Prospecting Using Social Media

My wife runs her own home business selling heath and wellness products. She is very successful at this and is beginning to step up her efforts by building a website and actively prospecting. My wife also has celiacs disease, which is an allergy to gluten (wheat). She is a frequent poster and reader of a handful of celiac support sites. The other week I mentioned to her that she should leverage the celiac community. Afterall, my wife deals with celiacs and the products she sells have helped her immensely.

She posted to several of the celiac discussion forums about the products she uses and has gotten several responses and already some business. This worked for my wife for several reasons:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • She was already an active member of the community so people knew her and he post was not received as spam.
  • She suffers from celiacs disease and
  • She had information was that of great value to the forum members.

 

Let's look at each of these three things from a global perspective to see why she was successful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • She was a member of the community. This is important because, like any community, outsiders are often looked upon skeptically.
  • She shared characteristics of the community that allowed her to connect with them.
  • She had valuable information that would help them.

 


If you are looking to network and become involved in communities for the sake of prospecting, you must always adhere to these three rules if you are going to be successful.

I would love to hear of other guidelines you think are necessary to successfully leverage communities for prospecting.

[tags]celiacs, communities, forums, lead generation [/tags]

Office Madness

basketball-photo-2.jpgIt probably wasn't appropriate for me to do this, but I weaseled my way into ReadyTalk's NCAA men's basketball tournament office pool. After all, I don't actually work for ReadyTalk, so I might be raising some hackles by horning in on their party. Plus, I run the risk of getting into trouble if the company gets busted for running an office pool.* But I was desperate – March Madness is the only thing that gives my life meaning this time of year.

In my opinion, office pools say a lot about a company. None of the companies where I've worked ever had office pools. I don't work for any of those companies anymore. Coincidence? I think not.

On the other hand, I used to work for myself in an office next to a small insurance agency. They have an NCAA tournament pool every year and an open invitation to join. They bring a TV into the office to show the games throughout the tournament, and anyone can drop by to watch them. I joined their pool several years. The thing I noticed is that the same people work in the office year after year. It might not be just because of the annual NCAA pool, but I think it's indicative of a fun-loving culture that retains employees and most likely, customers as well.

So it says a lot about ReadyTalk that they have an NCAA tournament pool going with a very high participation rate including the CEO himself, here just a couple of weeks before a big new product release. I don't know if they have a TV in the office, but you can bet management isn't blocking the streaming video. With the combined rush of a product release and NCAA tournament going on at the same time, ReadyTalk will be a fun place to be for the next few weeks.

I'll admit, I feel a little guilty being in their pool. If I win, maybe I'll use the money to fly out to Denver to visit ReadyTalk and get to know some of the people I gypped out of the winnings.

* I checked this out. Fortunately, Colorado and California (where I live) both allow social gambling. So no pick-up games in prison for me.

[tags]NCAA Basketball, March Madness, Employees, Human Resources, Recreation[/tags]

White papers

thumbnail1.jpgEver read a white paper and said to yourself: "I could have written this." I read a whitepaper the other day that was so general that I learned nothing. Unfortunately, from my experience, this has been the majority of white papers I read.

The problem, I believe, arises when producers of white papers want to entice without giving away too much. After all, if you tell the reader everything, they won't have to hire you. This is a very narrow view of whitepapers. This is compounded by the fact that most white papers are, at their core, a self-serving marketing piece. So, what you end up with is a document that tells the reader nothing they did not already know, and nothing they wanted to know.

I prefer the approach advocated by Michael Stelzner. Take a step back and first decide who your audience is and what they are seeking and then being writing from that perspective. The first step is to frame the problem or issue you believe the customer is trying to solve in coming to your site and downloading your paper. This allows you to immediately connect with the reader and shows that you understand the challenges they face. This is a great place to put any data or facts that you have to give credibility to your position.

Once the problem is framed, give specifics about the solution while keeping any product mentions out of it. You are still educating the reader and after all, if they are reading white papers, they are most likely not at the buying stage yet. Now is the time to establish yourself as a credible and valuable source of industry information.

[tags] Michael Stelzner, white papers, marketing, writing [/tags]
The problem, as I see it, is that white papers talk in generalities because the topics they cover are too broad. Choose a very specific industry problem and hone in on a specific solution for that problem. Keep your topic focused and tight; and keep your paper to no more than eight pages. Remember, you are establishing yourself as an expert; so be an expert.

Conferencing Isn’t All Business

images.jpegI grew up on a farm in Western Colorado. Like my brothers, and sisters, I went away to college and never moved back home. (Farming is really hard work, in case you didn't know.) Now we're scattered all over the country and world (one brother lives in Germany). We all keep in touch, though, mostly by e-mail. Sometimes we have e-mail conversations that last for weeks on a particularly hot topic such as should my dad shell out the money for a new hay baler to replace the old one that keeps breaking down.

Three years ago, we had a health-related crisis in my family that lasted for several months. Everything is fine now, but at the time, we had a lot of issues to discuss, decisions to make, and emotional support to provide. E-mail was indispensable for this, but there were times when we all just needed to be able to talk together.

My wife suggested using ReadyTalk's Audio Conferencing. After all, Dan King, ReadyTalk's CEO, is a good friend of mine and since my wife and I are ReadyTalk investors, he had set up a guest account for us several months earlier and urged us to try it out.

Still, I didn't feel right about using our ReadyTalk account for personal business like this. So I sent an e-mail to Dan explaining our family situation. He said feel free to use ReadyTalk, including the web conferencing if we wanted. After a couple of family conference calls, I asked him again, just to make sure. This was his actual reply:

"Hearing that our conferencing service is useful for getting your family together periodically is great. Regarding your request to use ReadyTalk for family conference calls: QUIT ASKING ME IF IT'S ALL RIGHT TO USE READYTALK. YOU'RE AN INVESTOR IN OUR BUSINESS FOR GOODNESS SAKE. I WANT YOU TO USE THE BLOODY SERVICE. There I feel better."


I've never asked permission since.

 

Now, even though things are back to normal, my family still does a monthly conference call. We've started recording the calls so those who can't participate in a call can listen to it later, if they want. The audio conferencing is easy to use, we've never had any technical problems, and the sound quality is excellent, even for my brother in Germany. The only problem is we're not always all that interesting.

My point here is that you don't have to be a business to benefit from audio conferencing. You can use it to stay in touch with friends and family, crisis or no crisis. And now that audio conferencing services are mainstream, it probably doesn't cost as much as you think.

My other point is that it's no accident that ReadyTalk takes care of their people and their customers. It all comes from the top.

[tags]Customer Service, Audio Conferencing[/tags]

Another Oprah Apology

Oprah is back at it again trying to mitigate the negative feedback from her webcast with yet another e-mail apology. In an earlier post, I linked back to the first apology. Here is the second apology.. There are two things I find interesting about this apology.

One, the service providers, Limelight Networks and Move Networks, continue to insist it was not a capacity problem. In one sentence Oprah says "there were a historic number of users" and that "capacity was not an issue". My question is: If this was the first time they had capacity like this how do they know capacity is not an issue. The apology continues into a very vague explanation of what happened; that is, no explanation. She leaves us with "we are good to go for another try". I had to do some searching on Google to find out what the real problem was. Apparently, it was a coding error that was only uncovered when the system was put under stress. OK, being an employee for a web provider, I can understand this.

The second thing I find interesting is that even Oprah is not immune to the backlash which Web 2.0 can unleash. A cursory search on Google using "oprah's webcast" returns an enourmous number of hits. Spend a little time browsing them and you will see a number of them are people complaining about the webcast or bloggers (like me) writing about its technical difficulties. No doubt, Oprah felt this backlash and it lead to her numerous apologies both through e-mail and on her site.

[tags]Oprah, webcast [/tags]