Everyone is “Listening”

July 12, 2011

It is no secret that the entire industrialized world is becoming more and more “social” by means of the expansive use of electronic media for networking, communication, and social relationships. The impact of this is profoundly changing the world that we live in. It is now nearly impossible for individuals and businesses to fly below the radar and remain in the world of obscurity. In case you have been blissfully unaware of the ever-developing world of social media, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Branch Out, and an array of other such services contain easily accessible public posts about who we are, what we are doing and how well we are doing it, whether or not we are directly participating. Even businesses that do not engage in social media are subject to public scrutiny in vehicles like Angie’s List1, and with mobile apps such as Where2 and FourSquare3 that invite public comments and reviews.

The ease with which the world can research us (businesses and individuals alike) became strikingly clear to me after reading the best seller “The NOW Revolution – 7 Shifts To Make Your Business Faster, Smarter, and More Social.”4 In reading this book I encountered the existence of sophisticated “listening posts,” which are online tools for exposing what is being posted by or about individuals and companies across the internet. Before reading this book, I had no idea that most of these so-called “listening posts” existed.

Here is one example of the “listening” power of the Internet. Go to Addictomatic.com and type in “YOUR NAME” or “YOUR BUSINESS NAME” in the search box (with the quote marks and spaces). The search results will include a custom page with “the latest social buzz” about you or your business. In seconds, Addict-o-maticTM creates a dashboard with results found on a collection of social media and related online sources. At least a dozen of such information aggregators exist across the web.5

These are powerful tools for business intelligence, waiting at your disposal. You can easily find out the current buzz about your competition, your industry, your business category, and what is being said that can impact the reputation of your business or you personally. As a guy who remembers the book, “1984,” it really is true that there are few secrets; total privacy is a thing of the past. Just like the old song, “You Can run But you Can’t Hide,” if you or anyone is “talking” about you, your company, or your organization, it is almost certain that what is being said will be heard by anyone who knows how to listen.

What does this mean for you in regards to your business affairs? The NOW Revolution authors point out that not “listening” is like not answering the telephone when it rings. If the world is listening, you must be listening too. The listening world can destroy your business, or it can help push your business over the edge of success. You must get to know this world of social media, and learn how your company can uniquely use it to your advantage, lest you be swallowed up in a changing world. There was a day when a business or person could be only public on the internet to the degree that they wanted to be. That day is long past. With the invention of tools such as Twitter, blogs, and Addictomatic ™, all it takes is one customer to publicize their bad experience and in an instant the entire industry knows about it. Thus, you must be prepared to listen.

The new media forces businesses to be armed and ready to instantly reply to customer service issues. Companies need contingency plans and procedures that give individuals the authority to reply instantly, either to endorse or refute what is being said. The astute business person must be equipped to instantly respond to fraudulent or spurious claims and conjectures that can ruin long-standing reputations. Convening a committee to ponder how to respond or taking time to run it past legal authorities are luxuries one can no longer afford to have. You can plan before the situation jumps up in your face, by familiarizing yourself with how the “listening” world functions, purposefully putting positive information on the internet radar, and keeping tabs on what is being said; or you can pick up the pieces after the event is over and consider what to do differently next time. Everyone is listening. YOU must control what they’re listening to.

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By the way, “The NOW Revolution” book was the focus of discussion at our Lighthouse Growth Resources Business Owner Groups and the Lighthouse Advisory Board meeting in June. We barely scratched the surface. We have decided to continue the discussions in August. I suspect that the use of social media for business will be a hot topic for a long time.

Background Notes:
(1) Angie’s List is a fee-based service for consumers to research service providers (roofing, plumbing, handymen, HVAC, housecleaning, electrical, painting, remodeling, windows).

(2) “Where” is a free mobile phone app that enables users to locate the closest places to eat, drink, and play, and access info on gasoline prices, news, traffic, weather and coupons.

(3) “FourSquare” is a free mobile phone app that “friends” can use to show where they are located, to track the places they visit, to find places nearby (food, coffee, nightlife, shops, arts & entertainment), and to create a “To Do” list of places to visit or shop.

(4) “The NOW Revolution: 7 Shifts to Make Your Business Fasterh, Smarter, and More Social” by Jay Baer and Amber Naslund, published by John Wiley & Sons, © 2011. www.nowrevolutionbook.com

(5) For a partial list of online “Listening Posts,” go to http://nowrevolutionbook.com/tag13/.


A Coach, a Father, and the Referral Marketer: Seven Creeds That Make a Difference

June 28, 2011

On Father’s Day, I watched an interview with a fellow dad who, along with his similarly dedicated wife, successfully raised 19 children, most of whom were adopted.  All 19 are now adults and out on their own.  His secret to their family success lies in their devotion to the seven creeds that the father of former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden wrote down for his son when John was only 12 years old. Coach Wooden attributes his career as the most successful basketball coach in NCAA history to these seven creeds. Here they are, written out exactly as John Wooden read them as a young boy on the verge of manhood.
1.Be true to yourself.
2.Make each day your masterpiece.
3.Help others.
4.Drink deeply from good books.
5.Make friendship a fine art.
6.Build a shelter against a rainy day.
7.Pray for guidance, and give thanks for your blessings every day.

After contemplating for several minutes how my wife and I ever managed to raise five children of our own, I turned my thoughts to how the seven creeds could impact the success of the referral marketers I deal with, just as they impacted Coach Wooden and one father of 19.  Call it an occupational hazard, for better or for worse. My conclusions are as follows:

  • #3 is the easy one:  The best referral marketers genuinely like helping their referral partners.
  • #1 is right behind:  Being good at referrals is in many ways an extension of being who you are. Don’t try to appear to others what you are not.  In referral marketing, having no referrals at a given meeting is not a negative reflection of who you really are as a referral partner, and much better than passing along extraneous leads that waste time.
  • What about #2?  Being lucrative at referrals requires a conscious effort to do your best in generating worthwhile referrals, perhaps not every day, but most days.
  • Now for #4: While there are entire books written on referral marketing, there most certainly are countless blogs, eNewsletters, and other easily accessible social media teeming with clever tips and advice that require only your discipline to dive deep and unearth their wisdom.
  • For #5: Make referral relationships a fine art. Put intentional  and strategic time and effort into them; don’t treat them as an afterthought.
  • The shelter reference in #6 is striking.  Having active and vibrant referral marketing relationships can mitigate or buffer those cyclical “downs” in the natural extremes of your sales roller coaster.
  • #7’s religious connotation may be personal, but perhaps the “Golden Rule” applies better in this case.  The quality of referrals you give and the assistance you provide to achieve the best introductions for your referral partners should be like, if not above and beyond, those that you want to receive from them.  We should always acknowledge and thank our referral partners for their assistance.

Please share your comments and ideas as to how Coach Wooden’s seven creeds apply to your referral marketing experiences.  What can you suggest to expand the list to eight, or ten, or more?


An App for Conversation Starters

June 15, 2011

My wife has discovered new way to start conversations, both at social events with our friends and at business events she attends with me. She poses one single question and her conversations are well under way: “What is your favorite app?”

Not an uncommon question, you might think.  Perhaps one you’ve even asked yourself, or been asked. But it’s a question with monumental conversational power in this age we live in.

What fascinates me is the responses she gets.  They fall into two categories.  The first is the classic, “I don’t have need of apps and don’t get why they are necessary.” To this response my wife nods her head, smiles knowingly and concurs, adding that her husband thinks they are not only necessary but essential, and she would rather watch paint dry or iron clothes (the latter of which I know to be an exaggeration) than mess with apps.

The second, and more typical, reply is, “I just found a great new app that does…,” and the one-sided conversation commences with my wife nodding and listening attentively.  It could be an app for navigation, email, calendars, music, social networking, time management, weather, shopping, calculating, reading QR Codes and Barcodes, dictionary and thesaurus, commodity prices, financial markets, web searches, managing movie services and TV recordings, newspapers and journals, viewing videos, following sports, religious education, or listening to the radio.  For iPad owners, it could also be an array of more sophisticated apps for word processing, spreadsheets, project management, customer relationship management, photo management, presentations, eBooks, games, and even managing blogs.

What makes this most intriguing is that she does not own a smartphone or any other mobile device that could utilize apps involving business productivity, information enhancing tools, or, heaven forbid, games. Yet despite her own lack of experience, this question never fails to send uncomfortable silence out the window and bring engaging conversation in.

Why do I mention this?  After witnessing the above conversation starter a few times, it dawned on me that this would be a great conversation piece in networking situations, after mutual introductions, and in that sometimes awkward space of time during which I look for an opportunity to launch my 30-second elevator speech.

For referral marketers, an app conversation could also be used to mention one or more of their referral partners.  “You know, I am in a referral marketing group with some folks who use apps for time management and gather information for their business, (and/or social media for business, and/or keeping up with sports or business news).”  For example, “I should introduce you to Ryan, who is an account manager with ABC Corporation.  Ryan is a great guy who has helped several people I know save money with their insurance benefit programs, and I think you two would relate on your use of apps.” Just as my wife uses the app conversation starter to turn potentially uncomfortable situations into engaging conversation, you can use the app conversation starter to turn a missed opportunity into a referral or two…or more.

What are your favorite apps?   I have a Google phone and an iPad, and would love to hear about your favorite apps. How have you seen apps spark conversation?


Profile of Business Referrals Plus Members

June 1, 2011

BusinessReferralsPlus(tm) manages high performance referral groups designed to deliver consistent first-rate referrals to dedicated marketing and sales personnel.  BRPlus members are typically passionate, personable, and active marketers or networkers who understand that TIME is their most important resource. They seek to maximize their return on investment of the time and money they spend on referral-marketing activities. Many BRPlus members concentrate more of their time on new client acquisition than on client renewal and retention activities. These members need a method to find referrals where efficiency, effectiveness, and quality are valued, and energy is not wasted on unproductive networking.

BRPlus provides its members with groups that meet that need precisely. BRPlus fuels their desire for face-to-face, first-rate introductions to real, promising prospects.  Each BRPlus group is specifically oriented as either Business-2-Business or Business-2-Consumer, providing an explicit focus unavailable  in other such groups that showcase an eclectic collection of products, services and professional services.

The relationships that develop between members of each BusinessReferralsPlus™ group yield countless opportunities for referrals within a narrow radius of focus.  This serves to maximize performance without wasting valuable time on referrals outside their scope of interest. BRPlus members trust each other to provide an effective level of service to the persons they refer. In each BRPlus group, the key elements are consistency, quality, and efficiency.

[SEE www.BusinessReferralsPlus.com.  Click on "Do You Qualify" to find out if you qualify for a free invitation to visit one of our BusinessReferralsPlus(tm) meetings.]


What makes “professionally managed” referral-marketing better?

May 27, 2011

There are many options in the St. Louis metropolitan area to join groups specifically designed to help create leads, network, and generate referrals.  At BusinessReferralsPlus(tm), the key differentiating ingredient is professional management.  Each BRPlus group has a professional director whose primary task is to push and pull information to and from members in order to produce high-quality leads during every meeting.  The director also communicates with members between meetings by:

  • Distributing notes from each BRPlus session regarding open, pending or closed referrals, and planned meetings and activities.
  • Contacting members between meetings to help facilitate referrals.
  • Producing collateral materials, including an Activity Details Report to track all referrals and activities, a worksheet for use at each meeting, and an updated roster containing profiles for each member.

While the expectations are different for each member of a BusinessReferralsPlus(tm) group, the key driver is high-quality referrals.  That is why we say at BusinessReferralsPlus(tm), “It’s not networking, it’s REFERRALS!”  

[SEE www.BusinessReferralsPlus.com ]


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