Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

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.

Image

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!

BlogPhoto

Can’t buy me love: Twitter adding services and PR ethics

It seems like every time I get on Twitter, I am bombarded with messages from sketchy “tweeps” inviting me to “gain 5,000 followers immediately!” by signing up for their services. I usually brush them off as spam, assuming such a service will give me some sort of horrible virus that will cause me weeks of headaches and a call or two to Geek Rescue.

Besides, even if the companies aren’t truly spam, I thought, isn’t buying followers still unethical? Social media is about engaging with real people, forming mutually beneficial relationships, and letting your connections grow organically through valuable conversation.

A few weeks ago, a client asked me to sign him up for one of these services.

His goal was not to immediately grow real, valuable followers, but to:
A) Appear more established at the first glance of a new potential follower – making them more likely to follow him, thus gaining more real, valuable followers, and

B) Increase the limit of friends Twitter allowed him to have so that he could add more real, valuable friends without being penalized – and hopefully, many of them would follow him back as well.

These seemed like reasonable expectations to me, so, still slightly apprehensive, I agreed. The client and I both felt that, at the very least, it would be a good learning opportunity.

After some research, I found there are basically two ways that these services work:

1. Mass following services (such as http://www.tweetadder.com/) follow a large number of users and let them follow your profile back. After a few days, they go back and automatically unfollow the people who have not followed you back. It has many bells and whistles but I’m fairly certain that Twitter penalizes users of these services.

2. Buying services (such as http://www.buy-followers.org/) that seem to have access to profiles of people who have opted into some sort of program. The cost is much higher per follower, but, supposedly, there are no “bots” involved. Some of

these services claim to bring in quality leads – users who have said they are interested in particular topics (so, hypothetically, if you’re a sales coach, and someone says they are interested in sales or business, you’re more likely to get that person.)

I chose a service like option number two and I have to say – although they turned out not to be “quality leads,” and some of their profiles are a little sketchy, (They might have a male Twitter name like @ChiTownDave and a profile that says “My name is Anna, I’m a nanny in the Dallas/FTW area!”) the client’s goals have been met.

What do you think? Is buying followers unethical PR practice, or a smart step toward reaching out to real, quality connections?

The Paradox of Organic Selling

In business, we are often taught to sell, sell, sell! Promote your product, push your sale until that dollar goes from their wallet to your bank account. While we agree that your eye must always be on the bottom line, this form of selling is not always the best method. Consider social media, events, and casual meetings as organic selling opportunities:

Imagine that you are at a neighborhood block party. Everyone has brought something to contribute to the get together, such as music, a casserole, a lemonade stand or a jump castle for the kiddos. Everyone is milling around, chatting about this or that – maybe the local elementary school’s soccer game yesterday, maybe the construction that’s been going on near the highway, or maybe the newest music video from the pop music icon of the moment.

As they load up their plates with barbecue, two neighbors, Kevin and Pete, discuss the roof damage to their homes during the last storm. This leads to a conversation about how Pete wants to switch his home insurance, and Pete learns that Kevin sells insurance for a living. Kevin thoughtfully gives Pete some tips on buying insurance, but does not try to make a sale. Afterall, at a social event like this, that would be inappropriate. However, he gives Pete his card just in case he needs any help, and they move on to talk about their favorite teams in the Big 12.

Two weeks later, Pete gives Kevin a call to make the switch. Although he does not know much about insurance, Pete feels that he knows Kevin and has a positive, trusting relationship with him already. He views Kevin as an expert on insurance and, possibly more importantly, as a man similar to himself.

Now, while this kind of interaction is fairly common, would you expect it to happen at every block party? Probably not. The point of a block party is not to make a sale – although it’s easy to see that it can happen organically.

Maybe at the next Main Street event, Pete will recommend Kevin to another friend seeking insurance, or to his boss, who is not sure whether he should get renter’s insurance for the new office space.

Word of mouth is the most powerful tool in marketing, and you can’t force it. It must be earned. It must be sincere. It must be organic.

So what can you do? You can reconsider your communication strategies.

1. Find your personality. People don’t do business with companies; they do business with other people.  Don’t be afraid to show that your business has a face and a voice.

2. Focus on relationship-building in conjunction with (or possibly in place of) traditional advertising.

3. Utilize social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, and Google+ to cultivate relationships with people who will be ambassadors of your brand. These platforms are a virtual block party, where your neighbors can be from any number of locations. *Like a block party, the goal of social media is not to sell; it is to connect. Our hope is that these connections will lead to sales organically.*

Do you employ these strategies already? What other strategies have worked for you in generating word-of-mouth advertising?

Allison Broyles is the social media specialist at Consumer Pulse Marketing. She graduated from Oklahoma State University with a degree in public relations.
Follow Allison on Twitter at @ABroyles.
This post was originally created for Consumer Pulse Marketing.

You Only Get What You GIVE

“I suspect that many corporations have begun to understand that they have an important role to play in the lives of their communities, and that allocating funds to support local groups helps them discharge that function and also burnish their image.” — David Rockefeller

During the holidays, we are constantly reminded of nonprofit organizations in our communities that need assistance. On a nationwide and global scale, we see big companies such as Pepsi giving good to causes.

Corporate giving is an old idea, but an important one.  Most of us will agree that it is “good” to be charitable, to donate, to do something philanthropic. However, many small businesses fall into the narrow mindset of thinking of giving as parting with their hard earned money for no ROI.

It is important when thinking about corporate giving to remember your end objectives. You may not see a spike in sales, but you could be creating an opportunity to:

  • Get people talking about your company
  • Cultivate prospects and nurture major client relationships
  • Talk about a new product or service

When you’ve decided that corporate giving is right for your business, here are the next steps:

1. Pick a cause you care about. What are your company values? What are your personal values? Pick something about which you can be passionate.

2. Pick something your target market cares about. Get them involved. Working together builds your relationship and makes them feel confident that your company shares their values.

3. Stick with it. Just writing a check is bland and expected. Once you have an organization that aligns with your values and mission and the values of your consumers, be dedicated to that group. Get creative. Run campaigns. Partner with your nonprofit on something. Give repeatedly. Nourish the relationship you have created with that group and let them and the public know you are serious about getting involved.

4. Integrate.  By combining your charitable donations with things like events, corporate sponsorships, employee volunteerism, marketing, advertising, and public relations dollars, your business will get a much bigger bang for its buck.

There are lots of fun, effective, and creative ways small businesses can give back. Helping a cause your customers and employees care about -– and one that is also relevant to your business -– can reap tangible and intangible benefits for your public image, your shareholders, and your community (via e-releases.com.)

This post was originally created for Consumer Pulse Marketing.