Overcome Business Fear of Sharing

It’s not uncommon for people who sell their knowledge and expertise to  fear that if they give too much information away – that they’ll eliminate their potential client’s need for their services.

When it comes to sharing your knowledge and expertise – the more you give, the more you get.  The more you share knowledge and expertise – the more recognition and authority you accumulate.

Many knowledge professionals are engaged in making what Neil Rackham defines as “The Major Sale“.  Major sales require a large investment of either time, energy or money.   Major sales are more than simple transactions – they’re full blown relationships and relationships are the foundation of social media.

Relationships begin by building a foundation of trust.  Build enough trust with your audience and you’ll eventually find you’re creating authority.

Authority =  trust + power… the power to motivate people to take action.

Building authority does not happen overnight. It happens gradually – as you reveal and share your expertise via the many opportunities made possible thanks to social media.

I don’t have much time these days to bake- but over the years I have learned the hard way how important a tiny ingredient like baking powder can be in a recipe.  It’s such a tiny amount of a seemingly inert powder that surely it won’t be missed if the box in the pantry is empty- right?  WRONG!  That tiny bit of baking powder makes a HUGE difference in any recipe.  Without going into the science behind it – baking powder causes the bubbles in the batter to expand.  This “fizz” helps to make baked goods tasty treats which when combined with long periods of inactivity – cause one’s ass to grow to a mind blowing size.  Thus my retirement from baking as a hobby.

Dietary issues aside, when it comes to marketing your business – your knowledge and expertise are the “fizz” that makes your business rise and grow.  Sure, people can get a plethora of information “for free” on the internet – but there comes a time when general free advice isn’t enough.  It’s at the time when the rubber meets the road and prospective clients NEED your wisdom and hard won insight into solving their most pressing problems.

For example, if you think the self serve legal document service Legal Zoom replaces the need for a good attorney – then you’ve obviously never NEEDED a good attorney.  A good attorney has the education, the experience and the critical thinking skills to either avoid trouble ahead or get you out of trouble.

If you think one of the $25 tax preparation software programs replaces the need for a good CPA – then you’ve never worked with a good CPA.  A good CPA has the education, the experience and the critical thinking skills to either help you avoid tax problems in the future or can keep you out of tax trouble.

If you think an electronic back massage pad is an effective substitute for a good chiropractor – then you’ve never experienced a good chiropractor.  A good chiropractor has the education, the experience and the diagnostic skills to treat current back problems and can help you avoid back problems in the future.

If you think a self help book replaces the need for your services as a therapist or a coach – then you’ve never worked with a good therapist or coach…. yada, yada, yada.

You get the idea.

Which is why – if you’re good – you shouldn’t fear sharing too much of the WHY people should work with you.  There’s no way to give too many reasons WHY someone should want to work with you.  There’s no such thing as sharing”too much” information when it comes to making the major sale which is why blogs ROCK as marketing tools for anyone in the business of selling their expertise.

Creating Authority with Your Business Blog

I’ve talked a lot about how your business blog can be used to build trust with prospective clients – especially if you’re in the business of “selling your knowledge.”  However, there’s another term which is emerging which may be an even more compelling reason to begin blogging for your business.

That term is AUTHORITY and it’s becoming a buzz word in the world of business blogging because business blogging is a powerful and effective tool you can use to establish your authority.

Authority is powerful stuff.  According to Dictionary.com, one of the definitions of authority reads:

“right to respect or acceptance of one’s word, command, thought, etc.; commanding influence: the authority of a parent; the authority of a great writer.”

Think of authority as the natural next step in the whole “trust building” process.

Authority =  trust + power… the power to motivate people to take action.

There have been lots of behavioral studies surrounding the power of authority.  One of the most cited works on obedience to authority is the Yale study conducted by Stanley Milgram.  In the study, inspired by the trial of the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, Milgram sought to answer the deeply troubling question of whether authority could cause a person to contradict their deeply held beliefs.

In the study – volunteers were recruited and told they were part of an experiment which tested memory and learning in different situations.  The “administrator” was dressed in a lab coat and armed only with a clip board. and  the “student” was actually an actor.  The true subject of the study was the volunteer – who was assigned the role of “teacher” in the experiment.   The volunteer was instructed  to administer increasing electric shocks to the “student”.  The results of the experiment were sobering to say the least… 26 of the 40 volunteers went on to administer the maximum (fatal) voltage three times, despite the student’s pleas for mercy and apparent impending death.   Only one participant refused to administer shocks to the student.

That’s the power of authority.

In the study – the stage for the administrator’s authority was planned carefully.  The administrator was dressed in a lab coat and given a clipboard.    In later subsequent studies, it appears the “uniform” is an important control in creating the appearance of authority.  While the uniform in the original experiment was a lab coat and clipboard, subsequent experiments and a few well known scams have used police uniforms to create the authority required to quickly gain the trust needed to influence people to act in ways they would not without the misuse of the  power of authority.

Blogs are the “uniform” of authority on the web

So if you’ve been wondering what all the “fuss” is over business blogging – it’s this:  Business blogs are great tools for building authority.  Bloggers in every niche are constantly being cited regularly as “reliable sources” by various media outlets.  Search is a tool used by journalists worldwide – and blogs are very search engine friendly.

Which is why – blogs are quickly becoming the “uniform” of authority on the web.

However, it’s important to remember that trust – and the resulting authority – are not earned quickly nor easily.  The newly minted police officer who abuses the privileges his uniform imparts is quickly dismissed from the police force.  The same is true of your business blog.

Blogging authority does not come from a single blog post.  It doesn’t even come from a dozen or so blog posts.  In many cases, it comes from literally HUNDREDS of blog posts on a specific subject.

The path to authority begins with building a foundation of trust.  You gain the trust of your blog readers by providing lots and lots of quality content.  You answer the questions your readers are struggling to answer with your blog posts.  You give behind the scenes “glimpses” of how you solve problems.  You demonstrate your expertise time and time again through your blog posts.

Lather – rinse – repeat.

That’s how you “earn”the uniform of authority via blogging on the web.  It doesn’t happen overnight – but it does happen – one authority building business blog post at a time

Social Media is not Linear

Social Media MarketingThe straightest path between two points is a line – but when it comes to connecting with your customers – the path is anything but linear.

Ever since I can remember, business people have always wanted a “soda machine” relationship with their marketing and advertising.  Slide a dollar or two into your “marketing machine” – and out pops a sale.

It’s no surprise that those same people desperately want social media marketing to work in a similar “sales funnel soda machine” fashion.

The sales funnel is a myth either created by or created to satisfy the bean counters who wanted to see a direct link between marketing expenditures and sales figures.  In the attempt to “prove” that when a dollar is fed into the marketing soda machine that a soda can customer does indeed “pop” out the other end, the Rube Goldberg type of sales funnel was created.  This was the myth used to explain the complex process customers go through between the time they “consume” marketing dollars and the point in time when they show up in the sales figures.

Like all myths, it had a purpose.  In this case, it was created to provide “hard evidence” that there is a cause and effect between marketing and sales.

Unfortunately, for the sales funnel myth, in the real world, people are rarely willing to be lined up and marched in orderly fashion to make their company coerced acquisition on schedule.  Consumers don’t consider themselves to be “consuming” marketing dollars when they watch a television show.  They feel no moral obligation to purchase from their favorite television show’s commercial sponsor.

SURPRISE!!!  Customers make acquisitions to satisfy their own GDP – Goals, Desires and Problems.

Ah  -there’s the rub.  Those pesky customers have their own agenda.  Those pesky customers expect to be treated like real live PEOPLE  – people who are usually pretty smart and who make decisions as to what is in their best interest.  Those pesky customers who want more from their relatioship with your business than to be treated like a credit card wielding ATM whose goal in life is to keep your payroll and profit margins fat.

Social media is about connecting with people. It’s about pulling back the veil between companies and consumers and allowing companies to put a FACE on those customers who, until recently- were just numbers on a spreadsheet.  It’s about having the means and opportunity to watch as consumers discuss your product online – as they Tweet their recommendations – as they blog about their disappointments.

In Social Media’s Warning Label – I highlighted the story of a business that didn’t recognize or appreciate the marketing intelligence provided  by a disgruntled customer.

With that said, the social media warning label can only help the business owner who understands that the very nature of social media is to remove the veil which separates customers from the proprietors of the business in question.

Again – IMHO the sales process has NEVER been linear.  Success has always been found in focusing on the customer’s goals, desires and problems.  Francois Gossieaux over at emergence marketing writes in his post “Where are my leads?

A new study published in McKinsey Quarterly reports that 2/3rd of touch points in a buyer’s active evaluations process are now consumer-driven marketing touch points: user generated reviews, word of mouth, and in store interactions. Only 1/3rd of the touch points are still company-driven. DID YOU HEAR THAT? You still control 1/3rd of the touch points!

I’ve linked to Jason’s post before about why your blog needs to focus on creating cheerleaders and not leads but I’m doing it again because it’s a message that needs to be spread.  In a world where 2/3’s of the sales process is out of your hands – it’s best to marshall your marketing forces to try to SHAPE those interactions… or if nothing else – load your customer’s lips.

Your blog – your Facebook account – your Twitter account were not created to function as “sales funnel soda machines”.   They are communication tools to connect you with other PEOPLE!

Your customers are people too.  Their first concern is NOT your bottom line -it’s their GDP (Goals, Desires, Problems).   Creating a business which counts on customers caring about your bottom line is the quickest path to destruction – or if you’re an auto maker – government ownership.

Connecting with people CAN result in more sales for your company, but not because your blog is a sales lead collector.  Social media can literally pull back the veil and literally provide insight into how your company is perceived by your customers – without the whitewashing of a carefully constructed “customer survey” or “focus group” – if you have the courage to listen.

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 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.