Monday, May 24, 2010

"Buzz Off": How to Destroy a Buzz Marketing Campaign

According to the site, Buzz Marketing is "capturing attention of consumers and the media to the point where talking about your brand becomes entertaining, fascinating, and newsworthy" or, put more simply, "starting conversations."

Buzz Marketing has become an increasingly popular route to market for many businesses, large and small. Companies recognise that more buying decisions are made because of recommendation and referral than any other factor. The growth of review sites, such as TripAdvisor demonstrate this perfectly.

I have been part of a Buzz Marketing campaign this year. It was one that I originally thought was well thought through and inventive, but increasingly demonstrates the dangers of a buzz marketing campaign that is not fully supported.

As a member of a Private Members club in London's West End I was offered a free Palm Pre mobile phone. Intended as a competitor to Apple's iPhone, the device had failed to get much traction in the UK market and it was thought that the members of our club mixed in the right circles to generate some positive word of mouth about the phone. We were given the handset with no contract and unlocked, so that we could use it with our existing network, and a card with details for support.I was also connected on Twitter to the independent Palm Pre Guru for constant tips and hints on using the phone.

A few weeks later I received a short questionnaire about how well the phone was working for me, with a quick reaction to the questions I raised. All good so far.

Then it began to unravel. First of all I lost some pictures when trying to transfer them across to my computer. I sent a tweet to Palm Pre Guru and an email to Palm for advice and support but received no response.
Then last week my battery, which had been performing increasingly poorly, died completely. I tried again to contact Palm through their Twitter account and by email. Again I got no response. I even tweeted my dissatisfaction with Palm to see if it would raise their interest, but they remained silent.

Palm's aim in giving me a free phone was to get me to talk about their product. I was picked because of my membership of a Club on the basis that I would be likely to be well connected in their target communities and likely to spread the word.

In that case, doesn't it make sense to ensure that the word I spread is a positive one, rather than negative? Palm appear to have entered into this campaign half-heartedly, thinking it is enough to simply give away phones and hope their performance speaks for itself. Not if the battery dies it doesn't!

If you engage in Buzz Marketing and select people who will speak about you, make sure that the word you give them to spread is a positive one. Treat them as your most important customers, not as an afterthought or irrelevance. Buzz Marketing has to be backed up by superlative customer service if it's going to make the impact you seek.

If my experience is not unique, this campaign could possibly turn out to be a complete disaster for Palm.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Importance of Building your Profile and Managing your Reputation - Latest newsletter from Fresh Business Thinking

The new issue of my networking newsletter for Fresh Business Thinking is out today. In this latest issue, we've focused on your personal profile and brand. I have turned to experts across this field for their advice. 

I have developed my thoughts on focusing on what people say about you, a theme that Person Branding expert Lesley Everett then takes on.

We then turn to two experts on becoming the expert in your field. Mindy Gibbins-Klein discusses why this is so important and Jo Parfitt looks at how writing can strengthen your personal profile. 

Find out more about why it's so important to build your personal profile and how to do it here. 

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Connecting is not Enough - The Newsletter

In the latest edition of Connecting is not Enough I get my teeth stuck into the British political system and what our politicians could learn by engaging in a little bit of networking. And it's not just the UK politicians who should be thinking more about collaboration.

Also included, of course, is the usual blend of networking tips, referral ideas, social networking suggestions and video. With, of course, the latest from The National Networker, a new video and just a little bit of fun.

If you're not a lucky subscriber and haven't had your copy hand delivered yet, you need wait no longer.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

A Time for Collaborative Government

It's been an interesting week in British politics. Last Thursday's General Election failed to produce an outright winner and we found ourselves with a hung parliament, with no one party enjoying a decision-making majority, for the first time in a generation.

The initial reaction of many pundits in the UK was very disappointing. Instead of looking forwards to a positive change requested by a disillusioned electorate, there were concerns about the lack of a stable government able to enforce their policy.

If you follow me on Twitter you will probably have seen some of my occasional complaints about the childish behaviour exhibited by our politicians, particularly during Prime Minister's Question Time each week. We have lived in a highly tribal environment where everything is black and white, good and bad, right or wrong. The system has lacked subtlety or the recognition that your opponents might have something useful to say.

Looking from a distance at politics in the US, there seem to be similar issues of entrenched battles rather than a shared vision.

At the time of writing this the outcome of negotiations to form a coalition government wasn't known. Yet already we are hearing positive sounds about working together and even respect between politicians. It means there could be a refreshing change ahead. Then again, I might be naive!

I strongly believe that the tribal politics we have experienced has no place in a modern, collaborative society. Instead of worrying about hung parliaments and minority governments, this is an opportunity to reframe our approach. After all, coalitions aren't exactly new elsewhere in the World. 

Let's start looking instead at collaborative government. After all, networking doesn't have to just be about business or individuals. It applies to Government as well.

How much better could policy be if the views of all sides were taken into account before finally formed? Nobody has the monopoly on great ideas or the best approach. Moving away from dogma and towards collaboration will, in my opinion, lead to stronger rather than weaker government.

The rules of engagement have changed in politics as well as in business. It is down to our leaders to grasp the mantle while it is there.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Standing out from the Crowd

In tough economic times it can be very tempting to market yourself as a generalist more than a specialist. After all, the more ways in which you can help prospective customers, the better chance there will be they will want to employ you. Isn't that right?

Perhaps not. In Networking with a Niche in February I talked about how having a clearly defined niche can help you network more effectively. That was illustrated to me today.

I received an email yesterday with information about a company who were looking for trainers to work with large companies on a range of topics, including networking. I sent off an email this morning outlining what I could offer and received an email soon after asking me what a 90 minute session to a group of employees would look like.

Five minutes after my subsequent reply the company called me and we had a very positive twenty minute conversation that will hopefully result in ongoing work and a flourishing partnership.

During the conversation I found out that they had received over 100 responses to their request for trainers.

"That's fantastic!" I said.

"Not really," came the response. "I haven't got the time to call 100 people and find out if they're suitable. Your email stood out from the crowd."

Naturally I wanted to know what made my email stand out. After all, if I'm doing something well, I want to make sure I keep on doing it.

"I’m a strong believer that you can’t be good at everything," said my contact. "I like working with people who have a ‘speciality’ in something and you clearly do in networking. Many trainers emailed me and said they could deliver on ‘anything’ and I wasn’t so keen on that. Many people might not agree with me but that is what I prefer – hence I made contact!"

While it may be tempting to put yourself out as the cure to all evils and jack of all trades, be aware that you may be seen as a master of none. Find your speciality, settle into a niche and market yourself around that.

It might mean saying 'no' to some work and missing out on others. But you'll stand out from the crowd when it really counts.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Networking Video Tip: Getting Referrals - What Lies Within

In our search for referrals most companies look first to their clients and then to their wider network. But so many opportunities for referrals are missed, simply because we are not looking in the most obvious place.

In this video tip I discuss why the people who work for your business should be focused on how they can generate referrals for you. Internal referrals, breaking down divisions within companies and looking to help each other, could account for a huge amount of new business each year. But incentive schemes are not set up to encourage them and staff are often not educated beyond their own area of responsibility.

As I say in the video, if you can't refer yourself, how can you expect other people to do so?

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

A Question of Trust: A conversation with Vanessa Hall (PART ONE)

This article originally appeared in The National Networker

“Building and retaining trust is the cornerstone of every business and personal relationship”.

The quote above sits inside the jacket of Vanessa Hall’s book ‘The Truth about Trust in Business’ and highlights the importance of trust in networking. With networking being founded on relationships, one could argue that trust is the ‘cornerstone’ of networking, and I don’t think you would find many people who would argue.

Certainly not Vanessa Hall. Vanessa is the Australian based Founder and Director of Entente Pty ltd and an award winning speaker and author who advises everyone from individuals to major global organisations about the importance of trust.

Yesterday Vanessa launched the International Day of Trust, with the aim of ‘getting trust into the hearts and minds of people around the World’. I took the opportunity to ask her a few questions about the importance of trust and the different ways in which we trust others.

A: Tell me a little bit about your business. It’s clear that trust is at the core of all that you do.

V: It’s everything that we do. We’ve only been around for four years, so still babies in the trust world but in the beginning we made quite a big impact. I work with businesses but also with personal relationships and more broadly in communities. It’s now expanding into international relations, so we’re working at a very senior government level and with the UN.

Probably the key difference with what I do versus everyone else is how I define what trust is. The model that I use actually describes in a visual way and a structural way how trust is built and how it breaks down so it sheds a lot of light for people in relationships, whether those relationships are in business or personal, in terms of what might have gone wrong in the past, how to get better at communicating and actively building trust on a daily basis.

A: Can you give me an outline of the model of trust that you use and the different types of trust?

V: The first thing I noticed when I was doing a lot of research on trust and asking a lot of people about trust was that it’s a word that we use all the time, and everybody in business that we speak to will say “Yes, trust is critical to my business. I need trust with my customers, need trust with my staff”, and yet when I ask people “what is trust, how would you define it?” I got so many different responses, it wasn’t funny.

I found that when we talk about trust we’re often talking about different things and when I asked people who said that trust was critical in their business “what do you do, how do you build trust?” less than 5% of the hundreds of people that I spoke to in the early days, said that they actually did anything.

The reason they said they didn’t do anything was because they didn’t know how to. There’s no practical guidance or model really for how to go about building trust, so that’s where the conflict started for me. I looked at where there is trust and where there is no trust, when trust breaks down, what does that feel like for people, when there is trust and when there’s none and I worked backwards then to come to a definition of trust.

So the way I define trust is that it’s our ability to rely on a person or a group of people or an organisation or on products and services to deliver a specific outcome. There are actually thousands of points of trust in our day, every single day. And we’re often unaware of those. Everything from the alarm going off in the morning to wake us up, the shower being hot enough, the toothpaste tasting the way you want it to taste.

We generally just trust that all those things are going to work for us and play the role and deliver the outcome we expect from them and we become aware of it when that outcome is not delivered.

So then I looked at what it is that we actually want. What happens that makes us feel good and what happens that makes us feel bad? And I came down to these three core things that I talk about.

The first is understanding that we have expectations. Those expectations come from previous experiences, if we’ve had a previous experience with that person, that organisation, that product or that service. It comes from things that we read or things that we see. Marketing material, for example, creates expectations of what our experiences are going to be like.

It comes from things that other people tell us. Referrals actually create expectations about our experience. And they come from what I call “similar experiences”, so I’ve had and experience with one bank, therefore I think all banks are going to be the same. I’m going to have the same experience in all of them, so it’s going to be generalised.

So we all have these expectations, but we often don’t articulate them but we expect people to meet them and we get disappointed when our expectations are not met.

The second thing is our needs. So I draw on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. From a trust point of view we buy products and services and we engage in relationships with people to meet those needs. I’ve found that there is generally a core driving need for people and that need drives them in all the different kinds of relationships and interactions they have. For example somebody who’s esteem-driven will buy a car because it makes them feel good about themselves, they’ll buy the clothes that they buy for the same reason. They’ll engage in relationships, they’ll take a job; they’ll do all sorts of things that all feed that need for esteem.

Likewise all the relationships for somebody who’s insecurity-driven will be centred around feeding that core need.

So we have expectations and needs, the promises are made to us by the other person, the other organisation or by products and services. The promises could be implicit or explicit, so they’re either very clearly stated or we had a conversation about them, they were implied, they weren’t really stated anywhere and they weren’t written down. We can’t recall a conversation but it was implied in a word that was used, or the body language for instance, or the size of the organisation, they can all provide implicit promises. So there’s a combination of these expectations, needs and promises which I draw like a wall, with two pillars of needs and expectations and promises along the top.

I would expect a structural engineer to understand how the wall would break down, how quickly it would break down in certain circumstances.

There are some expectations and needs that are more important to us than others and there are some points on the wall that are more sensitive. If you took certain bricks out the wall would collapse more quickly. We know that to be true, there are some expectations and needs that if they’re not met by that person or organisation or that product where we might be a little disappointed but we still stay, we continue to engage. There are others that, if they’re not met we’re gone. As a customer, we’re gone, we just never buy again.

We found that the explicit promises sit in one part of the wall and when they’re not met, there are generally cracks in the wall. We tend to complain about an explicit promise which hasn’t been met because we can. Whereas we tend not to say anything about an implicit promise because we’ve got nothing to point to, no conversation to recall. So we let it simmer away and eventually the wall collapses.

So the base of the model is about these, what I call ENP’s and trust actually sits on top of this wall, so it ends up looking like Humpty, and I talk about all the kings horses and all the kings men, can’t put that trust back together if you allow it to get to the point where it completely breaks.

Sometimes there are bricks that drop out, and we’re feeling very unsettled, and disappointed but if it gets to the point where enough of those important bricks fall out or enough of those implicit promises are not met, the whole thing will collapse and it will break and 98% of the time people say they would never go back there again

So the whole purpose and the whole process of building trust is understanding the expectations and needs and being clear about those, knowing which ones are the most important to people and being very, very clear about what promises we’re making and delivering on those promises. Its one thing to make them it’s another thing to deliver them

We also need to understand what are our expectations and needs in this engagement and what are the promises being made to us, so there are two sides, two walls within that relationship. It’s the basis of the trust model. The book, “The Truth about Trust in Business” actually has diagrams all the way through it showing the wall in different stages, in different situations, and how it might play out and how it might break down.


In part two of my interview with Vanessa Hall next month we talk about the different types of trust and how to apply them, the role of trust in passing referrals and some of the pitfalls.