Celebrating Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

celebrating the 4th of JulyCitizens and residents of the United States celebrate July 4th as America’s birthday.  However, as students of American History will attest – the “roots” of the Declaration of Independence extend back to the days of the French and Indian War (1754-1763).

Settlers from Spain, France, Sweden, Holland, and England had been claiming land in North America beginning in the 17th century. The French and Indian War was not only the final war of many deciding who would control the Colonies  – it also served to “unite” the disjointed collection of colonies in a common purpose.  That common purpose is distilled in the document…

The Declaration of Independence

American’s LOVE to cite the  second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

However, very few of us have read the document in its entirety.  While these are thrilling words of hope and inspiration,  the words that follow clearly illustrate the gravity of the chosen course of action.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

The founding fathers were not a bunch of hot headed hippies- ready to overthrow the status quo and take the plunge into anarchy.

They didn’t declare their independence from England lightly.

To say the Declaration of Independence of the American Colonies was a big deal would be an understatement. To create a “contemporary word picture”,  imagine if Jon and Kate Gosselin’s 8 children united and sued their parents for divorce.  That’s how “severe” this course of action was – and the Founding Fathers recognized the severity of the circumstances.

The severity and gravity of this course action is apparent in the eloquent words of the Declaration of Independence.  The remaining paragraphs carefully outline the course of events that left them no other choice than to establish a separate government.

While the opening words of the second paragraph are frequently cited and quoted, few have read to the end – where, in my humble opinion,  the most eloquent words of all reside….

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

I think the words above clearly illustrate that when Thomas Jefferson used the term “separation of church and state” in a letter to the Danbury Baptists in 1802 – he never meant for government to be “protected” from the influence of the church –  but rather he wished to protect the CHURCH from the influences of the GOVERNMENT.

However – church and state issues aside –  the sentence above illustrates the gravity of the situation at hand.  See, the 56 men who signed this document were committing an act of treason.

TREASON!!!

In the show “Arrested Development”, the father is charged with treason – and when his son confronts him  with this charge, the father deflects by saying “It’s just my first offense!”   His son responds, “I’ve never heard of a second!”

From  The Fate of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence

With only a few exceptions, such as Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, these were men of substantial property. All but two had families. The vast majority were men of education and standing in their communities. They had economic security as few men had in the 18th century.

Even before the list was published, the British marked down every member of Congress suspected of having put his name to treason. All of them became the objects of vicious manhunts. Some were taken. Some, like Jefferson, had narrow escapes. All who had property or families near British strongholds suffered.

Each had more to lose from revolution than he had to gain by it.

The last line – is a given.  There are many debates that rage over what REALLY happened to the original 56 signatories to the Declaration of Independence but one thing I know for sure…  this course of action was definitely not the “softer and easier” way.

It would have been far easier for not only these 56 men – but for every other Colonist who served in the first Continental Army – to “do nothing” rather than to act boldly.

Today I’m remembering the sacrifices they made.   As I reflect on this, my prayers go out to those in Iran who have the same yearnings for freedom that those 56 signers had years ago. I know that I frequently lose sight of all that was sacrificed so I could freely engage in the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness but the news from the other side of the world is reminding me of an important fact…

Freedom has never been and will never be free.

Business Building Secret: People are actually pretty smart…

billymaysI think that Billy May’s great success as a pitchman lay in the fact that he truly believed that people are smart.

I had only recently caught an episode of Discovery’s series “Pitchmen“.  The series followed the late legendary pitchman Billy Mays and his British counterpart Anthony Sullivan, giving viewers a “behind the scenes” look at all that is involved in creating a successful marketing campaign.

One of the business building “secrets” to success practiced by Billy and Anthony was that they would only “pitch” great products.  In the episode I saw,  Billy believed a product had potential – but the inventor had to first work out every possible ‘kink’.

In the case of this episode’s  product, the spray on fertilizer which painted brown spots in your lawn green had to be environmentally friendly before Billy would agree to pitch the product.  An early version of the product could make pets and/or children ill if they came in contact with the treated lawn.  May was unwilling to pitch a product that could be harmful to pets or small children – so the product was sent “back to the drawing board.”

Billy Mays knew that his reputation as a “pitchman” was only as good as the products he promoted.   He knew that his reputation was on the line, so he fully vetted each and every product he pitched.  If Billy was pitching it – you could rest assured it worked as promised.  From Oxyclean to Kaboom, I have yet to try a product Billy pitched that didn’t work exactly as promised.

Billy Mays knew his ability to sell product lay in his ability to communicate with a vast audience – and repeat sales to that audience meant he had to continually to earn that audience’s trust. His distinctive delivery style – combined with his dedication to only pitching products he knew were worthy – made him one of the greatest pitchmen of our time.

If Billy Mays didn’t believe people were smart – he would have pitched any product – as long as the sponsor was willing to pay his fees.

Contrast that with the “people are idiots” business style of a self proclaimed “internet marketing guru.”  I subscribed to this lesser known “pitchman’s” newsletter a few years ago.  The reason I  subscribed  (using my “real” email no less)  is that I had purchased a book he had written.  His book was wealth of information and I was anxious to discover any other nuggets of wisdom this marketing expert had to offer.

I began to start doubting his great marketing wisdom when he shared some “complaints” that he had been receiving from newsletter subscribers in one of the early issues.

In essence, the letters he shared were from people who expressed disappointment at the content of his newsletters.  Instead of sharing ‘behind the scenes stories,” each newsletter was simply a long copy sales letter – with a “buy now to learn more” call to action at the end.  His readers were obviously asking for more…. more reasons to “trust” him before they bought from him.

His published response to the complaints was simple and along the lines of “I’m here to make money – not share free information.”

I continued to subscribe because – quite honestly – his newsletters were truly brilliant examples of effective sales copy.

It’s not surprising that one day, I fell victim to the master’s skillfully written marketing copy.  I purchased one of the reports he was selling.  I paid $39.90 for the report.  Because I had been so happy with the content in his published books, I was fairly certain I would be equally happy with the report.

Because his books had been previously published with a national publisher, he had to include a “disclaimer” at the beginning of the report.  In essence, the disclaimer shared that the information contained in the report was originally published as part of one of the author’s previously published books.

OUCH!!!!   Fool me once – shame on you.  Fool me twice – shame on me.

I have never unsubscribed from this newsletter because I will continue to keep his brilliant sales letters in my “swap” file.  However, I will NEVER make the mistake of paying $39.90 for one of his “reports” again when  I can just as easily pick up one of his books (new) on Amazon containing five times the material at half the price.

He made a one time to sale to me – but I will NEVER be his customer.

There’s an old customer service axiom  which says, “the customer is always right.” Maybe the marketing mantra should read:

“The customer is always smart.”

Ditech aired an ad a few years ago championing the concept that people are smart…

The commercial is more than a bit ironic given the state of the current mortgage markets.  However, I have to disagree with the vast wisdom contained in the YouTube comments and side with the commercial’s message – that people really ARE smart.  They will frequently make the absolute BEST choice – as they see it.

It’s your marketing materials job to show them that your product or service is the “smart” choice.

In my book Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results I suggest that you create your marketing copy with your ideal customer in mind… and to think of such “conversations” in the same way you would think of a conventional conversation at a dinner party or networking function.

You wouldn’t approach someone at a dinner party and strike up a conversation using a tone that implies that they’re an idiot – so why in the world would you adopt such a tone in your marketing copy?

Of course, in the end, it doesn’t matter how brilliant your marketing copy – if you truly believe that your customers are idiots – then that thinking is going to show up throughout your business.

If you think your customers are idiots, don’t expect to find long term success online – especially in the world where social media rules.

In an age of Facebook Fan Pages which can easily be created by your customers and which can operate beyond your control, you had better hope and pray the supposed “idiots” you call customers aren’t smart enough to figure out how to create a Facebook account – let alone a Facebook Fan Page.

See, there’s a difference between “idiots” and the “uniformed.”  The former are unable and unwilling to learn.  The latter are willing and able to be informed – and are open to enlightenment.  Check out Blogs and the Art of Deception for an example of the kind of “enlightenment” that happens online and you’ll see why it’s best to assume that people are smart – and ready to be enlightened.

After all – your audience won’t remain “uniformed” forever.  At some point in time, some blogger somewhere will eventually shed light on the subject during a Social Media Marketing Reality Check

“The Internet is VERY PUBLIC and it never forgets.”

Trust: Essential Element in Word Of Mouth Marketing

social media love affairFrom the “have a heart attack and die from NOT surprise” files… marketing charts reports that according to new research from Mintel – real-life referrals are more influential to consumers than those received online.

In essence, the report reveals that our buying decisions are influenced more by people we know and trust than by strangers we encounter randomly online.

Stop the presses!!! (Talk about an antiquated term…)

We need a research study to tell us that a referral made by someone we know and trust is more “influential” that the recommendation of an unseen, unknown and untrusted STRANGER?

Such is the state of existence for the corporate marketing drone . Fortunately when such information is gathered, it is shared via the internet.

Again – this should be a “have a heart attack and die from NOT surprise” type of revelation.    But then again, I guess this might come as a surprise to those who believe that social media marketing is supposed to be magic.

The “magic” inherent in social media marketing is provided by YOU!

Social media marketing is a powerful marketing tool – but just as Superman’s amazing powers were the result of our yellow sun – the power inherent in social media as a marketing tool lies in the ability to make a connection with people – a.k.a. prospective customers.

If you want to discover social media marketing Kryptonite – treat social media marketing like a sales call instead of a cocktail party!

Social media is great a building a connections with people.

Trust is an essential element in the successful word of mouth marketing campaign.  People aren’t going to refer other customers to you if they don’t trust to you.  Word of mouth marketing does not happen without a strong foundation of trust.

Building connections is an ESSENTIAL part of developing trust.

In 1997, Maxine Clark founded Build-A-Bear Workshop, a teddy-bear themed retail-entertainment experience. In the link to this MSNBC interview with Maxine – she talks about passion – she talks about  first impressions – she talks about dreaming big and possibilities – and then she finishes by talking about making CONNECTIONS.

Social media can be a POWERFUL marketing tool – when you use it to MAKE CONNECTIONS.

Making connections is the first step in developing trust – the kind of trust needed to launch a successful word of mouth marketing campaign.

Word of mouth marketing is simply when people tell their friends, family and neighbors about your product or service for you.

The stated goal of every Build-A-Bear Workshop location is to make a CONNECTION with their customers.   That desire to build a connection with customers colors everything they do.

The result of that connection is an impressive word of mouth marketing campaign.  If you’re the mother of a girl under the age of 12 – if you haven’t heard about your local Build-A-Bear Workshop – it’s only because there’s not one within driving distance – YET!

Build-A-Bear has one of the most powerful word of mouth marketing I’ve ever encountered.    If you’re looking to build a similar word of mouth marketing campaign – you should know that these types of campaigns have their roots in the connections that have been made with customers!

Build-A-Bear doesn’t rely on recommendations in impersonal online forums- it relies on real people to carry their marketing message to neighbors – to family and to friends.

If you need email scams to sell your product or service – then social media marketing is going to be your worst nightmare.

If, however, you’re the kind who likes to make real connections with real people- then welcome to social media marketing.  It will never take the place of “real world” connections – but it can create new virtual connections which quite honestly, can be just as powerful when fully developed!

Trust is Worth Protecting

Hockey arenaThe first testicular guard “cup” was used in Hockey in 1874 -the first helmet was used in 1974.

It took 100 years for men to realize that the brain is  worth protecting as well.

There’s something that is frequently overlooked in the “rush” to sell people things – something that is important – takes time to nurture and is definitely worth protecting… it’s trust.  However, sometimes business owners, in the rush to “make a sale”, overlook the importance of establishing trust.

Establishing trust is the REAL reason why you should be using “social media. Social media tools such as blogs do a great job of building trust with potential customers.

In Persuade Someone in 5 Steps AJ Kumar over at Persuasive.net writes…

It doesn’t matter how good of persuasion expert you are, if the person you are trying to convince doesn’t trust you, you won’t sell them on anything.

Trust is tough to win yet easily lost.

In Effective Selling Using Social Media I wrote:

Trust – trust is the foundation of making sales in the new millennium.

Social media is as viral as it is transparent.  Just try being less than “authentic”  in the realm of social media and you’ll quickly discover how brutal the new social media based web can be.

While it’s never been a “good marketing strategy” to use deception – resorting to deceptive marketing practices in an age of social media is even more detrimental now than ever before in history.  Check out my post on Exposing Deceptive Marketing Tactics with Social Media on how social media is becoming a huge “whistle blower” when it comes to uncovering and exposing deceptive marketing tactics both on and off the web.

Relationships and trust are the KEY elements in social media marketing.

If there is any  “magic” in social media it lies in the fact that social media builds relationships – and relationships are the foundation for trust.

For a century hockey players did all they could to protect their “family jewels”.  It took almost a century before they began trying to protect their second most important asset.

As AJ points out – it’s almost impossible to be persuasive without establishing trust.   Since “sales” is just another way of saying “persuaded customers”…  then it makes sense for any business interested in achieving healthy sales needs to be equally interested in creating and preserving trust as well.

Effective Selling Using Social Media

transparency in social mediaLet’s face facts- the reason many business owners are interested in social media marketing and are Twitterpated by Twitter is not that they’re anxious to make a “connection” with potential customers but rather that they’re anxious to close sales.

For example, most business owners who are “hot” to learn more about Twitter,  have heard the tales of how Dell uses Twitter to close millions of dollars in sales.  As a result, most businesses are interested in using Twitter to boost their bottom line in a similar fashion.

The problem is, many businesses are so focused on making a sale today that they fail to recognize that closing sales in the new millennium requires establishing a significant amount of TRUST!!

Trust isn’t earned in a single “transaction”.

Social media is a GREAT tool to build trust – but in order to do so, you must first be trustworthy!!!   In my post The REAL reasons why you should be using “social media” I state that:

The REAL reason you need to be using  [insert social media application of choice] is to establish TRUST with other human beings.

Trust – trust is the foundation of making sales in the new millennium.

Social media is as viral as it is transparent.  Just try being less than “authentic”  in the realm of social media and you’ll quickly discover how brutal the new social media based web can be.

My favorite illustrations of this principle are still Cash4Gold Social Media Meltdown and the Belkin Social Media Payola Scandal which both CLEARLY illustrate that when it comes to Social Media Marketing – authenticity is essential because transparency is not optional.

However, when you’re authentic – when you’re really serious about providing a product or service that addresses a customer’s GDP (Goals, Desires and Problems – you’re either trying to help them Achieve a Goal, Satisfy a Desire or Solve a Problem – learn more in my book Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results) then the new web – the social media web – can truly be the best thing since sliced bread for your business.

See, if your business model is based on “people are idiots – and easily parted with their hard earned cash” then you’re going to HATE the new web.  You’re going to HATE how people can share their experiences with your company.  You’re going to HATE how transparent and viral the new web is.

However, if your business model is based on truly meeting the needs of your customers or clients – well, then be prepared to work a little harder up front in building trust – because there are a lot of “slimy SOB’s” (that’s straight out of an email from a new client this morning) out there claiming to do what you say you do.  However, you can also be prepared to start getting new business falling into your lap thanks to the new web.

In her post “Selling isn’t Selling Anymore” Betsy Wuebker writes:

The masters of sales psychology […] have routinely stressed building rapport, listening skills, problem-solving, and other relationship-builders are a better path . The funny thing is, when you employ relationship-builders they – wait for this – build relationships. You become a colleague by virtue of the relationship you’ve cultivated. You don’t need to consciously ABC because you’re trusted. Trust will close the sale for you every time.

That’s part of the “magic” of social media.  Social media tools such as blogs, Twitter and Facebook are great ways to build trust with potential customers or clients.  Trust is the big kahuna – the big wave – the success maker.

Thanks to social media, I find I don’t spend very much time at all in “closing” new clients on my services.  They’re “pre-closed” thanks to my social media presence. It’s a beautiful thing – but it didn’t happen by writing 2 or 3 blog posts and then sitting back and waiting for my email to fill with client requests!!!

If you read the last line and thought “Doh!” then please, feel free to contact me about working together.  See, the 7th layer of hell in my business are the clients who expect to write two or three blog posts and then magically find those precious blog posts gaining top 10 SERPS on highly competitive keywords.

Social media doesn’t work like that.  Building trust doesn’t work like that.  If you can’t summon more than 2 or 3 blog posts on the topic which you claim “expert” status – perhaps you don’t deserve the “trust” of potential clients.

In the blog post Gain Readers by Selling Yourself, Barbara Swafford tells the tale of the days when she was employed to reach out and connect with customers – a.k.a. telemarketing.  She ends the post with a poignant admonition:

Today’s Lesson

For our blog to succeed, we must sell it. And, in selling our blog, we are also selling ourselves.

Yes indeedy doody.  Social media is ALL about selling ourselves.   You might think you work with “corporations” but trust me, you don’t.  You are an individual who works with other individuals employed by corporations.  Jason Cohen writes about this subject in his post “How to get customers to love you even when you screw up” and he writes:

If you pretend to be something you’re not, they’ll see right through it. Then what have you done? You’ve lied to those who would have loved you for who you are; that’s not how you build a relationship.

Relationships and trust are the KEY elements in social media marketing.

If there is any  “magic” in social media it is brought to the table – BY YOU!

Social Media Marketing can’t be “pre-packaged” and “canned”.  That’s not how social media works.

Years ago, when businesses started pre-packaging and mass delivering canned email marketing messages without any attempt to engage the end user or build trust – well, it quickly got dubbed as “spam”.

There are tons of tools being promoted to help you pre-package your social media messages.  Trust me, none of them will work nearly as well as sharing your true and authentic self.  That’s how you build relationships and trust that are essential to creating an effective sales tool.