6 posts categorized "August 2012"

August 31, 2012

Are You Engaging Your Company's Haters?


Markets are conversations, and these days, they are often led by the crowd. Be it your customers or your employees, they are uniquely empowered to spread the good or bad word about you.  Question is, how closely are you listening?

More than ever, internet users have two things going for them: Transparency and Tools.  They know a lot about you because of Google, their social stream, and all the review sites.  They also have publishing tools to share their experiences their friends.  For any business owner or manager it is imperative that you monitor the conversation about your company. 

If you are tuned in to them, these review sites are actually a service to your business, even when the news is bad.  You can now immediately discover when something is broken in your service chain, because you’ll find the review, tweet or posting on your facebook page wall.                                          

There are several easy ways to monitor social media for the Tom’s and Shane’s your company may upset.  First, be aware of the major review sites that impact your bottom line: Yelp (consumer services, like eateries or retailers), Angie’s List (services, like contracting or auto repair), Trip Advisor (hotels, destinations) and Jobitorial (the top site where employees review their employers.) 

Do these reviews matter?  Does anyone read them?  According to a Harvard research project in 2011, a one star (poor) review for a local or an independent, can lead to a five to nine percent drop in sales initially, and a nagging drag on the bottom line for months.  For users of the popular restaurant booking site OpenTable, the reviews help them avoid bad experiences.  It’s likely a recently posted one star review there has even more negative impact on the restaurant being scrutinized.

According to staffing professionals I’ve met in my travels, Jobitorial is a must-monitor site, as the word has gotten out to job candidates that this is the “Yelp” of the job hunting space.  Bad reviews there can undo a mountain of recruiting efforts.

While most review sites allow anonymity, almost all of them offer users a shortcut to the registration process: signing in via facebook or Twitter.  That will enable you or your staff to locate them, message them and try and resolve the issue.  You can also use Google to find a reviewer that uses their real name.  That’s the key to success: Interaction! 

When you connect with the writer of a negative review, don’t arrive guns a blazing, threatening them with legal recourse.  Don’t bicker with them in pubic (by debating them in the comments area of the review sites.)  Converse in a positive way, as a business owner or leader as to express, “I want to make things right.”  In a significant number of cases, negative reviews have been modified or taken down by their authors after a successful resolution of their complaint.  In some cases, these detractors were knocked out by the responsiveness of the business, and became raving fans through the process.

More: 10 Ways To Deal With Upset Customers Via Social Media

August 24, 2012

Here's How Net Minds Works (an animation)

Here's an update on the progress of Net Minds, a publishing startup I've co-founded. 

A few weeks ago, we announced the addition of Chris Brogan to our team.  Not only will he advise us on publishing tools and social media, he's contributing his music too! 

For editors (of all types), book designers, publicists and marketing pro's, here's an animation that explains how Net Minds works for free lance talent.  Please share and if it appeals to you, sign up to receive the Net Minds Select, a collection of awesome book projects looking for partners. 

How Net Minds Works (video) 

August 22, 2012

You Don't Need More Time, You Need Uninterrupted Focus

Twenty years ago, likely, you were desperate for more time.  Managing it was the key to success. 

Time was the scarce resource of the uber successful and the harried executive.  Today, we have more time than ever, aided by myriad tools and software solutions.  We can move mountains in days, aided by digital devices and software that "eats the world." 

Here's the rub: The same tools that make life faster (smart phones, web, social, search, etc.) are also interrupting us constantly, requiring more time to finish our work! On top of that, in our modern culture, people think it's OK to ping us any time they want via messenger or text, expecting us to drop everything and answer them. 

Not only is this a killer of our focus (quality) and productivity (output), a study I participated in a few years ago says this will cause depression.  The technical term for depression by constant interruption, according to Heartmath researchers, is "decision shift."  

Making this worse, best selling books now declare that attention is the scarce resource.  Most of them are focused on how we as companies or marketers can get others to give us their undivided attention.  None of them talk about how we can take back undivided attention to apply to our work. In fact, this obsession with getting people to pay attention to us, leads to a tendency for us to steal it from them whenever we can. 

On Monday, I turned in my latest book, a short eBook on social media I created for a major bank to support my speaking tour for them.  It was hard to finish it in sixty days, and the only way I could do it was to manage my attention aggressively.  I interviewed experts, wrote, edited and copy proofed the book  in my basement music studio with the door shut and the phone disconnected. 

I left my smart phone upstairs, instructing my team to back off while I worked on this project.  I only used my computer for word processing and fact checking/link lookups.  No email, no social media. The experience was nothing short of liberating.  I took back my life, and turned in a book I can be proud of.  

I believe that in the modern era, most of us are hamstrung by our devices, and the associates in our life clammoring for our attention.  It's as if we are running the race of life with heavy leg weights on. It's a miracle we finish anything, and when we do, the quality suffers from our divided focus.  We lack the freedom to focus our entire being on a single project.  

It's not just our friends that kill off our focus, we do it compulsively: Check email every few minutes, check reactions to our last social media update, check the blogs, check-check-check.  It's like a little digital smoke break, except we are the equivalent of a chain smoker.  

Here's my suggestion for you: Try a focus break tomorrow, just one hour of single-tasking.  Wall out the world and focus on the work in front of you.  Try it for a report or a presentation that's due. Turn off all alerts, be they email or your smart phone.

If you are in a meeting, go device free, shut the door and put blinders on to narrow you view to the person in front of you.  Don't even take an iPad to take notes, use pen and paper. 

You'll be liberated too.  And, when you look at what you accomplished during the focus break, you'll become jealous of your attention.  Like your father was jealous of his time. 

August 15, 2012

How Business Is Won & Brands Are Built

Winning Business 8
Whether you are a sales pro, marketing whiz or entrepreneur, business is a fierce compeition.  You'll never win unless you understand the milestones that stand between the prospect stage and the finish line.  

Even the most impulsive purchases follow the mental path I'll reveal in this post.  In fact, done right, businesses can elicit more impulse buys and less slow-mo conversions.  In business school, they now teach the 25/200 rule, which says that anything you can do to reduce the time-to-decide by 25% increases your sales volume by 200%.  That's the power of branding and product.  

Think of all business transactions as a branding event.  I define brand as a promise of an outcome that you install into the mind of your target customers.  It's a shortcut: Great experience, problem solved, etc.  Example: Coke is refreshing.  This is where sales and marketing truly intersect. Marketing = demand generation and sales = value capture.  

In his great book The Brand Mindset, author Duanne Knapp lays out the path to winning business: 

1. Differentiation - What makes you stand out from the competition.  This is the secret to premium pricing, exceptions to purchase rules and affinity.  People are attracted to the different. They need to know what twist you add to the commodity.  This helps you rise above the noise and stop competing just on price. 

2. Esteem - This is now the second driver of winning business.  Are you a person of integrity that should/must be trusted? Is your company a good citizen that will do-the-right thing for people, communities and future generations?  Is there a feel good story connected with your purchase ... in other words do I get to solve my problem AND make a difference with my dollars?  After all, in the new economy, that's a buy-one-get-one-free.  

3. Relevance - This is a function of the four P's: Product, Price, Position and Promotion.  Succinctly put, does the product best solve the problem?  Is it the best value?  I've noticed that during economic downturns, relevance can leapfrog both Esteem and Differentiation (eg., Wal-Mart or Air Tran).  

4. Awareness - Does the prospect know that you exist?  Are they familiar with your product and its benefits?  When they realize they need to solve a problem with a product, are you top-of-mind or buried in the microfiche vault?  Believe it or not, this is the fourth most important attribute of a great brand or sales strategy.  Example: Greyhound.  Everybody knows about this bus line, but few would ever use it based on its inconvenience, user experience, etc. 

When you lose a sales or whiff on a brand launch, you've likely come up short at one of the above attributes.  A good analogy here is to think of your prospect mentally running your product through four hurdles, trip on one and you'll finish last.  If you want to drill this into your psyche, like an Olympic athelete training for 2016, print this out and pin it up in your office. 


August 08, 2012

How To Wrap Your Business Brain Around Social Media (Welcome To The User-Solution Economy)

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"How can I keep up with social? Why should I care." 

I have this conversation weekly with very smart people, who are still stumped by the social media phenom in our culture.  They feel a strong sense of urgency if they aren't fishing in the social stream, but at the same time, it feels like a fad to them.  They can offer up #fail stories right and left, and sometimes, they even talk about a failed experiment they've tried on Twitter or with Yelp.  

When I hear it, it's like Deja Vu...all over again.  

When I joined the interactive industry in 1997, the web was just going mainstream due to email, Netscape and search.  Businesses were immediately under pressure to show up with websites, and ultimately, e-Commerce capabilities.  That was before cloud, mind you.  Tough stuff.  They thought web was a shiny object, not a business objective.  And my, they were wrong. 

When the penny dropped, and a company got it (like Victoria's Secret), it was always the result of a paradigm shift on their part.  They realized that the web phenom was just an extension of the Producer/Consumer economy that's existed since the Yellow Pages, trolley car ads and direct mail. It's a way to broadcast, incentivize and capture value.  The web is small now, and harder to monetize.  No mystery, just a challenge to be on the bleeding edge without draining your budgets.  

For modern day doubters and haters, the same solution is prescribed.  Re-think social, casting off your negative connotations.  It's not just goofing around on the user's part.  It's not just playing around when a company is real-time on Twitter or posts compelling content on their FB page.  It's not social, like playing golf or going to lunch.  

In fact, forget the phrase social-networking altogether.  That's a marketing term used by early social media platforms to sex-it-up for the end user.  It evoked party lines, chat rooms...except highly filtered. But that word, social, is befuddling to many CEOs I've counseled over the last few years. 

What's really going on here is a shift in the model of commerce.  Instead of Producer/Consumer, where the industrial revolution met the birth of advertising, think User/Solution.  In this new realm, we are all users, empowered by transperancy and publishing tools.  We swim to platforms or providers that solve our problem, and there's social proof to gain our trust.  

It's a user's world.  Forget them, or their desire to have a positive experience, and your business will die.  No ads will overcome the rath of the disspointed user.  For the last decade, innovators have improved the user's publishing tools to give them a voice, a connection with their timeline and a far greater pallate of content experiences than Producers gave them in the past.  

In his book, Here Comes Everybody, Clay Shirkey predicts that there will come a tipping point when the users have equal or better publishing tools than the publishers/producers...and when it happens, the business landscape changes dramatically.  Here's a canary: A Harvard research paper suggested that a single one star review on Yelp, shared, can reduce your revenue by 5-9%. Try to get that back with a full page ad or a radio blitz!

The Social Realm (FB, Twitter, FourSqaure, LI, etc.) is by and for the users.  Period.  They can kick out, bury or flame any unwelcome voice.  The users only like to talk to people.  They expect marketing to fit Sergio Zyman's classic definition, "to add value when the product is purchased, consumed or owned."  In other words, businesses must earn their way back into their target's mindspace -- one good update or post at a time.  

The nice thing about the User/Solution economy is that transperancy works both ways.  Not do the users know a lot about your business, they are sharing their thoughts publicly about your market and adjacent issues.  Zuckerberg's rule suggests they are doubling the amount of information they share with you every year.  And if you listen closely, the biggest focus group in the history of man is out there ... waiting for you to package all their insights and build the perfect mousetrap. 

To get in this new game, it's not really as hard as it looks. In the Producer/Consumer economy, you succeeded because you had Creativity, Measurement Skills and Guts.  In the User/Solution economy, businesses will win via Listening Skills, Communication Skills and Time Management. It's not about the platform or the current hot social trend, it's about those three fundamental skills. 

The way I usually finish my conversations with my biz-mates that are still on the fence is to prescribe step one: Go Yelp yourself.  Search fun in your town on Twitter.  Dig around for dirt on your competitor at Jobvite.  Once they get embroiled in the chatter, they never look back.  They have a new way of seeing the world.  And I'll bet on their success using new media over the coming years. 


August 01, 2012

Why I (still) Enjoy NBC's Olympic Coverage

For the last few weeks, bloggers have been ripping one on the Peacock's Olympic coverage.

The blogosphere (no link provided) focuses on NBC's greed (saving the good stuff until Prime Time) and coverage's irrelevance since Yahoo or CNN is happy to tell us what happened in advance.  The drum beat, this time around, is as "don't watch that crap" as ever. For once, we are upset about commercials? (soccer). 

But in my case, I humbly disagree with the pundits and the traffic seekers.  They are just bitching. The reality for me is that the coverage is inspiring, well packaged and served to me at the most convenient time (night) -  just like since I was a little kid.  Eat dinner together, watch the competition, end the night on the medal stand.  Get up the next day and try to be a champion too.

Part of our ethos, as an entrepreneurial nation, is to strive for excellence and make all the sacrafices necessary. That's the running story line this Olympics.  If you pay attention to it, nothing but good things can happen in your life, regardless of how ordinary you think it is. 

I find the Olympic prime-time programming superior to the blah sitcoms and sketchy reality shows that are available.  Compared to news or political coverage, NBC's coverage is an oasis in hell.  The story lines are inspiring: Parents supporting their kids, who are grateful to them for it.  Teens, tested, and then achieving life long dreams.  A surging sense of national pride, watching our athletes give all and overcome intense pressure.  

If Missy Franklin, the USA Fab Five or the redeemed Michael Phelps can't put a lump in your throat - you really shouldn't be following me or this blog. This might be better for you. 

All positive stuff, really.  Sure, there are a few sideshows about arrogance or lack of commitment, but they pale when compared to the positive emotion driving moments displayed to us in HD.  Who really cares if they are real time? When I was a kid, they had Olympics across the world, and all the media cooperated.  You really didn't know who would win.  The new media players aren't willing to play ball, so armed with "spoiler alert" disclaimers, they attempt to reduce our tele-experience into a headline. 

I recommend families gather together over the next few days and feed their mind positive stuff. If nothing else, take a break from the hate machines online, on the box and on the tube.  Spend some time with winners.  With all the negative news swirling around us, we need to Feed Our Mind Good Stuff.