Posts Tagged: business development

Is Your Front Desk In Order?

The first thing a customer sees is your front desk. Your front facing person could be a greeter at your entry way, a receptionist, a voice mail system, your Twitter account or any of a number of things – but you do have a first impression to make.

As 2010 draws to a close I ask you: is your front desk in order? Are you ready for 2011?

If your front desk is a web presence, is it ready for customers, giving them easy to find, useful, comprehensive information? After doing this assessment on myself last year, I revamped my own presences. I will likely need to do this again, and again – just like you.

If your front desk is an automated system of any kind: voice mail, auto DM, canned responses, etc my opinion is you need to trash it and start with something more human, helpful and accessible.

If your front desk is brick and mortar based: restaurant staff, receptionists, door greeters, customer service representatives and more, are these people fully trained in your goals, in how you want your online presences used, in your message and how to really be helpful to your customers?

Are you giving the front line of your company enough information and power to be effective in this economic battleground, or do you render them mute by keeping them in silos, like so many mushrooms?

Give an honest assessment of your own front desk, and use the last bit of 2010 to make it shine so you get off on the right foot in 2011.

 

Don’t Let Others Distract You

You’ve found your groove. You’re focused on your dream. You’re putting into practice the ideas you discovered from early adopters and early investors in this whole “social” space from books like Twitter For Dummies, Trust Agents, Crush It!, Get Seen, and so many more*. You’re stoked – you can feel your dreams realized, a step at a time. Then, you get distracted.

Have you noticed you get distracted by the very minds who inspired you in the first place? It’s not always just a coincidence. In some cases, it’s intentional. In other cases, it’s more benign – a thought leader, as they become called, wants to keep generating ideas and sometimes simply doesn’t think of the impact it may have on the person the ideas touch. Other times, they do. A Gary Vaynerchuk or a Chris Brogan** or others say they are “redrawing” or “refocusing” or “going beyond crushing it” and “stepping up their game” or [insert other vague yet seemingly positive language] here.

It makes you feel inadequate. It makes you feel left behind. It makes you feel like you aren’t moving fast enough. It makes you feel as though you have to keep up with the Joneses. It makes you stop focusing on your goal.

Did you know that the skill I use the most in my job is my education in psychology? Did you know that distraction, envy and inadequacy are very effective techniques for sidelining the competition? Did you know that in this new economy with these new tools, at this rapid pace technology flies, you are just as much competition as the heavy hitters who have come before?

If you didn’t know that before, know it now. Listen to the “thought leaders” when it helps you, but check in with yourself daily. Make sure your eyes stay on your prize and stop thinking you have to veer off your track each time someone with a bigger megaphone tries something new. Should you stop innovating? No. Should you innovate wisely and according to what works for your resources? Yes.

Now get back to work, hustle, and stop letting me distract you.

* Yes, they are Amazon affiliate links. I read a book a day – it helps me feed my addiction.

 

** I adore Chris, Gary, Steve and the rest of my colleagues. They are awesome. You should still focus on what’s good for you and your business above all else.

Insert Tab A Into Slot B: Boilerplate Social

It is relatively common for every 20 or so proposals sent to turn up at least one recipient who replies “Well that’s great, but I really just wanted someone to ‘create buzz’, can you A) take out [essential proposal component] B) take out [business development component] C) charge less but do all of the work for me ‘for now’ D) [other random request that treats the social plus business consult as if it were a dollar menu]”? To me, that helps weed out customers who aren’t serious, but I see other consultants bending over backwards to price themselves low and make automated options for people and scratch my head.

First of all, this isn’t an automated business we’re in. It is true that some clients and their products or goals can lend themselves to some automation (see ReverbNation for musicians, or IndieGoGo for film, for examples). The reality comes into play that even those clients will eventually have to get their hands dirty and get involved with the people who are interested in their social efforts. If you are automated then you aren’t listening, you’re missing opportunities, and you aren’t growing like you could be.

Second, if you are a consultant and you don’t value your product (which is often yourself) or your knowledge enough to charge for it, why are you in business? If you aren’t comfortable charging a price and sticking to it, perhaps in the back of your mind you think what you offer has no value, and if you think that – so will your potential clients. Figure out what you know and what it is worth, and charge accordingly. Perhaps this post from Christopher Penn will help you get some pricing perspective.

Finally, as I mentioned yesterday, you can’t go social and introduce all of the shiny new toys and tools and strategies that compliment your business without making sure your business can support the interaction. That where the business development, web site and other aspects of what I offer come in – it goes way beyond social. You will need to make at least a few organizational changes to accommodate customer interest, because you can’t force the customer to interact in only one way any more. You may be there for sales or news updates only, but your customer may throw you a customer service curve ball – you need to be ready. Your web site and other media (print, TV, etc) presences need to be ready to be social too.

What this all means for the customer is an adjustment in thinking about how they do business and what kind of benefits this will have for you and your customer. Interestingly, this post is about only a fraction of what I offer. The social media and business development is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all of the cool things I get to do with clients, it just seems to be where a handful of folks get mentally stuck. What this means for the consultant is that you need to offer something you value, or no one else will value it either and you’ll be on this treadmill of rejection and price cutting until you throw in the towel or price yourself out of business – self doubt isn’t sustainable.

Don’t Be Spineless, Get Some Backbone!

Chances are, your organization, company, film, band or brand may not be ready for social media. Why? Because your existing infrastructure has more wobble than an old school 8 inch floppy disk, and is narrower in scope than a wet noodle. Put it out there into the social media fray, and you may be destined for a wake up call you weren’t expecting.

I can’t tell you how many people are surprised to see business development and operational structure at the top of the list of things we’ll be assessing – and possibly making changes to – when we embark on bringing social media into your game. The reason for this is simple: if you don’t have a foundation and a way to address any concern or need your customers may throw at you, you will struggle on the back end. It’s a recipe for being overwhelmed, burning out, giving up and throwing in the towel, all before your market really gets to know you in a space that, while new to you, is old hat to many of them.

Take Comcast. Or, excuse me, “Xfinity” [yes, I do in fact roll my eyes every time I have to say “Xfinity”]. Frank – the power behind @ComcastCares and the Comcast Twitter team, the company blog and more, is an amazing guy personally and professionally. Professionally, he has pulled up the Comcast reputation by miles since he embarked on Twitter. You get better service, faster, from the Twitter team than from any other Comcast consumer touch point.

Why then, does Comcast still need a makeover of their brand, to the point where the company actually entertained a name change as a great idea? Because no matter how hard Frank and his team work, and how much we embrace them online, the Comcast infrastructure still sucks at a very local level. Yes, just being helped with the things in their control, or feeling contacted and acknowledged makes you feel better about an issue you may be having, but at some point? You still have to actually solve a problem and then hopefully keep it from recurring. Because of the way Comcast is structured (without getting too complex on you, think of it as kind of like a franchise – even going a town or two over you may be dealing with a whole new Comcast provider). Don’t let your company be another Comcast, with an all-star online team, a great team leader and spotty infrastructure.

How do you avoid this common problem? Slow down, think ahead. It seems counterintuitive in this fast paced internet world with a new tool every five minutes to tell you to slow down and smell the roses, but you must. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by shiny object syndrome – get your infrastructure in place as best you can, bring in enough of a team to maintain your efforts and give it meaning, focus your efforts on the core platforms and areas that makes sense to you right now, be willing to grow out of those in time as much as you are willing to develop them, empower your team to make decisions, trust the team to follow your basic guidelines (if you don’t have employee guidelines for social media yet, that is a whole other post), learn to listen early and often, and be willing to effect change in your organization in response to the shifts that social media will bring your business.

Some companies will assume thinking ahead means waiting to dip their toes in water. Not so! It simply means that you need to envision all of the ways people interact with you now, and how that might grow and change if you make it easier and more immediate for them to reach you. Then look at how your company is structured and make sure it can handle what people throw your way. Nothing frustrates people more than seeing someone or some company on a platform they love, trying to interact, and getting no response, bad response, ineffective response or delayed response. Be ready, be flexible, be present and be listening, even as you learn the ropes.