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Archive for May, 2009

Quid Pro Quo — The Art of Pitching In for Future Profit.

Posted by Marjorie Signer on May 19, 2009

I had an interesting experience the other day. It was something that I’d been looking forward to for almost a week and I was really excited to get started. And then my bubble burst. The air rushed out of my puffed up chest and I walked out of the meeting feeling disappointed and unappreciated.

You see, a friend had told me that he knew an organization who could really use some help getting the word out about a fantastic event. The organization was running on a small staff, a tight timeline and the idea they were implementing was huge! I knew I was in a great position to help and was more than happy to do so — for free.

In my mind, it made perfect sense, if I could lend my talents to a high profile organization and help make their event even more of a success, it would be a WIN-WIN. I was willing to use my resources and experience to take some of the workload off them, giving them the opportunity to off-load a portion of the grunt work they didn’t have expertise in and freeing them up to work on the parts where they were much more comfortable and likely to be considerably more effective.

Yet, as we sat there talking and I extended an offer to partner with them to design a strategy they liked and help them implement it to success, what they heard was “she can give us lots of good ideas, tell us how to make them happen, give us the contact information for all the people she knows who we can to work with to make the ideas a success and she’ll stand back and let us run with it.”

Now does what they thought they heard sound like a partnership to you?  Where is the WIN-WIN in that scenario?

When my friend mentioned to me that the organization (with whom he already works) was in need of some help from someone with my experience, I thought “This will be fantastic! I’ve never had an opportunity to work with this group, but I’d sure like to, and what better way then to partner with them now, let them experience the talent and enthusiasm I bring to the table and then maybe, in the future when they need someone with my skill set for a project that can afford paid experts, I’ll be on the top of their mind.”  Of course, any word that got around about my contribution to this project certainly wouldn’t hurt either.

But unfortunately, they weren’t looking for a Win-Win, they were looking for free consulting with no interest in how they might return the favor. 

In business, it’s important to help one another as much as possible because no one is successful on his or her own. We are successful because a lot of people allow us to be. But help is always a two way street. How do you set up boundaries that allow you to share your talents but not be taken advantage of?

Cincinnati consulting expert Judi Cogen of J Grace Consulting

Cincinnati consulting expert Judi Cogen of J Grace Consulting

I asked Judi Cogen of J Grace Consulting (http://jgraceconsulting.net/) for her advice about how consultants who want to offer their time and talent to an organization that they believe in can structure the relationship so that it’s a Win-Win for both parties and here’s the excellent advice she gave:

1. Before you offer your time and talent, decide if you’re offering to be a volunteer or if you’re offering your work as a consultant pro bono. The attitude, expectations and responsibilities you take on will differ depending on how you and the organization view your role.

2. Be clear in your own mind about what you expect out of the relationship and what you can deliver to the organization. Then present both in a way that makes sense and is of interest to the organization you want to help. Treat the discussion exactly as you would if you were talking to a paying client and be sure that you’re a fit for the organization and that they are a good fit for you.

3. Make sure that you are realistic about what you can deliver and that you are entering into a winable situation. If you’re offering your services as a consultant pro bono in return for being able to showcase your success, you have to be 110% positive that you will be successful. Imagine what would happen to your reputation if word got around that you worked on a project that bombed, even if it wasn’t your fault!

4. Make sure that the organization is willing to give you the support you need to do your best work. If you don’t have the people, time or resources to create a success, the end result won’t be good for you or the organization.

Helping an organization that you believe in can be amazingly rewarding on a personal level, but it can also boost your profile as a leader in your field. The key is to find the organization that is a truly a match for your personality and your skill set and has the most interest in helping you help them increase their impact.

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5 Ways Businesses Build Customer Confidence Through Social Media

Posted by Marjorie Signer on May 14, 2009

My quick and dirty (although by no means complete) reason for why social media is important to businesses comes down to its ability to help company’s build consumer confidence. As promised, here are the top 5 ways social media contributes to small business and corporate America’s ability to create loyalty among their customers and create tipping points for prospects.

Reason #1 Heard You Today, Saw You Yesterday, I Expect To Find You Tomorrow

Customers see you everyday. As Woody Allen says, “80% of success is showing up.” Psychologically, we equate staying power with success and we tend to trust those we perceive as successful.

Reason #2 Honey, I Just Need You To Listen To Me…

cservice

Customers like to share their opinions. But they love to be listened to. In Bill Cates book Get More Referrals Now, he says that 95% of customers who have a complaint about a business or product will buy again simply because their concern was listened to and responded to quickly.

Reason #3 She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not 

Social media tools allow for near-instant feedback. As a business owner, wouldn’t it be fabulous to know what your customers think of you and be able to respond to their needs immediately? That’s what I call service.

Reason #4 Ready, Aim, Fire…Try Again

Social media is a great platform for showing customers that you care and that you make changes to your business based on their opinions, needs and wants. Everybody’s human, businesses included, and nobody expects you to be perfect. Customers DO however, expect you to admit your mistakes and learn from them.

Reason #5 Oh You Mean People Actually Run This Company? 

Finally, engaging the world through social media helps to build trust by giving businesses (and here I’m talking to the humans behind the curtain) the opportunity to step through the veil and connect to customers and prospects as people rather than through the almighty corporate brand identity. I mean really, wouldn’t it be great if he next time you bought Tide to think to yourself, “Wow, I sure do love that mountain fresh scent Pete picked out for this new detergent line, I hope my daughter likes it as much as his” as opposed to “ahh, another hard earned dollar given to the faceless corporate machine.”

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Explaining Social Media to Businesses in 2 Words.

Posted by Marjorie Signer on May 12, 2009

As I was enjoying my visit to the New Media Cincy Unconference(#newmediacincy)trend setter and uber-successful marketing queen of all things important to women Debba Haupert (@girlfriendology) asked “How do you explain social media to your clients when you say the word Twitter and they look at you like you’ve just begun speaking Martian?”

 Giggling, Sara Carbaugh (@rightclickos) and I looked at one another and in unison said “You Don’t!”

Now that’s a pretty flippant answer and wholly unsocial for two gals standing in the middle of 60 people who use a dozen or more platforms to socialize 24/7. But the fact that we both said it so quickly tells an awful lot about the growing divide between businesses who “get it” and those that don’t.

 So what’s the more gentle and persuasive way to shepherd our 20th Century colleagues into the light?  Here’s a quick and dirty summary of what social media can mean to business and the single most compelling reason your friendly neighborhood business owners should care:

Many thanks to Brian Solis for these wonderfully clear definitions:

Social Media (noun): social media describes the onlinetools that people use to share content, profiles, opinions, insights, experiences, perspectives and media itself, thus facilitating conversations and interaction online between groups of people. These tools include blogs, message boards, podcasts, micro blogs, lifestreams, bookmarks, networks, communities, wikis, and vlogs.

 Social Media (verb): is the democratization of content and the understanding of the role people play in the process of not only reading and disseminating information, but also how they share and create content for others to participate. It is the shift from a broadcast mechanism to a many-to-many model, rooted in a conversational format between authors and people.

In a nutshell, social media breaks down the walls of authority, hierarchy and secrecy and gives all people, regardless of race, creed, culture, economic status, or education the opportunity to share their opinion. More importantly, social media affords us all an opportunity to participate in robust discussions that will hopefully bring many truths to light and dispel many myths.  

The impact social media has on business can be summed up in 2 words. Customer Confidence.

We heard an awful lot about this term a few months ago when the economy took its long walk off a short pier. At the end of the day, customers don’t buy products they don’t believe in and clients don’t do business with companies they don’t trust.

Engaging in conversation with the world using social media tools builds trust. Plain and simple. How you ask? We’ll cross that bridge tomorrow. Stay tuned.

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What to do when you find yourself in a room full of people just like you.

Posted by Marjorie Signer on May 11, 2009

This Saturday, I had the good fortune of being invited to participate in the New Media Cincinnati unconference. This is a great group of 60+ technology mavens who are actively engaged in blogging, podcasting, internet streaming and building online networks of people who they can learn from and who can learn from them. Meetings are every second Saturday of the month and are free to attend. (Check out http://newmediacincinnati.com/ for more info) 

#newmediacincy discussion group

#newmediacincy discussion group

The advantage of spending time with these folks is that they are all familiar with the new media tools that are out there and everyday they find new ways to make the tools easier to use and more effective. And most importantly, they don’t hold their tips and tricks too close to their vest. If you know the right questions to ask, they will happily explain what they are doing, how they are doing it and what benefits they receive from their time.

For 99.9% of business owners today, the fact that this group is willing to share what they’ve learned is more than enough reason to clear a few hours in the ole’ schedule and attend the meetings. But as I walked between the different discussions, I noticed something very interesting. 

80% of those in attendance were Marketing professionals of some make or model. Another 10% were artists and graphic designers and the final 10% were computer programming gurus. Now granted these aren’t exact numbers and we certainly had some guests that were outside these three categories, but the point remains the same. Very few business owners are both aware of the group and understand the value it could bring to their business.

I find it interesting that even though the news is filled with reports of how social media and new media technologies are evolving and expanding and I don’t think anyone is out there arguing that they will prove to be a “flash in the pan,” traditional business owners are still reluctant to spend time really learning about the intricacies and nuances of these mediums and engage face-to face with people who are in deeply imbedded in the movement. I’m not sure if it’s a lack of time or a lack of awareness of the groups who have converged to discuss these topics that keeps traditional business owners away, but I believe the onus on us, the technologically savvy, to reach out and make a point of inviting non-geeks to join us.

Marketing has often been looked upon by CEOs as a necessary evil. A black art that rarely produces measurable results and often costs more than they want to spend, but social and new media has the power to change that perception. We now live in a brave new world that gives us the opportunity to use multiple levels of analytics and metrics to prove impact, but first we must show our friendly local businesses that the key to unlocking a flood of opportunity lies with their participation.

Join me in the movement to invite and include more good ole’ fashioned CEO’s in the technology movement. Together we can improve business opportunities across our economy, throughout our community and in our own shops.

Tweet about NewMediaCincy, make mention of it on LinkedIn and Facebook, but most importantly, reach out and have phone conversations, or better yet, stop by and see a business owner you know in person and personally invite them to join newmediacincinnati or another group like it and be involved with the revolution. Without all of us participating together, none of us will truly succeed.

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