Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Stuff I Don’t Do: Automatic Recommendations on LinkedIn

(NOTE: This is a series of occasional posts clarifying the things I don’t do, business-wise, marketing-wise, or social-media-wise.  Same format each time.)

What: After approving a recommendation from someone, LinkedIn prompts you to “return the favor” by recommending the sender.  I don’t make it standard practice to automatically recommend everyone back—especially clients—but am happy to do so if asked. 

 Why I Don’t Do It: When I see profiles with too many reciprocal recommendations, it makes me question the intent of both parties and the validity of their statements.  Did one person proactively recommend another for the purpose of receiving a rec in return?  Regardless of how the recommendation came to be, is there a sense of required reciprocity at work?  If so, how does this affect the content, veracity, or quality of the recommendation?  (In other words, does this “return the favor” message prompt a generic-sounding quid pro quo response, devoid of any real specific value?)  I don’t automatically recommend someone right back because I’d rather know that the other party values a recommendation from me (i.e., will ask for one directly). The reverse is true: I don’t want someone to recommend me back automatically.  I’d prefer for my profile (and those of my networked professionals!) to reflect authentic recommendations from various sources. 

 Stuff I Do Instead: I enjoy recommending people without expecting or requiring a recommendation back.  If I’m asked to provide a recommendation, I will do so if I have significant direct and positive work experience with the requester.  Luckily, I’ve had positive experiences with and I really like everyone in my network who has asked for a rec from me, but I shy away from writing one if I know others have had more significant and direct  interactions with them and have more meaningful, specific evidence of success to report.  If I wrote a generic recommendation saying something nice about them but without the aforementioned evidence, I wouldn’t be adding value to their profile, IMHO. And as a marketer I am all about adding value and providing meaningful messages!  Instead, if I am in a conversation (such as networking or social) where it’s appropriate to put in a good word about someone, I try to do so.  The advantage to this kind of word-of-mouth promotion is that it’s contextual (and arguably more powerful due to nonverbals, etc.) than the written recommendation. 

 Additional Comments: There are so many different approaches to social networking with tools such as LinkedIn and I’ve noticed we all have varying “rules” and criteria for using them.  It’s interesting to have open dialogue and really understand the boundaries and expectations we have of our networked colleagues.  I invite you to explore and/or share your thoughts on the subject here. 

Friday, March 5, 2010

Stuff I Don’t Do: Follow Friday (#FF)

(NOTE: This is a series of occasional posts clarifying the things I don’t do, business-wise, marketing-wise, or social-media-wise.  Same format each time.)

What: Follow Friday or #FF on Twitter (or other microblogging platform).  Essentially, someone tweets a list of Twitter handles/names (I’m @tracydiziere for example) as a blanket recommendation of people to follow. 

Why I Don’t Do It: Recommending people to follow, while a nice gesture, makes the assumption that all of your followers will value the tweets (consisting of news, opinions, personal updates, etc.) of these people.  It’s just too generic.  There’s no way in marketing I would recommend every product or every service to everyone.  There are market segments, ideal clients, target markets, etc.  I apply the same logic to microblogging.  Unless I can ensure that I’m delivering a meaningful message to a specific, interested group, it’s not worth it.  However, if I could segment my updates and/or customize recommendations for following based on an industry or interest, FF would be appealing to me.  Without this ability, I’m not providing value to followers with respect to their specific variety of shared interests with me—from jewelry/retail sales, to marketing/PR, food/wine, small business, instigating (you know who you are), and all things Arizona.  I never want to treat these  followers (or clients!) as an indistinct mass of an audience.  For tweeps with a lot of influence, however, I realize it makes sense.  It’s like they are referring people they trust, which is cool.  I just prefer to do that on a smaller more personal scale. 

What I Do Instead:

(1) Re-Tweet. When someone I follow has a tweet that is relevant (Relevance is key!) or that I believe will be interesting to a segment of followers, I will re-tweet (RT) it.  I don’t limit the number of RTs from any one person—it’s a matter of relevance and those who are more relevant are RT’ed more.  I typically don’t RT quotes (nor do I tweet quotes from famous people often).  This is because I do value information that is specifically directed at and appropriate to my followers. 

(2) Reply. Another way I indicate someone is worth following (and why they are—the component missing from the generic list and hashtag) is by Replying to them, or starting a conversation.  Replying using @ lets me tell that person (and my followers) that I’m interested in what they have to say with respect to a certain topic or communication instance.  Followers who see that we’re communicating about wine, for example, and like wine themselves (or sell it, make it, write about it, teach others about it, etc.) can follow that person.  It’s a slower process, but for me, it’s more genuine and thoughtful than the  “This-is-who-I-think-is-important-for-everyone-to-listen-to-regardless-of-who-you-are” message I get from #FF.  Maybe that works if you’re already a social media guru with thousands of followers.  That’s not who I am or  aspire to be.  I also will reply using a bunch of people if I think they have something in common.  That way I’m recommending (or referring) people within a certain context, subject, or niche.  And I’ve pre-selected that group to ensure they have interests in common. 


Additional Comments: I noticed recently #FF isn’t as big as deal as it used to be (thankfully!).  Is this your sense as well?  Is this because others feel as I do or something else?   I’d like to think Twitter users on the whole are getting smarter and more considerate of audiences/markets and really wanting to tailor communications (e.g., tweets) to them.  Also, if you think I’m really missing out by not participating or want to share your reasons for doing it, chime in!  If you’d like to connect, follow me: @tracydiziere.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

E-Newsletter Title of the Week

It’s only Wednesday but—Stop the Presses!—I have found it. The best subject line (aka title) from my email inbox comes from’s newsletter and article by Ariel Schwartz:

Would You Live in an Abandoned Mental Hospital?

You’d have to be crazy not to open that email.  Of course, I expected the article to be about micro-businesses or small businesses who allow their “houses” to run amuck—from a lack of process, leadership, time management, or strategic planning

Not so! (Although I will have to add that to the list of future blog topics because the metaphor is too pertinent to ignore.) The article really is about the renovation of these old mental institutions into modern living quarters. Check it out . . .

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Alternative to Firing Your Clients: Better Screening

In my earlier post Firing Customers: Why and How,  I referenced Collapse of Distinction: Stand Out and Move Up While Your Competition Fails. This is a book by Scott McKain and although I haven’t read it yet, he has published an informative article on Why You Should Fire (Some of) Your Customers.  Herein, he recommends who to keep and who to discard by category (very helpful!) and  smartly states: “We spend more time than we really have to give pleasing a customer we never should have solicited in the first place.” (Emphasis mine.)

This last bit by Mr. McKain leads me to the crux of this post: Better screening.  I admit that I have fallen victim to a big name, a glowing referral from a colleague, and a market underdog with potential (if only they’d been open to change), but I am trying—and encouraging my marketing strategy clients to try—to do a better job of what I call “selective engagement.” 

With a little process development and strategic thinking, small businesses can establish criteria for selectively engaging clients who are well-suited to their business models and financial goals. This includes ideal client persona development as well as the means to attract them and the process of identifying them.  With this type of planning and supporting processes in place, you can prevent the firing mentality or  “culling phase” and instead be more exclusive with building your client base upfront.  Yes, this takes great effort, bravery, and budget, but given the alternative—having to gracefully back out of an engagement—it might just be worth it. 

Today I came across an excellent example from a marketing person I respect, Allan Starr. In his Marketing Monthly newsletter,  he states his criteria, including this specific requirement, “If a client doesn't at least believe they are better than their competitors, we don't take them on (we are opportunity agents, not turnaround artists).”  Starr makes a bold statement about what his company does and what they need from potential clients, which will allow prospects to identify or walk away.  (Bravo Marketing Partners, and feel free to refer those who need more confidence to Tracy Diziere & Associates.)

As many marketing colleagues acknowledge, it can be hard to walk away from prospective business, especially when you know you can help them and see how much they need help—and given this economy. But you will SPEND more money in terms of  time and energy trying to please them than you will MAKE. 

Not only should small businesses have a defined process in place (as well as the means to communicate that to the market), they should also seek to improve upon it.  I have a process for lead qualification, but it is constantly being refined based on experience.  Practicing continuous improvement is key, not only in manufacturing but also in your sales cycle.  I advise clients to create and refine their lead generation and client acquisition strategies (as well as client education efforts).   In my experience, it is easier to do this for others than to do it for one’s self—due to perspective-taking abilities, the need for thick skin, and the ever-illusive time for  working on the business as opposed to delivering client results. 

Here’s another supporting tidbit from the 1to1 Media Blog which asks the question “When Is It OK to Fire Your Customers?”  Ginger Conlon notes, “Others say: Don't acquire potentially unprofitable customers in the first place.” That’s what TDA helps micro and small service businesses do—with the process and tools to support such a customer acquisition strategy.