Last week we talked about how you can’t rush social media results. This week we’re going to talk about how to measure those very results. This is kind of a road map that let’s you know you’re on the right track.

One of the first obvious things you want to look at is how many followers you have on all mediums. Are people finding you interesting enough to follow? Benchmark this against other people in your field and the medium and you have your first measurement set.

The second thing is to get Google Analytics on your site immediately so you can see what your efforts are bringing your company as far as website traffic. I personally know that Twitter is the third most popular referrer to my site. Number 7 is Facebook. LinkedIn is not in the top 10, so that tells me that maybe I need to put a little more effort into that site. Through using Google Analytics, a free tool that requires your webmaster to apply some code to your pages, you can see your results in real time.

The third is to simply ask people how they found your company. This is probably the most commonly overlooked tool in a business owner’s toolbox. I ask every single person who calls our company how they found us and 99% of the people will answer the question even down to what keywords they put into Google or another search engine.

The real problem with social media is that there isn’t any one answer to measuring effectiveness. I have a feeling that will change as more collaboration tools come on the market that bring all of these social media platforms together such as Google Wave (http://wave.google.com). The reason it’s hard to really measure ROI is because few people accurately track of how much time they put into Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. I think the next killer app will be a tool which will give us a good snapshot of time versus return. Let me know when its ready!

On my trail run this weekend I started out on one of my usual favorite trail routes. However, we had some heavy storms this week and mud was not the biggest issue. Rather standing water, new rivers, random trees and some heavy brush made for very tough running. I think I may have invented a brand new sport called Post Storm Trail Running. The trail became so impossible to navigate, and not wanting to spend the entire day crossing rivers, the trail made me turn back and finish the rest of my run on another path. 

 

As I was turning around and heading back to more manageable terrain, I was thinking how sometimes in life we need to turn around. Sometimes we don’t want too. We just want to keep on pushing on and on and on. But as much as we try to keep on going the path gets harder and harder. And we get a little slower either each step. Ever feel like that? Sometimes in our ‘plan’ it helps to go back. Go back and restart. We may not always feel like retracing our steps, starting over again, but if we take the time to turn back early on, it may just save us undo heartache, unnecessary falls, and frustrating detours. 

 

So here’s a thought. Where are you in YOUR plan? Need to turn around and make a fresh start? Then DO IT NOW!

This year management has enhanced its vocabulary with words and phrases such as downsizing, career regression, fiscal consolidation, asset realignment and negative career development. They were developed by some MBA-types to say that a company, down like the economy and entire industry, had missed its projections, fired people and made cutbacks.

There’s a new business climate and sense of urgency in every sector of industry and commerce. The good old days are gone forever. It wasn’t that many years ago that nearly anyone could make money in business and consumer PC/CE marketing. Almost no one could fail.

To put it another way … in a hurricane even turkeys can fly.

Well, the hurricane has passed. It has changed the landscape. Our emphasis on product innovation has placed us at the mercy of a constantly changing customer base. Profit margins for “brands” are being driven down by the high cost of marketing (PR, sales literature, advertising, promotion, etc.), defensive product line extensions and the competition.

In this new environment, management is confronted with the need to survive in conditions that they often don’t understand, and generally cannot control.

The New Marketing Strategy

When many think they have a marketing problem, the first thing they do is a barrage of news releases, an editorial tour, a brochure or a corporate ad campaign. Wrong.

The power of the market has shifted. Those recommendations are a disservice to management. Instead of recommending the communications activity that worked in the past, you need to help the company do something dramatically different, like targeting new or different prospects…determine precisely who your best/most profitable customers have been and their relative health…identify/nurture new market segments…refocusing the distribution/channel strategy…finding new applications for existing products — anything to create a new model.

In other words, a new look at strategic marketing is needed. Strategic marketing can’t be bogged down in the preconceived concepts of what works, what doesn’t. Everything that is done and said needs to focus on the customer.

Some people will run with the idea and fail because they missed the point. The new goal isn’t to sell something more to a customer. That kind of thinking dooms hundreds of firms every year, and it can destroy you.

Today you have to be flexible enough to move from one customer relationship endeavor to another … quickly. There can be no sacred rules. What worked before may not work this time around. Stretch yourself and try new tactics.

The people who are going to succeed today and tomorrow are those who look at product development, product usage in new and different ways. Simple product line extensions and slight improvements over existing products will not make it in today’s demanding marketplace.

We’ve all seen this type of “new” product/service fail to attract customer interest. They are easily copied. They do nothing to enhance product differentiation. They don’t increase profits.

Shorter Product Cycles

Instead of relying on their production facilities for answers on what should be sold, management needs to look outwardly to anticipate what the consumer wants and needs. They need to determine how to develop, produce, deliver it…almost instantly.

Today success is further complicated by the fact that product life cycles have been rapidly declining from five years to two years to six months or less.

PC/CE firms now operate on a 3-1-2 schedule. They develop the product in three months, move it into/through the channel in one month and clear the channel in two months to make room for the next product/solution. It’s a six month cycle.

Your notebook/netbook computer is obsolete before you take it on its first trip. There is absolutely no opportunity to build an individual product’s identity or following.

Market research and new product development are an integral and ongoing part of your organization’s activities. The new product development/roll-out process has to work with pure precision to ensure maximum results.

As firms becomes more customer-oriented, marketing and communications have to focus on developing greater and closer ties with customers. Emphasis needs to be placed on customer services including training, product support and maintenance.

New Relationships

The lines between manufacturers, distributors and dealers are becoming less distinct. People who can’t or won’t recognize and accommodate the change will find themselves on the outside looking in. Firms that succeed are those that are able to establish, build and constantly reinforce their relationships with their customer base.

In the past, we’ve given a lot of lip service to niche markets. Closely identifying with customers, their needs, their demands enhances sales and profits.

Niche Considerations

Savvy management teams of organizations will:

  • Identify and prioritize niche markets based on the company’s investments and the potential return on that investment
  • Realistically focus on opportunities where the company has expertise rather than “gee really glamorous” niches that look good but…
  • Determine what products and services will be needed by the niche markets that are best for the company
  • Tailor product/service capabilities to meet the niche market’s needs
  • Develop totally new marketing and communications strategies, as well as distribution avenues, to economically reach the niche market
  • Develop and refine feedback mechanisms to more rapidly determine the degree of acceptance of the products/services and to forecast changes within the niche market

Niche marketing will mean a whole new way of doing business and has to be constantly refined and redefined. No organization is able to do everything. Instead, enter into strategic alliances to meet the unique needs of the smaller niche markets.

The Small Business Niche

In the past, everyone wanted to sell to the Fortune 1,000.Then they realized that there were over 40 million small businesses/home businesses (SOHO). There have been more than one billion+ personal computers sold to date. Most are found in SMB (small, medium business) and SOHO environments that are in hundreds of niche markets.

The illusion of a single SMB and SOHO market is much like seeing a mirage … it’s never as satisfying as the real thing.

Better, Cheaper Isn’t Enough

Being better, cheaper, or faster isn’t as important as customer service and support. It means being closer to customers to provide faster and better solutions to problems. It also provides better, more customer inputs and feedback for tomorrow.

Standard organizational charts are a thing of the past. Engineering and R&D are no longer able to make the decisions on the new products because product and service inputs must come from all fronts. Manufacturing has to develop the ability to change output as quickly as the market changes. Sales and marketing has to more closely coordinate activities and input from customers and prospects with others in the organization. Communications is becoming the tie that binds.

The Winds of Change

The hurricane has passed. The turkeys were either dashed on the rocks by the high winds, or they are once again walking around looking up at the skies. The skies are ruled by the hawks and eagles who can pinpoint their targets from a distance. They strike quickly, silently and with deadly accuracy.

At the same time the healthy hawks and eagles have to be able to react quickly and decisively to the unseen, ever-present, wind conditions.

But at least they won’t have to worry about bumping into a turkey that had no idea of what to do when it was airborne.

Starting today, Passports or Enhanced Driver’s Licences will be needed to drive across the Canada/US border. I don’t have any issue with requiring proof of identity and citizenship to cross an international border, and I really like the concept of offering a wallet-size alternative to the passport. But adding RFID to that wallet-sized card is a bad idea.

If you’re a Canadian citizen, reside in Ontario, and have a driver’s licence you now have the option of paying an additional $40, attending an interview, and obtaining an Enhanced Driver’s Licence that will be accepted in lieu of a passport when driving across the boarder. Within the card is an RFID chip so that you can hold it up to a reader, and by the time you reach the border agent they’ll have your information on their screen. According to the Government of Ontario web site, the RFID chip only sends a unique identifier and not your personal information. The Canadian and US governments then allow each other to access their databases. Using a unique identifier is much better than, for example, allowing anyone with a RFID reader to directly obtain your name, address, etc. However, those citizens who choose to obtain an Enhanced Driver’s Licence will be carring an RFID chip with them almost everywhere they go. And it can be read at least 10m way by anyone with the right equipment.

Today the technology is new, readers are expensive and few people have the cards. But imagine what might happen if they become popular in a few years:

On Sundays, you go to your favourite store. The RFID reader at the door logs your entrance, and readers strategically located around the store track your movement. You pay for your purchase with cash, but a reader at the register associates your unique identifier with the details of your purchase. A few months later you don’t have cash with you and you use your credit card. Now they add your name. The next week they’re taking a survey and ask your postal code, and it is added to the database. A year goes by and in a moment of weakness you fill in an application for a store loyaly card. The information you supply is added to the database. Later the store is purchased by another company that also has customer database, and they combine the data.

What we often fail to consider is that the ability to uniquely identify an individual allows us to build a database and leverage that information both before and after the event. In many cases we choose to provide information, and that’s ok. But adding technology that allows anyone with an RFID reader to start collecting it is a bad idea.

Personally, I’ll stick to my passport and only carry it when I travel.

What’s your plan?

Typical lifespan of a social media campaign: You get on Twitter. You put up a company Facebook page. You blog. You update your LinkedIn profile. You wait.

A week goes by, nothing. A month, some activity, but no results. You quit.

The problem is that you can’t quit. Heck, you can’t even slack off and just post once a week. Social media is a medium you have to feed every day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner.

People ask me all the time how I actually find time to work social media. I literally check in and post after breakfast, lunch and dinner and then I quit for the day (unless I see someone like Ashton Kutcher filming a movie in my friend’s neighborhood which really happened to me the other night!). 

I also find tools to streamline the process like http://www.ping.fm which allows me to post the same 140 characters to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (and many, many more). 

If you don’t have time to build your brand awareness, at least once a day for about a year, then don’t even think of stepping into the pool. It won’t work. Just as you can’t rush a new friendship, you can’t rush the contacts you’ll make (and you will) on Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Think about it this way, let’s say you join your local chamber of commerce. You start going to meetings every week for a month. Then you go maybe once a month. Then you stop and you say, “That was a waste of time, I sure didn’t meet anyone interesting or get anything out of it.” Well, you quit. You didn’t even get out of the starting gate. You wasted your money. With social media, platforms are free so you’re not wasting money there. Wasting time? I don’t think you are if you’re participating in conversations and helping people learn what you know about your given subject. Having fun? That’s up to you.

If you plan on using social media this year to build your company, brand, service, or product you need to give it at least a year committment with daily usage before you’ll start seeing results. I would say things will start to happen within a few months, but a solid year is best. We’ll talk about how to measure those results next week.

The question they asked was “Will you help save local TV?” and the public said, “Sounds good, sure, that’s a no brainer, where do I sign?”

They ought to be ashamed for not asking the real question.  The real question is, “Will you pay more for cable or satellite to enrich Bell Global and Rogers?” Let me explain.

CTV is owned by Bell Global. So is Bell ExpressVu.  CTV is asking the government to force cable companies and satellite companies to pay money to local TV stations for carrying them. They’re not quite as clear about the flow of money as they should be.  The cable and sat outfits simply pass along those costs to viewers after they mark them up.

Their proposal would have the money flowing not to the TV stations but to the parent company of Bell Global.  Local TV stations have significantly cut the amount of local programming they’re producing. They only produce a smattering of the day’s programming locally. Contrast that to even a few years ago when most stations had a morning show of at least an hour, a noon show, at least an hour at the dinner hour and a half hour after the national news. The people who own the stations have systematically shunned their local programming. Now they’re pleading for support with a well-managed PR campaign and very few commentators pointing out the disingenuous nature of their claims.

Local programming committments have been been cut back at the request of the stations themselves. And, the money will simply flow from consumers in the form of higher cable or satellite bills with the cash pouring into the coffers of Bell Global.

If you have any doubts about Bell’s duplicity, they charge you an extra $3 or so on your phone bill every month for “Touch-Tone” service.  It is cheaper for the phone company to provide Touch Tone than the old rotary dial service. But they managed to convince the start-struck majority on the CRTC to give them unwarranted additional billions over the years from phone users in Ontario and Quebec.

If you really want to support local TV, dump your cable and satellite feeds, put up an antenna and watch local TV for free.

Last week, hundreds of traditional and online news outlets reported the news that none other than famed New York Times Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Maureen Dowd had mistakenly cribbed entire sections of a recent column from one of the web’s most widely read bloggers.

We’ve said it in this space time and again. With more than three-quarters of traditional journalists now reading the blogs for story ideas, bloggers are rapidly becoming – if they aren’t already – the assignment editors of the mainstream media. But now, in the many news rooms suffering from massive budget cuts and layoffs, it appears that a few bloggers have also moved over to the copy desk.

Yesterday, the Times was forced to issue a correction to Dowd’s column because she “failed to attribute a paragraph” to Talking Points Memo blogger Josh Marshall. While Dowd maintains that the gaffe was an honest mistake, whether she intentionally plagiarized Marshall’s work is irrelevant.

What this incident points to is a rapidly emerging trend where the stalwarts of the online realm – comprised mainly of the more than 100 million bloggers online today – are not only providing the topics covered by the traditional media dinosaurs; they are, in many cases, driving the content of commentary as well.

The lesson from Dowd’s foray into the blogosphere: It is absolutely essential to understand just how radically the art of public relations has changed in the Digital Age.

In today’s communications environment, any strategy relying exclusively on traditional media to advance proactive messaging, protect reputations, and establish market dominance simply will not work.

Today, those that fail to implement comprehensive earned online reputation management and branding programs are not only missing out on an effective development opportunity with proven ROI; they are also opening themselves to potentially devastating reputational damage from online attacks and consumer criticism.

Simply put, if Maureen Dowd is watching the blogs, shouldn’t you be watching them too?

[This article originally appeared on bulletproofblog.com]

We all know that we should eat better. But how does one really do that? With our busy schedules, traveling, kids, just life, finding the time to make healthy things to eat is the last thing on our mind. How can you make easy changes in order to have a healthier diet?

Here are four steps to make “healthy” a part of your life:

1. Change your mindset. By changing the way you think about eating, you will set yourself up for success. Tell your self you can do this. Choose to be happy. Be your own cheerleader. You are your biggest fan. By reinforcing that you can eat healthy, half the battle is already won.

2. Be prepared. Always have a plan. Things happen. Kids games run late. Your boss adds more work to your plate (no pun intended). Take a few minutes at the start of each week and go through each day. Plan snacks and meals. Have cut up fruit or veggies on hand. Have healthy snacks in your pantry.

3. Eat smart, not fast. With our fast pace life, it is very easy to stop by the drive through, or buy instant meals. By following up with step 2, this will make eating smart easy. You are already set up to eat smart. When buying food, READ the labels. Avoid high fructose corn syrup, any food dye’s and saturated fat (yes, even in the organic/health stores). This simple step will make a HUGE impact on your healthy life!

4. Watch your environment. Where do you usually hang out? Where do you go eat? By driving a little farther or going to different shopping centers, you can have control over what you eat. Who are your friends? If they don’t have a healthy life, chances are that you don’t either. By having friends that have the same healthy mindset goals as you, you will set yourself up for success right away.

By practicing these 4 steps you will be on your way to a happy, healthy & fit life!

I knew it would come to this.” – Beth Charles, Obsession (2009)

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Open for Business – Apple wasn’t the first to build a smartphone or the first to offer apps. They were just the first to make them real, real fun/interesting. Offer the right merchandise, the right mood and most people will take the bait. Source – Screen Gems

I guess when you have $56 billion and change in the vault in today’s economic environment you must be doing something right. I just wish our kids would quit contributing to the stash Apple is using to buy GPU (graphics processor unit) technology and game designer talent.

A few years ago Apple decided all smartphones sucked (they’re not too hot on netbooks either). So they announced the step up from the iPod (they didn’t like those other MP3 players!)…the iPhone.

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Make a Call Too – When Apple introduced the iPhone it was more than a smartphone. Actually it was everything else first and then a phone. Good move because the company set its solution way apart from everyone else and the rest of the market scrambled to catch up…still are. Source — Apple

Changing the Game

Then they did something really dumb…gave AT&T a two-year exclusive on the phone. They decided ecommerce was no longer cool and that iCommerce is so much better. It goes well with iTunes, iPod, iPhone, iMovies, iStore and iApps.

Instead of keeping a closed ecosystem as they did with the Mac, they encouraged others to make products they would sell in their store.

Sure it’s Apple which means it:

  • Works on their devices (iPhone and iPod Touch), their way
  • Works in their closed environment
  • It is old only in their store

It also means:

  • You use their SDK (software development kit) but heck it only costs $99
  • They determine which apps fly and which don’t make the cut (sure fire rejection is something that competes with their stuff!)
  • You agree to the 70/30 split (70% for you, 30% for them – seems retail fair)

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Developers’ Dream – The new Apple developers kit makes it fast, easy for people to produce applications they can make available to iPhone/iPod Touch customers (once Apple gives its stamp of approval). Source – Apple

Cripes it seems to works!

Mega Store

The iPhone apps store looks like a Wal-Mart mega store. The store has been open less than a year, product is stacked to the rafters, people are mobbing the aisles. They’ve got 30,000 (give or take a few thousand) apps to choose from. Some free…some $1-$5…some $20-$30…some heftier ones for businesses. In less than a year they recorded some kid making the billionth download.

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Number 1 Billion – Some kid really racked up the loot after being the one who grabbed the one billionth download from the iTune apps store. Lucky stiff – 10 grand in booty without even trying. The store has been open less than a year and has averaged 3.5 million app downloads a day and the iPhone/iPod Touch users have grabbed an average of 33 apps…each! Source — GizModo

That’s 3.5 million downloads a day and an average of 33 apps per device. That’s an attach rate any company would kill for! Suddenly they don’t look that stupid. Carriers and other “interested” parties seem to agree. Little apps stores are popping up all over the iNet.

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Stores Everywhere – Big and small there are smartphone app stores everywhere. Some richly stocked, some sparsely. The challenge for developers is to be found on the shelves. The challenge for users is picking the ones they’ll need and/or enjoy the most. Source — NYTimes

Google, Microsoft, Nokia, RIM (Research in Motion – Blackberry), all the carriers. Who did we miss? Oh yeah…Palm will eventually introduce its pre-counterpunch with powerhouse Sprint.

While everyone else has their app store shelves well stocked visiting Palm’s store is…depressing. It looks a little like a grocery stores in St. Petersburg Russia in WWII…We can see why OS folks want an app store.

The more apps on the shelves the more device manufacturers they attract, the better they look to carriers, the more app developers they attract and the popularity courting continues.

But carriers?

Dialing for Dollars

Selling apps won’t really impact their bottom lines.Lots of the apps are freebies, most sales are $1-$5, they only get 20 or 30% out of the sales.The developers drink from the same cup. They’ll jump on the iTunes bullet train with their neat app. The power of Apple will sell their music program, video games, direction/people finder, weather tracking, restaurant/store finding friends tracking (stalking), whatever app and they’ll instantly get rich.

Assuming people can figure out how good your thingy is and how much he/she needs it – awful tough without good articles/reviews — the apps dude/dudette will make a whole 70 percent on each of those $1-$5 sales.

But for carriers it’s all about selling more connection time, more bandwidth.

Their bucks come from your data communications over their pipes, making sure you stream music, TV, video to your third screen and connecting you with other gamers and friends. The carrier sells you airtime for days, weeks, months, years on end.

Someone needs to ask the carriers almost the same question Beth asked Derek, “She was naked in your hotel room?” Then quickly add what Derek told Sharon, “You need help.” It’s the money play folks! Our kids are like the millions of other iPhone, iPod Touch users around the globe. They love muddling through the Apple iTunes app store …just to see what’s new, what’s hot, what’s fun, what’s available.

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Apple Apps – 30,000 iPhone/iPod Touch apps and counting. Serious developers, kids in class, techs in their spare time (or at work) are all busy developing business, personal entertainment, game, audio/video applications they hope will rack up big sales on the iTunes site and profits for them. Move them to other platforms and even more money if they look as good on the other devices. Source — Apple

Too bad there aren’t any aisle (category) signs or sampling stations along the way. Since there isn’t, they see something they think they’ll like and BAM !!! easily download from iTunes (we get billed). Then they suck up more minutes from AT&T!

Sure Google, MS, Nokia and Blackberry are adding apps as fast as they can but it’s just way too easy for folks to buy from iTunes. Our son – who has an “I can make it better” mind – was thinking about some apps that he knows people are eagerly waiting to buy. He coughed up the $99 for Apple’s SDK.

Next Round

He got real excited when Apple announced the iPhone OS 3.0 SDK: 100 new visual features, 1,000 new APIs (Application Programmer Interface), the thinly veiled promise of doing stuff that would run beautifully on three screens – TV, computer and iPhone.

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Next Generation – One thing you have to admit is that Apple makes a big deal out of every announcement and the unveiling of the iPhone OS 3.0 software and new SDK was no exception. The event said a lot about the company’s three screen plan without saying a lot and opened new doors for more powerful, more graphically intensive iPhone games and applications. Source – Apple

That got his mind racing. All we saw with the new developer’s kit was that Apple had raised the bar again with their closed environment. That means:

  • People will develop more, richer, more intensive, more intrusive apps for Apple to sell so they dig their hooks even deeper into those poor Kool-Aid drinking folks
  • More people will get excited about buying/using/playing with the iPhone and Apple might – just might – become the #1 smartphone producer (something they totally ****ed up with the all-inclusive Mac)
  • AT&T will sell more 2-year contracts, more on-air minutes

Sure Apple may do an iPhone Lite for Verizon (huge whisper campaign going on) but who wants lite when you can have a real iPhone?

And an overly stuffed/easy to use iTunes store.

Lite just doesn’t seem to have the panache! Suddenly a smartphone is so much more than an e-wallet (iWallet). Really smart kids, doodling program developers and idea folks see their road to riches! First they’ll supplement their income making fun, neat, useful, relaxing, whatever apps. Then they’ll rent Steve’s grounded jet.

The mobile apps market may reach $214 billion by 2014 but it’s a market made up of tens of thousands of inexpensive apps developed by thousands of people.

Herding Cats

It doesn’t have the formula to appeal to VCs. It’s tough for them to sell these “businesses” to the public or some other company so they can rack up a huge return. It’s too much like herding cats.

But that’s ok. I can’t wait for the kid to release his iPhone apps and start collecting the dimes and quarters. Then he plans to modify them for Android, Windows Mobile…maybe even BlackBerry.

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Think Man, Think – Apple’s enclosed ecosystem has executives at other OS and hardware firms scheming on how they can outdo the fruit company and have the same unfair advantage with carriers and consumers. Individuals with serious and funky application ideas see the locked system as a great opportunity to earn fame and fortune. Source – Screen Gems

If we’re lucky he may be able to replenish our devastated 401K. Apple may have gotten it right this time. The key question is how quickly, how comprehensively and how successfully the other players – Google, MS, RIM, Nokia/Symbian – will get their acts together. A lot of bosses are probably hollering at their teams saying exactly what Beth said to Derek…“You better do something about this woman, or I will!”

I’ve been avoiding writing about pandemic planning for a while because there has simply been too much hype.  But there is a positive side to all this:  Companies, through their pandemic planning, are hopefully making workplaces safer and taking a look at their business continuity plans.

Every year we have “flu season”.  And every year we have people show up at work with the flu as if doing show displays their dedication.  In reality, they’re spreading a virus to their colleagues. Hopefully employers are looking at the bigger picture and making simple policies such as prohibiting employees with a fever from entering any company facility.

The larger picture is business continuity planning.  There are countless reasons why employees may not be able to come to the workplace:  Illness (the employee, a family member or fear of contact with ill colleagues), power failures, protests, floods, severe weather and other natural disasters. While firms in the manufacturing sector may have to shut down, many others could, with the right planning, sustain operations with employees working remotely.

How well prepared is your company?

I hear a lot of complaints about poor technical support.  Let’s not beat around the bush here — the tech support that most companies provide sucks. They staff their first-level support lines with the least expensive luke-warm bodies they can find and train them to follow set scripts in an attempt to fix the most common problems.

I don’t like to make excuses for these companies.  They should provide better support.  But in many cases they are simply responding to the fact that customers don’t want to pay much, if anything, for it.  So they give customers what they pay for.

In most companies, technical support is considered an entry-level position.  If you’re lucky, your call will be answered by someone who sees tech support as a stepping stone to a better job.  If not, you might be talking to someone who has already reached the peak of their IT career.

Entry-level jobs in IT pay around $40,000.  When you take loaded labour costs into account the employee costs about $50 per hour.  And that is assuming that they spend each and every minute of their working day handling support calls.  So when Aunt Bettie who pays $35/month for Internet service calls support because her cat has unplugged her ADSL modem again, the ISP probably takes a loss that month if the tech spends more than about ten minutes on the phone.

Some companies do provide fantastic customer service, but most don’t.  And that won’t change until we’re prepared to pay for it.

Funny thing about actively selling your product/service/brand through social media, it doesn’t work. Nope. Don’t even try. Get that idea out of your head right now.

Think about this instead. 

Imagine yourself at a party with hundreds of other people around. If you don’t like parties, imagine yourself in a pub at a table with your closest friends. Don’t like pubs? Then let’s go to a business luncheon at your local chamber of commerce. It really doesn’t matter where you are, just picture yourself in one of these places. Now, would you start off the conversation by going, “Hi! I’m the CEO of ACME and I sell Widgets!” What if someone said that to you? What would your reaction be? Complete turn-off! What if they then turned around to someone else and repeated what you said? I think the reaction would be, “Who cares?”

Now, let’s change it around a bit. Let’s say the conversation starts off like this, ” Hi! I’m Donna. What’s your name and what do you do? What are you working on?” More than likely that conversation will go a lot farther than the first one. You have engaged the other person into the conversation by focusing the topic back on him/her, their favorite topic! 

Take it a few steps further. You’ll probably be listening intently (or not) to their response and then come up with something witty to say. Your conversation may then move to a recent movie they saw or a favorite sports team. The most important thing here is that you’re actively listening. Once they get their story out, it will, naturally, be your turn to talk. 

This is exactly the way good conversations go in social media. Yes, people talk about what they do or their recent accomplishments, but they don’t talk about them all the time. The conversation should be about the people you’re talking to and not yourself. Building trust and authenticity leads to connection and engagement. Engagement will more than likely lead to a new sale.