It’s Your Reputation at Stake

social media transparency A former client of mine is anxious to get her business off the ground and  has bought into the “hype” surrounding social media.  She doesn’t understand it – but she’s pretty sure that social media is the key to getting her business off the ground.

We worked together for about six months and parted on good terms.  While I’m obsessed about creating a  marketing strategy, where we define where you are now, who your customers are and the marketing messages you send based on those customers’ GDP – she was convinced that there had to be an easier way.

By the way, that “easier” way often takes the form of chasing every shiny new social media tool that comes down the pike.  Instead of evaluating “is this where my customers are?” and more important, “is this somewhere my customers WILL BE?”  it’s easier to say, “Hey – this is new and this is fun.  Let’s do this!”

I wasn’t surprised when I got a friends request recently from her on Facebook.  I accepted and was immediately barraged by an avalanche of marketing messages from her.  It was like the beating of a drum.

BONG!  Buy from me.

BONG!  Sign up for my email newsletter so you can buy from me.

BONG!  Visit my website so you’ll buy from me.

There wasn’t a single update along the lines of “I just finished reading a book I couldn’t put down” from someone who is NOT the author of the book.

There were no personal notes along the lines of  “my kid’s birthday is today.”

There wasn’t a single personal connection point and there wasn’t any indication that a human being was behind the picture or any of the messages.

Just the steady beat of the drum.

BONG! Buy from me. BONG! Buy from me. BONG! Buy from me.

I emailed her and said, “Hey – you’re going to get your Facebook account shut down if you keep that up.”

By the time she returned my email six hours later, it was too late.  Facebook didn’t like her tactics any more than I did.

It was in her return email  that I learned that she had hired an intern to “help” her with her social media marketing.

She actually paid someone to trash her reputation on Facebook.

I have no idea what the going rate is to  pay someone to learn the ins and outs of social media marketing while they get you banned from various social media outlets.   I mean, I get paying someone to GUIDE you – someone who’s “been there, done that” but that obviously was not the case here.

What I don’t is understand is paying someone who obviously has no idea how this whole “social media” scenes works to impersonate you because after all – it’s your reputation on the line.

I quit working outside the home and launched my business 12 years ago because it bothered me that I was paying someone else to raise my children.  Because of that decision, I missed out on such amenities as paid vacations and 401K plans –  but I gained control over how my children were being raised.  I’ll admit – the hardest part was shortly after I began working from home when my oldest son began BEGGING me to send him to the after school care.  When I told him that was for kids whose mommies worked  outside the home- he told me to go get a job.

I assume that my former client thought that hiring someone to do her social media for her was along the lines of hiring a nanny.  However, your child knows the difference between Mommy and the nanny.  When you hire someone  to  perform your social media marketing – this person is doing more than acting in your name – they are IMPERSONATING you.

When my client’s marketing barrage appeared in my Facebook stream – it wasn’t the intern’s face that appeared next to those updates – it was my client’s face!

My client said in the email that she has signed up again with a new name and a new email and asked her intern to “slow down”.

As for me, I’ll be ignoring the next friends request I get from her.  Why bother?

First, it’s not HER I’m connecting with – it’s her intern.  Her intern already sent me a friends request and I already accepted that.

Second, now that I know WHY she’s on Facebook – well, I’m not in the market for the services she’s selling.  Why sign up for another barrage?

Social media is a GREAT way to connect with people.  It’s a LOUSY form of direct marketing.   If you want to barrage your potential customers with your marketing message – use direct mail.  Those kind of “in your face” sales hype tactics WORK in direct mail and other forms of direct marketing.  Billy Mays’ sales tactics worked well in direct marketing –   they are AWFUL  when practiced in social media!

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.”

Facebook Fan Pages – Ask WIIFM

social media marketingWIIFM – What’s In It For Me – it’s the foundation for any successful marketing campaign.  However, it’s important to note that the What’s In It For Me should not in any way, shape or form be applied to your OWN selfish needs and desires.  You must maintain laser focus instead upon the satisfaction and delight of your customers and potential customers.

It’s with the WIIFM mantra in mind that I will ask the question here – what’s in it for me to become a “fan” of your business on Facebook?

Facebook Fan Pages: The Facts

Do a bit of research on Fan Pages on Facebook – and you’ll see lots of marketer’s singing it’s praises.  Among the chief selling points:

  1. It’s free.
  2. Pages contain links.  (Links to your own site – even though you can’t control the anchor text – well, hey – see #1 … it’s free.)
  3. The updates appear on every fan’s page (free publicity)
  4. You can send updates to fans – for free.
  5. A Fan Page has the potential for higher SERPS for a variety of reasons
  6. Um – did I mention it’s free.

So creating a Facebook Fan Page is FREE.  Great – free is great – when there’s value. KFC discovered that free is a powerful marketing incentive – but it’s a disaster when you offer free without limits.

There’s no doubt that a Facebook Fan page can provide GREAT value for the businesses that create them.

Ann Smarty at Search Engine Journal writes in evaluating the difference between creating a Facebook GROUP and creating a Facebook FAN PAGE:

  • Pages are generally better for a long-term relationships with your fans, readers or customers;
  • Groups are generally better for hosting a (quick) active discussion and attracting quick attention.

Ok – so there are a LOT of benefits to smart marketers by creating fan pages or groups on Facebook.

Notice, I qualified the above statement – SMART MARKETERS.

Because – again – creating a Facebook Fan Page without keeping in mind the WIIFM mantra (or worse yet, applying that mantra to your OWN selfish needs and desires instead of focusing upon the satisfaction and delight of your adoring fans) – means that you won’t get much other than free links with meaningless anchor text (worth exactly as much as you’re paying for them)  from your Facebook Fan Page.

Before you create a fan page – ask yourself – WHY would anyone want to become a FAN of my business?

WHAT’S IN IT FOR THEM?

In order to answer that question – you’ve got to have a clear vision of your customer’s GDP (Goals, Desires, Problems).

Seriously – if you don’t know the answer to “what is my ideal customer’s GDP?” – pick up a copy of my book Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results

Knowing what makes your customer’s buy is the most important piece to the marketing puzzle!  If you don’t know – you need to figure it out!

Sometimes – if you’re lucky – your fans will take matters into their own hands.

One of the most searched for recipes online is the recipe for Red Lobster Cheddar Biscuits.  The chain has a closely guarded secret recipe for those delightful little biscuits which overshadow every other offering on the Red Lobster Menu.  (Seafood… really, they serve seafood there too?)  The biscuits are by far the best thing on the menu so it should come as no surprise that the Red Lobster Cheddar Biscuits fan page on Facebook has over 400,000 fans.

What is surprising is the fact that the fan page was not created by Red Lobster!!!

It was created by true “fans” of the delicacy – likened by the page’s creator to “the Krabby Patty on Spongebob”. A fan of the product had time on his hands and created a fan page.  The “viral” properties of a Facebook Fan Page took over from there.

Every time a fan of Red Lobster Cheddar Biscuits posted a comment on the fan page – it showed up in the fan’s news feed.  Other “fans” found the page and many of the fans write disturbingly amusing love notes to the delicacy … and provide other social commentary.

The page creator posted on April 30 that he “just talked to the President of Red Lobster…. he approves of the page!!!!”

Um – if you’re a business owner, the fact that anyone can create a “fan page” for your business should cause your blood to run cold.

I’m just saying – a fan page can get ugly FAST!   Read The shit fight is beginning- should you join in? for how fast – and ugly – things can get in the social media universe.

The fact that the Fan Page not being controlled by the Red Lobster chain may be the reason it is so popular.  Even though the President of Red Lobster approves – he has to be uncomfortable knowing that one of his flagship products branding is now in the hands of a true “fan”. (The fan page is #6 on a search for the keyword by the way- well ahead of any “official” page sanctioned by the Red Lobster chain.)

What’s in it for fans of the Red Lobster Cheddar Biscuits?  Well, a recipe for the delightful treat along with a lot of witty banter.    What’s in it for Red Lobster?   Perhaps the real value of this fan page is to provide insight for the chain as to what people REALLY love about Red Lobster – and unfortunately it isn’t the seafood entrees!

The Customer’s Point of View

customer point of viewPiss poor customer service will kill your business almost as quickly as piss poor marketing will!!!

A while back, Jackie Huba wrote about the bad customer service she experienced in attempting to purchase a gift certificate to a dayspa. In Handling fee, or manhandled? Jackie gives a spa owner an up close and personal look at what it looks like from the customer’s point of view.

At the time, I was in possession of an unused spa gift certificate.  After reading Jackie’s spa horror story, I worried that there might be an “un-noted” expiration date on my gift certificate as well, so I called that afternoon to schedule my appointment.

I definitely got the impression that the staff at the spa wasn’t happy to be making good on a sale they pocketed months ago.

At that point, I realized that if I weren’t in possession of a gift certificate, I probably would have hung up the phone and tried to find another spa.  However, the buying decision had already been made so I went ahead and scheduled an afternoon appointment.

The morning of my appointment, I got a DM from a friend telling me that I had serious problems on my blog.

Let’s see – I can spend my afternoon getting a massage and pedicure, or I can fix the problem with my blog. Hmmm….. this is a no brainer.  I pick up the phone and prepare myself for the ordeal of  speaking to Ms. Snooty Spa Receptionist again.

Ms. Snooty Spa Receptionist tells me there will be a 50% charge for rescheduling my appointment with less than 24 hours notice. I bit my tongue and said “I’ll be there”…. and hoped that fixing my blog wouldn’t be a big deal.  Fortunately it wasn’t but I show up for my spa treatment looking like I’d just rolled out of bed.

It’s been a while since I redeemed that gift certificate. The manicure and pedicure are long gone and my neck and shoulders are as tight as a drum once again – but I won’t be calling for another appointment at this particular spa.  If you ask the owners of the spa why, I’m certain they would blame the “bad economy.”

WRONG!

I have to assume that I’m not the only person who received exceptionally poor customer service at this day spa – which should be the ONE type of business where exceptionally good customer service should be the goal.

However, as bad as their customer service is – it’s not the piss poor customer service that is killing this business – it’s piss poor follow through and marketing.

Piss poor marketing will kill your business faster than piss poor customer service will.

The only reason I remembered this particular experience is that I found this post in my drafts folder this morning.  I began writing the post right after the experience but never posted it.

Make this your marketing mantra: Out of sight – out of mind.

I haven’t heard anything from this spa since my initial visit and that qualifies as “piss poor marketing”.

I didn’t get a follow up “We hope you were delighted with your spa experience” email, note or phone call.  A phone call would have given me the opportunity to “vent” and would have given the spa owners the chance to redeem the relationship.

However, it didn’t happen.

Time has passed and yet I have never received a “we’re still here” note – aka direct mail piece reminding me of my visit and encouraging me to schedule another.

I have never been offered the opportunity to “send five friends and get a free massage.”

My daughter – who purchased the initial gift certificate for her mother’s birthday in March- didn’t get a reminder that a gift certificate to the spa would make a wonderful Mother’s Day present.

This spa is relying on “word of mouth” marketing to promote their business.  My daughter heard about the spa from someone with whom she works.  Word of mouth marketing worked once – but the buzz of the new discovery is over and my daughter ended up spending just as much on other presents for Mother’s Day – but she didn’t spend that money with the spa.

This spa is ignoring their most valuable marketing asset – their current customer files.  Unfortunately, they are not alone.

It costs a lot more to acquire a new customer than it does to sell an existing customer.

This is not my ‘opinion” – it is a fact.

A lot of small business owners are terrified of “marketing” but sometimes, “marketing” can merely nothing more than acts of customer appreciation.

Stop!  Watch closely – can you see the line between “marketing” and “customer service” blurring?

Reach out and touch your existing customers this week.  Create a special “thank you offer” just for existing customers and then let them know about it.  Even if it’s just a simple “thank you” card, you’ll be surprised what it can do for your bottom line.