The Power of not having a Website

RainmakerThe following article written by Tim Klabunde was published in the September edition A/E Rainmaker, a PSMJ Resources publication.

I received a message the other day from a friend telling me that I needed to visit Skittles.com. It wasn’t that Skittles had an incredible website and they were not giving away free candy samples, instead it was that the Skittles website isn’t a website!

I have been enjoying watching the evolution of the web for years, so you can only imagine then that a message about a non-website was well worth a trip to the world-wide-web. Here is what I found:

Skittles.com home page is a Twitter page with a little box in the corner of your browser window that has links to each of their other “pages.” If you click on “Products” you will be taken to Wikipedia to learn more about each of the different types of Skittles. If you want to see videos or pictures, you are directed to YouTube and flickr. If you want to know what people think about Skittles, you’ll end up at Twitter. Actually, the only time you end up on a Skittles webpage is when you click “contact.”

Web 3.0

Could it be that a candy company was the first to Web 3.0, where customers create content rather than owners? Skittles has captured something incredible by creating a non-website: they have shifted the focal point of the content to the customer! We often focus on creating fresh and new websites that provide great information, yet to often the content of a website is designed more to make an owner feel good than to benefit the customer. Skittles turned the tables by reaching to their customers and giving them a voice. In doing so they turned over the ownership of the Skittles website to the people the site was created to reach in the first place.

Your non-webpage

What would a potential customer learn about you and your company if your corporate website was suddenly down for a day? Are others writing good things about your service and your capabilities? Do you have a blog, a Wikipedia page, a LinkedIn group, or a twitter group that gives an active voice to your company? Take a couple of minutes today to Google yourself and your company, and take special note of the information on page two and three of your search. Is your web presence painting a picture of your company that you want to see?

The future of the web

We truly don’t know what will happen next on the World Wide Web, but one thing is certain: it is the people that are searching for information that will dictate the future of the web, not the website owners.

The Old Rules Still Apply

MarketerCoverThe following article written by Tim Klabunde was published in the October edition Marketer.

Successful businesses are built on foundational truths that do not change with market conditions or time. To be successful in 2010 you are going to need to focus on the same things that business leaders needed to focus on in the last century: the people inside your company, the clients outside of your company, and your network in your industry.

People are the ultimate reason that businesses succeed or fail. Regardless of your placement in your corporate structure, your success and that of your company will be defined primarily by your relationships with people. The key is to build mutually beneficial relationships where people want to help you succeed as you help them succeed.

Rules that build success

We all know that relationships can be complicated, but there is a fundamental truth that determines if you are building up or tearing down relationships: relationships grow if you selflessly help another person succeed; relationships dwindle when you focus on yourself and your own wants.

If you meet someone for the first time, and they subsequently help you, you will be appreciative of their efforts and probably remember them. If that same person were to help you three times over the following month, you would keep an eye out for ways to help them in return. If they helped you a dozen times, providing you new client introductions, referrals, and leads, you would develop a strong desire to help them in return. This desire to help is the foundation of a mutually beneficial relationship where two people are constantly looking for ways to help each other. One important key to this happening is concentrated effort on a specific group of people that over time develops into multiple mutually beneficial relationships.

Rules for inside

Most everyone recognizes that they need IT support to succeed, yet many people approach their IT department with a focus on their own needs and then can’t understand why their requests are always at the bottom of the to-do list. In marketing we often seem to forget that the rules of building success with people outside our companies also apply to people inside our companies. We need people, both inside our companies and outside our companies, to succeed. People that focus solely on achieving their own success are rarely able to achieve it in the long-term because they lack the support of a team that wants to help them succeed. Consider what would happen if you started helping your IT department succeed by cleaning up your server space, purging or archiving old e-mails, and supporting their efforts in meetings. I can tell you from personal experience that the result with be that your requests will likely be given a high priority. The same applies to accounting, marketing, operations, human resources, other project managers, and even management. When you focus on helping others your build a team that wants to help you and make you succeed.

Rules for outside

We all know that when we market we need to focus on existing clients and prospective clients. What most people fail to realize is that, after marketing to your existing clients for additional work, the least expensive marketing approach is usually to market to others in your industry that can’t hire you! Networking is the art of building mutually beneficial relationships that provide a wealth of leads and referrals from others. Many people fail to build strong networks because in America we have improperly aligned “networking” with “sales,” and sales is something most professionals avoid at all cost. Sales should not drive the relationship; instead, the relationship should drive the sales. True networking is the development of relationships, and relationships are something that all of us have a God-given instinct and need to develop. What this means is that everyone in your company can help bring work in the door simply by being relational and developing an effective network.

The rules that still apply

So, there are some important old rules that still apply. A true network of relationships is not to be confused with the self-serving “good-old-boys” network.  Instead, success in business is derived from genuine relationships. If you are ready to build the foundation of your business this year, then it is time to refocus on people. After all, it is the people in your company that will make you profitable, and it is the people outside of your company that foster your growth.

The Perfect Client Relationship Management System

PostItNotesThere comes a day in the life of every rainmaker when they realize that they need a better system to track relationships. John was there. He was failing to return phone calls, several clients were unhappy with his responsiveness, and he was no longer being proactive with his current and future clients. He was falling behind. For John it was simple: he needed a system that was easy to use and easy to implement.  He needed something that made his life easier and reminded him when he needed to reconnect with someone he hadn’t been in contact with for awhile.

You already have a CRM (Client Relationship Management) System

What most people fail to realize when considering the purchase of a CRM is that they are already using one. Be it post it notes on your desk or Microsoft Outlook, you inevitably already have a system in place to track relationships. The question is how effective is your system?

Most people looking for a CRM system are very similar to John. We know that our life would be much easier if we could simply capture and retrieve data in an efficient and effective way. The problem with most corporate CRM systems is that they are complicated because of the need for multiple employees to be on the same system. This has made many CRM systems cumbersome, eliminating one of the foundational reasons CRM systems are needed in the first place: to make us more effective. The result is that many CRM systems sit unused as employees take the path of least resistance and track relationships individually through outlook or other personal systems, eliminating the benefit of crosspollination inside the company.

The Perfect CRM

The future of CRM will be based around the capture of always-up-to-date data streams that can integrate that data into shared workspaces. For example, LinkedIn and Facebook already have data that is always up to date because individuals are always updating their own information. Now, take that data and attach a CRM system that allows you to privately add notes from your last conversation, e-mails, or proposals. The end result would be client contact that is always up to date not just with the information you added, but also with personal information such as where they graduated college, there previous employers, photos, etc… The perfect CRM rests in the capture of public data and information, and its integration with private workspaces that allow you to track the personal conversations.

What You Need to do Today

Today most CRM solutions don’t have the option for integrated data from online environments. However, Outlook, the tool that the majority of people use to manage contacts, does. You can start integrating your contacts with online data today by downloading LinkedIn’s Outlook Toolbar. It continually updates your contacts with up to date LinkedIn profile information, notifies you when your contacts change their LinkedIn profile, and provides you with mini-profiles and photos whenever someone emails you.

Remember, regardless of whether you are a CRM user or you are responsible for establishing a corporate CRM system, the key to its success is making it simple and easy to use and understand. Once you experience the benefits of a great CRM you’ll never do business any other way again.

If you found this article helpful we welcome you to subscribe to the weekly Cofebuz e-mail updates by following this link.

About the Perfect CRM Discussion

This post was written as part of the Perfect CRM discussion posted by some of the industries best known marketers and authors. It is a series of essays on the topic of client relationship management tools. Each expert drew upon years of experience to outline their vision of the perfect CRM system. This exercise will provide you with new insights into what works, what doesn’t work, and what you should consider when implementing a CRM system.

The experts include:

Visit these sites to read each expert’s take on the perfect CRM.

Social Media as a Marketing Tool

web20logosFrank Casale of The Outsourcing Institute sent me a great Wall Street Journal article this weekend entitled “How Facebook Ruins Friendships.” It was informative and humorous, but what I found most interesting were the social media tools at the bottom of the page: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Digg, etc…  While it is ironic that an article making fun of social media tools would have them embedded in the article, it is a sign of the times. Today it seems that everyone, even the Wall Street Journal, recognizes the effectiveness of social media as a marketing tool.

We use Eventbrite to promote the Design and Construction Network events primarily because no other event registration website has such an extensive social media arsenal. Even Cofebuz now has a “tweet this post” link at the bottom of every article, and many of our most involved readers are from LinkedIn article referrals.

Social Media as a Marketing Tool

So we all get it, social media is powerful. But the real question is how to capture social media as a marketing tool. Let me give you the four secrets that I have found effective in turning the web into a powerful marketing tool. I’m certain many of you have your own insights as well so feel free to use the comments section at the end to add them.

Four secrets to turning social media into a marketing tool:

  1. Social media works when real value has been created – Try posting a tweet about last week’s weather and see how many people retweet it or reply. Start a blog about your journey selecting carpet color for your home and see how many people sign-up for your e-mail updates. The same is true for your company, make certain what you write creates value for others and they will be drawn to the value you are providing.
  2. Social media works when it isn’t selfish – Ever been turned off by a salesman that told you they really needed a sale because of XYZ reason? Online those that are selfish generally lose and those that are selfless typically win.
  3. Social media works when you can create a “buzz” – If you have successfully achieved the first two social media secrets you are positioned for creating a buzz, known as viral marketing. Viral marketing is the idea that others, even people you don’t know, will promote your idea for you because they think it deserves recognition and attention. The results? The greatest return you’ll ever see for your marketing dollar.
  4. Social media works when you have friends – Frank Casale (the individual that sent me the article above) is not only the CEO of one of the largest outsourcing associations in the world, he also has focused on building amazing friendships. I have found that real success comes not when someone pushes to achieve their own dreams, but when we push together to achieve our dreams. At a minimum, we have people to enjoy the journey with and to toast when we reach the top.

Marketing Handbook

MarketingHandbookFollowing up from last week’s post Moments several of you have asked about the book I mentioned. The book is called the Marketing Handbook and it is a multi-author book on marketing professional services published by BNI Building News. I wrote the section of the book on Client Relationship Management and lead tracking. If you are working in the design and construction industry let me encourage you to pick-up a copy.

Over the past several weeks I have enjoyed reading several great articles in the blogosphere, so this week I wanted to share some of my favorites with you:

Not Everybody has to Like You
Valerie Conyngham from The Cecil Group writes a great post about what it takes to win work in a down economy. My favorite part of the article is a discussion on the problems that can occur when a firms’ mantra changes from “from niche, niche, niche to diversify, diversify, diversify.” 

How important is it to be first on Google?
Mark Buckshon of Construction News and Report shares a great chart that denotes the percentage of clicks that you will receive based on your location in Google search results. I’ll tell you here that the first position gets clicked on 56.36% of the time. Do you know what your chances are of being clicked on if you are in the third position?

Networking for Success
Mel Lester of the Business Edge discusses key principals of networking that everyone should know. I especially agree with his belief that networking shouldn’t be all about selling, rather about building relationships.

The Dull Edge of Experience
How do our clients define experience? Bruce of PSMJ Resources considers how you would feel about selecting a physician if they had “performed the operation you needed 27 years ago.” He then uses this as an analogy for how to win work based on your individual or firm experience. 

Twitter’s Fundamental Flaw

twitter_birdsThe following article written by Tim Klabunde was published in the Design and Construction Report, a publication for members of the Design and Construction Network.

A recent Sprint Nextel commercial included a brief glimpse into the world of Twitter. It depicted hundreds of little blue “Twitter birds” with small cell phone shaped text boxes above their heads. Looking at the group you could see that each bird was speaking a message towards their fellow blue friends. As the birds chirped they were creating a flurry of messages, yet each message was the same: “Me!”

This funny and quick snippet speaks volumes about the fundamental issue most people face when trying to leverage Twitter for business. That is the Twitter culture to focus on sharing about oneself.

How businesses fail with Twitter

To properly see the Twitter flaw we must first start with the basics of Web 2.0. At first the internet was primarily about online shopping sites and providing information. Even today you can see this in many corporate websites that are set-up as online brochures. Within a couple of years, however, things began to change. People began to realize that the fastest way to succeed online was to provide value, drawing a crowd from people that were looking for information and resources. This new interactive online environment became known as Web 2.0 and included web forms, blogs, social networking communities, and information resources. 

In the midst of these changes Twitter was started as a platform for individuals to share short updates of 140 characters or less to anyone that was interested in reading them. As Twitter became successful in strengthening relationships companies began to look for ways to leverage the growing platform to expand their businesses.

Unfortunately, many of the companies and individuals that have set out to leverage Twitter have failed. Most have missed the fundamental requirement of the new web, that in order to succeed you must provide value. Today many individuals and companies that try to use Twitter for business are “Me!” users rather than focusing on others. Those that have failed to embrace helping others in the community are ignored and filtered from Twitter updates by users.

How to succeed with Twitter

With the knowledge that providing value is the key to success on the web, it is easy to begin to see how you can become successful at turning Twitter into a true business tool. Instead of thinking about what you can gain from Twitter you must first start by thinking about how you can help people that follow you. Take these two questions: 

  1. Would you be excited to read someone’s twitter posts if they informed you when they were stuck in traffic, what they had for dinner, and what they were doing this weekend?
  2. Would you be excited to read someone’s twitter posts if they regularly contained leads for new work, great articles regarding your industry, links to requests for proposals, and information on local networking events they were attending?

The interesting thing about the second person is that not only would most people follow an individual that was providing those resources; they would also probably try to meet them at an upcoming event. Notably, they would be interested in building a relationship outside of the online environment. This new relationship development then becomes the basis for success through Twitter.

Building success online

Remember that Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, blogging, and other Web 2.0 sites are only tools that can help build a foundation for mutually beneficial relationships. You must personally evaluate what tools are best to help you reach your personal objectives, noting that some of these tools take much more time than others. Personally, I have chosen not to focus on Twitter but rather on providing value to others through blogging (cofebuz.com), LinkedIn, and the Design and Construction Network (mydcn.com).

Your turn

As you look at your goals for your online presence, evaluate what tools will work best for you. It will most probably be any number of online tools of which one might be Twitter. Regardless of the tools you choose, remember that success is found online when you provide value to others.

Set your Facebook username now!

logo_facebookIt’s official, Facebook just enabled users to set a permanent username. Until now URSs (Uniform Resource Locators) were just a series of random numbers and letters. Now users can have a custom URL. Here is the information from Facebook:

Starting at 12:01 a.m. (EDT) on Saturday, June 13, 2009, you will be able to select a username. You can personalize your Facebook URL (web address) by selecting a unique username. It will appear in the location bar of your browser after “http://www.facebook.com/” when you view your profile.

Do it now!

Here is the link to set yours now: http://www.facebook.com/username/. If you have a common name yours may already be taken, so seriously, do it now! (It takes all of 15 seconds)

A couple of Hints:

If you use Twitter to automatically update your to Facebook status consider using the same username.

Think long-term as the username is permanent. A joke today might not be as funny tomorrow.

Reality

Let’s face it, we have no idea where social networking is going, but clearly LinkedIn (professional) and Facebook (personal) are two of the leading platforms at least for the next couple of years. So taking a moment to make certain you can be easy to find in the future (if you decide you want to be) never hurts.