump.

I spent countless hours on the internet researching – researching every social media media site imaginable.  I researched SEO;  of course if I’m going to do this then people better sure as hell see what I’m doing and listen to what I’m saying.  Views, subscribers, trackbacks – give me all of them!  I read about how to write a headline that Google will read, that people will read, on … and so on.

Facebook logo

After about two months of research, I had digested about enough “social media calories,” I could have weighed 300 pounds (vs. my current 160).  I was knowledgable and had my strategy.  Twitter was going to be my hub.  My blog, “On the road to your Perfect World,” and company web site for the bleedingEDGE were going to tangent off of my Twitter page.  LinkedIN and Facebook would be synced to Twitter so my tweets were also visible on those two vehicles.  I was on it and ready to go.

One thing I hadn’t done however, was ask the question why.  Why had I done this.  Why was I going to spend two hours a day writing content and obsessing over how people hit my plethora of exposure sites?

Well my company, the bleedingEDGE, was just launching.  Visibility would be a good thing, but visible to who and for what purpose.  My market is essentially a select group of digital printers who can produce and go out and sell my database marketing products to their clients.  I know who they are and I can pick up the phone and call them.  If they need information – I can send it to them or direct them to my website.

Well if not visibility, then maybe I was out after credibility.  If my business targets say knew that I knew the problems, had the solutions and could articulate them … then this would work to my benefit.  Problem being, the vast majority of my posts (either on Twitter or in my blog) were and continue to have nothing to do with the bleedingEDGE or database marketing.  My most read post compares Lady Gaga and heroes of Normandy Beach.  What’s that got to do with anything!

I supposed that if one of my prospective business partners reads my stuff and that creates a common bond … then that’s good.  If some of our interests and beliefs coincide then that should make the partnership stronger and more likely to last.

There’s always the possibility of meeting somebody and developing a collaboration on something completely unrelated to the bleedingEDGE.  This actually is a bona-fide reason.

But you knows something, when it all comes down to it … I like doing it.  I like writing.  I like developing contacts and having them become more than that.  I like the ability to delve into realms of others’ lives via Twitter, others that I would not know existed, let alone look forward to what they have to say in the morning.

We can all say we have noble, professional reasons for acting like “social media lemmings,” but isn’t it really because we like doing it.

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If you like this … please Tweet it and follow me on Twitter @clayforsberg

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The phone vs. email vs. Facebook vs. Twitter, etc – what would it be?

Imagine if you were only allowed to put one point of contact, one means of getting in touch with you, on your business card (your one card).  What would that be.

I’m currently designing a new card for myself that will be my only one – encompassing my “whole being.”  I’m into simplicity … especially when it comes to “how to get hold” of somebody.  I must have eight to points of contact in my “bag of communications clutter.”  Now I’ll put more than just one … but this will be an interesting exercise anyway.  So let’s get on with it.

Is this your best option?

Now, let’s lay down the considerations.

1.  Who is the target market?

2.  And what am I going to say to these people?

Now let’s look at the options.

1.  Phone number: Not too long ago, this one would have been a slam dunk.  But today, probably not.  First, nobody wants to call anybody anymore.  Everybody has a phone, so access is universal, but nobody will call you back so what good is it.  One wildcard here though, is the texting option.  Especially with younger generations, texting is the preferred method of communication … go figure.

2.  Mail / address: I had to put this one in here just for a laugh.  If had to wait for somebody to send me a letter … well, enough said.

3.  Email: Gosh I remember just last year at this time, virtually everybody I dealt with, businesswise, wanted to be contacted via email.  “Send me an email,”  “But were on the phone right now so why don’t we talk about.”  “No I want a hard copy.” WHATEVER.  Email is good but it’s not a substitute for the back forth you can get on the phone.  It’s kind of like a cross between the phone and mail.  Has it’s place.  Possibility.

4.  Facebook: Now this an interesting one.  It’s now universal, but it seems like it’s almost getting there.  Half a billion people are on it.  By logging into Facebook you can more or less access other online vehicles you may own.  You can have your Twitter feed into it.  You can put your phone number on it.  There’s a place for your website URL.  I don’t like Facebook, though.  It’s too, well, it’s just too social.  It is the epitome of social media.  I don’t know if I’m into that though.  I don’t think I want that persona prefacing my business dealings.  I know Facebook is the “be all and end all” for business these days.  I think I’ll let the bandwagon go by for the time being.

5.  Twitter: Now if I would have written this a month ago, I don’t even know if I would have mentioned this.  Wow, have things changed in thirty days.  Now what is Twitter?  It’s really just a repository of text messages.  But it also is a database.  It’s a database of your contacts, your ideas, their ideas, their contacts, their contacts ideas and so on.  It’s also can be central hub for all your other conduits of exposure.  A tweet can reference your blog, your web site of even your phone number if you want it to.  Problem though … it’s not universal.  While there’s lot of people on it – not everybody is.  Here’s where the considerations come into play.  You can craft a message, a persona, better on Twitter than anywhere else (referral points included).  The question is who do you want to talk to.

6.  Miscellaneous social media: I belong to various other social media and networking sites.  Fox example, LinkedIN.  I love LinkedIn, but I just don’t think it needs to be on my business card.  Brazen Careerist, good site (more for the younger sect – but good energy), but again, not on my card.  Etc.

Now I’m not only going put one contact point on my card.  Until we all get telepathic chips put in our heads (that can also transfer files) there is no one best vehicle for communication.  They all have their place.

Everybody will have a slightly different take on their “considerations” I mentioned at the top of this rambling discourse.  After much pondering, at times in the Rodin position, this is what I’m going to do and why.

1.  Phone number: I like the phone.  It’s my card.  Enough said.

2.  Email: Not everybody is into social media but still is electronic.  Plus I need to transfer and receive files.

3.  Twitter: Twitter is my hub for all things I want to put out to the world, and you can get to the rest of my stuff through it.  It’s the conduit for my ideas, my rants and my ravings.  Plus it’s turning me on to some really interesting people and thoughts I would never have known existed.  This is my social media outlet.  If you’re not on Twitter … than get on it.  It’s not just about what somebody had for breakfast this morning.  Sorry Facebook and the rest of you.  One SM access point is enough.

But then again I suppose if we list everything – every conceivable way to get hold us.  Then we’d cover all the bases.  We’d just never knock anyone in.

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If you like this … please Tweet it and follow me on Twitter @clayforsberg

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Are you talking Swahili to a Frenchman?

Updated July 5, 2013: This post was written three years ago, but it seems especially appropriate right now. In the last few days we’ve seen the successful coup by the military in Egypt. The military with the help and overwhelming support of the youth, the Millennials – ousted former Egyptian President Morsi in non-violently, in only a few days. What I find interesting is way the two apparently disparate groups (the military and the youth) communicated. It was via social media. The military posted their position and intentions on their Facebook. In other words, they communicated with their allies in their language (medium).

The famous quote by Marshall McLuhan seems especially appropriate at this time: “The medium is the message.” This is something our American President Obama should take a lesson from. Standing behind a podium on network television will not endear nor communicate with the younger generations … the social media generations.

That sounds absurd, right.  Who would try to communicate to a Frenchman in Swahili?  Actually a lot of us do the equivalent of that – a lot of the time.

Communication is essentially “getting a message through to somebody,” with, in many cases getting them to act (i.e. take out the garbage, buy my product, etc.).

I don’t understand Swahili?

Communication can be broken down into four components:

  • Language: This is self-explanatory.  If someone doesn’t linguistically understand what you’re saying … what’s the point in saying it in the first case.
  • Content: A little more tricky and the fundamental issue in marketing.  Would you market diapers to a twenty something single guy?  It actually happens all time with mass media.  The key is to get the right message to right person.  Data base marketing can be the solution to this issue.  Grab the data and structure a message to reflect the characteristics of the recipient.  You market a crib to someone who has a kid on the way.  Presentation is also crucial (when dealing with the sight sense).  For example, the graphics have to correspond to the target.  A message targeted to a twenty year old has to look radically different from one directed to an AARP member.
  • Timing: Do you market Valentine”s Day cards in July … of course not.  But what you do do is get out a message to trade show attendee concerning the product or service they looked at, and getting it out the next day.  Or if you are a hardware store – you should know, for example, your plumbing clients, so you can notify them when you get a good deal on PVC pipe so you can pass it through to them.
  • Delivery mechanism: This is easily the most overlooked of the four.  If you send out a piece mail to someone and you nailed the above three components, your in, right.  WRONG!  If you”re twenty years old, you may not even check your mail every four days.  So much for timing.  Hell, I can’t even get my daughter on the phone … a text or a Tweet, she’s on it – and on it right now.

I read a blog last year, I wish I could still find it – but let me try to paraphrase the message.  This web page designer, excited about his newest project, forwarded the link, via email, to his sixteen year old son to look at.  After two days, he asked him what he thought of latest creation.  His son hadn’t looked at it.  He didn’t even know about it. “Dad, I don’t check my email, if you want to get hold of me … text me.”

Enough said … Swahili is still not the universal language.

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