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Marketing lessons I learned from one referral

October 31, 2012 7 comments
Referrals start with relationships

Relationship marketing seeks to create a partnership that results in word-of-mouth referrals.

In the pursuit of sales and market reach, it is easy to overlook the human factor. This is especially true in digital marketing. This story is a reminder to me of the power of building relationships that create value, loyalty and a lifetime of referrals.

Mom was in trouble. Through a series of events beyond her control, she lost her house, her job and most of her life savings. Six years prior, she had begun a harrowing and heroic battle with cancer. Now, at the time of life when she should be looking forward to retirement, she was faced with starting life over from scratch.

The first step to rebuilding her life was to find a place to live. Given her financial situation, this was a source of great anxiety. I referred her to Jeff Anderson, a realtor who had done a great job helping me get into my first home. I figured if anyone could solve this puzzle, he could. I guessed right.

In short order, Jeff found an affordable townhouse in a safe community where the value of the property was sure to increase. He helped her get financing that qualified her to buy it. On moving day we were thrilled and relieved to close that chapter.

If the story ended there, it would be a great testimony. But there is more.

At the closing, Jeff told mom that in a year she would be eligible to refinance her mortgage to get a lower monthly payment. Good news.

Fast forward 12 months. One day mom got an unexpected phone call. It was a friendly reminder from Jeff that she could now refinance. He offered her advice on how to initiate the process with the lender. The result was a streamlined refinance that gave needed relief to her monthly budget.

That happened more than 15 years ago. Jeff has become a family friend and trusted advisor on any type of real estate question or transaction we might have. He succeeded in creating a true business relationship where each side works to serve the other. Guess who I would recommend if a friend asks me for a good realtor to work with?

The power of relationship marketing

This is a great illustration of the power of building relationships that result in mutual benefit. The principles apply to several areas of business, such as referral sales, social media and influence marketing. I have thought about this story many times in my years as a marketer. Here are some of the lessons I learned from this referral experience with Jeff.

1. Clients are happy when you meet their expectations. They become loyal when you exceed expectations. They turn into word-of-mouth advocates when you create memorable experiences.

2. You build strong relationships with clients by taking a genuine interest in them. Gain an understanding of their frame of reference. Mom’s frame of reference was more than the immediate need to buy a house; it was to manage a limited budget.

3. Listening is the most important relationship skill you can practice. Listen for the reason your client is seeing and feeling the way they do.

4. Give and you will get. Our society operates on the law of fair exchange. When you give extra, you activate the law of reciprocity.

5. Look beyond the initial transaction to the lifetime value of a customer.

6. The close of the sale is not the end. Relationship marketing seeks to confirm the sale, confirm the beginning of a relationship and confirm the beginning of a partnership.

7. Turn your relationship-building mindset into action. Follow up with added value, even if it’s a year later and the sale is closed.

8. Turn the relationship into something more than what brought the two parties together in the first place.

9. Referrals are the most powerful, cost-effective form of lead generation. They give you third party credibility and open the door for a receptive conversation with a warm lead.

10. Each time someone gives you a referral, you have an opportunity to make them look like a hero.

The human factor

The reason this story has stuck with me these years is because it was personal and it was tied to strong emotions. Whether in face-to-face interactions, social networking or content creation, it is important to remember that we are dealing with real people and real emotions.

In The Psychology of Relationship Selling, Orv Owens said the primary reason for sales resistance is fear. People are either afraid of making the wrong decision about you or your product or their fears are stronger than the reasons you have given to act. Your job is to help them conquer that apprehension.

Relationship marketing is not a persuasion technique so much as a mindset. It takes the human factor into account when doing business. David Ogilvy is famous for saying “The consumer is not a moron, she is your wife.” Humans are hard wired to respond with the emotional brain, even in business situations. That is where we connect to create word-of-mouth loyalty.

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Is enchantment the new influence?

October 16, 2012 7 comments

Guy Kawasaki showed how to take influence to enchanting levels at the MIMA summit in Minneapolis.

Guy Kawasaki has a new calling.

The former chief evangelist for Apple is preaching the virtues of enchantment to bring personal and online influence in the digital age. On October 10, he delivered the luncheon keynote to the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association (MIMA) summit meeting in Minneapolis. Attendees were treated to highlights from his book, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds & Actions.

What is enchantment?

When Kawasaki talks of enchantment, he means more than customer service. It is more than traditional persuasion, influence or marketing techniques. It holds a deeper power to motivate voluntary, enduring change in others, interpersonally or on social media.

He has taken Dale Carnegie-inspired principles for building relationships and influence, and updated them for today’s culture. “If you want to change the world,” he said. “You need to convince people to dream the same dream you do.” Tapping into peoples’ passion to get behind a cause – social, personal or brand – is a key to creating enchantment. It is built on three pillars:

ACHIEVE LIKEABILITY

Likeability is a much-discussed concept for both personal and social media success. Kawasaki laid out fundamentals of likeability starting with the importance of a genuine smile for making a favorable impression. A genuine smile shows by the crease in the eyes. “Ladies remember,” he said. “If you have crow’s feet, you are enchanting.” Likewise, online marketers can also put on a social media smile by establishing a likeable tone in content for the Web.

Other likeability factors he emphasized are to create an environment of acceptance and to default to “yes” in dialog with others. Having an attitude of helping the other builds goodwill and trust.

I'm enchanting. Resistance is futileACHIEVE TRUSTWORTHINESS

Building trust begins with trusting others first. Kawasaki gave examples of Amazon, Zappos and Nordstrom as companies who have earned the trust of customers by their trusting business policies.

A second element of trust is to apply a philosophy he described as “bake, don’t eat.” Don’t approach your business situation as a zero-sum game, rather be generous in creating value for customers up front.

The last point he made for building trust is to find something to agree on when you meet resistance. Starting on a point of agreement, you begin a dialog that builds rapport and receptivity to your cause.

HAVE A GREAT CAUSE

People will be inspired by a product, service or cause when you give them a reason why. It goes beyond the financial benefits of engaging to an emotional connection to something that matters. Kawasaki said the key to achieving this is to do something DICEE:

  • Deep
  • Intelligent
  • Complete
  • Empowering
  • Elegant

Launching an enchantment campaign

With those pillars in place, he outlined how to launch an enchantment campaign around your business cause. He covered these high-level points:

1. Tell a story using salient words that involve customers; sell your dream

2. Overcome resistance with social proof and reach out to all influencers, not only end-users

3. Invoke reciprocation by making it easy for others to pay back

4. Use technology to touch people; remove the speed bumps to engaging

5. Provide value in the form of information, insights and assistance

6. Follow 3Fs of engagement: Fast, Frequent, Flat (person-to-person)

7. Enchant up the leadership chain by prototyping fast and delivering bad news early

8. Enchant down the ranks by empowering staff and providing vision

With social media, marketers today have a phenomenal way to engage, influence and enchant customers and prospects. A final takeaway from Kawasaki’s presentation is the principle of endurance. An enchantment campaign must be viewed as a process, not an event.

Building a relationship takes time and effort, but the rewards can endure. He used the example of The Grateful Dead allowing fans to video record performances, thus allowing the concert experience to live on beyond the event. Guy Kawasaki’s call for enchantment takes influence to a new level of brand loyalty.

Below are the slides from Guy Kawasaki’s presentation to MIMA.

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The secret to blogging with flair

October 9, 2012 4 comments
The secret to blogging with flair

Creating a personal style for your blog writing makes you stand out in the crowd.

Mark Twain once said, “Clothes make the man. The naked have little or no influence.” This was in reference to the power of presenting yourself with style to stand out in the crowd.

It is apt for bloggers too.  In the mass of content creators, brilliant insights still need a touch of flair to capture the attention and imagination of online readers. While form is no substitute for substance, your writing style IS what you are. It expresses your identity and makes a connection with the reader that enables influence and persuasion to happen.

Elements of blogging style

The focus of Web writing style is primarily on mechanics, which is the domain of guidelines found in the AP Style Guide for journalism, or the Yahoo Style Guide for content creators in the digital world. These are excellent references for developing consistent treatment of:

[Related: Headline writing secrets of advertising legend John Caples]

However, bloggers and content marketers also need to develop a personal style to stand out from the crowd. Your personal style flows from the voice and tone of your writing and how you structure your ideas. You won’t find your personal style in a guidebook. I would add to Twain’s observation by noting “the style makes the blogger – as long as it fits.” I would love to be able to wear skinny jeans, but alas, that style does not fit me.

Style is more than the clothes; it is how you wear them. So too, writing style is more than the mechanics. It is how you apply them.

In pursuit of personal style, bloggers might be tempted to accessorize writing with gaudy metaphors or splashy adjectives to create stylistic flair. Unfortunately, developing personal style is not that simple. Your style is organic to you, the writer.

While there is no clear formula for adding grace and elegance to a piece of writing, there are ways you can develop it. The best place to start is by studying devices used by graceful writers and practicing the fundamentals of clear, concise writing.

10 Principles for clear blog writing

The long and short of blog writing

Short sentences are critical to successful writing for the Web. A readability formula developed by Rudolf Flesch finds the ideal sentence length for business writing is between 14-16 words. This is a good guideline for blogging. However, on occasion bloggers will want to exceed that limit to break monotony and build rhythm.

Here are some helpful guides to maintaining clarity when writing longer sentences:

Check for subject-verb agreement. This can become easily confused in longer sentences containing clauses and modifiers.

Use consistent treatment of the topic. The topic is what the sentence is about, comments on, and flows from. It is usually the subject. When the topic shifts to different places in sentences within the paragraph, it causes needless confusion. Keep them in a coherent sequence throughout.

Place information at the end of the sentence that will be developed in the next.

Use logical connectors to transition from sentences and into new paragraphs.

  • Adding connectors: furthermore, and, also
  • Opposing connectors: but, however
  • Sequencing connectors: first, next, finally
  • Magnifying connectors: even, in fact
  • Concluding connectors: so, therefore

Structure coordinate series sentences so succeeding coordinates are parallel and longer than the one before it (see diagram below for an example)

longer sentences in Web writing

The second sentence in this example moves the parallels from shorter to longer improving the rhythm and flow. Some writers would break the sentence into two rather than attempt a long, complex sentence in a blog post. If you do make this stylistic choice, I recommend using it sparingly.

Beware of mixed metaphors. A metaphor invites the reader to see a familiar thing in a new way. Similes do the same, less intensely, the like or as moderating the force of comparison. If you opt to use either, be sensitive to choosing words that carry the meaning through consistently. Watch out for “looking over” a problem in order to “handle” it correctly, and similar mixed metaphors.

[Related: Do you make these critical thinking mistakes in your blog writing?]

Creating a personal blogging style

“Remember your primary goal as a writer is not to leave your imprint on the page,” offers Gary Provost in Make Your Words Work. “Your goal is to make the writing work. Make it do what it’s supposed to.” Many writers who write about writing say a style should be invisible. Rather than straining to make it happen, learn to write well and your style will emerge. Here are three ideas for creating your personal style:

  1. Master the mechanics. Learn the fundamentals of brevity and clarity as the foundation to making your writing do what it is supposed to.
  2. Read the masters. Make a habit of reading other writers – not only bloggers, but good copywriters and fiction writers. Studying how poets use language, structure and rhythm can give you new perspective on your writing.
  3. Let your personality emerge. As you continue to master the mechanics and read the masters, you will be inspired to express your voice in writing.

Bruce Lee was a model for self-expression. One of the greatest martial artists of all time, he was controversial because of his philosophy on style. He was first to merge several fighting styles into a unique hybrid.

He combined elements of Kung Fu, Jujitsu, grappling, boxing and other martial arts to create a new “style of no style” he named Jeet Kune Do. His vision was not for a new style of self-defense, but for physical self-expression.

When teaching students he told them, “Do not look for a successful personality and duplicate it. Express YOUR self.” Good advice for bloggers too.

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Lester Wunderman’s vision for interactive marketing

Lester Wunderman's vision for interactive marketing

The roots of Interactive Marketing can be traced to Lester Wunderman’s vision for a system of interactive transactions between consumers and manufacturers he named direct marketing.

Before interactive marketing, there was Lester Wunderman.

He is an advertising legend who pioneered direct marketing. He defined it, named it and launched it into a new marketing discipline that transformed modern advertising. For that, he is recognized as the father of direct marketing.

His accomplishments and contributions to the marketing industry cannot be overstated. In the decades that preceded the Internet, he envisioned a degree of consumer engagement and interactivity we are realizing today.

Defining a new marketing

In the early 1960s, Wunderman conceived a new approach to what was then known as mail order marketing, or direct mail marketing. He observed a shift in consumer preference for having a personal, direct contact with the manufacturer of products, and a shift away from intermediary channels of distribution. He described this as a “system of interactive transactions that would restore a measure of dialog and human scale to the way we made, sold and bought things.”

He viewed this system as more than a direct mail channel. He began calling it direct marketing.

In a historic speech at MIT in 1967, he outlined his ideas and gave birth to a new industry. He tells the fascinating story of preparing and delivering the presentation in his book Being Direct. He made the case for a new direct marketing that is comprised of several broad-based characteristics:

  • It is a strategy, not a tactic
  • It is where advertising and buying become a single affair
  • It eliminates intermediaries in distribution and communication channels
  • It creates dialogs between buyer and seller
  • It builds dialogs into enduring relationships
  • It is personal, relevant, interactive and measurable

In the decades that followed, he oversaw the advent of the direct marketing industry and put these principles into practice.

Inventing new media

While working with clients whose appetite for media couldn’t be satisfied by conventional direct mail alone, Wunderman pioneered new media to reach consumers directly. Some of these innovations include:

  • The now-ubiquitous magazine subscription card
  • Preprinted newspaper inserts
  • Inbound 800 phone numbers to sell magazine subscriptions on TV and radio
  • Introduction of the ‘virtual store’

All of these were revolutionary approaches for interacting with consumers directly as they moved further upstream in the buying process. These ideas were limited only by the technology of the time. However, the concepts hold true for interactive marketing today. In his book, Wunderman said of that time:

I was certain that consumer-initiated advertising was going to work in the future as more interactive media became available.

Technology has caught up with his vision. We can now interact on the Web in many ways: websites, social media, email and mobile. In anticipation of these new media platforms, Wunderman created “The Consumer’s Communication Bill of Rights” for the second edition of his book. It offers his time-tested wisdom for online engagement.

Lester Wunderman's guides to interactive marketing success

The vision for digital marketing

Wunderman’s vision is still aspirational for interactive marketers. We have powerful new media to reach customers and prospects, but continue to work through the challenges to deliver on their expectations. His “Bill of Rights” points to many of those challenges:

  • Being transparent and authentic, and letting go of controlling the message
  • Capturing data that enables more relevant, valuable exchanges without invading privacy
  • Understanding the acceptable frequency of communications
  • Telling relevant brand stories that inform, not self-promote
  • Having conversations with consumers that establish respect and likeability
  • Building relationships through meaningful engagement, not wasted activities
  • Making it easy for consumers to interact and buy
  • Keeping communications succinct

These are worthy pursuits rooted in the fundamentals learned in the decades that came before. As he has throughout his professional life, Lester Wunderman has provided a blueprint. His vision for creating the direct marketing industry extends all the way into today’s digital world.

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