Posts

Interactive marketing—especially when using social media platforms—has become a powerful and proven way to engage customers and build relationships that can be converted into sustained, profitable business growth.

The downside of marketing through social media? Just this: Social media channels are hungry critters. They constantly crave inventive, informative, original content—not recycled “filler.”

If you don’t feed them regularly—in some cases, daily—they won’t behave the way you want them to. And you won’t get the results you’re looking for.

In the world of social media marketing, relationships are king, and content is the currency you trade for your prospects’ time and attention.  That’s why the source of your content marketing—you pool of writing talent—is critical to maintaining the steady flow of information that social media demands, and your readers expect.

One writer is not going to be enough

Trying to maintain an effective social media program with a single writer—or two or three—is a strategy for frustration. And burn-out. Imagine a grocery store trying to meet its customers’ needs by relying on the produce of a single farmer. Common sense tells you that strategy won’t work long-term. The same dynamics apply to producing content for social media.

High-quality content is what keeps your readers coming back. How do you keep it flowing? Inevitably, you’re going to need the diversity and depth of a team of writers. Weigh the following factors for keeping your social media content as appealing and as valued as the products or services you’re looking to sell.

Social media demands expertise

Social media is subject-matter intensive. Readers will know immediately whether the writer has deep expertise in the category, and a deep understanding of what the category means to them. And if the writer you’ve relied on walks out the door to join a commune, where will you recruit a replacement? Your writing team should include backups who have already worked in, and written for, your category. Your blog is no place for a writer to “learn” about your product, or your customers.

Social media demands availability

Social media can be a stern task-master. It doesn’t understand—or care—about sick days or vacations or holidays. The writing has to get done and go live regardless of personal issues or scheduling conflicts. That’s why you need to draw from a writing team that can cover any contingency.

Social media demands the right personality for your audience

Every blog post, every tweet, every Facebook exchange should reflect the personality of your brand, and align with the preferred tastes of your readers. All writers come with strengths and weaknesses. Humorous or technical? Straight arrow or controversial? “One size fits all” went out with the Model-T. That’s true for your messages to the marketplace, and for the writers who craft them. You need to be able to draw from a diverse pool of writing styles and personalities to assure that your social media content is right for the moment, and reflects what’s appropriate for your brand and your buyers.

More proven options equal more content marketing success

It’s about finding and maintaining a critical mass in the depth and diversity of the writing pool you rely on. Compromise on the scope of your writing resources, and you’ll limit the return on your online marketing investment.

“Critical mass” is why at Civilis, we maintain a broad network of writers whose diverse talents and experience can provide an on-point match for any social media or messaging need. Our clients don’t have to recruit them. We already have. It’s a business model that makes social media marketing more manageable…and more profitable.

If you’ve got a figurative barn to raise, and would welcome the help of our village, give us a call.

Rex Elliott is co-founder and partner at Cooper & Elliott, a law firm in Columbus, Ohio. He tells us about his journey to understand how online and digital marketing isn’t a one-size-fits all solution for every business. He shares the lessons he learned and the frustrations he and his firm experienced on the path to their discovery.

What first captured my attention

I was introduced to online marketing several years ago, and what first captured my attention about it was how easy it seemed: A “marketing machine” would be turned on and left to generate new clients and cases for us. By all accounts, online marketing looked like an advertising campaign that wouldn’t require us to do much of anything. I thought it seemed like a great solution—a third party could work on getting our name and brand recognized, and my lawyers and I could devote our time to working on cases.

Our business is such that we don’t need a hundred cases a year, a few quality cases a year is really what’s right for us. When we started out, we hoped to use e-mail and other methods to drive potential clients to our website. Statistically speaking, we thought it would be impossible to put out thousands of e-mails every month and not generate at least a couple matches that would turn into solid cases.

In hindsight, we should have considered that nothing worth doing is simple. It was a great lesson to learn, even though it felt like a setback. Blasting emails may work for some but it didn’t work for us.

Traffic, traffic everywhere but limited results

When we began the e-mail blasts, we did see that they were driving a high volume of traffic to our website. Our (then) marketing partner was quick to point this out, “Look at how great this is, you’re getting tons of visitors on the website!”

But it just didn’t seem to be paying off. After some time, I began to question whether sheer numbers and traffic was really leading to the only metric that truly mattered to me—actual business. And it turns out, it wasn’t.

So who was visiting our website? It wasn’t the type of people who were turning into clients. We decided to trace our business back to the source. A closer examination revealed that the clients we got during that period, were coming to us not because they’d heard about us in an e-mail blast. They’d come to us from friends, professional contacts, people we knew in our community. They were coming to us through personal relationships with members of our firm.

It became frustratingly clear that the money we were spending was doing little more than driving people to the website, so after a little more than a year, I pulled the plug.

What was the damage?

The belief that business would simply walk in the door through mass email blasts was actually leading our lawyers to develop less business. There was the serious side effect of allowing ourselves to become complacent and rely solely on the “marketing machine.” Each of the attorneys in our firm gave up on our individual marketing efforts. We neglected our important relationships, all because we were under the impression that something else was taking care of it for us.

It takes a personal touch

When I first met with Bill Troy, he told me, “There is no substitute for your personal network and relationships. You’re just not going to drive business into your firm without personal touches.”

Turned out, he was right. I actually had to take time after that year to re-nurture my own personal network and business relationships. Today, we encourage the young attorneys in our firm to build the same kind of networks that have proved to be effective time and time again. We’ve seen that it works, and we encourage them to focus on developing their own personalized way of bringing cases to the firm.

We have real data that indicates marketing requires a two-pronged approach. We still use online marketing, but as a supplement to our other efforts. We get out there and bring business in because we know now that it’s not going to walk in the door just because we sent a thousand e-mails.

For us, the moral of the story is that you never know when a great personal relationship is going to bear fruit for your business somewhere down the road. That’s really what 1-to-1 marketing is all about. And you don’t have to do it all yourself, you just have to make sure your efforts, or the efforts of your marketing partner are focused in the right areas. The most important marketing we do isn’t through blogs or social media—it’s through personal conversations and the deepening of personal relationships we already have.

If you rely on a “marketing machine” you might want to consider the potential damage it does to your brand—not to mention the negative side effect of letting your personal network atrophy in the meantime.   

This article is part of the 7 Deadly Sins of Relationship-Based Marketing series. In the series, we’ll chronicle different online behaviors and practices that can ruin your business relationships. Some are subtle, and some not so much. If the success of your business relies on maintaining healthy relationships with current clients, prospects, or a network of referrers, it could be time you start repenting.

Let’s talk about extroverts: We all know that one guy or gal who is always up at 4:45 a.m. hitting the gym and rushing off to a 7:00 a.m. networking meeting, followed by coffee with a potential client, lunch with an existing client, and then second lunch with a hopeful partner. That’s a lot of face time before noon.

And let’s be honest, we’re not all wired that way.

For those of you who don’t thrive on having eight meetings before noon, the temptation to hide your head in the sand can slowly take over and leave you wondering who else, or what else could help you make all those touches.

A business relationship is a relationship with you

If you own or manage a small-to-mid-sized business, you know first-hand the value of the people in your network.

Whether they are customers, employees, clients, vendors or any other business associate, they see value in doing business with you. It’s value you’ve earned over time, probably by delivering as promised again and again.

As long as you keep these people feeling important and respected, it’s going to be difficult for competitors to pry them away.

No business relationship can survive on marketing automation alone

You’ve spent years cultivating business relationships with some people, and in that time, they’ve become your brand’s most vocal advocates. Don’t insult them by reducing your conversations to one-way blasts about tomorrow’s early-bird specials.

They want to know about your family, your interests, your large-scale plans for the direction of your business. They want to share their ideas with you, as well as their own interests and milestones. Passing them off as mere sales leads is only going to reveal that you value them as resources only, and not as people. They will respond in kind by demoting your brand from essential to a commodity.

At times, it might feel like keeping track of all these people and maintaining a personal connection can become a tough balancing act. Each person becomes a hot potato you would just as soon pass along to someone (or something) else. That feeling is completely natural, but just remember that your email newsletter isn’t going to ask people how their summer has been, how their kids are doing, or what big changes they’ve seen in their industry—only a human interaction can meet those needs.

Go on and hold that hot potato

We’ve seen it time and time again: Clients who come to us for marketing automation solutions partly because they want more business (who doesn’t), but are often feeling overwhelmed with the responsibility of maintaining the relationships they need to expand. They’re looking for automation to cover all their bases and get in front of as many people as possible.

Often, we find that it’s that owner or CEO’s personality that earned much of their company’s success in the first place. And to replicate that success, they’d need a clone to allow them to be in more places and be having more conversations at one time.

Don’t get us wrong: We believe marketing automation does have its uses. For reach and consistency, and keeping your audience in the loop about your brand, it’s a fantastic tool. But it really doesn’t demonstrate a heart-felt concern for the people you serve, and can even expose your brand as one whose caring depends on the crutch of convenience.

We help clients be more present, and in ways more genuine than social media strategies and digital ad campaigns allow. We help people transition from feeling spread too thin to being set firmly on a proven path to sustained growth. Let us show you how it’s done.

This article is part of the 7 Deadly Sins of Relationship-Based Marketing series. In the series, we’ll chronicle different online behaviors and practices that can be ruining your business relationships. Some are subtle, and some not so much. If the success of your business relies on maintaining healthy relationships with current clients, prospects, or a network of referrers, it could be time you start repenting.

One sure-fire way to burn a relationship to the ground is to be a flake.

Thou shalt not flake

According to Merriam-Webster, to “flake out” is slang for, “to fall asleep,” or “to be overcome especially by exhaustion.”

In my world, “to flake” has another meaning; it means to cancel last minute, to disappear from a conversation (whatever the platform). To be “a flake” is tantamount to being an unreliable person with poor time-management skills. A phrase that was once used to explain falling asleep has come to have a different meaning—one which, ironically, is more closely aligned with playing ‘possum.

However you choose to view it, being “a flake” can have a damaging effect on your personal and business relationships.

Being busy isn’t an excuse

You’re busy—very, very busy. That just comes with the territory of running a successful business. It’s easy to over-commit. That lunch you planned with Tyler 3 weeks ago sounded like a great idea at the time, but now all you can think about is your growing list of to dos and how you could really use these next two hours to cross a few off. You’re likely thinking to yourself, “I’Il just shoot Tyler an email, let him know I’m super busy…he’ll understand.”

Technology has, unfortunately, made it easier for us to back out of our commitments. With the touch of a screen, we can cancel at the last minute without having to see the disappointment in someone’s face. They’ll get over it, right? No harm, no foul.

Think again.

What does flaking do to your “value?”

Flakes are like little lies. They get easier with practice.

You can rationalize backing out of a commitment at the last minute. You can defend yourself for every lunch you cancel and every email you put off answering (and then never do).

But you can’t rationalize what your flaking says about you to your friends, or to the people you do business with. The text you send might say, “I’m super busy right now, so sorry! I’d love to get together another time…” but what that person is hearing, is “I don’t care enough about you to do the normal things that keep our relationship strong.”

Do they respond with, “It’s okay, we’ll catch up soon.” Of course, they do, because they’re polite.

But soon, they’ll begin to reserve their full honesty for someone they can fully trust and depend on. They’ll give the next person their friendship, business, referrals, leads on good employees—you get the idea.

And to those of you who think your flaky behavior is so thoroughly apologized for, just remember: Your apologies won’t convince people you’re not a flake. There is no GIF that can truly repair how the act of flaking frays a personal or business relationship.

Honoring your word means protecting your relationship

Trust is hard to earn, easy to lose, and almost impossible to fully regain. It’s always been critical to business relationships, and it’s no less critical to business transacted online. The Internet simply provides the means to damage trust faster.

This rule for relationship-based marketing is simple: Consider what you’re giving up for the sake of immediate convenience before you choose to blow someone off.

Here are four simple (and sometimes not so easy) guidelines:

  1. If you make plans with someone, honor that commitment. It doesn’t matter whether the commitment was set in person, over Skype, or via email. It’s your promise and their time. Neither deserves to be cheapened.
  2. Don’t over-commit. Why spare someone’s feelings now only to disappoint them later? An honest “no” now says you value your time and theirs. It says they’re worthy of your honesty.
  3. Technology is no excuse. Maybe you’ve enlisted outside help for managing your growing business. That’s probably a wise move—but it’s never an excuse for not following through in-person on a scheduled commitment.
  4. Don’t underestimate the “cost” of flaking. Believing that a cancellation—just this one time—doesn’t really hurt anybody can be a very expensive delusion, especially when relationships and trust are the core of your business. Every time you reach out to someone and ask them to get together, but then fail to follow through, you look bad. To them, and possibly to everyone they are connected to.

When you honor your commitments, you’re really saying that you respect someone else’s time and you believe they add value to your life.

Besides, how many potential customers do you really have to waste? It can be scary to think about.

Even so…think about it.

If you’d like help forging new business relationships, or just nurturing the relationships you have, please get in touch.

Like most people, I begin each day by checking my inbox and cleaning out the unimportant emails. And of course, more of those emails get deleted than get read.

That’s an awful lot of marketing effort that goes straight into the trash. The same can be said for social media channels. You have to wade through a sea of uninteresting, negative posts to glean out the few that make you think “Right on” or “I get it” or simply “More of this, please!”

How great would it be if all that communication were positive, respectful and important? What if most of our time spent writing or reading emails and social media posts was uplifting rather than a stolen opportunity to take a jab at our business, political or personal adversaries?

I believe that positivity breeds positivity. I’d like to live in a world where everyone practices in compassionate marketing.

What is compassionate marketing?

We get it, each brand has a different angle, and sometimes that angle plays to not-so-warm-and-fuzzy emotions. That doesn’t mean your marketing can’t be compassionate.

So, what is compassionate marketing? It’s the practice of creating messages that demonstrate that you and your business genuinely care about the people you’re marketing to—that you know something (or want to learn more) about what they want and need. It’s about positioning yourself and your business as open to the idea of nurturing new and existing business relationships. It’s about taking the high road and not just making a hit and run sale.

This advice may seem like common sense, yet so much of the messaging we see every day in social media and digital marketing is rude, negative and inconsiderate. Most of us have probably become desensitized to messages like these:

  • Spammy email that somehow makes it into your inbox, addressed to you, suggesting you need some service you’ve never asked for. Frankly, these emails are more than just annoying—they’re downright rude. They insult the reader’s intelligence first, by assuming (or not even caring) whether he or she is the right person for making such a decision. Second, by positioning the message in such a way that insinuates readers have sought out such a service (when they haven’t). And third, by wasting readers’ time by obligating them to undergo an unsubscribe process.
  • Negative and inconsiderate social media marketing. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube are such versatile channels, used in many different ways for many different purposes. So much good can be accomplished, and yet, how many times have you seen the same Facebook ad sandwiched in between your friends’ posts, and thought to yourself “I’m so sick of seeing this?” Or rolled your eyes at the sheer tackiness of the message (“9 out of 10 moms don’t know about this” [insert fad diet supplement miracle])?

If you do happen to fall prey to clickbait, you’ll inevitably waste precious minutes before you realize you’ve been lured into a sales pitch. These are minutes you won’t get back, and the marketer doesn’t care.

A bigger issue

Digital communication has opened the door for people to say things they never would have the courage to say face-to-face. That’s just as true for digital marketing as it is for Twitter users.

When you’re talking to someone who isn’t right in front of you, you don’t have to deal with the immediate consequences of saying something that isn’t thoughtful or true. Communicating from behind a computer screen emboldens even the very meekest among us. If you haven’t taken the necessary steps to shield yourself from the political storm unleashed by the latest election, you know that to be true.

Point is: that sort of brazen carelessness in communication carries over into our professional lives. And as business owners trying to build business relationships, if we’re not careful, any lapse can really damage those relationships and our reputations.

It may be possible that your business’s DNA just isn’t conducive to success in social media or email blasts. There’s something to be said for recognizing that and seeking out other options. We have ways to help you become an expert in 1-to-1 marketing as well.

What do you THINK?

There are a lot of voices out there, and such a limited amount of time to attract a potential customer’s attention.

All digital marketers have a choice. We can hoodwink readers with a misleading click-through to steal their time and attention, or take the time to write informative, creative and captivating content, and earn their time and attention. And their business.

At Civilis Consulting, we subscribe to the old THINK mantra. Before you send out a message, whether for business or personal communication, first determine its worthiness according to this standard: T-True, H-Helpful, I-Interesting, N-Necessary, K-Kind.

When you or your company consistently filter your communications, and take steps to apply compassion in your marketing, you’ll be surprised at how many people will be willing to listen. And be happy to buy.

We’d like to hear your thoughts. Please share them! And if you think that sometimes you may be guilty of rude marketing, and want to take steps to be more compassionate (and more effective), give us a call.

Marketing automation is a big buzzword these days. It’s being touted as a silver bullet that can alleviate a myriad of marketing woes. The very term, Marketing Automation, could lead one to believe that marketing can, indeed, be automated. But wait, not so fast.

Technically speaking, marketing automation is a type of technology that allows for the scheduled distribution of content across multiple digital channels, and the best marketing automation software is pretty user-friendly and has some really slick dashboards.

So, can marketing automation software solve your particular marketing challenges? Consider this…

It’s Hungry for Content

Before you can distribute your content, you’ve got to have it. And marketing automation software is a hungry beast. As it turns out, creating all that meaningful content that your marketing automation software requires is a very challenging and burdensome part of ‘doing’ marketing automation.

Marketing automation can be a very efficient tool for distributing your content…but not for creating it. It’s best to leave that to the humans.

It’s Best for an Inbound Marketing Model

If you have thousands of prospects in your database who are already active in a variety of channels and who need to hear from you frequently as part of their buying decision, and if you have a lot of content to distribute to those folks, then marketing automation software can help you distribute the right message to the right people at the right time.

On the other hand, if your prospect or client list is relatively short and exclusive, marketing automation software might be overkill.

It Requires You to Know Your Target… Very, Very Well

Crafting genuine messages that resonate with your clients and prospects requires a deep understanding of what makes those people tick…what they care about, what keeps them up at night, what nagging questions they have.

You simply have to know—intimately— who your clients and prospects are and how (and when) to speak to them in a way that will move them to do business with you. No software—no matter how user-friendly—can do that for you.

It’s Pricey

A subscription to that cool user interface and flashy dashboard can cost thousands per month. So be sure to assess the ROI of such a tool.

Know how much you can spend on acquiring a new client (depending on your industry, it’s usually15-20% of revenue) and evaluate the price of marketing automation software plus the costs associated with producing all the content this new software will require.

There’s a Learning Curve

Learning to use this new technology takes time—in man hours (i.e. $$) as well as time span. You’ll want to have at least one person on your team become an expert on how it works and you may need to invest time and money into training them to use it effectively. So, identify or recruit someone on your team who has the aptitude and desire to learn a new technology—and who will be around for the long haul—and dub them your marketing automation guru.

The gist of the story: Marketing automation can help you effectively distribute very targeted messages to a segmented database of clients and prospects. But like with any software, it’s a specialized tool designed for a specialized set of marketing challenges.

If you have questions about whether marketing automation is right for your business, or want to learn how to use it to create and maintain relationships with customers and prospects, we can help you sort it all out. We love this stuff!

Advances in technology have helped make amazing strides in modern business relationships. Unfortunately, not all of its uses have been positive. There has been a trend toward the automation of customer interactions that have made them much less personal and meaningful. This is because technology can be used for two different (and often competing) purposes: efficiency and effectiveness.

Efficiency vs. effectiveness

Many companies are operating under the ideology that using technology in their market space to increase their volume will also increase efficiency. Sure, technology allows you to automate marketing efforts—it’s not much more difficult to send out 10,000 emails than it is to send 10 emails. But if there are only 10 people who will find the content beneficial, all you’re really doing is irritating 9,990 others with your email blast.

What’s more effective is to increase intimacy, not volume.

By its very nature, technology allows for tasks and processes to be automated. And the key metric in automation is usually efficiency: producing more and more at an ever-decreasing cost. When efficiency is applied to human relationships the focus on “producing more” shifts thinking toward quantity over quality.

Companies begin to see people (even their own customers) as statistics measured in objective behaviors like “opens,” “clicks” and “triggers.” Customers or prospects who are put off by the automated interactions are only seen as “opt-out” or “bounce” statistics. This shields the company from experiencing the emotional reactions of its customers—which can have catastrophic effects on the relationship.

Think of the old-fashioned shopkeeper who sees a customer leave his or her store unhappy. In the online world, it’s difficult to observe unhappy customers as they leave a website or opt out of an email list. The old-fashioned shopkeeper would respond quickly if a lot of customers were walking out dissatisfied. But in a technological customer relationship, the company is spared the emotional interactions with unhappy customers and is much more likely to repeat or amplify the very behaviors that turn customers off.

Do-not-call lists and spam filters are examples of how consumers work to protect themselves from the barrage of efficient but ineffective technological communications they all receive daily.

Use technological tools to listen

If used correctly in relationships, technology can increase effectiveness. People can interact in ways never before possible. Grandparents can see live video of their newborn grandchild from thousands of miles away. People with narrow, specialized interests or needs can find each other. And companies can treat customers and prospects better by knowing, remembering and acting on more and better information about them. Interactions can be customized to the needs of the individual customer based on their unique characteristics.

There are extraordinary amounts of personal information online—from important life events like marriages, all the way down to what someone had for lunch. People wouldn’t put this information out there if they didn’t want others to see it. If you’re not using these clues to learn more about your customers, chances are you’re just blasting them with what you want to say, rather than what they’re interested in hearing.

Treat these people with respect and listen to what they’re saying. The fact that you’re listening will make you stand out in a crowd from the hundreds of other companies who are simply talking at them.

Creating intimacy

It is important that marketers always focus on using technology for effectiveness over efficiency. Remember that the goal comes first and the tools are selected to help achieve that goal. Don’t be the type of marketer to start with the tool then set the goals based on what the tool can do.

If you’d like some ideas for how to use technology to increase intimacy, rather than destroy it, reach out to us.

“…since you haven’t responded to my earlier emails, you must not be interested in what I have to offer you.”

That’s the most recent in a string of emails that we’ve been receiving regularly from a CEO who wants to earn our business.

No joke.

These emails come directly from that company’s CEO and are personally addressed to our CEO, so they look and feel like personal messages. And, each one of them has been a little more strident than the last—the tone of the last couple have been downright rude. No, there’s no option for opting out or unsubscribing from these emails, like there would be under normal circumstances. It’s an endless barrage of rude, automated messaging.

So, these increasingly annoying emails, from a guy who probably has no idea he’s being offensive, continue to arrive.

What’s worse, we know the offending CEO personally and believe he’d never be as rude in person as he is in these marketing emails; that he’d probably be pretty embarrassed if he understood the image he’s projecting.

So, what do we think is really going on? This CEO’s company probably has fallen into the trap of marketing automation. His company has email marketing automation software, and a person in the marketing department who monitors the metrics the software generates. He and his marketing person are operating from behind a dashboard of metrics and clicks. The problem here is that metrics don’t allow you see the look of disgust on a person’s face when they’ve opened your annoying email for the hundredth time.

The Online Disinhibition Effect

This behavior has become so common that it actually has a name: It’s called the Online Disinhibition Effect. Put simply, it’s what makes people say and do things online that they’d never dream of saying or doing in person. It’s what makes people leave nasty comments on Facebook pages, or engage in online trolling and bullying.

Say something awful to a person’s face and you must deal with the consequences—they might burst into tears, yell or even take a swing at you. But online, recipients are anonymous. You’re separated by distance and computer screens, and you never have to see the real human’s emotional reaction to what you say. In the case of these emails, their message is not crafted to an individual, but rather a group, the 80 percent of recipients who don’t click email links.

So, the next email sent ratchets up the language, like the poke of a sharp stick, in hopes of getting a click out of the recipient.

It’s a bit like being in your car: When you’re driving, you’re distanced from other people, protected by your windshield, your music, and your controlled climate. Other drivers are just strangers you’ll never see again. You might not even think twice about cutting someone off in traffic because they’re just a car in a long line of a thousand other cars—they’re not human beings trying to pick their kids up from school or get to their meeting on time.

It’s why minute annoyances escalate into road rage. Think of how strange and irrational it would be to flip off a person who was, say, in line in front of you to buy groceries and taking too long to check-out? It happens all the time in traffic.

Marketing automation: Use it wisely

Not all marketing automation is damaging: It has its place. But if used unwisely it can turn a company’s list of contacts into an amorphous blob, an impersonal list of metrics. It removes the human touch. It forgets that we’re not a blob; we’re individuals, with unique personalities, unique business situations, and unique needs. And furthermore, we know who’s sending us these emails. They’re coming with a real human being’s name in the “from” field, and we add a negative mental tally mark to their name every time they send a rude or inconsiderate email.

It’s an easy trap to fall into, this bad-mannered marketing. And it can totally wreck your company’s reputation.

The importance of the human touch

There are ways to personalize—you might even say “humanize”—marketing communication. One-to-one communication through social and digital channels is a great place to start, as it helps to avoid the pitfalls of marketing automation by allowing more personalized feedback. In the end, you want to find a model that treats people, well—the way you’d treat them if they came into your office.

Sure, marketing automation can save your company money. It can generate reports that tell you who’s responding to your message (you then decide whether to use the soft sell or the sharp stick). It can even create short-term business gains. But what message are you really sending in the long run? Does this kind of communication make your company look like it genuinely cares about the people it’s communicating with? Or is your company coming across as bossy and arrogant?

If it’s the latter, you might want to consider how that will affect people’s desire to do business with you. Would it work on you if the shoe were on the other foot? Chances are you already know that answer because you’ve sat aghast after opening the same kind of email we mentioned at the beginning of this article.

Bottom line is: Don’t let marketing automation ruin your reputation. Find a better way. Concentrate on building genuine personal relationships instead.

If you’re worried that your marketing has erred on the side of insolence, we can show you how to market better.

Despite Michael Corleone’s assertion that “It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business,” every aspect of business is personal. When people know about you, like you, and trust you, your business thrives. When they don’t, business suffers. Building a successful business is all about building trust, connections, and rapport with your customers and prospects. And without a strong relationship – even if customers are satisfied with your product or service – they may not continue to patronize you.

With the emergence of social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Yelp there are a plethora of vehicles for establishing and maintaining meaningful connections with your customers, but remember that what you say and how you say it is what really matters. It’s not about which social media platform you’re on—those are just ‘dumb’ channels on which to post your content.  Indeed, the message is the most vital aspect of any online interaction.

Getting Real: Meaningful Online Business Relationships

Channels like Facebook allow friends and family to have meaningful digital interactions, and with online dating services like Match.com, people can even form new relationships with prospective spouses. Review sites like Yelp let consumers find out more about the quality of food and service at a local restaurant or whether a hotel lives up to its website’s promises. Loosely defined, social media extends our ability to make (in some case, quite literally) an online love connection.  So, when communicating digitally with customers and prospects, businesses must be sure that the messages are not mechanized, canned or impersonal. The things that annoy people in a face-to-face meeting (hard sell, boastful, shallow or trivial) are also turn-offs online. If it’s real, it won’t sound like a pitch—because it isn’t.

Social Media Turn-Offs

Here’s what NOT to put on your online channels:

  • Messages that are obviously put out there for some self-serving purpose – It is very annoying to land on a keyword stuffed web page that’s only designed to improve the company’s Google rankings. That kind of content offers no real information and makes little sense to the reader. It will turn off rather than turn on prospects.
  • Generic, canned, boring content that could be found anywhere else – Think of the dentist or car repair shop that uses stock photos and content filled with commonplace facts but provides no relevant information about their particular enterprise. Seeing this kind of web page or blog post won’t help the customer decide whether to patronize the business.
  • Content that wastes readers’ time because it doesn’t give them what they are seeking – People are busy and want to quickly find the answers to their questions or access materials that meet their needs.  It is quite annoying to find out that the content doesn’t deliver what it promises.
  • Messages that are boisterous and self-promoting and NOT about what’s important to the prospect –Why your company wants someone to buy is not the same as answering the questions a prospective client has about a product. Make sure your content is about your client’s needs, not yours.
  • Content that makes claims that are clearly untrue or outlandish – Your goal is to build trust, so overblown claims will simply drive customers away.

Effective Social Media Messaging

Prospects become customers when:

  • Messages strike an emotional chord and make the reader feel something – joy, surprise, even fear or worry – connects them emotionally with what makes you and your business unique. By revealing the source of your inspiration, you establish a genuine connection. Shared experiences, circumstances, or points of view will help your customers feel a personal kinship with your business.
  • Content exposes your vulnerabilities a little – Real people aren’t perfect and you want your prospects to realize that, like them, you are human. Just like your customers, you have needs, quirks, and make mistakes.
  • Messages show who you are – Help your prospects relate to you, and give them the opportunity to assess their compatibility with you. That empowers them and saves everyone a lot of time and expense by ensuring a better match between you and the prospect.
  • Quality content makes them happy they read it – It is hard to set priorities in our busy world, so if the message doesn’t enrich prospect’s lives by being helpful, entertaining, or educational, they will resent that you have wasted their precious time.

Use Social Media to Convert Prospects into Advocates

Do you have customer evangelists like the ones have attracted?  They don’t come along every day and those relationships must be nurtured. Converting prospects into customers, then loyalists, and then advocates happens when real relationships are created along the way. Used well, social media messaging can help. But be sure that your content is authentic, relevant, and engaging. And If you have questions about content marketing or social media, let us know!


Photo courtesy of Thomas Leuthard

Look, we’re business people too. Ironically (given the business we’re in), we too have had our fair share of marketing and advertising failures. Over the years, through our own foibles as well as through those of our many clients—we’ve learned that there are no marketing silver bullets. To drive leads and ensuing revenue, success will be found in a carefully crafted and customized combination of marketing and advertising initiatives.

So, what is one to do when it finally does start to work? Let me share with you what we’ve learned to do (and not do) to capitalize on a successful marketing campaign.

Expect it to work

We know some of you have become so jaded about marketing that, deep down, you don’t really believe that your latest initiative—be it AdWords, some slick marketing automation software, or a package of radio spots—will actually drive inquiries, let alone achieve a respectable ROI.

How unfortunate would it be then, that when you finally hit on a winning marketing strategy, you weren’t ready to leverage its success? So first and foremost, be prepared to process those conversions. Have a plan for the following:

  • Know who will respond– Everyone in the company should know who will respond to incoming inquiries. Consider whether you need different salespeople for different types of inquiries.
  • Know what to say– It’s likely that the customer should do most of the talking and the salesperson should listen intently and ask plenty of questions:
    • What problem does your potential customer have?
    • What is his/her appetite—in the way of budget—to get this problem solved?
    • Who all will be involved in deciding whether you will do business together?
    • What information does this lead need to get from your salesperson in order to move to the next step in the buying process?
  • Know the steps in your selling cycle– Make sure everyone involved knows what to expect next. Is a presentation in order? An in-person meeting? Is it time to bring a technician into the conversation?

Respond…and be human about it

We’ve seen it time and again: Inquiries come in, leads appear on the radar, yet they inexplicably get ignored. No one follows up, or worse, the lead receives an automated ‘we’ll get back to you’ message that goes into some black hole of a lead queue. All this likely happens because, as you probably guessed…there’s no plan in place (see above).

Remember that an inquiry on your website’s contact form (or an incoming phone call or email) represents an investment of time on the part of the inquirer. There’s a problem to be solved, and some notion that you may be the one to solve it, so be responsive:

  • Be timely– This individual has some pain, otherwise, they wouldn’t have reached out. That pain may be fleeting, so strike while the iron is hot. Respond within the same day if at all possible.
  • Be human– Respond with a phone call or in-person meeting, whichever is most appropriate. Continue to reach out until you make contact. Use email only as a follow-up and only if you’ve been unsuccessful in initiating a human-to-human conversation.

Keep your promises

In order for your marketing to keep generating leads—and in order for those leads to become new customers—it’s critical that your business lives up to whatever expectations your marketing has put out there. Consider this:

  • If your marketing assures that your product or service is superior to that of your competitors, make sure you can back that up.
  • If your website touts testimonials from satisfied customers, be prepared to provide references.
  • If your campaign indicates that you offer customized solutions, take the time to get to know your prospect’s needs and craft a tailor-made proposal – and whatever you do, do not offer up a standard package.

Nurture the relationship

No matter what type of business you’re in—B2C, B2B, selling products or services—It is highly unlikely that a first inquiry will result in an immediate sale. No matter how great your marketing campaign is, it can’t actually close the deal. Like with any new relationship, expect there to be subsequent interactions between you and your new lead:

  • Schedule follow-up– Put it on your calendar, in your CRM, or in your marketing automation software. But make sure it gets done. In this day and age, with so many scheduling tools at our disposal, it’s easy to be reminded when it’s time to move the relationship forward.
  • Deepen the relationship over time– Every interaction should build on the previous one. Keep track of what was learned and discussed during previous conversations – including personal and seemingly insignificant info – and use it to make each interaction more meaningful than the last.

We understand…we’re right there with you. Your marketing investment is one of the costliest revenue generation activities you will undertake. So be a smart marketer and prepare your entire team to maximize that investment. Today might just be the day that your marketing actually starts to work.