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How You Tell Your Prospects, Customers Stakeholders You Don’t Care About Them

Whether you work for a small business owner, a start-up, a not-for-profit or even a college or university, building and sustaining relationships is very important to your bottom line.  With government agencies, there is an expectation that you regularly communicate with your tax payers and stakeholders to keep them informed.  So, why is it is that so many of you continue to tell your prospects, customers, tax payers, etc. that you don’t care about them?  

What Not to Do

With one simple gesture you say a lot in terms of what you think about the people who are the most important to you and your sustainability. The worse part is that it is totally avoidable.  That simple gesture?  Start unfollowing them on Twitter.Unfollowing = no relationship

Case Study

I was recently working with a client, we will call them “M” and I was doing some follow-up training and training some new staff.  As I was preparing to start the session, there was a conversation going on about what one of the new staffers was doing “to fix their Twitter” account.  I listened with a lot of interest as I had not only originally helped them develop their strategy for using Twitter, but was now there to train the new staffers on how to use various management tools to make their lives easier when communicating via their social channels.  The fix?  Well, the fix was one of the worst things, in my opinion, that you can do.  The staffer was unfollowing every single one of their Twitter followers.  It was his opinion that there was no value having their Tweets come up in the organizations stream and it was a complete waste space and time.

My jaw dropped.  This client had worked very hard to build relationships with its stakeholders and actually create a community.  They had actually done a really good job.  All that good work was just about to go up in smoke.  The new staffers didn’t understand the nature of social media for business.  The new staffers didn’t consult with anyone and decided to treat their organization’s social media like it was their own personal channel.  I quickly considered  how I was going to address this.  Because I had worked with this client from the beginning and helped them develop their social strategy, policy and tactics, I knew how important it was for them.  Additionally, and this is very important, because of the nature of their business they had now exposed themselves to a great deal of public criticism.  Their community would not take kindly to this public dismissal.

I had to act quickly.  I asked them to stop what they were doing immediately and enquired how many people/brands they had already unfollowed – the answer:  296.  I then said, o.k. we are going to do our training a little differently than what was planned.

They of course didn’t realize the ramifications of what they were doing.  They assumed that once you use social media, its all the same.  They thought that how they do things with their own personal profiles and channels was the same in the business environment.  It is not of course the same.

The Fix

So, what are the easy ways to avoid this?  What are the ways to fix the situation?  Here are some easy tips:

1. Train Employees BEFORE Allowing them to be the Voice of Your Brand

This could have been easily avoided with up front training.  Not only do people need to understand social media and how to use it, but more importantly they need to understand your business, your brand value and how your brand operates.

Unfollowing is an easy mistake to make.  We all make assumptions. In this case, a potentially serious mistake.  It actually didn’t take long for some of their stakeholders to Tweet “Well, M just unfollowed me.  I guess they don’t need my support after all.”  We fixed this right away, by refollowing everyone and apologizing for the error.Say Yes to Social Media Relationships

2.  Understanding the Social Nature of Social Media

Despite social media being more than a decade old now, many companies continue to treat it as just another traditional tool and/or tactic with the very focus of push communications.  They fail to understand that there is a relationship that you need to build.  It is about building trust, having interest in each other and communicating with each other.  It is about sharing each other’s information. It is about being social.

3.  Remember Your Prospects and Customers Are Human Beings

This seems like a no brainer, but it is a conversation that I have with some clients more often than not.  In the case of M, the staffers weren’t thinking about the people on the other side of the Twitter handle.  They thought of them just as a handle.  They didn’t think about the message that was being sent.

In the training I delivered that day, we looked at real examples of brands that they were connected with and how they would feel if suddenly they were unfollowed.  Between that conversation and the Tweets that started to come in from stakeholders, they quickly realized that they needed to better understand social media for business and just how easy it is to send the wrong message.

Thankfully we caught and fixed this one right away.

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7 Ways to Creep Out Your Customers with Direct Marketing Campaigns

As a professional marketer, I thought that I had seen it all when it comes to the good, the bad and the ugly of direct mail campaigns.  I was wrong.  Last week my husband received a letter from a vendor, who shall remain nameless, that left both of us scratching our heads.  We thought it was a hoax to make this vendor look bad.  However, after speaking with a representative on the phone, sadly, we learned that it was a real marketing campaign.  In my opinion, it was an epic failure.  It was such a bad piece of marketing I just had to write this blog post outlining the 7 ways they failed using this Direct Mail Campaign.

Now, before I get to my list I want to qualify why I am writing this post.  This letter was so out of character.  It just does not meet the established brand that this company has built.  In trying to figure out what was going on, we thought for certain that it was someone who was trying to embarrass the company.  The other thought we had – honestly – was that someone had too much to drink, had what he or she thought was a brilliant idea, then wrote a letter to execute on said brilliant idea.  I don’t want to embarrass this company.  I believe that they are a good company.  I believe that they just don’t understand marketing and what works and what freaks people out.  We are a customer and aside from this bizarre twist, have been very impressed with them.  That being said, if this was an authentic campaign, there are a few lessons learned.  So, let’s get to the list:

1.  Always Use Letterhead 

When sending out a promotion to your customers, always use company stationary.  Using your name and your spouse’s name for the return address versus the company information is not a best practice and, it is confusing.

The same goes for the actual letter.  To help people understand where in fact the letter has originated, using letterhead makes it clear from the get-go.  I shouldn’t have to read a three-page letter to get to the end to figure out who sent it to me.

2.  Properly Address Letters

Since I am a customer having my name, or in this case my husband’s full name on the letter is a good idea.  The same goes for having our full civic address.  Addressing a letter with only a person’s first name and a number missing off of the civic address is kinda weird if done intentionally.  The Post Office put a question mark on the letter.  Even they were confused and took a guess.

As customers, don’t you know our name and address?  After all, it was on the bills that you sent us and the service technicians made it to our house o.k.

3.  State the offer up front and be clear about what you are offering 

This isn’t a nice to have in business communications. It is a must.  Both my husband and I read the letter numerous times and we still didn’t know what was what.  The tone and language was so odd that it sounded like the sender of the letter didn’t realize that we were already customers.  Instead, it sounded like if became a customer now, we would get a envelope of cash!  Seriously…the letter said this.

Image courtesy of waterschurch.org

Image courtesy of waterschurch.org

Even after calling and speaking to an employee, we were confused.  After telling the representative what work they executed for us, I asked point blank, “what is the offer.  I don’t understand.”  The response:  if we needed anymore work that we would get what was offered in the letter.  It made no sense.

4. Have Your Letter Proofread

We all make mistakes.  I have read textbooks, marketing materials, blogs and letters with a typo.  It happens. It’s embarrassing. We hate it when it happens,right!  However, when the letter is filled with grammatical errors and it rambles on without purpose or real coherence, it kinda leads the reader to the conclusion that someone really was drinking when they wrote the letter.  Not the right impression to be making.

5.  Use the Right Tone 

Using threatening, or what can be perceived as threatening language, when trying to sell is not exactly a Best Practice.  Saying things like “I must give you  this WARNING…” and “This Time You have NO Excuse!” would not be a recommended approach. Kinda left me feeling like I should run for the hills.

6.  Use Capital Letters Judiciously

Using capital letters according to the grammar rules is cool.  Using them repeatedly for entire sentences or words means that you are yelling at me.  Again, not exactly the experience I want from someone trying to sell me something.  I personally shy away from people yelling at me.

7.  Never, ever, ever start a letter like this: 

“It’s 1:43 am and I can’t sleep…Alright, let me give you something no one else will.”    For the love of all that is good and pure in this world, please, please don’t start any letter…ever like this.    Talk about starting out on the wrong foot.  Think about it for a second.  No letterhead, the envelope wasn’t properly addressed and the return address was from people I don’t know.  Holy $#!+.

So, now that I have gotten this off my chest and on paper I feel a little better.  I hope that others will take this advice and use it.  I hope that I never ever see another letter like this.  How about you?  Have you ever received something like this in the mail from someone trying to woo you and get your business?  Do tell!