Thursday, August 9, 2012

Content, Context and Cell Phones Spell Near Disaster for the Unwary

This is a true story about my assumption that other middle-aged cell phone users have become as adaptable and, dare we say, "hip" as me.   I sent a text message to the BF several weeks ago, intending to ask him what time he would be home.   In my conscientious effort to avoid getting ticketed by the WA State Patrol (hmmm), I was brief and wrote something like "What time home?" followed by a heart.   My Blackberry  translates emoticons into the actual symbols they represent, so my heart didn't look like the mathematical less than sign plus a three, it looked like a heart.  

"Where were you?"
"I was meeting with a client.?.?"
"You said you would be home before three."
"No, I asked you what time you would be home."
"No, you sent me a text that said you would be home before three...It had that little alligator thing before the three."

I am abbreviating the conversation for sake of the blog and any sensitive readers, but as I reflected on this faux pas of communication, I realized that I broke four of my own cardinal rules of digital dialogue.

1. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.  I am perfectly aware that the BF's cell phone is basically, dumb and that he is neither fond of nor skilled at TXT messaging.   I tend to show off and pretend that I am younger than I am.

2. SPEAK AND WRITE USING STANDARD ACCEPTABLE GRAMMAR.  I introduced the first layer of confusion by not txting a full sentence and assuming that he would understand.  I preach about this all the time.   If you abbreviate, make sure that verbs and nouns and punctuation are still aligned in a way that makes some sort of sense.

3. CONSIDER YOUR AUDIENCES' TECHNOLOGICAL CAPABILITIES.  Translated symbols, video, hyperlinks, and all the razzle-dazzle that some email applications and cell phones and even desktop programs allow us are fun and can make even simple messages more interesting.  However, if your potential customer or personal friend does not have the latest version of software, a smart phone, or other enhanced capabilities, the message looks ugly and may not translate in the way you intended.  

4. I have a framed stamped on my desk that reads, "Learning Never Ends."  I should remember this.



Wednesday, May 16, 2012

May 16, 2012 8:29 PM Boston

I have spent the last four days in the company of what I sincerely believe is the brain trust of customer engagement/relationship/reference programs in the world.  Yes, I said, the "world" as I have had the honor of moderating and participating in the first International Customer Reference Program Community event.  (Ok, we may need to work on the name and acronym.) 

Please indulge me as I briefly reflect on some of the threads that I will continue to follow and muse upon in the near future:

1. Customer engagement for either B2B or B2C sales continues to be a critical contributer to the P & L health of any organization and our C-Level executives are now much more actively promoting our programs and support our efforts with budget, sponsorship and advocacy than ever before.   The success of any program is contingent upon our ability to communicate our ROI as effectively internally as we acquire and sustain our customer advocates externally.

2. The attention "bandwidth" and availability of our customer and reference prospects is as limited as time slots in our own meeting schedules, so more so than ever, our ability to target our audience by THEIR needs and wants is another key to the success of our programs.  If we deliver specific content, customized to the business challenges of our prospects; provide reward programs that incent our sales organization to provide us with referrals and our reference customers to participate in activities, we are far more likely to continue to demonstrate our contribution to revenue growth. 

3. Cultural sensitivity and responsiveness are as critical to the success of reference programs as they are to closing sales deals.   Every detail from the ability of a customer advocate to be rewarded for their participation to the translation of the quotes and testimony that they provide cannot be reviewed and checked to ensure compliance with law, organizational guidelines and RESPECT.

4. Social.   Have we heard enough from Lisa on this topic through the years?  This community affirmed that social media and networking channels are relevant, measurable and excellent resources for attracting advocates, promoting and sustaining our business propositions and measuring our success, but we must continue to select our medium carefully by considering the audience, resources and contribution to our programs and revenue.   Strategize FIRST; Socialize Second. 

5.  Metrics and measurements continue to be an ongoing "opportunity" for customer relationship programs and professionals to demonstrate that we move the needle.   The most successful and recognized programs are careful to align their goals and objectives with those of their organizations, even to the extent of adopting different program names and specific metrics with different constituencies internally.

I thank Ms. Claudia Koenig for organizing and hosting this event and my most esteemed colleagues for sharing their plans, struggles and success stories during the conference.   If we can agree on the next venue, I'll certainly do my best to update you and encourage you to join us next time.

Warmest regards, as always,


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Why I've never "monetized" this blog.

In my professional life, I have responsiblity for driving Eyes-on-Site (EOS) and converting that traffic in to sustainable customer and audience conversation and revenue. In pursuit of these goals, I have tested and researched and preached about many, many ways to achieve optimal SEO and SEM objectives and bottom-line return. I read and re-read and test and play and muse on many, many new features, algorithms, measurements and metrics, yet I have never chosen to activate the "monetize" tab here.


Some overly complimentatry virtual friends of mine claim that I some thoughts and insight that might pay for my ideal role of creating my own think tank. From early "back-link" and affiliate marketing days, it has been suggested that perhaps I could feed Pinky (black lab who has her own shelved blog) by adding some advertising and referrals here. I've been reluctant and perhaps egostistical. As my friend Emmett Pickett poses: ( Are you part of the Empire or the Federation?

Professionally, I argue that I can be both and challenge that goals of altruism and capitalism in business are not mutually exclusive (see my career history at the American Heart Association as the perfect example), but perhaps here, I want to preserve some almighty dollar anonymity. In a long Facebook and public exchange with Emmett and much respected Albert Quian, yesterday, (, the three of us gave each other gentle jabs in a discussion re Klout's recent partnership with Gilt as an incentive for increasing your Klout score. (Mine is 29... :( ) The end result for me was an late night of musing about what my purpose here, and in other social networking digital dialogue spots, really is. Most critically, is my need for clout in the universe inextricably tied to my desire for Klout?

It's still at 1/2 a cup of coffee, but the bottom-line is that I am ready for the Radian6, Visible Technologies, Socialable Labs, et al, of my professional universe, to intrigue me with measurements that demonstrate both my ability to influence TRULY with tools and dashboards that also indicate a clear path to demonstrable EBIDTA and ROI. :)

Or, make my "Gilt" trip a short one if I can up my score and redeem points for opinion! :)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Needlepointed Cliches Turned on Their Heads

I saw a shipping company truck yesterday with the slogan "Thinking about boxes is our business; thinking outside of them is our passion." This twist on a very tired and overused slogan reminded me to preach, once again, that our best marketing efforts maintain the consistency of our product branding and message but sometimes just give it a little freshening up or new technology and reach boost. Yes, for the umpteenth time, our "digital dialogue" should represent the best of our F2F customer engagement and we CAN personalize it but providing the following:

1. Diversity of access. People have different learning styles; technical comfort levels; and time constraints. How MANY access points do we offer to our content, message and products? Do we provide a balanced blend of "standard" RSS, email subscriptions, and "Follow us on" options against inserting and validating NEW media and mobility applications?

2. Responsiveness. Are we insuring that any interaction application (blog comments, "get more information", "chat with a LIVE support specialist", etc. are sufficiently provisioned and that we are establishing the right expectation with our subscribers, customers and potential audience? Those that followed my Tweets a couple of years ago with Verizon Wireless will be very aware of my opinion about companies that provide a social network customer support option and then neither empower the responders to help NOR resource the support channel appropriately so that customers get timely and pertinent responses rather than auto-responder templates scripts.

3. Spelling and Grammar and Grace STILL Count. First, if you expend the resources to buy keywords and then misspell them throughout your content, um, that should be an obvious problem. Second, people notice egregious misuse of the English language. Certainly, make your tone and content audience appropriate, but indulge me with a little attention to proper sentence structure, punctuation and professionalism. I recently took to grading (yes, letter grades..) some Live Chat and customer support emails, just to make the point that introductions and closing and some please and thank you insertion are not only appropriate but can change the tone of a customer interaction dramatically, even if the underlying issue cannot be solved. Try it!

4. Mobility. As much of a tangible written-word advocate that I remain (actual books; no Kindle), I gently remind us all that not everyone can read our blog posts, sites, and other erudite commentary on their Smartphones, etc. unless we have optimized our content to be accessed this way. Know your audiences and consider making the content and interaction accessible to the X% of your customer base that wants the coupon now and wants to walk it into a brick and mortar store and display it on their Bberry rather than print it out and forget it on their kitchen counter.

Just some randomly organized musings for a early and rainy (surprise) morning, somewhere east of the Emerald City.

As always, my regards,