Archive for November, 2010|Monthly archive page

The Truth, You Can’t Handle the Truth (or Something Like That)

In Random Thoughts on November 7, 2010 at 12:04 am

The truth can hurt. The truth may not be what you want to hear. The truth can be contrary to your expectations.

Our parents taught us always to tell the truth. We are taught in John 8:32: “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Should we filter people from the truth? If so, when? When someone tells you that you should be open and honest, should you really tell them the truth? The bigger question is whether the other person is truly ready to hear the truth. If not, then you may be dismissed as being pessimistic, negative, a drag on others, having your own agenda, and so on.

It is only when we are open to the truth and prepared to hear the truth that it truly can set us free. This doesn’t mean that you should always just blurt out what’s on your mind, even if it is the truth. There is a time and a place to speak the truth, and the manner in which you deliver it plays an extremely important role. However, when you are debating ideas, there should be room for the truth. If you do not believe so, then do not enter into debates or conversations where you may not hear what you want to hear.

If you only want to hear something that confirms your own opinions, then there are plenty of people who will be fake, disingenuous and tell you what you want to hear. You must understand that if someone disagrees with you and believes that they are speaking the truth that they are not being critical or negative or unsupportive of your cause. They are simply telling you things the way that they see them.

If you do not agree or do not understand, then ask for clarification. Dig deeper. Foster further discussion. Try to understand where the other person is coming from and the logic behind their thoughts. Even though the person is speaking the truth, very few things in life are black and white. You may not agree, and you may have a completely different point of view that you believe to be the truth. If the issue is a critical issue that creates an impasse in your relationship, in your project or in your ability to work together, then take extra time to work together to try to come to a common understanding where you can agree to disagree.

It’s amazing how many times I have heard comments about people who speak a truth that the listener may not want to hear (or may  not agree with). All too often they are referred to as negative, pessimistic, not a team-player, etc. Most of the time, however, this is not the case. It is simply that the two people were not on the same page during the discussion.

What is even worse is when this encounter happens, and the person who doesn’t want to hear the truth being spoken then goes on to tell others that the other person is negative, etc. We all have to understand that in a pluralistic society that has been built on the right for people to express themselves freely that we have to learn that a comment that may seem contrary to the direction we are heading does not mean that the person is being negative or may not want to achieve the same goal. There are many paths to the truth, and many times each of us will take our own path to come to the same conclusion eventually. And if we don’t, that’s OK too since that is what makes us all individuals.


People are talking about you … but are you listening?

In Marketing, Social Media on November 6, 2010 at 7:18 pm

What if I told you that someone is talking about you right now? The natural question would be, “What are they saying?” The basic human instinct urges to try to find out what is being said, who is saying, who are they saying it to, and so on. This instinct makes up the fiber of our social being. More than that, it is also natural to talk about people and things to other people. We want to share our experiences and our knowledge — both good and bad.

Then why do businesses struggle with this concept. Right now there is someone talking about your business. As business people we talk about the importance of the customer and what the customer wants. However, many companies simply “scream” out their marketing messages using traditional methods (such as print, TV and radio). They continue to beat potential customers over the head with their products with the hopes that some of them may succumb to this and buy their products or services (whether or not it provides any benefit to the customer). The approach is a “one size fits all” approach, and it is not as effective as it may seem. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying cancel your media campaigns, delete all those ad files off of your computer. They have their place, and I will discuss this once we have set the stage properly.

Now back to my point. In the not too distant past, a business did not need to worry too much about the effects of a bad customer experience. Perhaps they would lose one, two or a handful of customers. Many consumers’ circle of influence was limited to friends, family and coworkers. In the grand scheme of things, this did not appear to be much of a threat. However, this is no longer the case. With the growth of internet usage and the advent of social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook and Twitter, as well as groups and sites with specialized interests, the opinion of a single person can positively or negative affect millions of people in a matter of minutes. It’s that easy.

Some companies have already realized the power of social media and the impact that it can have on their businesses. These companies are no longer “screaming” at their customers. They are listening to them, talking to them, sharing with them and creating an individual experience that every consumer desires to have. When I go to buy something, I want to know that it will be the right fit for me. What my friends, family, coworkers and social media “friends” who may have similar interests is much more important to me than what the manufacturer says in advertisement or on a datasheet.

Businesses beware: if the people that I turn to for advice have had a bad experience with your company, I am not likely to buy from you.

So if you read the headline of this blog and you answered “no”, hopefully by now you’re thinking, “OK. I want to listen, but how do I do it?” There companies that believe that they have a social media strategy and that they are listening to their customers. What they have done, however, is set up a Facebook or a Twitter page and then continued to treat it as a tool for traditional marketing. They continue to “scream” their messages at their customers, but only now they are doing it through a different medium. This is neither listening to your customers nor social media marketing. “Screaming” out a message and a customer posting a comment on your Facebook page is not a conversation.

Before you start your official social media marketing campaign, you must listen to your customers, to your competitors’ customers and to people whom you want to be your customers. So, once again, you ask, “How?” There are many tools available to start this process. Some are very simple and free (or inexpensive), and some are complex and very expensive. I recommend that you start using a tool such as Hootsuite (www.hootsuite.com). With Hootsuite, you can review and post to most of your social media sites. More importantly, however, Hootsuite allows you to create “streams” using keywords or other parameters. Set up streams based on keywords that are the name of your company, the names of your products, the names of your competitors, the name of your industry or market segment, etc. Then simply monitor the streams and see what people are talking about. If they are talking about it, you can assume that it’s important to them. If not, you’ll be able to tell from the context of the conversation.

When you are ready to join the conversation, do so as if you were joining a conversation among strangers at a social event … because that is what you are doing. Once you have begun a dialogue, more people will talk to you. Eventually, if done properly, you will become the center of the conversation. People will be listening to you. It is reaching this critical point that will truly allow your company to benefit and to grow from social media. Be prepared, however, that sometimes you may have to do things that you had not planned to do due to the fact that you are listening to your customers and addressing their needs. If you are not prepared to do this, do not bother joining the conversation, because you will be perceived as disingenous. At this point, you may also want to consider another business or another market, because your customers will become customers of the business that have a conversation with them and listen to them.

You may ask how your business will grow from these conversations. Many times it is difficult to measure the return on investment for social media. Do not expect that you will implement a social media strategy and that your business will have overnight, double digit growth in revenue. It takes time. What happens during this time is not only that the people that have a positive experience with your company or even have a negative experience but a positive resolution to the experience through your conversations and attempts to remedy the situation will share their experience with others and become evangelists for your business, but also other people will listen to these conversations and make the decision that this is the type of company with which they want to do business. Or at the very least they may tell others even if they never become a customer.

Listening to your customers, engaging with your customers and providing products and solutions that solve their individual needs will create customers that will be lifelong customers. These customers will trust your company and remain loyal, even when a lower cost solution comes along (because that will happen).

So stop “screaming” at your customers and starting listening to what they have to say. We are at a unique point in history. Businesses now have more access to their customers and potential customers than any other time. Embrace social media, engage with your customers, learn from them, and let them learn from you!

As a final note, I had mentioned earlier that you shouldn’t abandon your traditional marketing efforts. Now that you are listening to your customers and to the market, you should make sure that your traditional marketing efforts reflect what you are learning. Take your “one size fits all” pieces and develop them into pieces with a common look and feel but that provide a message to each of the specific user groups or market segments within your customer base. Once again, personalize this as much as possible. If you can’t do it on a single user level, then do it based on smaller, more focused groups of customers. Use these pieces to draw your customer base into the conversations that you are having with your social media strategy. Your traditional marketing efforts will serve more like an invitation, and your social media marketing will include your customers in the conversation and make them stakeholders in your business. Whatever you do, do not “scream” your message out loud at everyone that can possibly hear it. Your customers are telling you what they want and how they want it, let them know that you have heard them through your traditional marketing efforts.

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