Monday, December 27, 2010

Quick Networking Tip: Teeing Up "Business Talk" Over Lunch

It was never hard for me to mix business and lunch. In fact, I don't quite understand why it is for other people - especially since most of our weekday lunches are with other business folks, even if they have also become friends over the years.

Perhaps I had lunches with good networkers who weren't shy about mixing the two, so I learned from them. (In at least one case, I know this is true.)

Anyway... I'm often asked for tips and figured I'd put a couple of them here.

Have a mental agenda. (Required.)

Bring a relevant article to share.

Tee up the conversation with phrases like:
"During the business part of our lunch, I'd like to..."
"After we order and before the food comes, let's talk shop."

Set up the lunch with a business topic.
"Let's go to lunch, since I am not 100% sure who might be a good prospect for you."
"Hey, why don't you look at my LinkedIn profile beforehand and let me know of anyone you might want to meet."
"I see you now offer _______ service. Let's grab a bite; I'd like to learn more."
I'm sure there are more, but these are the ones that come to mind.

Happy networking.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sorry, Virginia, There's No Such Thing as a Social Media Strategy

|> Point One: Asking your marketing director to create a Social Media (SM) strategy is like asking your architect to develop a fastener strategy. No doubt the chosen building contractor will need to use nails, screws, and staples to build your house, but it's a misguided question. <|
Agreed you can ask the architect if she plans to specify stainless nails for the deck (so they don't rust), but that is very different than asking her for a fastener strategy.

First, let's take a high level look at planning and for the purposes of this discussion, we'll keep it to Strategy, Tactics, and Tools.*

Marketing Strategy – aligning marketing to business goals. In other words: What, specifically, can marketing do to help reach the business goals?

Marketing Tactics – creating the steps/processes we need to take/create to execute these strategies. In other words: How are we going to meet our strategic marketing goals?

Marketing Tools – developing the materials and physical requirements for tactic execution. In other words: What assets do we or the business development and sales folks need?

Using the above, we see that Social Media is a collection of tools, sort of like the hardware store or a toolbox would be to our analagous architect. She would not even be the one using the tools, let alone consider developing a "tool-upwards" process to strategy development.
|> The answer to the question: "Do you have a Social Media strategy?" is "That's impossible."<|
You should have a Social Media policy, of course. If you don't, then stop reading and get one.

But whenever I am asked if we have a Social Media strategy (or suggested that we should have one, or have an iPhone app, get on Twitter, create a Facebook page, do some crowd sourcing, etc.), I feel like a architect being asked to get a power drill and go do some architecting. Or like when I happen to have a screwdriver (the tool kind) in my hand and I am looking around my house for screws that have come loose. Sure, it's efficient to see what else I can tighten while I have the screwdriver in my hand and I'm on my way to the tool room, but it's not a strategy. And it's not efficient to grab a random tool from my toolroom and then wander around for things to hammer, route, drill, sand, etc.

|> Point Two: Creating a Social Media (SM) budget is like asking your architect to develop a fastener budget. Again, she will need to spend a percentage of your budget on fasteners, but picking a number to spend on fasteners before you even have a blueprint is a ridiculous exercise. <|
And yet, we are often asked – and advised by so-called Social Media experts – to portion off a certain amount of our marketing budget for social media.

If you got this far and don't agree that this is a pointless "tool-upwards" approach, then there is really no reason to read farther, since I am not going to try to convince you any more that this is laughable.

So the question is: Why are social media experts telling you to do this?

Answer: For the same reason the sales person from the storm door manufacturing company would ask you to budget a certain amount of money for the aluminum frame, insulated versions of his products. (Hint: So you can buy them.)

An associate of recently mine said, "There is no such thing as a social media expert."

I believe this is untrue. I know a number of social media experts and believe any one of them would be very helpful in showing you how to best select and use specific social media tools to execute your tactics and, in result, fulfill your overall strategies.

Yes, I know that specifying storm doors you cannot afford is a bad way to execute your tactics or meet your strategy. And that a qualified architect needs to know about storm door functionality and costs (or consult with someone who knows) before finalizing a blueprint. But the point is that the strategy comes first. You do not start by planning to spend 5% of your budget on storm doors, though you might end up there.

In shorter words, listen to any relevant and credible expert who can show you social media tools, tips and techniques, but do not listen to them when they start pre-allocating your budget.
|> The answer to the question: "How much should we budget for Social Media?" is "Nothing." <|
You should budget for tactics. If that means you will need to spend money on social media tools (and you very likely will), then you will need to allocate budget towards those tools … as you have budget and as it makes sense to realize your goals.

To end, let's say it all together: There is no such thing as a Social Media strategy.

If you don't agree, then I'd like to show you a few aluminum frame, insulated storm doors.

*Yes, this is a very simplistic approach and no doubt many people have a more sophisticated planning regimen. The question, however, is: Does your approach and terminology allow you to call Social Media a "strategy"? If so, comment below. I'd love to be proven wrong here.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Hang on Loosely: Remove Streetlights, I Mean, Controls and Perhaps You Will Get Better Results

"...if you cling too tightly, you're gonna lose control."

First watch this video about what people will do when it's assumed they will do the right thing.

So what does removing streetlights in England have to do with Marketing and Business Development?

We, as marketing strategists, tend to see two different responses to lower-than-desired marketing/bizdev performance: tighten controls (punish inaction) vs. increase empowerment (reward spirited effort).

First a caveat: I am not talking about decreasing measurement. You can (and should) continue to measure activity and not simply results, but how do you get that activity? Do you loosen controls and promote the spirit of the rule? Or do you tighten controls and ding people when they fail to hit those additional metrics?

It's pretty obvious where my head is here: hang on loosely.

People succeed in different ways. If I say everyone needs to go to two networking events every month – and we will measure attendance – we should expect to see a lot of "12" scores in six months, but should also expect to see widely varying results (sales, connections, engagement scores of the resulting contacts, etc.).

In any case, so far so good. We have everyone going to 24 networking events every year. This should end well.

But now we see that this "two per month" strategy isn't getting me as far as we expected. What happens next is the fork in the road.

Do we...

1) Add additional controls, such as requiring them to collect four business cards at each event? That's 96 cards per person per year!

2) Teach them networking strategies and reward those who move their new contacts to the next level?

Why not do both? Sure, why not? Anything else you want to add to our unending pile of tasks?

Moving on... if you had to pick one, which would you pick?

My advice is to pick #2.

If you select #1... No amount of controls will get the "letter-of-the-law" people to create break-through results. But you will force the "spirit-of-the-law" people into checking off boxes they do not feel have any value and might interfere with their ability to get to that value. Worse still, in my opinion, you might find yourself dinging the "spirit" folks for only making three contacts, when they are actually getting far more value from their three contacts than your "letter" folks are providing from their four.

And then what happens next?

More controls. And more controls. And more of your "spirit" folks checking off boxes to get you off their backs. And getting punished (or having to argue for exceptions) when they are doing the right thing!

Back to the video.

Yes, of course some people will "cheat" and not take turns ... and they will be rewarded by getting to their destination a few seconds faster for doing so. And that's not fair! And that makes us angry! But it makes us angry at them, not at the people who made the rules. This is an important distinction for those of us who believe morale is critical.

Most importantly, the majority of people will do the right thing and, in the end, the overall value to everyone is extraordinary.