LinkedIn Showcase Pages Can Bolster Your Image and Sales!

Vending Micro Market & OCS Consultant | Helping Balance Digital, Social and Traditional Marketing | Prof Services Expert

The following article appeared in the August issue of Automatic Merchandiser and online at VendingMarketWatch.com.

In the world of B2B social media marketing, there’s a little known tool that’s making a big impact for companies that use it correctly.  And that’s a LinkedIn Showcase page.

LinkedIn officially describes Showcase pages as “…extensions of your Company page, designed for spotlighting a brand, business unit, or initiative. Create a page for aspects of your business with their own messages and audience segments to share with.”

So, then, if a business is to have a Showcase page, it must have a Company page first; and, to have a Company page, you must have a LinkedIn Profile.  Did you catch that last part?  You must have a LinkedIn Profile!  (If you don’t, a handy tool to get you started can be found at: http://www.healyco.com/linkedin-analysis)

We know from industry research and informal interviewing that LinkedIn Profiles are anathema to many vending, OCS and micro market owners and operators.  But I’ve said it before and it bears repeating: Once you hand others your business card, they do two things; they check your website and your LinkedIn Profile. If either are not up to par, they will likely move on.

Therefore, not having a personal Profile on LinkedIn puts you at a huge disadvantage, not only for your personal reputation but your company reputation and marketing efforts as well.

Why Showcase Pages?

Most companies in our industry have become rather complex, offering many and disparate products and services for which they must create multiple marketing campaigns to reach different types of audiences.  This can wreak havoc on a solid marketing or sales support program, sometimes struggling to pick the right social media and digital marketing tools for each product and each audience you’re targeting.

Showcase pages allow companies with multiple product/service messages to segment them easily and deliver them to the right audiences. You can also use them to highlight key industry trends among very specific audiences.

For instance, you could create a Showcase Page on “Healthy Choices” and load it up with content about everything your company offers through vending, OCS and micro markets that lean in the healthy direction.  Then you can promote the “healthy” page to very specific customers – schools, universities, health care institutions, among others – through email marketing, or a blog, or your website.

(Note:  Be careful to include some “curated content” on your page about the trend or product, so customers view it as a “thought leadership page” – a place where they can easily learn about a trend and what’s hot/what’s not – rather than a page filled with blatant product promotion.  Showcase pages are also an ideal place for videos about the trend, testimonials from customers, links to “more information,” etc.  In the end, you want the page to literally showcase your products, services and knowledge.)

Naming your Showcase page can be tricky as well.  For instance, if you want to promote Cold Brew Coffee as your company’s latest, hottest (pun intended!), cutting-edge offering, you probably can’t just name it “Cold Brew Coffee” because someone else may have a page with that name.  So make it clever or personal, like “Bob’s Original Cold Brew.”

Other examples of great Showcase page ideas (NOT names, but ideas) include:

  • Adding water service to the break room (Millennials and GenZ employees love water!)
  • Going Cashless:  The benefits of credit/debit readers on your machines
  • Picking the right micro market features
  • Today’s break room: Not what your Granddaddy remembers…

You are limited to 10 Showcase pages per Company page, so choose them wisely if you have myriad products and services you want to feature.

The objective with Showcase pages, like any other social media tool, is engagement.  So make choices in creating your company’s Showcase pages with your customers, prospects and other partners in mind.  And just like you’d pick out the right ring for that special someone, make sure the engagement strategy for your Showcase page is a brilliant diamond!

Websites: Your 24-Hour Lead Gen Tool

Check out this webinar, hosted in conjunction with NAMA, on websites, including effective Calls-to-Action, SEO basics and "boosters," copywriting and visuals, plus outbound email marketing once you've begun generating leads into your inbound funnel.  Designed for those in #vending, #OCS and #micro markets.  For more information, contact me at jhealy@healyco.com

WEBINARS Can Generate Leads, Appointments & Sales!

The following article appeared in the June/July issue of Automatic Merchandiser and online at VendingMarketWatch.com.  Much of its content was adapted from a presentation by Josh Turner, CEO, Linked Selling.  Please register to attend my July 19 webinar on "Websites: Your 24-Hour Lead Gen Tool in 3 Easy Steps" by clicking on the following link: http://bit.ly/29LlZG7

As an online marketing opportunity, the benefits of webinars are significant.  They can allow you to reach dozens of prospects at one time – not one at a time – and they can reinforce your thought leadership position in your industry among your existing customers and prospects.   A good webinar enables you to promote your products and services while you are educating its attendees, and you can make an offer at the end that ensures those who attend end up in your lead generation funnel.

If you think webinars could be a great online marketing tool for your business, begin by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What is my “big idea” or a topic about which I am an expert?
  • Why should attendees care about my webinar?
  • What is the “secret sauce” that inspires my customers to take action?
  • What are some secondary motivators for them?
  • What will I teach through my content?
  • What will my ultimate call-to-action be

There are essentially five steps to creating and conducting an effective marketing or sales webinar.  They are:

  • Initial Attraction
  • Indoctrination
  • Execution & Content (both educational and promotional!)
  • “The Offer”
  • Follow Up

Before we jump into the steps, it’s important to stress that a webinar does NOT require its host to be “on camera.”  Many, many successful webinars are conducted every day with a PowerPoint deck, some great content, and even a script.  Yep, you can write your webinar content out – word for word – and deliver it from the script.  Just be sure to rehearse it once or twice before you deliver it.

As you become more confident, you might want to try some where your customers and prospects can see your face – perhaps during the opening and closing – which will reinforce your expertise, thought leadership and winning personality in their minds.  Doing so can greatly enhance your lead conversion rates.

Initial Attraction:  The first step, attraction, is a numbers game.  You want to get the word out to as many people as you can – with the topic, the date, the time, format, how to sign up, and any other details you believe are important for them to attend.  If you have a CRM tool like Infusionsoft, you can send out invitation emails to your database and then “auto-responder” emails when someone signs up, then reminders – and possibly a second round of reminders closer to the date.

But you can also post about it on LinkedIn, place an ad on Facebook or Twitter, and send messages to all of your connections and friends on all of your social media platforms.

Decide before you begin promoting the webinar if you want it to be a “Leads & Appointments” webinar or a “Sales” webinar.  If you’re going to be actively selling products and services during the webinar, make sure you have educated the attendees on the topic before you jump into your sales pitch.  And, make sure you have an e-commerce solution in place that enables attendees to make a deposit or pay your “special pricing for attendees” for whatever you’re trying to sell, etc.  The simplest e-commerce solution, if you don’t have one, is PayPal, but there are many others to choose from.

Indoctrination:  This is the period between your initial attraction announcement and the day the webinar takes place.  It’s important because it “warms up” your targets to the topic and the host, it enables you to begin a new relationship or reinforce an existing relationship with the attendee(s), agitate the pain point (namely what is the problem or issue you’ll be addressing and the solutions you can offer?), and pre-educate, if need be, on information your attendees may not possess but it would improve their experience if they did.  And, you can begin to hint at the offer you will make during the webinar, so they think they’re going to get more than just a “good lecture” if they attend.

As you’re indoctrinating, make sure that your title [identifies the right attendee], [explains a primary benefit of attending], [how that benefit will be achieved] and [addresses an objection they may have to your content or subject matter].  For instance, a webinar title using that formula could be:  “How Human Resource Managers [attendees] Can Increase Employee Productivity [benefit] through a Coffee House Experience in the Break Room [how it’s achieved] without Costing a Small Fortune [a possible objection].

And certainly, be sure to build out the content of the webinar to deliver on the title you will have so carefully crafted.  There’s nothing worse than a webinar that promotes one topic, but rambles or wanders into many others that aren’t relevant.

Execution & Content:  As you begin to use webinars as a lead gen tool or just a great marketing/positioning tool, your attendance expectations should be low.  Don’t be disappointed if only 25 percent of those who signed up actually attend.  However, if you are consistent in using webinars as a way to market your business online, your numbers will improve over time.  But don’t ever expect more than 80 percent of those who registered to ever show up.

To improve your numbers, make sure you have reminded them of the day and time more than once during Indoctrination, remind them why it’s so important they attend, and reinforce that those who attend will receive a special offer at the end (this also helps ensure that attendees stay through the entire webinar).

Make sure the webinar content is truly educating attendees about topics that matter to them.  You can promote your products and services, but be sure to do so in the context of education, even if your goal is sales and not just lead gen or appointments!

As a beginner, keep the webinar short and advertise it that way (because we’re all busy people, right?).  For instance, you could call it “The 20 Minute Executive Briefing on [insert your topic].”

If you’re going to have 5-10 min of live Q&A at the end, make sure you have a moderator who can be watching the comments/questions/chat box and be selecting the best questions for you to answer or the best comments to share at the end.  Using a product like Citrix GoToWebinar makes the process easy, but it does cost a few bucks to buy the Citrix system.  The moderator can also directly answer questions that you and the moderator don’t believe are relevant to the entire group of attendees, or handle questions/comments in the chat box that are off topic while you’re delivering the content.

You can also use the execution of your webinar to “seed” upcoming content, either about additional upcoming webinars, or content you will be posting on your website, your blog, or other online locations where you are actively promoting your business.

And like any good PowerPoint presentation or slide deck, be sure that you switch up the format of your slides – some with colorful, appealing bullet-pointed material, some with only a compelling visual that reinforces a point you’re making verbally, and some that have both content and visuals.  Try to make the slides light on copy; after all, you will be delivering the majority of the content verbally.

“The Offer”  At the end, offer some bonus content such as a tip sheet or an online guide to helping your attendees improve their businesses, for instance.  In order for the attendees to receive the bonus content, direct them to a URL on your website or a landing page you may have created to highlight key content points and to redeem that special offer by opting in with their name, email address and possibly a phone number.  (Keep in mind that a complicated opt-in form can drive people away.)

For it to be meaningful, your offer has to be appealing to your attendees.  You can create the content, or you can curate the content of the offer – such as a third-party expert who has given you his/her permission to “borrow” their content because it’s good for you and good for them.

Ultimately, it’s about driving attendees to take action, so have a call-to-action at the end of your webinar, such as “Go to [URL] to learn more about,” or “Take advantage of our special offer by pasting this simple link into your browser today! You’ll be glad you did!”  And if your URL is long and complicated looking, remember that you can always shorten it by going to https://bitly.com/-- it’s a fantastic tool to shorten a URL so your attendees don’t miss your offer by typing the wrong URL into their browsers.  Bit.ly URLs work really well in Twitter posts, too!

Follow Up:  Conducting a webinar and all that it entails, creating your “offer,” promoting and indoctrinating potential attendees will be for naught if you don’t jump on follow up immediately after the webinar has been conducted.

The most important aspect of follow up is having it all thought through and planned out before you even launch your initial attraction campaign.

The first step is to “park” the webinar content on your website or a landing page, which should be recorded through the Citrix technology, and let it just auto-play anytime someone who couldn’t attend the live webinar wants to view it at a time most convenient for them.  Tip:  Be sure to delete the Q&A from the original webinar because it obviously won’t make sense – Citrix can help with that.

Most successful online marketers follow up their webinars with an email campaign that relates to the subject matter, but moves the customer or prospect to the “next level,” whatever that may be for your business.  What’s the next product you can sell them?  What’s the next topic on which they need to be educated?  They may not buy what you’re selling or sign up for the very next webinar, but that just means you will need to nurture them along like any of your prospects until they are ready to move to the next level.

Don’t forget to make the webinar process and the webinar itself fun.  They’re an outstanding way to show your knowledge, expertise, thought leadership position in your industry…..and your personality.  Webinars can generate leads, appointments and sales, AND be fun.  So warm up your “radio voice,” and give them a try.

NAMA OneShow: Digital & Social Media Marketing, Pt. 2

Today’s deck is certainly the heftiest of the three segments I’ll be posting from my #NAMA OneShow presentation, but LinkedIn has become the #1 business credential of the 21st Century. When you hand prospects (and even customers) your business card, they do two things: they check your company’s website and YOUR LinkedIn profile. If you don’t have an optimized LinkedIn profile, you’re losing business. Plus, LinkedIn sends 4x more contacts to users’ website homepages than other social media channels. So, if you’re not leveraging LinkedIn to generate leads, you’re simply missing out.

Check out the deck here

Websites: More Than Just 'A Pretty Face'

Vending Micro Market & OCS Consultant | Helping Balance Digital, Social and Traditional Marketing | Prof Services Expert

The following article appeared in the April issue of Automatic Merchandiser magazine and online at VendingMarketWatch.com -- additional content is available there: http://bit.ly/1N5p6nuHowever, the points made in this article are relevant to any business seeking to use their website for lead gen.

All too often, we head to the website of a company we’re interested in only to find that the site is nothing more than “brochureware.”  According to Forbes.com, “The term ‘brochureware’ was coined early in the Web era to refer to business websites that were nothing more than online marketing brochures, typically presented as a set of static pages.”

Unfortunately, many websites are still just that because they lack any real interactivity with visitors: they do not include a Call-to-Action (CTA) that collects pertinent information about visitors, they overlook keywords and search engine optimization (SEO) and they are not mobile friendly.  This is perhaps the biggest problem since more than 50 percent of all online content today is consumed on mobile devices.

A recent survey conducted by Automatic Merchandiser among vending, OCS and micro market operators revealed that 49 percent of respondents believe that their websites are the most important element of their company’s marketing efforts.  Yet nearly 60 percent of respondents said they do not have a CTA on their website that enables them to collect any information about visitors, and 50 percent said they need more education/training on CTAs.

So, let’s review the elements of a successful, marketing-driven website:

There’s No Place Like the Homepage

Undeniably, the most important page of your website, the homepage is your opportunity to make a great first impression.  To do so, it should have minimal copy – primarily who your company is, who you serve, and what benefits you offer – complemented by bold and striking visuals. 

If you offer multiple benefits and want to communicate them on the homepage, then consider a slider (or carousel) that rotates great visuals with attention-demanding headlines embedded in them.

The homepage objective is to minimize the “bounce rate,” or the percentage of visitors who come to your homepage and leave without engaging with any content, filling out your CTA, or clicking through to an inside page. It’s people who saw the homepage and said, “Nope… that’s not what I’m looking for.” You want this number to be as low as possible. You want to keep people around, get them to engage, and take the next step into your sales funnel.

That’s why your site navigation needs to be clean and simple: gone are the days of complex nav bars that click through to website sections that contain page after page of dense paragraphs of copy.  And your navigation needs to use the same words and be roughly in the same place on all of your inside pages; ideally your site visitors should always know where they’re at and how to get where they want to go.

Less (Copy) is More

Your sales copy and images of your products (or services) on the website’s inside pages can and should provide more detail than your homepage, but again, be careful not to overwhelm visitors with too much!

The copy should draw the reader in with exciting benefits and enticing offers that push them deeper into your sales funnel.  That’s why a competitive analysis of your closest competitors’ websites can prove to be very effective.  You want to be sure your sales copy differentiates your company from all others and delivers benefits they can’t get elsewhere.  And it should always reinforce your “brand.”

The same holds true for your photography and other images.  If you have dozens of products you need to feature, consider using thumbnails that click to larger images, if necessary. Select high-quality images (from a reputable stock photography house, or have them taken by a professional photographer) and use them to help tell a story that keeps visitors engaged.

Finally, don’t be afraid of white space.  Often, we’re compelled to fill every corner of a web page, when in fact, the skillful use of white space can draw a visitor’s eye exactly where you want it to go.

Optimize, Optimize & Optimize Again

By now, if you’re involved in developing websites and marketing your vending, OCS or micro market business, you’ve been bludgeoned with the notion of Search Engine Optimization.  That’s why I will make just a few key points:

•Do keyword research:  Find an SEO expert who can determine what are the highest value keywords and key phrases for your business. There is a distinct formula for doing so.  Once determined, make sure every page of your site contains those words and phrases.  If your keywords are relevant and well placed, your SEO will pay off.

•Make sure the back end of your site is well programmed for SEO efforts.  This includes not only your keywords and key phrases, but metadata, H1 and H2 tags, and alt image tags for each photo on the site.  A good website programmer will know how to get this done.

•Make sure your site is listed with all the key search engines, such as (surprise!) Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.  If you don’t tell them where you’re located in cyberspace, they won’t know to find you and to “crawl” your site using their algorithms. 

And the most critical aspect of SEO, since Google’s announcement in April 2015, is optimizing your website for mobile devices, including all the options in tablets and smartphones. 

Opting In, Not Out

When a visitor or prospect comes to your website, they come for a reason and they’re typically curious about what you have to offer.  There are many ways to drive them deeper into your sales funnel, but to begin a dialogue with a potential new customer, you have to persuade them to “opt-in” to an offer (of value) you are making on the site. 

In the related article– “CTA Rules of the Road” (http://bit.ly/1N5p6n) – we provide prepared Calls-To-Action for vending, OCS and micro markets and the deliverables associated with them for operators' immediate use.  If you’re among the 60 percent of respondents to our survey that don’t use CTAs, we hope you will use them or adapt them to your company’s culture, and start building your opt-in database today.

Where to place them and how often they’re seen by your website visitors is up to you.  More aggressive marketers place their CTA on every page (but typically not in pop-up form because that can just become annoying to your visitors).  Those who are less aggressive typically create a pop-up box that appears on the homepage, and every time someone clicks back to the homepage.

Some Final Words on Marketing…

Your website is a marketing tool, to be sure.  As such, there are a few additional pages you can consider including on your site to make it work harder for you.

  • About Us:  You know the adage all too well – people buy from people.  So make your About Us section personal, compelling and absolutely up to date.  No 10-year-old photos.  No boring copy about the decades and decades you’ve been “in the business.”  Tell a story, draw people in, seek to really connect with them.  And be sure to revisit it often, freshening it up and improving how you tell your story.
  • Testimonials:  There’s no better way to establish credibility with prospects and new customers than allowing others – your current customers or industry partners – to brag about you.  A great way to get started if you don’t already feature testimonials on your website is to ask your best customers if you can write one for them, then submit it for their approval.  And be sure to use their name, title and company name; there’s nothing worse for your credibility than an anonymous testimonial that most people will perceive as fake.
  • FAQs:  Frequently Asked Questions can be a tough section to write but a very worthwhile one.  Anticipating your prospects’ questions and answering them reflects that you’re in touch with your customer base.  You understand their questions and concerns…and you have answers for them.  If you’re not sure about how to get started, send an email to your best customers asking them what questions would be best in an FAQ section.  This section can be an awesome place to subtly point out your differentiators, competitive advantages and company culture.

Most importantly, keep your website fresh.  Spruce up the copy and change the photos; replace the testimonials and FAQs with new ones; create new CTAs.  Why?  Because a prospect may come to your site several times before jumping into your sales funnel.  So don’t disappoint them with the same old stuff.

Social Selling Index: An Overlooked LinkedIn Tool?

LinkedIn has developed a way to measure your social selling activity to give you a score out of 100. This score is your “SSI” or “Social Selling Index”. LinkedIn Research shows that SSI leaders:

  • Create 45% more opportunities per quarter
  • Get promoted 17 months sooner
  • Are 51% more likely to hit quota
  • Here's how the SSI works best:

 

1.  Create a professional "brand" for yourself

I've done well in this category since starting here at LinkedIn. By aiming for 100% completeness of my profile, I’ve been able to consistently keep this score high. I've told a story through my profile; keeping it client friendly and less like a resume. I’ve made sure to include rich media in most sections of my profile as well as these prove to keep people on my page longer.

2. Find the right people

Success in this category comes with the prospecting and account management activity that many people use daily through Sales Navigator. Specifically, I’m performing filtered searches using the Advanced Search function since I'm not a Sales Navigator customer, then reaching out to these people and requesting a "Connection."   In addition, I frequently check who’s visiting my profile, and reaching out to relevant viewers.

3. Engage with insights

This is the area most find difficult to keep their score high in, as it takes some time. However, I’ve found that time put in here is well worth it.  I've tried to join the right Groups -- even creating my own LinkedIn Group for Vending & Coffee Service Marketers.  But the effort lies in posting every day.  Finding some piece of relevant content you can share with your Connections or share into your Groups.  As a result, I’m receiving more connection requests and InMails than ever before.

4. Build strong relationships

After every meeting or phone call I try to send a LinkedIn connection request. By building my network in a quality way with other business professionals, this score has steadily risen. I spend time every week, at least, trying to add value to the relationships I've built on LinkedIn (and I dare say, my score above reflects that).

I hope you will check out your SSI and use these four simple steps to improve it!

Find your personal SSI here

Don’t Feed Social Media Complainers, Haters & Trolls

The following article appeared in the February/March issue of Automatic Merchandiser magazine and online at VendingMarketWatch.com

According to Social Media Today, “83 percent of B2B marketers invest in social media to increase brand exposure, 69 percent to increase web traffic, and 65 percent to gain market insights.”  Those are pretty impressive numbers.

However, stepping out on the “social media ledge” can be treacherous sometimes, especially when negative comments from unhappy customers (or troublemakers) start appearing in your social media channels, feeds or online forums/blogs.  But while such comments and criticism can appear on any social media platform, the vast majority are found on Facebook and Twitter.

Such individuals typically come in three types:  Complainers, Haters and Trolls.

  • Complainers are customers, typically, who have had a bad experience and simply want their complaint resolved, period. If handled well, you won’t hear from a complainer a second time.
  • Haters, are typically either insecure or arrogant individuals, who can be customers, but are looking for an audience to vent, criticize, offend…you name it.
  • Trolls are those who are looking to find fault, and enjoy doing so. Their type dates back to the late 1980s, and they are usually members of one or more online communities where they intentionally post offensive, divisive and controversial comments.
  • The majority of negative comments we receive are from Complainers,” says C.J. Britton, Digital Marketing Manager at Royal Cup Coffee’s headquarters in Birmingham, AL.  “We rarely encounter Trolls or Haters, and when we do it’s typically disgruntled employees who post on our Facebook page or in our Twitter feed.”

 

Rules of the (social) road

In responding to Complainers, Britton takes a “one and done” approach – one reply, using his brand’s voice (rather than an automated reply) that makes the individual feel as though their online voice has been heard.  Then he moves on, not engaging any further.

Many companies and brands adopt a similar protocol, and have formal or informal rules that they follow in dealing with online naysayers.  Such rules can include:

Responding to every negative post, comment or tweet:  In his upcoming book, “Hug Your Haters,” due out March 1, 2016, social media author Jay Baer says it’s critical to “answer every complaint, in every channel, every time.”  In a significant survey of consumers, Baer found that slightly less than half the time, critics expect a response from a company or brand.

“The good news,” Baer says, “is that half the people don’t expect to hear back from you.  The bad news is that those who do expect to hear back, expect to hear from you quickly.”  Speed matters in social media probably more than in any other marketing channel.

Acknowledging mistakes and personalizing responses:  Reply in a non-automated fashion, acknowledge an error or problem, use the customer’s name, and indicate how you will correct or fix the subject of the complaint.  And if you don’t have an immediate answer, just say so, but promise to reply when you do.

Never deleting a complaint:  Deleting negative online comments should NEVER be done.  Doing so invites further criticism, and can escalate negative dialogue and, sometimes, invite others to express similar complaints that may otherwise never have surfaced.

With Haters and Trolls, move the conversation offline:  Engaging in negative dialogue on a public platform like Facebook or Twitter never pays.  You want to avoid “mob mentality,” which allows others to join in the virtual slugfest…only making it worse.  Take it offline to a private and internal feedback system, such as a customer feedback landing page (simply embed the URL to that landing page in your response).

At Royal Cup, C.J. Britton analyzes the severity of every complaint: “I want to avoid a running thread that’s negative, so I either quickly resolve it online or move it offline.”

Not using competitors’ online misfortune to your own advantage:  Taken another way, don’t poach your competitors’ customers unless you expect to have the same done to you.  And certainly, if you suspect that a competitor is behind someone who’s anonymously trolling your channels, then use the “one and done” approach.  No need wasting your time engaging in online dialogue with a competitive troll.

Finally, experts agree that a lack of response is a response. No response sends the message: “I don’t care about you very much.”

Have a plan!

Public complaints don’t actually hurt your business.  In fact, they are an opportunity for you to self-correct and fix what may be broken in your relationships with customers.  And in doing so, you let ALL of your company’s online followers see that you’re willing to act on customer feedback. 

That’s why a critical first step in creating a plan (or guidelines) to address online criticism begins with establishing a reliable form of social “listening” and monitoring of your company or brand on social media.  Google Alerts are a very simple and cost-free way to do so, but there are other tools, such as Mention, Social Mention, Hootsuite/TweetDeck and Buffer.

Your social media policy should clearly indicate who is responsible for responding to online criticism, how soon they should respond, why type of response is warranted given the nature of the criticism, and if/when to follow up.

Keep in mind that your employees will typically be engaging on all of your social media platforms – at home, at work, on their mobile devices – and there’s little you can do to prevent it.  So make it clear that they’re not to engage in responding to criticism unless it’s their job to do so.

Assign the responsibility to someone who does not have a short fuse and will not take online criticism personally.  Your guidelines should also clearly state that one person is in charge, with a back-up person designated to jump in when necessary.

Most importantly, know when to escalate an issue that emerges online to operational areas in the company that can better address them, as well as your customer service professionals. Some call it an “escalation plan,” but regardless, your treatment of fiercely unhappy customers or “crazies” should be escalated.

Enjoy the…benefits?

While Haters and Trolls can be problematic, online criticism isn’t all bad news.  In fact, it offers some unexpected benefits.

When those who are truly loyal to your company or your brand encounter the work of those who aren’t, they will often rise up against them in defense of your quality, your service and your good name.  In some ways, they could be considered your online brand champions.  Thanking them and rewarding them in an offline and direct fashion will ensure their continued loyalty.

Without a doubt, addressing online complaints and criticism the right way can enhance overall brand loyalty and customer retention.  When you answer somebody, you have a chance to change his or her mind.  Royal Cup’s Britton says, “If the criticism has to do with one of our products, I apologize and tell them I’m sending a replacement product for them to consider.  That generally elicits a positive reply.”

Every time you answer a customer complaint, it bolsters your image vis-à-vis customer advocacy. It takes a bad situation and makes it better. And when you actually interact with negative customers, you learn things about how your business is perceived that can lead to making your business better.

Erin Pepper, Director of Guest Relations for restaurant chain Le Pain Quotidien, has been quoted as saying that she strives to triple the number of complaints they receive each year in order to learn how she can improve the food, ambience and service in their 200 locations worldwide.

And while we never think this way, a sudden burst of criticism, followed by responses from your social media team and support from your brand champions, can have a positive effect on SEO because, let’s face it, your company or brand name is highly visible online.  Ironic, right?

In the end, managing Complainers, Haters and Trolls is not the problem, but ignoring them is.

2016 Attorney Social Media/Digital Marketing Survey Reveals Lack of Integration

By John Healy and Dean Harakas            

 A 2016 qualitative and quantitative survey conducted among attorneys nationwide revealed that their use of social media and digital marketing tools is not integrated, with one tool typically dominating all others depending upon an attorney’s experience and comfort level with social and digital.

Survey findings were analyzed by age – ranging from 21 years to 60+ years – and by geographic location.  While no strong variances in use exist by location, age is a factor in only one case: younger attorneys who report using Twitter more than any other age group.

Social and digital tools examined in the survey included LinkedIn (396 million users worldwide), Facebook for Business (1.55 billion monthly active users), Twitter (320 million monthly active users), personal blogs, law firm websites, electronic newsletters and outbound email marketing.  When asked to choose what tools were the most effective for business development, respondents indicated the following:

John Keyes, a patent attorney at Chicago’s Blanchard & Associates, describes the collective use of social media platforms as his firm’s “shop window of the 21st century.”

Surprisingly, the attorneys surveyed believe that “passive” tools – like a firm’s website – are more effective than electronic newsletters and outbound email marketing, which are typically considered “active” tools.  Nearly three-quarters of the survey’s respondents said that their firm’s website is an effective communication tool among clients and prospects, while only a third of respondents indicate that outbound marketing tools are equally effective.

The most striking finding of the survey was an overall lack of integrated use of social media tools.

Those attorneys who favor personal blogs as a social media tool use LinkedIn less than all other attorneys; only 32 percent of bloggers are using LinkedIn.  In fact, those in smaller firms use blogs two times more than others.

If an attorney is predominantly using LinkedIn as a business development tool, then he or she is significantly less likely to use Facebook for Business or Twitter to generate business.  Among those who find LinkedIn to be the most effective tool for business development (78% of all respondents), only 11% find Facebook for Business to be effective and 24% find blogs and Twitter to be effective.

"I know in-house counsel are looking at my LinkedIn profile as part of their due diligence," says Mark Williams, a litigation and trial partner at Sherman & Howard's Denver office. "I actively use LinkedIn to endorse clients, prospects and referrals sources because helping them succeed strengthens the relationship, which is what social media is all about."

Jeff Lange, a solo practitioner in Chicago, says he uses LinkedIn for lead generation and partnering.  “It’s a great way to research potential clients,” Lange says, “and I also use it to connect with potential partners who can help me build my business.”  Some attorneys, like Jacob Zahniser of Jordan Ramis PC in Vancouver, WA, are less interested in using LinkedIn for sales purposes: “I think it helps me establish myself as a thought leader, someone who is educated and knowledgeable about specific areas of the law.”

Attorneys who favor Twitter as an effective communications tool are less likely to use Facebook for Business.  "Tweeting has been a very enjoyable way to track and share developments in the highly regulated area of employee benefits and executive compensation," according to Sarah Roe Sise, a partner at Armstrong Teasdale in St. Louis. "It also has been an effective method to share ideas with other practitioners from around the country. Further, it has provided additional exposure and traffic to articles I've written on blogs."

Conversely, Bryan Jones of Meldon Law in Gainesville, FL, predominantly uses Facebook for Business because he believes it promotes a “more human connection.  I can provide links (to our website), post photos of other attorneys and staff, and really get a dialogue going with my Facebook followers.”

The ever-growing array of social media tools provides opportunities to reach diverse client bases beyond the most well-known tools.  "Using Google+ has been an effective tool to share information directly with clients," says David M. Serafin, a Denver-based bankruptcy attorney. "Several clients have also used Google+ to post reviews about my practice."

An overwhelming majority of the survey’s respondents state that their firms provide support for digital and social media marketing efforts: 85 percent say that “support” comes in the form of dedicated marketing staff, while 40 percent are provided with “financial resources/budget.” Other, less predominant support includes the services of an outside public relations or marketing firm, an executive assistant, or “other support staff.”

In examining the use of social and digital marketing tools by firm size, there exists few dramatic findings except among respondents in firms with 26-100 attorneys, 81 percent of whom favored LinkedIn over all other social and digital tools.  Other similar findings revealed:

  • Bloggers are more prevalent (55.6 percent) in firms with 6-25 attorneys, compared to 17.4 percent in firms with more than 100 attorneys.
  • Facebook for Business is used by 42.5 percent of attorneys in firms with 1-5 attorneys versus 11 percent of those in firms with more than 100 attorneys.
  • LinkedIn is most favored by attorneys in firms with 26-100 attorneys (81 percent), while only 17.4 of respondents in firms of 1-5 attorneys report using LinkedIn.
  • Surprisingly, Twitter showed almost no variance by firm size.

 

When asked about their personal use of social media tools in the future, 63.5 percent of respondents say that it will increase, 34.5 percent say that it will “stay the same,” and only two percent say that it will decrease.

Chicago’s Jeff Lange elaborates, saying, “I intend to up my game in 2016, both creating original content and curating existing content.  I need to do more than just connect with others and collect ‘Likes.’  So, I plan to be more disciplined about setting aside time every week to get engaged with others on LinkedIn.”

Like most things in life, it appears that with social and digital marketing, the more time and effort you invest the greater the return. 

John Healy, CEO of Healy Consulting & Communications in Chicago, generates growth, visibility and profitability for individual attorneys, law firms and other professional services firms.  He can be reached at jhealy@healyco.com

Dean Harakas, Esq., President of Ajax Strategies in Denver, provides Forward-Thinking Solutions℠ that enhance profitability, efficiency and client service to law firms, law schools and individual attorneys.

Don't Rely on Facebook for Content Marketing

Disclaimer:  This is not a post about bashing Facebook.  It's just a follow up to a point made during a presentation I gave earlier this week to attendees of the CTW Show and others in the OCS and/or NAMA communities.

In doing my research for a presentation I gave in early November at the 2015 Coffee, Tea & Water Show, hosted by the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA), on Digital Marketing and Social Media Marketing as a lead gen tool, I was shocked to learn the following:

Facebook posts from Company Pages reach only 2% of the page's fans, and only 0.73% of top brand fans engage with each post, according to reports from Ogilvy and Forrester Research.

While I knew from my own professional experience (and wasted $$$ spent) that Facebook for Business was a bad investment for pushing content out to B2B customers and prospects, I didn't realize how bad it really was until I ran across those statistics.

So what's a company or a brand to do?  Here are some easily implemented suggestions:

1)  Use social media to drive customers, prospects and others interested in your company or your brand to YOUR WEBSITE.  There's no better selling tool than your own website, where you control the content and the analytics.

2)  Make sure your website has a strong CALL-TO-ACTION on it, something of real value and not just a trick to get visitors to opt-in through your CTA.

3)  Create LANDING PAGES that include special offers that your existing customers (don't neglect them in your pursuit of new prospects because it can backfire on you...) and new prospective customers can find easily.  Make sure the page offers solid content and has a CTA.

4)  If appropriate for your company or your brand, use OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING TOOLS to push content out to your fans, followers and others.

And finally, if you're a B2B marketer, your likely shouldn't waste another minute on Facebook since it's primarily a B2C tool, along with many of the others.  And beware, don't fall prey to Facebook's telemarketers, who are pretty slick and, as it turns out, aren't even Facebook staffers -- they are employees of Web.com!

Hope this helps clarify and "puts a period on the end of that sentence."

Napping on Your Keyboard? It Could Be 'Adrenal Fatigue'

Are you falling victim to the proverbial “afternoon slump” more often than you like?  Feeling tired throughout the day despite those eight hours at night that everyone recommends?  Or just feeling chronically run down?

Winston Churchill used to swear by a 20-minute nap every afternoon that, he said, enabled him to work late into the evening, a necessary evil of the late Prime Minister's weighty responsibilities.

If you’re like me or Churchill perhaps, you may be suffering from a syndrome known as “adrenal fatigue.”  Not an illness, adrenal fatigue results from the adrenal glands (located just above your kidneys) not producing enough of the hormone cortisol to keep up with a variety of stressors affecting our minds and bodies.

Such stressors can be the result of long-term mental, emotional or physical demands, such as workplace anxiety, ongoing financial worries, one or more consistently negative and mentally draining personal or professional relationships, performing tasks that are physically taxing, or consistently abusing drugs or alcohol.

Cortisol naturally regulates energy production and storage, the immune system, heart rate, muscle tone and other functions the enable you to adequately respond to stress without fatiguing your system.  In very extreme cases, you may even have difficulty dragging yourself out of bed in the morning.

The good news is that YOU CAN improve your body’s cortisol production and adrenal gland function. 

Try incorporating one or more of the following suggestions into your diet or daily life:

  1. Cut down or cut out caffeine from your diet.  Same goes for alcohol.  Both wreak havoc on the adrenal glands.
  2. Light exercise on a daily basis, such as walking or working out in a gym.
  3. Eat healthy foods – or healthier foods, if “going green” just isn’t in the cards for you – at every meal.
  4. Eat your meals earlier in the day, such as breakfast before 9am, lunch before 12noon, and dinner before 6pm.
  5. Remove yourself from habitually stressful situations, if possible, especially those that provoke stress in your workplace.
  6. Take safe nutritional supplements and vitamins that can stimulate the adrenal glands.  The key word here is SAFE.  Read up on them first, or ask your physician about those you think may help.
  7. Speak with your physician about your symptoms because oftentimes those who believe they’re experiencing adrenal fatigue may, in fact, be suffering from sleep apnea, depression or another health problem.
  8. Engage in some form of meditation or deep breathing exercise at least once per day (or if your schedule permits, more than once – even if it’s a simple breathing exercise at your desk).

If you’re bucking for a promotion, looking for a new job, or simply want to improve your overall performance and stamina, start by ensuring that your adrenals are pumping out adequate levels of cortisol throughout the day. Like mine, your computer’s keyboard will thank you.

It's Day 4: Is Your Website Mobile Friendly?

Google announced on April 21st that it has changed its algorithms to account for websites that are optimized for smartphones.

According to a piece that ran on NPR yesterday, "The change is only taking place on Google searches made on smartphones. The results will favor websites deemed "mobile friendly," giving them higher rankings than sites that are only optimized for desktops and laptops."

Google spokeswoman Krisztina Radosavljevic-Szilagyi elaborated on the changes in a statement sent to NPR:

"As people increasingly search on their mobile devices, we want to make sure they can find content that's not only relevant and timely, but also easy to read and interact with on smaller mobile screens."

And get this -- According to Portent, Inc., an integrated internet marketing company based in Seattle that's high on web analytics, among other things, a test they conducted in early April on 25,000 websites found that 10,000 of them "Failed," rating them as "not mobile friendly."

Yet, Google isn't overstating the evaluative nature of the new mobile-friendly algorithm.  Ms. Radosavljevic-Szilagyi said in her statement:  

"While the mobile-friendly change is important, we still use a variety of signals to rank search results. The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal — so if a page with high quality content is not mobile-friendly, it could still rank high if it has great content for the query. The ranking update will not make it rank below lower quality pages that are mobile friendly."

Okay, sounds reasonable, but check out this staggering figure:  According to UK-based Smart Insights Ltd., 80% of those they surveyed said that they use their smartphone to search the Internet.  Only PCs and laptops (97%) scored higher and, surprisingly, tablets came in at only 47% of searches.

So, the question is, where do you stack up?  You can use this simple test to see if your site is mobile friendly: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly

If you don't do well, turn to your trusted online marketing provider for help.  Or just shoot me an InMail and I'll hook you up.  Good luck!

John Healy is CEO of Chicago-based Healy Consulting & Communications, which helps its clients find the right balance of traditional marketing and media strategies with digital and social efforts to bolster their relevancy, growth and success.

UPDATE: Strong Launches with Lasting Success Are Balanced

Note: This article, originally posted in early March, won the SmallLaw Pick of the Week award on March 27th. The editors of SmallLaw, a free weekly email newsletter for solo practitioners and those who manage and work in small law firms, give this award to one article every week that they feel is a must-read for this audience.

The strong and successful launch of any new business is critical to lead generation, sustained relevance, thought leadership and ultimately new client engagements.

Traditionally, entrepreneurs like you and I had a limited number of marketing options at our disposal to let others know that we had “hung out a shingle.”

We might have sent out a news release announcing the new firm, as well as a letter or personal email to former clients, intermediaries/referral sources, friends, and even other colleagues or fellow alums of the schools we attended. Or we may have taken a display ad in our local yellow pages, as well as publications read by potential clients and thought leaders in our key vertical markets.

But faced with today's plethora of digital and social media marketing options, you might find yourself wondering whether to abandon such time-honored options in favor of adopting new ones, or just sticking with “what’s worked.” I believe the answer is to do neither.

In fact, the best solution is create a balanced blend of traditional marketing strategies and tactics with digital and social media options, resulting in a dynamic and relevant marketing effort.

When considering which tools in your marketing toolbox you should use, consider how each of the following can be implemented to the benefit of your firm:

  • A well-written and professionally designed website that clearly explains your “brand” and the practice areas in which you excel.
  • News releases and bylined articles that establish your thought leadership and contribute to effective management of your reputation.
  • A robust LinkedIn profile – With 111 million members in the U.S. alone, LinkedIn is the #1 social media site for those marketing to a professional audience. You can’t be successful today without it.
  • Blogging – Contributing blog posts to your own website or other sites allows you to impart knowledge and engage targets without appearing as if you’re “selling” anything.
  • Landing pages – Such customized pages can exist within your own website or stand alone with unique URLs, drawing targets to specific marketing messages you want to communicate.
  • Facebook – Though it’s the most popular social networking site because of its vast consumer appeal, more and more professional services firms are creating Facebook for Business pages and creating links to them in their online marketing materials.
  • Twitter – Once seen as little more than a dumping ground for gossip and fluff, it has since grown into a legitimate tool for professionals. You can use the 140 characters allowed in a tweet to draw your targets to a landing page, a bylined article, your website, you name it!
  • SEO (or Search Engine Optimization) enhances the “searchability” of a firm's website with specific keywords, increasing its visibility among the Internet’s leading search engines, primarily Google, Bing and Yahoo.
  • Email blasts to specific targets – or your entire professional database, if appropriate – can be an effective outbound marketing method, and online email marketing providers like Constant Contact and MailChimp make it easy


The skillful use of these marketing tools gives your firm an edge over competitors, many of whom are slow to adapt to a changing professional services marketing landscape. If asked, most professionals tout their use of LinkedIn, but many have little more than their name, title, photo and a list of current and previous employers posted there. Hardly a robust marketing tool!

While finding the right balance of tools is important, nothing is more critical today to the launch and sustained success of a new firm than content. To be effective, your toolbox must contain content, and plenty of it!

According to Top Rank Marketing’s Lee Odden, “Content isn't King, it's the Kingdom.” Odden is among the 86 percent of B2B marketers who use content marketing to attract and retain clearly defined target audiences and encourage profitable client behavior. As you determine which marketing tools best serve your firm, remember that high-quality, relevant content will ultimately drive users to your website, your landing pages, your LinkedIn profile, etc.

Plus, you will maximize the effectiveness of good content if you focus it through proper outbound channels and tools, such as RSS feeds, calls-to-action (CTAs), SEO metatags and page descriptions, and online email marketing messages. The reward of doing so is the development of an inbound funnel of prequalified leads – potential clients or referral sources that actually value your content and want to do business with you!

Finally, don’t overlook the fact that any content that you (or others) create can be repurposed: A blog post you’ve written can become a long-form post on LinkedIn, just as news that’s relevant to your firm or your target markets, insightful presentations, interviews and relevant articles can become content in YOUR toolbox to be shared with existing clients and new prospects.

In making decisions about which tools are right for you, don’t hesitate to ask other professionals and colleagues what choices they made and why, or seek the guidance of a qualified marketing professional with expertise in your field. Then prioritize your tools based on what your marketing budget will allow.

Once you’ve gathered all the rational data to make smart marketing decisions, close your eyes and go with your gut. After all, it was Steve Jobs that called intuition “more powerful than intellect.”

A 'Quit' Pro Quo Story

When you look at the numbers, it’s staggering – or, in this case, sobering. Yet, despite the odds against me, I Quit.

Of the 20 million adults classified as having problems with substance dependence or abuse in 2007, approximately 12 million (60 percent) were employed full time. And more than 30 percent of all working Americans engaged in binge drinking, defined as consuming five or more drinks at any one time.

In addition to higher absenteeism and lower job productivity and performance, it’s proven that substance abuse also leads to greater health care expenses due to injuries and illnesses. Sadly, a 2006 study showed that only about 11 percent of persons with alcohol dependence received the care they need.

I was counted among those statistics until more than seven years ago. That’s when I decided to put down the drink and pick up greater success in my career.

Alcohol is cunning, baffling and powerful because dependence on it sneaks up on its victims. It is widely accepted in medical and professional circles that alcoholism is a disease that is treatable, not unlike diabetes or hypertension. Yet, physicians tend to make fewer diagnoses of alcohol dependence among regular or binge drinkers than are warranted, and underuse treatment referrals for persons with a diagnosis of alcohol dependence, according to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Unfortunately, there is a stigma attached to the disease of alcoholism. So it is not discussed openly in the workplace – by neither alcoholics themselves nor their supervisors and co-workers – despite its deleterious consequences.

Such common consequences include:

  • Greater absenteeism and tardiness;
  • A reduction in job performance and productivity;
  • Higher health care expenses due to injuries and illnesses; and
  • A higher number of workers’ comp and disability claims.

 

Although I have been my own boss since 1990, the consequences of the disease did not elude me. It was time for me to make a change, and I made it! In short, it was probably the most beneficial moment of my career.

As the effects of the disease diminished, I began to realize tremendous benefits, including deeper, more connected relationships with my co-workers, staff and clients. This enabled me to lead my teams with greater confidence and respect, which had a directly commensurate positive impact on both the quality and quantity of our work product.

But, for many, it’s nearly impossible to admit their dependence on alcohol, and especially in a work environment – for fear of recrimination by others caused by the stigma associated with the disease that lingers yet today. Too many people believe that alcoholism is a character defect and not a disease, hence the perpetuation of the stigma.

According to the Betty Ford Center, when a group of professionals and employers were asked whether there a social stigma associated with alcoholism, 83 percent of psychiatrists said there was a strong stigma, 70 percent of doctors replied similarly, 51 percent of employers agreed there was a strong stigma, as did 47 percent of clergy and 56 percent of professional counselors.

"The professionals at Betty Ford rightfully concluded,

“One day society will catch up with the science of addiction…but obviously there is a long way to go.”

If you are an employer and you are reading this post, I hope you will be inspired to drive the stigma associated with substance abuse and alcoholism out of your workplace. Doing so will allow its victims to come out from the shadows and get the help they need. You can also provide Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), which were initially spearheaded by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) more than 50 years ago! (More on EAPs in a future post.)

If you are an employee reading these words, and either believe you may have a problem or know in fact that you have a problem with substance abuse and/or alcohol, then I implore you to contact your HR department or speak with your supervisor, if possible, and take the time off to get the help you need.

And if you are a co-worker of someone who you believe may have a problem with drugs or alcohol, then it’s highly likely that it’s not the first time you have been exposed to alcohol abuse in your lifetime. According to the NCADD, 17.6 million people, or one in every 12 adults, suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence, more than half of all adults have a family history of alcoholism or problem drinking, and more than seven million children live in a household where at least one parent is dependent on or has abused alcohol.

Most of all, I hope these words will inspire you to take some form of action, such as:

  • Approaching your co-worker or employee and encouraging him or her to admit to their disease;
  • Speaking confidentially to someone in authority who can be trusted not to use the information you provide to the detriment of your co-worker;
  • Supporting the establishment of an EAP that addresses substance abuse; and
  • Asking your employer to take action as well.

 

Helping others and helping ourselves to say, “I Quit!” one person at a time, can only improve and enrich our workplaces, our cities and our nation.

Is Big Data Messing With Our Guts? Grab the Antacids!

Just ask anyone:  I’m generally a glass-is-half-full guy.  An optimist, who typically trusts what I read and hear in the context of my professional work.  And sometimes to a fault.

Except where Big Data’s concerned. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I think Big Data and its related analytics are enormously useful.  I use them time and again for my clients.  But quite often the data reveal some finding(s) that run counter to my own intuition. 

In a blog post earlier this year, Per Petterson, co-founder and CEO of Impact Radius, stated, “One of the first published ‘Big Data’ discoveries was the suggestion that diapers located next to beer at 7-Eleven would be the ultimate pairing. Young fathers often are asked to bring diapers home and when there is a conveniently placed six pack, it is an easy decision (for some) to grab one of those as well. This is not an obvious combination of products — and that’s what makes it a good example of how (analytics) can help uncover things that the normal human brain might find counter intuitive.”

Aren’t we relying too much on the data to make decisions for us? 

Take Target Corp. It is using customer purchases blended with predictive data to create a “pregnancy score” for those customers it believes to be pregnant.  How insensitive it must feel when a woman who has just lost a baby to miscarriage, for instance, gets a boatload of coupons from Target “for the little bundle of joy!”

Here’s another (excerpted) example from a Fortune.com article published last year:  “One T-shirt seller on Amazon.co.uk put up a shirt for sale emblazoned with the statement, “KEEP CALM AND RAPE A LOT.” One might wonder who thought such a shirt would be a good idea. But Solid Gold Bomb, the company that made the shirt, wasn’t necessarily aware that it was even selling it. That’s because the shirt wasn’t designed by anyone. Nor were the shirts even necessarily ever printed.

“Solid Gold Bomb’s business isn’t in artfully designing T-shirts. Instead, it writes code that takes libraries of words that slot into popular phrases (such as ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’) to make derivations that get dropped onto a template of a T-shirt and automatically posted as an Amazon item for sale. Their mistake was overlooking a single word in a list of 4,000 or so others.”

Whatever happened to intuition, common sense and just listening to our guts?  Antonio Damasio, a prominent neuroscientist, has shown that our biological response to information can often outpace our neurological recognition.  In other words, gut feelings are very real.

The White House is aware of the enormous positive potential of Big Data, but it is also looking out for possible dangers and its potential impact on groups that are excluded by faceless algorithms.

Finally!  I have something in common with Barack Obama!

John Healy is CEO of Healy Consulting & Communications. He is in the process of launching two new ventures.

To Learn from Others, Be Humble and Listen

Photo by Jeff Kubina 

Photo by Jeff Kubina 

All too often, we encounter colleagues, clients and others who believe they are experts in absolutely everything.  They have something to say about absolutely everything.  Or, in some cases, they just like to hear the sound of their own voices. 

Some would call such people “know-it-alls,” but they likely view themselves “experts” or “gurus.”  (These are words that I believe are used far too often today, especially if someone is speaking in the first-person voice.)  Seriously, how many real gurus have you actually met or spoken to in your career? 

The issue at hand, as I see it, is that business people believe that success (and projecting an aura of success) is based on grandiosity rather than humility.  In my own personal experience and by observing other very successful executives, it’s the latter – humility – that will win clients, build business relationships, and generate a boatload of LinkedIn contacts if that’s important to you.

 If we truly practice humility in our professional lives, we will achieve outcomes we never thought possible.  Doing so breaks down into four simple steps:

 Step 1.  Identify individuals that you respect and admire and approach them.  Such individuals could be your colleagues at work, friends or friends of friends, or people you’re just getting to know through social media channels like LinkedIn, Facebook and others. Approach them through a well-written email (or a phone call if you’re more comfortable).

The key is to tap their knowledge, so don’t make the mistake of using such opportunities “slip in” a sales pitch.  Big mistake!

Step 2.  Ask them for some of their time to discuss an issue or topic that you truly believe they are expert in.  Most successful executives that practice humility in the workplace themselves typically are happy to help others.  The word “mentor” actually dates back to 1750 in ancient Greece; the word literally translates to “wise advisor.”

I have approached complete strangers (no, not on the street – I mean in the virtual sense) and asked them to help me, or to speak with me about a particular topic, and I’ve rarely been told no. 

Step 3.  Be prepared for your discussion!  Such individuals are typically busy people.  So don’t waste their time with a discussion that rambles, skips from topic to topic, or doesn’t follow any logic.  Do your homework before you speak using online search engines, websites and other research sources that are just a keystroke away. Reference their expertise in your discussion.  This will sure impress, and in some cases, flatter them.

Step 4.  Stop talking and listen!  I’ve found it very helpful to have an outline of the discussion prepared ahead of time.  Let your advisor/mentor know what you would like to cover, i.e., summarize it for them at the start.  Ask your questions or seek opinions in a simple and direct fashion, then be quiet so you can LISTEN to them

As successful people ourselves, we often want to share our own opinions and experience.  Not in this case!  Save that for someone who views YOU as a mentor.  You’ll be glad you did.

Finally, and almost more important than the four steps outlined above, express your gratitude.  Depending upon the lengths to which someone has gone to help you, expressions of gratitude should be appropriate and timely.  (Hint:  send that thank you email within a half hour of ending your phone discussion, not 24 hours or more later.) 

If you are humble and grateful, I’m certain you will be well received and, perhaps, invited to contact them again.  And if that’s the outcome, consider it a “humble home run.”

John Healy is CEO of Healy Consulting & Communications. He is in the process of launching two new ventures...with humility.

Photo by Michael Summers

Photo by Michael Summers

Is Your Website Backfiring?
Check the Mirror 

All too often I have worked with clients who have demonstrated boundless enthusiasm for creating a new website, then insisted on elements that ultimately caused it to backfire.

According to inbound marketing and SaaS expert Hubspot (www.hubspot.com), "72% of websites receive a failing grade of 59 or lower." 

I believe the primary reason for such failure is that visitors can't find themselves in your website. Sure, it's important that the site be visually appealing, that it's been optimized for mobile devices and it offers clear Calls to Action. But none of that matters if visitors don't connect with your content and key messages.

Start by organizing the content in ways that make sense to your ideal client or customer. Create a homepage that enables them to quickly and easily find themselves in your sitemap and overall navigation. So, that means the first section in your navbar should not be entitled "About Us."  Instead, start with a section that discusses your product/service features, and the benefits they offer customers. Overall, your navigation scheme should be simple, not complex. Give visitors fewer, more relevant options to choose from upfront, then drill down on subsequent pages by offering content that's meaningful for them.

Visitors' primary reason for visiting your site is NOT to read about all the great awards you've received...or the vision of your founders...or how brilliant your senior executives are. They want to know what you can do for them, how you can make them more successful, how you can help them grow and achieve their business goals, and how you can add value to their enterprise. (That's not to say that congratulating yourself for a well-deserved accolade by a prestigious third party isn't important, but prominently listing every award you've ever received will ensure sudden death.) 

Then, write each section as if you were the client or customer, using words and phrases that will resonate with your targets! Metaphorically speaking, your content should be like a "mirror" where visitors can see themselves in each page they read, over and over again. And unlike everyone else who says "avoid jargon," I'm going to disagree and say it's okay to use jargon, but only in those instances where it has meaning and is relevant to your customers and prospects. Throwing around words and acronyms that make your organization sound like a collection of know-it-alls will only prove to annoy and alienate your visitors.

Here’s a cleaner way to ensure your targets “get the message.” Consider creating a pop-up box that reflects your firm's key messages, but emphasizes 5-10 well-written customer-centric benefit statements. Then have your programmers create a separate button that spawns the pop-up and invites them to learn what those benefits are. Doing so will ultimately keep your pages cleaner and the site's navigation simpler.

Finally, make sure the writing is crisp, fresh and relevant. Time and again, I've witnessed web pages that got passed around for review and editing by entirely too many people. Yep, once again, "death by committee."

If you want to gain the credibility, engagement and loyalty of your website's primary visitors, i.e., your customers and prospects, stop staring into your own mirror and start staring into theirs!

John Healy is CEO of Healy Consulting & Communications. He is in the process of launching two new client-centric ventures.

Better Networking:  Three Steps & “The List”

I have recently changed my approach to networking meetings.

Rather than leaving them up to fate, serendipity or your Higher Power, I have found that following these three steps can ensure you impress your networking contacts and achieve the outcome(s) you were aiming for.

Photo by Elvert Barnes

Photo by Elvert Barnes

FIRST:Prepare for the meeting by reading their LinkedIn profile, don’t forget to check out Recommendations they've received and Posts they've written for valuable information about them and how they think. Study their company's website, their Facebook page, their Twitter feeds, and so on. Learn as much about them as you can. (If you already know them, this step can be completed more easily. But even if you think you know them well, don’t skip it!) 

SECOND:Make a list like mine below and present it early in the conversation. And just as we counsel clients to make sure their marketing is customer-centric, make sure your list is “contact-centric.” Detail what you can offer them and others, NOT your accomplishments (let’s face it, they can learn all about your achievements from your LinkedIn profile). 

10 Insights Into What John Healy Can Offer (Company)

  • Strategic branding and positioning experience with both B2B and B2C   clients
  • Contribute to expansion of (Company’s) offerings in the B2B space
  • Entrepreneurial success: 20+ years of new business development work
  • Media relations expertise: Enhance awareness, perceptions and reputation
  • Client relationship management veteran
  • Confidence in telling clients what they need to hear, not what they want to hear 
  • Active listening skills to understand clients’ needs and expectations
  • Adaptability: experience in corporate, consumer, professional services, associations
  • Superior presentation development and delivery skills
  • Intuitive, quick-thinking and intelligent

Not only will your list help you to appear more professional and prepared, it will also better engage your contacts and spark new ideas and recommendations on their part. In short, you should make it easy for them to help you!

 THIRD:Use your list to drive the conversation. I’m often surprised that communications professionals who teach media training don’t use simple techniques like “bridging” to control the dialogue. If you feel the conversation straying from your intended dialogue, then bridge back to the list. Being prepared and using the list will result in better outcomes, such as the names of others with whom you can connect and referrals to them by your networking contacts.

 Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want from your networking contacts. By using your list and following these critical steps, you’ll walk away having made a stronger connection, a better impression and a list of ideas and action steps that will surely bolster your future networking efforts.

John Healy is CEO of Healy Consulting & Communications. He is in the process of launching two new ventures.