Unseen Business Killers

How a common business blogging excuse may be a sign of an unseen killer within your business.

Lately I’ve been inundated with stories of people battling cancer.  One of my friend’s sister was recently diagnosed with the disease and a client’s sister also received this devastating diagnosis.   Then I received news that the outlook isn’t bright for a client of mine who is also battling this killer disease.  While she was diagnosed within a few weeks of my friend’s sister – my client didn’t discover she had cancer until symptoms forced her to see her doctor.  By the time the cancer was causing her discomfort, it had spread throughout her body.

Just as early diagnosis is a key element in treating cancer – it’s also a key to combating a common unseen business killer as well.

Over the past few years, I’ve helped hundreds of client launch blogs to promote their businesses – and I’ve had perhaps just as many if not more decide against launching a blog.  One of the most common excuses I hear is, ” I don’t have time to blog.”

Unfortunately, when the gloves come off – “I don’t have time to blog” is usually exposed for what it really  is – an excuse.

It’s an excuse used to avoid confronting what may be literally a CANCER which may be growing within the belly of your business.   Like all cancers, early detection is the key to an effective cure.

It’s easy to determine if “I don’t have time to blog” is an excuse or a reason.  If you really don’t have time to blog for your business, you can either

  • hire someone to blog for your business or
  • hire someone to assume some of your duties so you can find time to blog.

Nine times out of ten, when this “either or” is presented,  the REAL objection to blogging for business surfaces.  It takes various forms, but it can be “boiled down” to a very simple: “I don’t know what to write about.”

AH -now here’s the REAL reason most business owners aren’t blogging. It’s not a lack of time – but rather a lack of direction.

It makes sense if you think about it.  After all, we human beings always seem to be able to MAKE time to do what’s important.   The working mother who exercises regularly doesn’t do so because she’s got an extra hour not available to the rest of the population – she MAKES the time to exercise.   She does so because she recognizes how important daily exercise it is for her health and her sanity.

If the reason is that you aren’t blogging for your business is that you don’t know what to write about – the answer is deceptively simple:

Simply write about your customer’s GDP.

It doesn’t matter if your a B 2 B or a B 2 C – if you’re in business – you are either helping customers/clients  to

  1. achieve a goal
  2. satisfying a desire
  3. solve a problem

I call this magic triad “GDP – Goals – Desires – Problems.  Pick one -pick two or pick all three as the reason you’re in business and then start talking about it via your blog.

If you find you can’t isolate one of these three reasons for being in business – then chances are you aren’t creating or communicating an effective marketing message for your company.

If you don’t KNOW what goals you’re helping people achieve,

If you don’t know what desires are being quenched,

If you don’t know what problems need to be solved,

Then OF  COURSE you aren’t going to know what to blog about.

This is definitely a case of what you don’t know CAN hurt your business.

If you don’t know which GDP “button” to push – you’re eventually going to find yourself – and your business – in between a rock and a hard spot.

Your business blog could be the greatest business diagnostic tool ever created.

The sheer act of creating blog posts forces you to FOCUS upon prospective clients/customer’s GDP.   If you don’t know your target audience’s GDP – then you know you have a serious problem in your business.

Discovering that you don’t know what your target audience’s GDP is is almost like discovering you have the earliest stages of cancer.  Admittedly, it’s not good news – but it’s news much better delivered sooner than later.

It used to be that it took a competitor who who understands the target audience’s GDP entering the marketplace and inflicting “sales discomfort” to send the average business owner scrambling for a speedy business diagnosis.  Unfortunately, the explosion of social media  has lead to a new “symptom” for the company with a lack of understanding of consumer GDP: customer complaints being shared via social media tools.

There are plenty of reasons to hit the keyboard and start to blog for your business.  Perhaps the best reason to begin blogging is the act of blogging constantly encourages you to focus upon what matters most – your target audience’s GDP.

If the REAL reason you’re not blogging for your business is that you don’t know what to write about – think of it as an early stage diagnosis of a serious problem – one that should be addressed quickly and decisively.

Social Media Mistake #3: Forgetting what it is…

social media marketing

Probably the most common social media mistake made by both business owners and individuals is not having a clear understanding of what social media is.  When you forget (or don’t know) what social media is  – that is the time when the biggest mistakes are made.  So what is social media –

Social media is conversation!

True – it’s a unique – technology aided means of communication – but when you strip away the shiny metal surface – social media is simply communication between people who are not face to face with each other.

Because it is conversation – the typical rules of making polite conversation apply.  With the way some people treat social media – I wonder how many dinner party invitations they receive – because their manners online are atrocious.

Of course, those with the worst manners are those who are trying to “game” the system.  These boorish oafs are akin to the person who shows up at the party and starts barging in on conversations, telling anyone who will listen about this GREAT MLM opportunity.  The only reason this type of person ACCEPTS a party invitation is to build his or her “down line.”  There is no room for relationships – only rubes.

The real “problem” most businesses have with social media is that their previous relationships with their customers were strictly one way.  The company spoke via television ads, radio ads, newspaper ads, etc.  The customer responded by whipping out his/her credit card and making a purchase.  There is little opportunity for feedback in that kind of “relationship” – and quite honestly it – it made it MUCH easier on the business when the communication was strictly one way.

Instead of dealing with REAL customer feedback – the business could simply speculate on what consumers thought.  They could sit in meeting rooms – drinking coffee and pouring over spread sheets and try to interpret the WHY behind their consumers behavior. In the days BEFORE social media – the only other way to gain this valuable data was to resort to focus groups.  Focus groups are where people are brought into an artificial setting and asked about their opinions.   It’s phony – it’s forced – but a decade ago it was the best way to figure out what was going on inside a consumer’s mind.

That was then – and this is now.

Now we have a more “advanced” tool for gaining access to what’s going on inside consumer’s minds.  However, there are those who will try to tell you that [insert social media tool here] is the short- cut to marketing success.  Just set up a Facebook Fan Page – or a blog – or begin Tweeting – and you’ll be amazed as you watch your business revenues skyrocket with throngs of customers hungry for your product or service.

Don’t get me wrong – that certainly CAN happen.  There’s nothing better than working with a client who has a clear vision of their customer’s GDP (Goals, Desires, Problems) who wants to get involved in social media marketing.   On the flip side – there’s nothing worse than trying to work with someone whose social media marketing goal is revenue without relationships.

There are many ways to communicate with your customers and potential customers.  The biggest difference between social media marketing and “traditional” marketing methods is that the prospective customers can – and WILL – let you know what they think.

Come to think of it – consumers are doing the same thing via social media when it comes to traditional marketing methods such as television advertising as well. So when you think about it – there really is no escaping the fact that social media will be shaping your business whether you like it or not.  You can make the biggest mistake of all which is ignoring social media – or you can try to manipulate social media when you don’t like what your customers are saying – but in the end, remember that social media is merely communication aided and abetted by technology – and nothing more.

Any “magic” you find in using social media for marketing is definitely provided by YOU!

Social Media Mistake #1: Ignore it

social-media-marketingOne of the most toxic social media mistakes a business owner can make is to adopt a “ignore it and hope it goes away” type of attitude.

This head in the sand tactic is employed on many levels.  Some business owners want to ignore social media in general – hoping it’s a fad which will quickly fade away. Unfortunately, for some businesses and brands – their first foray into the wild and wonderful world of social media is when they discover a social media shit storm has erupted and their brand is at the epicenter.

It’s important for business owners to recognize that conversations are already happening about your business and your brand.   While it’s infinitely easier to ignore these social media rumblings – ignoring these critical conversations and hoping they’ll go away is the worst thing you as a business owner or brand manager can do.

There’s a reason for the saying, “Ignorance is bliss.”  Except on the web – ignorance is anything BUT bliss.

If you think social media is magic – think again.  Social media is simply people communicating via the web. The web has always been about communication and in the old days, that communication was restricted to those who “spoke” the language.  In the earliest days, that language was HTML.  The big “fuss” began when people who didn’t speak “HTML” could communicate using the web via blogs and eventually other social media sites such asMySpace.com and Facebook.

This free and easy communication cut two ways for businesses.    On the plus side, businesses could easily communicate with not only current customers but prospective customers as well.  Since these conversations were happening on the web – they are digital footprints left in cement rather than sand.   In some ways, these conversations are better for business – because we as business owners can “eavesdrop” on the conversations going on about our brand.

However, on the flip side – there’s a business axiom that proclaims a happy customer will tell 3 people – an unhappy one will tell 16.  This axiom is from the days before social media – and those figures should probably be amplified exponentially to reflect the changes happening thanks to social media.  This means, the conversations that are happening about your business or brand online are more than likely going to be negative.

The biggest reason business owners and brand managers seek out a social media consultant is because they’ve recently discovered the negative conversations going on online about their brand.

Their first request – almost without exception – is to ask for the consultant to remove the negative conversations – to erase them from existence.  As a result, the first conversation most social media consultants have with new clients is to explain that REMOVING these negative conversations is impossible.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that  it is possible to MOVE the negative conversations off the first pages of search and replace those negative conversations with positive ones.

However, remember – people are much more likely to “bitch and moan” than they are to rant and rave about your business.  That’s why businesses need to be proactive in encouraging and nurturing positive conversations online – because these positive conversations don’t happen “naturally”.

In a freshly tilled garden, weeds always seem to grow faster and easier than the desired plants.  Whether you want your garden to yield beautiful flowers or tasty vegetables and fruit – you can’t simply plant some seeds in freshly tilled soil and hope for the best.

The same is true of social media. If you’re not actively nurturing your social media presence – then chances are the “weeds” are taking over.

Ignorance is  anything but bliss when it comes to social media.  The biggest mistake you can make when it comes to social media is to ignore it.

Using Twitter to sell more stuff

social-media-marketingIf you’re like most business owners, you’re interested in selling more stuff.  Lately, you may have heard that Twitter is a great way to sell more stuff. However, if you’re not aware of the “why” behind marketing in general – it can be easy to begin viewing Twitter – and other social media tools –  as a form of marketing magic.

Without knowing the “why”  you might be tempted to to view Twitter as “social media marketing magic” instead of viewing Twitter as a great way to deliver a short timely messages quickly and effectively to a group of people who’ve asked for this information.

An example of the “magical” fantasy style of thinking is a local business owner who wants to use Twitter to sell more of the stuff he sells – cars.

His logic is flawless.   Dell computers uses Twitter very effectively to sell more stuff. This local business owners reads about Dell’s success and wants to harness the same “social media magic” so he can sell more “stuff” too.  What could be easier?

Unfortunately, there’s a disconnect. Dell sells refurbished computers via a dedicated Twitter feed.   Dell employees don’t “tweet” what they had for breakfast – they tweet the latest deals. Dell’s target audience is online – and they’re already using Twitter.  So all Dell had to do was set up a Twitter account – and spread the word that if you wanted access to great bargains – follow them at Twitter and VIOLA –  Dell is selling more computers using Twitter.

So the question at hand isn’t, “Can we make Twitter work to help us sell more stuff?”  It can obviously do so.   The real question is “HOW can we make Twitter work to sell more stuff?”

Which is the essential question we’re asking of ALL forms of media – whether it’s social media marketing or traditional media tools.

Of COURSE we CAN make Twitter “work” to sell more of just about anything – from cd’s to cars.  However, it’s more than just a question of “how do I use Twitter?”  Instead, it needs to be a question of “How do I COMMUNICATE with prospective customers/ clients?”

Let’s take the case of the car dealer who wants to use social media tools – Twitter in this case – to sell more cars.

The first step in crafting a social media marketing strategy with Twitter would begin by building a foundation of LOCAL Twitter followers – local residents who are actively car shopping and who want to be notified of special deals.  With this in mind, you’d be surprised how often people FORGET that the WWW stands for WORLD wide web.   Ten thousand Twitter followers in the UK won’t do a car dealership in Southern Florida much good.  So the first “key” is to be sure to build a Twitter following of the “right” people.

The “right” Twitter followers

Just as in direct mail – the “magic is in the list” – in Twitter – the magic in using Twitter for marketing is in attracting the “right” followers.  Once again – it’s better to have 100 Twitter followers who respond than 10K who are not responsive.

Who are the “right” followers?  Well, to use “traditional “marketing terms –  they’re also known as your “target” audience.  For the car dealer – they’re local people who are – or who anticipate – being in the market for a new or used car.

Once you’ve  defined your target audience – and created a Twitter profile which explains what followers can expect.  (This is where a custom Twitter background come in handy.)

The uses of Twitter for a car dealership are truly exciting.  A dealership could tweet about

  • price reductions  and sales
  • rebates
  • recent trade ins
  • used cars scheduled to go to auction

The list of possibilities goes on and on – however you may notice that the “topics” here aren’t much different than the “topics” covered in traditional  or “old school” media advertising.

When it comes to using Twitter to sell more stuff – the  real “root” question is:

How are we already CONNECTING and COMMUNICATING with our prospective customers/clients?

The same message that “works” via other media will probably also “work” well with Twitter. As a matter of fact, once you’ve established that you’ve built a foundation of the “right” Twitter followers – you can begin using Twitter to “test” your marketing messages BEFORE you use them in “traditional” marketing or advertising campaigns.

THIS is why real marketing professionals get jazzed about Twitter.  Instead of going to the time and expense of creating a split test mailing to test two possible headlines – Twitter allows a quick easy and EFFECTIVE way of testing those headlines instantly.

Twitter gets frustrating as a marketing tool when you don’t have a clear target audience and a clear marketing message to deliver to that target audience.   Then again – that is when ALL marketing and advertising gets frustrating for businesses of ALL sizes. 🙂

The impact of social media…

social-media-marketingI’m beginning to wonder if the rise of social media may be playing an unseen and unmeasured  role in the US economic crisis.

This thought train began a few months ago while watching Mad Money.  Jim Cramer was talking about Nokia and Dell – two companies who were blaming dismal sales on the state of the economy. Cramer correctly pointed out that if it’s “raining” for one business then it should be “raining” on everyone in the neighborhood.  So while both these companies were complaining about the dismal economy and how it’s the reason for their suffering sales, both these companies have competitors who are:

a) kicking their respective asses with better products and better customer service

b) doing great in sectors with strong growth despite the “dismal” economy.

Which made me wonder -are Nokia and Dell’s sales figures victims of social media? After all, if there were ever going to be two products heavily affected by negative buzz in social media circles, two sectors which would be appropriate “canaries” would be the mobile phone and computers.

Is is possible social media is responsible for slowly killing these giant companies?

Social Media – it’s a moral imperative

Social media makes communication easy, fun but most importantly PERMANENT!

There was a time – when your advertising and other marketing messages didn’t live forever, easily accessed by the search engines.

That was then – this is now.

Disappoint customers today and they’ll take to the tools of social media to share their experience with others. Those disparaging remarks will live on – and if you’re not on top of your online reputation’s SERPS – those customer complaints may end up being featured front and center.

The consequences of disappointing your customers can be more severe than just a negative rating on a single website. Disappointed customers who feel strongly can now easily, post a Tweet, create a video – create a Facebook Fan Pages – or worse yet – blog about your current customer service.

I’m working on a Dell computer.  Well, it’s a Dell wearing an Alienware mask.  I was sold on Alienware – not from an ad in a magazine but from personal recommendations from other Alienware users. I purchased my Alienware shortly after they were acquired by Dell.  In short, I spent $2500 on a freaking POS Dell computer with a souped up power supply and a glowing alien face.  I bought the BS being spread that Dell wouldn’t impose their shitty quality upon the Alienware line.

To say I’ve been disappointed with my Dell purchase would be an understatement.  Let’s just say – tears were shed, threats were issued and I was loading up my Sunpass for a trip to Miami to visit the Alienware headquarters to voice my displeasure in person.  When I heard Dell’s earning suck – my thought was  “GOOD!!! If they’re still in business – their earnings don’t suck enough!!!!”

Is it possible that the Dell “economic slow down” is really just the result of information flowing freely online? Is it possible Dell’s woes are not rooted in poor economic conditions but rather the fact that they sell crappy computers?   Is it possible their users are WARNING others via social media?

Which got me to thinking… is it possible that Betsy Wuebker’s post WELLS FARGO DUMPS ON A GRIEVING MOTHER is joining forces with literally hundreds of other Wells Fargo customer service horror stories?  Is it possible that these individual blog posts could eventually create a tsunami for Wells Fargo?

Which brings up the question…

Is social media already making a real economic impact on businesses?

Jim Cramer only stated that poorly run companies often blame their poor performance on the market instead of upon management where it belongs.  However, as Cramer  talks about products that don’t perform – I keep thinking of blog posts which have “outed” those products long ago and still linger online today.

How many blog posts does it take to bring down a corporate giant?  Has social media as a medium reached the point of being capable of taking down a company of any size?

I don’t believe that we’ve reached that “critical mass” yet – but I believe that day is coming.  Stay tuned!