Social Media Communications that Executives Ignore

Posted on February 20, 2016 at 1:22 PM Comments comments (0)
When it comes to social media communications with business executives, I heed the Law of Diminishing Returns; the longer the message, the less likely it will receive feedback.  I know this is true because of all the social media messages that I ignore.
You’d think that the people besieging busy executives and major influencers with long messages, some with very good ideas, would learn this by now.  But they don’t.
It might be that they think a long message will impress the reader, it doesn’t.  Or that their request needs to be explained in detail because the reader is already hooked, they aren’t.  Or that the length will convince the executive of its importance, that is not the case.
Length isn’t the only reason messages don’t receive feedback.  Here are three more:
1. Asking the executive to do too much.  If you require the recipient to do too much you have a good chance of getting ignored.  Asking the executive to “check out our website and let us know if you have questions” sounds like “please read our novel and write a book report for us.”  Asking a busy decision maker to figure out your solution and value proposition is too much work.  Make your initial requests simple ones, and make the requests about them, not about you.
2. Many people are too logical and data-driven.  They organize their communications with facts and figures as if those numbers are all the proof that is needed.  Their dialogue has no storyline or emotion present.  Humans, including executives, are built for a good story, without one you will probably not grab or hold their attention.  Remember, we may make decisions intellectually, but we buy based on emotions.
3. Your credentials are not readably apparent, which is to say your social profile is weak.  You’ve reached out to contact the executive through a social channel (LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) which means they can instantly peruse your background.  Is your profile picture professional looking?  Is your bio information executive-level compelling?  First impressions are important and they are lasting.  You generally won’t get a second chance.  That means your social profile needs to look trustworthy at a glance.
Of course this strategy doesn’t necessarily apply to all audiences.  Different people need to be communicated with in different ways about the same subjects.  In general though, there’s no percentage in boring a CXO with nuts-and-bolts details in your initial communication.

Why don't teams follow back their fans?

Posted on January 27, 2016 at 9:28 AM Comments comments (1)

NFL teams are not exactly small businesses.  In fact, according to Forbes the 2015 NFL franchise value for the Denver Broncos is $1.94B making them the 11 most valuable team.  The Carolina Panthers at $1.56B are ranked 19.  When you compare their Twitter follow-to-follower ratios the Broncos are above average while the Panthers are below average.  The average for the entire league is less than one half of one percent (0.32%) which means that bar is not set very high.


“This Copyrighted Broadcast is the Property of the National Football League”
Let’s face it, NFL teams broadcast on Twitter; they don’t follow back for purposes of fan engagement.


Too bad, because the numbers above suggest that each team is passing up an opportunity to show their fans just how much they appreciate their support by following them back.  Think about it; how would you feel if your favorite NFL team followed you back?  How cool would that be?!  Based on the numbers above I may start cheering for the Chargers.
Why don’t teams follow back their fans? Would it take away their brand prestige? Would the process and cost be too great to implement a strategic follow back plan?  Based on their financial values I don’t think it would break their bank accounts to support their customers with a new social engagement strategy.  And it’s not like the NFL doesn’t leverage technology.  Why do major brands ignore their customers in this manner?  The business goodwill they could be generating would be priceless.

How to Keep Your Audience Looking Down

Posted on August 15, 2015 at 11:59 AM Comments comments (0)

It was the most engaging of times. It was the least engaging of times. It was an age of fabulous fellowship. It was an age of fake followers. It was the spring of sharing. It was the winter of shilling. Our audience was looking down, but would our prospects ever look up?
Are you looking down right now? There is a good chance you are if you are reading this post on your cell phone. What type of content makes you look down?

·         A funny video?
·         A pithy blog post?
·         A text message from a friend or family member?
·         A scandalizing picture?
·         An email from your boss?
·         A good book?
We all look down for many reasons. Sometimes we are just bored, or want to appear busy or popular. Other times we are truly interested in and engaged with the content on our mobile screen. It’s no secret that marketer’s want your attention. They want you to engage with their content and they spend money to tempt you to bow your head as though you are praying to their “Like” button. But what type of content truly captures the imagination and holds attention?

Sure, the content should be relevant to their needs.

Of course the content has to interest them. It helps if it’s also timely.

OK, it’s also helpful to tap into their emotions to create a connection. And you definitely want them to feel understood.

Yes, nothing captures attention or creates a bond quite like a good story…

When you create your relevant, timely, interesting and emotional content who is the hero in your story? Who rides in to save the day?

·         Your company?
·         Your product or solution?
·         Your executive team?
·         Your sales rep or other staff members?

If you want to keep them looking down and engaged with your content you need to turn your prospect into the hero of the story. Who doesn’t like to be the hero in the story? You can’t expect them to begin to like you if your approach keeps suggesting that they are the villains and their own worst enemy in their current situation. Does your copy state the following?
·         You have outdated technology.
·         Your people haven’t changed with the times.
·         You haven’t kept up with the competition.
·         You write product focused stories that are just like all the others.
OK, just kidding on that last one. Yes, I know, I’m suggesting you drop the direct fear, uncertainty and doubt babble. I was raised to use FUD too during my sales tenure and I know it’s hard to let go of. But if you continue to transfer ownership of blame back onto the shoulders of the person you are trying to woo you are in for a long day. Accept the role of the hero’s mentor and let a new story begin.

It’s the Story, Not the Status that Matters

Posted on August 11, 2015 at 8:06 AM Comments comments (0)

It has now been over 9 years since its launch and NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has traveled more than 3 billion miles at a cost of over $700 million in order to send us back a clear picture of Pluto. Will the new data from the spacecraft have the potential to change Pluto's planetary status? The real question is; ‘does Pluto’s status really matter now?’

Pluto had been classified as a planet since it discovery by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930. But in August 2006 the International Astronomical Union downgraded the status of Pluto to that of "dwarf planet." That change in status has been a heated point of discussion ever since, even outside of the planetary sciences community. In fact, in 2006 "Plutoed" was chosen as the Word of the Year by the American Dialect Society. The society defined "to pluto" as:
"To demote or devalue someone or something, as happened to Pluto when the IAU decided it no longer met its definition of a planet.”
Human nature is funny that way. Many of us do not do well with change, and once we understand “the facts,” we don’t want them to move, shift, or be downgraded.

But we do love a good story…

And the New Horizon story is more than Big Data; it’s about Long Distance Data. At approximately 2 kilobits per second it will take until late 2016 to bring down all the encounter data stored on the spacecraft’s recorders. That means many of the missions major discoveries will be made well after New Horizon flies through the Pluto system. Then, like the Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft, New Horizon will eventually escape the Sun’s gravity and fly out into interstellar space – never to return to our solar system.
Along with the advanced instruments and systems that enable New Horizons’ historic exploration of Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, the spacecraft carries nine mementos:
· A portion of Pluto discoverer Clyde Tombaugh’s ashes and an inscription
· A “Send Your Name to Pluto” CD-ROM with more than 434,000 names of people who wanted to participate in this great journey of exploration
· A CD-ROM with project personnel pictures and messages
· A Florida state quarter, representing where New Horizons was launched
· A Maryland state quarter, representing where New Horizons was built
· A cutout piece of the historic SpaceShipOne and an inscription
· Two U.S. flags
· The 1991 U.S. stamp proclaiming, “Pluto: Not Yet Explored”

So, at this point in my post, do you really care if Pluto is classified as a planet or dwarf planet? Or is the New Horizon adventure what’s capturing your imagination? Yes, it’s the emotional connection through exploration and adventure that has your attention now. Remember that point the next time you try to lead with facts, figures and logic to persuade your prospect to buy.

First Impressions Are Part of the Customer Experience

Posted on July 8, 2015 at 9:51 AM Comments comments (0)
A hot tub setting on your back patio that no longer works is classified as bulk trash. And bulk trash requires a big truck and some strong backs. The ad in the Local Directory section of my Sunday paper looked like it was the answer to my problem.
AAA Hauling
Hire a Veteran
Large Dump Truck
Hauling – Anything!
Phone 123-456-7890
No website, no social media profile, no address, just one phone number. When I dialed the number I heard the following:
“The voice mail for the number you have dialed is full and cannot receive messages.”
I had liked the idea of supporting a small business owner and veteran, but this project could no longer be delayed. No, my next step was not to consult Angie’s List, or to place a notice for the work on Craigslist, or to ask my neighbor if they had a recommendation. I simply called the next ad. The owner, Marty, answered the phone immediately. He hauled away the hot tub that same day. Problem solved.

There are many things that can sink a small business. Some situations, like a full voice mail box, catch you totally off guard. Would backup contact information like a website, social profile or additional phone number have helped AAA Hauling? Perhaps, or maybe I would have still called Marty. The customer experience begins before the customer directly interacts with you and that experience is fragile with a low margin for error. Now, if you are a sole proprietor wearing many hats the customer experience prior to direct contact may not be something you’ve given a great deal of thought. But if you are reading this blog chances are you think about the customer experience quite a bit. Do you have a Total Quality process designed to address the customer experience prior to direct contact? There is no guarantee a new prospect will call a second number or suffer through a website that is under construction, but you might want to check the following:
1. Before you sent those emails to your prospects how did they look across all the major web browsers? How did they look on mobile devices? Did you even check? After all, you won’t know for sure how your prospect might view that message.
2. What about your website? How does it look when viewed from different platforms?
3. Did that last ad have more than one contact channel?
4. Does your voice mail message sound professional? When was the last time you checked it?
5. Do you have a profile on social media? When was the last time you updated it?   
First impressions begin before direct contact and are part of the customer experience. Don’t lose business before the conversation begins.

A Tale of Two Social Media Strategies

Posted on June 23, 2015 at 12:29 PM Comments comments (0)
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness... it was the era of brands buying Likes and Followers, it was the era of executives pushing the same old content, it was the period of social media spray and pray marketing.
I’m sure you recognized the reference to Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities.” It’s fitting because you can often see a duality when you compare the way organizations use social media channels. Many use social communication the same way they use traditional media. They’ve resisted the social relationship revolution and have let yesterday’s marketing rules resurrect inside the new platforms. They continue to broadcast tired old content. They spray and pray for results.  And then turmoil erupts because many in the social audience want to overthrow the brand aristocrats. Take them to the guillotine … off with their heads!  OK, it’s not that dramatic; but you get the picture. Adjustments should be considered for social media. Here are three areas to examine:

I) Follow back your targeted audience.

Most major brands don’t take the time to follow back their audience. In fact, in the example below, you can see that the average NFL team only follows back 0.40% of their fans.

I’m sure they have their reasons for not following back. It could be a time or budget issue. Or perhaps they feel it would damage their elite brand status. Yes, that must be it. Major brands don’t have the time or money to spend managing that aspect of engagement on social media. And even if they did they’d probably feel funny acknowledging their audience with a follow back.
Of course we know they are missing an easy opportunity to influence the customer experience. After all, how would you “feel” if your favorite brand actually followed you back?


II) Turn off the automation and fake personalization.
Yes, social media automation promises to improve your marketing efficiency. But just because it’s efficient doesn’t mean it’s effective.  In fact, some forms of automation throw key social media tenets to the wind. Take for example transparency and authenticity. Does an automated direct message that thanks me for following you and then suggests I “Like” your Facebook page improve your transparency and authenticity? It might feel like a polite and efficient thing to do, but it’s really just a non-value-add annoyance. Besides, is the content in your automated direct message really the first impression you want to make with your new connection?

III) Focus on content.
Your social content is the voice and personality of your brand. And since the average attention span is only 8.25 seconds you don’t have much time to make an impression. This may very well be the toughest area you will examine because you need to ask yourself:
1. Are we agile? Can we quickly produce a variety of channel appropriate content? Does our content proactively support all phases of the customer buying cycle?
2. Is our content entertaining? Is our content available in several formats (video, etc.)? Does it quickly capture attention and tell a story? Does our content invite two-way conversation?
3. Is our content relevant to our audience? Does it answer their most important question, “what’s in it for me?”

It’s the age to use your social media program to make this the best of times.

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.

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.

Low-Tech Paper and Ink, and the Customer Experience

Posted on January 20, 2015 at 11:08 AM Comments comments (0)
I penned “Customer Intelligence Is Meaningless If You Don’t Tie It to Strategic Action” many years ago.  Over time that article has been used by several organizations in their training materials as a way of demonstrating the importance of customer service and its impact on the customer experience.  One aspect of that article that is rarely commented on, but no less interesting, is the action I took related to my search for a local service supplier when my incumbent vendor did not satisfy my needs. The action line from that original story reads:
“At this point I let my fingers do the walking through the Yellow Pages….”
Notice that I did not say…
“At this point I called my neighbor to see who they used for their appliance repair and followed up with the company they recommended.”
And I did not say…
“At this point I got online, and did a search for a local appliance repair shop.”
Yes, both could have happen.  In fact, if you read my story you may have been shocked that I even mentioned print Yellow Pages in my quest to find a new service provider.  And no doubt the modified quotes above would have been more colorful in demonstrating the power of word-of-mouth marketing and online search.  The truth of the matter is that I really did pull out my phone directory.  It was fast, easy and helped me complete my task.  But I’m not here to defend the print phone book.  What caught my attention today was the Wall Street Journal article “Catalog Makes a Comeback at Penny.”  Take a look at this passage from the article:
“The move highlights an oddity of the digital age.  While shoppers are increasingly buying everything from shoes to sofas to cars over the Internet, they still like browsing through the decidedly low-tech artifacts of page and ink.”

What does this mean for retail marketers?   Because I’m sure there are some who would classify catalogs as (junk mail) wasteful, unwanted, and a drain on our landfills.  Well, it doesn’t change the importance of your search engine optimization, or social media word-of-mouth marketing initiatives.  However; it does suggest that there are still situations and strategies that work very well for print advertising.  It’s interesting to note the article points out that “31% of shoppers have a catalog with them when they make an online purchase.”  That means print often delivers an important type of experience at a critical point of the consumer buying cycle.  So, if you want them to hit the purchase button, you may need to reconsider old fashion print in your marketing mix.