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Authors

Ira Koretsky
(click for all of Ira's posts)
Duane Bailey
(click for all of Duane's posts)
Guest Bloggers
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branding, messaging, content marketing, marketing, positioning

If you were to watch the brand new advertisement from car sharing service Lyft, you might be tempted to dismiss it as absurd and ask "What's the point?"

I think the problem lies with the timing of the message. Lauren, the protoganist, exits her car and uses her mobile phone around :45 seconds. That's 45 seconds folks... of waiting to get to the point of the commercial. The key message, "Riding is the new driving," appears shorly therefater at the :55 second mark. 

In today's whiplash society of ad to ad to email subject line back to banner ad and so forth, 55 seconds may seem like an eternity.

Perhaps Lyft wants us to think of all the seeming visual cacophony as micro messages representing feelings we experience when in rush hour and similar unpleasant driving situations. Then of course, think positively about using Lyft (the fun, light music helps lighten the mood as well).

Now, if Lyft is pursuing a soft approach to branding instead of attracting more customers, this approach may work. Or perhaps, Lyft is relying on social media to drive interest and therefore visitors to its various social media platforms such as YouTube where the advertisement just went live. Since its launch on April 25, the ad has garnered about 116,500 views.

 

 

You've been tasked with drafting a social media strategy for your brand. Initially, your goals are to build your company's reputation and raise brand awareness. As the brand takes hold in the market, your goals will include increases in customer engagement, conversions (a.k.a. sales) and loyalty.

Public relations? Marketing? Or both? Is there a difference?

Too often, these terms are used interchangeably – without a real understanding of the role each brings to your brand. One, public relations, is about building reputations and raising awareness among members of your target audience. The other, marketing, is about converting that audience into paying customers. As best-selling author and marketing consultant Al Ries sees it, public relations lights the fire and marketing fans the flames.

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The purpose of public relations is to educate and build relations with all stakeholders – investors, community members, lawmakers and regulators, industry thought leaders, current and potential customers, etc. Marketing's role is to educate and influence current and potential customers. Public relations supports marketing by creating a favorable climate in which to operate and, the reality is, you need both to accomplish your goals.

Public relations, while different from marketing, is an integral part of your brand's overall marketing strategy.

 

For other insights on social media and content marketing, see:
Absent Context, Your Content Is Meaningless
You Are What You Tweet
How Content Marketing Builds Stronger Relationships with Your Brand

Everyone at The Chief Storyteller® wishes you a warm, safe, and relaxing holiday season. Here's a little storytelling humor.

secret-formula-for-great-storytelling

An organization's vision statement proclaims its desire to be the very best. Its top leaders are the personification of excellence in everything they do.

Yet, many of its employees are content with mediocrity and the lackluster performance that invariably follows. It can be a frustrating experience for the movers and the shakers in any organization – who must confront a wall of indifference, a lack of engagement and an omnipresent sense of laziness at the office on a daily basis.

Why is this?

It all starts with attitude. Some years back, I wrote a post on the importance of attitude. When my youngest son, who is now a first-year student at the University of Virginia (UVa), was playing basketball in junior high, I noticed a poster on the wall of the gym that read, "Attitudes Are Contagious. Are Yours Worth Catching?" He took that idea to heart that day and let it guide him as he pursued his dream of gaining admission to Virginia's flagship university over the high school years that followed.

Attitude cannot be taught. I suppose that's the reason the Walt Disney Company is known for its practice of hiring more for attitude and less for experience. So, yes, a culture of excellence begins with attitude...at hiring time.

Beyond the initial hire, however, attitude can be cultivated. It takes a commitment from management to set measurable performance objectives, to be engaged and to hold people accountable – "inspect what you expect," if you will. It takes a realization that there are consequences – both positive and negative – to how employees perform or fail to deliver. Even my college-aged son knew early on in his high school career that unless he built sufficient rigor into his schedule, worked hard to earn a competitive grade point average and achieved an SAT score in the top percentile, gaining admission to UVa wasn't going to happen.

If you're a senior manager, my challenge to you is this: take stock of your organization as you begin the new year. Are the attitudes of your employees contributing to the culture of excellence you aspire to? Or, are they holding your organization back?

Remember, a culture of excellence begins with attitude.

If your event managers are spending the bulk of their time on event logistics – shipping, delivery, set-up, staffing and tear-down of your exhibit booth and promoting it on social media – you may be missing the bigger picture. In the world of event marketing, booths are table stakes. While exhibit booths play a role in promoting your brand and engaging customers, event management requires a more holistic approach.

Achieving business outcomes involves other stakeholders in your organization, and requires a commitment to measuring and reporting on quantifiable results beyond the softer metrics of brand awareness and engagement.

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Your customers want to know how your products and services speak to their needs and interests. Your sales managers want to know how your participation at an event is helping their teams turn qualified leads into closed sales. And your executive management team wants to know how your presence at a show or event is contributing to business outcomes, like revenue and return on investment (ROI) goals.

To ensure your event marketing program is meeting the needs of your stakeholders and achieving your desired business outcomes, develop and implement a scorecard for evaluating the success of each show or event. As a starting point, consider adding the following quantifiable metrics to your scorecard:
• Number of visitors
• Most and least popular discussion topics
• Number and type of social media mentions of your brand, key messages and event hashtag(s)
• Number of qualified leads
• Number of closed sales
• Average revenue per closed sale
• Cost of participating in the show or event

Follow each event with a post-event assessment, inviting candid feedback from the various stakeholders within your organization. Review and report on your results. Develop and implement corrective actions, when necessary, to improve performance. Use the output of each assessment to quantify your ROI and to inform your participation in future shows or events.

LinkedIn Tips

Here's a total revision to of one of our more popular posts published a few years back (67 Tips for Using LinkedIn to Help You Find the Job You Want). I categorized the tips, added several, and removed the outdated ones. Suggestions, feedback, your favorite tips?  Please let me know in the comments.

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If you were not aware, LinkedIn is the number one business social media site in the world. Today, there are over 380,000,000 members with an average of 5,000,000 joining every month. Some interesting statistics:

- Officially launched on May 5, 2003.
- 4,500 members as of May 2003
- Available in 24 languages
- > 8,700 full-time employees with offices in 30 cities
- Members come from > 200 countries and territories
- Top Countries: USA 118M+; India 31M+; UK 19M+; Canada 11M+; France 10M+; China 10M+; Italy 8M+; Australia 7M+; Mexico 7M+; Spain 7M+

The tips are designed to improve your profile and for you job seekers, to help you find a job. These are the top ones that colleagues, clients, and friends have found most helpful. There are a lot more!

Suggest you identify the best tips for you. Then prioritize what you will do in what time frame. I did include a 30 Day Must Do, To Do list. Also, based on several suggestions from folks, each tip is on a separate line to facilitate a check-list approach.

Whatever you need from LinkedIn, be deliberate with your time and how you interact with the LI network.

30 Day Must Do, To-Do List

  • Customize your professional headline (it is critical to have a compelling and engaging headline...this is what people who search see first adjacent to your picture)
  • Check and correct grammar (copy/paste into your favorite word processing software - I have never seen anyone's profile with no grammar errors)
  • Check and correct spelling (copy/paste into your favorite word processing software - you might be surprised at finding a spelling error)
  • Check and correct readability (use Microsoft Word's Readability Tools). Generally, you should write at or below the 10th grade level. Most USA magazines write between the 6th and 8th grade levels. For comparison, The New York Times writes to the 10th grade level. For Readability, your goal should be greater than 50.
  • Omit your personal information that may lead to identity theft (e.g., birthday, marital status, and address...While its fun to get happy birthday notes. Today's hyper fraud and attack world, I'd suggest you omit it)
  • Spend time (a lot) on your summary. After your professional headline, it is the important section. It is what people read first (unless you changed the order of the sections).
  • Spend time (a lot) on your Skills. This is an important section as people can search on your skills.
  • Put your value proposition/elevator speech in your summary
  • Use action verbs and active voice. If you live and work in the USA, suggest you use first person voice. If you work a lot with people in the USA, also recommend first person voice.

  • Use a professional looking photograph. No cut-outs/cut-offs, boats, children, spouses, etc. There are exceptions to this rule of course (only a few). LinkedIn statistics show that profiles with pictures perform substantially better than those profiles without pictures
  • Use your personal email address for your account. This ensures you will always have access to your account

New to LinkedIn

  • Complete your profile (LinkedIn research shows members with complete profiles are more successful in securing employment and complete profiles show up higher in search results
  • Invite people to join your network with a personalized/customized note…EVERY time
  • Expand your network by adding people you know (Consider allowing LinkedIn to access your Outlook, Gmail, etc.)
  • Consider including your maiden name (women) in your profile name. This ensures people who knew you before you got married can still find you
  • Fill out your educational history (many people skip this. And join your alumni group)
  • Fill out your employment history, from right after college to present (many people skip this. And join your alumni groups if your organizations have them
  • Take advantage of the New User Guide from LinkedIn

Advanced LinkedIn Content, Positioning, & Messaging

  • Change the website link for your blog from "My Blog" to a proper name such as "The Chief Storyteller Blog"
  • Change the website link for your company/personal site from "My Company" to a proper name such as "The Chief Storyteller® Website"
  • Change the website link for your LinkedIn public profile to a proper name/organization name such as "http://www.LinkedIn.com/in/TheChiefStoryteller"
  • Change the website link for your Twitter account to "Twitter" or your Twitter name such as "chiefstoryteller" 
  • Add into your profile articles and publications you wrote
  • Add into your profile presentations you gave via SlideShare.net
  • Ask for recommendations (helpful article Every Accomplishment Should Be Great: 5 Steps to Compelling Resume Accomplishments)
  • Consider including your LinkedIn address in your email signature
  • Consider upgrading your account to LI Premium
  • Expand your network by adding people that are like-minded (use groups, keywords, 2nd degree connections, and suggestions from LinkedIn)
  • Seek out advice from some of the smartest people in the world (any member can answer your questions - LinkedIn Inmail is a good way)
  • Help write your recommendations to ensure it is on-message - the message you want to communicate
  • Identify and include keywords relevant to audiences that will search for you
  • Join alumni groups to ensure you stay connected with high school, college, and graduate friends and colleagues
  • Join groups for personal development
  • Join professional groups important to your career success
  • Consider re-ordering your Skills. There are two approaches:  Listing your top rated skills and listing the skills you want more "clicks" on.
  • Track statistics for Who's viewed your profile. Identify trends

  • Look closely at Who's viewed your profile. Consider reaching out via LinkedIn InMail or connecting directly
  • Track statistics for Who's viewed your posts
  • For those that viewed your post, consider reaching out via LinkedIn InMail or connecting directly
  • Track statistics for your Actions Taken. Examine what activities you have completed and what ones you should be working on. Don't get caught up in the "gamification" aspect. Do what is right for you.
  • Visit the LinkedIn blog to gain insights and to learn more about changes coming
  • Use the "Follow Company" feature to stay current with organizations you have an interest in joining or learning more about
  • Use the "Saved searches" option to save your favorite search queries
  • Turn off your update notification in your settings when you are revising your profile for content changes, then turn it back on. Leave it on if you want people to know about job changes and other significant changes to your profile.
  • Consider turning your profile summary into one that is story-based 
  • Add the appropriate key words to your profile. Add the words your prospective audiences are searching for and the words you want to be known for - emphasize what your audience's point of view.

Building and Nurturing Your Network  

Ensure what you do share is very interesting and very relevant. LinkedIn is still a "noisy" social media community with articles, updates, announcements, sales solicitations, LinkedIn InMails, Pulse, etc.

  • Send articles of interest you come across from your favorite websites
  • Send articles of interest you come across from your favorite bloggers
  • Answer interesting questions in your groups thoughtful, education-focused responses
  • Share content from your blogs in your updates
  • Share content from your blogs in your Company page
  • Share content from your blogs in your Showcase pages
  • Share content from your articles in your updates
  • Share content from your articles in your Company page
  • Share content from your articles in your Showcase pages
  • Share content from your newsletters in your updates
  • Share content from your newsletters in your Company page
  • Share content from your newsletters in your Showcase pages
  • Share content from your favorite groups (not private)
  • Connect strategically with selected LiONs (LinkedIn Open Networkers) matching your interests to expand your network
  • Leverage advanced search functionality to locate/connect with people with experiences and education like yours to see where they work and where they worked
  • Look through your connections’ connections for good-fit additions for your network
  • Send notes to people in your network when you see status updates or changes to his/her network
  • Share news with appropriate Groups
  • Write recommendations for people in your network. Suggest you ask the person first for keywords and preferred concepts/ideas to write about

Career - Job Seekers / Job Hunters 

There may be some duplicate tips here. I wanted to ensure the tips specific to career were in this list.

  • Download Box.Net and then include your cover letter and resume
  • Help write your recommendations to ensure it is on-message - the message you want to communicate
  • Join professional groups important to your career success
  • Perform competitive intelligence research on the target organizations before applying for a position
  • Perform competitive intelligence research on the target organization's competitors before applying for a position
  • Perform competitive intelligence research on people (e.g., hiring managers) before applying for a position
  • Perform competitive intelligence research on interviewers before your phone screen or in-person interview (e.g., read profiles, do Internet searches, read articles, and read blogs they wrote)
  • Perform competitive intelligence research using the LinkedIn reference check tool on interviewers before your phone screen or in-person interview 
  • Perform competitive intelligence research use advanced search to find current employees. Send a personalized request for a telephone call to discover more information about the prospective organization
  • Perform competitive intelligence research use advanced search to find former employees. Send a personalized request for a telephone call to discover more information about the prospective organization
  • Spend time (a lot) on your Skills. This is an important section as people can search on your skills
  • Search frequently the LinkedIn job opportunities
  • Use the "Follow Company" feature to stay current with organizations you have an interest in joining or learning more about
  • Turn off your update notification in your settings when you are revising your profile then turn it back on. 

The content we produce – spoken and written words, PowerPoint decks, images, videos, memes, charts, infographics, etc. – tells a story about the importance of establishing a relationship between us and our target audience. The story we tell should be a compelling one that accelerates our success at driving sales and revenue.

After all, we're all selling something and our goal is top-line growth.

An effective content marketing strategy, then, should be laser-focused on the needs of your target audience – identifying those needs, aligning with them and providing evidence that what you're selling can address those needs in a unique and measurable way.

Focusing on the needs of your target audience is especially important when developing marketing collateral for vertical markets. The companies who do this well instinctively tap into the knowledge and experiences of industry experts – people with a history of success in the field, industry analysts and consultants, influential academics and even students who are pursuing a college major or conducting research in the field.

Understanding the industry you're selling to, and how your customers (i.e., decision-makers) are measured and compensated, are the keys to developing content that is relevant to your target audience and providing them with a compelling call to action. In my experience, people tend to buy when one of three opportunities arise: they have a problem, they see a problem coming or they see a chance to shine.

A content marketer's job is to develop the story that shows potential buyers how you and your brand are best positioned to address these opportunities.

 

For more on the intersection of sales and marketing, please see:
Why Every Marketer Should Have Sales Experience
The Purpose of Marketing Collateral Is to Drive Sales
The Role of Marketing Is to Drive Sales

If you've ever been to a live show at Radio City Music Hall, a performance on Broadway or an improv performance at a local comedy club, you've undoubtedly seen the different ways performers use their stage presence to connect with their audiences.

Great performers are masters at making each and every audience member feel special and appreciated. They do this by reading their audience – watching, listening and taking their cues from the feedback they receive. Some acknowledge the audience members for coming out to see them, interact with them by asking questions or simply thanking them for their applause. Others work the stage, using movement and gestures to engage their audience. All of this is possible because the performers are spending time on stage before live audiences.

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Like great performers, brands that offer extraordinary customer experiences are masters at making each and every customer feel special and appreciated. I recently attended a customer experience forum in New York City where one of the recurring themes was the importance of talking with customers.

Focus groups and surveys are two common market research tools that are used to understand customer needs, preferences and motivations. However, they often fall short as predictors of customer behavior since participants and respondents do not always follow through on their stated intentions. As one presenter explained, the only way to really know what your customers are thinking is to spend time talking with them.

In short, spending time with your customers and talking with them is like performing before a live audience – not watching a scripted performance from behind a two-way mirror. Executives from the best brands are not afraid to engage customers (and their employees, for that matter) in an interactive setting and, as a result, will often uncover innovative ways to differentiate their brands with a superior customer experience.

 

For more insights on customer experience, please see:
Customer Experience: This Is What It's All About
How One Brand Is Growing Sales In a Weak Economy
• Apple's Genius Bar: Where the Extraordinary Happens

I was on Twitter recently when I stumbled upon a tweet by the Mother Nature Network on laughter. It contained a link to an article on the results of a recent study by Sophie Scott, a neuroscientist at University College London and part-time stand-up comedian.

She concluded from her study that people don't just laugh at things they think are funny. They also laugh to show positive feelings of likability, agreement and commonality toward others. In her words, "laughter is an index of the strength of a relationship."

I once worked for a senior executive who almost never laughed. Within weeks of her hire, the culture of the entire office changed. It went from a collegial, "we're all in this together," results-oriented atmosphere to a self-centered, fear and intimidation, activity-focused environment. Morale took a nose-dive and sales and marketing results soon followed.

Without exception, every successful sales and marketing organization I've ever been a part of has been led by a "Chief Happiness Officer." These are people who, in spite of their formal titles or official roles, manage to keep the rest of us from taking ourselves too seriously. They know that employees who like each other will focus more on achieving quantifiable wins for the team than on useless activities designed to promote their own self-interests. They know strong personal relationships bring out the best in everyone and allow the team to achieve more.

Take a moment to look around your office. Does your organization have a Chief Happiness Officer?

 

For more on the impact leaders have on organizational culture, please see:
How Important Is Your Internal Customer Experience?
Wise and Selfless Leadership Is No Fairy Tale
How You Treat Your Employees Matters
Your Employees Play a Leading Role In Shaping Great Brands
What Story Is Your Organizational Culture Telling?

Over the past five years or so, I've become a prolific online communicator – on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, the ChiefStoryteller® blog, etc. I don't have a formal editorial calendar and never saw the need for one.

Until now.

I recently began producing a weekly newsletter. Unlike my previous experience with social and other forms of online communication, I now rely on others for content, review and publication. There are workloads, vacation schedules, software updates, systems outages, family emergencies and unplanned absences to consider. The people I depend on require advanced notice and consideration of their time.

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For me, an editorial calendar has become a necessity. Consider these benefits, which I'll refer to as the three C's:

• Cadence – Without one, it would be difficult to maintain a consistent cadence. Once you commit to publishing a weekly newsletter or blog, skipping a week is no longer an option. The same goes for social. Your audience expects to hear from you on a regular basis.

• Content – Planning your content updates helps to ensure the information you share is relevant to your target audience and consistent with your brand's identity and purpose. Followers of a brand committed to health and sustainability, for example, would not find stories of overindulgent nightclub experiences particularly relevant.

• Coordination – An editorial calendar is first and foremost a plan. It affords you the ability to coordinate your communications among the various channels you are using – online newsletters, blogs and social channels. It also ensures the people who are responsible for your brand's communications are coordinating their efforts around a singular purpose and strategy.

While developing an editorial calendar may seem like more work in the short run, the benefits I've identified will ultimately lead to a more efficient and rewarding process for everyone involved.

I've yet to take my first ride in an Uber car. I've heard so many great things about the crowd-sourced car company from my high schooler and the interactive agency I work with, I feel like I'm missing out on something special.

I wasn't surprised when I recently read in a customer loyalty news publication that Uber had recently partnered with Starwood Hotels and Resorts in an effort to improve the hotel brand's guest experience and customer loyalty program. Through the new partnership, members of Starwood Preference Guest (SPG), the hotel's popular loyalty program, will now be able to earn extra points by booking an Uber ride to any destination.

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At their most basic level, partnerships like these are a form of cross-selling, where customers are offered related items to enhance their experience with a brand. Cross-selling offers companies like Uber and Starwood a number of benefits, including increased customer exposure to higher margin services and increased loyalty through the suggestion of complementary items of perceived value. This partnership is a brilliant example.

A truly innovative idea rooted in a basic marketing principle – now that's worth tweeting... and blogging about.

I remember when voice mail was introduced in the mid-80's. I was working for AT&T and, during a visit to the Bell Labs facility in Holmdel, NJ, I recall being awestruck by the presence of the AT&T Model 2500 answering machines on each desk. These machines were, at the time, top of the line models and allowed users to record their own personalized greetings.

At the time, my sales office had a receptionist who would take messages from incoming callers while we were out. The messages were very brief – something akin to "while you were out, Theresa P. called."

Years later, while managing a customer care center for AT&T, I got my own voice mailbox. I could record my own greeting, assuring callers they had reached the right number. Callers could now leave me longer and more detailed messages. Early on, many would zero-out, preferring to speak to my administrative assistant instead.

During much of my professional selling career, voice mail became the preferred medium for communication between my customers and me. Voice mail was ubiquitous and people became more comfortable with it. My personalized greetings were updated each day and I promised to return calls within two hours. Messages were rich in verbal content and were often longer than I would have liked. I used to keep a spiral note pad, where I would methodically write down each voice message I received (along with the time and date).

At some point during the last 5 years or so, voice mail has become irrelevant – at least for me. I no longer record daily greetings, I'm lucky if I get more than two messages per day and I haven't kept a spiral notepad in years. The preferred communication medium is now email, and the standards that once applied to voice mail now govern my email interactions (e.g., personalized email signatures, out-of-office greetings and my own personal commitment to returning emails within two hours). And when I want to communicate with someone, I'll send an email or a text.

Voice mail once played a pivotal role in shaping how others perceived our personal and corporate brands. Not anymore, I'm afraid. After all, when was the last time you left a voice message for someone?

I've always believed sales is not a spectator sport. It truly is a team sport and it requires the active participation and support of everyone across the organization, including: marketing, sales support, information technology, legal, operations, services, finance, accounts receivable and customer care.

One of the characteristics of an established sales culture in any organization is the alignment of these functional areas around "One Team, One Goal." Typically, this goal involves top line growth – in revenues, profits, earnings per share, etc. Sales provides the leadership that fuels the achievement of the organization's growth objectives. The other functional areas work in harmony with, and in support of, the sales team.

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Organizations who lack a sales culture are typically ones that struggle to achieve their growth targets. The functional areas I've mentioned above function as silos. Functional goals are disparate and rarely aligned. Sales (and all too often customers) are wrongly viewed as impediments to the achievement of departmental goals and there is little or no teamwork, both within and across functional areas.

Being a salesperson is one of the most challenging jobs in any organization. Salespeople are not only accountable for achieving their own growth targets; they are responsible for driving organizational results and improved shareholder returns. And, as I've shown in the whiteboard diagram above, they are accountable for directing the resources required to achieve those results.

How strong is the sales culture in your organization?

 

For more on the impact of organizational culture, please see:
The Building Blocks of a Successful Sales Growth Strategy
How Business Process Improvement Impacts Customer Experience
• The Purpose of Marketing Is to Drive Sales

altTwitter recently announced the addition of a feature that allows users to send group direct messages (DMs) to up to 20 people. Direct messages are private messages sent from one Twitter user to other Twitter users who follow you. Direct messages can now be used for one-on-one private conversations or between groups of users.

While you can only invite users who follow you to a group, the followers you add to your group DM don't need to be following each other to be in on the conversation. Within a group DM, users can share text, tweets, pics and emojis. The current release does not include video sharing capability.

Twitter users like you and me now have the ability to hold ongoing private conversations with a select group of people. I've had situations where a group of my followers retweeted one of my tweets and a subsequent conversation about its content ensued among us. Brands and other savvy Twitter users might now use the group DM feature to target specific groups of followers or advocates with content tailored to their interests.

For more insights on Twitter conversations, please see:
You Are What You Tweet
#ICYMI: Now There's an App for Understanding Hashtags on Twitter
My #FirstTweet

While a focus on improving the way your external customers experience your brand is admirable and necessary, equal importance needs to be assigned to your internal customer experience, too.

Your brand, after all, is an ecosystem – a community of people from interdependent functional areas who interact as a larger system. When one function fails to deliver on its core mission, the other functions are unable to fulfill their responsibilities and the strength of the entire ecosystem is weakened. Frustration, blame and disappointing results are sure to follow.

Marketing, sales, sales support, operations, customer service, information technology, finance, accounting and human resources are all examples of interdependent functional areas. Each function provides a service to the other functional areas – your internal customers, if you will.

How your internal customers perceive the experience you provide is influenced by a number of factors, including the cost of the service, the quality of the deliverable, the timeliness in which it was delivered, the attitude of the people who performed the service, how well the service met their needs, etc. If your internal customers feel the work you are providing lacks value, quality, effort and timeliness, it's only a matter of time until these perceptions are felt outside the organization.

People who play team sports learn early on that attitudes are contagious. Is yours (and your team's) worth catching?

 

LinkedIn has released its annual list of the top ten "most overused, underwhelming buzzwords and phrases in LinkedIn profiles of 2014." Open your profile now and check to see if any of these words and phrases are appearing in yours:

   1. Motivated
   2. Passionate
   3. Creative
   4. Driven
   5. Extensive Experience
   6. Responsible
   7. Strategic
   8. Track Record
   9. Organizational
 10. Expert

Are you a highly motivated professional? Passionate about your work? Proud of your track record? Well, then, so is everyone else with a LinkedIn profile.

Your LinkedIn profile is your personal brand. The most successful brands stand out. It's time to stop describing your brand with these overused and meaningless buzzwords and phrases. After all, who among us is not motivated? Is each one of us not passionate about something? And what does it mean when someone says he or she has a proven "track record" of success, anyway?

Instead, replace these buzzwords and phrases with concrete examples of the business results you've achieved. Show potential employers how your contributions have impacted top- and bottom-line performance. Make yourself stand out. Brand yourself as the answer to the challenges your next employer is facing.

For more insights on LinkedIn and your personal brand, please see:
Is Your Personal Brand In Need of a Makeover?
Personal Branding: Stay Relevant with a Current LinkedIn Profile
Make Your Personal Brand Stand Out in LinkedIn

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Selling Beyond Price

It's easy to sell on price, particularly when yours is the lowest. What happens, though, when your price isn't the lowest?

One of my go-to sales training exercises is to ask a group of experienced salespeople to imagine a world where there is no difference between their price and those of their competitors. If price is no longer a differentiator, how would they position their products and services? What would possibly compel someone to buy from them?

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This forces them to take a deeper, more introspective look at their selling approach. The best salespeople sometimes default to selling at a lower price, even when their products and services are arguably better. In doing so, they discount the value of the service they provide, the knowledge and expertise they offer, their relationship with the customer and the impact their products and solutions can have on their customer's business.

If a salesperson's first instinct is to offer a discounted price, it's a sign he or she doesn't attach much value to the things that matter most to customers. And if a salesperson doesn't believe these benefits are worth paying more for, why would your customer? 

For more on selling beyond price, please see:
How One Brand Is Growing Sales While Raising Prices in a Weak Economy
Achieving Market Share Growth in a Weak Market
What Makes Your Company Different?

The New Year is a great time to look ahead and think about the things you're going to do differently in the year ahead, especially if you're a sales professional. Change is a constant in sales – the result of evolving market conditions, increasing competition and sales quotas with year-over-year growth targets.

You can embrace this change with these ten sales resolutions:
   1. Spend four more hours in front of your customers each week
   2. Learn one new fact about your industry each week
   3. Establish yourself as an industry expert on one social media channel
   4. Give your prospects one big reason to engage with you, outside of price
   5. Give your customers one big reason to expand their relationship with you and your brand, outside of price
   6. Make every customer interaction about them, instead of you
   7. Include five reasons to buy in every proposal, with a focus on value
   8. Sell high and wide within your customer organizations, with a goal of meeting one new decision-maker or influencer on every call
   9. Obtain one new customer testimonial each month
 10. Empower your customers through conversations that include words like: "and" (instead of "but"), "do" (instead of "try") and "yes" (instead of "no")

You can do this. Make 2015 the year of the customer, and your best year ever, with these resolutions.

  

For more insights on selling, please see:
Achieving Market Share Growth in a Weak Market 
If You're Selling, Are You Showing or Telling? 
The Power of the Human Touch in Sales 
If You're in Sales, Tell Me Something I Don't Know 
Are Your Customers Looking for a Better Deal?

 

One of my favorite holiday television specials is "A Charlie Brown Christmas." It's entertaining, brief and full of timeless lessons.

As fans of the drama know, the story centers around a boy named Charlie Brown and his frustration with the growing commercialism of the Christmas holiday season. All he really wants is to find the true meaning of Christmas.

While the story contains an obvious spiritual message, I think there is one for brands here, too. Even before the show's debut in 1965, references to the growing commercialism of the holiday season are evident in American movies and other media. 1947's "Miracle on 34th Street" is one film that comes to mind.

If, as Linus tells us, the Christmas holiday season is less about commercialism and more about spreading "peace and goodwill," the takeaway for brands is the importance of putting their core values and customer needs above short-term sales and profits. Who among us has at one time or another felt our expectations were not met, after being "sold" the equivalent of a "Charlie Brown Christmas tree?" 

Talk to your customers, understand their needs and always remember your core values. Putting customers first and creating something special are great ways to show your customers a little love this holiday season.

For more marketing insights from holiday favorites, please see:
Social Media Marketing Lessons from "A Christmas Carol"
Reputation Management: Six Things Brands Can Learn from George Bailey 
What Ebeneezer Scrooge Would Like Us to Know About Organizational Culture 

While content may be king in the digital age, it needs to be delivered to the right audience at the right time and at the right place to make it meaningful and relevant.

This shouldn't come as a big surprise to marketers. After all, the central premise behind every successful sales presentation is knowing your audience – what their pain points are, what they're doing about them and how failing to resolve those pain points will impact your prospects both personally and professionally. It's also helpful to know where your audience is going for answers to those pain points – your competitors, trade associations, industry consultants, scholarly journals, white papers, social media, etc.

I was reminded of this recently during a visit to one of the big-box home improvement stores. I was looking for a rust-inhibiting spray paint for use on a bathtub when an associate started telling me about the store's promotion on kitchen cabinet re-facings. His knowledge level of cabinet re-facings was impressive. What he failed to realize was, at that moment, I could care less about re-facing my kitchen cabinets.

Great content, for sure. The same cannot be said for the context in which it was delivered. My pain point was a rusting tub, I wanted to repair the tub with a rust-inhibiting paint and the impact of my failing to find an answer to my pain point might be a potential water leak (which, incidentally, could cause extensive damage to the kitchen below the bathroom where the rusting tub is located). I also had previous experience with a rust-inhibiting spray paint and just needed to know where I could find another can in a different color.

Think about your digital content. I'm guessing it's awesome stuff. Now think about the context in which you are delivering it. Are you targeting the right audience? Are you delivering it at the right time and place? Are you present in the places where your target audience is going for answers to their questions? Or, are you trying to sell kitchen cabinet re-facings to a guy who simply wants to repair a rusty bath tub?

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Good Spelling Leads to Good Selling

When I was an undergraduate marketing student at Fairfield University, my English professor would remind us of this simple admonition: "Can't spell, can't sell."

I didn't appreciate the power of his words until a few years later when I became a salesperson. As a young account executive for a Fortune 500 technology firm, I was selling more than just the latest information technology. I was selling ideas, solutions and my company's (and my) reputation.

Few things did more to challenge my credibility with customers than incorrectly spelled names and words in my proposals and presentations. These seemingly simple errors were perceived as evidence of indifference, insufficient preparation or a lack of attention to detail. It was also a stretch to claim expertise about some thing if I couldn't even spell its name correctly. In an instant, spelling errors could potentially unravel deals worth hundreds of thousands of dollars that were months in the making. 

So, as it turned out, my professor was right. Good spelling leads to good selling.

 

For more on how to increase your sales, please see:
Increase Sales with Better Storytelling
If You're Selling, Are You Showing or Telling?
If You're in Sales, Tell Me Something I Don't Know

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

You Are What You Tweet

Do you remember when you first signed up for Twitter? It might have been for personal use. Or perhaps it was on behalf of a corporate or professional brand. You started with a blank slate, building from the ground up. You could be anything you wanted to be.

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You crafted a brief bio. You added a profile and background photo. You chose your words and images carefully because you wanted the world to know you in a certain way.

Then you started tweeting about topics that interested you, your friendships with other people, activities you enjoy and happy moments in your life. You built a small following of like-minded followers. People formed impressions of you and your brand.

Then one day, you lost your composure. A frustrating experience with another person or a brand prompted a torrent of angry tweets. Your tweeps spread the word through RTs and marked them as "favorites". Eventually, you got the attention you wanted and your issue was resolved. Your followers, and others outside your follower base, began to see you in a different way.

Or maybe you decided to include something edgy in your tweets, like an NSFW image or some RTs laced with profanity. Once again, your tweeps spread the word through RTs and marked them as "favorites". You even picked up a few more tweeps along the way. Your followers, and others outside your follower base, began to see you in a different way.

Before long, prospective followers, customers or employers began looking you up online. They wanted to know more about you and the kind of person you were. What they found on Twitter told them everything they needed to know about you and your brand.

You are what you tweet.

 

For more on branding with Twitter, please see:
Why Social Media Marketing Is Right for Your Brand
Make It Personal: How to Communicate with Greater Impact
Reputations of Non-Social Brands Are Fair Game On Social Media, Too

One of the easiest ways to monitor your online reputation is to Google your name and see what comes up. This is particularly important for job seekers, consultants and others who are marketing their personal brands online.

You can refine your search by adding your skills, experiences or specialties after your name. By doing this, you're essentially using a long tail keyword and it's a more specific way for recruiters and other searchers to find more specific and relevant content about you. Long tail keywords can help boost your visibility in search results, add credibility to your brand and increase conversion rates (e.g., LinkedIn connections, requests for interviews, invitations to meet, etc.).

I'll use myself as an example. A recent search for my name on Google returned a total of 3,290,000 listings. Among the ten highest ranked listings (i.e., the ones that appeared on page one), three included links to me. There was one to my blog profile at The Chief Storyteller (#2), one to my Twitter account (#6) and another  to my LinkedIn profile (#8). By scanning the brief descriptions that appear with these listings, you might get the sense I'm a regular contributor to The Chief Storyteller blog and my work experience includes marketing, sales and social media.

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Now take a look at what happened when the search was narrowed by adding the keywords, "marketing and sales," to my name. This search returned 82,100 results. Marketing and sales-related content from my social media profiles, blog posts and SlideShare account appeared in nine of the top ten listings. The content associated with these listings was deeper and more relevant to anyone who might be considering me for a specific marketing and sales opportunity or engagement. While the number of overall results returned was far lower than those from the general search, their quality was much higher.

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Take a moment to Google your own name and see what comes up. Once you've done that, try narrowing the search by adding keywords that describe skills or experiences you have. Are the results consistent with the way you would want others to perceive you and your brand?

Strong relationships are built on trust and two-way communication. This is true of relationships online as well as off. We tell stories about our experiences and share relevant information with the people we are closest to. They, in turn, respond by engaging us in further conversation. Over time, a bond of trust develops and a relationship is formed and nurtured.

Brands who want stronger relationships with their prospects and customers are increasingly turning to content marketing strategies that move beyond the traditional view of self-promotion.

Why?

By publishing useful and entertaining content, brands are building trust. They're doing it by telling stories of their successes with other customers and sharing useful information that might help their prospects and customers achieve their personal and professional goals.

They're also engaging in two-way conversations with their prospects and customers. People are seeking information from the brands. The brands are responding to and engaging them in real-time, much like you and I would if we were having a face-to-face conversation.

What does this mean for brands and their marketing teams?

The brands whose content marketing strategies will yield the strongest relationships are the ones whose marketing teams embrace customer interaction and engagement. My own experience tells me it is virtually impossible to understand and translate customer insights into strategies that build and nurture relationships without first investing in those relationships. It's the age of the customer and marketers can no longer afford to dictate strategies from behind focus group two-way mirrors or from the insular environment of "behind closed-door" offices.

When was the last time you updated your resume? Revised your LinkedIn profile? Networked with people you've never met before? Took a class to learn a new skill? Searched for your name online?

If you can't remember, maybe your personal brand is in need of a makeover. The unexpected loss of a job, a decision to pursue a career change or an application for a promotion are all situations where a relevant and engaging personal brand can accelerate the achievement of your career goals.

Your personal brand is the story that you tell with your resume, LinkedIn profile, business networking activities and interactions, investments in continuing education and your online presence.

Tips for updating your personal brand include:
• Maintain a current resume; include recent jobs and the quantifiable results you achieved for each
• Update your LinkedIn profile regularly; add a compelling headline and a current profile photo
• Leverage business networking opportunities; meet new business contacts and refine your elevator speech
• Learn new skills; attend classes at local universities, participate in webinars hosted by alumni career services staff, industry experts and vendors
• Be deliberate in your social media postings; include content that reinforces the message you want to convey

Your personal brand is one of your strongest career assets. You get out of it what you put into it.

When was the last time you updated your LinkedIn profile? Do you even have a LinkedIn profile?

A LinkedIn profile is a great way to tell others about your personal brand – who you are, the experience you have and the value you bring. A good LinkedIn profile is more than just an online resume. It's a form of marketing content designed to build an audience and generate interest in your brand. It is and should be an integral part of your overall job search strategy. A current profile reinforces the brand-building efforts you've made through prior job performance, volunteer activities, face-to-face networking, personal connections, informational interviews, social media outreach and engagement, job applications and, of course, the formal interview.

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If one or more of these characteristics apply to your LinkedIn profile, it might be time for a refresh:
  • A missing or outdated profile photo
  • A default headline that shows your current title and company
  • The presence of overused buzzwords and phrases (e.g., "extensive experience," "results-oriented," "proven track record," etc.)
  • An incomplete profile with a noticeable absence of employment history, experience or results
  • A lack of credibility (e.g., few or no endorsements and recommendations from supervisors, peers, subordinates, customers and suppliers)

Go ahead. Take a look. What is your LinkedIn profile saying about you and your brand?

 

For more insights on how you can improve your LinkedIn profile, please see:
Personal Branding: "What Do You Do?"
5 Insights for Marketing Your Brand on Social Media
LinkedIn Announces New Profile Section for Volunteer Experience
Make Your Personal Brand Stand Out in LinkedIn
Is Your LinkedIn Story a Best Seller?

Last winter, I blogged about the secret ingredients of an amazing customer experience. It was a story about my then recent experience with a small business called Campus Cookies. I concluded my blog post with the observation that every great customer experience starts with people. I also talked about teamwork and the role of the CEO or owner in creating a culture that enables his or her employees to deliver an amazing customer experience.

I'd like to pick up where I left off on my earlier blog, with an update to the story. Last week, I and many other Campus Cookies customers received an email offering a $5 gift certificate in exchange for a positive review on Facebook. With one finger poised on the delete key, I quickly scanned the email, using my thumb to scroll down the page.

I was about to press the delete button when this comment caught my eye: "The negative reviews keep me on my toes, but the positive ones, those keep me going." Then there was this statement: "The review pasted below, truly hits home for me."

In an instant, I felt compelled to scroll down and keep reading. I had to see for myself what was so special about "this review." To my surprise and delight, it was the blog post I had written last winter! I penned an email to the owner, Scott Davidson, thanking him for acknowledging my post and telling him to keep up the good work. Again to my surprise, I received an email back from Scott about an hour later, thanking me for my support and letting me know I, too, would be receiving a $5 gift certificate.

While this gesture of gratitude was very much appreciated, it certainly wasn't necessary. You see, writing about a brand whose owner and CEO gets that the key to success is less about providing a product and more about creating a personalized customer experience is an opportunity most people like me would embrace. I suppose the four dozen or so fans who responded to Scott's offer by posting positive reviews on the Campus Cookies Facebook page within hours of receiving his email are testimony to that.

While it's easy to find organizations whose leadership talks about the need for a culture of enabling employees to deliver an amazing customer experience, it's harder and far less common to see leaders like Scott who work side by side with their employees on the front lines to make that happen. Small companies whose CEOs and owners remain focused on serving customers are typically the ones who grow up to become the bigger companies listed among the best places to work

In the meantime, school is in session and cookie season is upon us. I can hardly wait to place my next order!

On one of my military-focused LinkedIn Groups, Army Veterans, someon recently posted this question, "Can anyone recommend a good military to civilian resume writing service?"

For professionals who have spent a career in the military service, it can seem like a daunting task converting military speak to corporate speak.  It certainly does take time and patience. Here is my response I posted along with some how-to article links at the end I wrote.

 

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Four suggestions:

a) Assuming you seek out professionals, ask to see 10 or more samples of military to civilian resumes--make them prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, they can turn your experience into language/messages corporate professionals understand and in the end say, "I want to meet Troy;"

b) To avoid generic language, think Q&Q, qualify and quantify. Look at position descriptions posted on the Internet (e.g., Dice, Monster, Ladder, etc.). Examine critically the PD. What language/phrases do the PDs have? Can you identify and establish trends? Yes, consider including them. Next do searches (e.g., google, bing, yahoo) for position titles...you will be amazed what appears--full resumes from people around the world. Again, look for language/phrases you "should have" in your resume.

c) Do some some introspective thinking to develop your own ICP - Ideal Company Profile. Culture, work habits, zip code, industry, position, opportunity for advancement, etc. This will help you create a much more focused job hunting campaign--this makes it easier for everyone when you are searching for the right fit. Recruiters will ask you all of the questions anyway, friends will know what companies to make referrals into, and your time will be effectively used;

d) Visit the organizations mentioned above (phone, internet, in-person for Veterans Affairs, HireourHeros.com, Armed Forces Support Network, Disable Veteran Outreach Program (DVOP), and more). There are a lot of people with great ideas out there. Get different perspectives until you find the path that matches your style, personality, and goals.

Feel free to email me your ICP and resume. I can share some suggestions.

I have written several how-to articles, links below.

Tell Me About Yourself: How to Wow Your Interviewers
http://www.thechiefstoryteller.com/blog/item/746

Communications Audit: 10 Critical Communication Elements for Your Career Success
http://www.thechiefstoryteller.com/blog/item/694

Every Accomplishment Should Be Great: 5 Steps to Compelling Resume Accomplishments
http://www.thechiefstoryteller.com/blog/item/669

LinkedIn for Job Hunters: Tips to Create a Must-Read Profile
http://www.thechiefstoryteller.com/blog/item/646

67 Tips for Using LinkedIn to Help You Find the Job You Want
http://www.thechiefstoryteller.com/blog/item/753

18 Tips for Job Hunters, New and Experienced
http://www.thechiefstoryteller.com/blog/item/747

Does Your Resume’s Summary Scream? How to Write a Summary Section that Screams “Schedule an Interview with me Today!”
http://www.thechiefstoryteller.com/blog/item/612

The “What Do You Do?” Answer: A Key Tool in Your Sales Toolbox
http://www.thechiefstoryteller.com/blog/item/197

Tell Me About Yourself - It's the Most Important Answer in Your Interview
http://www.thechiefstoryteller.com/blog/item/736

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Personal Branding: “What Do You Do?”

One of the most important foundational elements of your personal brand is your elevator speech. Your elevator speech should tell your core business message or story in 30 seconds or less, about the duration of a typical elevator ride.

A good elevator speech starts with a compelling headline and includes one to three sentences that explain what you do and the benefits of working with you. It should succinctly summarize your business story, resume or curriculum vitae (CV). Most importantly, it should tell your story in a compelling way that leaves the listener wanting more.

When crafting your elevator speech, be sure to move beyond a simple recitation of your experience. Tell your listener how your experience translates into a tangible benefit to him or her. Include a statement explaining what sets you apart from the others in your business, field or specialty.

 

For more Chief Storyteller® insights on crafting your elevator speech, please see:
Increase Brand Equity with a Unified Story 
Business Networking In a Foreign Land 
Elevator Speech – Not Just for Breakfast 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

How You Treat Your Employees Matters

I've always admired how leaders in the top hospitality brands treat their employees. Follow them around a property for a while and you'll notice a very high level of personal engagement – they greet everyone they encounter with a smile and by their first names. The employees instinctively smile back and return the greeting, using the leader's first name, as well.

What you'll also notice during these exchanges is how natural the interactions are. The employees don't suddenly stop doing what they're doing when the boss appears. What happens behind the scenes in many of these hotels is evidence of a well-oiled machine. The employees are well trained in the brand's standard operating procedures. Their leaders have full confidence in them. The employees are happy to be there and it shows in everything they do.

Why does this matter?

What goes on behind the scenes invariably plays out in front of your guests and customers. If your leaders interact with their employees in a warm and genuine way, your employees will do the same with their guests and customers. If your leaders invest in their employees and value their contributions, your employees will take pride in their role of serving their guests and customers. And if your leaders empower your employees, they will go the extra mile to provide their guests and customers with an experience that keeps them coming back.

 

For more on the importance of employee relationships to your brand, please see:
Your People (Even the Volunteers) Are Your Brand
Your Employees Play a Leading Role in Shaping Great Brands
Why Family Relationships Make for a Great Place to Work
What Story Is Your Organizational Culture Telling?
Employee Retention: People Leave Managers, Not Companies

 

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