Why Chief Marketing Officers are thinking about HR

Posted on April 1, 2015 at 2:16 PM Comments comments (1)
If you are a technology vendor or CIO don’t panic.  Chief Marketing Officers still love you.  We continue to think about and are concerned with technology and data.  But I’m starting to spend more time with HR this year.  Yes, I’m concerned with whether or not marketing has the “right people on the bus.”  That’s a challenge that never ends, particularly when the business environment is constantly changing.  What I’m bringing attention to, and becoming more concerned with, is the individuals we don’t have room for on the bus.  Let me set up the scenario.
Think about your total recruitment this year.  Based on the size of your company, your HR department is likely to post several jobs, for several departments, across various platforms depending on job scope and level.  Some of your organizations have appeared on “lists” recognizing your company as one of those “Best Places to Work.”  That means you are likely to get tens if not hundreds of applications for each position you seek to fill.  Now bear with me because I’m going to apply some math, logic, and then get personal in a moment.
For one mid-level management job you received 50 applications.  Your HR department called the top five best choices, based on geographic location (you didn't want to pay for relocation), experience and so on.  After the Skype interviews three were extended an invitation for personal face-to-face interviews and one job offer was tendered.  Actually, the person hired didn't technically go through your formal job process, they networked their way into the position.  OK then, here is the tricky part, were forty-five applicants sent the following standard HR email?

Dear (First Name),   

Thank you for your interest in our (Internal Job Number and Internal Job Title) position with XYZ Company.  While your credentials and experience are valuable, we have determined the credentials of other candidates may better fit our needs at this time.  Your profile will be available to our recruiters as they seek candidates for other opportunities.  Please check back for future opportunities.   

Kind regards,   

XYZ Company Human Resources   
** Please do not respond to this email.  This mailbox is not monitored and you will not receive a response. **

From a math and logic perspective are we good so far?  You might be thinking, yes, your math is in the ballpark, we’d get about 50 applications for a mid-level job posting.  And logically we don’t have the bandwidth to give personal attention to the forty-five who didn't make the initial screening.  Sure, several in that group were very well qualified, but we had to make the cut somewhere.
“It’s not personal, Sonny.  It’s strictly business.”
The Godfather
I love that line, but it’s dead wrong.  It’s always personal.  We are by nature, an emotional being.  So, let’s take a personal look at the standard rejection letter.
1. It’s not from a person.  Sorry the “HR Department” and “Do Not Reply” don’t count.  By the way, how do you feel when you get an email concerning a subject that you’d naturally like to respond to, but can’t?
2. The subject line “Thank You for Your Interest” might just as well be a Western Union Death Notice.
3. The wording is very similar in most rejection letters.  It appears that all HR departments are using the same group of lawyers for this task.  Sorry, just kidding.  But really, how original.
4. Your high-level feedback, “credentials and experience are valuable” is not helpful to the applicant or the process they are going through.
5. Your response was late.  They applied for that position three months ago.  We know, you almost forgot to send any notice.  Simply terrible.

I could go on, but I think you get the picture.  Alan, you’re in marketing, I still don’t understand why you care about HR.  OK, here is why I care.  Forty-five (late) standard rejections letters multiplied by how many total job postings for the year?  From a branding perspective we have potentially upset hundreds of individuals who could very well hurt our sales in the future.  How?  Because many of the individuals we passed on could still end up in our industry.  They may end up as employees of our competitors, sales or marketing reps for our channel partners, or buyers for our current customers.  And we just dismissed their interest in our company with a canned rejection letter.  How much do you think they are really going to like us?  What makes it worse is that from a political perspective most of these individuals will keep their grudge silent.  Just like the consumer who has a terrible customer experience and chooses not to publicly voice their dissatisfaction, but they never return.

Is there an easy, quick and cheap answer?  No, this is a big problem that most organizations have given very little attention to.  I doubt the negative financial impact of these actions has ever been researched.  In fact, such research would probably be difficult to verify.  But I do have some ideas for improvement, and I’m going to be setting up more time with HR to discuss them.

Leverage the Power Triangle to Bootstrap Your Marketing Program

Posted on March 20, 2015 at 3:02 PM Comments comments (0)
The other night I told my wife that I might actually be a growth hacker.  She just looked at me and said, “You spend way too much time online.”
Sean Ellis, who is known for helping Dropbox grow in its early days, coined the term "growth hacker" in 2010.  In a blog post, he defined a growth hacker as "a person whose true north is growth. Everything they do is scrutinized by its potential impact on scalable growth."  In April 2012 the idea of growth hacking really took off when a blogger named Andrew Chen wrote a piece called “Growth hacker is the new VP Marketing.”  Of course, now that CMO’s are expected to have a technical background my CIO counterparts don’t find the “hacker” reference particularly funny.
Is your true north pointed toward growth?  Yeah, that’s what I thought … who’s isn’t?  In one way or another we are all trying to create growth with resources that are subject to being hacked or cut out completely.  In my mind, the term “bootstrap” works just as well.  Bootstrapping is often used to describe situations of self-reliance.  It means to develop by effort with little or no assistance.  In the world of marketing this often equates to launching a new customer initiative with minimal capital or cash flow.  The current anxiety over the global economy suggests 2015 could be a bootstrapping year as chief executives, chairmen and company presidents focus on our slow growth economy. That means CMO’s will have plenty of opportunities to document their “how I bootstrapped the bear” marketing stories.

In a slow growth economy, one of the major reasons businesses go under is because they run out of cash. Cash flow is the lifeblood of every business and in order to keep the business healthy, cash needs to continue flowing; and slow growth can be particularly hard-hitting for small businesses unless they have plenty of capital to ride out the doldrums.  In my blog post “You Can Support Headcount and Share of Voice on a Tight Budget” written during the 2008 economic downturn I presented a high-level case study in which a small business was able to increase qualified leads by 7 percent while cutting their marketing budget by 24 percent.  And the decrease in spend was not the result of reducing headcount.  So, let me offer what I consider a business development “power triangle” that may help you bootstrap your 2015 marketing plans.
1. Blog: I know; you’ve been blogging for years now.  But you need to get more people motivated and involved.  One person creating one post a month means you are far behind in the content-marketing arms race.  Attention spans are short and quality expectations are high.  So, keep them short and entertaining with relevant stories.  Focus on building trust, rapport and credibility.  And remember, relationships are not developed overnight.  Think long-term, not every communication needs to blast a “call-to-action.”  You can create focused content by leveraging your in-house subject matter experts to provide material that supports each phase of your sales cycle.  As always, make sure the content is search engine-optimized so certain keywords are likely to be picked up in industry-specific searches. 
2. LinkedIn: I know; you’ve been on LinkedIn for years.  But too many people in your organization still consider LinkedIn as a resume tool that you only think about when you are searching for a job.  They don’t understand that LinkedIn may very well be the best business development tool on the planet.  Help your organization understand how adding blog posts, video, projects and presentations to their profile helps increase their credibility.  The decision makers your sales force is trying to contact are reviewing their profiles.  If they don’t like what they see, chances are they won’t be returning any phone calls or accepting any meeting requests.
3. Twitter: I know; it’s been a month since you logged on and you still don’t really see the value of Twitter as a business development tool.  This element of the power triangle is where most organizations will fall short.  They don’t understand the value of Twitter to help build and nurture a targeted audience.  And they haven’t figured out how to use the platform in an integrated way to start conversations that actually develop into business relationships.  At best they’re probably using Twitter merely to broadcast product-focused messages.  New social employee advocacy applications can help.  So, renew your perspective on this application and build your audience.
By integrating your social media platforms and content strategies you can create a focused marketing program that can make a cost effective difference in both your lead generation and lead nurturing programs. It will also help you maintain your customer-focus while you’re doing everything possible to manage your cash flow in a slow economy.


How Does Word-of-Mouth Marketing Really Work?

Posted on March 12, 2015 at 9:46 AM Comments comments (146)
Word-of-Mouth Marketing (WOMM) today is both online and through face-to-face interaction.  At times we think of WOMM in terms of marketing buzz, the interaction of users of a product or service that amplifies the brand and in some cases goes viral.
In reality, regular old everyday “buzz” is not as glamorous as we marketers like to imagine.  Recommendations from friends and family don’t often come with viral like excitement, but from a place of more practical experience.
This perspective was driven home for me during a lecture with some senior business students during their capstone marketing course.  The class had been working through a marketing media planning session focused on a national plumbing company. The students did an excellent job. In fact, I was impressed with their recommendations to leverage social media in addition to the traditional media typically used for advertising in the plumbing industry.  Of course, most 22 years olds have never actually had to call a plumber, and that fact came out in the following exchange:
Alan“What I would like for you to do is to close your eyes and imagine that you have recently purchased your first home. You walk down into your basement and you notice water on the floor because your hot water heater is leaking. What’s the first thing you are going to do?”
Student“I’ll probably still live in this area, so I’ll pick up the phone and call my dad.”
Alan“You’re not going to leverage one of your social media communities, or go online and do a search on plumbing? … Is your dad a plumber?”
Student“Well – no; but he will know who to call.”
When I think about it, it’s not hard for me to imagine that the situation above would play out the same in my home. I can hear it now:
My 24 year old daughter“Dad – my hot water heater is leaking!! Can you help me?!”
Alan“Yes, don’t panic, I’ll be over in a second and we’ll figure it out.”
So, which plumbing company do you think will get the business?  Well, when is the last time I used my plumber?  Do I still have their number?  Should I do a quick online search?  Should I grab my yellow pages directory?  Didn’t I recently get a direct mail coupon from a plumbing company? Should I send a tweet asking my followers for a local recommendation?  Perhaps I should grab some tools.  No, I definitely should not do that because I’d create a disaster!

CXO Conversations before the Company Meeting

Posted on February 12, 2015 at 8:02 AM Comments comments (94)
A trim balding man in khakis with a button down shirt, the CMO looks the part he has played for so many years – the affable, hardworking executive who gets the job done.  It’s the 2015 sales kickoff meeting and he is setting in the front row with the rest of the executive team getting ready to address the troops.  He could still remember a time when these meetings required full business attire, there was no PowerPoint, and there were no smart phones or facilitated hashtagged social conversations with the audience.  The business world had changed, and he loved it.  He had been one of the first to join LinkedIn back in 2002, and could tweet and blog with the best of them.  Social media and mobile devices were changing the business landscape, and his company was determined to meet the transformation challenge.  The prior year had involved several one-on-one meetings with his counterparts.  They were productive, but at times he could still feel a little tension and some apprehension.

Information Technology - The Chief Information Officer
The prior year had begun with several meetings involving the Chief Information Officer.  In late 2012 Gartner analyst Laura McLellan had published a report that contained the statement “by 2017, the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO.”  Of course a sound bite like that raised some eyebrows in both marketing and IT.  It was time to check their facts and see if that prediction could be supported with their own data.  The CMO and CIO had already been working closely together over the past couple of years as a result of the organizations ongoing social media and mobile marketing initiatives.  And what did they discover?

That technology spends of 17% was indeed the second largest part of their marketing budget.  But for their company, the associated dollar value was not more than the IT budget or likely to overtake it.  What was actually becoming of greater concern was the number of applications, programs and platforms the small marketing team was being tasked to learn and manage.  In fact, across all the marketing functions, the number currently stood at well over two dozen.
2015 CMO/CIO View: Marketing departments are often responsible for several technical applications. They can include aspects of CRM, marketing automation, email marketing, website analytics, data analytics, marketing research, creative applications, webinar-meeting, and more.  This doesn’t even begin to touch on all the new social media and mobile marketing related platforms and applications that are now part of the strategic marketing plan.  The CMO and CIO need to focus more on matching talent and headcount to the applications that are actually being used and bringing value than worrying about who has the bigger budget.
Sales – The Chief Sales Officer
Like many CMO’s he had started his career in sales.  He had carried a quota and covered a territory just like the CSO.  That background brought great credibility and helped them agree on many strategies; but they could still have their moments when it came to lead generation.  Of course sales would like “qualified, ready-to-buy right now” leads.  But they both know in complex solution selling environments that’s not a realistic expectation.  Marketing was providing support through the entire sales cycle, but their main focus – including the budget – was on the front end.  Creating awareness, generating interest and building greater industry credibility had been important to helping them engage with prospects and customers.  And the fact that over 60% of their marketing budget was dedicated to lead generation activity supported that point-of-view.
2015 CMO/CSO View:  There will always be some degree of tension between sales and marketing when it comes to lead generation activity.  And that’s OK, the key is not to let it spiral out of control.  One area the CMO and CSO agreed needed more focus was on helping the sales teams understand and make better use of social media, particularly LinkedIn.  Many sales people still viewed LinkedIn as a resume tool.  They were not leveraging it as a business development platform.  Subject matter experts from the marketing team will be spending more time training the sales teams, one-on-one if necessary, in order to make improvements in this area.
Legal – Chief Legal Counsel
A few years ago the CMO and Chief Legal Counsel had a difficult relationship.  At one point the CMO had actually said “I’d rather go to the dentist than have a meeting with our legal department.”  The reason is that Legal and HR had formed an alliance to band all corporate social media activity.  Employees were not allowed to access LinkedIn during its early years and later on blogging, Facebook and Twitter went through similar review processes.  That was now in the past, the legal department was onboard.
2015 CMO/Legal View:  Legal understands the value of social media and recognizes the fact that there will always be some degree of risk associated with those media channels that cannot be totally mitigated.  However, that doesn’t mean marketing gets a free pass.  The marketing department will work to make sure all “Social Media Policies and Procedures” documentation is always up-to-date and communicated throughout the organization.  This will be very important because new “Social Employee Advocacy” software applications are likely to expand how marketing leverages social media throughout the company in order to help employees feel comfortable in the role of brand advocates.
Human Resources – Chief Human Resources Officer
Like legal, HR has been fully engaged with marketing as it related to the new social media channels.  Sure, in the beginning they worried about employee productivity and whether or not social media was even relevant to their functional area.  At times they still wonder about the productivity, but they definitely see the recruitment value.

2015 CMO/HR View:  There is one important area the CMO would like to see a change made as it relates to HR and how their current processes impact the corporate brand.  This project will also involve IT.

Current HR applications and processes offer prospective employees the ability to connect their LinkedIn profiles and or upload their current resumes.  Either way, the process still requires them to enter the same employment and education history that can be found in those sources.  This duplication of effort is time consuming, frustrating and leaves a bad first impression of the corporate brand.
2015 CMO / CEO View:
The Chief Executive Officer came up through finance and is pretty much a numbers person.  And, as you might suspect, the CEO takes special interest in things that increase revenue, decrease costs, or mitigates risk.  In short, that means the question “What’s the ROI?” is never going to be far from the surface.  The CEO is taking the stage now to kick off the meeting.  Let’s listen…
“What is currently impossible to do that if it were possible would change everything.”
That’s an interesting question to open the meeting with…
“Well, use the hashtag #ItsPossible for today’s meeting because we’ve got big news!”

OK, the CEO is more than just a numbers person!  The CEO understands the importance of leading by example and is not afraid to leverage the new social platforms.  It’s going to be a fun year!


Does Your Personal Brand Need a Picture of a Truck Behind It?

Posted on February 10, 2015 at 3:21 PM Comments comments (0)

Is a man with a truck sexier than a man without a truck?  According to the folks from Chevrolet the answer is yes.  Take 30 seconds to watch the video below and listen to their focus group discuss the matter.  So, how much do trucks costs these days?  After all, I might need to haul something!  I also found a survey by that states that women say that attractive men tend to drive black Ford pickup trucks.  While men reported that attractive women drive red BMW sports cars.

OK, you’re really not going for “sexy,” so a new truck or sports car is not the answer.  But, you’d still like to see your personal brand get noticed every now and then.  In fact, there is currently a content marketing arms race in play around this very topic.  Don’t believe me?  Can you answer yes to any of the following questions?
1. Do you feel like you are blogging for your life?
2. Tweeting to save the family farm?
3. Writing, shooting photos and video, and podcasting to demonstrate that you are the “thought-leader,” “trusted advisor,” “expert guru” and “growth hacker” for your industry?
Yes, I thought so, and features like “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” on LinkedIn provide guidance on whether or not your profile is being searched or reviewed by your peers as result of your efforts.  A new truck or sports car is going to cost tens of thousands of dollars.  The information below was recently presented at an American Marketing Association SIG meeting.  It will help you with your personal branding efforts without breaking your bank account.

Disruptive Strategies for Winning Customers

Posted on February 9, 2015 at 1:02 PM Comments comments (1)

I grew up in Grinnell, Iowa, a small town in the rural Midwest. It’s not exactly the place you would expect to find one of the most prolific scoring basketball teams in the nation. The “Grinnell System,” Grinnell College’s run-and-gun offense is considered unorthodox, even chaotic, but it is fun to watch. Grinnell teams have led all playing levels in scoring for 19 of the past 21 seasons, while ranking first in the country in 3-point shooting for 17 of the past 21 years.  According to Head Coach David Arseneault’s book titled “The Running Game: A Formula for Success,” his strategy is based on five basic principles:

1. The team must take at least 100 shots in a game. The goal is to attempt a shot every 12 seconds and try to get the ball back within 10 seconds.
2. More than half the shots need to come from the three-point range. A sharp-shooters dream. Thirty-six different Pioneers have made a record-setting 6 three-point shots in a game. Most schools are lucky to have one player with that record.
3. Shoot 25 more times than their opponents. This requires discipline and a complete understanding of the overall strategy. In the words of one player, “you need to keep jacking it up.”
4. Offensive rebounds need to be garnered on 33 percent of the shots the team takes. This requires high energy and complete focus on positioning.
5. Finally, the team needs to create 32 turnovers with their press defense. This requires a steady stream of fresh players. Grinnell uses all its players in every game, and five-player substitutions are not unusual.
In short, Grinnell shoots before they can turn it over, and they create a tempo of play that fosters confusion and frustration with their opponent. By doing so, it often gives the Pioneers an opportunity to win with lesser talent. That’s an important point because as a Division III school, they do not offer athletic scholarships.
Grinnell’s strategy is creative, innovative and fun. Is there an application for smaller organizations as it relates to customer acquisition and loyalty?

I think so, because when tiny Grinnell executes on their strategy they win at a 95% clip. Innovation is often disruptive to larger existing organizations and this provides smaller enterprises with an opportunity to level the playing field. Possible applications in the current economy include:
1. Take more shots. Translation: Break large marketing campaigns into several highly targeted micro campaigns based on continuous selection of the best customers.
2. Take the big three-pointer first. Translation: Do your P&L homework upfront and structure the best offer immediately. Don’t hold back, consumers with cash and a willingness to spend it are in short supply right now.
3. Shoot more often. Translation: Monitor trigger events (contract dates, service calls, etc.) closely and nurture two-way relationship-building conversations. For example, if a service contract is set to expire don’t wait to begin renewal conversations. Stalling is not the best strategy in today’s economy.
4. Position for rebounds. Translation: Monitor social media and understand how your brand is positioned.
5. Press to force turnovers. Translation: Leverage and engage your entire organization as it relates to customers and prospects. Your opponents may drop the ball and you’ll want to take immediate advantage.
The run-and-gun isn’t without its flaws; particularly on the defensive end. For example, Grinnell once scored 148 points in a game and still lost the contest. Even so, you can bet the entire audience was fully engaged.



The NFL’s Twitter Winners and Losers

Posted on February 4, 2015 at 11:04 AM Comments comments (0)

In September at the beginning of the season I posted a short article related to NFL teams Follow-to-Follower ratios on Twitter.  In short, NFL teams like most major brands do not follow back their fans or customers:

As you can see, the average NFL team was following back just 0.46% of their fans in September.  That ratio now stands at 0.40% which means the average follow back strategy didn't change much over the season.  Now that the Super Bowl is over I've taken the time to update these statistics to see how the league performed in other areas.
We Follow Winners
Note to the NFL, we like to follow teams with winning records.  The average Twitter follower growth across the NFL was 18.6%.  Three teams posted more than thirty percent growth:
Seahawks     34.7%
Cardinals      30.9%
Patriots        30.7%
There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics." ~ Mark Twain
Two of those teams were in the Super Bowl.  Did that have a big impact coming at the end of the season?  I don’t know, but I will say the results above bring up more interesting facts:
Patriots     1,232,782 Followers     *Most Followed Team in the NFL
Cardinals      157,941 Followers     *Least Followed Team in the NFL
According to Forbes, the Patriots market value is $2.6B making them the second most valuable franchise in the NFL.  The Cardinals are 25 on that list with a market value of $1.0 billion.
We Don’t Follow Losers

Yes, that suggests the three teams with the least amount of growth did not have a good year:
Jets                              6.7%              4 – 12 record
Vikings                        11.3%              7 – 9    record
Raiders                        11.6%              3 – 13 record
“I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did. I said I didn’t know.” ~ Mark Twain
The Vikings and Raiders are ranked 20 and 28 by Forbes placing their value in the lower half of the league.  Both teams also have fewer total followers than the average NFL team.  However, the Jets are ranked sixth in value and have more followers than average.  And here is another interesting observation; the Jets actually follow back 12,818 fans which puts them in second place for follow backs.  What does that mean?  I don’t know, I said it was interesting, I didn’t say I had the answer.
“This Copyrighted Broadcast is the Property of the National Football League”
NFL teams broadcast on Twitter; they don’t follow back for purposes of personal engagement.  But for the sake of measurement, which teams improved the most (increase in follow backs)?
Patriots            71.2%
Lions               18.5%
Raiders            17.2%
Of course the Patriots were only following 66 profiles in September, so the fact that they now follow back 113 doesn’t really mean they’ve changed their strategy.  For the record, 12 teams actually decreased the number of profiles they were following over the year.  The Chargers remain far and away the winner based on the fact that they follow back 29,524 fans.  Why don’t teams follow back all of their fans?  Would it take away their brand prestige?  Would the process and cost be too great to implement a strategic follow back plan?  If they can get bent out of shape over how much air a football has in it I would think they would care even more about how their customer base would react to a new social engagement strategy.

The Million Follower Club
Finally, two teams now have over one million followers:
Patriots            1,232,782
Cowboys           1,141,868
The Cowboys are “America’s Team.”  This sounds kind of strange to say because … “Patriots” … well, that sounds pretty American to me.  Forbes ranks the Cowboys first in value at $3.2B, and the Patriots are ranked second at $2.6B.  Well, if nothing else, they can both afford to buy a few followers … I see them for sale all the time… 1,000 followers for $2.  Who knows, perhaps one of those lowly Twitter draft choices will be their next great Twitter influencer play maker.

How Quickly Can You and Your Organization Adapt to Change?

Posted on January 31, 2015 at 2:24 PM Comments comments (0)
I’m where I am today because of the 1980’s oil crash.  If not for the oil crash I may not have gone on to get my MBA.  If not for the crash I probably would not have ventured into the technology industry, first with NCR Corporation and then other organizations.  For that matter I may not have moved to Ohio.
I was from Iowa, in the heart of the corn patch.  But after completing my BBA in 1981 from Abilene Christian University I could see that the West Texas oil patch was booming.  I grew up baling hay and detasseling corn and had no idea what logging, acidizing or fracking an oil well meant.  But I learned quickly and before I knew it I had five years invested in the patch.  I was selling oil field services to oil company executives, geologist and petroleum engineers, and it was fun.  And then the boom turned into a bust.  I’ll spare you the details; let’s just say that many lives changed forever.  I never returned to the patch.  Many of my contacts did not either.  When you are in your 20’s you don’t really consider the need to reinvent yourself because you’re still establishing your credentials in your first “real world job” out of college.  But that is exactly what many of us had to do.  Petroleum engineers and geologists retooled to become high school math teachers, and oil field sales people became technology marketers.  That early experience had a profound impact on my view of the intersection between change and adaptability.

An attitude that supports lifelong learning is valuable during change.  Is it important to my job today that I still understand oil field jargon?  No, not really.  But what I learned while engaging oil field executives, engineers and roughnecks in a wide variety of environments is priceless.  Yes, those early interactions helped later as I adapted and learned to work with other executives and influencers across different industries.  Each change the economy throws at us provides another opportunity to dig deeper and learn.       
It’s also important for organizations to stop putting individuals in permanent boxes.  People reinvent themselves all the time.  Sometimes out of necessity, and sometimes just because they are ready for a change.  And when those individuals reemerge they bring a unique perspective to the job that a “lifer” never will.  I’m not saying you should throw your long-time experienced people under the bus.  I am saying that it really doesn't take years and years to learn the ins and outs of your industry.  I know some want to believe that it does, but my experience tells me that it doesn't.  What you may need to add to your organization are individuals who have a passion to learn and a track record for taking chances and being able to quickly adapt to change.


Social Media Networking for Sales Results

Posted on January 30, 2015 at 4:03 PM Comments comments (0)

Are the targeted executives you are trying to get the attention of using social media to shop, or are they really looking for prospects themselves?  Perhaps both, with some education and networking mixed in; I don’t have any market research to state a firm conclusion.  However; I do believe that most executives are tuned-into station WIIFM (What’s in it for me?) just like the rest of us, and they are seeking to promote their company and causes too.  That’s why I find it interesting that so many meeting requests contain the following leading sentences:  
· “Alan, I was looking at your profile and thought you’d be interested in our solutions.” (Followed by a laundry list of their products or services, and a request for a meeting or demo).
· “Alan, based on your background I thought this information would be of great interest.” (Again, followed by the laundry list and request).
· “Alan, your profile came to my attention.  First, a little about my company.” (Yes, followed by the meeting or demo request).

We all understand that social media, particularly LinkedIn, can be effective for finding the persona’s that match your target market.  You can search profiles based on job titles, location and several other factors.  Once you find a targeted persona it makes sense that you would want to make contact and try to start a dialogue.  It’s at this point that “social media networking for sales” strategies face a fork in the road.

The Path Heading Left
This strategy is based on numbers and speed.  If I send 100 messages with the “I thought this would be of interest” phrase I’ll get X number of responses, that will result in Y number of meetings, that will result in Z number of sales.  Just work the math quickly and the probabilities will take care of everything.  Yes, even a blind squirrel will find a nut every now and then.  In my opinion, hoping that the profile I’m getting ready to approach is actually in the “search” mode because they are actively feeling “pain” from a problem that my solution will fix is … well, as they say “hope is not a strategy.”
The Path Heading Right
This strategy is based on human nature, and the fact that most people don’t like to be sold – but they don’t mind buying.  The initial communication might read something like this:
“Alan, you have an interesting background and I’d be honored to learn more.  In the spirit of networking for mutual benefit I’d like to propose a 20 minute phone call.  In the first 10 minutes let me know what you’d like most for me to know about you and your solutions.  And in the last 10 minutes I’ll do the same for you.”
Sounds a bit like asking for an elevator pitch doesn’t it?  No demonstration request.  No request to disclose “what keeps you up at night” or “what projects are you currently budgeted for” as if they were required to answer lead qualification questions from someone who is still a stranger at this point.  In fact, there is no assumption that they currently need my solution or help at this time.  But I have acknowledged a professional respect for their background and time, while offering them a mini opportunity to pitch me, if they feel my background is worthy.

Will this make your lead generation process take longer?  Yes, probably.  After all, it takes time to build trust-based relationships.  Will you get more meetings by taking this approach?  I can’t say because I don’t know you or your company.  But I do know that social networking for business works best when it’s a two-way street.

Are Your Social Media Icons Holding Your Business Back?

Posted on January 21, 2015 at 11:37 AM Comments comments (0)
It was a lively face-to-face business networking event.  As you might guess, social media was a hot topic.  Of course business cards were exchanged as many of the attendees represented agencies that promise to be able to bring social magic to a brand.  But what I found most interesting happened later, when I visited several of their corporate social media pages.  What became clear was that many of the profiles had not posted content in several weeks, and in some cases, months.  Mind you, all the major social media icons cover their business cards, stationery and websites.  As you know, the conventional wisdom here is to provide a social signal to customers and prospects:
“Like us, follow us, connect with us, have a live conversation with us – we’re here to engage you with our content!”
Well, not really … “here” that is.  Yes, they’ve established a profile, and they are proudly displaying all the social media badges, but they are not maintaining or updating their presence.  And that’s a problem because that lack of attention could be sending a signal that actually hurts their business.  Hold on Alan, what do you mean?  Well, as you know, “you never get a second chance to make a good first impression,” and here are a few thoughts that might be going through your prospects mind:
1.  “I don’t see any recent activity.  If I do post something here is anyone going to respond?”  This is kind of like providing a phone number that you never intend to answer.  Or providing a store front address that never opens its doors.  Or like ignoring important email.  How does that generally work out for a business?

2.  “I don’t see any recent activity. Are you still in business?  Or can’t you afford to hire someone to be in charge of this communication channel?”  Now they’re questioning your financial stability.  That’s not something you want customers, prospects, business partners or your banker thinking.

3.  “I don’t see any recent activity.  You haven’t posted anything new or worth reading in weeks.  I guess there is nothing new with you.”  OK, now they are just plain calling you boring.  If you happen to be a marketing agency with a focus on social media you’re in deep trouble.  When you think about it, how many businesses want to be labeled boring?

4.  “I don’t see any recent activity.  Your website talks about creative content-based marketing with social channels, and the ROI that can be achieved.  I guess it doesn’t really work, or you’d be doing it.”  This is an agency example and your prospect just said that you don’t “practice what you preach.”  So now your “credibility” is under question.  And all those nice marketing awards displayed on your website are not going to help.

Who would have thought? Those social media icons can look so innocent when they are displayed on a business card.  But they really do send a loud and challenging message.  Don’t take that message lightly.