Social media never disappears

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Willful ignorance doesn’t help your cause

Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media outlets have become the predominant way of communicating and establishing commercial and personal brands.

Wearing my hat, for example, exposes me to a targeted audience. Blasting its image via six social media accounts increases my visibility exponentially.

However, once something’s published online it’s impossible to erase. So I’m VERY careful what I publish so it doesn’t come back to haunt me later.

Consider this recent item on LinkedIn:

“Damn…the NFL been around longer than our government. We’ve had 50 Super Bowls and only 45 presidents. I didn’t know that.”

She wasn’t kidding!

Her millennial friends agreed with her, while others provided unsuccessful civics lessons.

Logically, someday this woman will want a job. Potential employers will GOOGLE her name and discover today’s conversation.

Meaning today’s willful ignorance could easily endanger tomorrow’s opportunity.

This judgmental attitude isn’t just mine. Business owners following the feed said “WOW!!!”; “The scariest thing is…they vote.”; and “Your education is what you make it, Princess.”

This subject’s appropriateness for business-oriented LinkedIn also raised temperatures. One executive observed “Actually it’s perfect…helps with candidate vetting.”

Here’s reality for you: Anonymity no longer exists in today’s world.

Meaning if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

Whether you’re branding a business, non-profit, or yourself, be sure your marketing plan includes a healthy dose of social media.

But remember potential bosses, clients and partners will not only examine your recent postings, but everything you’ve ever written.

And those lurid pictures of you getting drunk, while funny now, will haunt you in 20 years with questions about your character, judgment, and intelligence.

So some unrequested advice for my young friend on LinkedIn: Poor communication skills don’t bode well for being able to market yourself in the future.

Because even though Millennials grew up comfortably sharing their every move with the world at-large, with many not recognizing the importance of privacy, their bosses probably feel differently.

There are six generations sharing the workplace today, and older generations control much of the employment and financing opportunities.

Their discomfort with a “Let it all hang out” attitude may encourage them to penalize anyone unable or unwilling to be “professional.”

It isn’t necessarily fair. But as a business owner, I know it’s a realistic view of today’s world.

Delivering Savings Until Closing Time Today

A man walks into the post office…WONDERUSPS2

Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, doesn’t it?

But there I was waiting to buy postage and I discovered a coupon jointly issued by Hallmark and the U.S. Postal Service.

In truth I shouldn’t have been surprised. For the past few years the Postal Service has been getting increasingly commercial in an effort to overcome an annual $5 billion deficit. And because the USPS is a quasi-governmental agency receiving zero tax dollars, that money obviously has to come from someplace.

So, a few years back they started selling ancillary items like packing supplies and greeting cards.

Then they struck deals to feature animated characters on postage stamps, including Bambi, Big Bird and Daffy Duck.

Today, stamps featuring Wonder Woman can be affixed to Snoopy greeting cards, both purchased at the postal counter.

The tie-in between postage stamps and Hallmark greeting cards is a logical one.

Post offices have a built-in customer traffic flow. Most cards get mailed and need stamps.

What better place to tie the stamps, card, and customers together than there?

Furthermore, free email graphics have been the source of headaches for Hallmark executives for a long time.

If they can sell more cards and pay the USPS a sales commission, everyone wins, right?

Their plan is obvious;

  • Customer chooses a card from the multiple displays in the postal store lobby;
  • Coupon offers $1 off 3 cards if purchased before Feb. 17, 2017 (That’s TODAY, in case you hadn’t noticed!);
  • Customer buys two additional cards and stamps for mailing them

The promotion’s demise date screams “Valentine’s Day,” though any cards sold there qualify for the discount.

Now let’s examine your business. Odds are good there’s a potential partner for you, regardless of what you sell.

Car dealerships can join forces with area gas stations. Bakeries can work with exercise studios, which, in turn, can partner with beverage companies.

The USPS isn’t collecting buyers’ contact information, but there’s no reason you can’t. A list of buyers is incredibly valuable, since:

  • They like what you and your partner sell
  • You have an established relationship
  • They’re likely to buy from you again

Partnerships must be carefully thought out and planned, but can be very successful if done right. Learn from the USPS and develop one today.

How much would you charge?

breakfast sandwichI just flew in from Sacramento, and BOY are my arms tired!

Sorry…I’ve always wanted to say that.

At the airport my bride purchased a “substandard” bagel and “okay” coffee for $6.04. The same counter was selling breakfast sandwiches for $11.

Realizing I’m in the wrong business, I pondered how anyone has the nerve to charge such exorbitant prices.

First thought: Greed. Airport dining options are limited and most vacationers, feeling expansive, don’t bring their own food.

Plus with millions of guaranteed customers, a “Take it or leave it” attitude is almost understandable.

Especially since airport meals typically fade from memory before the next suitcase is packed.

Then I considered my neighborhood’s gas stations. One at the freeway entrance consistently charges 80 cents more per gallon than the place across the street lacking ramp access.

Given the minor differences from one brand of gasoline to another, the price differential must be caused by the convenience factor; the station’s location.

Economics 101 dictates something is worth only what customers believe its value to be.

A bottle of cold water selling for 25 cents at Costco is worth $3 when sold on a hot day inside a football stadium. Customers willingly throw money for the same item due to its increased perceived value.

Meaning we’re witnessing the law of supply and demand in action. The gas stations, airport restaurants, and water vendors are all charging as much as their particular customers are willing to pay.

You too should be looking to bestow some form of additional perceived value on your business. Like the airport, gas station, and football stadium, you may have location as an advantage.

Carrying hard-to-find products, providing amazing service, or making something of significantly higher quality than the competition also helps.

Or just making the experience more pleasant than the competition does might make the difference.

Greeting customers with a cheery “Hello friends!” and playing classical background music for those enjoying a morning cup of coffee, for example.

Of course, the answer to business success changes based on industry, geography, customer demographics, and your definition of success.

But if you can find that one thing that makes both you and your customers happy, you may suddenly find you’ve become quite popular.

Right this way, Mr. Squinty

In September I found myself at a branch of my bank awaiting a receipt. My sd-sdreyer-1485458125-snap-phototime was spent perusing brochures, people-watching, and staring into space. Then the monitor behind the counter caught my eye.

As a marketing professional I’m naturally curious about every company’s messaging. So I watched their video presentation. Twice.

Finally I realized the problem. “The picture’s fuzzy,” I told the teller, who smiled noncommittally.

Last week I visited another branch of the same bank and determined the problem wasn’t my eyes, but the presentation itself.

This time the teller acknowledged the issue. “We said something to headquarters weeks ago and they promised they’d fix it,” she said.

Yet here we are, months later, and the problem persists.

When I started in business, my father advised me to be sensitive to customers’ needs. “People’s eyes start playing tricks on them around age 40,” he warned.

Truer words were never spoken! Shortly after I hit 40 my eyes started acting up, and they’ve only gotten worse with age.

So here I was observing a marketing presentation that was unfocused and giving me a headache.

And the bank’s marketing department apparently wasn’t very concerned about it.

Meaning the message meant to reinforce my warm fuzzy feelings for this bank instead irritated me.

Counter-productive? You bet!

Even if the bank eventually gets its act together, it’ll be quite a while before I’m watching that video again.

Translation: beyond the annoyance factor, they’ve lost a very visible, very cost-effective tool for communicating with me.

And a measure of good will has also been lost because they didn’t pay attention to my needs.

Now let’s consider your business. Do you:

• Know your customer’s profile and their preferred ways of being communicated with?

• Understand their needs to ensure they receive your message?

• Listen to your staff when they tell you there’s a marketing issue requiring attention?

Admittedly I’m not so annoyed that I’m moving my business elsewhere…yet.

Still, I’m now wondering which other concerns of mine they’re ignoring.

And should the competition hit me with the right offer, benefits, and messaging on the right day, I might be persuaded to switch.

All because some faceless person didn’t take the time to ensure quality control at the point of sale.

Tell me a story

Early in October 2007, Mike Miller resigned from the RB Sunrise Rotary Club.aaeaaqaaaaaaaagbaaaajgmxmjrlzjrlltzkntgtndlhyi05nwuwlwy5otrjogfmntixza

President of RB Financial in San Diego, Miller said he was “tired of being nickel and dimed,” with fines for his birthday, wedding anniversary, etc.

Club members wished him well and assumed he’d never attend another meeting.

Two weeks later the Witch Creek fire swept through town. Mike and Teresa Miller escaped from their burning house with 10 minutes notice.

Word went around the Rotary club like…well, like wildfire. And the following Saturday 40 Rotarians and spouses appeared at the Miller property to search for any surviving valuables.

Lunchtime brought one of our members carrying a dozen pizzas, salad and sodas. Mike watched in amazement as a table and checkered tablecloth were set before him.

“Why are you all here?” he asked. “You were in trouble, Mike. We came because you were in trouble,” was the answer.

“But…I resigned from this organization two weeks ago,” he protested. The response; “Yeah…we didn’t accept your resignation.”

Not another word was said on the subject and we spent several more hours helping before going on our way.

Nobody was terribly surprised when Mike returned to Rotary’s 7am meeting the following Tuesday. Crying, he announced “You will NEVER get rid of me; I’m in this organization for life!”

I recount this story whenever someone asks me what Rotary’s about. It explains our philosophy of “Service Above Self” far better than discussing the 1.25 million members in 34,000 clubs throughout 200 countries.

Consider this whenever you’re explaining your own organization. Remember that anyone can quote facts and figures about real estate, but only you can tell the tearjerker about the couple you helped move cross-country to be with their only grandchild.

Stories about larger goals and customer successes you aided are an important differentiator in today’s business world. They show your depth, character, and humanity.

Such an approach multiplies reasons for someone to buy from you. You’re obviously not just about trying to make that extra dollar.

As we careen into a new year and a new reality, remember how much competition you’ve got for every customer.

Now, more than ever, it’s critical to develop strategies for connecting with your clientele. Mike Miller has shown us the way.

Selling with a smile

Successful salespeople looking to immediately develop customer rapport know smiling-thumbs-upthe importance of a smile.

A smile is a universal indicator of openness, friendliness, relaxation, and likeability. It’s a powerful asset for salespeople looking to build long-term client relationships.

Consider a job interview I once screwed up.

It was about 20 years ago in Boston, and I was perfect for the position. We went through the interview process and I met six or seven people with whom I’d be working. Everything was lining up in my favor.

After the meeting I wandered over to Quincy Market for lunch. Lost in thought, I didn’t pay much attention to the fellow in the suit giving me the once-over.

Not recognizing him as an executive who’d wandered through the meeting I just completed, I gave him a sour look.

It all went south from there, and I never heard from them again.

In hindsight, looking pleasant, or at least neutral, would have undoubtedly been more profitable. Live and learn, right?

Smiling’s value can’t be underestimated. It can easily make the difference between whether or not you walk out with a signed contract in your pocket.

Ask yourself if you smile:

  1. While talking about your company
  2. On phone calls when the other person can’t see you
  3. During public speaking engagements
  4. During video-conference calls
  5. In your professional headshot

People will quickly spot fake smiles, so sincerity’s important for a smile to be an effective tool.

Okay, it’s true that many sales professionals have a naturally upbeat personality, smiling frequently throughout the day and during interactions with customers and prospects.

Interestingly, this simple act also happens to be one of the most effective ways to cut through adverse situations, conflicts, and disappointment. If you’ve just been told no or a deal has fallen through, a smile is your first defense against negativity.

Indeed, many studies show that smiling attracts people because it projects positivity.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow astutely observed; “Into each life some rain must fall,” but a smile is the best defense. Even if you’re talking with people who don’t have time or money or don’t want to listen to you, smile anyway. It keeps you in control of your life, your emotions, and your selling process.

A Vision For Tomorrow

trump-clinton-1-620x412In September, 2001, my family and I were buying a house north of Boston. Then 9/11 hit, scrambling everyone’s plans.

Our initial reaction was to stop the transaction and hide until things settled down. But with a $15,000 deposit at risk, we saw little choice but to proceed with the purchase.

Having consummated the deal, everything eventually sorted itself out. We picked up our lives and made a future we were happy with, including moving to RB a year later.

Flip forward to Mr. Trump’s stunning upset in the presidential election. Millions of voters unhappily watched the nation choose its new leader.

In quick succession I heard people I respect talk seriously about fleeing the country or halting major new initiatives.

Panic of the unknown and riots in the streets ensued. This was combined with wild gyrations in financial markets and comparisons to an American Brexit from sanity.

If you’re one of these people, remember how much you have invested in your lives, communities, and businesses. You can’t just go blindly running off into the night, screaming.

Because whether or not you’re pleased with the presidential election results, we all must deal with this new reality.

Furthermore, because of America’s reach and impact on virtually everything worldwide, there’s really no place to hide as the next four years unfold.

Want the silver lining? It’s nine weeks until the new administration is seated. This provides you adequate time to revisit your marketing plan to reflect the prospect of a Trump administration.

Reconsider your media choices, sales offerings, and audiences. If you truly believe your business will soon go downhill, plan to invest more in your marketing to counter that potential scenario.

And what if you got the election results you wanted? You’d best quickly move beyond gloating and singing “Dong Dong, The Witch Is Dead,” lest you offend customers who don’t see the world the same way you do.

Bottom line: The election’s done. It’s time to focus once again on growing our businesses. The distraction caused by candidates sucking all the oxygen from the room with every utterance is rapidly being replaced with the minutiae associated with actually governing.

As for me, I’m just grateful that Indecision 2016 is behind us, and look forward to a better tomorrow.

The 2032 campaign just started

votingEven as we gratefully watch the 2016 campaign fade in our rear-view mirror, rumblings have started for the 2032 presidential race.

Yes, I said 2032!

Last night’s dinner at Grub found me chatting with Christian, the cashier. I’ve known him for years as my daughter’s classmate in RB’s schools.

Now 21, he looks at the world around him and says “We can do better!”

Yet unlike so many people both his age and mine, he’s getting involved now to improve things later.

I shared with Christian how I’d once envisioned myself in the US Senate and the tale of a college friend who spent a full evening mapping out a 20-year strategy to accomplish my goal.

His plan included where I was to live, whom I should meet, and where to raise money from.

And though I later decided against running for elected office, the planning concept wasn’t lost on me.

Like Christian, you too should be organizing your thinking for meeting long-term objectives. Knowing where you want to be in 15 years is fine, but the difference between wishes and reality is having in place a plan…and then implementing that plan.

As we find ourselves staring down the throat of another year, the smartest business owners are rebuilding their strategic and marketing plans. They’re organizing their thinking, finances, operations, and marketing with an eye towards the coming three years. Those that will be the most successful are planning for both the short-term (12 months) and the long-term (10 years out).

Over three decades I’ve encountered every imaginable reason to not plan for success, including lack of time and an unwillingness to be tied down. Invariably these excuses are said by people who later whine about loss of sales and careen from one crisis to the next.

Here’s the thing: if you take the next six weeks to examine who you are as a business and why you do whatever you do, you’re guaranteed to go a long way towards actually implementing your dream.

Then, regardless of whether you change your mind along the way, you’ll at least have a place to begin the conversation.

Finally, for those who are unhappy about this election’s results, go talk with Christian. He’ll give you hope for the future.

About that Walking Billboard…

jack-o-smashMoving to California in 2002, I immediately heard about the region’s famous “green flash” at sunset.

Over the past 14 years I’ve seen it exactly never, though I remain ever hopeful.

To compensate I drink lots of Green Flash beer. The only green I see through my bloodshot eyes is the stuff leaving my wallet to pay the barkeep.

So it was with a certain amount of relief that I saw a green flash at Tuesday morning’s Rotary meeting in Rancho Bernardo.

What I initially thought to be a hallucination, though, turned out to be whirlwind Realtor Sue Herndon. Her screaming green T-shirt was touting this Sunday’s Jack-O-Smash fundraiser at Poway’s SportsPlex.

As she talked about the fun times ahead and the charities being supported, I took a moment to notice the dozens of company logos represented on her shirt.

Their support of the PoVa therapeutic riding program, the Abraxas High School Transitions Program and PUSD’s special education foundation told me these are good corporate citizens, deserving of my respect and patronage.

Which, by one of those strange coincidences of life, was EXACTLY what they wanted me to take away from the experience.

Okay, I confess … when I put on a T-shirt I don’t necessarily think much about whose name or logo is on it.

Yet I recognize that my wearing that shirt has two implications. First there’s the obvious marketing message.

But there’s a second layer that subliminally ties my reputation to the organization and sponsors represented on the shirt.

In effect, my wearing that T-shirt is an endorsement of everything said on it.

Whoa! When did getting dressed become so complicated?

Here’s the thing: there are dozens of organizations worthy of your business’ support within a stone’s throw of where you’re sitting right now.

Beyond finding a cause you believe in to contribute to, you’ll also benefit by finding one where your contribution buys you space on their T-shirts.

For a few dollars you may be able to arrange to have hundreds of people using their own credibility, reputation, and network to market for you.

As you develop your 2017 marketing plan, set some money aside to help the community while helping yourself.

Admittedly this isn’t a fancy or high-tech communications strategy. But people DO pay attention to these things, and it can be effective.

Hey…Where’d You Go?

column-movedSometimes my dog gets lonely. He’s 12 and set in his ways.

This is challenging on days when I’m out for the entire day.

Enter doggy daycare (yes, there is such a thing), where he spends his time with a pack of 80 furry knuckleheads.

He’s happy and safe there, meaning I can tend to business.

So imagine my surprise when I drove up last week to find the daycare facility had vanished. A crew was overhauling the building for a new tenant. A small sign directed me to a location two miles away where the daycare providers had moved to.

The new location was buried at the far end of a long parking lot. Though I eventually found it, my unanticipated detour forced a 15-minute delay for a client meeting.

The facility no doubt updated their Facebook page with their new address…only I rarely visit that page.

So how was I to know they’d moved? And how difficult would it have been for the daycare staff to send me an email with this news?

A bizarre concept, right? You’re changing location and tell people where to find you so they can continue doing business with you.

Failing to tell anyone (with the possible exception of those on-site the week of the move) guarantees these guys will lose business.

At some point that new tenant will move into the old location and the signage pointing to the new daycare facility will disappear.

When that happens, anyone visiting the old location will probably assume the daycare facility is defunct and find a new service provider.

Every business has a house list of current, past, and prospective customers. Over 30 years I’ve learned the most profitable organizations regularly communicate with everyone on that list.

Communications (newsletters, promotions, emails, texts, calls, postcards, etc.) should vary by audience.

Because whether you’re sharing buying opportunities, factoids, stories, or case histories, customers must be reminded why they need to have you in their lives.

Recognizing that out of sight is out of mind, regular customer outreach ensures customers think of you often and remember to buy from you.

Regular customer contact will grow your business over time, as well as helping you to weather disruptions like moving the business to a new location.