Tag : relational-marketing

It’s Not Who You Know

Mafia MenWe’ve all heard, “It’s not what you know but who you know.” In my life and career that has proven true time and again, and I’ve been on the fortunate end of that equation. But recently, that idiom has grown nuanced for me in—of all places—a movie theater.

Thanks to our town having a second-run (“dollar”) theater, I got to watch this summer’s A-Team movie four times before it left the big screen. I’m not normally an action movie guy, but I’m hoping whichever sibling drew my name for Christmas this year gets me the ensuing DVD. There are too many quotable lines to count, but one of the most practical lines came from “Face.” In military prison, living large with luxury amenities, he reveals the secret of his success.

“It’s now who you know. It’s how you know them.”

This is the premise of black mail and organized crime, extramarital affairs and Free Masonry, BALCO employees and undercover police officers. On a warm, fuzzy note, it’s also true of romantic relationships—unless you just heard the death knell of, “I’d like to be [just] friends.”

What does this have to do with marketing?

Consumers are more comfortable transacting with vendors who’ve gained their confidence—local or otherwise. You gain part of that confidence through consistent branding, the sum of advertising and customer interactions that continually reinforce the culture and quality of your services and/or products. Some of the biggest disappointments that we as consumers face is discovering a disconnect with the expectations companies have created in us, like Apple has recently experienced with their iPhone 4 foibles.

Western culture celebrates the brands we love, even wearing or displaying the logos of our favorite companies on our clothes, shopping bags, and Facebook “like” lists. We recommend the products and services we buy and talk around the water cooler about those with creative marketing or cool stories like TOMS Shoes and Zappos.

So, how do you initiate those relationships? And how do you move from initiating those relationships to brand trust or—even better—customer evangelism?

Evaluate and extrapolate from your current client base.
If all you want is more customers in the store, you’ll waste your advertising budgets. So, research the common denominators of who already likes you and recommends you. Discover the kind of people or businesses that best match your culture and proficiencies; then research prospects that are as identical as possible to them.

Codify and celebrate your company culture.
Chick-fil-A and GoDaddy.com have very different brand images; and both have experienced wide-spread success. You get specific mental images when you think “Geico” or “Yankees” or “VH1.” Determine the mood and message of your brand; then build your advertising and transaction environments around them.

Hire some brand police.
Don’t just spend money to fill a media quota; and don’t let advertising leave your office, unless it meticulously matches the rest of your materials and media. The public’s retention of your brand runs parallel to your advertising’s consistency both (1) from one advertising medium to another and (2) between your advertising and your company’s underlying culture.

Keep the hits coming.
Most guys don’t propose on first dates, yet entrepreneurs do it all the time. One of my clients recently lamented that their first mail piece to a certain demographic didn’t generate any significant business. They wanted to get to at least second base on their first date. While that may be possible with some creative marketing or serendipitous matching of their need—at their time of need—and your solutions, you’re probably going to have to take the prospects on multiple visual dates. People may not need your services right away or may need multiple impressions to recognize and remember your message apart from the din of the marketplace.

Get conversational.
Go to the trade and home shows where your clients mingle. Host free seminars or cocktail receptions; take people to lunch or a sporting event. Personalize invoices and/or receipts. Write hand-written notes. Sponsor local fundraiser events or maybe create a float for a parade. Better yet, get behind a non-profit as a corporate partner or spokesperson. Even if you have to hire someone to do it for you, use social media presence to post helpful links and interact with people as humans. Don’t interrupt their Facebook and Twitter streams only for broadcasted announcements; no, jump into show-and-tell like Local Motors does. The more patient and engaged you are, the more interest and/or trust you can capture.

For a lot of this, the payoff seems abstract, if not distant. But I’ve read or witnessed too many success stories to dismiss the value of a brand that’s unique and authentic, creative and engaged. So, discover who you are, and spend your time with folks who like people like you.

Charles Jones said, “You will be the same person in five years as you are today, except for the people you meet and the books you read.” It’s interesting for me to compare where I was spiritually, relationally, emotionally, and experientially five years ago to today’s vistas in those same categories. I’ve met a God I hadn’t known, despite life in a minister’s home. I have more and deeper friendships than I anticipated having at this stage in life. Five years ago this month, Crystal and I were planning our first post-honeymoon vacation to somewhere other than a family gathering. Since then, we’ve traveled to multiple countries and found interests we didn’t know we had. My magazine subscriptions and other non-fiction inhalation has sling-shot me into valuable positions with influence.

As a Christian, how I relate to God and his book definitely determines the rate of change in my life. Right now, we’re going through a challenging series at church, called “All In.” The basic premise is that we have as much of God and his supernatural impact on our life journeys as we want. That’s heavy. That means we change only as much as we release to sovereign access.

We can do the ritual gig, punching our spiritual time cards each weekend (or even more often) and living mostly-tidy lives. Or we can fall in love with our eternal groom and watch what that intimacy does to us. It’s scary. I struggle regularly with surrender—in multiple areas and on various levels—to the unseen omni-everything. Thankfully, heaven rewards me with an unexplainable pleasure and presence, when I do surrender. And he’s got a bunch of that for you, too—if you want it.

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58: Are You Perpetrating Antisocial Media?

Antisocial MediaI still wag my head when I hear people touting social media as a shiny, new concept or as a marketing giant to slay all other media. Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube may all be younger than Justin Bieber (and that’s saying something); but they are just online venues to do what you’ve been doing offline for decades. Many of the same rules that apply to offline networking and personal conversations apply to online interactions—just tweaked a bit for privacy or the lack thereof.

As businesses and entrepreneurs flock to these sites, some are chucking social graces and common sense in search of some marketing El Dorado or advertising Fountain of Youth. Hopefully, you’re not being anti-social like them with your online networking in these ways:

Parking on the Shoulder
If you haven’t tweeted in months or updated your Facebook page in weeks, you might be doing more harm than good. In our culture, we understand people who have intentionally chosen not to add social media to their plates. But when a business professional or company sets up an account then doesn’t contribute to the community or update their followers, they demonstrate either a lack of desire to interact or an incompetence to manage the simple technology. It’s like parking on the shoulder. Technically, you’re on the road; but everybody passing you knows you’re not going anywhere. So, if you’re going to do this online social gig, purposefully comment on status updates; share links; retweet; and hit that like button on pictures.

Invading Personal Space
You’d think that, with the openness of online social sites, there isn’t a lot of personal space on them. But that’s why Facebook has such a robust range of security settings and why even Twitter has levels of interaction. If you’re a firm posting company news, post it as a status update, an event, or a note on Facebook and as a tweet on Twitter. Do not send them via personal messages. You will get recipients’ hopes up—especially mobile users—that there’s a personal message for them. If you have a personal (not mass-broadcasted) message, then proceed in the more personal message space. [Example: my chiropractor’s support staff sends me appointment reminders via private Facebok messages.] Otherwise, you’ll be the entrepreneur that cried, “friend!”

Unloading Your Camera
Whether it stems from a lack of technical skills or a lack of discernment, people dump scores of images into our streams. And we’re tired of it. No captions, no tagging, no selective choice—no self control. Nobody wants to see 15 shots of the same tee ball at-bat or birthday candle puff or surprise snow around your house. If it’s not worth your time to label and weed your pictures, why would you assume it’d be worth our time to sort through them—let alone leave a pithy or complimentary comment? Look at your content as shares of stock or printed money, the more you create (at one time or from one event), the less each picture is worth. It’s supply and demand. Make more indelible impressions by making fewer, more intentional ones.

Singing Like a Wall-mounted Bass
It grabbed our attention the first time: that battery-powered frog that croaked by the sidewalk or the singing fish on the wall. But then it got annoying. Friends and family found your first and maybe second status updates about what you’re selling to be interesting—to let them in on your career scene. But then, when most or all of your (rare) status updates were “If you’re looking to buy a 3BR, 2BA house, check out our auction tonight!” or something similar, they checked out and now just speed scroll past such announcements. Some even find the habit to be annoying. Even for your company’s Facebook fan page or separate company Twitter feed, if all you do is cry auction or assets for sale, you turn the communication from a conversation to a broadcast. This is a social setting, not a sales environment! It’s okay to post such things from time to time on your personal areas; but make it the exception that brings attention to it. On your company’s social pages, mix in helpful tips/articles, entertaining anecdotes, sales results, conversation starters, and links to engaging content. Pretend you’re at a social gathering—because you are.

Megaphoning on the Corner
Do not use ALL CAPS in your posts. It’s the typing equivalent of shouting. (And studies have shown, that humans—unlike computer scanners—have a harder time reading ALL CAPS than sentence or title case.) So, just as you wouldn’t walk into a chamber of commerce mixer shouting, make sure you type with your inside voice.

Not Getting the Clue
I have people send me multiple invitations to join the same group I’ve declined (now multiple times). It reminds me of the MadTV clip that’s caught viral wildfire to almost 5 million views on YouTube. “Can I have your number? Can I have it? Can I have it?” In my case, I may not have past transactions with a company or know much about a particular entity. Maybe your invitee is trying to cut down on the number of updates in their stream. Whatever the reason they haven’t become a follower, if you have to inundate them with invitations to get them to relent, what do you think your brand image will be, when they see your updates pop up in their news feed? Don’t make me get Oprah. He’s just not that into you.

Flexing That Swastika Tattoo
This shouldn’t have to be said; but I’ve seen enough caustic, divisive, unbefitting posts to invite this warning. Racist, homophobic, and politically militant comments (1) should not be something you declare outside of professional counseling sessions and (2) should not be expressed in your online posts. These acidic statements and jokes and cartoons reflect on your professionalism. Make sure that you sift potentially-controversial political humor, double entendres, and religious declarations through the sieve of appropriateness. (I like the filter of “If I were to run for public office later in life, how would this reflect on that candidacy?”)

Raining on the Parade
We all know someone who, when they show up in a social setting, everybody else cringes inside. It’s going to be a long story, a tale that seems complicated to the teller, a sad spew that ends in a sigh, a collection of too much information. These people find their way into our news streams. And with an insecure desire to bait people into engaging, they’ll post ambiguous or uncomfortable status updates, like: “doesn’t need to answer to anyone,” or “will get through this,” or “has been really struggling lately.” We all have Murphy’s Law days, and social media can help us find the humor and irony in commiseration. But if your posts regularly trend negative, take a nap or a vacation. Find a hobby, a life coach, or a certified counselor. Your personal attitude reflects on your professional personae and your company’s brand.

Stealing from the Boss
Whether you work for a supervisor, or the client is your boss, both want to know you’re bringing your “A” game during business hours. When your Mafia Wars acquisitions, Farmville accomplishments, or Bejeweled scores hit the stream, everybody knows you’re not working on their project—at least not to an optimal extent. So, if you’re going to grab some personal distraction on company time, you might want to go back to mine sweeper and solitaire. Otherwise, it might be a good idea to do what your business card says you do.

If you want to succeed at online social media, play by the same rules that help you win offline. Listen to people; engage with them; add value to relationships.

For a group of people that is trying to finish what Jesus started, we Christians sure do make a mess of things. Denominational feuds, fundamentalist killings, genocidal crusades, uneducated hate speech . . . church people have instigated and/or participated in significant crimes against humanity. We have besmirched the reputation of a loving God who sacrificed a perfect Jesus, who left us a comforting Spirit. Hell must smile, as people who fill sanctuaries on Sundays often unleash the most havoc on the kingdom.

I regularly wonder why God allows us to ruin his reputation, why he has put up with the hang ups and sins I struggle to shake. I know the theology: that he is enduring rejection for the wealth of true acceptance. But I struggle to imagine the hurt multiplied by billions of lives through history. My mercy would have ended millennia ago; my indignation would have reached critical mass in the garden of Eden.

So, if God can look past all that, I sure hope those of you who won’t engage with him because of us Christians can, too. Just as you don’t blame Facebook or Twitter for the freak shows and ridiculous posts that show up on them, I hope you can look past our personal failures and the historic hijacking of Scripture by those who claim God as their father. You deserve a God without religion-mongers. You deserve the best of what God represents to be true, even when we’re not. You deserve something real and personal and enveloping—apart from how emoms and bishops and evangelists and priests have framed it.

I hope you give God a chance, even a conversation. He’s endured unfathomable blasphemy and blame while waiting for you.

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