Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Social Media – Building Relationships

How can social media become a tool for business? Although it has become part of the Sales Model, how often have you still heard that question raised?

Here's a brief look at two examples using Facebook to further develop the relationship with the customer – adding depth and creating a personal bond.

At the Weather Channel, Kelly Cass uses Facebook to keep in touch with her audience, answering questions about the weather (Why is it getting so cold so early this winter?), talking about the show (Tonight Kim and I have a whole bunch of interesting things for you.), offering her personal observations (I just love the snow!), as well as engaging in light banter (viewer: Kelly, you always look great! Kelly: Always???). She will even let folks know that she will not be able to keep in touch when she is doing a solo show – keeping them informed.

Years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Kelly Cass while visiting The Weather Channel (my client) – I found her to be warm and engaging – a real person who you'd like to have as a friend. The really cool thing about her Facebook writing is that she projects that same aura – like Kelly is a friend keeping you caught up on what she is doing and thinking. It is as though she is dropping you a personal note each time she posts to Facebook.

In Bethesda, Maryland there's a wonderful restaurant called Chef Tony's – great food and a welcoming atmosphere – like dropping over to a friend's home for a fine meal. Tony Marciante, the chef – proprietor, is always on Facebook with updates and uses the restaurant website to publish the daily menu, recipes, and beautiful pictures of food – among many things. Chef Tony (the person) will post to Facebook about upcoming activities (lobsterpalosia – Maine lobsters, comedy club night, Leadership Breakfast of Maryland, cooking classes), and what he is up to (baking deserts for next day, marinating meat for a special dish, wrapping up for the evening and heading home). He even uses Facebook posts to let folks know personally that Chef Tony's (the restaurant) will be closed and suggest a friend's place as an alternative – with a free glass of wine on Chef Tony.

With all this personal attention, does Chef Tony and his restaurant have a loyal following? Each Facebook piece feels like a personal message and it creates a relationship between the patron and the proprietor. This depth has a fascinating element to it - for many, they will drop a note to Chef Tony asking about menu suggestions or with entree preparation questions – like you might with a close friend. Of course Chef Tony responds with great dish choices and preparation instruction (for me he suggested chicken & prosciutto with a mushroom/white wine reduction sauce – to die for!) .

What's the common thread here? Do the Facebook posts create a stronger bond between the reader and the program or restaurant? Would you be more likely to watch Kelly and visit Chef Tony? This establishes another level to a traditional relationship. To makes it personal – between the reader and the writer. Even though the post may go to a thousand or more people, it feels like it is being sent just to you.

How do you see this 'personal' attention being used by other organizations to develop relationships and create community?

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Give Them What They Need! Are You Reaching Your Audience?

'Your speak with individuals; you sell to organizations; and you live by referrals' – a friend noted in a recent conversation about professional service firms.

Are we meeting the needs of each of these functions in our communications with clients and prospects. ?

I'd say yes when meetings were face-to-face and we were a primary source of information. While speaking in person, we can demonstrate how our service will get the needed results through stories related to concerns we just heard from from the prospect. How best to approach the organization to get an assignment or who else may benefit from our services are just a natural part of the flow of a conversation.

Has this changed as indirect communication has become a more important (or more frequent) part of our contact with others? Has our delivery changed as well?

Clearly the role as an information provider is different now – much of what we provided is available on the internet with just a few clicks; the carefully choreographed metering out of data and information is no longer effective to educate or to sell the prospect.

--But, do we still include this kind of stuff in correspondence and sales materials? Before you answer, think about the boilerplate in a recent proposal or the 'filler' in that thick leave-behind collateral currently in use.

When using the 'new media' should we abandon face-to-face meetings?  No!

--But we must make efficient and effective use of the meeting time. It is no longer a major portion of our meeting to educate – now the focus on what keeps them up at night and how our services will get bring restful sleep..

When I was in the Big Chair (CEO), I was constantly sought out by individuals and firms who wanted to sell me their services. Here's what I found was most useful to me:

  • Don't bring me a solution looking for a problem – learn about my needs and tell me how you can satisfy them – AND show me that you have hands-on, practical experience in doing so;
  • Time is precious – don't spend mine by reading background material or educating me about things I already know;
  • PLEASE don't tell me about your awards and being a member of the million dollar sales league – good for Mom to hear, but it brings nothing useful to my ears;
  • Listen carefully to what I am saying about issues, the market, and my competition, so you can respond specifically to how you can help me – don't spend my 'talk time' framing your next brilliant statement or prepping for line 26 of your prepared sales presentation;
  • Provide me with useful resources that I may draw upon for a deeper understanding and to better assess what help I really need;
  • Tell me stories about other similar or related assignments and how YOU achieved the results my counterpart needed and expected (exceeding the expectations is fine as well – IF true); I am not talking about a brag session highlighting how great you are, more to the point, the stories should make it easy for me to visualize myself as the benefactor of the achieved results;
  • Telling me that you spoke with another person in my organization carries no particular weight – if it was a useful conversation for that person, I probably already know about the conversation; if not, it adds nothing to the conversation if I am the decision maker;
  • It's OK for you to ask my intentions and time frame – HOWEVER, if you offer to do something – get in touch, provide further information, make a referral, or whatever – DO IT in the time frame promised (yes, it is good to set the When for promises);
  • Keep the meeting to the agreed amount of time – if you asked for 30 minutes, you should be shaking hands & saying good bye no later than minute #30 – don't worry, if I want more I'll ask you to continue.

The face-to-face meeting has shifted from an education session to an assessment session – going from the What to the How & are you the right one to do it. And the individual, the organization and the referral will all be satisfied in the process.

Is this how you see it?

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Activity or Results – Which Do We Reward?

Activity is: movement; working on tasks; kinetic energy; being (or looking) busy; doing 'stuff'...

“Getting Results” brings to mind: meeting goals; creating value; making sales; completing projects...

Are they the same thing? NO – Results require activity – BUT – Activity does not necessarily produce Results.

To that point -

I can recall seeing an energetic guy wearing black rubber boots while waiting 3-hours for an 'about-an-hour' work on my car at a large auto repair shop. 'Boots' was in perpetual motion – heading toward the parking lot, front office, mechanic bays and elsewhere. He showed a sense of purpose and moved with great determination. But he never made it to any destination before changing course – off to a different one lickety split!

Fascinated by this constant motion, I flagged down Boots and asked what he was doing – “Keeping this place organized and working!” was his reply. Interesting; I never saw him touch a car or accomplish any task during the entire time.

When settling up for the repair, I asked the service rep about Boots and was told that he is of our most valuable employees – the guy is on the move from the time we open until we close.

In contrast, when managing a club recently, I had a server who had that perfect balance of providing attentive service without hovering. He would glide by the table filling water glasses and removing empty plates as he went – if the kitchen was slow, he'd stop be the table to let his guests know as he put down fresh bread & butter; he would check back with the table as the folks began to eat to see that everything was properly cooked and the meals were correct. This was greeted with smiles from the guests and often a supplemental order of side dishes. Of course, he offered desert and coffee after the meal.

I once overheard him asking the head of the table if she was thinking about coming back soon and offered to put in a reservation for her favorite table – Great Idea!!

In response to lagging satisfaction and declining patronage, we had set new goals of exemplary service, increased sales, and greater diner volume. This server had a grand slam getting top results for all three goals – he was a strong positive peer influence for the other servers as well.

Do you find that we reward – directly or indirectly – activity as if it creates the value of getting results?

Is Boots really perceived as a top employee for his perpetual motion rather than accomplishment? Can top notch service be delivered by disinterested servers – and – can customer service be improved without great service? Focused activity leads to achieving results.(The New Management is Leadership).

Does any of this make a difference in leading an organization in today's New Normal (When Will We Get Back to Normal)? How do you see it?