Winning Customer Service

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Are You a Conversationalist or a Conman?

Cultivating genuine value from business relationships requires more than well branded sales slicks, promotional emails, press releases and the occasional “reconnect” call. At the highest point of the Ars Venditiones (Art of Sales) the client seeks to connect without prompting and urges others to do the same for a very simple reason:

To continue a good conversation…

Marketing is the term used to describe the craft of creating this conversation. The most skilled practitioners carry on disembodied conversations with captivated audiences that can include millions of participants. The marketer effortlessly encapsulates and heightens a few key commonalities and sculpts a conversation that can reach across the most stalwart cultural and synaptic barriers.

Why then has the image of the marketer become so tainted? After all wasn’t Shakespeare in some sense merely hocking valuable cultural capital when he wrote Julius Caesar? Et tu Guy Kawasaki?

Molecule and Model

The difference is one of art and technique, of a molecule and a molecular model. The best contemporary sales and marketing professionals are technicians and cultural fashion designers of the highest order. They are not artists. Efficient technique and the living embodiment of an art form are two different playgrounds.

Shakespeare was a successful Elizabethan propagandist whose PR work became a center point of English literature. Even as a solid politico for Queen ‘Liza and her ladies, he was still a highly evocative, illuminated and urbane Enlightenment playwright. Shakespeare knew the art of conversations well and was a master at selling his audience.

Performance Art

Contemporary marketing professionals can’t boast this kind of reputation. No one is, nor will they be, performing Guy’s blog posts in public parks and it’s highly doubtful that anyone getting info off Alltop is experiencing the heights of existential expression. (Actually this might be a good idea for avant-pop college thespians to get some viral traction on YouTube…but is it worth it?)

The majority of marketing leaders are simply technicians and creators of fast fashion. In the same way that a good mechanic can fix your engine, they are adept at fixing your messaging. He can tighten the bolts, diagnose problems and will give you the proper oil, but he isn’t going to break into universal sublimity. Marketing has fallen into the hands of fashionistas bent on prettying the outside at the expense of a deeper meaning.  Mais ou sont les neiges d’antan?

Wise Words from the Departed

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) remarked that “fashion is the science of appearances, and it inspires one with the desire to seem rather than to be.” When food looks good people eat it, and you can make your brand look as tasty as you want, but when the people you feed start getting dysentery they’re unlikely to come back for more. Foster a conversation that lasts and encourages your client to bring others to the table. Don’t force feed them cardboard until they wise up and leave.

Take some time going into the new year and ask yourself…

Are you a conversationalist? Or are you just running a con?

Posted on December 31st, 2009 by David Metcalfe
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Marketing’s Easy Once You Do the Math

Connecting with your audience isn’t complicated. The movie American Beauty, which won an academy award, earned a decent amount for its investors and gained the adulation of movie goers, was a calculated attempt at capturing the audiences’ and critics’ imagination. The writers, producers and creatives behind the production used a set scheme of symbols to invoke the reaction the movie received.

By playing on themes of vulnerability, overcoming vulnerability and the frailty of human existence American Beauty captured the imaginations of movie goers, satisfied its investors and convinced the Academy of its effectiveness in motivating culture.

Your Self Perception

So if it’s that mathematical why all the confusion?

The problem isn’t what you’re putting out, the problem is what you see when you look in. We like to see ourselves as independent, rational creatures; unfortunately this is simply not true. Divesting yourself of this illusion is one of the first steps towards becoming effective in business.

1 + 1 = x

If you trust that you are unmoved by the mathematics of marketing then you’ll flounder about trying to find some magic key, but admit you’re deeply affected and you’ll find ample market analysis in your own reactions.

If you solidly apply yourself to learning the very basic ideas behind projecting motivation through common cultural cues you’ll find success isn’t so hard to achieve after all. Production cost was an excuse prior to the availability of digital tools. Now the only thing holding you back is your vision of what is possible and your honesty about where you stand.

Posted on October 8th, 2009 by David Metcalfe
Posted in Disaster Recovery, Entrepreneurship, News, Online Marketing, Suburban Business, Winning Customer Service | No Comments »

The Wrong Idea About Friends

If you’re trying to use new media to bolster an archaic business plan you’re in for a few surprises. The old idea that you can’t sell without lying isn’t worth much when your customer can Google your name or your company and find out more than you might even know yourself.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review quotes Theodore Levitt from the 1960’s as saying that the average salesperson often thinks “the customer is somebody ‘out there’ who, with proper cunning, can be separated from his or her loose change.”

A Two Way Street

When those customers “out there” can get “in” through simple web searches, the salesperson quickly becomes the victim of their own cunning. Communications technology is, not surprisingly, all about communications, and this is a two way street.

How is your sales force using new media? Do they have the wrong idea about friends?

Here are a few points for SMB’s to keep in mind when trying to execute an effective new media campaign:

1. Keep in touch with your community – Yes, it is possible to reach out globally with the technologies available today, but it’s also possible to connect with your community and deepen the partnerships that are already formed by close proximity.

2. You’re helping neighbors, not pillaging the village – The social aspect of communication technology allows SMB’s to effectively leverage the person to person service that they are already good at, don’t waste this by turning technology into another means of mass exploitation.

3. Give back – Another useful aspect of communication technology is the immediate feedback loop it creates; instead of using it solely to find out if you’re marketing is effective why not use it to see what your community needs?

4. Help others prosper – You may be successful at getting the word out about your products and services, but if you’re not helping other local businesses get the word out about their offerings you’re missing an opportunity to develop valuable relationships and strengthen your community.

5. Nobody cares – Nobody cares about advertising or marketing, they care about people, they care about passionate ideas, nowhere does this become more apparent than in social media. Rather than pushing an agenda make sure you are reaching out to connect and reciprocate relationships that create value for everyone involved.

Posted on August 24th, 2009 by David Metcalfe
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The Media Convergence

Social media and what MIT’s Henry Jenkins describes as the “Media Convergence” are playing a decisive role in today’s entrepreneurial arsenal.  For SMB’s the tools to connect with their communities and other local businesses are becoming easier and more accessible every day.

One of the biggest questions with all of these new technologies is how to fit them into a solid and actionable strategic plan. Thankfully it seems as the dust gets shaken from the system this question is finding an answer on its own.

The answer? It seems that the best strategy is to get out, participate, add value and realize that the results are reciprocal.

Moving With the Current

Jenkins’ work has shown that effective grass roots efforts quickly catch the attention of more established media outlets through the natural life cycle of social media. The various channels of mediated (public, private, corporate and governmental) reciprocity are being merged together, through 3rd party applications as well as the simple fact that the users themselves provide centralized nodes in the communications network.

This give and take goes for B2B communications as well. If there is a drawback to this convergence, as Jenkins points out, it’s only that each participant is now expected to act responsibly and effectively to bring value to the system. It’s up to entrepreneurs and business owners to be proactive with their own campaigns in order to reach the potential audience of collaborators that exist in the mediated web.

While Others Worry

While industry journalists worry us with tales of lost revenue, proactive SMB’s across the country are experiencing positive growth through their new media marketing efforts and the simple realization that honest and direct relationships really do matter.

The ability for small and medium sized businesses to remain maneuverable, and quickly scale their operations, works perfectly with the immediate feedback loop that these technologies provide. For whatever failings exist within the social media sphere, as soon as more effective means are found SMB’s can change course and correct themselves immediately.

Caution is a sensible reaction to change, but what are you doing as a business owner to turn your caution into a proactive plan?

Are you saving yourself from a fast fading trend or missing the bend in the road?

Posted on August 18th, 2009 by David Metcalfe
Posted in Entrepreneurship, Online Marketing, Suburban Business, Winning Customer Service | No Comments »
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