Thursday, February 25, 2010

 

How to get three hours back every day (eliminate distractions & use your down time)

I need more hours in the day, and I assume you do as well. Between our personal and professional lives, there's always too much to do and not enough time to do it.

But despite these challenges, I'm constantly looking for ways to do two things:

1. Eliminate distractions
2. Make better use of "down time"

If you're trying to do the same, here are eight things I'd recommend trying. Collectively, I think they effectively give me back about three hours every day.

Don’t drive
We waste a lot of time in the car, driving. Except for returning a few phone calls, this isn't very productive time typically. If you can take the bus, other public transportation, or even carpool with coworkers, you can use part of that time to get caught up on other work. Catch up on email offline, brainstorm something without other distractions, and work through other things on your to-do list. Worst case, catch up on some of your reading. Any of that is better than stop-and-go traffic.

Always have something to read with you
Everywhere you go, carry something you want to read. It can be printed materials (newspapers, magazines, printed-out articles), or it can be saved content on your SmartPhone. For example, on my iPhone I have access to my RSS feeds via Google Reader, a mobile version of ReadItLater that syncs Web articles I want to read, and also an iPhone version of Kindle software to catch up on a book I'm reading. There are so many times during the day when I'm waiting, or in a line, that can be used for a few minutes to catch up on some of this.

Avoid and cancel meetings
Do you really need to attend every meeting on your schedule? Have you yourself scheduled meetings that can be more effectively handled with a 5-10 minute conversation in the hallway? I'd be willing to bet that 25% of your meetings this week aren't worth your time. Figure out which ones they are, and get your time back.

Keep your email offline, all the time
If you use Outlook in particular, right-click on the icon in the lower right-hand corner of your screen and select "Work Offline". This will essentially "freeze" the email in your inbox currently, and queue up anything in your Outbox to sync when you want to. This helps you focus on what's at hand, without getting distracted in real-time by new incoming messages. Click the send/receive button when you want to, but otherwise stay more focused and more productive without the constant distractions.

Forward your phone to voicemail when you need/want to focus
Most phones and phone systems give you the ability to point inbound calls directly to voicemail. If you need to focus on something, shouldn't you turn off this distraction as well? You don't have to do this all day. But if the project in front of you will take 30 minutes to get done, don't let things like new emails and phone calls distract you. That 30-minute project could take 60-90 minutes easy if you check email, take a call, and have to get re-engaged and focused again.

Get up earlier
Would it really be that hard to get up 30 minutes earlier? This may not be your most productive, awake time. But an extra 30 minutes (when the rest of the house is still sleeping) could be used for reading, exercise, whatever you want. This alone gives you an extra 3.5 hours a week, and that's a lot of time.

Do your most important 1-2 tasks/projects FIRST every day (before email and voicemail)
At the beginning of each day, you already know what 1-2 things are most important to accomplish. But most of us, before tackling those projects, check email and voicemail and quickly get distracted by the day's interruptions and fire-drills. Nine times out of ten, those distractions can wait until your most important tasks are finished. Get them done first, and I guarantee you'll feel (and be!) far more productive every day.

Delegate
You probably aren't delegating to others actively enough. You're probably doing too much yourself, including things might be more efficient to be done by others (and sometimes with better results). You could be using a service like TimeSvr to get small tasks done by someone else. You could use eLance to outsource a variety of administrative projects. You could use ActiveWords to shortcut frequently-used activities on your computer. Long story short, you're working too hard and doing too much. Do less yourself, but get the same and more done.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

 

Why so serious? Give your marketing a sense of humor

B2B marketers often take themselves too seriously. They forget that, even though we're selling products and services to a business, the buyer is still a person. Your messages are being read by a person. Your sales team is talking to...people (not buildings).

If you lose sight of this, what can result is copy, design and execution that's devoid of emotion, interest and connectivity. And those elements contribute just as much to response and campaign performance as message, offer and channel.

Your prospects like to talk with, work with and buy from people and companies that they like. Those that have a personality, show some humanity, and generally exhibit qualities that they might want to work closely with into the future.

That includes a sense of humor. Don't be afraid to test humor in your marketing, and occasionally include doses of humor consistent with your brand in places unannounced. When customers and prospects "discover" those placements, it'll no doubt drive pass-along, buzz and new interest from others that now see you as more than a faceless, emotionless business.

A company with a personality, a company they want to do business with.

Monday, February 22, 2010

 

Five ways to align employees with your brand and business goals

The UPS Store really hacked me off recently, but I don't (entirely) hold it against them. Instead, I'll using the experience as an example of how difficult it can be to manage a corporate brand down to the most tactical elements of your business, and how those challenges are even more important in today's transparent world.

Last weekend I visited our local UPS Store to mail a simple package. Standard-sized box, basic shipping. When I arrived it was just me and the guy behind the counter, but just a couple minutes later there were five people behind me.

Long story short, the employee started complaining. Out loud. Not about the fact that his co-worker was taking his lunch, but the fact that there were customers in the store, waiting to give him money.

A direct quote: "20 minutes ago it was just fine in here, but now all you guys just had to come and ship packages, didn't you?"

I admire UPS. They've built an impressive business, and have been given high praise in a variety of formats (books, newspaper articles, business journals, etc.) for their smart approach to product strategy, customer service and more.

How frustrating would it be if you'd put so much work into your company's strategy, policies, brand and more - only to have it broken at the tactical/operational level by one employees? Ten years ago, this might have impacted a handful of people. Today, thanks to the social Web, it can impact millions.

It's nearly impossible to create and sustain a 100% consistent operation, especially when work and execution is distributed. But there are things any business can do to help align all employees (even on the front lines) with corporate goals and brand guidelines.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

 

How to get a free copy of Seth Godin's new book

Seth Godin released Linchpin a couple weeks ago, and it's a fantastic book. I received an advance copy a few months ago, and received a second copy in the mail earlier this week from Seth, with a request to pass it along.

I've done that, and want to pass along my first copy as well. I bought myself a Kindle version, so this first book is still brand-new.

If you want this free, brand-new copy of Linchpin, all you have to do is help me spread Seth's message. Retweet this post about being indispensable including my hashtag (@heinzmarketing) between now and midnight tomorrow (Wednesday, Feb 17) Pacific time. I'll then randomly select a number between one and however many retweets we have, and the random-numbered retweet gets the book.


 

Are you indispensable?

It’s a question not just of what you do that nobody else does, but of what results you enable – for your team, your business, your clients, your family, your friends, your professional network – that makes you irreplaceable. And highly valuable.

It’s not always in what you do, but sometimes in the way you do it. The speed with which you get things done. The approach you take, the focus on results, the obsession with benefits to those around you.

And it’s not just about you. Your team, your product, your company all can be indispensable. Indispensability is scarcity plus value, which puts you in high demand at a premium price.

Being indispensable has many angles, manifestations and benefits. What are yours?

To learn more about being indispensable, read Seth Godin's new book Linchpin.


 

Selling vs Simmering: Knowing how and when to close the deal

The right buyers for your product or service need what you’re selling.  You represent a link between where they are today and where they want to be moving forward.  They want to buy from you.

This applies, of course, to buyers that are not only qualified, but are ready to buy.  The vast majority of qualified buyers just aren’t there yet.  According to a recent MarketingSherpa report, as little as 15 percent of sales leads are both qualified and ready to buy.

Smart sales organizations take a “selling vs simmering” approach to their prospective customers.  If the prospect is in an active buying cycle, they’re ready to work with sales.  The role of sales, in this context, isn’t to sell as much as help the buyer buy what they already need.

Simmering is quite different.  Simmering takes a qualified buyer that doesn’t have an immediate need, and ensures that when they are ready to buy, the decision of whom to buy from is essentially already made.  That means staying in touch on a regular basis, but purposefully not selling.

This takes patience, and discipline.  When your sales manager is breathing down your neck to close more business this quarter, it’s tempting to reach down to some of the prospects that are simmering and push them into a sale.  But those prospects aren’t ready to buy, and pushing them to move more quickly will not only decrease your conversion rates and waste your time, but will also put off the customer such that they may seek products or services (when they’re ready to buy) from someone else.

Your best chance at getting the maximum sales output and conversion rate from the prospects in your pipeline is to know who’s ready to buy now, and who needs more simmering.


 

29 ways to get more leads & sales at your next trade show

These ideas are tactical, and won't equally apply to everyone, but were worth sharing in hopes that something here will spark accelerate awareness, interest, demand and sales from your next event or trade show.


Before the Show
Objective: Get people to the booth. Create awareness and recognition so that people recognize Company on the showroom floor and stop at your booth as they walk the exhibit hall.

At Show
Objective: Make as many contacts as possible, collect as many emails as possible.

After the Show
Objective: Create long-term, lasting relationships with prospects that showed interest; build/expand the sales pipeline.

Monday, February 15, 2010

 

Action or analysis? Which is best?

There’s a project or opportunity in front of you.  You have two choices.

On one hand, you can just do it.  Have a bias for action, get something together, put it out there, see what works.  Don’t worry about making it perfect, just figure out – quickly – whether it’s worth spending more time on, or shutting down and moving on.

On the other hand, you can take your time.  Do a SWOT analysis, assess the risks, make sure your initial market test is well thought-out, well designed and measured accurately.  This takes time, inherently makes you think about risk, and that risk analysis will shut down the majority of opportunities before they see the light of day.

So which approach is best?  Do you have a bias for action, or does risk analysis/paralysis help you focus on more successful projects from the get-go?

There’s probably no single, right answer for everybody.  There’s also no reason you can’t have different approaches for different types of projects, or different parts of your business.

But I will say this.  No matter how much research, analysis or risk assessment you do, you still have no idea how the market will react to something until you put it out there.


 

PR is about the story, not relationships

Maybe 10-20 years ago, PR was more about the relationships you had with the right press.  Reporters and their publications were the gatekeeper to getting your story heard, and PR professionals were the gatekeeper to those gatekeepers.  But even then, relationships were only as good (and ultimately as successful) as the story you had to offer.

Today, story matters more than ever.  Yes, a good relationship with press helps you break through the clutter and get a few extra minutes to pitch your story.  But a good story stands on its own.

Plus, you don’t have to rely on a finite set of traditional media outlets to give your story a voice to the masses.  Today, you can publish on your own.  Self-publishing won’t have the audience others have, but that’s not the point.  Share that story in a public forum, that both press and your direct customers/prospects/constituents can read, and a good story can get legs, find unique angles through other storytellers and redistributors, and be shared with countless others. 

Traditional PR was about telling the story of the company in question.  Press releases touted what a company recently accomplished.  Those are stories, but not very interesting stories.

But it’s more than just shifting focus from relationships to good stories.

The stories that get noticed and retold today are about others.  They’re about the impact you have on your customers, their industry, and the people they work with in turn.

Tom Peters wrote recently that people don’t care about your story.  They care about their own story.  Your job, he said, was to become a primary character in your customer’s story.

So if PR today is about the story, and the best stories are about the impact you can have on others, how does that change the storytelling your organization is doing today?  What do you say, where do you say it, and what do you want people who read or hear that story do next?

 


Friday, February 12, 2010

 

Who's at the tip of your spear?

Who are the customers you go to every time with new product ideas, to see how they react?

What is the market at the very core of what you do - what you sell, what you provide, what you enable?

Who are the people, companies or groups who first saw your product or service, and immediately understood what it was for?  Immediately understood how to use it, and how to benefit from it, with little to no explanation, training or discussion needed?

Those customers are at the tip of your spear.  They represent your primary entry into the market.

When you're just getting started, that's who you focus on.  It's who you build for, count on for feedback, good and bad, and who have the passion and endurance to stick by you as you improve, iterate and mature.

And no matter how big you get, no matter how much you expand to new markets, new products, new extensions - you can't lose focus on these early adopters.  Their guidance and support will lead you longer and higher than you may think.

Hat tip to Howard and TA for talking about this recently.

 


 

Q&A: Aligning marketing, PR and social media

I'm moderating a panel on the alignment of marketing & PR in a couple weeks at Dan Greenfield's PR + Mktg Camp in Seattle. Should be a great day of discussion. Earlier this week Dan and I talked how marketing and PR teams have traditionally worked together (or not), and how those relationships are evolving now - especially with the maturation of social media as a cross-functional tool set.

Excerpts from our conversation are below. Check out more great conversations by PR + Mktg Camp panelists & moderators at the event blog.

Question: Are PR and marketing more aligned or less aligned because of social media?

Matt: The idea of separating marketing teams and functions is a remnant of the “old way” of doing marketing. When most marketing was one-way (i.e. customers couldn’t react, respond and create messages of their own), it was more acceptable to separate PR from product marketing, and even lead generation activities. Now, especially because the customer has so much control and such a strong voice, it’s critical that brands act as one. That means PR, advertising, social media, lead generation – they all need to work from the same playbook in a coordinated fashion. Easier said than done, but that’s exactly what today’s most successful brands are doing.

Social media has enabled the consumer to talk back in a powerful way, which is accelerating the need for this consolidation and integration of marketing strategy by products, services and brands today.


Question: PR is generally about placement, reputation, messaging, impressions and storytelling. Marketing is generally about transactions, click throughs, key words and web applications. How is social media changing that, if at all?

Matt: Everything is about getting the sale. It always has been, but now it’s easier to see and map the progression of a customer from awareness, consideration, intent, trial, purchase – then repeat, renewal, referral, etc.

Social media is blurring the distinction between customer engagement stages. Ten years ago, it was easier to segment the functions – PR talks to the customer at the beginning, then product marketing takes over and offers demos, free trials, etc. Then once they’re a customer, your loyalty/retention team takes over. That approach doesn’t work anymore.

The way we measure different marketing elements, by function, probably still works. But it has to be put into the context of a more immersive, cohesive customer engagement strategy that blends messages and tactics across stages of a customer relationship.


Question: What disadvantages (inefficiencies, lost opportunities, customer confusion) and advantages (integration, cost savings) are these shared tools like Facebook and Twitter creating for PR and marketing?

Matt: The sales cycle has always been far shorter than the customer’s buying cycle. Five years ago, the customer buying cycle was a black box for marketers. We had no visibility to what was happening, what prospective customers were thinking or asking, who they were even considering. Now, thanks to social media, we have insight into how customers are thinking well before they engage directly with brands.

But this isn’t an opportunity for selling. It’s an opportunity to engage and become part of the community – add value, answer questions, provide valuable content. Earn trust, respect and credibility. Community engagement and social media are at the very top of the buying cycle, before the sales cycle, and it doesn’t really matter which part of the organization manages and executes there, as long as the approach is right.


Question: Should social media ultimately be the responsibility of PR who manages reputation and conversations or marketing who is in charge of transactions and sales?

Matt: It doesn’t really matter. Everyone in the organization needs to understand the customer, what they want, what they need, and how to address them – with or without a paid relationship current or pending. Every member of your organization should know how to address customers in a respectful, value-added way.

Social media has accelerated the tearing down of walls between customer and provider. There’s more transparency, less formality. Brands need to be accessible, approachable and authentic to be accepted.

The social media strategy doesn’t end when a customer enters a selling cycle. They aren’t going to stop talking to their friends, and using Facebook, or commenting on Twitter, just because they’re talking to a sales rep. Their interaction with and reflection of your brand continues across functional sales & marketing groups. That’s why ownership of the social media “voice” within one marketing function or another is problematic. Today, that strategy (and especially the execution) is a job everybody has.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

 

The most powerful networking tool ever invented

You write.  It’s really that simple.

Writing comes more naturally for some, but it’s still the most powerful, most efficient, most leveraged way to build and foster an active professional network.

It’s always been a powerful tool, but access to a wider audience was previously restricted to those either with a printing press, or those who could buy or cajole their way into said publications.

Today we have blogs, email newsletters, comments on other people’s blogs, Twitter and various other channels available to us – not to mention a wider array of online and offline publications always on the lookout for good content.  The writing isn’t any easier, but the platforms and means of discoverability have improved dramatically.

Write something noteworthy today, and it’s around forever.  Write something on a weekly basis for five years, and you have hundreds of breadcrumbs demonstrating your insights, smarts, thought leadership and capabilities all over the Web.

Write on a regular basis and people will start to follow what you have to say.  They might not read every piece, but they’ll get enough to stay engaged, keep you top of mind, and accelerate pass-along of you, your interests and ideas to countless others.

Even if writing isn’t your strong suit, it’s a good habit to get started.  It’ll pay you back for a long, long time.

 


 

Stop making it harder for customers to engage & buy

Did anyone else notice the near lack of social media integration in Super Bowl ads this past weekend?  Only a couple ads included a specific and trackable call to action (including Dockers, whose site immediately went down in the minutes after their spot aired), and none that I could see referenced anything on Facebook, Twitter or any other social network.

With a significant percent of Super Bowl viewers simulateously on their computers, and a further opportunity to engage customers and prospects well after their 30-seconds-of-fame, I was surprised to see so few advertisers specifically invite viewers to continue the conversation.

Last night, Expedia brand manager Julie Lowe gave a good explanation at a local Super Bowl Ad Replay event:

"Big companies that spend money on Super Bowl ads have too many different and separated marketing groups, with not enough communication and coordination between them.  The brand or advertising teams likely managed the Super Bowl strategy largely on their own, without thinking about integrating efforts from the social media or direct teams that sit next to them."

Your company or marketing department may be organized into functional groups, but your customer doesn't think that way.  Today's increasingly multi-tasking customer requires a different way of operating, and a new level of cross-platform integration from marketers.

Your company just spent three million dollars on thirty seconds of air time.  Why not capture more value than that?

Of course, most of us aren't running those kind of ads.  But how well does your marketing today take into account the multi-faceted ways customers want to interact with you and each other?  How easy are you making it for them to engage, share, participate - and buy?


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

 

12 tips for building and managing a bigger sales pipeline

Thanks to those of you who were able to join us for our Sales Breakfast yesterday morning. Great topic and great discussion, which included a series of 12 tips for building and managing a bigger sales pipeline. Whether you're managing sales for a large enterprise organization, or are trying to build business for your own one-man-shop, these tips should help guide your thinking, strategy and action.

Why do you need a pipeline in the first place?

How to approach your sales pipeline

Key strategies for effective pipeline execution

Monday, February 08, 2010

 

Customer loyalty is more than just a number

The means by which most of us measure customer loyalty is a bit flawed.  Retention is up, attrition is down, and we think all is well.

With sales, it’s easier to boil performance & success down to a number.  Either you closed the sale, or you didn’t.  New revenue is booked and realized, or it’s not.

With retention, it’s a little fuzzier, because not every customer is alike.  Yes, you may have retained 95% of customers last month.  But how many of those customers are raving fans?  How many are frustrated and just sitting out the rest of their contract?

Those are very different customers. One is willing to sing your praises to other current & prospective customers – helping sales and solidifying retention (and possibly success) with some of your other customers.

The less-satisfied customer, unfortunately, may be doing the opposite.  Their frustration is simmering, and they’re telling others about it.  They’re sharing with their colleagues, with peers and other customers via their social channels, and literally closing the door on future revenue opportunities – possibly without you knowing about it.

Our spreadsheets tell us these two customers are the same.  But they clearly are not.

How are you identifying these two customers in your business?  And how are you using that insight to address and improve both the less-satisfied customers, as well as the potential weak points in the product or service itself?


 

Recommended links for Super Bowl ad analysis, commentary, criticism

Here are a few links I thought particularly worth a quick read the day after:

Hulu:  See every ad from the Super Bowl again here

USA Today: Which ads scored best with viewers?  Check out the AdMeter

AdWeek: Four reasons why Super Bowl ads are still among advertising’s best bets

AdRants: Summarizing several roundups, there’s no clear winner in this year’s Super Bowl ads

BrandBowl:  How the Twittersphere ranked the advertisers

AdWeek: Super Bowl Ratings & 30-Second Ad Costs since 1969

SearchEngineLand: Great analysis of Google’s ad strategy, reactions, comparisons to Bing, etc.

CNBC: Super Bowl ads the NFL didn’t want you to see

Social Media Journal:  “Advertisers, you really missed the mark this year”


 

Super Bowl Ads: Buzz and sales are very different things

Was it me, or were there very few ads in last night's Super Bowl with a call to action?  There were some memorable images and concepts, as always, but in general there was very little effort placed on driving the viewer to a next step, to a Web site or social media presence where the experience and engagement could continue, where identification, registration and/or sales could happen.

Yes, there were a few URLs at the bottom of ads at the end.  But most appeared to be placed as an afterthought, or at least as a mere boilerplate with very little reason for viewers to go there.

You spend three million dollars on 30 seconds of air time (let alone the cost of creative and all the internal soft costs associated with executing the campaign), and you end up with a nice ad, some nice gameday buzz on Twitter, then what?  When the advertising world is buzzing about which ads were the most creative, what's happening to your brand?  What's happening to sales?

Driving ROI from that investment has very little to do with what the Madison Avenue elite think on Monday.  Is't about what Main Street does on Monday and beyond.  That's where the real value and ROI is created.

Pepsi was absent during the game last night, of course, because they've put that money into a massive social media effort instead. 

Is this the consumer brand equivivalent of having the courage to forego exhibiting at your industry's big trade show?  At the show, a few people may wonder why you aren't there, and you do miss out on grabbing the spotlight (briefly) when everyone's looking in the same place.  But you smartly save your money and divert it to quieter but more effective marketing.  Long-term, are your sales (and strength of your business) better as a result?

 

 


Friday, February 05, 2010

 

Ten simple ways to stay connected with your network every day

No matter what you do for a living, an active network is critical to your current and future success. That said, it's very easy to ignore the often simple, tactical things you can do to keep your network engaged and growing.

Here's a list of ten things to consider doing daily. If ten is too much to start (although this list should take all of 15-20 minutes if you stay focused), start with just 2-4 and expand from there. Each piece incrementally will help, and you'll be surprised how quickly your investment comes back in the way of opportunities, introductions and more.

  1. Email three people you haven't spoken with in some time, just to catch up
  2. Scan your LinkedIn home page for profile updates, and comment back on 2-3 that are particularly interesting to you
  3. Use Gist.com to see what your contacts have done, read or published recently
  4. Send one hand-written thank you or congratulations note to someone
  5. Return one phone call or email from a sales rep. Make it short, but return the connection. You'd be surprised how often these turn into something more valuable than the pitch.
  6. Give someone an unsolicited recommendation in LinkedIn
  7. Scan your blog RSS feed, and forward 1-3 articles to people you think will find them interesting or valuable
  8. Invite someone to lunch today. You have to eat anyway. If they say no, they're happy you asked. If they say yes, you get a valuable chance to reconnect.
  9. Thank someone for the hard work they did yesterday, and copy their manager if sent via email
  10. Send an unsolicited email to someone you've always wanted to meet, asking for a quick phone call or coffee. Do this daily, and I guarantee your response rate will be better than zero.
What would you add to this list?

Thursday, February 04, 2010

 

What's their compelling story? What's yours?

Everything had a story.  Every person, every product, every sales opportunity, everything.  Where it came from, how it evolved, why it exists and where it’s headed. 

As a business, you need to know your story.  Where you came from, why you exist, what benefit you provide.  And before you can effectively market and sell your product or service, you need to know that story. 

But before you can do that, you need to know your customer’s unique story.  Not just the story they’re telling the world, but the story behind why they might need you.  What got them to where they are today, what challenge or need or pain has that created, and where are they headed?

Then, your story becomes their story.  You create and communicate a story that takes your prospect from present to future, by telling a story of how wonderful the future will be with your product or service as the enabler of that future.

Stories aren’t about features, or new releases, or tactics.  Your story needs to take into account the past and present, then predict the future.  If done right, your prospects will directly connect with and start to believe that story.  Now you’ve created value.  And it’ll be hard to say no to a good story like that.

 


Tuesday, February 02, 2010

 

We all start somewhere

I believe you treat everyone with respect.  You give everyone the time of day.  You don’t just intentionally blow people off.

That doesn't mean you take meetings everytime someone wants to "pick your brain", and it doesn't mean you necessarily treat everyone you meet the same (same time, same depth, same attention).  It's just important to remember that we live in a small world, roles change constantly, and your good will today will pay dividends - directly or indirectly - down the road.

Case in point:

Twelve years ago I met John Cook for the first time.  He doesn't remember, but I do.  He was a technology reporter for the Bellevue Journal-American, a small suburban newspaper with a limited circulation.  He gave a talk at a local PR firm about working with the media.  I thought he was a small-timer. 

Thank goodness, despite my lack of maturity and perspective, I didn't share that sentiment with him or anyone else at the time.  Today, John is one of the most influential technology reporters in the Pacific Northwest.  We all start somewhere.

Today's intern could be an influential peer, or even manage your division, in a few years.  She could start her own company and become an important, revenue-generating partner to your business.

The sales rep you blew off at the last trade show?  You might have something you want to sell him in your next job.  And the reporter for that third-tier trade publication may get a job at Business Week down the road.

You never know.  Why risk those opportunities in the future by blowing them off today?

 


 

Why I still use business cards

I’m hearing more and more people express pride over the fact that they no longer carry business cards, and consider the rest of us archaic for doing so.  That feels a little short-sighted to me.

Would the world be more efficient if business cards no longer existed?  I doubt it.  I still consider business cards an important part of my networking and follow-up process.

As a business card recipient, that little piece of thin cardboard is a reminder that I met you, a reminder to follow-up, and the fastest way possible to – in the moment when we’ve met, wherever that context may be – get your contact information for future follow-up.  Sure, it might be nicer to just “bump” your iPhones and transfer the contact information.  But then it’s too easy to forget to follow-up, forget that article I promised to send to you, etc.

In almost every context I can think of where I’ve met a new person, the last thing I want to do at that point is bury my nose in my laptop or smartphone and type someone’s complete contact information, plus any next steps or to-do’s based on that conversation.  I can take care of that later, just grab a card and continue focusing on the individual, not their digits.

As a business card distributor, most of the world still asks for them.  Yes, at technology events they might be waning in volume & impact.  A little.  But most of the rest of the world wants a card.  If you don’t have one to give them, you’re missing out on any number of opportunities to network, get business or otherwise share mutually-beneficial information with that person – both now and down the road.

Do you still use business cards?  Do you have an effective process for not only collecting and distributing them, but also processing them (the information and next steps) after you receive them?

 


Monday, February 01, 2010

 

Filling the Room: Best practices for hospitality marketing

Let’s say you’re in charge of a meeting space.  It could be at a hotel, a convention center, a sporting venue, whatever.  How do you keep that space full of big groups & happy customers throughout the year?  Here are some effective best practices used by successful hotel and meeting space marketers.

Past Customers:  It’s surprising how often past customers are left alone, or only approached infrequently with a new sales pitch.  If your past customers enjoyed their last event or meeting with you, stay in touch.  Don’t just pitch them a new sales offer or deal every time you call or email, either.  Send them ideas to improve their events, share articles of event management best practices, and otherwise present yourself not just as a venue, but as a true partner and value-added source of insight and information.  And truly, just by staying in more frequent touch with those past customers you’ll see more returns and repeat bookings.

Ideal Customer ProfilesConsider your unique venue.  What kind of organizations or events do you attract?  Can you attract?  Get to know that customer profile better than you do today.  When they hold events, why?  What are their objectives?  What are they trying to accomplish, for which the venue and/or event is just a means to an ends?  Help your customers find the shortest line between a partnership with your venue and their ultimate business objectives, and you’ve established even more value.

How Are You Different?:  What is your unique value proposition?  How are you different than other potential meeting spaces?  How does this value proposition map directly to the ideal customer profiles mentioned earlier?  Once you’ve identified your unique value (and selling) proposition, look through your current sales & marketing materials and ensure that value is represented.

Drip Marketing:  Give your prospects information, news, articles and other value-added content they can use.  Whether or not they immediately book with you, build value as a partner who knows how to put on a successful event.  Be a thought leader and educator for your prospects and past customers.  Publish via a newsletter, your blog, Twitter feed. 

The Social Media Two-Way Street:  Use social media channels to find prospective event manager clients.  Search for event managers on Twitter and LinkedIn.  Join event management groups and discussion boards, and participate with value-added content and responses based on your experience.  Publish updates on your venue through these channels, but more often than not participate and share as a peer.  You’ll gain valuable credibility and trust, which will help those prospects lean your directly when they’re ready to buy.

Testimonials:  Ensure every happy customer is recorded in a variety of formats (written word, audio, video, etc.) with their success story.  Get them on record talking about how great the venue was, how great the service was, how successful they were at achieving their event’s business objectives.  Let your customers sell for you.

Host a Networking Night:  Why not create an evening where event managers can get together, have a cocktail, share best practices, maybe even hear a speaker talk about how to put on a more successful event?  Make it 100% value-added for the event managers.  Just by hosting it in your facility (you can offer tours, and collect names/email addresses for follow-up), you’ll get great exposure to a very targeted audience.

Be Unexpected & Memorable:  What can you do uniquely and memorably for participants at each event to remember you, tell their friends, and beg to come back again?  Every venue has a set of low-cost but high perceived-value opportunities to make a big impression on event managers, executives and attendees.  Think about what this is for your venue, and test it. 

 

 


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