Persuasive Picks for the week of 01/24/11

Down the Rabbit Hole

Down the rabbit hole into the land of social media
Mvelase Peppetta shares an entertaining comparison between the various personalities you’ll engage with in the social space and the classic characters from the Wizard of Oz, via this post on Memeburn.com.

The Reports of B2B Marketing’s Demise are Greatly Exaggerated
Dianna Huff continues to wave the flag in support of B2B marketing – providing some great links to proof points that it truly is NOT dead.

Which Social Media Sites Are Most Beneficial?
Lisa Barone share the results of a recent Adology survey (via eMarketer) that shows which social sites were seen as most beneficial to small businesses. Make the jump to see the results.

Many Brands Don’t Track Social Media Conversations
The fun with “stats” continues with this post on MarketingProfs that shares the results of a survey from Alterian that revealed nearly one-third of marketers surveyed have little or no understanding about social conversations around their brand(s).

Ten Useful Hacks to Make Things Happen
Valeria Maltoni updates her popular “Ten Useful Hacks” post from last March, with this post that will help “make your distractions disappear so you can meet your goals.” It’s a highly informative post that I definitely recommend. Click it now…before you get distracted!

Seeking PR Influence? Read. Share. Think. And Make Your Own Rules.

This past week I participated in our Founder, Christine Perkett’s (@missusP) ReadyTalk (@RTWebSem) webinar titled “PR Experts as Influencers: How social media has changed the PR landscape forever – and what it means for you.” She discussed the importance of PR professionals using their connections, relationships and influences to help positively influence others or drive awareness (or directly drive customers) for their clients. Also, she shared the ins and outs of how any brand—personal or company– can adopt and achieve value in social media effectively. In Christine’s words: Successful PR is all about you.

Some insightful points I noted from her webinar:

  • We’re tastemakers — we’re all consumers who help dictate styles and trends. It’s important to share your brand experiences (positive and negative) in a way in which you can also share insights for other brands or clients. Turning your experiences into a helpful marketing or PR lesson helps raise your profile as a smart marketer and brand influencer.
  • Read every single day. Then use social media (ie: Twitter, Facebook, etc) to show your community what you’re thinking. This will help elevate your expertise in the areas in which you specialize. Don’t just share links – provide commentary on each piece.
  • Don’t ignore the opportunity to build your personal brand because it lasts forever — it’s like a live resume.
  • Be authentic — there’s tremendous opportunity via social media to “do what you do and do it well” – that is, showing reporters, clients, prospects that you are paying attention, engaging, and have valuable insights so share.
  • Speaking of sharing — make sure to tie in business marketing or PR lessons to elevate content and position yourself as a smart marketer. You want to be an influencer not just a participant.
  • Make your own rules — social media provides a great testing ground because everyone is exploring. Encourage your company or clients to try some innovative new marketing or PR ideas by testing the waters yourself. Post a thought provoking question that you know will spark debate. Write an unexpected blog post. Involve customers in a marketing campaign. Take some chances and share what you’ve learned to encourage your marketing team to innovate.

After the webinar, I started really thinking about Christine’s thoughts — about how convoluted PR and social media have become (and how much it doesn’t have to be). PR isn’t changing — it’s already changed. And will continue to change. Social media has the power to drive authenticity and build brand loyalty, but you need to fully understand how to effectively use social media as a PR tool — a communications tool. Bottom line: PR and social media need to be giving a lot of strategic thought. They don’t just “happen,” at least happen well, by signing up on a popular network. And a PR agency with the know-how, skills, and proven success is just the thing to assist a brand in doing so.

And then I made a connection.

I immediately thought of a company I “liked” and have been following on Facebook for the last few months after reading a feature article on Boston.com. This brand has not only enthused me daily, but has been one of the most creative fashion brands I’ve seen on Facebook — EmersonMade. As stated on her Facebook page’s company overview: EmersonMade offers a one-of-a-kind and compelling shopping experience that believes in celebrating the uniqueness of the individual, the joy of being alive and all the smallness that makes up the Big Beautiful.

And the brand delivers just that.

 

If social media is an opportunity for a company to break the mold and create unique content (content being the key) — EmersonMade achieves this. She makes her own rules. Her updates are interesting, fresh, and relevant. She has tapped into what her followers want and keeps doing it. From Facebook to Twitter to her company blog—she not only leaves me wanting her beautiful products, but I always find myself marveling her creativeness, thinking, how did she come up with that?

And there is absolutely no comparison with big fashion brands like Zara, BCBG, Madewell (to name a few). Their approach is, well, boring. They seem to not understand that social media is not about how many fans you have or just showcasing your products — it’s engaging your target audience. Not in an average way — but in an ingenious way. A way we have never been afforded until now.

Christine’s final words of her webinar have stuck with me: Be an innovator. Thinking outside the PR box. Adopting social media in ways to support innovation. Trying new ideas. Taking a chance and making it pay off because as Christine stated, this will lead to greatness.

So my fellow tastemakers — what are your secrets to influencing your social communities? Do you have a favorite brand that nails it? Or is there a brand that you wished could give you more? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. And thanks for reading!

Changing the definition of CRM – marriage, not management

Some companies really get customer relations and service and make it the lifeblood of their culture. Zappos, Virgin America, Southwest Airlines, LL Bean, Amazon, Starbucks and my local Walgreens are a few brands that come to my mind when I think of customer-centric brands. But why do they seem to be the exception rather than the rule? These businesses understand the value in making a customer feel important at every interaction – not just the sale.

Customer service and CRM (customer relationship management) are often described separately in business but in today’s customer-centric organization, service is but one part of CRM. CRM is most often described as a technology process, and many companies – especially small businesses – therefore don’t think of it as applicable to their organization. They may Google the term and be immediately overwhelmed with articles full of terms like software, implementation, SaaS and enterprise. Wikipedia’s definition states, “It [CRM] involves using technology to organize, automate, and synchronize business processes—principally sales activities.”

I like to think that the definition of CRM today goes well beyond technology. I did a recent webinar on the topic of CRM with a panel of really intelligent tech leaders, including a former editor of CRM Magazine, a former CRM analyst and an executive from CRM software vendor, Sugar CRM. These guys are very smart and we covered some great topics – including software, customer service and even social CRM. But we only touched upon the fact that CRM is more than tech.

CRM is the lifeblood of how everyone in your organization manages and maintains relationships with customers.

  • Do you want more customers?
  • Do you care about repeat customers?
  • Do you you want to have a relationship, not just a deal, with your customers?
  • Do you want to see more revenue come in the doors of your business, or higher figures in your next raise as a result?
  • Do you like it when happy customers refer your business, service or products?
  • Do you care when unhappy customers take to social networks like Twitter or reputable business management entities such as The Better Business Bureau to complain about your business?

Then you care about CRM. And so should your employees – not just the sales team.

In that same webinar I suggested perhaps it would help businesses to think of the “M” in CRM as “marriage,” rather than management. What I mean by that is to really think about your customers as a long term commitment. Don’t “manage” them so much as keep wooing them, romancing them with outstanding products and services, and keep the love alive.

To do that successfully, every employee plays a role in treating customers right. Not just sales, not just customer service, not just the cashier at the counter and most certainly not a piece of software. Don’t leave it up to just one department. If the customer is treated poorly by just one employee in your organization, THAT is the experience they will remember. THAT is the experience they will share with their friends. Think of all the marketing, advertising and sales dollars that fly out the door – wasted – when that happens.

Here’s an example. A customer in a retail store is shopping and a salesperson on the floor stops to politely help. The customer spends an hour with the salesperson – finding more than they originally were seeking, but so pleased with the experience that she decides to buy everything that the salesperson has suggested. The customer heads to the cashier and the line is long. There is one cashier. The customer waits longer than she was happy with but nonetheless, makes it to the counter. When she gets there, the cashier is grumpy, rude and impatient, especially when the customer asks if she can have some boxes with her purchase. In response to the rudeness, the customer decides to leave all the items on the counter and walk away from the purchase. She decides that, now that she knows what she wants, she can easily go online and order it elsewhere rather than fork over her hard-earned money to a business who will treat her as though she doesn’t matter.

Another example is an airline. There are multiple exchanges with customers during just one purchase. There is the point of purchase, the airport experience and the experience on the plane. Say a customer finds a great deal on a flight.  He checks in at the airport and sails through security. He’s happy. But on the plane, the flight attendant is snappy and condescending when he tries to order food – and her attitude gets no better, sighing whenever asked for something and generally making him – and all other passengers – feel as though they are an inconvenience. Since he can’t express himself on the plane for fear of escalation, he takes to Twitter and Facebook after his flight, encouraging his 15,000 “friends” that no matter how inexpensive, the experience with that airline isn’t worth it and that they should spend their money with another airline.

Forget what you know and are probably thinking about typical customer behaviors, point of purchase abandonment statistics, or how far reaching (or not) just one customer’s influence is on what percentage of people. Forget about the traditional definition of CRM. Again, instead ask yourself if you care about sales, customers and revenue. Do you care about reputation and brand management? Do you care about the highest return on your marketing and advertising investments?

If the answer is yes, then teach your employees – not just sales or customer service – what CRM means and what role they play in it for your organization. How do you want customers to feel after an interaction with your business? What role does each employee play in making that happen every time? How flexible are policies? What do you want most from your customers and why?

From the point of sale to the marketing department, billing to service issues, every employee is crucial to making CRM work for your business.  It’s about the way prospects find you, why they listen and how they are wowed enough by your business to become customers. It is why your customers become repeat customers. And it’s about the way happy customers tell their friends. As it is in any relationship, you’ve got to keep working at it to keep it great. Don’t take it for granted and make sure you communicate well.

“Customer-centric” just isn’t enough anymore. Technology doesn’t manage relationships on its own. Rather, the best businesses will embrace a new type of CRM throughout their organization – showcasing customer commitment at every level.

3 Great Tools for Managing Information Overload and the Forgetful Mind

You are not alone.

It’s no secret that the daily ins and outs of being a web-worker are filled with steady streams of inbound information. Tweets, emails, instant messages, RSS feeds and your Facebook news stream are just some of the sources of links to all sorts of great blog posts and news articles that beg for your attention.

Saving it for later.

How many times have you clicked on a link to find an article that you’d love to read, but just don’t have the time to get to it right then and there? Instead, you leave the browser tab open with the intention of getting to it during lunch or later in the day. Sure, it’s convenient to have all those open tabs at the ready for when you have a free moment – but the tax for that type of convenience is an increasingly sluggish desktop and a “fun” romp through your browser’s history to find all those pages again after it decides to crash.

I’m also shocked at the number of web-workers who still use their web browser’s built-in bookmarking tool to save links for future reference. This method certainly provides easy access to the information while at that specific machine, but requires extra steps or plugins to sync the bookmarks to other machines. There’s also the unexpected machine meltdown that could take years worth of non-backed up bookmarks away to the great beyond.

And the password is…

Along with all the information and great links we like to save for future reference comes the need to create new user accounts on the numerous web-based applications that launch each year (or month!). Unfortunately, the majority of web-workers out there still lean towards using the same password across all their user accounts. While easy to remember, using a single password out in the wild is a recipe for disaster if one of those sites happens to have a security breach.

Imagine the task of trying to remember all the websites you’ve registered with over the past few years and changing their passwords to protect your personal information and identity. Oh, and while we’re at it, writing your passwords on post-it notes and placing them under your keyboard or mouse pad is not a recommended method of remembering them either. Come on, you know you’ve done that before.

Relief at last..

Fortunately, there are a number of great options for saving information for both short term consumption and long term reference. Being able to access stored nuggets of information from multiple platforms and devices is always near the top of my list when looking for software solutions to make my information processing easier to manage. And of course, finding apps that are free doesn’t hurt either!

Here are three of my favorite applications for keeping up with my daily flow of information and helping me remember things when I’m in the thick of it:

Instapaper

Instapaper

Instapaper has become an essential tool in my daily information processing workflow. It’s the perfect application for those who are constantly finding new online articles to read but don’t have the time to read them right then and there. With a simple click of a bookmarklet button, the text of the page your browser is on is sent to your Instapaper account for later consumption.

All your saved articles are then easily accessible from the Instapaper website or the official Instapaper iPhone or iPad app. Android users can currently access their accounts via a compatible web browser as well.

There are several additional options for saving information to your account, depending on where you are discovering the content you’d like to save. Each Instapaper account comes with a unique email address that can be used to forward links and email newsletters for future reading. Instapaper’s popularity has also caught the attention of many iPhone and iPad application developers and has resulted in over 130 apps that support sending pages directly to your account.

Instapaper accounts are free (ad-supported) to create and try and will support up to 10 saved articles. The Pro upgrade is just $4.99, allows up to 500 articles and offers a wide variety of other features, including iPad support.

This app definitely excels at “deferred reading” but is not a solution for long-term information storage. My next pick will fit your needs If you’re looking for something geared towards building a library of information to continually reference.

Evernote

Evernote

I was a huge fan of Microsoft’s Onenote prior to switching to the Mac. Its ability to act as a “digital notebook” to store text, images and webclips into definable sections made it an essential tool for creating a growing knowledge base. Since Onenote is not available on the Mac, I explored comparable solutions like Yojimbo to fill my needs.

Then came Evernote. Just as Instapaper became essential for my short-term information saving, Evernote has become the key to my long-term saving needs. Evernote allows you to store text, a web page, a photo, audio and other media. Everything you store is indexed and made searchable. You can also place your notes into different notebooks for further organization. This introductory video shows a few examples of how it can be used.

 

As shown in the video, Evernote is accessible everywhere via syncing. It supports a huge number of platforms including Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile and the Web. Best of all its free. They do have Premium and Sponsored accounts for increased storage, but the average user will probably not come close to outgrowing the limits of the free version for quite some time.

1Password

!Password

1Password from Agile Web Solutions is the perfect application for anyone who has ever forgotten a password. My guess is that includes you. It permanently eliminates the need to use the same easily-guessable, weak passwords that you have become accustomed to using, by creating string unique passwords for you that can be easily recalled from your web browser by using a single rememberable password that you define.

1Password also allows you to store other vital information such as credit card numbers that can also be recalled with your “one password” and filled into the appropriate field during checkout time when shopping online. Other items like software license and custom secure notes can be stored in 1Password as well. All information placed in its database is encrypted using AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) and 128-bit keys which would take “millions of years” to be decrypted using a brute force attack.

The following video will give you a good idea of how it works:

 

1Password was initially developed for the Mac however, versions are now available for the iPhone, iPad and Windows. Free 30 day trials for Mac and Windows are available, and there are a variety of licensing options to choose from to unlock it beyond that.

All three of these applications have become an essential part of my daily workflow. Do you currently use any of them? How have they changed the way you manage your daily influx of information? If any of these are new to you, then I hope you’ll give them a try. Please let us know about your experiences or recomendations via the comments!

Persuasive Picks for the week of 01/10/11

QuoraHow Quora could get interesting

Quora might be the shiny new social tool of the month, but the jury is still out as to whether there’s value contained within or even if the site will last. Chris Brogan provides his view via this post that continues on with a great comment thread from the community. What’s your take?

How Small Businesses Can Use Quora
The topic of Quora continues with this next pick. Still not sure how it might be used with your business? ReadWriteWeb‘s John Paul Titlow shares several ways you might integrate the tool into your social strategy.

In Social Media Marketing, Influence Trumps Popularity
Need a better understanding of why “influence” is such an important part of the social web? This post from Mila D’Antonio explains why influence is not the same as popularity and provides a real world example of how Rayovac has leveraged the power of influencers in their recent social campaigns.

5 Tips for Optimizing and Integrating Your Social Media Content
So, you’ve got an editorial calendar chock full of great content ideas ready to roll out, but are you making the most of your content creation efforts? Liana Evans provides several good tips to keep you going in the right direction via this guest post on Clickz.com

Firms are overcoming their fear of social media: report
Graham Charlton from eConsultancy shares the results of their recent “2011 Customer Engagement Report” that revealed an increase in companies use of social tools for customer engagement and support. Read on for details.