Strong Case of Wanderlust Through Music

People always talk about dreaming the impossible dream. And yet, how many of us continue to dream instead of just do? Count me as the former – until now. This past year, I’ve decided to get off my butt, drop the excuses and to quote Nike, “Just Do It.”

My grandmother always told me that if I was going to dream, dream big. Reach for the stars.

So my wanderlust is growing and it’s too big to contain. I want to go..

And honestly, for the past few years, I’ve really wondered…

Screw that wondering if I should stay or go. I’m going on…

And looking forward to my…

When I return, I’ll let you know how I’ve …

Where will your wanderlust take you?

Change the Demand Funnel — Get Social With Sales

In collaboration with one of our sales trainers, Sean Goldie, I recently took on the task of helping our sales team learn how to utilize social media to boost their sales. Sean and I find social selling a very important step to help our sales team and our sales figures for a variety of reasons.

Customer decision process is changing

In the past, the buyer’s process was simple, especially for the sales rep. A customer needed something, asked a few people and then had an interaction directly with a sales person. Today, the way a person learns about a product and decides to purchase is one big tornado of information. Sometimes, the information is even incorrect. Hence, the biggest competition in sales today is not a company’s competitor, but customers’ ability to learn on their own! And if that doesn’t give you the feeling of urgency to get on social media, think about this stat – 70% of a customer’s buying journey is complete by the time they even talk to a sales person. Yikes! That’s 70% of the buying journey where you can’t control the messaging. Or can you?

Teach where they learn

It’s time for sales for help generate leads, help shape the demand. Filling the demand funnel has always been a marketing function. Not anymore. Sales too can help shape demand and fill the funnel — enter social selling.

Today, customers learn about a product/service mostly by engaging in conversations either by word-of-mouth or online. It’s easy for sales to help be apart of that conversation with social media.

Build your social foundation

Social media can be intimidating at first, especially if you are looking at building a professional presence online. But, it’s easy. Just like building a house, you need to build your foundation first before you paint the walls or add any throw pillows.

Here are a few steps to get you and your sales team started on social:

  1. Correctly set up your profiles: Make them look professional and add personality to them. Remember, social is about H:H (Human to Human) interaction. Not sales person to prospect interaction.
  2. Listen: Start listening to the conversations about your brand, your clients, competitors and your industry. You can easily do that by setting up Twitter lists and joining a few LinkedIn Groups.
  3. Learn: Listening is just one step. Now, what have you learned? What are your customer’s real pains? How can you help them get rid of that pain?
  4. Engage: Don’t just stalk people. Creepy. Engage with them. Chat about life and business. It’s easier to sell to a friend than a complete stranger after all.
  5. Routine: Make social part of your daily routine.

Check out this infographic for a simple process to begin selling with social.
Social Sharing for blog

Building Engaged Communities – Traackr Interview

Recently, I have enjoyed being interviewed by my fellow content marketers in the industry. Here’s my interview originally posted on Traackr.

Amy Higgins is the Content Marketing & Social Media Manager for Concur’s Small Business Division. She’s built all sorts of communities including uniting teenagers, Opera lovers, food photographers and most recently small business experts.

Amy, you’ve created communities of influencers and advocates for consumer- and business- facing organizations of all sizes. What types of business goals have these communities helped achieve?

That’s a tough question to answer since all of the communities I’ve developed have taken a life of their own, sometimes along the business goal path and other times creating new journeys.

Some of the communities are easily tied directly to the overall business goals — from general awareness to product adoption and retention. Yet, other communities seem to naturally develop on their own with unseen end goals, which later can tie directly to the business.

For example, one community was developed to help customer adoption and retention and ended up also helping with product development and customer service. I learned that you have to let the community tell you what to do and not the other way around.

You have an interesting position that combines content marketing & social media. Tell us how you leverage content as a way to engage your potential customers.

The saying goes that content is king; however, I say that context is king, content is queen and social is your knight. You can produce content and promote it through social media until you turn blue in the face, but your content will never have any engagement if it doesn’t resonate with your audience.

As the knight, social can help amplify any content. Through social, your content can reach not only current customers but prospects as well. But remember, only after you fully understand your audience’s pain points, both known and unknown, can you first create content that your audience will want to engage with, either by sharing it with their networks or reaching out to you.

In online engagement, there’s a lot of crossover between marketing and public relations. You firmly sit on the marketing side but you take a very relationship-focused approach. Do you think marketing and PR need to work together? Are the lines becoming totally blurred?

Yes! Totally. A brand can hurt itself more than help itself by having marketing and PR work independently of one another. On the marketing side, I can find customer stories that are not only great for blogs, but they can also be used for PR stories.

For example, say we have a new study out about the usage of our product, how it’s changing the way people do business. That story will not only help potential customers along the decision making process, but it might interest a reporter writing about new technologies. If marketing and PR don’t work together, the traction and reach of that story might be lost.

When you’re new to a space and you don’t know the influencers personally, what does your game plan look like? In other words, how do you go from stranger to engaged?

I would turn this question around and ask you, “How do you go from stranger to ‘engaged’ with anyone?” Influencers are people too. I reach out to them the same way I would reach out to anyone.

Learn what they do, their interests and their hobbies by reading their blogs, following them on Twitter and other social networks. Yes, in some circles, you might call this “stalking”, I call it education.

Next, I just start engaging with them on social — retweet them, comment on their blogs, join their Twitter chats, etc… Eventually, like with most online engagements, a relationship develops.

Then, you have a foot to stand on when you reach out to them for help with your marketing campaigns. If at all possible, try to meet them in person. Just remember not to pitch them, become their friend first. You’ll end up getting more out of it for yourself and your business. Relationships matter.

I imagine you can’t always succeed on your first try. Tell us about a time you tried to outreach to a new group, but it didn’t quite work out. How did you course correct?

When I worked at Google as their Bay Area Community Manager for Google Local, I had a difficult time at first creating a user group of the product. I was concentrating on people who used the product already and not new users.

I ended up looking outside the product for people who were avid Google+ users and engagers — ones who shared their personal lives, not just articles on the platform. I ended up finding a great community of photographers, many of whom were also foodies. With their love of photography and food, they made the perfect community group to help grow Google Local.

You recently served as the Director of Marketing for the San Francisco Opera’s BRAVO! CLUB. When I think of the opera, I don’t think social media savvy people. How on Earth did you manage to engage young people and get them interested?

Most of BRAVO’s members are in fact avid social media users. The trick was finding them and talking to them on their terms, not on yours. BRAVO! Club is a young professional group, ages 21 – 40, dedicated to developing a younger generation of opera lovers.

People join the group for a variety of reasons, either to use the Club’s great opera discounts or meet other opera lovers in their age range. But most importantly, it’s all about the community for them.

So, preaching to them about opera or cramming opera facts down their throat will never work. BRAVO! takes a community approach — build on that community to get others interested, the word of mouth.

We shared photos of members and their friends on Facebook. That way members can tag themselves and share the fashion and excitement of others in their social network. We also created programs that help engagement, such as quizzes and contests. That way members engage not only with the Club but with their friends, thus helping spread the community.

Actually, I met you, Evy, through that approach. A common friend introduced us because she knew we both loved opera. And then, I introduced you to other opera lovers, alas the cycle continues…

If there really was a team of superheroes named the Engagers and you were on it, what name would you give yourself?

Betty Blaster Bomber (aka Ms. 3B) – Just like a great photobomb, you never know how great it is until it’s fully developed.

Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.

Han Solo

3 Fun Ways to Respond on Social Media

My social media use can sometimes be compulsive and an uncontrolled consumption on a daily basis. What can I say, I’m a social mediaholic.

But for others, responding to social media isn’t always that easy. What if you have nothing to say? What if you can’t think of a witty response to tweet? Well, who says you have to say anything? Why not let pictures say what you can’t? After all, pictures can say 1000 words+.

Here are a fun examples of how you to respond on  social media:

1. Respond with a selfie

The Oxford Dictionary defines a selfie as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media.”

Don’t know what to say? Respond with a selfie, and show others what you think!

My favorite example is how my pal, Spencer, uses a selfie diptic to express his feelings. Like this one:

2. Respond with a meme

I know this is another oldie, but goodie. Memes have taken over the innerwebz, especially with pop culture, politics, kids and of course cats! So, there’s not a shortage of memes to pick from, but if you can’t find one, just make one — try Cheezburger or MemeGenerator.

Meme_Wonka

3. Respond with a song

Well, of course you could record a song and send it to them. However, I always like to send a link to song as a response. It can create a funny dialog, and you get to know each other’s musical tastes in a hurry.

For example, here’s the dialog I recently had on Twitter with an event company in Seattle:

What fun ways do you respond to others on social media? Let me know by commenting below our respond to me on Twitter.

Let Email Work For You, Not The Other Way Around

When it comes to email, we all know the basics. However, not everyone understands how to use email efficiently to prevent it from becoming a constant distraction or sometimes even an annoyance.

A few simple tips to help free yourself from email:

Schedule Time to Email

Think about your work email. Can you count on one hand how many times a day you check it? If you are like me, that’s not possible. With access to email now in your back pocket or even on your bedside table, it’s easy to check your email anywhere, anytime. Add to the fact that many email programs have email notifications and we are continuously tied to our email.

It’s time to gain your freedom from email. Try scheduling a couple times in the day to check and reply to your email. I would suggest morning and afternoon — just try not to schedule it first thing in the morning, so you can focus a bit in the morning on more challenging and productive tasks. The hardest part for me is NOT checking my email from my phone — especially first thing in the morning while still in bed.

Turn off email notifications

Notifications are everywhere these days. The world is so hyper-connected; it’s now almost too connected, with too much noise. Optimize your day and improve your focus by turning off your email notifications both on your desktop and mobile device.

It’s amazing what you can accomplish without constant interruptions.

How to reply

Even though people appreciate fast replies, it’s not generally expected. I have friends and co-workers whom all like to sit down and catch up on emails over the weekends, sometimes at 2AM. Do I think they want a quick reply, especially at the wee hours of the morning? Nope. Then, why would it be the same during business hours?

Tip: If you email someone and expect a quick reply, type when you need a reply in the subject line.

Set proactive guidelines

Setting guidelines for email replies may seem trivial, but it’s absolutely necessary in creating productive lines of communication. For example, a 24 hour window for replies, depending on your business, sets expectations for sending and receiving emails. You can also put your email guidelines in your signature. For example, state that you return emails within a certain time frame or if the matter is urgent, ask people to call you directly.

Also, if you don’t need a reply, and the email is for informative reasons only, try placing “FYI” in the subject line. That way people can read the email in a timely fashion without the expectation of needing to reply. In addition, if you do in fact need a reply within a certain time frame, state that either in your email or on the subject line.

Email is a part of our daily life. It’s time to make it work for us, not against our productivity.

I’d love to know what tactics and tools you use to help manage your emails. Let me know by commenting below.

Learning The Language of Your Customers and Coworkers

Welcome to the fifth blog of my 30-day blogging project. Warning! All of the blogs for this project will be posted unedited, unfiltered.

Like any relationship, your employment can have a language in and of itself. Every company can come with a completely different set of acronyms and tonality. There are even particular phrases and words that are unique to that company. So, I started wondering, how has my employment, both past and present changed they way I speak? Just like my skill set, has my vernacular changed over the years because of my employment?

Flashback time…. waynes-world_o_GIFSoup.com_

Mission Capable

A few years ago, I worked for an outdoor apparel design company where 80% of our customers were military, either veterans or current. And, 100% of our customers were avid outdoor enthusiasts. My vernacular changed dramatically.  Everything was very serious, so serious, and very male in tone. For example, I don’t think I ever used the word “love” on any of our communications. (Yeah, like most men use the word love to describe anything, never-the-less an eight-inch titanium folder with Teflon coated bearings.) Trying to write for an avid outdoor survival extremist took some getting used to, that’s for sure. My language became very mission capable and masculine, so much so that many of  our customers were surprised once they learned I was female. During my time at this company, my editorial development taught me to reach your customer, you need to put yourself in their shoes and talk as they do.

urban_dictionary_smmagUnderstanding the Language of Teenagers

I knew thought that UrbanDictionary would become my best friend, but while working for an app company we became besties. The app was a mobile-first company — everything we did was on mobile, for mobile, by mobile. Most of our customers were teenagers. I learned how to communicate with them not only on social networks, but in-app through our service, ads, and customer service. Not only did my writing style have to change, but my search inquiries also had to change. I mean it’s kinda hard to listen to the conversations around your company if you don’t understand the language of your customer. After a few months, my personal vocabulary changed so much that my favorite word became “Awesome”. Like, I know, how awesome is that? If I learned one thing here, it was to fully listen to your customer, you need to understand their language and all of its idioms.

The Goog — the Land, the Myth, The Legend

The internal language of Google changed my vocabulary more than the language of our product’s customer base. After all, we had a HUGE customer base. The Goog has a language all of its own. With a company the size of a small country, how could it not? Like most tech companies, all of our beta products had their own secret names. The names were all very light-hearted, fun and still purpose-built, hence the company culture. Plus, the Goog has its own internal terminology to describe groups of people. For example, I was a Tattogoogler since I’m heavily tattooed. Also, we never called it Google. It was The Goog, not to be mistaken for the Borg. It tlook me a while to learn all the internal dialogue. But once I did, I guess I could hold an entire conversation just using the company’s internal language. How 007.

urlAcronyms — The New ABCs

Today, I work for a B2B tech company that helps business manage their expenses, travel and invoicing through automated solutions. My biggest learning curve here was learning all the internal acronyms. Going from mainly B2C companies to B2C was challenging enough, but add our internal company dialogue, and I learning another language altogether. The most difficult part of the language for me is that they way our company talks internally is quite different than the way our end user speaks. I deal with small and medium sized businesses. Yes, we all talk about ROI and productivity, but in different ways. This has shown me that no matter how you talk about solutions internally, it won’t matter if you can’t speak the language of the consumer.

So, what has this all taught me?

Well, the three takeaways for me are:

  1. The ONLY way to reach your customer is to learn their language and culture.
  2. Internal company language is quite different than external. Never the two shall meet.
  3. Your experiences change not only your skill level but your vocabulary.

There’s more than one language at your job. Understanding the value of the language of your co-workers and customers, even though they can be different, can help in your communications, both past, present and future.

I’d love to hear how your job, past or present, has changed your vocabulary. Let’s continue this conversation in the comments below.

How To Politely Say No?

Welcome to the forth blog of my 30 day blogging project. Warning! All of the blogs for this project will be posted unedited, unfiltered.

Today’s blog is more of a rant than anything else.

I just returned last week from a work related conference. My pocket is full of business cards from all the wonderful people I met, and my mind is spinning with new information and techniques. Then, I get bombarded with the sales calls — some of which I have asked for them to reach out and others where I have no idea who they are. They overwhelm me and frankly just put a bad taste in my mouth. I realize that from a lead generation perspective that an event is a great place to generate new leads, but contacting them should be done with a sense of class and consideration. So I ask, how do we improve this new generation of the door-to-door sales guy in the digital age?

One guy called me this morning at 8 AM my time. He called my personal cell number too. Oh the humanity! Did he not realize that I was on my way to work? And my cell? Geez! He also emailed me, but never referenced the phone call. #Fail.

Then there’s the company, who shall remain nameless, who continue to reach out to me even though I have told them no. I have zero interest in giving them any business because they have personally treated their employees like crap – a few of whom are my friends. Can they not put two and two together? I mean after all, I was first introduced to them by their now ex-employees. Two words people – relationships matter!

And last but not least there’s the company that ceases to stop bombarding me with meeting requests. I have politely said no, I don’t have the time to look at their service. I hate to be rude, but sometimes it seems like rudeness is the only way to go.

I am very honest with businesses I am working with already. Sometimes, I have to wait on others to make the call, and I tell them that. So why can’t I be brutally honest with those that I would never even suggest hiring? Do I need to be rude?

If I could and really cared enough to, I would just hand all of these people over to lead generation and CRM solutions. Maybe there’s a form letter I could send as a reply that would direct people how to approach sales’ leads — a how to do it right.

Something like:

Dear annoying sales person,

Please look up not only what I do, but where I am located BEFORE you reach out to me. You have started out on the wrong foot by calling me early in the morning or continuing to reach out to me when I politely declined your meetings. You have treated others in the past like dirt, so why would I want to hire you just to be treated the same way. Look into a CRM or another lead scoring tool – believe me, they exist- before you try to land my business. Now, I politely ask for you to leave me alone.

Sincerely,

Annoyed

If you could craft a form letter to respond to this type of annoying sales calls, what would it say?