Don’t Be the Restaurant No One Wants to Eat At Because It Is Empty
June 6, 2011

You are walking around an unfamiliar neighborhood with a couple of friends. You are on your way to a party or perhaps just a movie. But you have a bit of time and decide to stop to eat dinner first. You can’t be too choosy, but it appears you have two options. From the outside both look clean and well maintained.  The lights are working. From the menus posted in the windows, both seem to offer some appetizing choices. And neither you nor your friends are opposed to either due to personal tastes. But, there seems to be something off about one of them. You can’t quite put your finger on it at first, but then you realize what it is. One of them appears, for all practical purposes, to be empty, save the one out-of-place guy in the corner you see while peering through the window, while the other is overflowing with patrons waiting to be seated. Which do you choose?

Unless you are really short on time, you choose the one overflowing with people. Why? Social proof. You assume that the place with more people is probably better, while the place with no people is in some way deficient, even if the deficiency is not easily discerned from outward appearances. You assume if so many people like something, there must be something about it to like. You assume that if so few people like something, there must be a reason why.

Social proof is one of the six principles of influence professor of psychology and marketing, Robert Cialdini, wrote about in his popular book Influence, and he covers it there much more extensively than I can here. But, given the attention I have seen it getting recently in social media circles, felt it might be worth a brief discussion.

In an article I wrote up on Constant Contact’s recent “Get Down to Business” seminar, I wrote of how one of the points I took away, or at least felt was worth reiterating after it was reiterated to me, was the following:

“People trust third party recommendations more than they trust you! There is a lot to be said for the idea of social proof. But, put simply, when you say good things about you, you come off as a salesman who will say what he has to make a sale. When others say good things about you, such as those you have been building rapport with through you social media tools over a period of time, they come off as satisfied customers, and are seen as more trustworthy, or at least less biased.”

But, how do you get such displays of social proof on your social media page? Well, to begin, have you asked for a recommendation from one of your connections on LinkedIn? If so, assuming the person you asked provided it, then you already have attained some level of social proof through social media. But, the social proof you can get through social media does not end there. No, on LinkedIn you can get similar recommendations for your company pages. And, technically speaking, just having a large number of Facebook friends/fans, Twitter followers, or LinkedIn connections can serve as social proof as well. High levels of activity on a Facebook page or blog is even better. And, fully fledged recommendations or thank you by satisfied customers on your Facebook page are even more beneficial. Going back to the restaurant analogy, if both restaurants were equally well populated, having such a recommendation from a friend (or from Yelp) might make you choose one over the other, or maybe even go to the less populated one in the original example if the recommendation was strong enough or from the right person.

Yet, now you ask how do you get such recommendations on various social media sites beyond LinkedIn which already has recommendations as a built in feature you’re required to use if you want to get you profile to 100%?

Simple, you ask. When you have a satisfied customer or client who sends you a private email or tells you in person how much they appreciate what you have done for them, you thank them, but ask if they could post it on Facebook or tweet it on Twitter or write a review on Yelp. None of these take much time or effort on their parts, but can be greatly beneficial to you. And, if you have a very satisfied customer, you might even ask if they’d be willing to give a video testimonial for YouTube and your website.

Welcome 2011, A Year to Work Smarter and Grow the Right Way!
January 3, 2011

Since most of my November and December articles talk about how you shouldn’t stop your sales efforts during the “holiday months” because you will be behind your competition come the start of January, I am sure that all of you are expecting me to be writing something along the same lines. Well we are very busy and I am proud to say that all of your clients heeded our advice this year and are reaping the benefits as phones are ringing off the hook this week (do people still have phones that “hook?”) however that is not what this article is about.

I first want to thank everyone who helped Randolph Sterling, Inc. help more clients than ever before in our history in 2010. From clients to staff to referral sources to friends and supporters, you made our success your business so as President and CEO of Randolph Sterling, Inc., I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.

So what does 2011 look like for you? OK, so it is only days into January so I figured I would take my crack at being an Economics expert (I’m sure my Economics 201 professor from Pace University is glad he retired and happier that I am not using his name here). The economy works in cycles, we all know that. We have been on a downward cycle for awhile, but things have been getting better as we are seeing more companies in more industries looking at opportunities.

I know, you are thinking: “Wow, Rich, great insight. The last time I got insight like that, I at least had dessert from the eggroll I had just eaten!”

We work with several different companies that sell to different industries, from accounting to manufacturing, from healthcare to plumbing and marketing. What I see is an economy filled with smarter decision makers who understand who they are, what they do, and who they serve. More and more people working smarter, not harder. I attest this due to a lot of people who really shouldn’t be in business not being able to survive.

With all apologies to the many good people who have lost jobs or are having trouble finding jobs in this economy, the majority of the people I saw who went out of business (and as a result, many of my clients are now working with their past clients) were people who didn’t realize what value is. They either tried to sell on price or not provide the quality that others in their industry had been doing all along.

We have been spending the last several months asking clients and prospects “What makes you great?” Not good, not OK, not cheaper, but great. It’s OK to say it out loud. Heck, if you don’t think you are great, why would a prospect think so? What do you bring to the table that nobody else can? Who wants it? We have been asking ourselves and our clients to dig deeper so we can help them form the right relationships with the right people for the right growth. My prediction for 2011? Companies will continue to work smarter and grow the right way. There is no easy fix to the economy, just good, old fashioned, SMART work.

Happy 2011 everyone!

 

The Importance of Specific Social Media Goals
August 3, 2010

Back around the holidays I was at a party where I met a social media skeptic, who put me in one of those situations where I was given minimal information about a business and thirty seconds to explain how implementing the social media could vastly improve every aspect about it.

The business was a small medical office where this woman worked with maybe one or two other doctors. That was all I had to go on.

My response at the time was to rattle off a number of clichés about controlling the conversation about her business, increasing its visibility, letting people get to know her better, presenting herself as an expert in her field, etc.

She was unimpressed and our contact at the party pretty much ended there.

In retrospect, I can understand why she was unimpressed. I rattled off a list of clichés she had probably heard before, that ultimately had little relevance to her business (although, in my defense, I will say she should have given me more to go on, such as what she specifically hoped to accomplish).

Generally speaking, if you are a family physician running a small medical office with one other person, how much does controlling the conversation about your business really matter? And, although the number of people using the internet to do research on their doctors is probably more than one might initially think, I believe the question of how much Twitter, Facebook, and amateur blogs come into play (as opposed to specialized sites for grading doctors) is open to debate.

Now (and here is why having well thought out goals is important) if you wish to become a resident medical guru on sites like Twitter and Facebook, then, by all means, join them and get to work. If you’ve just written a book or are hoping to become the next Dr. Oz, then building a fan base through the social media is an excellent idea if you want to take the time (perhaps two or three hours per day) to research the big medical news stories, blog about them, and promote your blog through Facebook and Twitter. But, if you’re just simply hoping to increase your number of patients, how much do you really believe your writings or tweets are going to compel people to come to you the next time they get sick? Some would say quite a bit, but in the medical field that does seem like a tough idea to sell, even before you get to the professional and ethical concerns involved. A better decision in this situation, the situation of the doctor I met, might be to set up a Twitter account and a Facebook fan page as a way to stay in contact with your current patients, and maybe, if you feel enough is going on at your office to justify it, start sending out a monthly e-newsletter using a program such as Constant Contact.