Managing the Ask

If you feel overwhelmed in life or seem to be putting out fires all the time without much forward progress, then consider how you manage expectations.

I can understand that when you want to be helpful or valuable that it is easy to jump at requests. Or sometimes, you may not know that you are being asked for something because of your eagerness.

Someone may want something from you and you see it as helping. Depending on your relationships and the frequency you are asked for help, consider managing the ask with your own ask back.

Someone might say,

“Can you get help me put this presentation together?”

or

“Could you get this work done for me?”

The ask can come in many different forms. And the thing is that there’s not a cost for asking.

But you can create one for those that might freely use your time, attention or money by simply asking back.

“Sure, can you do me a favor first … ?

or

“Not a problem. Glad to help. How about you do this first and then get back to me and let me know what you find.”

You can be simple, polite and free. You can lead by seeing if the person requesting your resources is willing to pay a small cost to value the request they make of you.

Why is this so important? So you don’t become resentful. You don’t have to be subject to the whims of people. We live in a fast moving economy and you have goals of your own and only so much energy.

If people can get something for nothing, surely they will. But that’s not their fault. It’s simply deal making.

And you want to exchange value with the traders that are willing to pay a cost, however small, to show a gesture of good faith.

How can you practice asking back to make better deals with others and yourself?

Connecting With Your Inbound Audience

Photo from AURORA Norwich's Flickr stream

If you sweat and hustle, build a sales organization, interrupt people with traditional media, then you may get a few eyeballs to look your way and pay attention. You may make more enemies than friends in the process, as well. Interrupting people has the tendency of ruining a second chance. Your brand is on the line. That is the detriment of outbound marketing.

However, inbound marketing relies on one key differentiator – connection. As people are searching for what they want or tuned into the information, products and services that will help them grow their business, improve their health and better their relationships, there is opportunity to provide value.

Today, billions of searches happened. People spent enormous amounts of time on social media. If you email someone, they open it within a few minutes. Everyone is plugged in at work or on their mobile device. How can you connect? Here’s how we help our customers connect in this dizzying world of information:

  • Answers. There’s something our clients take for granted. They have answers which they know like the back of their hand. They have mastered their trade. We help them share their answers and make it part of the buying process with their audience.
  • Stories. We tune into stories. It is part of our inherent psyche. Telling the stories of success, the building processes and the history of who you are all connects. We do business with people and organizations we like and can identify with. Stories help to reflect your brand for those that resonate and want to connect.
  • Care. What do you do to make your customers feel special? All things being equal, the way you service and show care needs to come through in the personality and soul of your brand. Examples and testimonials help with this. Proof needs to be shown and shared to connect.

Look at the answer (comfortable shoes), stories (buy one give one) and care (customer service) that Toms is delivering and connecting with. They continue to grow their audience and their authenticity shines through and connects. Just one example of many that are out there connecting with their audiences.

How could you do better?

3 Inbound Marketing Customer Experience Strategies

We often think that the customer experience commences when we are servicing a person. How they are handled at the cash register, try our products out or serviced for needs tends to draw our focus to provide caring service. Much of the last decade emphasized this kind of personal attention.

With the accessibility of information far and wide on the internet via search engines and social media, the customer experience starts far before any up close contact with your company. How you talk, contribute and are talked about creates a persona that draws attraction or distaste for those looking for information to meet a real or felt need.

The customer experience you create with complete strangers sets the tone for how newcomers to your brand will feel about you. There are a few components that should be part of your inbound marketing strategy that can create a continuum as a stranger moves from indifference to intimacy:

  • Knowledge sharing. Buyers don’t spend as much time as you thinking about your industry. Start at a rudimentary level and provide knowledge that orients newcomers to what they should know. Frame what a new buyer should be thinking about to make an intelligible decision about what you offer. Be a resource and you earn further trust to being consulted.
  • Create conversation. Be a catalyst for thought and provoke conversations around topics. This can be done on various social media platforms, forums and on your corporate blog. Fostering thought and helping dialogue positions you as a leader in your space. Be sure you know what you are talking about and share it with the world.
  • Relevant connections. Ensure that a link, pay-per-click ad or comment on a site links to a relevant landing page. Generic pages break a thought process. Building congruent process is extra work but it is worthwhile. It creates a customer experience that is whole and connected. Connecting via links and calls to action in a logical path increases your opportunity to eventually engage.

We like to think about the customer experience up close and personal. With buyers able to check us out or discover us from far away and impersonally now, your brand needs to be aligned and managed.

What do you think? How can you make the customer experience broader and more strategic?

When You Interrupt Busy People

When you initiate a contact without trust, you are setting yourself up for a “No”. It’s a brave new world. Yet, there are still people acting out of desperation and ignorance. Why try failing tactics of interrupting people with cold calls, unsolicited emails and other imposing marketing messages? Those are about what you want. And the script which plays out is predictable:

  • You irritate a person
  • You get deleted or identified as spam
  • You lose opportunities for future engagement

You do the same thing. You block out what is unwanted because you have choices of finding what you want when you want it.

Everyone is busy. We are in survival mode with our inboxes. Sure, I advise a strategy of a ZeroInbox, but it takes ruthless vigilance, work and habit. We have to react to so many inputs and non-essentials that anyone who seeks to engage without permission is setting themselves up for rejection.

Serve Busy People Instead

Think it through. If you want to remain relevant instead of trolling the information highways seeking to peddle goods and services, then ask how people buy. It’s what you do when you want something. Check out my ebook, Bought Not Sold, if you want some direction and strategies. The key is to get your eyes off of your wants and focus them on delivering value for others in a sincere and timely manner.

There is not overnight success with this approach. You can’t throw money at it and think a magical output happens. It takes care and work to build trust today. People are busy. They want value and answers. Give them this in a way that helps them and you are creating opportunities.

It’s much better to be perceived as valuable than a nuisance. Take your pick. Get in the game or ignore it at your peril.

How can you get in the business of helping more?

Beware Of The Marketer

megaphoneEveryone is a marketer today. As the ability to distribute your message has become much easier than in times past, there has been much more noise. Anyone can post, tweet or blog. Thus, everyone is marketing something, whether it is their goods or themselves.

While it may feel good to market because of the power and the tools available, is it really good overall? Aren’t buyers (like yourself) keen on what is marketing and what is substance? We know how to block out the noise.

If someone pitches you on vanity metrics such as:

  • How many likes you have
  • Retweets
  • Opens
  • List size

then think twice. Marketing is a feel good and the numbers are often about you, not your buyer. The sleight of hand of focusing on activities rather than results is the tool of the marketer.

Inbound Marketing Is Strategic

On the other hand, inbound marketing accounts for how the buyer moves through a systematic process that they like. You are making it convenient for them to get what they want. You present substance not noise.

Of course, this approach is hard work. You have to pay attention and truly understand who your fans are and what they really want. You block out the noise of the marketer and lead instead. Lead them with your value and conviction.

There is thinking around process and being helpful. If you get this kind of permission, then your process produces fans, sales and loyalty. Tuning in requires an intense focus to help people buy.

Just because you have a microphone with every social media system available, should you spam the world? I would say to leave that for the salesmen who don’t have a strategy. Beware of them and do the hard work of connecting, providing value and telling your story. That is what makes tools powerful.

What kind of marketing are you running?

Posing Versus Passion

Rock Concert Encore

The problem with trends is that the posers ruin a good thing.  The wrong questions are asked.

“How do I get more people to friend me?”

“How many tweets should I do every day?”

“How do I get on Google first?”

The good thing was always there from the beginning.  Connecting with people, helping businesses win and providing a platform for your message assumed you had something of substance.  Your passion has an outlet and a way to bring what was once far to a close up and personal touch.

Manufacturing the appearance of greatness dilutes what great businesses, artists and leaders put forth.  There’s more junk to filter through.  The marketers contaminated yet another channel.

The Real Thing

The truth is that if you pose, you get exposed quickly.  We can click and figure out that while the embroidery is appealing, the soul underneath is lacking.  You either bring value or you do not.  Posing is just lipstick on a pig.

The real thing looks like true passion:

  • You care.  You go the extra mile and have the scars to prove it.  You actually care about your customers, your readers and your followers.  It goes beyond the high school popularity contest mindset and into emotional and vested work for your fans.
  • You have conviction.  I have found that conviction is one of the most powerful aspects of leadership.  People follow conviction.  There is a dearth of true conviction in the world.  Believe in something and rant it with all of your heart.  Your true believers have a way of finding you.  By the way, everyone is not a believer.
  • You can help.  There is something you have that helps to make people’s lives better.  Their health, wealth, and children benefit concretely.  There is a track record of changed lives because of your value.
  • You are focused on the few.  Having a bunch of people that are shallow in their loyalty is worthless.  It’s deceptively intoxicating, but at the end of the day, you have a fickle following.  The winds of change can move people quickly.  Connect with your core and those that get you.  They are the ones that constitute your true audience.  Stop chasing and focus on delighting the ones that matter.

I am like everyone else in this vast landscape of information.  I don’t want to be distracted by noise and posers.  I want the real thing and get to answers quickly with the people and brands that can deliver and have passion.  The world is heavily commoditized.  Putting passion behind your work is the greatest differentiator to stand out in a world of posers.

How is your message sharing your passion?

Inbound Leads Do Not Want Interruption

As a seller, it is understandable that you have such a high impulse to sell leads hard.  The problem is that buyers do not like to be sold.  When they feel sold, it creates tension and resistance, the very opposite effect you are trying to promote.

There is a new strategy that is at play and has been at play in marketing to customers.  It is much less about how great you are and more about how valuable you are.  Determining your value is in the control of the buyer.  They search out what they want and put the pieces together for solving their problem.  You likely do the very same thing when you are looking for entertainment, solutions or pain relief.  You are buying and avoiding the selling until the very end when you determine you are ready.

Getting a premature sales call while you are still shopping is invasive and annoying.  It can also reduce trust.

Your marketing systems and sales process should walk with the buyer in a way that is congruent with how they are walking their own process.  Consider integrating the following as part of your marketing strategies:

  1. Provide answers to their problems.  Think long and hard about the problems that your buyers have and why they would use what you offer to solve it.  Talk about those problems.  Actually, write about them.  Record video and audio.  Create a place on your site that allows for access to your knowledge.  Your knowledge is an asset when it is packaged and speaks to problems.
  2. Focus on building trust.  Assume everyone is busy and they do not want to be interrupted.  Be respectful.  Make your contact count.  Cold calls do not work.  Spam is highly intrusive.  Build trust over time.  Avoid the illusion that one smart email or call will close a sale.  Instead, build a system that provides relevant, timely and personal value over time.
  3. Create small steps to commitment.  If “buy now” is your strategy, then you must have high emotion and pain for it to work.  Assuming that you are not selling a heart transplant or antivenom, your buying process can be more segmented.  Offer a webinar first to educate.  Or give a free consultation.  See how small you can get without inconveniencing the buyer.  This creates a connection and value being exchanged – attention for service.  Small steps lead to bigger results later.

You can see the old school sales people desperately trying to connect with interruption.  They still cold call you or send an unsolicited email or direct mail piece.  They set themselves up to be ignored.

You have the option today to interrupt people and do what is uninvited and ineffective.  Or you can spend your energy, focus and budgets on growing something that will work predictably over time.  It’s how buying is done.

What do you think?  How are you connecting with buyers today that does not interrupt?

Marketing Automation Cold Callers

Marketing automation is focused on a premise of nurturing leads to build trust for a ready sales engagement.  That’s the idea at least.  It’s the doctrine, but like many good doctrines, there are pundits and posers.  There are those that love to rally around the marketing of an idea more than practice it.

Beware Of Marketing Automation Talking Heads

Our team has had some interesting interactions lately with companies and people who are seeking to make a dollar from software and advice in the marketing automation space.  We were approached by Marketo for example who continually called our 800 number because they are tracking some errant site clicks which their system purports is one of us.  It’s an inside sales job and the persistence is typical of a sales-minded person.  The dialogue is not around value.  It is around selling us software, though we are not candidates.  If their marketing automation software works, then shouldn’t I feel ready to buy rather than annoyed that they are calling?

Now, we are not knocking Marketo, specifically.  We see the behavior across the board with vendors, other consultants and marketing opportunists.  The competition is fierce for software providers.  There has been a lot of venture money invested.  Despite their gospel of what their software can do, they approach sales similarly to many other cold calling organizations.  It’s aggressive and about them.

We pose these questions:

  • What does an aggressive selling engagement say about the effectiveness of your marketing automation process?
  • Just because I click, does it mean you can call me?  Why would that be more welcome?
  • Why can’t you wait for me to call in when I’m ready?
  • What does your cold calling do to your brand and value perception?

I think the questions are valid.  If the software is so great, then why act contrary to its design and promises?

If you buy marketing automation software, note how you are handled and approached in sales.  Did the automation truly nurture you and build trust?  That’s talking strategy.  Maybe that’s the key.  It’s a different focus than just software.  You may have to call us for that.

What would it look like if your products or services were bought rather than sold?  Feel free to comment.

Why I Am Not On LinkedIn Anymore

I agree with David Meerman Scott’s classic blog post, “Why I Am Not On LinkedIn” (David Meerman Scott removed the post and apparently joined LinkedIn, thus the link has been removed). I had been reading several of his books over the past several months and can appreciate his common sense approach to marketing.

For me, it’s important to stay focused.  Doing too many things creates more distraction and inhibits productivity, execution and focus.  It’s easy to do with all the new toys and technologies in the new economy.  I can understand the pull.  LinkedIn was one of those systems that has lost relevance over time.

I was tired of getting solicitations from recruiters, strangers and salespeople looking to leverage the ecosystem LinkedIn has created.  It’s more for them than it was for me.

Why I Am Not On LinkedIn

LinkedInThere used to be a time when the novel aspect of LinkedIn worked for me.  I could make connections and keep up my address book.  Of course, the world has changed dramatically as well.  My activities were focused on outbound marketing and selling then.

However, with the explosion of social media and content marketing, the process for selling has changed.  Products and services are largely bought, not sold.  The business I do comes from this concept and approach.  My blog here and my Twitter site drive inbound marketing leads and deals.  Many business owners, executives and entrepreneurs that want to work on a venture or hire me for systems, strategy and process consulting reach out.  They can easily Google me to find me and learn more about me.  They can read my thoughts and approach to business and strategy here.  It is my home base and where I have control of my own systems.

Social Media Strategies

I think that the social media avenues everyone chooses will depend on their markets, personalities and commitment.  Musicians should use Myspace.  Personalities should use Twitter.  There is some fit for LinkedIn depending on your focus, goals and approach.  My take is that most people don’t want to be bothered.  They do want value.  When they want something, they search for it and usually find what they are looking for.

It is good to take inventory periodically and refine your approach and renew your commitments.  If something is not working, then freeing up your bandwidth and mind space is so important in this attention economy.

What I Am Committed To

I am committed to providing leadership and strategy continually.  I do this by reading, writing and speaking.  My publishing platforms are via this blog primarily to help hone valuable content and help make a difference.  Time I place elsewhere has to always be measured by the return on investment.

My clients can find me.  Those that need to connect can find me.  In a sense the world has become flatter and our systems allow me to always stay “linked in.”

If you are feeling spread out, take inventory and renew your focus by cutting out what isn’t working.  When things change, I change.  What about you?

Feel free to comment below.

 

Marketing To Attention

Marketers miss the proverbial eight ball when it comes to attention.  Many marketers still believe we watch TV commercials fully when the majority of people skip the ads.  Here are the behaviors most of us do today in a world of too much marketing stimulus:

  • We change channels for radio ads.
  • We tear up and throw out junk mail.
  • We don’t pick up because of caller id
  • We mark email as spam from strangers
  • We skip sites with unwelcome banners
  • We completely ignore billboards and signs
  • We sign up for “Do Not Call” and “Do Not Fax”
  • We walk by the overbearing salesperson
  • We skip the magazine ads
  • We use free Craigslist rather than old school classifieds

While marketers have gotten creative throwing money at more colorful and refined artwork that interrupts us, buyers have built up defenses to block out the noise.  We have gotten quite good at blocking, ignoring and reporting unwelcome marketing.

We do other things that have our attention:

  • We spend over 3 hours a day online
  • We click
  • We search
  • We read valuable email
  • We post to Twitter and Facebook
  • We consume content
  • We educate ourselves
  • We read stories
  • We raise our hands when we are ready
  • We play with our smart phones
  • We ask our friends for advice

So how come there is so much money spent on bad, brainless marketing when our behaviors are pretty obvious and congruent?  Why do businesses sell the way they did 20 years ago rather than how we buy today?

I say go where the attention and focus is.  Build connection each step of the way that makes you desirable.  Then, maybe, you get a chance to have a conversation that matters with someone you desperately want as your customer.  Make it personal.  Study it.  Create immense value.  Then make it repeatable.

You will then have a system and process which automates your marketing approach.  You can be strategic in your marketing automation rather than desperate and hopeful in old strategies that are hit or miss.

What do you think?  Feel free to comment.