Why ABC “Always Be Closing” Needs to Change

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You’ve heard the words behind the ABC acronym before – Always Be Closing, as the popular interpretation goes. For some, it’s a mission statement, even a way of life. But what does it really mean? All of the emphasis in this version of ABC points to closing. The sale is the end-all of the entire marketing interaction, and everything else is secondary, if it registers at all. Close one deal, don’t look back, and move right along to the next one. As long as the cycle keeps churning, everyone’s happy… right?

A closing, by definition, is the end of something. Closing a sale means that the money has changed hands, and your interaction with the buyer is at an end. This is a dangerous way to market, especially on social platforms. Think of it as closing by any means necessary. That means not worrying about all of the customers that impersonal marketing turns off, as long as the sales numbers stay strong. It’s a short-sighted philosophy, and it comes with plenty of unwelcome long-term consequences.

This version of ABC is used to justify all sorts of counter-productive marketing tactics:

  • Automated messages on social lead to poor engagement and unhappy customers? Doesn’t matter, as long as you’re closing.
  • Sign a bunch of customers up for your email list, fill their inbox with unwanted marketing content, and make opting out next to impossible? As long as you can justify the investment with a few short-term sales, who cares?

Rethinking ABC

You can probably see where this is going. It’s time to ditch the old ABC rule, and find a message more suitable for the reality of modern marketing. Actually, we can even keep the original A andB. Instead of closing, though, let’s focus the C onconnecting. Always Be Connecting has a much nicer ring to it, doesn’t it? It’s also a much better way of doing business. In the long run,Return on Relationship, #RonR is always going to win out over playing the numbers game with social.

So, what does “Always Be Connecting” mean? Connecting is much more open-ended than closing, and it means using social to build real, meaningful relationships. When someone sends you a request, respond personally. Look at their profile, make note of common interests, and bring them up when you chat.

If you’re the one sending the request, look for them on as many social channels as you can. Show that you’re genuinely interested in them, and they’re likely to return the favor. If someone sends you a message, don’t wait to reply. Find an article your connection would be interested in, and send it to them with a little note. As you get to know a new connection, cement the relationship with a phone call, or offer to meet up in person. There are countless ways to connect, and all you’ve got to do is be human.

The Benefits of Connecting

None of this means that you need to forget about closing sales. Instead, it’s about refocusing the emphasis onto your connections. Approach people from common ground, and build the relationship from there. The marketing part is still there, but now it’s coming from a place of genuine interest on both sides.

Many may think this does not scale, but it does. Word spreads quickly on social, for better and worse. No matter how you treat people, others are going to hear about it. In the end, it comes down to one question: What type of marketer do youwant to be? Build relationships, and the close comes naturally. Force the close, and the relationship falls to pieces. Make this one “C” change in your ABC formula, and you’ll see a big difference in results. Building a culture of connection, rather than simply focusing on the close, will result in a long-term relationship that will increase the lifetime value of your customers, increase the average order value, and make future purchases more frequent.

 

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The interim strategy

interimWe say we want to treat people fairly, build an institution that will contribute to the culture and embrace diversity. We say we want to do things right the first time, treat people as we would like to be treated and build something that matters.

But first… first we say we have to make our company work.

We say we intend to hire and train great people, but in the interim, we’ll have to settle for cheap and available. We say we’d like to give back, but of course, in the interim, first we have to get… … Read more

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Entering Era of the Endless Store

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Those in the know in online retail have been leveraging dropship vendors to create expanded ‘endless aisle’ assortments for a number of years now.

Through the ongoing development of the Matrix Retail approach it’s now become apparent a new reality is emerging best described simply as the ‘Endless Store.’

Just as an ‘endless aisle’ expands assortments well beyond the current store and retailer stocked web assortments, creating the ‘Endless Store’ connects and extends the bricks & mortar and virtual environments within which retailers operate. The potential for dramatically improved customer service and functional development of a unified retail customer experience is now within reach of every retailer. … Read more

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Start Building a Culture of Content Creation & Sharing

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For the past several years social media has been a buzzword swamp with marketers chasing one shiny object after another like dogs chasing their tails. Social Listening, Advocacy, Content Marketing, Engagement and Social Marketing to name but a few.

More recently joining the CMO in the chase have been other c-suite executives lured by the promise of a brave new world empowered by social business and collaboration. Or maybe it’s just their fear of losing control and being left behind. … Read more

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Why the Best Marketers MUST Embrace Social

From the simplest to understand perspective… the socially nimble company tasks its employees with “opening their listening ears” and tapping into community intelligence (both the company’s and the employee’s communities), then acting on what they’ve learned. This can put you in a much better position than your competitors in two ways: 1) getting a well-focused product to market much faster, and 2) earning a higher level of marketplace trust and identification with your brand.

Everybody knows that the faster you can innovate and get things moving, the better—and every brand wants to build trust—but identifying and listening to social advocates is still not considered a “best practice” in much of the corporate world, much less empowering employees to take advantage of opportunities outside the company’s social community. Instead of looking at social advocacy from a “win-win” standpoint, brands would be much better served to adopt “learn-learn,” as their social philosophy.

Every business function depends on the quality of the human relationships needed to perform that function. The more we practice using social to learn more about who makes up our communities and how we can serve them better (at every level), the more in-tune we’ll be and the more harmony we can create both inside and outside our companies.

Want your brand to be more successful? Wrap social around every business practice. And while you’re doing so, ditch the win-win mentality, which denotes an ending—not a continuation. Embracing learn-learn increases the value of relationships for all parties.

Those who adapt to social engagement will drive more business and stay competitive—those who ignore it will not. #RonR

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My Three Favorite Blogging Tips

#1: User-Friendly Navigation: Keeping your blog easy to navigate with intuitive category labels will help people find the information they seek much faster. Also, make it easy for readers to leave comments and share your posts on various channels that will help lead others back to you.

#2: Commenting on Other Blogs: Look for other blogs in your industry that have a good amount of traffic and comments, and contribute a comment, but only if you think you can add value to the conversation. Be careful not to promote your blog here; just add some insight, and do it on a regular basis. Make seeking out and commenting on other blogs a part of your daily activities. The more you contribute to the conversation happening around you, the more you’ll be seen as a thought-leader (and people will click on your link to check you out).

#3: Syndicate, syndicate, syndicate… share your content via all social channels always including Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn, which also makes it easy for others to share. And don’t be afraid to do it more than once periodically sharing old posts via your social channels, especially those that were well received. Also let others freely repost your content with a link back to the original post.

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Great News in Canadian Retail Just Keeps on Coming!

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Over the past year, like many others working within the Retail Industry in Canada, I’ve grown tired of hearing about all the bad news relative to retailers pulling out, closing down or shrinking their store counts here in Canada.

Other than one major ‘faux pas’ by a discount retailer which doesn’t need to be named yet again, the majority of recent store closures have actually been retailers dealing with unprofitable stores in their chain.  And although painful for the individuals and areas where these actions happen, these steps are often necessary to keep the overall chain healthy in the long term.

The great news, and what we should be focusing on instead of the ‘doom and gloom’ of negative reports, is the growing number of new retail entries into Canada and the ongoing industry extensions taking place over the last year. … Read more

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How to Build a Relationship-Driven Company Culture ~via @MarketingScope

How to Build a Relationship-Driven Company Culture ~via @MarketingScope

HOME » FEATURED, MARKETING, SOCIAL MEDIA/MARKETING » HOW TO BUILD A RELATIONSHIP-DRIVEN COMPANY CULTURE ~VIA @MARKETINGSCOPE

 BY • WITH NO COMMENTS

What’s the one thing that’s lacking in business culture today that has the potential to bring in more revenue than anything else? I’ll give you one word: trust. It’s not something you can buy with advertising dollars. It has to be earned through the actions of the people in your company, from the executive office all the way to the mailroom. Unfortunately, many people seem to have forgotten the impact that this little 5-letter word (or lack of it) has in their personal and business relationships.

I’ll give you a recent example from LinkedIn — the generic LinkedIn request to connect, followed closely by a sales pitch. I’m sure you’ve received some of those, right? Who hasn’t? Now I’m not objecting to the connection request—after all, LinkedIn is for connecting. Maybe they’re new to the platform and don’t know how to personalize a connection request, maybe they made the mistake of using the mobile app which for some reason doesn’t allow for a personal note. That’s understandable. But connecting with someone just to pitch them (without building a relationship first and developing trust) is inexcusable.

I posted my “new reply” to those types of pitches on Facebook, and it goes like this:

“So you connected in order to simply pitch me… not even a hello, how are you, buy me a cocktail before propositioning me? You don’t even know me, sent me a generic connection request, then when I open the door for you, instead of shaking my hand and getting to know me… you come right out with a sales pitch.

Seriously??? Dude… time to get some relationship building game. Good luck on your next pitch… not interested. Make it a great weekend. “

The post received 42 comments and over 211 likes, and virtually every commenter was in solidarity with me—many having had the same experience.

I don’t know a single person who likes to get pitched via social (or any communication channel) before a relationship is established. Do you? Yet we see this all the time—especially from sales people more interested in meeting quota than doing the work of building rapport.

Rajesh Setty, co-founder and President at WittyParrot, illustrates this concept in his LinkedIn post entitled “The Forgotten Art of Asking Right.”

He hits the nail on the head with this post, using an ingenious, color-coded “Request Spectrum” illustration of the four zones of relationship maturity and where it may (or may not) be conducive to ask for something.

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Zone 1 is where you first meet, and the illustration shows the trust-building track along the relationship as you get to know the person, develop rapport, etc.

In my opinion, Raj’s spectrum should be required reading for any sales or marketing class, and it should be built into every organization’s employee guidebook.

Are there some people that will ignore it anyway? Sure. There are lots of folks out there who could win awards on pissing off their co-workers, alienating customers and driving away prospects. It’s a personality thing. However, if more companies ask the right questions on interviews, they could weed out those potential employees who will never “get it.” And by actively teaching this concept to current employees and making it integral to company culture, organizations could scale their relationship-building capabilities both inside and outside the company via both face-to-face meetings, and especially via digital and social channels.

However, I also think that companies must do a better job of building trust with their employees. It’s a two-way street. The key lies in revamping the employee-employer relationship. Employers have to understand that the “buyer’s market” they’re in right now will not always be the case, and even if it is, that attitude is no way to build brand loyalty that can go well beyond time on the job. If you want to build a winning team that stays with you, advocates for you and helps you get ahead as a company, you have to treat that team with respect. Treating employees like a commodity and/or a cost center eventually backfires because it leads to constant turnover, which is counterproductive in the long term.

Another way employers can build and nurture this type of culture is byempowering their employees and recognizing the fact that social connection is an integral part of all of our lives now. Remember that in today’s social world, every person has an extended circle of personal influence and an opportunity to build their own personal “brand.” By helping your employees build that brand rather than squelching individuality, you could build an army of very powerful advocates. Most people, when given the opportunity will advocate for their brands, when they feel good about where they work.

Start thinking of your employees as an investment instead. If you look out for them and help them when they need it, they’ll be there for you when you need them. It can be as simple as creating a nurturing workplace that encourages growth and innovation, versus a culture of fear fostered by so many companies today.

Maybe we can’t teach everyone how to #JustBeNice, but we can definitely do a better job of building trust with our employees and teaching them to do the same with co-workers, vendors and customers.

#JustBeNice   #RonR

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Most Brands Don’t Look People in the Eye Digitally on Facebook ~@Progressive

 

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ttps While I can name several big brands that are killing it on Twitter for relationship building and engagement, I don’t think I’ve actually seen one that’s getting Facebook right. Sure, they invest quite a bit in making their business pages look great—they might even have a powerful content strategy for posting and curating things their audience finds valuable, and an ad budget to boot! But the one thing that all brands could be doing better on Facebook has nothing to do with cranking out more content or spending more money on ads—it’s developing a one-on-one strategy.

We’re Lazy Marketers

 

 

 

In my new book, How to Look People in the Eye Digitally, I talk a bit about how lazy we’ve become as marketers. We want to get in front of a zillion people. We want to send them a bazillion messages. We feel pressured to publish lots of content. We want to do it all NOW. But we’ve lost touch with how to listen to people—how to watch them when they’re talking to us. People on social channels have become data points instead of human beings, and we spend way too much time trying to get something from them.

On Facebook we measure all those things we want to get from our audience whether it’s likes, shares comments or clicks, but we miss the most important part—the ability to look into the life of a person and see what they’re really about, and open up a one-on-one dialogue.

Granted, it’s a little easier on platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn, where everyone that’s connected can see the other person’s profile and browse their posts. But not everyone’s on Twitter or LinkedIn. If your audience primarily hangs out on Facebook, that’s where they want to converse with you. You need to find ways to get to know them there.

Time to Get Personal

I have a personal profile on Facebook, and I use it to get to know people. If you have a brand page, that’s great—but someone on your staff needs to also leverage their personal page to “friend” members of your audience. This is a must, because watching a person’s profile is the best way to find out what makes them tick, and to start up human-to-human conversations that build trust and loyalty.

Use it to reach out to people who have commented on a post or have sent a private message to you. Check out their “about” section, their photo albums, the places they’ve been—and delve into their timeline to see what they like to share. Get a sense of them as a person.

Whether you’re a CEO or a Customer Experience Manager, this exercise is invaluable. It reveals so much more about a person than you can glean from an email, message or phone call. Even from a purely informational perspective it’s a goldmine, but don’t stop there. Use what you learn to be more proactive at human business. Here are just a few ways you can leverage this knowledge:

  • Research for product launch: Pure listening helps build stronger buyer personas, which helps you design a better product or service.
  • Survey customers to get feedback: Personally reaching out to get honest feedback makes people feel valued. It’s priceless!
  • Give better customer service: People just want to be heard, and have their concerns validated by another human being. If they reach out to you on Facebook—answer them there—and give it a human face.
  • Nurture your best advocates: The first step in developing an advocacy program is to reach out to each person who supports you. Make it personal. Let them know you appreciate them as an individual.
  • Get to know new business friends: Connecting on Facebook with people you’ve just met in person or at an event is a great way to get to know them quickly and strengthen your professional relationship.

Once you’ve found out more about these people, take it to the next level. Keep track of them in Friend Lists. Like their posts. Comment on them. Share them. Ask questions or just say thanks. Once you’re friends, Facebook’s video cards featureis a great way to send a personalized message of appreciation with the punch of a visual component.

In fact, going this extra mile to get to know your customers, vendors and others on Facebook can be a unique differentiator for you, simply because most brands aren’t doing it. Whether you’re a start-up restaurant owner like guys in the video below, or the head of a seasoned company looking for a way to stand out from the crowd, think about how you can turn connection into something more. Looking for ice breakers makes you more humanly engaging, and people will respond.

These guys are definitely on the right track. Their passion is infectious, they’re warm and personable, and they’re excited about developing their “uniqueness.” If they can translate that into their social conversations and go the extra mile to get to know their followers on Facebook, it will go a long way towards building social advocacy—word of mouth on steroids.

Most brands aren’t doing this, so you’ll stand out if you put it into practice. This might mean dedicating some staff to the process, or earmarking a certain amount of time to it yourself. However, the rewards of deeper connection will soon become evident in better insight, more trust, improved brand perception in the marketplace and stronger relationships. #RonR

*This post was written in partnership with Progressive Insurance. I have been compensated, but the thoughts and ideas are my own. For additional small business tips, check out Progressive’s Small Business Big Dreams program.

 

 

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Blah, Blah, Blah

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Writing and speaking (essays, non-fiction, copywriting, direct interactions, speeches) can be easily sorted into two groups:

                  The expected                                                  The unexpected

We don’t remember what most people say when they greet us (at a party, or even a funeral) because it’s banal. Most college essays, tweets and advertising copy fit right into this category. The prose we consume every day gets instantly processed, filed away and ignored. … Read more

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