Grrrr … Give Me Back My Email Address!

email lists

There are many, many marketers out there who will tell you the secret to untold success and fortune is a huge email subscription list, and to be fair there is some merit in that theory.

It does seem however that a few too many now adopt the ‘get email address at all costs and hang the consequences’ approach, and I have to tell you that such tactics cause me to want to digitally hunt them down and put them under cyber arrest for gross violation of my trust.

Let me paint the picture.

Last week I decided to reassess a few webinar platform options for a series of forthcoming social media training seminars. What I discovered was that my previous supplier is now quite expensive, and that a few pretenders to the crown have seemingly caught them up in terms of favourable reviews, feedback and dependability.

So I pinged them an online enquiry asking them to get in touch so that we might discuss the matter further.

The next day I received an email from a customer service representative asking what time she should call me, to which I duly replied with a specific time slot.

No call.

But have no fear … they have kept in touch! With a series of unwanted email newsletters telling me how to transform myself into a webinar superstar of epic proportions.

I didn’t want their emails. I wanted them to call me back. You know the thing where people pick up a phone and you both have an actual conversation?

This is exasperating on so many levels, because it tells me that organisations still have no concept of personal service or of the need to take ownership of an enquiry and handle it in such a way that the customer feels they’re one step closer to making the right choice.

Now I simply think this webinar outfit were more interested in my email address than my business.

And that’s more than a little bit crazy.

Yet again I return to Kevin Spacey’s words of wisdom … “give the people what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in …

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Red Alert! These Social Media Myths Could Derail Your Potential

Social_Media_Misconceptions

A new project, initiative or concept inevitably comes with the odd preconceived notion or two as to what to expect. We listen to what other people are saying, we get the mainstream media’s view and we may even refer back to previous experience to gain some sort of familiar gauge.

And whenever a new business takes its first steps on social media they’ll usually be baby, tentative steps. Why? Because very few of us really know what we’re doing when we start out. But almost certainly that business will have gained some sort of an idea of what to expect, which could well tint their whole campaign with a lacklustre shade of ‘average’ unless they’re very careful.

Let me be more specific …

“It’s just another name for marketing, isn’t it?”

Given that the online definition of marketing is “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services” you can appreciate why so many businesses still use their online platforms purely to pump out their own promotional material. But for the most part this will be wasted effort because unless they’re creating content that is massively compelling, different and eye-catching, it will be ignored. This is the part they’re so far failing to recognise. Don’t believe me? Go to a user’s Twitter.com page on the web and click on ‘expand’ beneath their tweets – this will reveal the retweets or replies they’ve had. If it’s consistently low, the vital signs are not good. The key to social media success is to learn how to engage your audience, and “what we’ve done since forever” isn’t going to do the trick.

“Our customers aren’t using it, so we don’t need to.”

It’s true. Not everybody uses social media, and do you know what? Not everybody will. But here’s the point if you’re using this as an excuse to not get started: people talk online and offline. My circle of friends and family include huge numbers of social media ‘non-believers’, but I often will make recommendations to them based on a connection I’ve made online. The conversation never stops, and assuming it ends when you hit the ‘log off’ button is a big mistake.

“Buying followers is a great way to get started”

Let’s be straight about this … When anyone buys ‘followers’ they’re actually buying a pile of fake accounts. They’re not actual people with DNA and smartphones, so you won’t receive any interaction, sharing of content or increased brand awareness from them. Yes, there will be an initial boost to your follower numbers but once the accounts are identified as fake and are subsequently deleted, your count will thump back down to where it was before. It’s the social media equivalent of covering your back garden in tarmac because you don’t like mowing the lawn. Swinging the hover-mower around every week might be a pain but we all love to feel the grass beneath our feet, don’t we?

“Automation saves time”

You really do need to be present. That doesn’t need to be every hour of every day, but automating everything will be like sending a cardboard cut-out of yourself to a party. If you want to experience the essence of what makes social media such a powerful tool then you need to roll your sleeves up and build relationships through dialogue.

“A social media presence is all you need”

Just as building a house doesn’t immediately make it a welcoming family home, neither will creating an online profile be enough to tick the ‘social media’ box. Yes, it’s the first step but it’s a stake in the ground. It’s your foundation to build on.

“You should never sell on social media”

The sales person in me always squirms at this one, and that’s because I know so many people see ‘selling’ purely as nothing more than a clumsy ‘buy this’ message. The truth is that sales processes begin with understanding your customer, what motivates him, building context and fashioning your proposal around what he’s told you wants …. because that’s what he wants, strangely enough. Social media works in exactly the same way. You may not close the deal online, but you’ll be getting to know your future market, building trust and as such gaining a clearer picture of what they’re looking for. It used to be called “prospecting” but I’m pretty sure it’ll now have a sexier title, maybe along the lines of “digital market intelligence”.

Everyone’s potential will vary when it comes to social media; calculating it on the basis of hearsay will never be a true representation, so kick those misconceptions to the kerb and dip that toe in the digital ocean, baby ;)

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Photo courtesy of Anders Jildén

When Human Traits and Social Media Don’t Mix

social media errors

Having a sales background has taught me many things, the least of which is that if you want to appeal to as many people as possible then you don’t give them a reason to dislike you.

But when it comes to social media, it’s difficult when we have a strong opinion or something we need to get off our chest, right?

Of course it is. But the reality is that if you’re using social networks for business reasons then you need to reach as far and as wide as you can. And that means one thing: you need to button it.

Unfortunately there are many human traits that we can slip unwittingly into that cause others to view us in a less than amenable light. Is this unfair? Very possibly, but it’s their view, their light and their rules – not yours.

Here are a few very common habits that ultimately won’t do you any favours if you’re doing this social media thing for business purposes:

Tweeting without thinking. We all fall prey to this one from time to time, but before you’re tempted to post online how absolutely ridiculous karaoke is, consider that maybe, just maybe, one of your customers has just organised a singalong extravaganza for her husband’s fortieth surprise birthday party. I’m not sure that she was going to invite you anyway, so you can stick with your plans for reality TV and a takeaway on that night. Oh, and that’ll be no repeat business from her.

Impatience. I’m chuckling to myself as I type this, because if you knew me, you’d know how terribly impatient I can be. But I tell you this, my friends … no-one ever achieved anything on social media overnight unless they were caught leaving a night club at 4am in the morning with Prince Harry. I’ve published blog posts that bombed on first entry, but then sparked into life on re-posting a couple of weeks later. Why? I have no idea. The ways of social media, they are the enemy of impatience …

Straying onto “no-go” topics. You know the ones I mean … politics and religion are the most obvious. Whether we should bring back the death penalty is another. Even if you couch it in what seems to you to be a neutral way in order to initiate debate, it’s unlikely you’ll be seen as entirely neutral. So don’t go there.

Obstinacy. A strongly held belief that your way is the right way is a good thing … right up to the point when people start to lose interest because of your lack of flexibility. Uphold your standards by all means, but don’t refuse to budge an inch if there’s a chance you’ll be seen as unhelpful or unaccommodating.

Limiting thoughts. This is a tricky one, because often we have no idea we’re in the grip of them. To make inroads on social media you need to be regarded as the person with the answers as to why people can, not why they can’t. Dump the negativity and look to catch the positive habit as soon as possible.

Sarcasm. Had this been an Olympic sport, I would have been a triple gold medal winner at the very least. But these days I make it a strictly offline activity, because it may get you a few quick laughs but it won’t make you the darling of the majority. Whilst neutrality may be seen as boring by the sarcastic crew, it tends to weather the storm far better.

Being tempted to copy. Easier than conjuring up an original, isn’t it? Yes, but who wants to be a copy when there are already so many out there? Go unique, or go home.

Not listening. Ever noticed how you plan what to say next as the other person is talking? We all have a tendency to do it, which is a shame because it suggests that we’ve dismissed what they’re saying as being less important than what we’ve got to add to the equation. Call me a cynic, but I don’t think that tends to go down too well.

Somebody asked me recently what they should do if they simply couldn’t adopt the right persona to attract the attention they wanted on social media, but really that’s like asking how can you run a marathon without doing any training.

Nobody is asking you to fundamentally change the person you are, just make sure you change when you’re interacting on social platforms, just as you only need to train for your marathon for a few hours very week- not all week.

Social media is essentially a stage, so make sure you’re playing the right part. [Tweet this!]

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A Glossy Magazine Publisher – from Decision to Launch in Just Four Months?

Kent_Women_in_business

Ever feel that you have an impossible dream because you simply don’t have the experience you believe you need? Here is a fabulous guest post from Hilary Steel of ‘Kent Women In Business’ magazine to disprove that notion … 

If you really want to achieve something, I am a firm believer that you will. There is no point starting out in a half-hearted manner, it takes passion and commitment to see an idea through to fruition. As Editor of the Kent Women in Business Magazine I am often asked about my own publishing background. When I tell people that my first position working for a magazine was as Editor of this one, their faces tend to drop. It doesn’t seem real that you can launch a magazine, get it in to retail outlets across the county and have a healthy list of people who subscribe annually without any formal training…

You don’t need any specific qualifications to start your own business, you need to start with an idea and work towards making it happen. Anyone who is an entrepreneur will tell you this. So there is nothing different about me branching out in to unknown territory and deciding that I would edit a 72 page glossy magazine that I would launch just four months after announcing its conception. The same business principles would apply.

I like to think that I embark on each project with the same childlike enthusiasm I had when playing make-believe as a child. It’s this fearless sense of freedom that pulls me through when things get a little rocky.

The ‘formula’ we used when setting up the magazine is very much based around the formula we use in everything we do both personally and in business. I love to start a project with the end in mind, then I easily know when I have achieved it, and that in turn means celebrations!

The fact that I don’t come from a publishing background allowed me Women In Business Magazinewithout any tarnished pre-conceptions of what it would or should be like. I rose to the challenge and it’s definitely one of my proudest achievements. So how did I make it happen? Firstly, there was no way I could have done this on my own, I didn’t possess all the knowledge and know how that goes in to printing a magazine. Sue Smith, my long suffering business partner has skills that complement mine and together we are a highly productive team yet without the input from a number of other key people, the venture would never have got off the ground. Surrounding yourself with the right sort of people is a business lesson I learned early on in my career and it is as valuable a piece of advice then as it is now.

Within 72 hours of announcing publically that the magazine would launch in just four months’ time we had engaged the designer, the printer, registered the publication with the British Library and been sent out our ISSN (magazine identification) unique number. In my head, it was now real and it was going to happen.

My brain didn’t stop churning over ideas, creating possibilities for content and crunching away at the practicalities of making this happen. I am fortunate enough to have a very inspiring and business practical mentor, Bev James, who was on hand to help me organise these eclectic thoughts in to some sort of structured plan. Her ability to guide me through an idea without letting myself become side-tracked proved paramount to the success of the magazine.

Social Media played and still plays a big part of our marketing strategy. Our open engagement with the business community, not only in Kent, but all over the UK has given us some amazingly print worthy content. As we strive to maintain the magazine as a content driven publication finding possible stories that come directly from the readership has dramatically increased both the subscription levels and the retail outlet sales. As a business product, it definitely fills a niche, one that provides people with the kind of content, motivation and innovation they are craving.

The growth of the magazine is thanks to the awareness I and my team have about what is going on around us. We each understand where our talents lie and strive to improve and enhance them as we grow. We believe that new skills can be developed and as each new edition hits the press we look at ways of making the next one, the best one YET!

It just goes to show, if you have a dream, you really should go for it!

Hilary SteelHilary Steel
Editor of Kent Women in Business Magazine
@HilaryJSteel
Facebook.com/kwibmag

Subscribe to Kent Women In Business maagzine
 
 
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Are We “Too Busy” To Do Business Properly?

WhyPeopleBuy

Some time ago I wrote a piece on another site about the process of a face-to-face sales call from the perspective of the would-be buyer, detailing the aspects that they should ensure were adequately covered before they even so much as considered doing business with the other party.

Firstly, I mentioned that the salesperson should make an effort to prepare for the visit beforehand and learn something about the prospect’s business.

Let’s face it, that’s not difficult these days. Fifteen minutes on Google and you’d possibly have almost too much information.

Put simply, if you want somebody’s business it’s only reasonable in my opinion that you show some interest over and beyond how to get your car park ticket validated.

Only a couple of days ago I heard the tale of how a well-qualified and able interviewee was awarded the job purely on the basis that when asked why she wanted to work for the company she replied “because I’ve checked you out and I’ve seen that you’re cash-rich, so I know that as long as I apply myself I could have a long and prosperous future here”

Bingo!

By making it known that she’d done her homework she demonstrated that she was willing to go the extra mile. A mile that her fellow interviewees hadn’t.

But sadly it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that I received some feedback on the aforementioned piece that went along the lines of “any business that is busy dealing with ‘real’ customers doesn’t have time to research before an initial sales meeting”.

My heart sank.

Seriously … it doesn’t have time’???

Nobody is expecting for any trees to be dug up, for goodness sake … Just a bit of background work.

When I hear this type of response I’m immediately reminded of those annoying recorded messages that chirp “sorry we can’t take your call right now; we’re busy helping other customers”.

OK then! Maybe I need to go and find a company that isn’t too busy’ to take my call …

If you’re sensing that this attitude gets my goat, you’d be right.

If I were a prospect asking the question “what do you know about my business?” and the answer came back “nothing; we don’t have time to look into that because we’re too busy. That’s how awesomely successful we are” I’d seriously be considering asking them to drink their coffee and leave.

Have we really become that arrogant?

I’d like to think not, because I’m pretty sure that if we’ve got time to check our Facebook feed then we’ve got the time to prepare properly for important business meetings.

Being good at what we do really isn’t enough to clinch deals. Sadly it appears that some believe confidence and a long client list is all that’s needed, which might be enough until a competitor realises what clients really want … and that’s to be made to feel important, understood and valued.

Never once during my corporate sales days did any of my prospects turn round and ask “why on earth are you showing an interest in my business?”

None of us are so darn good that we don’t need to put the effort in. Nor are we too busy’, come to that.

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