Out the Office, Into the World

As business development professionals in the digital age, it’s easy to get wrapped up in emails, social media, inbound marketing, analytics, and so on. And those things are important. They provide compelling, approachable ways to relate to your target audiences, they allow you to research potential leads, and they help you measure the effectiveness of online tactics.

But, when all your time is spent behind a screen, it’s easy to miss out on an equally big (if not bigger) opportunity: personal interaction.

I think the Asia-Pacific Incentives & Meetings Expo sums it up well on its blog post, Time spent out of the office is the most productive thing you’ll do. 

“An entire day in the office provides the opportunity to sit and plug away at the computer, answering emails. This can make us feel quite efficient but are we really considering the bigger picture or just getting ‘stuck’ in the details?

 

This industry is one where we can all agree face-to-face interaction is king. It is crucial to nurture and develop existing relationships and to establish new ones. We also need to be sure we are across new trends and technology to ensure our business is relevant. If we spent all of our time in the office we would miss these opportunities, and this would have an impact on business development and innovation. Therefore I would argue the time spent out of the office is the most productive thing you can do and is the vital element to ensure we’re a step ahead of the competition.”

Does this mean that we are constantly making “cold” visits to potential clients and dropping in on current ones? No, although that might be a valuable part of your strategy. Sometimes it’s important just to be present in your community, in a casual, hands-off kind of way. To go to a coffee shop or a bar frequented by people who are active in the community and who like to talk about important upcoming developments. People who know about things that you might want to also know about. It is here that we’ll really get the inside scoop about what is going on around us that could benefit our business.

Developing real friendships and interacting with the living, breathing people that make up your community is at least half the battle. So get out from behind your desk – find something mobile you can bring with you to work on – and get out there!

Eye of the Storm: Sales Reps vs. Grumpy Customer

Today was horrible. I was having a personal emergency and trying desperately to balance work deadlines at the same time.

I won’t bore you with the details, but it was one of those everything-is-going-wrong, my-life-is-ruined, the-whole-world-is-against-me kind of days where your head is throbbing and your heart is racing and you just feel like you’re going to implode.

Those days happen to all of us every now and then. And even on those days, we will have to deal with solicitors, advertisers, and sales reps trying to gain our business and talking our ear off as if nothing in the world were more important to us than what they had to say, OR maybe they are taking their sweet time to respond to an email or phone call that seems like it could break your career if not handled in a timely manner.

These are the days where good customer service really matters. And I know that, for sales people, these are the days when it’s the hardest to be polite to a grumpy, hurried person over the phone or email. Sadly, today, I was this horrible person to deal with. I was short wiImageth the sales reps I spoke to, and with the marketers that called me during the very busy day.

Two interactions, though, really stood out to me. The first, with a lady from a bureaucratic institution that I called to help me resolve a personal matter. Though I tried to stay polite and calm in my state of emergency, she was immediately short with me, interrupted me often, and was quite rude. I’m sure I was cursing her in my head as soon as she started talking. My mood spiraled and if it was possible to become a tougher customer than I already was, then I did.

On the other hand, I had an urgent need to learn more about some promotional items for work. I emailed the sales rep I had talked to more than two months prior. He got back to me quickly, answered all my questions, and then followed up with a phone call. He waited by his phone as I continued to call back with more questions. Even though I was under intense pressure, I felt immediately grateful to him. I recognized that he deals with customers all the time that are probably just as picky and difficult as I was. Yet here he was, treating me as if I was his only customer. I was confident that he would handle my needs.

I hadn’t felt that way toward anyone all day.

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For a very brief few minutes, I felt as if everything was going to be OK. I was in the eye of the storm. And that moment of calm allowed me to regain my sanity and take on the rest of the day confidently.

Lesson to marketers (including myself): Because of that moment, I am about 90% morelikely to use that company in the future. And I will likely call that sales rep directly every time.

Today, the difficult, grumpy customer was me. Tomorrow, I could easily be the marketer on the other end of the phone, stuck talking to an unhappy and annoyed potential client. I hope I handle it as well as this guy did.

Have you ever talked to – or been – a disgruntled customer? How did you handle it, and what would you do differently?

9 ways to stay focused in an ADD industry

While I once prided myself on my ability to multitask, I realize now that the “art” of multitasking is an exhilarating whirlwind (Nerd Alert: I actually love being busy – with work I enjoy, anyway) that can quickly sweep up and spit out its victims, leaving them stuck in a tree, jostled, fractured, staring down at a pile of debris and wondering where on Earth to start.

The fact is, in the communications industry, things happen very quickly. There are a lot of Imageprojects going on at once, and, just because YOU plan to devote time to ONE project, it doesn’t mean the people you need to talk to about it will be available that time, or that you won’t get an urgent phone call that interrupts your whole day.

**I’d also like to point out that a lot of us marketing/advertising/writing folks are creative thinkers, and often roll from one great idea to the next before we have time to write them down, and so they are lost and gone forever – or that spreadsheet you were working on when you abandoned it to develop your big, awesome idea – is forgotten about and neglected until you accidentally stumble upon it in your project folder six months later…whoops! Some people call it ADD. I call it super-thinking.**

My point is, I’ve learned that it is crucial to have a strong organization system so that you don’t let things fall between the cracks in your day, week, month, and year. So when your boss (or your client, depending on your work situation) asks you about what time the trade show three months from now starts or when the newsletter is supposed to go out or what the status of a report is, you can answer quickly and definitely, rather than sitting there with the deer-in-headlights stare, filing through all the volumes of information you keep in your head, jumbling the facts, getting frustrated, and appearing unprofessional.

Here are a few unconventional and traditional that I use to stay on top of things:

1. Get a synchronized mobile calendar – and USE it. Most professionals I know have smartphones and computers that use iCal or Gmail or Outlook calendars – which automatically sync up together when you add a new event – but seldom actually take advantage of these features. When you schedule a meeting with someone, put it on your calendar. Invite anyone else who needs to know about it. When you schedule a doctor’s appointment, instead of just taking an appointment reminder card, add it to your mobile calendar. It’s all done with the click of a button, and it’s so easy. Just do it. It will save you tons of worry, headaches, and missed appointments down the line.

2. Print out a six month calendar. Sometimes it’s just easier to see things from a broader perspective. In addition to keeping a tight digital calendar, I keep a six month calendar of only big events, such as our trade show dates, awards entry dates and other important deadlines. I downloaded a blank calendar from the Internet and printed it in landscape mode on legal size paper. That maximizes my viewing so I can now see that two of our biggest events are just four small weeks away, and I don’t get blindsided by big events I’d forgotten about.

3. Use a physical filing system. I prefer a tiered wire manila folder holder so I can see all by big project folders at once, and I have 3-ring binders for those big, hairy projects with lots of sections and subfolders. Everything is within quick reach and organized alphabeticaly for easy access. **This came in particularly handy one night when my boss texted me, urgently asking where he could find the RFP we had received a few days earlier via fax. I did not get his message, so that might have created a small crisis for him – but luckily, by just walking over to my desk and looking at my file organizer, he quickly found the one labeled “RFPs” and found what he was looking for. Crisis averted.

4. Use a digital filing system. Outlook, gmail, and Apple mail all have decent systems for subfolders. I recommend using as many top-level subfolders as possible. No one wants to hunt through 50 subfolders to find where to put one email, but it’s easy to drag it over to one area and drop it. Also, creating and USING folders and subfolders within your computer’s document storage can help you easily find what you’re looking for, which helps when you’re crunched for time – which, let’s face it, is often the case in this industry.

5. Post it. Facebook consumes so much of our lives because it’s a constant stream of information. Often, on my newsfeed, I’ll see an update that reads something like “So-and-so read this article about such-and-such.” So I click on the article and decide I should read it too, but I don’t have time right now. So what do I do? I “share” the post with myself, via direct message or even on my wall under the “Only Me” privacy setting, and come back to it later.

6. Post-it post it. Although technology has taken us strides in information gathering and Imagemanagement, nothing will ever be as effective for me as a good old-fashioned post-it note. Prioritizing my top 5 or 10 action items on a sticky note and slapping it to my desk puts the laundry list right in my face, every day, in person, and I cross off the items as I accomplish them. So that 15 minutes at the beginning of every work day wondering, “Where should I start?” is no longer necessary. It’s all written right there in front of you. And if you have an awesome, creative idea in the middle of another project, scribble it on a sticky, slap it to your computer monitor, and come back to it later. Twenty minutes later or 4 days later – it will still be there until you can follow up with that thought.

7. Take a picture. The other day, I was at a stop light next to a commercial truck that read “Junkman” for a junk collecting service. I happen to have some old broken household items I’ve been looking to get rid of, and I didn’t have time to write down the website, so I snapped a photo with my smartphone. Now, I have the phone number, website, and company name that was on the side of the truck saved on my phone. This works for marketing materials you see while you’re out on the town that you want to remember for inspiration at work, or any other kind of information you want to remember.

8. Project management software. If you are working with a group, staying up to date with what everyone is doing helps projects move forward and tasks get accomplished. There are lots of options available – most have a free trial option – to set up your team on a system where they can communicate their progress with each other and even delegate new tasks. Check out Podio, Zoho, and Basecamp.

9. Client/sales management software. When you meet someone relevant to your business, it helps to have a place to record their information and schedule to follow up with them. I use Salesforce, and I love it! When you talk to someone who is a potential lead, you can record notes on the conversation you had with them, add their contact information, and even store emails you’ve sent back and forth – all in their online file. Salesforce also allows you to set up follow-up reminders, so when a contact asks you to call them back in two months, you have a reminder set up and can easily go in and see exactly what that last conversation was like, so you can pick up where you left off.

As you can see, all these items revolve around one common rule: write everything down. Moreover, write it down where it is easily accessible, where you can see it, where you can find it quickly.

I hope these tips help you be more organized and effective. And please, if you have any tips for me on how to improve my systems, let me know! I’m always looking for ways to be more efficient.

What organizational tools do you prefer? 

Client-based marketing: What’s in it for them?

Sometimes we all get stuck in a creative rut. With the small stresses each new day brings, it’s easy to get wrapped up in tasks and forget why we’re doing what we’re doing. That’s why every now and then, I like to refer to the “old greats” for inspiration.

stress-management-technique

Lately I’ve been revisiting How to Win Friends and Influence People, and one principle that’s really struck a chord with me  is “Arouse in the other person an eager want.”

Hmm. That’s obviously what most marketers are aiming to do when they reach out to clients or prospects, but how many of us are actually achieving that goal?

As you may know, in January I started working as Director of Communications at an architecture firm.  I recently received an e-newletter from a vendor that went something like this:

<Vendor Name>

Check out our website!

Hello!

We have an updated website!

Our workers are very experienced and take great pride in their work. We will be happy to give you a free estimate, so feel free to call us at <phone number> to schedule a time for us to bid.

<Pricing list>

We provide our customers with innovative materials…we offer quality installations…We are committed to enhancing your ability to achieve the goal of your building project through our desire to excel…

We would love for you to stop by our showroom. <Address and hours>

Sincerely,

<Respresentative>

My first reaction was to delete this email. They were asking me to visit their website, but why would I want to take the time to do that? I am too busy trying to figure out how to drive people to my own company’s website! And what will they have to offer that others don’t?megaphone

Lots of people say they have high quality products and good customer service. These things just look like empty brags.

Finally, in the last paragraph, they mention my needs, the “ability to achieve the goal of your building project” but even that is vague and they start right back into talking about their own desires for us to come visit their showroom.

So I started thinking, what does our newsletter look like? What do our proposals communicate? What messages are we sending our clients? While I am glad to say I think our messaging focuses on answering concerns of the client, I was able to think of ways that we could be even more client-centered.

Take a step back and look at your marketing message – your e-newsletter, your flyer, your website. What message are you sending? Is it focused on your company’s desires, or your clients’ needs?

After all, as humans, we are all focused on our own needs. No one is going to use my services or go to my website just because I tell them that I want them to. What value am I really offering? How can my business make things easier or more efficient or higher quality for them?

In an effort to keep this question at the front of my mind, I printed off this label and stuck it to the top of my work laptop (sorry boss!) ;)

Have a great weekend everybody!

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Superfriends and Business: The Beauty of Influencers and Strategic Partnerships

In almost every big, successful campaign I’ve worked on, there was one thing in common – strategic partnerships. The client had a message to get out, but did not try to go it alone.

wordofmouthThe thing is, people are bombarded with information and advertisements   almost everywhere they turn – commercials on the radio, billboards on the streets, TV ads, flyers, Google ads, Facebook promotions, banner ads, and more! Chances are, if you’re a small business with a message to get out, it’s going to be pretty hard to break through that noise – unless you’ve got a million-dollar budget to hire the Biebs to sing at your new store opening, or whatever it is you’ve got going on.

Well, where do we get our most trusted and valuable information? Word of mouth. So let’s think of people we know who are loud, and give them something to talk about. I should note, when I say “loud,” I don’t mean obnoxious or speaking at a high volume. I am referring to the influencers of society – the people with large networks who trust them and wait for their next recommendation (kind of like Oprah’s Favorite Things…what I wouldn’t give to have gone to one of those shows!)

Find someone who is loud, who cares about your message. Make them an ambassador of your brand, of your message. Help them help you. And then do it again. And again. And again. Maybe the loud friend in this case is not a single person, but another business, or five other businesses.

Check out the Fiskar’s story from Brains on Fire for my favorite case study of brand ambassadors, but here’s another example: If you are a frozen yogurt shop and you’re rolling out a line of healthy sorbets, why not throw a party? Why not invite health bloggers, and create a competition or event benefitting a cause worth caring about, like children’s diabetes?  Why not invite similar businesses, like gyms, bike stores, athletic

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stores, and others to come out and partake in the fun? Maybe they will all agree to give something away in a raffle. Now, that’s a lot to talk about. It’s a good cause, everybody benefits, and it has the potential to be a lasting movement rather than a one-time campaign. If you’ve created sorbets to help people make healthy

choices, let that be your business mission. Let that be your way of life. It will make your business more than just a business, to both you and your customers.

So, think about it. Who are your “superfriends?” What are the neighboring businesses or groups with which you have a good relationship that you can build on? Who are the customers or friends that talk about your business on social media, or recommend you to others? Who are the bloggers or reporters who are looking for your industry news?

If you look around, I bet you will find you have more ‘superfriends’ than you thought!

Why video marketing rocks

There has been a lot of buzz in the marketing industry about videos – after all, Forrester Research found that videos were 50 times more likely to receive an organic first page ranking than traditional text pages (thanks Social Media Examiner for that stat.) But why? What makes a video effective? How do you get started? 

ImageThe purpose of video marketing is three-fold. Videos allow you to:  

1. Create a personal connection. People want to do business with people they know and trust. Videos create a better sense of familiarity. They can see your body language, your eyes, and hear directly from you about your business. 

2. Be remembered (people are visual.) So give them something interesting to look at. Show them what they’re in for when they do business with you. Better yet – surprise them with something creative and bold. 

3. Elaborate on your message. Videos allow you to creatively accompany your messaging with testimonials, a funny anecdote, a product demonstration, or a more in-depth description of why your service works. You can drive your point home, whereas a traditional print ad has very limited space.

An added benefit is videos can be found (using strategic keywords and SEO) and shared. They can be emailed, posted to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and so on. So why not let your fans help you spread your message? 

Check out these video creation tips from Social Media Examiner to get those ideas stirring. If you’re looking for creative video production in the Tulsa area, let me know! I may be able to help you out.

 

 

Joining the Smirk team: We go together like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong

 Chips and salsa. 
Angelina Jolie and little third-world orphans.
Olivia Newton-John and black leather pants. 
That’s right, I’m the newest member of the Smirk New Media team, and I couldn’t be more excited.
I’ve got a public relations background, and I’ve always felt strongly that PR and social media go hand in hand. After all, with social media, you can not only monitor what others are saying about your industry and brand, but you can speak directly with a group of people who have willingly opted to listen to what your organization has to say, and who can provide value in communication back to you!
Basically, social media is a huge PR opportunity that many businesses do not always have the time or know-how to get started.

That’s why I love the mission behind Smirk New Media – to help businesses grow relationships with their key audiences online.
I had the opportunity to work with the CEO and chief strategist Mike Koehler in 2009 as an intern at Schnake Turnbo Frank | PR, and since then I’ve jumped into the PR game, specializing in strategic social media for businesses.
The past few years, I’ve gained invaluable experience in social media strategy and management for campaigns, fundraisers, promotions and events, working in many different industries including technology, restaurants, retail, nonprofits and more. I’m thrilled to become a part of what Mike has created in Oklahoma City and to help bring it to Tulsa.
This is the beginning of what I hope will be a beautiful and lasting relationship.
 
**This post was originally created for Smirk New Media. See the original here.**
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