Getting Down to Business with Constant Contact, Social Media, and Daniel Nuccio
May 31, 2011

Last month I had the opportunity to attend Constant Contact’s “Get Down to Business” seminar in Chicago.  Not only was I able to meet with a variety of people working in social media, or at least implementing it for their businesses, as well as see presentations from several top people in the industry, but I was also able to attend a special lunch with Steve Robinson, Gail Goodman, and a small handful of respected guests and loyal Constant Contact customers.

Now, trying to sum up a morning-long seminar with about half a dozen speakers, followed by an hour and a half lunch in only four to eight hundred words would be a bit of a challenge, and I know I surely would have to leave a number of things out. Therefore I will just present some highlights, and interesting pieces of information I learned, or had reiterated to me, that I believe may be beneficial to those I share them with. Some are deserving of full length blog posts, which, if you are one of our loyal readers, you may see in the future, while others are just small golden nuggets.

Everyone’s doing it…or at least soon will be. The numbers show that more than 160 million people are tweeting while 500 million people actively use Facebook. And, according to Sprout Social’s Justyn Howard, in the near future, more small businesses will have a Facebook page than a website. Similar numbers Howard presented at the seminar indicated that in 2005 marketing efforts typically consisted of TV commercials, emails, phone calls, and face to face contact, whereas today, many of those older forms of marketing are being overshadowed tweets, check-ins, and Facebook status updates

Get involved where your clients, prospects, and potential customers are involved.  If you do not know where they are involved, ask. There is no point in using LinkedIn if everyone you either have or want to have a business relationship with is on Twitter, and vice versa.

Social bookmarking sites are dead…or at least soon will be. The only people who still use them are diehard social bookmarking site users. Unless you know your clients or prospects are diehard social bookmarking site users, don’t waste your time on Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, or the others.

When you do get involved, be a concierge, not a salesman. There is a commonly used analogy in social media circles that going on Facebook or Twitter or any other social media site is like going to a cocktail party. When you arrive, you do not go to a bunch of random people saying “My name is Mr. X.  I sell Y. This is why Y is so great. Would you like to buy Y?” Instead, you mingle with people. You join the conversations already going on. Many of these conversations may have nothing to do with business. But, while you are mingling with people, you are building a certain level of rapport with them, and, when they need Y, or know someone who needs why, they will be more likely to think of you.

Social Media is not a quick fix! If your business is failing or has a bad business plan or has an ill developed sales process, social media probably can’t save you. Implementing social media takes time. Again, it is about relationship building, not selling!

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 your 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.

People are terrible at measuring the indirect effects of social media…probably partly because doing so can be difficult…if not near impossible. I am aware of how this sounds…It sounds like an easy out for any social media consultant not doing their job properly or investor in a bad social media tool trying to convince others things aren’t so bad, and unfortunately the above can be used this way. But, at the same time, simply taking a look at whether your business is doing better now compared to before you implemented a social media program may not necessarily give a clear answer given the myriad of factors that can influence success or failure. Now, I suppose an experiment or quasi-experiment can be done, things like the number of retweets you get or the level of activity on a Facebook page can be measured, and new clients/customers, can be asked or surveyed about how they found you, but, at the end of the day, activity on a social media page is not always converted into new business and even when asked, your new client/customer may not be able to tell you that they received your contact info after a friend recommended you after checking out your website after seeing a tweet of yours retweeted by a different friend.

There are no social media experts…just people who might know a little more and have a little more experience. Everyone who works in social media knows this. Anyone who says differently is likely doing so either due to ignorance or deceit. Now, again, this is not to say that there are not people who know more or have more experience, and if you are hiring someone to help you with social media you should be able to reasonably expect (or demand) that they have a certain level of familiarity with Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, that they know which sites are being phased out, and that they know how to use some of the more prominent social media management tools like Hootsuite and TweetDeck, but, that said, there are changes being made to all the major social media sites quite frequently, and new social media sites, management tools, and other various instruments to make any number of social media related tasks easier are being developed everyday, and even people like Steve Robinson, Gail Goodman, and Justyn Howard, among countless others, will admit that there is always more to learn.

Merry Christmas To All, And To All A Good 2010
December 13, 2009

As the holiday season is upon us, and we sit at the dawn of a new decade, I wanted to take a moment to wish everyone a very happy holiday season and best wishes for a wonderful new year.

OK, so we aren’t truly on the dawn of a new decade. There was no year 0, so we are actually in the last year of the first decade of this millennium, but what the heck. 10 years ago we had a big party as we went from 1999 into 2000, complete with celebrations from around the world, worries about the end of the world, and the need to upgrade every computer known to man. Since we had that, and because it is much more exciting to watch your odometer in your car go form 99,999 miles to 100,000 than it is to see it go to 100,001, we will stick with popular convention and call this the end of the old decade and the dawn of a new…and what a decade it was.

Back in 1999, I had just moved to Chicago from New Jersey. I had an opportunity to move into sales management so out went the thought of moving someplace warmer as I packed up my car and heavy jackets to head to the Windy City. At the time, Randolph Sterling, Inc. was not much more than a glimmer in my eye…a far off thought that really wasn’t that far off at all. Now, as we inch every so close to the start of our eighth year I think back on what was a pretty good decade, all things considered.

I couldn’t have done it without a little help from my friends.

One of my least favorite terms is “self made.” Maybe I am missing something, but as self sufficient as I may be, I don’t believe you can achieve success alone. Whether it was my parents offering support as I started this journey, the owners and managers of companies whom I worked with, who gave me the opportunity to learn and experience the business world; the financial analysts who gave me sound advice to put away some money back then to finance some of the early years, friends who were there for me through the good and the bad in both my professional and personal life, early contractors, who helped to build what Randolph Sterling, Inc. is today; clients, who have shown great faith in not only me as a business owner (and in many cases early on as “the guy” who did everything for them,) and of course, our team today.

Let me tell you a little about our core team at Randolph Sterling as we sit in December of 2009. Many of you know Art Crowley, the newest member of the team. Art started with us just a couple of months ago as an account executive in Chicago. He brings with him great experience and a slightly different take on how to sell our services. He is full of new ideas and as quite anxious to make his mark. So far so good.  It also doesn’t hurt that, like me, he is a Steelers fan. We look forward to great things form him in 2010 and beyond.

Next, we have Daniel Nuccio, our social media intern. Many of you know my skepticism when it comes to social media. I have sat in meeting after meeting on the value of it, but it seemed that the only people who were making money with this media were the people who got paid to speak about social media. We hired Daniel over the summer to test this theory and he certainly changed my mind. Our newsletter has become a great way to stay in touch with current and past clients and contacts, and the blogs and tweets have introduced us to new connections all over the country to the point that we are looking at adding a social media component to our services for 2010. Thanks, Daniel.

In addition, we have Angela King, who runs inside sales in North Carolina. Born and raised in the Tar Heel State, Angela has a great personality and can speak to anyone; kings, queens, the owner of a small company, an intern at a large one, or anyone in between. The success of our inside sales program has always been our ability to have conversations with the people on the other end of the line. We don’t try to sell, we build relationships, and Angela is wonderful at building relationships.  Although our receivables are usually in good shape, we may even have Angela take over on “reminder calls” in the coming year…trust me, you do not want her to “go country” on you.

Last, but certainly not least is inside sales manager and SAM group membership manager, Lisa Pickens. Lisa has been with me the longest and often refers to herself as my “work wife.” In addition to all of her “regular” responsibilities, Lisa has been a confidant to me on decisions about the company in several areas and does not mind giving me her opinion, which I value greatly. When I first met Lisa, I had no idea how vast her work experience is. It seems as though no matter what project I give to her, she has had some experience either working in or dealing with that industry. I honestly have no idea where we would be without her.

There are also several contractors that we work with throughout the year on various projects, and of course, my valued trusted advisors at Vistage, who help me to learn what I don’t know or don’t even know I don’t know and who challenge me to be better and never lose the vision of the company I continue to build.

I mentioned our clients briefly before, but they deserve mention again. From the smallest project to our longest running clients, we appreciate all of you as you have also helped us to become the company we are today. Thank you all very much.

Self made? I don’t think so…and proud of it.

So whatever you are celebrating this holiday season; Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s, the winter solstice, Saturnalia, or even George Costanza’s made up holiday of Festivus, I wish you all the very best, now and in the coming decade.

Thank you.

FabTech 2009
November 24, 2009

Recently, I attended FabTech, a large trade show at McCormick Place in Chicago.  It got me thinking about how important these shows are and the value to a company when they attend.

If the economy is in a slump, it certainly isn’t evident at these shows.  A single booth is expensive and there were a large number of displays that used the space of ten or twenty booths.  The displays can be elaborate, from a small semi trailer, with the center cut out, to companies having couches and chairs for people to sit and rest.  And, the manpower that a company sends to these shows can be impressive.  While most booths had two to six workers manning a booth at one time, I counted over twenty red shirted exhibitors for an electric company.  You can imagine the size of that display.  And, they weren’t the only ones.

What else intrigued me was how companies got attendees to stop to see what products and services they supplied.  There were people out in the aisles grabbing anyone walking by to talk to.  Some companies did the exact opposite and sat down, watched everyone go by, and if someone actually stopped, then they would slowly rise and talk to them.

However, my favorites were the companies that had a gimmick to get people to stop.  This included a large bowls of candy or other treats, to a NASCAR racing car sitting at one display.

My favorite though was a double booth where in one was a camera where anyone could have their picture taken with two young girls dressed like construction workers in shorts or skirts.  The other part of the booth had six young, mostly blond, girls with their poster hung up behind them.  Now, that booth was always busy with attendees.  Everyone stopped there.

What is the quality of leads generated from these booths?  Just because I wanted a piece of candy, does that mean I want to buy the product?  I like racing, so does stopping to look at the car make me a good potential customer?  I can tell you that not one person I talked to had any idea what the company did that had all of the pretty girls.

Were those good leads?  The next step is what are those companies going to do with those leads, good and bad?  Most of us would assume that if a company is spending all of that time and money on a trade show, they would automatically follow up with any potential new customers.  Not even close.  Some statistics show that less than one third of those potential leads will ever be followed up on.  From my years of experience in sales in various industries, I am surprised that the percentage is that high.

One aspect of our business at Randolph Sterling is to do the follow up work for companies after these trade shows.  We separate the actual potential customers from the ones who stopped by to just to look at a pretty face or have a bite to eat.  We build relations with future customers and set appointments for our client’s sales force to sell their products/services to companies who are looking to do something now.

Art Crowley

Art’s Initial Thoughts on the FabTech & AWS Welding Show
November 20, 2009

Went to trade show in Chicago the other day.  The Fab Tech & AWS Welding Show was held at McCormick Place.

Among the many exhibitors, there were some outlandish display booths, including a small semi trailer truck with the center cut out for their display.

Everyday there were various presentations, including ones about the industry, safety and marketing.

I listened to Rob Johnson give a marketing presentation that was really interesting.  Rob is a Vice President at The Job Shop Company and has been doing this for about 25 years.  His talk had to do with websites and how to use them to attract clients.   Phrases such as photo galleries, flash animation and streaming video are now set in my mind for whenever I talk to IT marketing people.

I’m looking to learn.

I’m planning to post more about this soon.

Art Crowley