Tue, 16 February 2016
How Many F-Words Does It Take To Get To The Center Of A Bad Customer Experience?
We were going to talk about the challenges of naming our new software tool but about half an hour before we were set to record, an interesting thing happened and it incited a bit of a rant. But it’s a rant with a purpose and a good lesson on the dangers of marketing automation.
Grab a cup of your favorite Simpson & Vail tea (we’re loving the Valentine’s Day blend) and get ready.
Rick Carlson Sends An Email
Somehow Ralph got onto an email list for a product called SharpSpring. He didn’t sign up but for whatever reason they’ve been hammering him with marketing email after marketing email, signed from the founder Rick Carlson.
A few days ago Ralph got yet another email that began with an apology – the variety that basically says, “Hey, sorry for bombarding you with emails but here’s another one anyway.”
Ralph finally decided to see what the heck this software was about so he went to the website and 18 minutes later he got another email – with another apology, this time for being “creepy” – letting him know that they knew he’d been to the website, along with a screen shot of his activity.
Yes, it sounds creepy but hey, we know we’re being stalked online, by everyone from Facebook to Google to “random business down the block.” As marketers we like the idea of being able to de-anonymize our website visitors and put a name to the people who may be interested in our services. So we’re not opposed to what the software does.
What we’re opposed to is the way Rick Carlson has chosen to solicit us with it.
Rick Carlson Declines Our Invitation To Market His Own Product
After that last stalker email, Ralph decided to personally reach out to Rick Carlson and invite him onto our podcast to talk about his product. Rick declined, in a rather perfunctory way, followed by eight more paragraphs of pitching his product.
It was that email that finally sparked the conversation we had today.
For starters, we’re not bothered that he declined the invitation. We’ve been turned down before! But we were bothered by the fact that he did it with nary a “but hey, thanks for the offer.” And we were bothered by the continued solicitations that seemed completely oblivious to the fact that we are, in fact, actual humans with whom one might want to have an actual conversation if one wishes to sell their product.
But Rick was too busy with his automated software doing automated things and showed no interest in the humans at the other end. As a result, we have no interest in him or his product and perhaps more importantly, we are interested in telling everyone what a crummy experience we had with him and his company.
Automation Doesn’t Give Someone Permission To Be A Robot
Rick Carlson didn’t actually send any of those emails except one. The only one he sent was the one declining the podcast invitation. The rest were just automated. And that’s ok, but the minute Ralph tried to engage beyond automation, he was met with… more automation.
The net result for Rick Carlson-bot is that he will never make a sale to us. Not only that but we have close relationships with other agencies that we influence, none of which are likely to buy from Rick Carlson-bot.
Perhaps worst of all, Rick Carlson-bot is trying to sell a product in a pretty crowded niche that’s dominated by some big players like Infusionsoft who do know how to do automation – both from the software side and the human side.
A Better Automation Experience
We were solicited in the past by Infusionsoft, another marketing automation software. The difference was that when the folks over at Infusionsoft engaged with us, they spent some time getting to know us. They asked to speak with us so they could learn more about our business. They spent time making it about us – not about the solicitation.
In the end we didn’t sign up for Infusionsoft but what we did do was refer a colleague who signed up. Then we referred our business partner who signed up. And we’d gladly refer anyone who’s looking for that type of software.
Ultimately it’s only partly about the software. In larger part it's about the experience. Anyone can build decent software. Not everyone can treat their customers as human beings that matter.
The Apology Trend
Have you seen this in your inbox lately? There seems to be some new internet marketing “Do This One Thing If You Want Success" course circulating because everyone is suddenly sooooo sorry to bother me and sooooo sorry to send me (yet another) marketing email.
It’s a disingenuous apology, a gimmick, a hollow marketing ploy. Gimmicks plus automation plus lack of human interaction plus aggressiveness equals failed marketing.
Are you doing mea culpas or doing marketing? How about not being sorry. How about doing better marketing that you don’t need to apologize for, even in a fake, gimmicky way.
Your Seriously Social Moment
Ian Anderson Gray is back today to ask: How do you choose the best tools for your business? Last he checked (and if you know Ian, you know he DOES check), he found over 800 (800!) tools for marketing, social and SEO. There are so many it seems impossible to choose! In a prior Moment, Ian suggested that you start by making a list of tasks you need help with. He says there are 5 common things that people want help with when it comes to tools.
Ian says that before you invest in a new shiny tool, do your research because it’s the only way you’ll know how well something performs the tasks you need done. And if you need help, he’s pretty much THE tool guy and you can get in touch and schedule some consulting time with him for help.
Even More Lame Automated Marketing
I got my own dumb marketing email just before we started recording this, from someone whose list I didn’t sign up for either. (Just wondering if anyone is still doing permission based marketing these days, huh people??)
Two things struck me as stupid right in the first sentence. The first thing is that the sender said he “noticed that Rahvalor sends out marketing emails regularly.”
Strangely enough, “Rahvalor” hasn’t sent out a marketing email in years. And if you’re wondering “What the heck is Rahvalor?” then that just proves my point. Rahvalor is our company name. It’s how we incorporated in 1999 and who the checks get written to. But for years we’ve done business as Web.Search.Social and almost never mention Rahvalor.
Let’s assume that somehow this random person soliciting me made the connection between Rahvalor and Web.Search.Social. The hilarious thing about that, is just that morning, Ralph and I had a fight… I mean a discussion because we never fight… about the fact that we haven’t, in fact, sent out a marketing email in a long time to our Web.Search.Social list.
The fight… er, conversation… went something like this:
Ralph: Did you send out that marketing email to our list?
Me: No, I was busy.
Or at least that’s how I interpreted it and since I’m writing the show notes, I get to tell the story. The amusing part is how five minutes later I got an email from someone telling me how often I send out marketing emails.
That, of course, was followed by the trite apology… “sorry to bug you but…”
How about this: Don’t be sorry for bugging me, just don’t bug me.
You Can Do Automation If You Remember You’re Still Selling To People
Automation can be an incredible tool. It can save you a ton of time, it can help you stay top-of-mind with minimal effort, it can keep people moving through your sales funnel while you run your business and manage your clients.
It can help you effectively find, vet and target people who may be ideal customers.
But it can’t magically replace you. It can’t engage people on a human level. To win customers, to get people to become your fans and advocates, you will always need to be a person.
Oh, and stop being so darn sorry. Don’t be sorry for marketing. Be confident and proud of your marketing. And if you’re doing something you think you need to apologize for, then stop doing it!
Links & Resources
Direct download: 0172-how-marketing-automation-fails-when-it-feels-like-automation.mp3
Category:business, marketing -- posted at: 9:13am EDT
Tue, 19 January 2016
Our First Episode of 2016!
Yes, we took a longer hiatus than expected but we’re back, we’re caffeinated and we’ve got lots to talk about.
This is part after-hours and part business so grab a cup of your favorite Simpson & Vail tea and join us as we talk about meditation, the whirlwind and lessons learned from having a gun pointed in our faces.
Why Are We Here?
Since it’s been a while we decided to reintroduce the purpose of our podcast, especially as we look forward to a new year ahead. Since the beginning of our podcast we’ve talked mostly about marketing but toward the last half of 2015 we shifted to talk more about business. And that’s what we want to continue doing in 2016.
We want to focus on business because as an entrepreneur your business is part of your life. It intertwines with your family, your health, your lifestyle. It affects how you think and how you feel and the decisions you make. So ultimately our podcast is about taking on the challenges of having a business and a whole life.
Here's what we don't want to do: give you the same stuff you can hear anywhere. How to get more Twitter followers. What to do about Pinterest or Facebook or growing your email list. We want to dig deep into what makes a business run and challenge common assumptions that can lead you down a dead end or keep you stuck in neutral.
We look at this podcast as part of the journey. We don't know everything. But we keep learning and growing and that's what we want to do with you. We want you to be part of our journey, and we want to be part of yours. Think of this podcast as a conversation between entrepreneurs. We're glad you're listening and we're here to listen if you want to share your questions or stories or challenges, too.
Email, Skype, text, send smoke signals… let us know what your journey is like. Together we can learn and grow together.
Need To Decompress? Listen To The Mystic Show
Before we get started on today’s topics, we want to shout out to our friend Chris Curran who hosts the ever-popular Social Media Unscrambled podcast, and who also has another podcast called The Mystic Show. It’s all about getting out of the whirlwind of your life and business, taking a moment to pause, eliminate the distractions and be calm and tranquil.
Take it from someone whose brain is constantly in a spin – that show is soothing and worth a listen. From the music to Chris’s voice to the topics of conversation, it gives you a little haven in a stormy day.
And Now, Caffeine
There’s no question that caffeine – specifically in the form of coffee – is pretty much central to most business people’s existence.
But what Ralph has found after switching from coffee to tea is that he doesn’t quite need that caffeine jolt anymore to get through a day. He suggests that for many people coffee has become a substitute for sleep.
Is caffeine leading to more people being in the whirlwind? Do you sometimes grab a cup of coffee and find yourself on the go-go-go?
We wonder if feeling amped up is just creating the illusion that we’re getting things done. Remember, busy does not equal productive! “Doing stuff” and feeling wide awake doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being effective.
Letting go of caffeine is hard. It can kind of feel like a detox. You’ll probably think something is wrong because you’re so used to being caffeinated that “normal” will feel like an oddity.
Same thing with sugar. You know how you grab a donut or a handful of M&Ms and you’re ready to go, but a little while later…. YAWN! So you get another candy bar or Danish and you’re energetic again… until the next crash.
Before I ditched sugar a few months ago I was constantly tired. I’d feel great after my chocolate chip pancakes but a few hours later I’d need a nap in the worst way. There’s no doubt that taking better care of myself has completely changed my energy levels and productivity.
Both Ralph and I have also added meditation to our daily routine – fifteen or twenty minutes a day of sitting. Just sitting. Not making notes or washing dishes. Not planning for tomorrow or running dinner menus over in our heads. And that has led to better sleep, which also contributes to feeling better and being better.
Just the same way you can get into a downward spiral of less energy, less motivation and less productivity, you can also get into an upward spiral. The better you are to yourself, the better you are, period.
What do you do to relax? Maybe more to the point, how do you define relaxing?
Sometimes you’ve just got to “waste time.” The kind where you sit on the couch and channel surf for hours. In my case, I spend hours playing Freecell on my phone.
But sometimes you can relax by doing things other than work – anything, really, even if it’s “productive”. The point is to take your mind (and body) away from work and its stresses and do something else.
I actually find cleaning my house relaxing. When I’m completely stressed out the first thing I do is start cleaning. It’s kind of habitual. In fact, one of my most favorite Christmas gifts this year was a new vacuum. Yeah, I’m at that age.
But seriously, running my new, fabulous vacuum over the floor and experiencing that satisfaction of a clean house is very relaxing for me. So as you think about how to spend your “relaxing” time, don’t be afraid to do nothing – or something!
Ralph And Carol Lynn Go To The Movies
We’ve seen a bunch of movies recently – well, to be honest, we see a bunch of movies all the time! But a couple we’ve seen specifically got us thinking about what makes for good storytelling.
First up is The Martian. We both read and loved the book. We had a split decision on the movie – Ralph loved it but I thought it was a drab retelling of a great book.
Next is The Hateful Eight. We both really enjoyed that one. We’re huge Quentin Tarantino fans.
Third is In The Heart Of The Sea. Ralph loved every page of the book. I haven’t read it yet. But we both hated the movie.
Finally, Star Wars. We both very much enjoyed the latest movie and agree that we very much didn’t enjoy the prequels.
So what made the difference between a great story and one we wanted to walk out on?
The answer turns out to be pretty simple. The best stories were a collaborative effort between the director, screenwriter, actors and others on the team. The ones that failed were missing that element.
With Star Wars especially, it’s easy to pick out which films were a collaboration and which ones George Lucas went off to tell on his own. (Hint: the generally agreed-to-be-best movie, Empire Strikes Back, was collaborative. The prequels were not.)
The takeaway? You may not, in fact, be the best person to tell your own story! Does that fly in the face of everything you’ve been told? The thing is, you need to be part of the story and you need to be part of the telling. But if you work on the telling with someone else, you may find that your story becomes stronger.
Collaborating with someone – whether you’ve hired that person or they’re a friend, colleague or someone inside your business – can bring a brand new perspective. Another person can ask questions that bring out new angles and help you see and share your story in a whole new way.
We also recently saw The Revenant. Ralph loved it but I was bored to death. Yet we both agree that it was a visually beautiful movie and well told. Our takeaway? Not all storytelling methods will appeal to everyone. Ralph enjoyed the visual storytelling. I didn’t. So as a business owner you may need to tell your story in different ways to appeal to different people.
Your First Seriously Social Moment Of 2016
Do tools solve your problems? Ian Anderson Gray wants to know!
But he says that before you start looking at tools you need to figure out what you want to accomplish. Make a list of what tasks you want to automate or get help with. Then make a short list of the tools that can help you with your top priorities. Chances are no one tool will fit the bill so you’ll probably find yourself using a selection of tools. But remember, it’s not about the tool – it’s about what the tool can help you do.
We’ve recently become addicted? Obsessed? With a game called Ingress. It is an “augmented-reality massively multiplayer online location-based game”, or MMO for short. And since that’s a heck of a mouthful, the easiest way to think of it is as an online, social and worldwide game of Capture the Flag.
The premise is that “exotic matter”, aka XM, is leaking into the world at various portals. The portals are imaginary but they are located at real places, including businesses, markers and places of historical significance.
As a result, humanity has been divided into two factions – the Resistance and the Enlightened. Your job is to visit the portals and take them over for your faction. Once you take over a portal, you can then link portals together to create fields. Whatever geographic area is under your field is then controlled by your faction and that gets you points.
There’s no winning and losing – it’s just a matter of who has more portals and fields and points.
What makes this game unique is that it is truly social. You can’t play it from your computer or your desk. You can only interact with a portal by going to its physical location.
And you can’t be effective at the game by yourself. You will never have the power or resources that you need unless you collaborate with other people.
So it’s been a lot of fun playing and meeting people along the way. By the way, if you want to give the game a shot, ask us for an invitation! You don’t need one, but if you join via our invitation we get in-game rewards (yah!) And in case you were wondering, we play on the side of the Enlightened.
We’ve learned a couple of things as a result of playing the game, not least of which is how to navigate our own town. After years of relying on the GPS to tell us when to turn left or right, we’re finally figuring out where things are and how to get there on our own.
We’re also picking up a lot of history. For example, we learned that our town of Holmdel used to be called Hornet’s Nest.
Funny thing about that history lesson, though. We learned it at gunpoint.
…And Lessons Learned At Gunpoint
After blowing a tire out while playing the game last weekend, we had an even more intense adventure this weekend as we searched for a landmark called the Hornet’s Nest. It was dark, and we were traveling down a rather suburban, narrow and winding road into the middle of nowhere. We could see on the in-game GPS that we were right near the portal we were looking for, but couldn’t quite access it.
So we turned down another even narrower and more winding road that dropped off on one side into a ravine below. A car was coming slowly in the other direction, with barely enough room to pass, so we rolled down our window to ask if it was a one way street.
The woman in the car looked at us and said, “No. It’s my driveway. This is my house.”
She told us to back out and then left. But it was dark and the driveway was narrow, and remember that part about one side plunging into a ravine? So instead of backing out we drove to the top, turned around at the garage and drove out. By then we were completely lost so we pulled over in front of the driveway to get our bearings, when we saw a man jogging down the driveway towards us.
So Ralph rolled down his window and the man proceeded to snap a photo of us, snap a photo of the front of the car, snap a photo of the rear of the car and then pulled out a gun and pointed it at us through the window.
Since we’re still alive to tell the tale, you might guess it worked out in the end but there were a few tense moments as we tried to explain that no, we were not casing his house and were actually playing a game and looking for a portal called the Hornet’s Nest. Which sounds kind of ridiculous when you say it out loud.
Ralph defused the situation by apologizing profusely and agreeing that we shouldn’t have been in the driveway. Ultimately we all sort of chuckled over it and the man asked us for a ride back to his house.
Just to give you an idea of how long this driveway was, we got a whole history lesson on the Revolutionary War and the naming of the town on the way up.
Perhaps the most notable thing about this story is that even as we were staring down the wrong end of the gun, both Ralph and I had the same thought: we totally understood why this guy was pointing it at us. Neither of us thought he was wrong about it or crazy. We knew he was a guy scared by some people hanging out in his driveway who had freaked his wife out only a few minutes ago.
So what does that mean in the grander scheme of things…
Actually, a lot. Plenty of days we find ourselves staring down the metaphorical barrel of a gun. It could be an annoying client. Or a difficult situation. Or a disagreement with a friend or business partner.
And we can choose to escalate, to be confrontational and risk something worse. Or we can put ourselves in the position of the other person, empathize and disarm them.
The next time you find yourself butting heads with someone, try understanding. Try being humble and admitting when you’re wrong. Try an apology. Most importantly, try kindness. It’s one of your most powerful weapons and can disarm even the most savage beast if you try hard enough. Just pretend there’s a gun in your face.
Links & Resources
Direct download: 0168-storytelling-productivity-and-business-lessons-learned-at-gunpoint.mp3
Category:business, marketing -- posted at: 1:50am EDT
Thu, 3 December 2015
The Web.Search.Social Podcast Is Live!
This week we're doing something completely different. In response to a number of people asking us about a past episode where we spoke with BNI director Paul Scharff about networking, we're recording this episode live from one of my weekly BNI meetings.
First, you'll get an idea of how a networking meeting runs so you'll have a little extra ammo if you decide to check out a local networking group of your own.
Second, you can learn a bit more about how to make networking more effective for your business.
We recorded most of the meeting – changed up just slightly for time – so if you listen all the way through you'll hear every group member's "commercial" interspersed by some commentary and a few lessons you can take away.
The BNI Commercials
As part of the weekly meeting every member gets 45 seconds to talk about his or her business and let the rest of the group know how they can help generate leads and sales for that business.
Time is of the essence! If someone goes over the 45 second limit they get dinged and have to wrap it up immediately.
We kept all the commercials in the recording because we thought it would be a great opportunity for you to hear how other people do it – and which were most successful. While we don't comment on all the commercials, you can decide for yourself which were most interesting, which gave you the best idea of what a business is about, which made you yawn and which you could emulate to help you craft your own commercial.
We pause here to talk about the structure of a good commercial, which often includes a component that starts, "Did you know…" and ends with a memory hook so people can easily identify your business.
For example, Randy of Holmdel Auto Body uses the memory hook "you bend 'em, we mend 'em." That makes it fun and easy to remember what Randy does and helps people find him leads.
A good commercial can also include a specific "ask." Some members name a prospect they're pitching and ask if anyone knows that person. You'd be surprised by how often someone knows someone else and can make a personal introduction.
In fact, one of the members recently asked to meet the president of a property management company – and that property management company just so happens to be the one that manages my homeowner's community. In fact, I was having breakfast with the president that day. Not only was I able to make the introduction but I invited the president to attend the weekly meeting.
We pause again because Staci is the first woman we've heard from and I want to know how she feels about being in a room full of men. I ask her to talk about how women can overcome their fears of being in the vast minority.
Staci says she was overwhelmed when she first visited our group, because when she joined there were no other females (we have a few more now!) so she decided to bring a male colleague with her. That helped her feel more at ease at first, until she was able to determine that the group was welcoming and warm. She found that in this particular group, she didn't feel like "a woman". She just felt like a businessperson and an equal.
Staci goes on to say that it's important to walk into a room with your head held high.
Carol Lynn agrees. She says that if you behave differently or fearfully then people will pick up on that. But if you expect to be treated as an equal and you walk into a room confidently then you'll have a better experience.
Another quick pause as Paul Scharff reminds everyone that you have to get a good "feel" for a group. Not all networking groups are alike but you'll get an intangible feeling about whether or not a group will be a good fit for you.
Quick pause to talk about how membership works… many people think that only one person of any type of business can be a member in a group. For example, if the group has an attorney, no other attorney can join. But in our group we have 4 attorneys because each of them specializes in a different area of law.
A group could have two photographers, for example, if one specialized in weddings and another in family portraits.
Trivia alert! Turns out that Hal is a colleague of friend of the show Ryan Hanley. I didn't know that until one day recently when I told the group about Ryan's book Content Warfare and Hal chimed in that he knew Ryan. Love how networking cements connections!
We mention the idea of a "power partner" here because Dave is a graphic designer and makes a great referral partner for us, and us for him. Our industries overlap and our collective clients often have a need for both of our services.
When a member is absent, they can have someone sub for them. One of the members who was off on a hunting vacation asked Carol Lynn to sub, so she read his commercial.
Paul was a guest on our podcast twice, once as we mentioned earlier to talk about networking but also to talk about how photography can be used to make you more money.
Each week two members get 10 minutes each to speak to the group in depth about their businesses. Today Paul is one of the featured presenters. He isn't a member of our group but he is our regional BNI director and visits on occasion. We were lucky to have him today.
Instead of the usual speaker presentation, I ask a series of questions that Paul fields like the pro he is.
Firs I want to know, why join a networking group? Paul says it will make you more money. Each week you have a room full of people dedicated to listening to what you need and helping you close deals.
What makes a good networking group? Paul says – show up! Be present, participate and listen. And of course, make personal referrals whenever you can.
Paul pays us a compliment when he says that ours is one of the strongest groups in Monmouth and Middlesex counties. He suggests that for all members – in our group and elsewhere – always be thinking about your commercial. Use your fully allotted time and make sure you refine, refine, refine your pitch.
He also clears up a common misconception we hear often, which is that if you don't deliver a certain number of referrals or revenue to the members of the group, you'll be kicked out.
At least in BNI, that is simply not true. There are many ways you can participate in the group, whether through referrals, by being part of the leadership team, volunteering for other tasks, even bringing guests.
After Paul, it's time for Tony to be featured. Tony is the owner of Tapeo Restaurant, which is also the venue for our weekly meetings. He started out as a boy on a farm in Spain, worked for some time in corporate America, opened a cooking school in Barcelona and finally landed in Hazlet New Jersey where he is feeding Portuguese and Spanish cooking to many happy locals.
Tony speaks a bit about his business, the types of services he offers and why we should send referrals his way.
The key to profitable networking is to let the people in the room know how they can go out into the world and be your sales team.
One of the aspects of the meeting that we didn't record was the roundtable we do at the end where every member has a chance to make a few comments on the meeting, thank other members for introductions or give testimonials.
But it's also one of the most powerful parts of the meeting so we didn't want you to miss out on it completely.
We give our own testimonial to close out the show, by thanking Tony for a great experience at his restaurant. The night before we recorded this podcast, we went to the restaurant to set up the podcasting equipment and afterwards we stuffed ourselves silly with tapas and mojitos.
Now we can recommend the restaurant to people with confidence because we've actually been there and done business personally with Tony. We know from experience that the food is great and that the owner truly will go out of his way to make sure you have a wonderful experience.
And that right there is the power of networking.
Whether you're thinking of joining a BNI or some other networking group, get out there and visit a meeting. Visit two, three and more. Find the group that feels right for you, one where you feel welcomed, one where members are committed to helping each other. One hour a week can make a tremendous impact on your business and your bottom line.
Subscribe to be notified whenever we publish new content and to stay in the loop on some new podcasts and other fun stuff that’s coming up.
Direct download: 0163-bni-live-peek-into-the-inner-workings-of-a-real-networking-meeting.mp3
Category:business, marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EDT