This week in social selling 04.10.14

Social media is transforming sales and business development processes -- and I'm trying to keep up. I thought it might be helpful to share the things I'm learning from each week with other professionals in sales, marketing, and business development. Here is this week's roundup -- please let me know how I can make it better. 

* Lori Ruff shares an important process: how to back up your LinkedIn connections to a file you can save elsewhere. 

* Paul Castain shares some thoughts on the cold call. Interesting that we can't even define a cold call the same way. To me, a cold call is truly cold -- a new prospect that you've had no prior communication with. Others define it differently. 

* Top 10 SM shares ten secrets to generating social media leads online, including the rule of 10:4:1 for sharing content via social channels: 

10 posts that link to a third-party article.
4 posts that link to one of your company’s blog posts.
1 post that links to your landing or home page with an offer and registration form.

* Greg McKeown shares

five myths about the difference between successful people and very successful people

. I especially liked #4: 

Myth 4: Successful people are the first ones to jump in with an answer.
Truth: Very successful people are powerful listeners.
As the saying goes, the people who talk the most don't always have the most to say. Powerful listeners get to the real story. They find the signal in the sound. They listen to what is not being said.

* In an article on selling into big companies,

Amit Pandhi, CEO of frozen dessert company Arctic Zero, talks about 

how he cracked the code and got his product into Whole Foods by starting small

:

(We) visited many individual stores. Although big retail chains buy nationally or regionally, sometimes local store managers can buy some products on their own.
“We literally had to go store by store, region by region,” says CEO Pandhi, whose company is based in San Diego. Finally, in about a year, Arctic Zero made it to a Whole Foods’ freezer case. After their first Whole Foods win, Pandhi and other Arctic Zero executives got the dessert into about 250 stores.

Sometimes the ground floor is the best place to start the process. 

* Daniel Newman shares a stat from Forrester: 

Companies don't engage salespeople until they are 70-90% of the way into the buying cycle

. By then, they've done lots of research online. So when you do begin talking with a new prospect, add value by sharing information companies can't find easily on their own.  

* And finally, just

more data on 

why social selling is so important

:

... millennials trust user-generated content (UGC) just as much as professional reviews. UGC is also 20% more influential when it comes to purchasing and 35% more memorable than other types of media.

In other words, to build trust, it's critical that your creating and sharing good content online. If you're invisible online, you much less likely to be trusted. Mashable has more interesting data on Millenials and user-generated content in this infographic:

 That's a wrap. If you're having a tough week, take a minute and read this article on Lacey Holsworth, the eight-year-old cancer patient who stole the heart of Michigan State Spartan basketball player Adreain Payne, the team, and, eventually, the entire university. She passed away this week after a long fight, and her story sure puts work and career issues in the proper perspective. 

lacey.jpg
Posted on April 10, 2014 .

This week in social selling 04.03.14

Social media is transforming sales and business development processes -- and I'm trying to keep up. I thought it might be helpful to share the things I'm learning from each week with other professionals in sales, marketing, and business development. Here is this week's roundup -- please let me know how I can make it better. 


* From Slideshare, 18 Sales Experts Share Their Best Tip for Maximizing Productivity, including how to stand out by not using social media at all:

"If you truly want to thank someone, then thank them. Take 20 seconds and write a hand-written note ..."

This works. I'm not good about doing it all the time, unfortunately. But it works. #oldschool

James Altucher shares his ultimate cheat sheet to sell anything. I don't always agree with James, but I read all I can by him because he always makes me think by challenging old assumptions.Like everything James writes, he comes at selling from an unconventional -- and compelling -- angle. 

* Bernie Borges shares 15 ways to become a LinkedIn power user, which offers good insight including the following:
... understand that the best results on LinkedIn don’t come from being aggressive. I’ve observed too many people who treat LinkedIn like a singles bar, hitting on people who represent prospects.
[...]
Rather, be helpful, thoughtful and a resource to people in your network. When sharing content, use the 4-1-1 rule. Share 4 pieces of content you curate from sources like Pulse. Share 1 piece of content from someone in your network giving them credit for the original content. Share 1 piece of content that you produced.
* Connie Chang Wang, LinkedIn's senior social media manager, shares Lessons Learned at Social Media Marketing World 2014, including: be human, add value, sell later, and help people. All key tenants for social selling. 

* Social insights: Neal Schaffer offers some quick tips on building your professional brand -- differenetiate yourself, share your unique perspective and highlight your strengths to help cut through the noise -- and more: 

* Kevin Lee provides 7 key stats to know about sharing on LinkedIn, including the fact that each status update you post on LinkedIn only reaches 20% of your network

* Greg Genter writes that successful social selling requires being a center of influence, and shares ideas on how to achieve more influence and engagement online.
 
*At Social Media World, Michael Hyatt gave a prepsentation entitled "7 Rules for Writing Blog Posts that Get Read and Shared," but his deck posted on SlideShare has a ton of great tips. Here's the 7 rules, but check out the slides for much more:


That's a wrap for this week. In closing, I'd like to compliment the Dallas Fort Worth airport for keeping the legacy of Muzak alive. You don't hear much true Muzak anymore, and the nostalgia was nice, like I was in a dentist office in 1983.   

Posted on April 3, 2014 .

LinkedIn opens content platform to all users; what are the key benefits for bloggers?

LinkedIn continues its march to become a content hub, opening its LinkedIn Influencer program to all users:

LinkedIn Corp is attempting to become more like Facebook Inc by encouraging all members to generate a steady stream of shareable articles, a perk once available only to well-known business personalities.

The move, which the company hopes will generate more interest in the site, comes two weeks after LinkedIn disclosed that page views slipped for the second consecutive quarter.
The professional networking site said on Wednesday it will algorithmically distribute career-related articles written by any users on its "Influencer program," a blogging platform previously available only to businesspeople who were invited to contribute, including well-known names like former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and billionaire Richard Branson.

By opening the program to everybody, LinkedIn hopes its users will generate a steady stream of shareable content, providing a white-collar twist on how Facebook supplies its users a continuous stream of pictures or links from their friends.

LinkedIn Corp is attempting to become more like Facebook Inc by encouraging all members to generate a steady stream of shareable articles, a perk once available only to well-known business personalities.

The move, which the company hopes will generate more interest in the site, comes two weeks after LinkedIn disclosed that page views slipped for the second consecutive quarter.
The professional networking site said on Wednesday it will algorithmically distribute career-related articles written by any users on its "Influencer program," a blogging platform previously available only to businesspeople who were invited to contribute, including well-known names like former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and billionaire Richard Branson.

The LinkedIn Influencer program has been a huge hit since since its inception in October 2011, when the company brought on a well-stocked list of business superstars to contribute original content to the site:

The average Influencer post receives almost 30k views. (Some receive over a million views, with the top post receiving almost 2mm views.) The audience is extremely diverse: 22% of Influencer followers are entry-level professionals while 49% are director-level and above.

That diversity of readers is a direct result of the diversity of the Influencers. The average business/career media site has an editorial slant: Entrepreneur.com and Inc.com provide great news and information for small business owners and startups; career advice for young professionals, not so much. TechCrunch provides info on new Internet products and breaking tech news; broader social issues, not so much.

Those are big numbers. And obviously, when "average" people post they aren't going to draw page views like Gary Vaynerchuk or Bill Gates. 

So the question becomes, will it be worth it to post there, versus your "regular" blog, or alternate sites that offer enhanced visiblity like Medium?

LinkedIn spells out the benefits to posting on their platform, but the answer is murky:

With Influencers now broadened to many more writers, LinkedIn will use algorithms to identify articles that gain traction with readers and distribute those more broadly, Roslansky said.

So, if your content is good and people share and like it, LinkedIn will distribute it beyond your immediate network. 

There's upside to that. And I'm sure we're going to see a lot of bad, hard-sell stuff ("Seven reasons to buy our product -- and one amazing benefit you won't believe!!!") but as with any social network, the masses will help the cream rise to the top. 

For most of us, blogging isn't about amassing huge audiences -- we're not out to drive revenue via millions of pageviews. We're out to provide value to a much smaller and highly-relevant audience. I believe this new LinkedIn product will help greatly with that.

Posted on February 20, 2014 .

Mitch Joel on the failed state of branding, and what the shift means for partnerships

Mitch Joel writes a compelling piece about the failed state of branding:

Brands are going to have to face the music. It's a ruse that has (probably) been going on longer than anyone cares to admit, but it's something that has showed itself - front and center - in the past few months. What we're seeing is something we may have known all along (but were reticent to admit). People just don't care or think that much about brands. The entire engine of advertising is built on that truism. If people loved brands, there would be no need to advertise, right? Advertising is simply a financial engine that allows brands to pay to have access to an audience. This got very murky a little over a decade ago, when the Internet and social media collided. Suddenly, because all of the things that people think, like, share and create was made public, brands figured that they could suddenly engage and connect with anyone who makes mention of their favorite bubbly sugar water. It turns out that even if millions of people are liking a brand anywhere public, it doesn't really mean that they care all that much about it, does it?

Brands aren't dead, or dying. What's dying is a model that allows you to posiiton a brand however you like and not worry about delivering the experience on the back end. What's dying is the way we used to "communicate" with potential customers, which really wasn't communication at all. It was highly-polished shouting.

As marketers we should welcome this change. And if you work in partnerships, we have to think eeven more carefully about the companies we partner with. The companies you work for and with say plenty about who you are and what you stand for, and the evidence is out there for people to see.

If you partner with companies that don't deliver on their brand promise, then you don't deliver on yours, either. 

Choose carefully. Hold each other accountable. And be glad that companies delivering authentic experiences will be the winners in this new model. 

Posted on February 17, 2014 .

How To Make Business Introductions Without Being A Jerk

"No," she said. "And I don't appreciate the interruption."

I wasn't at the bar. I was at work, trying to add value by introducing two people to each other. One had asked for the introduction. The other didn't appreciate the intrusion at all.  

I like to do business introductions. It's fun when you can pair people together and watch them help each other. But I learned a lesson that day: you're not adding value if someone doesn't want to be introduced. 

Now I have a simple rule when someone asks for an introduction. I have to get the introducee's permission first before I introduce the ... introducer
Everyone wins that way. I don't annoy a valuable connection when they're not interested in the other person's agenda. The person asking for the intro really has to hone in on and tightly articulate the value they want to offer, because I'm going to use their brief pitch as part of my permission request. And lastly, I never look like a jerk when I ask permission first. (And I always can use help not looking Iike a jerk.) 

Sometimes, the person asking for the introduction gets annoyed when I tell them my rule. "Can't you just make the intro, please?!?" Not often, though. Usually the rare person that gets upset doesn't really have a lot of value to add. Which makes sense -- they know they're probably not going to get through the gate.
My favorite intro to do is when neither party asks. That's when I really feel like I can add value -- when I see two people who I think can genuinely help each other. That's the best intro to make of all.

Of course, that requires the double opt-in. Both parties have to agree to being introduced. So I guess I have two rules for introductions, not one. One for the single intro and one for the double-intro. 
But really, it's simply about common courtesy. And not looking like a jerk. I learned the hard way.
Posted on February 11, 2014 .

New Yahoo content partnership with Yelp fits Mayer's strategic framework

Merissa Mayer continues her transformation of Yahoo -- and new partnerships are a key driver of that transformation.

Yelp, which allows users to find and review local businesses, is the latest new partner initiative from Mayer.
A partnership between the Internet portal and the online-review site—which Chief Executive Marissa Mayer unveiled at an employee meeting Friday—will incorporate Yelp's listings and reviews of local businesses into results on Yahoo's search engine, said a person who attended the meeting. The new feature will be made available in the coming weeks, the person said.

Ms. Mayer has led an overhaul of search technology at Yahoo as she tries to turn around the once-dominant Internet portal. Surfacing more content from around the Web, such as Yelp's local listings, could help Yahoo differentiate from Microsoft Corp.'s MSFT +1.05% Bing, its partner in search, and compete with Google Inc., GOOG +1.51%  the market leader.
As pointed out in the WSJ piece, Mayer has previously revealed her search differentiation strategy will be driven largely by partnerships:

At a conference last year, Ms. Mayer compared Yahoo's search strategy to a winemaker who buys grapes from a vineyard: "You can grow your own grapes or buy them from someone else and still make a wine with your own style," she said.

Although Mayer is heavily focused on search as a core component of Yahoo's strategy, it's unlikely the company will ever put much of a dent in Google's share of traditional desktop search. But as Search Engine Land wrote a few weeks back, Yahoo can make some hay in local search and mobile:
While Yahoo probably couldn’t beat Google in straight up mobile search the company could build out additional verticals with a search component. Local comes to mind in particular but this would potentially apply to any of the verticals featured on the Yahoo homepage.

[...]

With the right content and user experience, Yahoo could generate new “search” usage and ad revenue from mobile. Though Google is widely used in mobile, basic “search” is generally not the preferred way to find things.
It's easy to see how this deal supports the Yahoo's strategic framework. Local Yelp listings will help differentiate Yahoo's search experience, will potentially help boost Yahoo's mobile offerings. 

And although we don't know the terms of the deal, Yelp obviously gets more traffic, at the very least. The value of this partnership is easy to articulate and fits seamlessly with the strategies of both companies. Looks like a winner.
Posted on February 10, 2014 .

Five ways to make your next business trip better

It's quiet now, but the storm is coming.

My February travel plans are light. Tumbleweeds roll in between all the open calendar space. Texas is jealous of the wide-open spaces on my TripIt account.
But March looms, dark and heavy off in the distance. And April will sweep in with equal force right behind it. The spring travel season is coming.

So, I'm thinking about business travel, and how to make it less painful. Here are five things I need to remember and they might help you, too.

1. Pack light and never check a bag
Nothing great can happen when you check a bag. Even the best possible outcome is a sub-par experience. The very ultimate best thing that can happen? You spend extra time waiting in line to check the bag. Then, when you get to your destination, you spend more time waiting as everyone and the seven relatives that greeted them at the airport press against you at the baggage return, and your bag finally appears dry and undamaged.

That's the very best scenario. It's all downhilll from there in a ton of different and terrible directions. Make a pack list, then cut items from it, then cut some more, then be disciplined enough to stick to the list. You can do this. 

2. Arrive at the airport absurdly early
My wife thinks I'm insane, and she's often right. I get to the airport REALLY early, every time, even when the flight is leaving at a painfully early hour of the morning. This drives my wife crazy when she travels with me, because she is the kind of person who prefers to go with the flow and let life sort out its own issues. 

Not me.

All I can remember is that one random Tuesday afternoon in Austin where it took an hour to get through the TSA checkpoint for no apparent reason. Or the freeway jam in Southern California that added an hour to airport travel time.

And you know what? Those unexpected delays were no big deal, because I get to the airport early. 95% of the time you don't need to be early. But that other 5%? You will sure be glad you did. 

3. Don't forget your business cards
I'm really bad at this, because I'm trying to eliminate as much paper from life as possible. We're getting closer, but we aren't out of the Business Card Age yet. I stash extra cards in several places (my wallet, my backpack, and my iPad case) to cover myself, because I'm bad about business cards. 

4. Use noise-cancelling headphones
Not just earbuds. Headphones with noise-cancelling technology. Once you take your first flight with these, you will never ever go back. I got a pair last Christmas and they are a total travel game-changer. 

5. When something goes wrong, try to be the nicest person in the room
Stuff gets screwed up when you travel; cancelled flights, problems with hotel rooms, and on and on. So many times I've seen people go from zero to nuclear when an issue crops up. And always, there's a customer service person who stands between you and your problem resolution. When you go nuclear, that customer service person almost always digs in and locks up.

The path to the best possible outcome is covered in sugar. Be nice. Be understanding that the customer service person didn't cause the problem, and now has to deal with the outcome. Be pleasant, and you might be pleasantly surprised at how things turn out for you. 
Posted on February 6, 2014 .

Allocating time to the right activities to get the right partnership mix

The Tampa Bay Rays invited me to participate in a marketing roundtable discussion last night. The topic, of course, was boosting ticket sales. It's always the topic for a franchise that kicks ass on the field, and, unfortunately, gets its ass kicked at the attendance gate. 

The Rays are tinkering with a new ticket package that will work well. It is certainly a hell of a value. The team is still ironing out the details and I'm sure we'll all hear more about it soon.

But a new ticket package isn’t a big game changer. It's not going to scale in a way that pushes the Rays out of the bottom dredges of the Major League Baseball attendance list. 

A new stadium is the game-changer. 

And that got me thinking about where, as a partnership marketer, I should allocate my time and energy. 
Am I, and is my team, spending enough time on game-changing initiatives? And conversely, are we spending enough time (but not too much time – it’s a tricky balance) on smaller programs, with smaller partners, that add up over time and help us offset the risk of being too reliant on just a few large partners -- the whales?

At PODS, I'd like our referral partnership revenue mix break out like this:
  • 50% of revenue from 3-5 large partners in the highest-value market segments
  • 50% of revenue from 50-100 small and medium size partners across a larger range of segments with an varying expected rate of return.
Actually, our mix isn’t too far off from that today. But the partner mix is always shape-shifting, with revenue from individual partners growing and shrinking, and partners entering and exiting our referral programs.

It’s obviously important to supplement that mix with a healthy prospect pipeline that helps feed in new partners of all sizes into the mix. 


Getting the mix right is a messy process, and the process is never complete. The ingredients are all over the countertops and the cake is never fully baked. That's all part of what makes partnership marketing difficult -- and a lot of fun. You're always trying to improve the recipe, and no matter how good you get it, you're still baking, and still finding ways to improve. 


Posted on February 5, 2014 .

Tips for interviewing someone you already work with

It happens often, and without some forethought can be a little awkward.

A position comes open in your organization, and someone you work with reguarly and know well applies for it. You need to respect the normal process and take them through a "normal" interview.

Except the interview isn't "normal" at all. Let's be honest -- you're mind is 99% made up as to whether the person can do the job when they walk in the room. 

So don't waste your time or hers interviewing her about her skills. Instead, dig deep on her motivations for applying for the position and how the role fits into her long-term plans.

If the interviewee indicates they are interviewing primarliy for any of these reasons, then keep looking: 

  • To get out of a role they don't enjoy now
  • To get out from under a bad boss
  • Pay increase

Promoting from within is great for morale and shows a commitment on the part of the organization to develop and reward employees. The key to any internal interview is to understand the employee's goals and motivations so the promotion is rewarding for both sides. 

 

Posted on February 4, 2014 .

A less than Super Bowl, on the field and in the commercials

The whole thing felt like a dud.

From the moment the ball whizzed past Peyton Manning's confused face, landing in the end zone in the arms of a Denver player and giving Seattle a 2-0 lead, the whole thing just felt clunky.

As Seattle opened its can of whip-ass on Denver and sipped leisurely throughout the first half, I kept waiting for some interesting and entertaining commercials. I only saw a couple. I liked the Radio Shack spot. It was funny and self-depreciating. It told the story of where Radio Shack wants to go and kept the 80s pop icon references coming fast and furious. 

 

I really wanted to like the Toyota ad with the Muppets, because, well, Muppets. And it wasn't bad:

The Chrysler ad with Bob Dylan was entertaining. Not nearly as cool as what Chrysler did with Eminem during the 2011 Super Bowl, but not bad. And by the way, Bob Dylan is schleping cars now? I guess I've seen everything. 

Otherwise, I felt like companies were dumping huge amounts of money down the drain to show commercials that weren't memorable, weren't going to drive PR and social media buzz after the fact, and, oh yeah, they weren't going to sell stuff. Which is the point of Super Bowl advertising. At least I think it was at one time. 

Of course the game is no longer just about the actual spot itself. How did advertisers do with social media integration? Marketingland says hashtags were used in 57% of the ads -- a new record: 

Our scoreboard at the top of this article has the final count, but here’s the summary with percentages, based on a total of 54 national ads reviewed:

Hashtags: 31 total, 57% of ads overall
Facebook: 5 total, 9% of ads overall
Twitter: 4 total, 7% of ads overall
YouTube: 3 total, 6% of ads overall
Shazam: 2 total, 4% of ads overall
URLs: 22 total, 41% of ads overall

But in 2014, how could the engagement measurement not be 100 percent? How can a company invest nearly $4 million for a single spot and not integrate social media components to extend the reach and engagement of their investment? Unbelievable. 

So as a football fan and a markerter, Super Bowl XLVII was a double letdown. At least the chicken wings at my house were outstanding. 

Posted on February 3, 2014 .

Go Daddy takes a new angle, but still maximizes PR value of its Super Bowl ad spend

Far less crass. Just as effective.

I've written in past years about Go Daddy's Super Bowl advertising strategy. Whatever you thought about the strategy's raciness and/or sexism, there is no denying it was effective:
For years now, the company has come up with an ad theme that races to the bottom of the standards barrel. This ensures the spotlight swings its way and people pay attention. (This year, for example, Go Daddy is going with two potential themes: “Danica Patrick takes a shower,” and “Danica Patrick talks about her … enhancements." )

With the ad concept in place, Go Daddy annually submits commercials it knows will be rejected by standards boards. Before the decision is rendered, the company gets the word out that it sure hopes its ads are approved this year, accompanied by theatrical hand wringing. Media members follow the story, filing reports about all the angst surrounding the acceptance process.

When the ad is rejected, Go Daddy CEO Bob Parsons blogs about it. The media follows suit. In prior years, Go Daddy has repeated the process with additional rejections and buzz. It works like a charm.
Eventually, Go Daddy gets its ads approved. The company makes sure everyone knows when it will air. And, of course, it posts the rejected ads on its web site.

It really is genius. The company uses controversy and rebellion over authority to create media attention, drive web traffic and build awareness of its commercial before it ever airs. And it works; Parsons says past efforts help push the company’s market share from 15 to 24 percent the week after its ad aired.
“It’s quite provocative. It’s never been done before on TV,” Blake Irving, the company’s CEO, said of its soon-to-be-unveiled Super Bowl spot.

The commercial will give a real woman the chance to quit her job on TV and set up her business with the company’s help.

“Her boss, who we suspect will be watching the game, has no clue that this is happening,” Irving added.
In addition, the company will roll out a new online tool to help small businesses manage their online profiles:
On Sunday, one of the company’s Super Bowl ads will focus on Get Found, a tool for small businesses. Get Found is the new name of a venture-backed start-up, Locu, which GoDaddy acquired in August. While the purchase price for Locu, which had raised about $4.6 million in investment funding, has not been disclosed, AllThingsD reported it was $70 million.

Get Found, which was introduced this week, plans to help small businesses manage their online profiles across major search engines, social sites and directories, including Google, Yahoo, Bing, Yelp, Foursquare, Facebook, Yellowpages, Citysearch, TripAdvsior, OpenTable and others.
Once again, Go Daddy shows it knows how to extend its ad spend for maximum PR impact. And while the company drops its raunchiness of the past, it is retaining a rebelliousness that people can relate to by helping someone quit their job and strike out on their own.

Less sexy, but just as effective -- and it certainly sends a better message to female small business owners who may finally consider using Go Daddy's services.
Posted on January 31, 2014 .

Guest-posting remains a viable digital partnership strategy

The end of an era. Internet hysteria. Recently, Google signaled a change in its ranking processes that will no longer reward guest posting as a method of building site links, which in the past increased a site's overall authority, and, therefore, its rankings in the search engine:
Back in the day, guest blogging used to be a respectable thing, much like getting a coveted, respected author to write the introduction of your book. It’s not that way any more.

[...]

Ultimately, this is why we can’t have nice things in the SEO space: a trend starts out as authentic. Then more and more people pile on until only the barest trace of legitimate behavior remains. We’ve reached the point in the downward spiral where people are hawking “guest post outsourcing” and writing articles about “how to automate guest blogging.”

So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy. In general I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well. Likewise, I wouldn’t recommend relying on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a linkbuilding strategy.
Matt Cutts actually said this isn't the end of guest posting at all. In fact, guest posting remains a viable digital partnerships strategy.
What's over is spammy, mass-guest-posting techniques designed to do nothing more than game Google. Christopher Penn offered the simplest and best advice for guest posting in the future:
In other words, behave as if there were no Google. Would you still pursue guest blogging if there was no SEO, if Google wasn’t looking over your shoulder? Yes, absolutely. If Oprah Winfrey emailed me and said she wanted to guest blog here, I’d say yes.
Here’s the part that I think a lot of marketers have missed. The impending death of guest blogging for SEO purposes is a good thing, a very good thing, for content marketers who produce great quality content. The less garbage there is, the less hard our audiences have to work to find the good stuff. A diamond in the mud may be a diamond, but it’s easier to find in a bucket of mud than in a stadium filled with mud. If this puts down a bad content marketing practice that’s become so automated that no humans even need to be involved, then good. Cull the herd, as it were.
In short: guest post because you understand your audience, because want to expand your audience through a digits partnership strategy and because you product unique content that adds value to your partner's site and its visitors. The benefits will endure. Carry on. 
Posted on January 30, 2014 .

To stand out when leading breakout sessions, remember this

We just wrapped up a marathon day of lelading breakout sessions -- four of them, in fact, at 90 minutes each, for PODS franchisees. And all the same topic: local sales and referral program activation.

It was a hell of a long day, and I was very proud of the way my team prepared it's material and delivered with enthusiasm, each and every time. 

(And if it was a long day for us leading the sessions, imagine how long the day was for franchisees, who rotated through four sessions ... at a beachside resort ... on a sunny day at the Gulf of Mexico ... with cocktails outside and everything. But they hung in. Impressive.)

Hopefully, we added value in the sessions.  Hopefully, we made it about the audience and not us. That was the goal. 

One thing became clear to me as the day went on and will serve as a rule for all future breakout sessions:

No one will remember almost anything we say.

There's too much material to devour across the sessions, followed by travel concerns and getting back to business and a billion other distraction.  

The same is true when you are leading breakout sessions, too. No one will remember anything. So what will you give them so the value you worked so hard to provide endures?

There are a million ways to address the problem of information retention at breakouts, but it's something rarely gets addressed at all. This year, our team tried to address it in two ways:

1) A spiral-bound book containing complemenary content, in greater detail than what we presented. 

2) A USB drive, shaped like a key, with all sales materials (collateral, case studies, customer lists, worksheets, etc. etc. etc.) that supported the information we presented.

There's no chance the audience will remember most of what we presented. There's a far better chance they will use the tools and strategies in our playbook and on the USB drive we shared. If they do, their businesses will grow locally, and then we all win.
Posted on January 29, 2014 .

Enterprise Florida doubles down on its sexist new logo

When an organization is blasted with criticism, it has three choices:

1. Decide the criticism is justified, make amends, and communicate changes with a sense of humility. This allows an organization to turn a negative into a positive by showing it is responsive and willing to do the right thing.

2. Bury its collective head in the sand. Controversy moves lightning-fast these days, and folks will eventually move onto the next scandal involving Lindsay Lohan or pit bulls or Pitbull. The brand takes a hit, but it may not be too detrimental depending on the scale of the issue and the outrage.

3. Double down and push forward against the criticism. Extend the controversial position to demonstrate that the organization clearly believes its position and direction is correct.

Enterprise Florida, the official economic development organization for the State of Florida, is doubling down.

In early February, Enterprise Florida rolled out a new brand campaign with the tag line, "The Perfect Climate for Business."

Fine. But the new logo? It has many people tied up in knots:

Susan Stackhouse, chief executive of Stellar Partners of Tampa, which runs retail concessions at airports, told the Tampa Bay Business Journal:


"Isn't that special? It's clearly a strong visual that business and men go together."


Wait, building a state's business logo around a man's tie doesn't convey a progressive and forward-thinking image? News to Enterprise Florida. The organization has now invited participants to print out a picture of the tie, wear it and share photos via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram with the hashtag #floridabiz.

The logo sends a terrible message about Florida's business climate, reinforcing damaging stereotypes that the state's culture is far behind the times.

I am glad, however, that Enterprise Florida is progressive enough to embrace social media. Here's my contribution to their tie-centric #floridabiz campaign:

Posted on February 21, 2013 .

How to manage crisis PR when your company holds customers as prisoners at sea

The passengers had left the Port of Galveston in Texas on Thursday for what was to be a four-day cruise to Cozumel, Mexico. They ended up sleeping for five days on sewage-soaked carpets and open decks, with food so limited that they were reduced to eating candy and ketchup on buns.

“It’s like being locked in a Porta Potty for days,” said Peter Cass, a physician from Beaumont, Tex., as the ship crept closer to Mobile on Thursday. “We’ve lived through two hurricanes, and this is worse.”

Well. What's a communication pro to do when that is the latest company storyline?

Drink heavily. And start early. 

No, that will have to wait. Let's take a look at how Carnival addressed the terrible plight of its prisoners customers aboard the Triumph, which drifted at sea before finally being towed back to civilization in Mobile, Alabama.

Customer recourse

Carnival put together a reasonable make-good package for the prisoners:

  • Return transportation: Carnival reserved 1,500 hotel rooms in New Orleans to accommodate customers who wanted to rest overnight Thursday before continuing home. The cruise line also has chartered planes to ferry passengers on Friday. Passengers who prefer to get back to Houston or Galveston will be bused from Mobile.
  • Full refunds for every customer
  • $500 toward a future cruise (I advise using those funds to buy that newly-critical cruise accessory: a Port-a-John).

Seems to be a fair recourse. If, later on, the NTSB finds Carnival was negligent, passenger compensation may have to be revisited. Already, the lawsuits are underway.

Company web site

Carnival's homepage does not have a clearly visible link or direct update to the latest news. That's a mistake. Thanks to social networks, digital communication has become disparate and far-flung, but a company's web site is still its central hub. Information should be readily viewable or accessible for family members, media and general train wreck-watchers right off the homepage.

Nor did the company have anything on the blogpromoted on the Carnival homepage. If you're going to use a social media hub as the main platform for pushing out updates -- and it appears Carnival's strategy was to use Twitter and Facebook -- then have a clear message and link on the company homepage about where to get the latest news.


Social networks


The story became Twitter hashtag hell for the company.

"#shitship"said Jeff Jarvis. And there were other creative takes.

But Carnival appears to have used Twitter as its main communication hub for the crisis, and the company relentlessly updated its feed with information, even sprinkling in some light-heartedness:

@CarnivalCruise: Of course the bathrobes for the Carnival Triumph are complimentary.

Carnival also posted regular updates to Facebook, including comments from the CEO from Mobile as the ship docked. But the updates weren't anywhere near as frequent as on Twitter, and that's an appropriate use of the two platforms. Facebook was used less frequently but for longer statements. Twitter was used at a high-caffeine pace for short and frequent updates.

I didn't see a lot of social engagement between Carnival and people tweeting at them or leaving Facebook comments, which would have required a small army of responders. It's simply not feasible to engage everyone during a crisis of this level. Get messages out and be as open and proactive as possible, which Carnival largely did.

Takeaways

The horrible conditions onboard the Triumph became a runaway freight train of outrage and mockery online. In any PR crisis, a company needs to communicate quickly, clearly and often, with authentic empathy for those affected and those voicing their opinions. 

In this very difficult case, Carnival did a reasonably good job staying out in front of developments. Having the CEO in Mobile to talk with passengers as they disembarked was an important off-line step that demonstrated concern and front-line engagement at the highest levels of the company.

Now comes an often-overlooked aspect of crisis communications: the steps taken after the event has ended. Will the government find negligence? How will the company deal with lawsuits -- in court and in the court of public perception? In light of these new developments, how will Carnival engage the public to repair its reputation?

The Triumph may have docked (briefly), but the crisis has not. The Carnival team will be managing this issue for a long time to come.

 

 

 


 

Posted on February 16, 2013 .

A simple customer service lesson that will make your business stand out

Many people, including friends in the airline industry wonder why I'm loyal to Southwest Airlines.

“Why subject yourself to ‘Cattle Air’,” they say. “You’re queued up by letter and number and then slowly herded onto the plane as the gatekeeper allows. Do you graze while waiting to be herded? Do you 'moo?'"

But most other airlines make me feel like cattle. Not Southwest.

Most big airlines want to keep you in the herd, keep you moving on the same path just like all the rest. If you wander off the beaten path, punishment is swift in the form of fees and scorn. Not quite the electric prod, but close.

Southwest doesn’t operate this way. For example, I was in Dallas this week with a co-worker when we realized our connection was going to be super-tight in St. Louis. We could catch another flight, direct to Tampa, an hour later and not have to worry about getting stuck in St. Louis.

We asked a gate agent if we could switch. Inside of five minutes it was done. New boarding passes on the direct flight. No problem, no hassles, no fees, pleasant service.

Try that at one of the traditional giants. You’re much more likely to get annoyance, big change fees, or a flat-out "no". Breaking from the herd is strongly discouraged.

It’s a simple lesson in customer service. Treat people as individuals. When someone wanders off the usual path -- help. That's your opportunity to make the kind of difference that creates loyalty and positive buzz. Apply this rule consistently, and customers will come back. Simple idea, harder to execute. So few businesses do it.

So thanks, gate agent Donnie in Dallas for helping a couple of people trying to move outside the herd's normal path. I’ll gladly line up again at the gate in the near future.

Moo.

Posted on August 9, 2012 .

Oreo's Textbook Example: Combining PR and the Visual Web

David Meerman Scott calls it "newsjacking": the process by which you inject your ideas or angles into breaking news, in real-time, in order to generate media coverage for yourself or your business.

Chris Brogan refers to the visual web, in which we share quick-hitting visual images (often with superimposed text) instead of links and deep content, as the "junkweb."

How can you combine them both to help build your brand? Oreo knows. Grab a hot topic -- in this case the Mars Rover landing -- and tie it into your brand with a creative, striking visual that people will want to share. When it's done right, you get something like this:

Excellent. Can I get this in mint?

Posted on August 7, 2012 .

Why Every Marketer and PR Pro Needs to Read "Trust Me, I’m Lying"

Ryan Holiday, the author of “Trust Me, I’m Lying,” has acted like a jerk. His new book, “Trust Me, I’m Lying,” is layered with lots of controversy and exaggeration, which creates a lot of buzz, which in turn sells lots of books. He knows what he's doing.

But still, beyond the hyperbole and the slimy PR practices he shares in the book, Holiday makes a simple and important point that marketers, public relations practicioneers and communication pros of all types need to understand:

Modern journalism faces extreme time and money pressures.

Not really earth-shattering when you strip it down, right? Pretty obvious? But understanding and accounting for this truth will pay dividends for ethical PR pros. With so much competition, a shrinking revenue base, and a relentless 24/7/365 news cycle, speed is increasingly important. Speed drives pageviews. Pageviews drive ad revenue.  

With that in mind, you will be a better partner to journalists and advocate for your company or clients if you follow three basic rules:

  1. Be targeted. Pitch-spamming to uninterested journalists wastes your time, your money (and/or your client’s money) and hurts you if you have a relevant pitch for a journalist later on. Know your journalists and bloggers. Know their audience. Pitch narrowly and don’t boil the ocean.
     
  2. Be concise. Provide as much information as that journalist needs to do their job and not one word more. No one has time to wade through your poorly written and/or edited pitch.
  3. Be ethical. Integrity is necessary to build the trusted relationships with journalists that will help create the coverage you need to meet your goals. If you aren't ethical, you'll eventually be blacklisted.

So grab a barrel-sized shaker of salt and apply it liberally as you read “Trust Me, I’m Lying.” But you should read it. For the ethical marketer or PR pro, there are lessons to be drawn about how to be a better partner to journalists and more effective professional.

Posted on August 3, 2012 .

A relentless focus on value.

A year ago, Peter Shankman posted this epic rant on social media “experts.” (I highly recommend it. The post is an ideal 101-level course on how to take a controversial but defendable position that drives conversation. Heat from readers isn’t always a bad thing.)

But I digress. Peter re-shared the post this week on his Facebook feed. One of the Facebook comments that followed really hit home:

"... I 'defriended' a business last week that asked me ‘What are you doing this weekend?’"

Feeds are cluttered. Lives are cluttered. Brains are cluttered. As social evolves, marketers can't be trite or disingenuous. We have to develop and continually sharpen a relentless focus on value when we engage our audience. People have 47 million other choices to which they can and will immediately turn.

A grammatical error or two may be forgiven. Valuable content is rewarded, even if it lacks some polish. But boredom, irrelevance and disingenuity? Those mistakes are punished immediately. 

Posted on May 24, 2012 .