Can Social Media Replace Face to Face?

Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit with a company with whom I have been working for the past ten years. Over those years, I’ve had a number of various decision makers become my point of contact, and as happens in business, I had to build a relationship with each one of them as I looked to maintain the business with the company.

As time passed, my business with this company started to dissipate. It wasn’t that we were doing anything wrong, but different people have different relationships with other vendors, and slowly some of the business that we had previously established started to go to others.

Images-1Which leads me to the meeting that I had yesterday. I had heard that the new executive in place, who had never previously met me, was going to end their business relationship with our company. I had requested a meeting, and was given one reluctantly, and then thought about what it was that I wanted to convey in the meeting.

Most people would plan to defend their business. The tendency would be to explain why our company is better, why we have more experience, better knowledge, better value for the investment, etc.

I chose to take a totally different approach. I simply thanked this new point of contact for the opportunity to do business with her company for the past 10 years. I explained it was an honor to do business with them, and that if she felt she wanted to move her company’s business to someone else, I would do all that I can to help make it a smooth transition. I did explain what we had to offer, but also explained how I respected our competition, and the ultimate decision needed to be hers.

She looked up from her desk to make eye contact, thanked me for understanding, and then proceeded to suggest that we should work together to see how we might be able to maintain the business relationship just a bit longer. She suggested making a change after 10 years did not seem to make sense, unless it was absolutely necessary.

With all of the ways that we are able to connect these days, through social media, websites, emails, portable devices, sometimes the best marketing still happens face-to-face, is based on honesty and trust, and is the epitome of emotional branding. 

Always Room for a Great New Product

Last night I went to the supermarket, and while there, decided to purchase some apples.

I have to tell you, I'm an apple guy; I eat 2-3 per day. They have to be crispy, they can't have any bruises, and they have to be chilled. I admit it; I'm particular about my apples. While I was shopping for my apples, it got me thinking about what has happened in the world of apples.

When I was growing up, our choice of apples was somewhat limited. We had:

Red Delicious

Golden Delicious



That was pretty much it. Once in awhile some rogue apple might have entered the mix, but we pretty much were limited to the those four choices.

Now, the choice of apples is staggering. In addition to the apples listed above, most produce departments also feature, to name a few:





Granny Smith

Honeycrisp (the new "it" apple)

Which leads me to ask this question. Where did all of these apples come from? How much variety do we need? Don't get me wrong, I love all of these apples, but I find it kind of amazing that we have all these new apples from which to choose.

ImagesThis also came to mind. When you think that the category in which you compete has every possible product one can think of, and everyone is telling you that there is no room for any new variations on the products because it has all been done before, think of the growth of apple choices we now have. It's mind-boggling that the Honeycrispapple, which did not debut until the mid '90's, will be in the top 5 apple varieties this year based on sales.

Considering the fact that the apple has been with us since Adam & Eve, which is a really long time, amazing that the apple growers are still able tochange the product enough, after all this time, to still feel comfortable in saying New & Improved. 

Developing Great Value

Many people (brand owners) believe that the value of a product or service is what other people (customers) are willing to pay for it.

I think this is incorrect.

ImagesIn my opinion, the true value of the product or service is what YOU think it is worth. If you truly believe that what you have to sell is worth more than others believe it to be worth, don't hesitate to ask for YOUR price. The minute you are willing to devalue your product or service, the rest of society will devalue it as well.

Think about this when you are selling your product, and being pushed for discounts.

Think about this when you are asked to provide some "free" advice, but your living comes from providing "paid" advice.

Think about this when you read that Walmart is telling readers that bestselling books, which used to cost $25.00, now are only going to cost $9.00.

Think about this when most content on the Internet is given away free, but a select group of sites charge subscriptions.

Think about this when you are looking for employment, and the hiring is slim, and your skills dictate that you should earn more money than the company might be offering. Be careful about devaluing your worth.

I think the value of our product, our service, ourselves is what WE believe it to be, not what they tell us it is. And if we believe it in our hearts, in our souls, in our minds, we will convince others of our value as well.

I don't think it is a good idea to allow others to set our value, whether we are selling a product, a service, or ourselves.

Why Your Social Media Strategy is Like a Party

Many companies build their social media sites, and then wonder why they are not gaining fans, friends, and followers. Unlike in the movie Field of Dreams, if you build it, they will not necessarily come. It takes more than divine intervention.

With that in mind, here are some suggestions as to how to grow your social media strategy, and help it work better for you.

Invite People: You won’t have a great party if you don’t send out the invitations. Think of your social media strategy like a party, and to have a great party, you have to ask people to come, and make sure that they are the people that you really want to have at your event.

ImagesThe Invitation: Make it exciting. You can’t simply invite people, and think that they will jump at the chance to “socialize”. It is important to provide them with a reason to join you and join others. Think about what the invitation is suggesting, and how you are communicating what they will get out of socializing with you and your other guests.

What Type of People Will You Invite: You don’t necessarily want to be friends with everyone.  Sometimes you will invite people who share similar interests. Sometimes you invite people who might have a totally different point of view. This will make for a better party, and makes for a better conversation on-line. You want to have nutritious people at your party, not junk food people. Nutritious people provide sustenance.

The Venue: It has to look good. You wouldn’t expect people to love your party if the place was a mess, and was not decorated nicely. The same is true for your Facebook Business page, your blog, and your Twitter background. It should look nice. It should look “visitor” ready. The more inviting the venue, the more people will enjoy themselves, and invite others to join them.

The Conversation: Make it stimulating. You certainly wouldn’t want to have a party where the only thing that is discussed is how your own child Bobby did in school. The same is true for your social networking sites. Don’t only talk about yourself, or your product. Talk about your guests. Ask them questions about themselves, and their interests. Be interested in their lives.

Serve Good Things: Provide great tidbits of information that will help sustain people, and they will want to tell others why your party is one of the best to attend. The more you provide your party visitor, the more they will tell others, and your party will grow virally.

Don’t Become a Party Pain: You don’t want to be seen as a desperate friend, like someone who is friendless. Be subtle. Make your invitees want to come back. And when they do come back, and if it has been awhile, don’t make them feel bad about it, make them excited that they have returned to a great party. Be a real friend. Thank then for coming. Be genuine, and grateful. They took time out of their day to visit your site, and you want them to know how much you appreciate it.

Be the best host you can be. Make sure people talk about you as the best party on the Internet.


Twitter Grows Restaurant Revenues

A lot of people with whom I speak ask me if this whole Twitter thing is working for companies and brands, and if so, how are businesses using it. Let me share a quick personal story.

Nt_2_lgI am writing this from Naples, FL where I served on a panel the other day at the Shopper Marketing Fusion conference. Prior to my trip to Florida, as I tend to do, I Tweeted about my upcoming trip, and the fact that I would be staying near Naples. About 3 hours after my Tweet, I received a reply from Naples Tomato, an upscale italian restaurant. In a very conversational manner, they wished me a safe and successful trip, and suggested that I might want to try their restaurant if I had the time.

We exchanged a few Tweets, they shared their website with me, and also suggested that I mention Twitter to get a special gift if I did choose to eat at their restaurant. Which I did. One of my clients who happens to live in Sarasota, and owns a company named TUNG, drove over to Naples and joined me for a meal at Naples Tomato.

Let me share the experience. Upon entering, we spoke to the manager, and mentioned that we came in due to Twitter. His face lit up, said that it was not he that was tweeting, but Tanya, and they had just started the program. When asked how it was going, he proceeded that he was surprised as to how many people had mentioned Twitter when making their reservations, and he was really pleased with the early responses. After being seated, we must have had 4-5 restaurant staff members stop by our table and thank us for coming in. And they provided us with 2 glasses of wine at no charge, and offered us more if we wished. And the food was great.

Bottom line is this. This is one restaurant located in a slightly worn strip mall along Highway 41 in Naples. There is not a chance that I ever would have sought out this restaurant on my own. But because of Twitter, and because this local business had its ears on, and picked up the fact that I was coming to Naples, they reached out, they made the connection with me, and I became a customer. As well, I was treated better than I normally would have if I had just come in off the street, I felt as if I had a personal connection to the restaurant, I would recommend the establishment to anyone who asked, and I'm writing about it here.

So you tell me. Does this whole Twitter thing work? If I had a local business, I would certainly be using it to grow my business, and Tomato is a perfect example as to how to use Twitter correctly. Nice job! Great dinner!

One last thing, which is the best part of it all. Tom, my client and friend, paid the bill. The night could not have worked out better. 

The Value of the Nobel Brand

If you own a brand (and we all own at least one if we believe in the concept that we are our own brand), it is imperative that you protect the value of the brand, and the positioning of the brand, at all times. A simple error in execution can devalue the brand significantly.

With this in mind, let's look at the Nobel Peace Prize as a brand.

ImagesI seldom if ever share my political views in this blog, and I'm not going to start now. I won't tell you which way I lean politically, other than to say that I respect the office of the President, and whoever is President deserves our support, because that is what a democratic society is all about. End of political views.

Therefore,without getting political, I don't think there are a whole lot of people who believe that now was the proper time to award President Obama the Nobel Prize for Peace. Heck, even he himself said that he was humbled (which is political speak for "are you guys crazy!") and had not accomplished what other previous winners had achieved. Let's face it; it was only a few years ago that he was one of our State Senators. His rise to the Presidency has been nothing short of phenomenal, as well as his stature in the global community. But again, the Nobel Prize so early in his career?

Which leads me to ask these questions.

With this award, what has the Nobel committee done to their brand? 

Have they devalued the brand? 

Have they changed people's long-term perception of the brand? 

Would they have been better off not presenting the award this year, and making the announcement that they had no worthy candidates and therefore will simply wait until next year?

Do you feel that awarding the Nobel Prize to President Obama, this early in his career, will change the Nobel brand forever?

The fact is, that is all the Nobel Prize is, isn't it? It is just a brand run by a committee of brand managers. It is a brand that has been cultivated over time to mean something special. Like the Pulitzer Prize, or the Newbery Medal. But it is simply a brand, and brand owners sometimes make mistakes, even when the brand stands for the same thing for so many years. Did the Nobel brand owners go "off-brand"? How should they recover?

As brand owners, we can all learn from this. 

And as we used to sign-off in the '60's....


Why Social Media Might Not Work

It's a funny thing about this Social Media stuff. If you aren't social, it doesn't work.

ImagesThe other day, someone was complaining about the slow revenues that their company was experiencing. We were discussing their marketing strategy, and the fact that the company has to operate with a very modest marketing budget. This person was bemoaning the fact that they had adopted all of the "hot" social media strategies, and they thought it all was a bit absurd, because it was not having any impact on their business. 

They told me they had a blog. When I asked how often they blogged, they said at least once per month.

They told me that they are on Twitter. When I asked when their last tweet was posted, they told me 6 days ago.

They told me that they are on YouTube. But their last video was posted over 6 months ago, and it only has a few hundred views.

When asked how often they search any of the above sites for their company's brand, they said seldom if ever.

Social media is certainly not the answer to every company's problems. That being said, social media is about having a conversation, a dialog, with your customers, suppliers, employees, for that matter, the people of earth. You can't have a conversation only once per month; well you can, but if you do, who wants to talk to you? Do you think people are simply waiting around to converse with you when you are ready to talk? It simply doesn't work that way.

If you want to grow your business, and grow the loyalty that you have with your customers and clients, you have to engage with them, listen to them, talk to them. More importantly, one needs to do so on a regular, predictable, and sincere basis. Conversing with people who have thoughts and ideas that they want to share with you, and with people who have the ability to make you successful, should not be seen as a chore; instead it should be seen as a privilege. I don't think we should take this privilege for granted.

What, No Blog!

I did not get my "normal" blog posted today, so here are the...

Top Ten Excuses as to Why I Did Not Post my Blog Today:

10. I spent last night watching all of the past episodes of Glee on Hulu, and ran out of time.

9. Living in Chicago, I'm still thinking that the Olympics might be awarded to us, and spend my time waiting for the corrected announcement.

IMG_0001 8. Was focused on an envelope found on the backseat of my car, left by someone with whom I had a relationship in college, offering me $2,000,000 if I promise to never tell anyone, to save her the embarrassment.

7. Needed a new blog idea, but there was no "app for that."

6. Was pretending I was Don Draper from Mad Men, and kept buzzing for my "gal" to take dictation, but I have no buzzer, and no gal, so no one appeared.

5. I have been distracted trying to figure out Twitter's business model, and why it is valued at $1 billion.

4. Someone had provided me with a great blog idea, but the FTC says that I need to declare the gift of the idea, so I passed.

3. Perplexed as to the potential Comcast / NBC Universal deal, and wondering if NBC shows will no longer have a specific start time, but instead will air between the hours of 9 - 1, just like the Comcast installation appointments.

2. Spent the day wondering how I spent $42.00 at Whole Foods, and only purchased apples, nuts, something from the salad bar, and a drink.

And the #1 excuse as to why I did not post my normal blog today...

1. When I heard that a Chicagoan had won the Nobel Peace Prize, I thought it might be me for the work that I had done in keeping peace between a vendor and a client, but then was bummed to find out it was Obama...AGAIN! Man, he is getting ALL of the press! 


Marketing Secondary Brands is Tough

Imagine what it would be like to be the junior marketing manager for a religion, and you have been assigned the task to market a secondary or tertiary holiday. At the same time you have to try and position it to be "cool". Last night I attended an open house at a friend's home, at which they were celebrating the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, and it got me thinking of the conversation that might occur between the marketing person in charge of Sukkot, and a young consumer unfamiliar with the holiday.

Marketing Person: Welcome to the holiday of Sukkot! Would you like a frisbee with a Sukkot logo? We've got tons of Sukkot swag.

Consumer: What's Sukkot? I never heard of it.

MP: Well, it's a cool holiday, that occurs in either September or October, depending on the lunar calendar. While not one of the "biggies", it is still right up there with the well-known holidays, trust me. You want in on this! Black Eyed Peas are thinking of including the word Sukkot in their next song. 

C: What does it celebrate?

MP: According to Wikipedia, it is the Festival of Booths!

C: What? A festival to celebrate a booth. That's nuts!

MP: Look, let me explain. During the 7-day holiday, families build a "hut" or a "booth" in the backyard of their home. They decorate it with gourds, squash, fall type vegetables, hanging from the roof and the sides of the hut on a string. Then, each night, the family has dinner in the hut.

C: You mean there's a whole kitchen in the hut?

MP: No, no, no. Just the hut. And maybe a table and chairs. But the food is prepared in the house and then brought out.

C: But the hut looks like something a homeless person might live in.

MP: Exactly! The sukkah (the huts even have cool names) is to remind people of the 40 years that the Jews were wandering in the desert, with no Motel 6 in sight, and they had to live in these huts. Think of it as a holiday that reminds people what it would be like to be homeless for 40 years, and then things get better and you can afford a house and things, but you never want to forget what it was like to be homeless. Kind of like the character's life played by Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happyness.

C: Anything else happen with this holiday? I'm not sure about the whole hut thing.

MP: Ummm, yeah. There are these other things that you can buy to help celebrate the holiday. Kind of like buying accessories for your iPod, you walk around with them and people think you're cool.

C: What accessories?

MP: There is a thing called a Lulav, which is a part of a palm tree. You walk around waving it up and down, and shaking it at people. And, as if the palm thing isn't enough, you also carry a yellow piece of fruit called a Etrog, which looks like an ugly lemon, but it is organic. Very in!. They are so exotic, even Whole Foods doesn't carry them.

C: And you have to eat the palm tree and citrus fruit in the hut?

MP: No, you never eat them. You just carry them. You only have them as accessories, they serve no real purpose. But they set you apart form others. How many people do you see on the subway carrying palm leaves and fruit?

C: Right, I'll tell you what. I think I'm going to pass on this whole Sukkot thing. Not that it doesn't sound interesting, but Pizza Hu has introduced their new WingStreet Wings, and to be honest, they sound much better than gourds. Also, if I'm going to sit in a hut and eat, Pizza Hut sounds like a much better hut in which to hang. See ya!

MP: Marketing this thing is going to be tougher than I thought....

A sukkah built in front of a Starbucks in Skokie, IL.
A sukkah erected in front of a Starbucks in Skokie, IL.

Think Twice

ImagesOn Tuesday, I had the opportunity to speak to a number of people on a one-to-one basis, in various job environments. Five of the people with whom I spoke, for one reason or another, complained about things that are going in their jobs.

Which got me thinking....

There are currently 15.1 million people in the US who are unemployed and are looking for a job.

There are 9.2 million Americans who are currently working part time who would prefer full time.

That's 24.3 million people who are happy to take the job of someone who is really unhappy in theirs.

For all of you who are looking and have yet to find the position you seek, I think of you every day. I understand your frustration; you want to work, you have great skills to offer, and your talent is not being utilized. I feel for you.

For those of us lucky enough to have employment, let's not forget how fortunate we are. There are a lot of people who would love to be in our position. 

The next time we have a bad day at work, maybe we should think twice before complaining.

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