Thursday, January 27, 2011

New Blog Location for Anthony P Zarro

My future blog posts can be found at Anthony P Zarro - Digital Marketing.  You can also find my posts our the company website located here at Drive Action Digital.  Thank you for your interests!  APZ

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

LinkedIn: Best Kept Secret?

Top 5 Ways to Market Your Business With LinkedIn | Social Media Examiner

"LinkedIn is the most powerful social networking site to help you grow your business. It makes Twitter, Facebook and YouTube seem like social networking sites for kids.
If you want to hang with the big players—a place where connections are made, leads are generated, and deals go down—then you need to spend more of your time on LinkedIn." Written by Lewis Howes

Many clients have asked for my help lately with social media. Each having significantly more questions than answers which is to be expected.  However, it wasn't until I read this article that I realized just how overlooked LinkedIn is with most if not all of my clients and prospects.  Everyone wants to talk about Twitter and FaceBook but should we be spending more time with LinkedIn?

I have always had a theory that when people come to work in very casual clothing, that they are not as focused on their job.  It kind of feels like working on a Saturday morning...  I know for myself, when I dress in my best I have a different mind set.  Much more intensely focused and determine.  Does that same psychological affect apply when I am networking in LinkedIn vs. FaceBook?  Do I have my business hat on when I am in LinkedIn vs. my social hat in FaceBook?

I'd be very interested to gather opinions on this.  Quite frankly, I'm not sure what my stance is on this yet but I can tell you that I plan on elevating my activity level in LinkedIn.  Thoughts?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Building a Customer Community

I gave a presentation recently to a client on social media when I was confronted by an interesting question. My presentation was designed to educate the group on the concepts, technologies and behaviors that prevail in today’s social web. I wanted to lay a foundation to help us brainstorm ideas on leveraging social media to make an impact in their business. About half way through the presentation, when most of the foundation had been established, I was asked: “So what?”

It is a fair question. Let’s face it; we don’t need to know that someone plans to nap during his train ride into the city. There is a lot of zero value information being shared in the social spaces. But what marketers must not ignore is the changing behaviors. We are all sharing much more information, thoughts and opinions with our networks and communities than we ever have before.

While you take this behavior into consideration, think about your own resistance to sales tactics both online and off. Think about how frustrated you get when you hear a sales pitch. Do you really want to hear the salesperson’s opinion whether or not this new TV is the best on the market? Why do you have to buy this car today? Your agent keeps telling you this insurance is a good fit - but how can you be sure? Wouldn’t it be nice to hear a few customer opinions to help you make an informed decision? Not references. Just to hear what a wide range of experienced customers have to say.

My clients often hear me say, “Nothing sells a product better than a happy customer.” If you believe in the quality of your brand or service, then build a customer community and allow your customers to share their experiences. Will there be a range of opinions? Yes, and that is okay. A blend of both positive and negative opinions will give the conversation greater credibility. In addition, your existing and potential customers will become even more loyal to your brand as you show your willingness to accept criticism.

Depending on your product or service, your customers can also serve as a valuable resource to one other. They can share different uses for your products, assist one another with technical questions, and offer opinions and guidance. These are all benefits of building a user community. The Open Network by American Express is a great example of this - and there are many others. By building a community in which people can share their thoughts and opinions about your products and services, you can gather the information you need to take action. Assisting an unhappy customer by using a public forum can, in fact, build enormous brand loyalty.

Another benefit to building a community is the emergence of brand ambassadors. As the community develops, you will find some customers love you even more than you thought. They will want to share their experiences with many more people than you imagined. These brand ambassadors will help your customers solve problems and encourage the undecided buyers to select you. Without realizing it, you have just expanded your sales force.

So what do you need to know before building this customer community? Again, first do remember that this is a conversation. Don't use this forum as a podium for sales. Make your strategy one of offering assistance by volunteering useful information. Answer questions.

And be transparent. If you make mistakes, admit them. If you do, your customers will feel better about doing business with you.

Finally, if you are a thought leader in your market space, this is a splendid place to showcase your forward thinking. The ideal strategy is to offer thoughts and opinions that encourage a dialogue with your audience.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Social Media vs. Email Marketing

I have often said that eMail newsletters will eventually be replaced by company blogs. While that has not yet happened to the extent I thought it would, I definitely do see the trend moving over to social media in the form of company FaceBook, LinkedIn & Twitter pages.

The reason for this should be clear to anyone who opens their email client on a daily basis. Competition for the inbox is fierce. Because we’re all faced with so much clutter, we are forced to delete or ignore many of these communications. How many times have you said that you’ll come back to read a newsletter when you have more time – and never did so? The messages that once were getting through, loud and clear, are now getting lost in the spam filter or are simply being ignored.

While I am not advocating that you stop sending email newsletters, this strikes me as the perfect time to test the utilization of your company communication in social media. Building a company profile page on FaceBook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are quick and easy tasks. Once they are live, all you have to do is post the same content that you would ordinarily have posted to your newsletter.

There are additional benefits to using this medium for company communications. The social media channels are easily indexed by the search engines. Content that was once sent via email and never found by the engines now appear in the organic search listings potentially exposing your thought leadership to a much larger audience. If you begin looking for social media listings in all your search activity you’ll notice a growing presence on page 1 for sites like LinkedIn, Twitter and FaceBook.

Posting your content in the social spaces is significantly more effective if you have an audience. So I highly recommend sending an email to your existing list letting them know where they can find you in the social spaces and encourage them to become a FaceBook fan, a LinkedIn connection, or to follow you on Twitter. It is also sound business practice to include the appropriate icons on your Web site as well as links in your eMail signature. Just remember, social media is about dialogue and is a great venue for sharing your thought leadership. Encourage your audience to participate in the conversation, ask questions, request information and share their thoughts.

By utilizing this marketing channel, not only will you be able to easily keep your clients, prospective clients, vendors, friends, and others updated, but you will also expand your network via exposure to the friends of your fans. Spending a few minutes each day on these tasks will greatly expand your reach beyond the size of your eMail list.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The FaceBook Phenomenon

It was only last October when I finally got around to creating a facebook profile. My sole intention for doing so was to learn the intricacies of this social networking site for business purposes. As I grew my network of friends, many of them took the opportunity to break my chops about being late to the party. One of my friends even said, “Welcome to 2006.” OK, so I was a bit late to embrace but I am a quick study so I’ll get moving and catch right up.

I started doing searches for friends, colleagues, old classmates, etc and found that many of they were not yet on FB. I wasn’t as far behind as I thought. Well over the last 3 months I have been blown away by the number of people that have just started their profile and are beginning to accumulate friends and build their network. And the demographics are really expanding. This is not just a teen thing like MySpace. Just goes to show that grow ups can play too.

So what’s the phenomenon? In my opinion, the growth numbers are really impressive. According to the statistics found in the FB press room, they have over 150 million active users (defined by logged in within the last 30 days). More than half the users are outside of college and the fastest growing demographic is over the age of 30. The average user has 100 friends and there are over 3 billion minutes spent on FB each day. Here is the stat that surprised me; over 70% of the FB audience is outside the US. That tells me that the growth rate will continue as the US audience gets onboard. So I really wasn’t that late to the party…

While these numbers are pretty amazing, my favorite part of FB is the behavior. I have connected with friends from elementary school, high school, college and of course, my business colleagues. And no matter what our relationship was then, now it is nothing but pleasantries and genuine excitement to connect. Seems like everyone is on their best behavior and why not, it’s all public and we all want to be liked! We are organizing reunions, sharing pictures of our kids, telling old war stories and, here’s the kicker, doing business. Yes, I said it. We are using FB to find business & job opportunities. We are connecting with influential people and using this public domain to ask for help in advancing our careers and businesses.

Don’t believe it? Fine by me but at least I did my part in sharing my opinion. In the words of Judge Smails from Caddy Shack, “The world needs ditch diggers too.”

Companies are going to have to really start embracing FB and its power. I’ll begin sharing some of my thoughts and ideas for business marketing on FB in the weeks to come. As always, comments welcome.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Learning Social Media

I've always relied on my marketing experience to help navigate new emerging technologies and hot trends within interactive marketing. But over the last few month I have worked closely with some of the internet's greatest minds in social media. And for the record, while they don't always sound brilliant, they are!

The experts in social media today have really grabbed hold of the web and turned it into this powerful social tool that many believe it was designed to be. So much so that I have been inspired to start witting again and this time, I'm going to learn how to do it right!

Why? Simply put, it is powerful marketing.

So where am I going to start? Well I have finally opened a Twitter account and I have started tracking the blogs of people I think are smart. Over the next few weeks I'm going to start looking into apps to help me be more efficient and looking for ways to bring greater visibility to this blog. But even more on point, I am going to solicit the thoughts and ideas of a community that I want to build. After all, isn't that really the point of this?

More to come...

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Evolution of the Sales Person

Collectively, sales people are often victims of our own behavior. The barrier to entry to become a sales person is often low because companies can place a significant portion of compensation tied to performance. Employers can take a chance on sales people hoping to find that diamond in the rough. As a result, most sales people are either not very good or highly mediocre. In the business community many of the buyers are resistant to sales people. I believe this is a result of the way sales people approach their work. Most fall into 2 categories. There are those who apply the "show up and throw up" method which is an obnoxious way of saying that they show up in your office and talk about their product during the entire meeting. I refer to the second group as the "greeters". The greeters bring in a subject matter expert (SME) and after handling the introduction, they sit back and hope the SME can make the sale. Neither of the two is very effective.

In my seventeen years of selling experience, I have been both. Success for me, as for many others has come from hard work, determination, persistence and often the ability to just not take "no" for an answer. However, in my quest to avoid being lumped into the general stereo type of all other sales people, I believe I have learned a few things that are well received by the majority of high level decision makers in the business buying community. In fact, I believe that the high level executive buyers are demanding a higher quality sales person. One that doesn't actually act or feel like a sales person. So how do you take your game to another level? How do you effective sell to high level executives at big brand companies?

Here are several principles that I try to follow myself and teach my team. Hopefully, they will get you closer to being that sales person you desire to be.

1. Be a subject matter expert. If a sales person is truly an expert at their product or service, the conversation will be filled with quality content and not sales speak. Sales people have a way of phrasing things that make them sound like a sales person. This typically creates a barrier between the sales person and the buyer. If you want to be treated and perceived as a sales person, then act like one. But if you want to be treated like an expert or a trusted advisor, then remove the sales speak from your meeting and focus on the content. This is a great opportunity to express your views and thoughts about the marketplace, your prospect's business and even share similar experience from other clients. Engaging in such a dialogue will lower barriers and your prospect will share more about his business and challenges. In this conversation is where you will find your hot buttons as opposed to asking the question, "What keeps you up at night?"

2. Bring something to the table. High level executives are busy and often own more responsibility than they can actually get done in one day. Therefore, the hours in the day are too precious to waste on some sales person who doesn't come to the meeting prepared. This doesn't have to be a custom presentation or a solution to a problem in your first meeting. I have found that some of my best first meetings have been done with a pen, blank sheet of paper and well thought out questions. Smart business people want to have partners, vendors and suppliers that will make them and their company better. This is also where being a subject matter expert can really help. You should be prepared to share a potential solution to a challenge that your prospect is facing. This will only be effective if you have asked effective questions and exposed a need or challenge. It is difficult to anticipate what the challenges may be, but if you are truly a subject matter expert and stay close to your clients, you will have lots of experience to draw from. This leads me to my next principle.

3. Stay involved with your clients. I realize that many companies try and get the sales person out of the process as quickly as possible. I have never been a fan of this thinking. The motivation for this philosophy is sometimes driven by the desire to not pay commission on recurring sales. In my business, we look to develop a long and fruitful partnership with our clients. The strategy is to build upon a solid relationship forged at the time of sale, then service the client with excellence and add valuable complimentary services. The sales person loses the credibility to sell additional services that solve for business challenges to existing clients when they only show up at contract time.

4. Focus on your clients, not on your commission. This theory often flies in the face of conventional sales thinking. Companies pay on a commission as a method for keeping their sales people hungry for new sales. But clients can smell commission breath a mile away. Great sales people must resist the urge to sell something just because the client will buy it. Ask yourself whether or not you would buy the product or service if your job was on the line for its success. I have had numerous experiences where I have convinced my customer not to buy for the sole reason that I didn't think it was in their best interest. And while some short term sales may have been lost, there were many more long term gains as a result of developing an alternative. The ability to sell something of greater value became much easier as a result of the credibility I built with the client.

5. Be confident. There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Nobody likes an arrogant sales person but people gravitate toward confidence. There are several opportunities to display your confidence. One of my favorites is the silence that you master before your answer a question or after asking one. I can't even count how many times I have watched sales people ask a great question and proceed to let the person off the hook from answering it by continuing to speak. Yes, this sounds a lot like listening, but it is much more than that. Your posture, ability to maintain eye contact, facial expressions and ability to not be the first to break the silence will help instill confidence. A pause before answering a tough question will have a similar affect. Ask any average sales person a tough question and you will witness several nervous reactions. Fidgeting, looking down and senseless babble are just a few of the signs the person lacks confidence. The most comical reaction is when the sales person turns the question back to the client without giving an answer. The confident sales person makes sure they understand the question, pauses to organize their thoughts, maintains eye contact, develops a smile that says "I have the answer", but most of all, is confident with the silence that fills the air before delivering a well thought out answer.

6. Have an opinion and don't be afraid to share it. Most sales people are concerned about expressing thoughts or opinions that might be in conflict with their client or prospect. Some of my healthiest client relationships are with people share their thoughts and expect me to do the same. We don't have to agree on everything to develop a solid relationship. In fact, a difference of opinion followed by a healthy debate will often result in each person leaving the conversation with a new perspective. I'm not advocating an argument with your client, but instead, deliver your opinion in a professional manner and encourage questions and comments.

7. Be humble. This is an important principle especially if you are going to express your opinion and be confident doing so. A humble sales person is willing to be wrong, willing to be challenged and most of all, willing to learn. Show me a sales person not willing to improve and I'll show you one that just got beat. Don't ever let yourself believe that you are the best or that you can't lose. Those fears will help keep you hungry and driven toward getting better every day.

I truly hope these ideas have helped influence your desire to improve your skills as a sales person. If nothing else, I encourage you to dedicate your self to constantly improving your skills and don't take your eye off the basics. Happy selling!!!