Community Marketing Catapults Word of Mouth

Word of mouth marketing is one of the best strategies to attract positive or negative attention. The reason is simple people believe other people usually family or friends before any advertising or other marketing activities no matter how good those actions are.  Yet today mostly because of social media, we now see collective word of mouth advertising or what is called community marketing.

word-of-mouth

 

The Power of Community Marketing

This past week I once again saw the power of community marketing. A small group of like minded sales professionals including top salespeople, sales coaches and sales trainers supported one of their own who was the recipient of an unwarranted attack on a social media site.  The majority of those who supported their fellow sales trainer belong to one community established several years ago.

During the past several years after being involved in this group and several others, I have personally witnessed how community marketing catapults word of mouth.  For example one social media post is not only shared by the writer, but this community of like minded professionals will share it within their own communities such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and even Facebook.  Through the use of automation tools the sharing is consistent and the influence of all community members grows as does traffic to their websites.

A Real World Example

Currently I have 10,300 followers on Twitter.  The collective Twitter Power of just 5 of my fellow community members increases that reach six times to over 62,000. Given this particular community is over 25 members strong, one can easily see how powerful this marketing strategy and tactic actually is.

Unfortunately for so many small business owners, they fail to take their business to business networking to this next level. Instead they focus only on the status quo of face to face, the mandated referrals and ignore the incredible business growth opportunities provided through this collective word of mouth marketing through the various social media channels.

Social Media Is Strength in Numbers

To be seen and heard on social media does require strength in numbers. Twitter currently has 271 active million accounts. There are approximately 6,000 Tweets being sent every second. LinkedIn has 259 million accounts. LinkedIn members continue to expand their content marketing through the daily updates and  publishing via the LinkedIn Pulse platform. One can be easily lost in the tumult and crowded seas of social media.

Time to Build Your Communities

Facebook recognized the value of communities through its various groups as did LinkedIn. Now is the time for you to create and develop your own social media marketing communities. If you belong to a formal or even an informal networking group, you already have the foundation for community marketing. Yes it does take a little time to establish your community of liked minded small business professionals and entrepreneurs. However the numerous automation tools keep you from personally having to update your social media accounts.

If you truly want to expand your influence, increase sales leads and small business growth opportunities, then consider taking your current word of mouth marketing to that next level.  You just maybe surprised by the results.

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There Is a Time for Giving

Life is busy, in fact crazy busy for most people.  Between jobs, children, parents, relationships, housework and all those other to do items one can be busy every day of the week and the thought of scheduling a time for giving goes right out the window.

time-for-givingYesterday I gave a couple of hours of my time on a Saturday to pick up roadside trash along a portion of a state highway in Porter County,IN.  This activity was sponsored by the Valparaiso Rotary Club and is a semi-annual event.

Yes, I would have preferred to stay home and take care of my writing and client projects still to be completed.

Yes, I would have preferred not to be in the rain picking up trash because of inconsiderate and lazy drivers and passengers.

Yes, I would have preferred not to have to run a special load of clothes after completing this volunteer assignment.

With government budgets stretched thin in many instances (regardless of the reason) and many struggling here in this country to make ends meet, volunteers make up the short fall by scheduling a time for giving.  These individuals in many instances belong to civic organizations such as Rotary International to religious institutions to for profit firms where employees volunteer their time.

Today is Sunday and for me another time for giving. I volunteer at least twice a month to assist at our early mass for Augsburg Evangelical Lutheran Church located in Porter, IN.  Our church, meaning our congregation, is very active in its efforts to support the local elementary school with backpacks; the local food bank; as well as Lutheran Aid International.  Members even those with young families give of their time to these giving opportunities.

For some, money is the way they give. Yet sometimes scheduling a time for giving means far more to these organizations and to our communities than just money.

As noted earlier, most of us are crazy busy. However from my own private time management research must of us admit to wasting 12 minutes per workday. Those 12 minutes of wasted time add up to one hour per week.  From my simple math, we all have the potential to schedule a time for giving even if it is just one hour per month.

P.S. What I have learned is I appreciate far more of what I have when I am able to give of myself to others.

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If You Cannot Say Anything Nice, Then…

Many of us have heard the expression “If you cannot say anything nice, then say nothing at all.” Yesterday I had the privilege of observing on the LinkedIn Pulse publishing platform how someone turned around an unwarranted professional attack. He did follow this old truism with exceptional emotional intelligence, grace and dignity.

if-you-cannot-say-anything-niceThe responses by others on LinkedIn were equally impressive. My sense is the person writing the very unkind and untrue statements may have learned this lesson.

One never knows the strength of the community behind another.

When in corporate to student leadership training sessions, I encourage the participants to always give constructive feedback with this one criteria. For every negative comment, there must be at least 3 positive comments.  By taking this constructive feedback approach, the negativity never overwhelms the participants because the focus is on what they have done well. Additionally, the constructive feedback does not turn into a personal or professional attack.

In yesterday’s experience, many from their comments wondered what prompted the truly unwarranted professional attack. From my perspective, I think there was a bit of professional jealousy, possibly some slow sales growth and someone whose ego was very frustrated with his current results.

My question to you is how would you finish this truism of “If you cannot say anything nice, then….”?

Please leave your responses and if you have experienced a professional attack through social media or some other channel, please feel free to share how you handled it.  Just remember, please refrain from sharing proper names.

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Before Your Small Business Jumps into Content Marketing, Read This

The content marketing bandwagon continues to gain more B2B small business owners and single office/home office (SOHO) entrepreneurs.  Unfortunately two old behaviors raise their ugly head. These two reluctant behaviors are:

content-marketing

  • No strategic thinking
  • No monitoring of current efforts beyond cash flow and increase sales

Without a strategic plan, small business owners and their fellow SOHO companions are engaged in the role of Captain Wing It. They spray their marketing, their selling, their whatever activities all over the place and then pray something will stick.

Some recent research from the Content Marketing Institute revealed some startling facts that all small business owners to even Fortune 1000 firms should heed:

  • 86% of the responding firms used content marketing in their B2B efforts
  • 48% have a content marketing strategy, but don’t document said strategy
  • 35% only have a documented strategy

As to top content marketing tactics, these are the preferred distribution channels according to Content Marketing Institute:

  • Social media – 92%
  • E newsletters – 83%
  • Articles on company’s website – 81%]
  • Blogs – 80%
  • In-person events – 77%
  • Case studies – 77%
  • Videos – 76%

Specific to social media distribution channels, LinkedIn has become the top social media platform and for 63% of those surveyed the most effective.

The trend to create more content is continuing with 70% of the B2B firms writing more than the previous year. Budgets for the next 12 months specific to content marketing are expected to increase for 55% of those surveyed.

Before you invest your small business resources on this now very popular marketing tactic, make sure of the following:

  • Engage in strategic thinking with the end result of  a written and detailed goal driven strategic plan
  • Identify your ideal customer
  • Research your ideal customer as to wants, needs, market trends, etc.
  • Based on your ideal customer research, determine the keywords that will drive traffic to your content
  • Identify what marketing channel best suits the demographics and psychographics of your ideal customer
  • Establish key performance metrics to monitor the success of your marketing efforts
  • Write quality, informative and engaging content which is becoming somewhat unique

Finally please remember content marketing is not the cheap and quick fix to increasing sales leads.  Do not become part of the flow that continues to spray bad content with the pray that something will stick. Be deliberate, intentional and forward thinking before you start plucking away at your keyboard.

 

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Are We Sending the Wrong Leadership Message?

The leadership message is continually being redefined for what appears to be this primary reason:

leadership-messageTo sell more books, CDs and speaking engagements

If I sound cynical, I am because the same problems continue to exist in spite of all the books, leadership experts and programs.

Fact #1

Young people are leaving college without the necessary employment skills think leadership skills or rather self leadership skills.

Fact #2

Organizations still suffer from a plethora of symptoms that some less than ethical firms and experts are willing to solve and resolve because they never have the courage, the skills or the truthfulness (business ethics) to address the real problem.

Fact #3

Self help books to achieve personal and professional excellence continue to be published and bought without any sustainable results.

Earlier this week I was asked to speak at a local middle school about careers.  As I thought about this topic, I realized speaking about my career would be a disservice to these young people. Current and future workforce research suggests young people will have 15-20 jobs over the course of their career.

Instead I realized it would make far better sense to discuss instead a leadership message focusing on the transferable skills that would allow them to be successful in their overall career endeavors. Those skills begin with what I call self-leadership that being the ability to lead one’s self first and foremost.

This self leadership message is comprised of many talents including:

  • Reflection – Ability to proactively think about  the future, recognize the present and remember the past
  • Consistent goal setting and goal achievement – Ability to set, monitor, and consistently achieve WAY SMART goals for short term to long range planning
  • Emotional intelligence – Ability to recognize emotions of others; of one’s self’ and manage both through diplomatic behaviors
  • Application of critical thinking skills – Ability to see potential problems; analyze problems and situations;  think conceptually allowing for quality
  • Self-starting ability – Ability of personal drive leading to personal accountability
  • Active listening – Ability to evaluate what is said
  • Self-direction  – Ability to want to be better than someone currently is and requires self-awareness and self-confidence
  • Initiative -   Ability to direct one’s own energies toward a goal completion without any external catalyst
  • Personal relationships - Ability to relate to others and through those relationships to build a grateful  “network of communities”
  • Self-directed learner – Ability to direct self improvement to those areas needed in the current role or a future role without external motivation

So if you had to share your leadership message with young people or even your staff, what would you say?

Fail-Safe Leadership even though it addresses organizational leadership begins to open up the discussion about self-leadership.

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Where Are the Honesty and Truth in Sales Leadership?

Yesterday in talking with a former client and now a strategic partner, he lamented how honesty and truth are in short supply when it comes to sales leadership. Small business to Fortune 500 organizations be them profit or not for profit appear to circumvent the truth when it comes to finalizing sales.

What matters more is the ability to gain something at

the expense of someone or something.

honesty and truth

Over the years this client and I have had a very forthcoming professional relationship.  I shared with him that much of his problems were because his business decisions were reactive instead of proactive.  Additionally, I did not promise him the world nor did I sugar coat the realities involved in changing his sales leadership style. The end result is our professional relationship continues to flourish because he appreciated my honesty and truth.

Then during a mastermind group with three other small business owners, one of the members shared how a former customer called up for a price.  This customer shared what the competition was charging ($450). As this customer was a not for profit, my mastermind colleague adjusted his price and was  lower by $125 than the shared price.  He also did 2 hours of preliminary, non-billable work.  The customer called back and told him she gave the order to the competition.  His experience is one shared by many small business owners who become the price adjusters for the competition.

Where is the honesty and truth in sales leadership?

This past week I received an email from a complete stranger regarding some leadership, communication and team building for a US firm. She was doing research for her husband.  From the information shared I was able to do some additional research and determined the potential client.  As I had just successfully earned a similar contract I was able to quickly send a statement of work. (Thank heavens for cut and paste). Normally I do not respond to such “send me your prices” inquiries, but this time I took a chance because I listened to my intuitive sense and I remembered “never cut off your nose to despite your face.”

My most recent corporate training sale was earned because of my honesty and truth.The client wanted a four hour leadership retreat for the executive team followed by an 8 hour workshop the next day for his entire team. I told him I could do what he wanted but suggested for a more sustainable outcome that he may wish to consider having a second meeting with his executive team after the 4 hour leadership retreat and then to break the one day leadership, communication and team building into 2 – four hour engagements with at least a week between them. This type of scheduling allows for better retention; the opportunity for application and feedback and works to address the real problem lack of trust.  He listened to my suggestions and quickly came to agree this was better.

My professional business ethics are honesty and truth.

They must start with me whether I am the vendor or the customer.

This personal tenet has been with me my entire life.

And yes I have lost sales because I believe in respectfully identifying the “naked emperor” and will not offer solutions that do not address the real problem.  So many in the executive coaching and professional services consulting industries prefer to solve symptoms that only later reappear because the true problem causing the symptoms was never identified nor properly addressed.

Despite what we hear about the US economy, there are still many small businesses to even Fortune 1000 firms who are desperate to increase sales especially in this final fourth quarter. Honesty and truth are sacrificed by those in sales leadership roles.

For me, I have been guided by Socrates Three Filters when it comes to honesty and truth. And I leave you with those to potentially guide you in your sales leadership roles:

#1 – Is what you say or do kind?

#2 – Is what you say or do truthful?

#3 – Is what you say or do necessary?

Please feel free to share your experiences when it comes to how you deal with honesty and truth in your sales leadership role.

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Sales Leadership Temperament of Dedicated Part 31

As much as small business owners to sales managers would like to have their team demonstrating this sales leadership temperament of being dedicated, we know that is not reality.  In reviewing my collected data from hundreds of small business professionals I found very few with this internal temperament.  As far as top sales performers, none demonstrated this specific temperament instead all top sales performers had compulsive as an internal sales leadership temperament.

sales-leadershipThose who are dedicated display these biases:

What this means it the positive self-esteem indicates these individuals have clarity about who they are as individuals and are accepting of their true limitations and strengths. For the most part, they are “realistic” about themselves. (Source Innermetrix Attribute Index)

The negative role awareness suggests these individuals tend to view their “job or major life roles as something that they could never truly fulfill as individuals.”  Consequently their jobs or major life roles are seen “as merely as means to an end that allows” them “to meet other more internal needs for self expression.” (Source Innermetrix Attribute Index)

Having a positive self direction keeps those with this temperament of dedicated from becoming “burned out in a job” or from over “sacrificing” themselves. If this person was in a sales leadership role, the job would never get to him or her and the job would never come first. (Source Innermetrix Attribute Index)

Curious about your sales leadership talents and temperaments?  Your curiosity could be settled in under 12 minutes through this talent assessment published by Innermetrix.

 

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Marketing Beyond Branding, Glossy Brochures and Websites

One of my favorite stories is from a client who was talking to a marketing firm that identified itself as delivering integrated,  forward thinking strategic solutions.  This particular firm recommended to my client:

marketing

  • Extensive re-branding of her firm including a redesign of her logo
  • Printing of 5,000 glossy brochures
  • Total rewrite of her website to make it SEO

What was interesting to note is this firm’s website started with the word “Welcome.”

Today marketing is so much more than branding, glossy brochures and websites.

Marketing is a behavior first and foremost.

Your brand is how you behave when you interact with others.

A very smart businessman who literally is the rags to riches story shared with me his definition for brand:

“Your brand is your promise.”

Pretty simple, isn’t it?

Of course, those who make thousands of dollars in creating new logos in their re-branding efforts probably would have a problem with this definition.

The question for you to answer as a small business is:

“What is your promise to your customers

both internal and external?”

Then the next question to be answered is:

“How do our behaviors reflect our promise?”

When we visit local to chain owned establishments we remember those with excellent customer service.  Excellent customer service is a behavior that reflects the business’s promise to its customers.

Sure it is nice to have supplemental marketing materials to a SEO friendly website. However without consistent behaviors, it doesn’t matter how pretty your material materials are; how many awards your marketing firm just won.

What matters at the end of the day is:

  • Are your customers happy with you? 

  • Will they refer you to others?

  • Have you done everything you promised to do?

 

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Make Time To Pat Yourself on Your Back

Read the majority of social media posts and many are blatant self promotions from “read my blog” to “buy my solution.” However, if you do not make time to pat yourself on your back, who will?

make-timeThis past week I was awarded Small Business Journalist of the Year by the Northwest Indiana Small Business Development Center. The award will be given at the E-Day luncheon on November 12, 2014 at the Radisson in Merrillville, IN.  Networking Tip:  Tickets are $40 and this is a great business to business networking event here in Northwest Indiana.

I am particularly honored by this award because of all the articles I have written have focused on small business.  What I mean by small business is 98.2% of all businesses here in the US with under 99 employees. Unfortunately, the larger publications along with the noted business experts and sales experts focus on the minority of businesses those with 100 employees or more.  What works well for the Big Guys does not always work well for the smaller firms.

What is interesting to note is even though we are in a global community, our local communities may not know the extensiveness of our endeavors.  For example, I learned the selection committee did not realize I have contributed to the following publications:

be-the-red-jacketThen when I attended a business luncheon on Friday, one of the local speakers was not aware I wrote a book, Be the Red Jacket in a Sea of Gray Suits, the Keys to Unlocking Sales Success.

No one likes someone who is continually patting himself or herself on the back.  However, we as professionals must invest some time to let others know of our accomplishments especially when we receive noteworthy awards or recognitions.

Yesterday I made time to pat myself on my back by updating my website and putting a notice on this blog. Later today I will update my LinkedIn profile. I also have scheduled to make time to send some PR to be sent to the local newspapers.

When we make time to acknowledge our own accomplishments in a professional manner, we are also building our credibility, keeping our name in the news stream and modeling positive marketing behaviors. Be proud of your accomplishments, share with others and remember to still be modest.

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Let Socrates Three Filters Spur Your Small Business Growth

Are you making your small business growth harder than it could be? Maybe you may wish to consider Socrates Three Filters as a small business growth behavior.

socrates-three-filtersSocrates as many know was a Greek philosopher. He was the originator of the Socratic dialogue that works especially well in relationship selling.  Behind this structured conversation, Socrates applied these three filters to his response and in doing so grew himself and others. Even though Socrates only used the word “say,” I have discovered that these filters also work very well with think and write. I will be forthcoming in that thinking continues to be my Achilles’ heel. Sometimes my thinking violates all two or all  three rules.  The good news is for the most part I still adhere to the saying and writing.

First of Socrates Three Filters – Is What You Say (Think or Write) Kind?

How you respond to others is crucial especially during times of high stress or high velocity. This is also very true in our social media world where the fingers type and send before the brain actually engages. Today many would describe this first filter as the talent of diplomacy or the application of emotional intelligence.

When we as small business professionals recognize the feelings of others; understand those feelings; recognize our own feelings; understand our own feelings and then manage the dynamics between the feelings of others and ourselves, we are said to be emotionally intelligent. Unfortunately for some the emotions take over and reactive behaviors quickly ensue.

Additionally the word kind indirectly implies without judgment.  We may think we are being kind, but the words we chose to speak may be suggesting judgment.  To be truly kind requires removing words like “you need,” “you should,” etc.

Second of Socrates Three Filters -Is What You Say (Think or Write) Truthful?

The truth can be hurtful and mean especially when it is not true.  Are you sure of what you are saying or even writing?  Most of us have heard the tirade by Jack Nicholson in a Few Good Men where he shouts “You can’t handle the truth.”  Be sure what you are speaking is the truth and not supposition or worse yet gossip.

Third of Socrates Three Filters – Is What You Say (Think or Write) Necessary?

For me that has always been the deciding factor when responding.  Sure sometimes I want to say exactly what I am feeling to get it off my chest. However I have learned that if I want the desired result of small business growth, I do need to temper my responses. Once again my emotional intelligence is at work. Over time I have increased this capacity. This increase has also increased my small business growth.

What has helped for me is the use of the 3 Spheres of Control.  If I am responding be it saying, thinking or writing  to something beyond  my control, I just stop.  I know I cannot change it.  In many instances this is where I may say or write, “we agree to disagree.” I know no amount of words will change a person’s behavior.  What I must do is to find another approach if the other person is part of any current business growth strategy.

Socrates Three Filters can increase sales and improve your small business growth. Yes, it does take time to begin to master them and this mastery is an ongoing process because human beings are emotional creatures first and intellectual creates second if not third.

Download the SPHERE-OF-CONTROL-LHS without having to give me your name, your contact information.  Then let me know if it makes sense and how you applied it to your own small business growth.

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NWI SBDC awarded Small Business Journalist of 2014 to Leanne Hoagland-Smith. Awards to be held on Nov. 12, 2014 in Merrillville, IN.
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