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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Solutionz Signs of Success series - #1 DRIVING RESULTS

DRIVING RESULTS
As you are driving down the road, there are roadsigns that guide you. Tenets of the road you might say.

They are intended to keep you safe and ultimately to get you smoothly to your destination. To get your drivers license, you have to study the signs and actually pass a test, confirming that you understand the signs of the road.

Conversely, in business, it is possible to get ahead in your company without passing an explicit test about the signs of success.

Sure, you graduated at the top of your class and got your diploma and perhaps even got your MBA. But once you move past the theory studied in university, it is rare for anyone to really stop and think about the real signs of success in business that help you on your journey to the destination of growth, profitability and a high valuation for your business.

In the course of our consulting over the last 13 years, the Solutionz Group has uncovered a series of "signs" to help you along your journey, as you work toward achieving success in your business. We would like to share these. So, this is the first in a series called Solutionz Signs of Success™. This one is focused on DRIVING RESULTS.

What gets measured, gets accomplished. What gets rewarded, gets repeated.

The first time that I heard this, I was working with AAA Mid-Atlantic on a multi-channel distribution strategy for their enterprise. Ron Gray, the head of HR, shared this with me and I was struck by the simplicity of what he had said. These are two tenets of business that are irrefutable. In fact, if you apply them to almost any area of your business, you will be amazed at the outcome.

As you look at these tenets, you may say to yourself that you are already running the company this way. I would encourage you to stop and take a look at what you are indeed measuring and whether there are things that you need to STOP measuring. Also, take a very close look at the rewards (both monetary, such as bonuses and commissions, and non-monetary recognition, such as awards and "atta boys" verbally and in annual reviews) and ensure that you are rewarding the things that you want to have repeated, both by individuals and by teams. This last bit is very important, as often the individual goals that you have put in place actually work against your teamwork goals. Additionally, individual goals often do not take into account the skillset differences between people. By putting a weaker person in one area with a stronger one in another, and measuring them as a team, you may find that you more quickly and efficiently achieve your goals.

You have to know your destination in order to recognize the signs of success along the way. Measure your progress and reward the various aspects of getting there. Success is within reach.

Relationship Lader - Rung #6 REFERRAL

One of the things you will notice about the ladder in this segment of the Word of Mouth Media discussion on the relationship ladder is that there are some new words.

As we look back on Rung #1 - SPAM, it is accompanied by the emotion that is generated by this kind of activity - DISDAIN. And even as we move up to Rung #2 - NOISE (slightly more targeted communications than Rung #1), it can still elicit IRRITATION.

Hopefully once you have reached Rung #3 and have started getting a response, you have your audience INTRIGUED. But intrigue isn't enough to keep you moving up in engagement with your prospects.

Rung #4 - DIALOGUE gets you to a place where you can distinguish true INTEREST in whatever you are offering (whether selling a product or a service, or trying to get someone to believe in you or your ideas).

A level of COMFORT results from getting to Rung #5 - CONVERSATION. This can be comfort with your product or service or just comfort with the fact that someone cares enough to fully converse with them about what they are after versus just what you are offering.

Rung #6 is really the Holy Grail for most marketers and that is getting to a place where you can actually get the client/prospect to TRUST you.

This is also where you begin to move your own needle by getting the referral for (or conversion to ) a sale. It is also the place where if you deliver against your promise in both the product or service and the whole set of experiences pre- and post-sale, then you have a great chance of this person referring you to others. TRUST is an essential component of relationship and of continued engagement.

So this is the place that you must be if you are counting on viral marketing as a core component of your marketing plans.

Stay tuned for the last rung, REPUTATION, coming tomorrow.

Chicke Fitzgerald | founder Solutionz Media and CEO Solutionz Group www.solutionz.com

Relationship Lader - Rung #5 CONVERSATION

Bravo, you've gotten past thinking that SPAM and NOISE are good ways to get sales referrals or to gain a reputation (a good one that is). You've even gotten some folks to respond to you as you comment on various articles and blogs. RESPONSE is good.

Perhaps you have taken the big step beyond 140 character communication (aka Twitter or any other micro-blogging/status update) and have become a citizen of the blogosphere.

The secret there of course is saying something that people are interested and of course, working to engage them in DIALOGUE. That gets you as far as Rung #4.

So how do you get to Rung #5, CONVERSATION?

What is the real difference between online dialogue and conversation? I would distill it down to one word - ENGAGEMENT.

You can see that I've added the word engagement to sit across from the word relationship. True relationship is built over time and quite often involves "knowing" the person, either personally by meeting face to face or by talking over the phone (or Skype). Engagement can occur with people that you don't "know" in any sense other than dialogue over the Internet.

You don't normally use the term dialogue with people that you know intimately (e.g. "I had a great dialogue with my husband Michael yesterday"). No, that is a conversation.

What we are talking about here is the degree of engagement, the degree of relationship.

Stay tuned to hear about the next rung, which requires you to also add in a large dose of trust into the equation.

And don't forget. This isn't about being social. It is about generating positive Word of Mouth.

Stay tuned for Step #6. This is where you begin to move the needle and ending up with a positive ROIT (that is return on investment of time for the social media newbies).

Chicke Fitzgerald | founder Solutionz Media and CEO Solutionz Group www.solutionz.com

The Relationship Ladder - Rung #4 DIALOGUE

You've invested a lot of time in trying to elicit a response. Perhaps the reason that you haven't been successful (yet!) is that you are spread too thin.

This week I made a major decision which was predicated by coming to the realization that I was indeed spread too thin, in a lot of areas of my life, including social media.

For those that know me well, you'll understand that it takes a lot to get me to that point, as multi-tasking is my middle name.

Getting people engaged in dialogue online is getting more and more difficult. Case in point - Groups on Facebook and Linked In. Lots of people join them, perhaps to have that "badge" on their profile so people know what they are interested in, but very few people get engaged to the point where they are actually eliciting dialogue.

Dialogue is first and foremost a function of LISTENING. You can't have a meaningful dialogue if you are the only one talking. That is called monologue for a reason. So the difference between Rung #3 of trying to elicit a response and #4, DIALOGUE is how much listening you are doing versus talking.

Is your response one that is just intended to turn the attention back to you? Or do you really care about the other person's views and their needs?

Are you an airline that sends offers to your frequent flyer list, but forget to "filter" them to their departure city and showcase the cities that they've flown over the past 24 months? That is DIALOGUE. Sending the same email to everyone about your specials is NOISE.

Get involved with what people are talking about as it relates to your products and services, your destination or the general area of your expertise.

One of the characteristics of true online dialogue is when it has more than a single cycle (e.g. a comment that may have a response, but no more interaction) or when someone else chimes in, having found value in your contribution.

To get to multiple cycles, well, that is Rung #5 - Conversation. Stay tuned!

Chicke Fitzgerald | founder Solutionz Media and CEO Solutionz Group www.solutionz.com

The Relationship Ladder - Rung #3 GETTING A RESPONSE

You fully understand that rung #1 of the ladder is spamming and you've gotten past rung #2, noise.

You get it -- that in order to really make a dent in the social grid, you have to get folks engaged. You need to get a response -- to get noticed.

In the travel industry, we have been the eCommerce Pioneers of the world. In fact, that is the name of my first book, published in 2001 But a web site isn't enough.

So as you move on to try to learn the plethora of social media tools, you now are challenged with how to get past using those same tools on the rung #1 and rung #2 level and to figure out how to get a RESPONSE.

Quite often, the first step is following the big boys, the leaders of the social media pack.

You read their blogs, you comment, you try to get noticed for your clever observations. You join Digg, Disqus, Reddit, Newsvine and others and post your comments and even check that you want to "follow the dialogue". But the transom is silent.

So you get a little more narrow and see who is Tweeting about travel, or perhaps about your destination, your property or about a genre such as adventure travel or cruising. The best way to do this is to go to http://www.search.twitter.com and search for keywords using the "hash tag" or # sign. #Barbados will yield everyone that is talking about Barbados in real time on Twitter.

Once you find the active, social media stars that are frequently posting about what you are interested in, you "retweet" their posts on Twitter. You also shift your strategy to retweeting the posts of people that you know and follow.

You comment on their YouTube videos and even venture out into doing video comments.

Perhaps you are bold enough to launch your own blog or post articles on eZine.com. You even add a Google FriendFeed to your blog to give the hordes a way to signal their response.

While you are pursuing relationship and engagement, which is better than noise,
at this juncture, what you are still doing says loud and clear, "Listen to me! I matter!". It simply isn't enough to just talk or to hope that you can elicit a response.

Getting past the response stage takes time and energy. Getting to dialogue isn't easy, but the good news is that it is possible.

Stay tuned. We're going there next.

Chicke Fitzgerald | founder Solutionz Media and CEO Solutionz Group www.solutionz.com

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Relationship Ladder - Rung #2 NOISE

OK, so now you understand that even though spamming is something you can do quickly and really quite effortlessly, it is not a wise move in social media by anyone's measure.

The next step up on the ladder is NOISE.

No one likes to be called "noisy", yet, this is typically the first step for someone who decides to "graduate" from email spamming or the social media equivalent of mindless autoresponders trying to "sell" your idea or product to whoever follows you on social media.

Noise in Word of Mouth Media™ is the equivalent of going to a party and walking from group to group, introducing yourself and spouting off whatever you want to say and walking away without even knowing whether anyone cared or wanted to learn more.

Engagement does NOT follow noise, nor does conversion.

One of my favorite authors is Sam Horn. She wrote a great book called POP! with the sub-title of stand out in any crowd. Trust me, it doesn't include instructions for how to generate "noise". What Sam does talk about is how to get from the place where someone "furrows their brow", which translates into not being very happy about whatever just happened, or worse, no "brow reaction", to the place where you get a positive response (or in social media terms, someone commenting on your post, your tweet or your video) that looks more like raised eyebrows, which signifies visually "Wow!" or "I get it!".

We'll talk more about engagement when we talk about Rung #3 - RESPONSE. Stay tuned!

Chicke Fitzgerald | founder Solutionz Media and CEO Solutionz Group www.solutionz.com

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