Persuasive Picks for week of 5/14/12

Social media breaks the mold of traditional marketing where you measured success against a balance sheet. Forbes contributor Todd Wilms explains Why Social Media is the Ultimate “Pay-it-Forward” for Marketing and provides steps to get you started.

In today’s business world, it is impossible to compete without a strong web presence to support you. Author Steve Nicholls offers 10 Essential Social Media Tips for Senior Executives in order to effectively implement social media into their businesses via IndustryWeek.

Measuring the return on investment of your social media strategy is something that still frustrates a lot of brands and marketers. Shea Bennett posts Is Social Media ROI A Reality (Or A Myth)? [INFOGRAPHIC] that takes a closer look at how we are slowly but surely getting to the ROI of social media. via AllTwitter.

Social media platforms are crucial to building customer engagement, but the vast majority of marketers haven’t incorporated that reality into their daily workflow. Marketing consultant Ernan Roman writes that Failure to Engage with Social Media Will Reduce Revenue and Increase Risk on The Huffington Post.

Influencers Who Inspire: The CMO Site’s Mitch Wagner

This week’s interview in our “Influencers Who Inspire” series is with Mitch Wagner of The CMO Site.

Mitch Wagner, Editor-in-Chief of The CMO Site, has worked both sides of the street, as a technology journalist and a marketer and social media strategist. He helped lead development of social media marketing strategy for a business-to-business security company. Prior to that, he was an executive editor and writer at InformationWeek, where he launched the publication on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin. He pioneered blogging for The CMO Site’s parent company, United Business Media. Mitch has been a writer and editor at InternetWeek, Computerworld, and more.

He started his career in technology journalism covering Digital Equipment Corp. and IBM, then covered operating systems before leaving that beat to start writing about this new idea of doing business on the Internet (against the advice of his editors, who were sure the Internet wouldn’t last). Mitch’s first journalism jobs were on local community newspapers in the New York metropolitan area; on his very first job, after writing and pasting up the whole newspaper, he put the bundles in the back of his car and delivered them.

Mitch is a social media addict. Connect with Mitch on Twitter; @MitchWagner; Facebook, and Google+. Mitch lives with his wife in San Diego, where he avoids direct sunlight.

The Secret to Selling

I never thought of myself as a sales person but as a business owner, you are always selling. You sell your ideas, your products, your people. your culture, your leadership. I often get asked about the new business process and what our secret to success is. Of course there are a variety of elements that go into winning a prospect – relationships and chemistry have a great deal to do with it – but the one thing I’ve found that always works is simple – ask questions.

So many people go into a new business pitch thinking they’re supposed to have all the answers (and you should know your stuff, of course) and that asking questions is a bad thing. I find that asking questions accomplishes two things:

- It shows you are interested in the person/company you’re talking to

- It makes the prospect feel important and gets them talking

And when people talk about themselves or their company, and they feel they are being heard (hint: ask more questions based on what they say), they are likely to feel a stronger connection to you. They are likely to think you are brilliant. And they often walk away from the meeting feeling really, really good.

So go ahead, next time you’re trying to win a new client or prospect, ask questions. Let me know how it works out.

Involving Customers in Decision Making (Or, what will Nordstrom do?)

Nordstrom did a good thing today – they used social networking (in this case, Facebook) to apologize to users that their site was down. Open communication is good, and letting your biggest fans know when there’s a glitch is usually appreciated. But then I noticed something in the comments. Out of about 55 comments to-date (as of 4:00 p.m. EST), most had nothing to do with frustration around the site being down, but rather, frustration around the new site design itself. Take a look:

The complaints center mostly on the navigation of the site, difficulty in using it and an overwhelming opinion (of those commenting) that the old site was preferred. So far, Nordstrom’s has yet to respond to any of these comments in the chain. It will be an interesting experiment to see how they handle such feedback. It begs some questions:

- Changing website design is no small undertaking from a time or resource POV. With social media allowing our customers to comment openly on everything that we do, should we give them the opportunity to help shape such changes before we make them? Would Nordstrom – and its customers – have benefited from a customer council that had a hand in shaping the new design before it was complete?

- Should a brand involve customers in product, marketing and branding decisions?

- How beneficial is it to a consumer-facing brand like Nordstrom vs a B2B brand to embrace a customer council? (Often, customers drive software development, for example, by requesting features. Should a company like Nordstrom consider such thinking?)

- Will Nordstrom make any changes as a result? Or hope that the customers will simply “get used to it?”

What do you think? What would you do if you were Nordstrom? Keeping in mind that you can never please everyone, has your company involved customers in shaping and testing the direction of your products or brand? Why or why not?

It’s All About the Details

Details have been on my mind lately – you know, the nuances in life that make life, well – interesting. I thought this topic would be a personal blog post, because the details that have stood out to me recently have been pretty personal. One of our three dogs passed away recently – a sad first for our family – and while the event itself was huge, it’s the little things that stand out the most in regards to his absence. The way my youngest son still pushes his plate back from the edge of the table because the dog used to steal his food, the empty chair in our bedroom where we’d find him every morning, the fact that I can put bird seed in my bird feeders again and not have to worry that the dog will eat it. These and many other little details are what remind me every day of the bigger loss.

So how does this post end up here, on our agency’s blog? Because it has occurred to me that it’s the details that matter in business, too. The big events are certainly the most memorable – winning new clients, watching the first sale come through, unveiling your new brand or opening a new store. But it’s the little details in between all these larger situations that really matter – and the little details that help you not only to keep your business up and running, but to beat the competition.

Are you thinking about the little details? Once you win a customer or a client, are you welcoming them and thanking them for their business? Does your website make an interaction with your company pleasant and easy, or are you making prospects work too hard to become a customer? Can they easily find what they are looking for? Do you have a waiting room that’s comfortable or stark? Do you think about simple yet “nice touches” that would make a prospect want to do business with you over a similar competitor?

Once you win a customer or a client, are you communicating with them regularly – but not more than they want? Do you know how your customers prefer to be contacted and how often? Have you asked? When you’re following up with a prospect, do you make them feel personally wanted as a customer? Just this week, a company followed up with me based on an interaction at a trade show (good) but I was turned off by the method (bad) of follow up and it made me not want to do business with them. I understand that companies need to maximize time – that sales leads have to be captured and plopped into databases (we’ve worked with enough sales and marketing software clients – Landslide, Salesnet, RightNow, Genius, etc. – to understand how it works and why). And maybe I’m naive, or expecting too much – but as technology gets better, it seems to me it could also help companies to at least appear to be more personable in sales. When I receive a sales email that’s claiming to understand my business, and want my business, but is clearly a generated “next step” email from a sales automation software solution, I feel insulted – not really wanted as a customer. When they use my login name as the lead – which appears as “christine” because I rarely capitalize when I’m signing up for something online – it’s obvious. It’s a little, tiny detail, right? But to me – it’s a detail that turned me off from doing business with this company. A little detail that turned into a lost sale.

On the flip side, we’ve got a client who – even as they’ve grown from startup to public company – calls each prospect when they trial a product. I remember the first time I tried Constant Contact – the call startled me – it literally happened within minutes of me entering my information online. I didn’t need help but you know what? Knowing that if I did – especially in this day and age of electronic communication – I could get a human on the phone, was a nice touch. It stood out – the call was brief, to the point and not intrusive. I was impressed – and that was before they were a client.

An experience that falls somewhere in between these two is a recent interaction with our bank. They recently upgraded some services for us and assigned a personal Account Manager (great!). He emailed and called me to introduce himself, which was good, but the little details that were missing, some that I felt could have made me a happier customer (and not feeling like a call was wasting my time), were some suggestions or thoughtful interaction. The introduction, in my opinion, could have included something more along the lines of, “We noticed you often do this, and we think this change will make your life easier – do you want to learn more?” It didn’t need to be anything complicated, but just something that showed a personal touch about my business and my banking habits that demonstrate you care about me specifically as a customer.

In PR, one of the biggest complaints reporters have always had is that they receive off-topic, automated emails from PR executives. PR teams do this – using software to automate email blasts – because time is money in our business, literally. Not only can you move faster and thus work on more clients and charge more hours, but the more pitches you get out, the longer a “We Pitched” list you can give to a client, right? Well, I guess that may be true – but the little details, taking the time to pitch a reporter with a custom email or call, mentioning personal details that remind them you know them or you at least know their work and read what they write – are more likely to yield big results. Would a client rather have a long list of “We pitched 100 reporters” – but no coverage results – or a shorter list of “We pitched 10 key publications and here’s the result – 10 quality feature articles”? I’m guessing the latter.

So take time to think about the details today. Whether it’s how you sell, how you service or how you build your business – branding, HR, promotion, etc. – caring about the little details can make a big difference.

How do you incorporate the little details in your daily business?