Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Keeping it Personal at Work in 2009

It’s nothing personal. Actually…it’s everything personal.

First and foremost, we’re all human beings, even at work. Companies frequently hear from customers that they want to talk to a person rather than a machine. Customer satisfaction survey responses tell corporations how impactful those on the front lines—their responses, mannerisms, attitudes, etc—are to the overall customer experience, which, in turn affects word-of-mouth and referrals. Likewise, customers are quick to complain about lack of human interaction. You can give people scripts to read and messages to convey but the essence of how they interact with others is solely theirs.

Internally, your attitude, perspective, and interactions with colleagues can have an effect on morale and productivity.

Your personal brand is your own and it cannot be manufactured with a set of cookie-cutter rules. However, if you’re looking for some simple ways to bring the human element into the workplace a bit more in 2009, then you may wish to start with one or more of the resolutions on the following list. And add your own flair to these.

  • Say “Thank You.” Say it often. Acknowledge the contributions of your customers, colleagues, suppliers, partners.
  • Offer your time as a mentor, coach, or teacher. If your schedule is limited, volunteer with your alma mater to speak with a graduating senior about your profession.
  • Play an instrument? Start a company band. Enjoy cooking? Reading? Sports? Theater? Start a discussion group. Do this online if you work remotely.
  • Smile. Mean it.
  • Learn people’s names. Use them.
  • Introduce yourself to a new employee outside of your direct team in person (or by phone if you work remotely).
  • Complement someone else’s work. Be sincere.
  • Ask a customer (internal or external) about his/her experience. Listen. Relate. Follow up.
  • Did a colleague or partner exceed your expectations? Share this positive feedback with the person’s manager.
  • Contribute to the professional development of someone who does not report to you. Help him/her cultivate a new skill or enhance an existing one.
  • Share a podcast, article, webinar, etc that is relevant to someone else’s job.
  • Keep it light. Share your humor (keep it clean).
  • Ask someone else for their input. Listen.

Regardless of how you decide to portray your personal brand in 2009, keep it real. Keep it honest. After all, it’s not just business. It’s personal.

The 6-Word Resume Meme

When G.L. Hoffman announced the 6 word resume meme asking readers to post their favorite 6-word resume ideas onto their own blogs, I had to get in on the action. A few selections appear below:

“Rag Doll livin’ in a movie”
-Aerosmith in
Rag Doll

“Fashion is made to become unfashionable.”
-Coco Chanel

“Eye contact is the best accessory.”
-Takayuki Ikkaku, Arisa Hosaka and Toshihiro Kawabata
, Animal Crossing: Wild World, 2005

“He who desires is always poor."

“Sports is human life in microcosm.”
-Howard Cosell

“An idea is salvation by imagination.”
-Frank Lloyd Wright

“Don’t find fault, Find a remedy.”
-Henry Ford

“I stand for freedom of expression…”
-Madonna Ciccone

“Good times never seemed so good”
-Neil Diamond in
Sweet Caroline

“I’m a ballplayer, not an actor”
-Joe DiMaggio

“Commercials capture your attention, that’s all.”
-Calvin Klein

Instant gratification is not soon enough.”

-Meryl Streep

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Keep Your PR Firm

Since my last post, Spend? During a Recession?, several of you have asked me to comment further on my recommendation that companies keep their public relations activities—and their PR practitioners—going strong during tough economic times.

Gone are the days when public relations was limited to creating and sustaining media relationships, pitching news stories, and issuing press releases. Sure, these activities continue to add value. But today, as interactivity is a requirement for relating with the public, PR professionals maintain a much broader repertoire of capabilities, which help you stay close to customers as their needs grow and change throughout a fluctuating economy.

Consider your customer communications objectives (which are likely to be different from what they were at the time you first engaged your PR firm) and connect with your PR agency and/or internal marketing communications team to discuss how their capabilities can address these objectives. Many firms can add expertise in areas of social media, corporate communications, event management, customer community building, etc. These firms also understand the need to measure ROI, not by counts of leads or media hits, but by real, actionable metrics.

When assessing an agency, become acquainted with the people who will be directly involved with your account. Evaluate fit as if you are interviewing people to work on your staff. After all, they will be extended members of your marketing team.

Do not look for a PR practitioner to serve as your sole customer relationship manager or to replace your subject matter experts. Customer interaction is not one-size-fits-all, so avoid boilerplate PR and social media plans.

Not sure where to start? Check out 12 Things I Need From a Communications Agency from Engage in PR, and get ready to start seeing valuable returns from your marketing communications professionals.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Spend? During a Recession?

Well, yes.

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article about the need for consumer spending despite fear and lack of confidence in the economy.

The same holds true on the B2B side. True, we are in an economic slowdown, and true, businesses need to carefully evaluate all areas of spend and cut back wherever possible. However, they must be cognizant of expenses that are necessary for sustaining their businesses during these times as well.

While a recession is a time to cut costs, it also presents an opportunity to assess business processes and streamline them in a way that is most prudent to the business—an exercise that is advisable even in thriving economic times. After all, it is never a good time to spend on inefficient processes and non-value-added activities.

Now, what about spending?

The need to remain close to customers is stronger than ever, making cutting back too deeply on human elements of customer relationship management a costly proposition when it comes to sustainability. A partial list of these elements necessary for keeping customers close includes:

- Sales and marketing personnel
- Public relations/media relations agency contracts
- Customer feedback sessions and online communities
- Social media personnel (including agencies) and programs
- Service and delivery personnel

As you seek to cut costs, bring the people closest to your customers—such as those listed above—into the discussion to represent your customers and help prioritize the “golden nuggets” of value .

The changes in our economy result in changes to customer needs and priorities, increasing the value and pertinence of each customer touch point. And don’t forget to consider your prospects. New customer acquisition efforts will be paramount to increasing your customer portfolio, especially in a tumultuous economy when all seek to spend less, reducing their wallet sizes--and quite often, the amount any one customer spends with your firm.

On the B2C side, Dentyne acknowledges the value of the human element with its “Make Face Time” ad campaign. The same spirit holds true for B2B, with the addition of electronic means of customer touch—as long as a human is behind the interface, phone line, or chat window to engage directly.

So keep spending, even during the recession. And in every stage of the economic cycle, spend wisely and remain focused on remaining close to your customers and prospects, using technology to aid people. There is no true replacement for that human touch.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Open Up Already

Are web forms which capture a person’s name, company name, and email address (and often, additional fields) as a mandatory pre-requisite to downloading white papers, analyst reports, data sheets, etc. a conduit for lead capture, or a hindrance to proliferation of your content? Should organizations open access to reports, papers, and other content by removing these forms?

As this continues to be debated in online marketing circles, here’s an overview of both sides:

Open Up: People are more inclined to access, and in turn share, your content when the barrier of the mandatory web form is removed. You will be able to track the leads most relevant to your selling objectives (i.e. meeting requests, inquiries, trial, etc., depending on your product/service and level of touch required) when the content, standing on its own merit, inspires action.

Keep the Web Forms: This level of sharing, sans any tracking, eliminates a common practice in lead capture, and a crucial step in the sales cycle. Foregoing web forms as a means of tracking all leads could cost an organization the opportunity to reach out to cold leads through the inside sales process.

OK, I can see both sides, and the answer really depends on what you are trying to achieve from your online content with respect to lead generation. In general, I am inclined toward opening up, in conjunction with the ongoing pursuit of community involvement and feedback on the content itself, incorporation of which will serve only to increase its value to customers and prospects.

Regardless of the asset type, incorporate strong, consistent messaging throughout your writing, and always include a strong call-to-action. David Meerman Scott in his upcoming book, World Wide Rave, challenges us to relinquish the fear and lose control of the content in order to make it meaningful.

Go ahead. Remove the web forms. Defy the fear. Open up.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"Social Media, Are You Kidding?"

Objection-handling--My fellow product marketers will relate to this because it’s a regular function of our jobs to understand the common objections customers and prospects will have relative to our product and service offerings, and to train our sales teams in how to best respond.

The same holds true for your internal audience when it comes to deploying marketing programs in accordance with strategic campaigns, product launches, and offers. Common objections to exploring how social media can improve your bottom line may include such things as:

  • “Are you kidding? We cannot possibly add new programs during this time of cost-cutting”
  • “We don’t have the people/cycles to sustain these efforts/update content/track responses”
  • “What are you smoking with this Web 2.0 talk? Our customers don’t use (insert social media tactic of choice here).”
  • “How redundant. All of our content is on already on our corporate website."
  • “If we allow things to reside in too many places, we’ll lose control over what people say about our content”
  • “This stuff is too confusing. We’re already tracking leads through online registration forms for our content downloads.”

….and so on. The list is by no means exhaustive. Resist the temptation to take a one-size-fits-all approach. This is a conversation that should be fostered with the particular revenue and marketing goals of your business at the core. Kyle Flaherty lent good perspective in his Nov 6 blog post, Stop Talking, Start Doing when he advised us to stop asking how the economy will affect social media, but rather to ask, “How can I improve how social media effects my business?” And to those who resist a conversation focused on revenue, I have to ask, Are You Kidding?