The Lost Art of the Thank You

It was ingrained in me at a young age by my parents to always write a thank you note.  When you fail to do so, they’d preach, it insults the gift-giver and almost assures you won’t receive another from that person.

I now preach that same lesson to my kids.  Two weeks ago, my youngest came home from school with an Easter-themed bag of treats from one of her teachers.  Over the holiday weekend we had her write a thank you note to her teacher.  Her teacher was very appreciative of the note and said something that shocked me.  She claimed that in all her years of teaching, she could count on one hand the number of times a student had written her a thank you note, and my daughter had written two of those.

As communication methods have become more numerous and perhaps more casual, has that changed what many would still consider good manners?  Has this changed business manners too?

When was the last professional thank you note you wrote and what was it for?  My guess is that most readers can’t remember and the other group of readers will claim it was while job searching following an interview or a meeting.  Am I right?

If you think back on the past year, there have probably been many occasions where a quick note of thanks could have been sent but wasn’t.  Think about how you feel when you receive a thank you note that’s been customized enough where you get a true sense of the gratitude.  You’re more likely to want to repeat the experience again in the future.  The goal of most businesses, regardless of industry, is to get repeat business in addition to new business.  Doesn’t it seem obvious then that a thank you note can be a powerful business tool?

So my challenge to you is to write a business-related thank you note to a client, customer or vendor this week.  Like fertilizer in a Spring garden, see how your business relationship blossoms as a result of a little personalization and display of gratitude.  Let me know how it goes!

Plan Ahead Now for 2012 Holidays

In a recent Ad Age article, they advised marketers to plan ahead now for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  Your calendar is correct – it’s only April and Easter was just this past Sunday.

As we learned last year (for many, with regret and disillusionment), the holiday shopping season moved back one day to Thanksgiving Day.   Expect more companies to jump on that bandwagon this year as for the most part, it was a successful strategy.  Think it will stop there?  Think again.  Expect the kickoff date to slide even earlier in subsequent years.

For marketers, the planning indeed needs to start now.  After all, there are the proverbial ducks to get in a row.  If you’re uncertain about your “ducks” – the answers to the questions of who? what? where? when? why? how? then you desperately need market research.  Without it, you’ll be planning blindfolded and will likely fail before you even begin.  I’d even argue that it should be your first duck in that proverbial row.

Properly designed market research can provide the answers to those questions, giving you direction for your planning.  It will capture where you are and where you need to be with your efforts.  It can prove or disprove assumptions you’ve made about your industry, your customers or your clients.  It can confirm a good plan and point out the flaws of a bad plan.

If you’re not experienced with market research, don’t assume any old Survey Monkey survey that you or your intern whips up will do.  Bad idea.  Really bad idea.  Poorly designed market research is actually worse than no research.  It could lead you to draw incorrect conclusions and send you down the wrong path.

If you think you can’t afford to incorporate market research as part of your planning process, I’d say you can’t afford not to.  Companies don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan.  No company is too big or small to need market research.

When is the last time you professionally researched your industry, company, competitors and/or customers?

Learning With Perspective

I recently met with a prospective client and one of the things we discussed was my blog.  I’m always interested to hear what people think about it – their likes, dislikes and favorite posts.  What’s interesting is the different messages people take from the same blog.  It’s a great example of perspective and how it influences your interaction and learning.

For example, my three most recent blog posts were The Most Important Rule of Connecting, Social Media Abandonment and Big Lessons from a Mini Contest.  If you read them, on the surface they were about social networking, social media and marketing/contests respectively.

Depending on your perspective, you may have read those posts and taken away different messages.  Hopefully a small business owner read those posts and tried to apply the information to his/her business.  Hopefully a job seeker read those posts and applied the lessons to his/her job search.  Someone in marketing hopefully took away different points too.

I’m not sure that enough people read and learn with perspective.  As I review the analytics of my previous posts, the ones with the most views and comments tend to be the ones that are the most universal – at least on the surface.  I suppose in today’s world where we must compete for limited attention spans and available time, that’s natural and not very surprising.

As an author of a blog with weekly content, I have to decide how to properly craft both the content and the headline.  There’s a line between being so specific that you limit your potential audience, versus being so broad that you mislead your potential audience.  There’s a line between wanting to grow your blog readership “organically” versus sensationalism.

The most “popular” blog of my previous three was The Most Important Rule of Connecting.  It drew almost 4x more than the others, despite similar promotion.  Perhaps it’s because there’s somewhat of a universal application to most readers, whether it’s connecting for business or for personal reasons.  Perhaps, people didn’t have to read that post using their “perspective glasses” compared to the others.

So how about you?  Now that I’ve drawn your attention to reading with perspective, what new things have you learned from my previous posts?  Is there one post in particular you learned the most from?  Is there a particular topic you’d like to see me cover in a future post?  As always, thank you for reading!

Big Lessons From A Mini Contest

This past weekend I was selected as the second winner of Dorschel Automotive’s #winsmall contest.  I won a free weekend-long test drive of a Mini Cooper and now have a 1-in-12 chance to win a free 2-year lease of a Mini.  It was a great experience to trade in my Mini Van for a Mini Cooper, even if just for 3 days.

Their contest had 3 great components which could be applied to many marketing campaigns.  Learn more about them in my first video blog!

Social Media Abandonment

Most people involved with social media, even casual users, have likely come across an account that’s been inactive for weeks, months or even years.  I’m sure they were originally created with the best of intentions yet for one or more reasons, they’ve been abandoned or forgotten about.

For some, the account may have been abandoned because the goal was attained (perhaps he used social media to increase visibility with his job search and was hired).  For others, maintaining the account was possibly a sacrifice that was made due to time constraints.  Maybe others didn’t meet their objectives and decided to discontinue their social media efforts because it failed in their eyes.

There are a few problems abandoned accounts can cause the active user.  The first is having to determine whether or not an account you’re initially interested in following is active.  It’s an unfortunate part of the process.  Another is that some abandoned accounts have coveted user names.  Freeing coveted-yet-abandoned user names could be beneficial for marketing purposes (professional and/or personal).  Lastly there’s the image problem abandoned accounts create, but that’s a problem they’ve brought upon themselves. 

In the world of social media, what do you think can be done to clean up abandoned accounts?  Should accounts that have been inactive for a lengthy period of time be suspended or deleted in an effort to “protect” active accounts and improve the experience for active users?

But what if the account was abandoned for a more serious reason?  I read an article this past weekend which described a grieving mother whose son died in a motorcycle accident.  She wished to access his Facebook site in hopes of interacting with his friends to keep his memory alive.  The article raised a great question as to whether or not your digital footprint can be considered part of your estate.  I’ll be honest – I’ve never thought about what would happen to my social media sites and email accounts if something tragic should happen to me.

What are your thoughts on abandoned accounts?  Do you have a different opinion when the cause of abandonment is one of neglect versus one of tragedy?

3 Reasons Why Quality is More Important than Quantity

Quality vs. QuantityA friend recently shared a story about a client who gave him the sole directive of increasing fans/followers in social media, specifically the number of Facebook fans and Twitter followers.  In fact, this client wanted to structure his consulting fee strictly around the quantity of fans/followers.

Fortunately for this business, my friend has ethics and attempted to illustrate the error with that kind of thinking.  Here are 3 reasons why quality is more important than quantity when it comes to social media.

  1. Fans/Followers can be bought.  Services exist that allow you to purchase fans/followers to make your social media presence seem important and popular.  While that might fool some who give your site a cursory look, it doesn’t take much digging beneath the surface to uncover the house of cards your social media popularity is built on.  If your following can be bought, how authentic is it?  If your business is mostly local, odds are purchased fans will not be, so how will that be of any value?
  2. Real fans are more likely to interact.  Engagement has been the buzz word in social media for some time, and rightly so.  Which would you rather have?  50 fans who are truly fans and would not hesitate to recommend you to family and friends?  Or, 100 fans who will never visit your site, never try your product/service, or never recommend you to family and friends?  Real fans, engaged fans, are brand ambassadors.
  3. Social media is meant to have a conversational element.  When you concentrate on quantity over quality, the conversational element will likely suffer.  If the quality of the conversation is there from day one, your fan base will grow at a natural rate, and you’ll increase quantity without sacrificing quality.  It’s difficult, if not impossible, to build relationships with followers who don’t care and are not engaged.

Think about your own involvement in social media.  Think about the sites you’ve willingly followed.  Has there been a site you’ve recommended to others?  Why?  It goes beyond brand loyalty, doesn’t it?  Chances are, it’s a two-way street.  You value the content on the site and the business values you as a fan/follower/customer.

When that two-way street becomes one-way, it’s the equivalent of a dead-end road.  Consumers don’t want to waste their time on a dead-end, and neither do (most) businesses that know what they’re doing with social media.

What are some of your favorite sites to follow, and what makes them so special to you?

Ten Characters You’ll Meet On Facebook

Most people probably believe they are “normal” or “average” when it comes to describing their participation in social media.  So what does that mean?

In an article on Mashable, the average Facebook user was described as being late 30s with “229 friends, of which 22% are from high school, 12% are co-workers, 9% are from college.”  On average, 52% check-in daily while “26% of users ‘Like’ a friend’s status, 22% comment on a friend’s status and 15% update their own status.”

Let’s look beyond the numbers for a minute.  In reviewing my Facebook friends list, I’ve come up with 10 characterizations of the different users whom I encounter.  I’m not claiming these are good or bad, right or wrong.  Don’t worry Facebook friends, you will remain anonymous and any similarities are strictly coincidental.  😉

  1. The Groundhog:   makes an appearance once a year.
  2. The Soapboxer:   believes their friends truly want to hear all of their views on politics and/or religion and that the more they share, the more likely they are to convince you.
  3. The Lurker:   checks in, but rarely comments or shares.
  4. The TMI-er:  treats Facebook like a personal diary and shares too much information, especially intimate information.  Too Much Information!
  5. The Populist:  has never turned-down a friend request and treats Facebook as a contest to see how many friends he/she can accumulate.
  6. The Reporter:  treats Facebook as most treat LinkedIn or Twitter by posting all articles found.
  7. The Inspirationist:  posting quotes and pictures that spreads positive energy throughout Facebookland.  Arch-enemy to . . .
  8. The Complainer:  they love to complain about their own issues and don’t have too may positives to say about others’ postings either.  Facebook is their venting forum.
  9. The Tornado:  a fury of activity for a short period of time followed by long stretches of inactivity.  In Western, NY this is also known as “The Lake Effect.”  🙂
  10. The Advertiser:  forgetting the rule of thumb that social media is not about selling their products/services the majority of the time, this user does exactly that.

So, who did I miss?  Which one(s) are you?

Super Social Bowl

Did you watch Super Bowl XLVI?  As a fan of the New York Giants, I was certainly glued to the television until the very last play.  The game set records not only for television viewership, but for social media activity as well.

Being in the marketing industry, I’ve always paid close attention to the advertising during the game.  As social media integration and proliferation continues to increase, it was interesting to see how it changed the advertising this year.  The biggest change I noticed was how many of the ads were “leaked” in advance.  This helped generate buzz and social media conversations ahead of, during, and after the game.  But, the big question is, did it work?

According to analysis reported in Advertising Age, here are the top 10 according to the quantity of social media comments generated:

Super Bowl XLVI Top Commercials by Social Media Comments

My personal observation is that most of the pre-event social media buzz on Super Bowl commercials centered around the Honda CRV Commercial featuring Matthew Broderick with references to his Ferris Bueller character.  Interestingly, that ad (which was leaked in advance) didn’t crack the top 10 in the Bluefin Labs analysis.

Since social media tends to have more of a long-term ROI, it may take quite some time to determine which strategy worked (leaked vs. not).  The immediate impact is that social media helped spread out the cost-per-impression, because it helped extend the reach beyond the televised spot.  While I “unplugged” from social media to concentrate on the game, many viewers did not as the 2012 Super Bowl set records for tweets per second and total social media comments generated.

As to my personal favorites, my top 5 were:

  1. Mars/M&Ms – “Just My Shell”
  2. Chrysler – “Halftime in America”
  3. Volkswagen – “The Dog Strikes Back”
  4. Anheuser Bush/Bud Light – “Rescue Dog”
  5. PepsiCo./Doritos – “Sling Baby”

Which were your favorite/most memorable commercials from this year’s Super Bowl?  Did you “unplug” from social media during the game as well, or were you actively engaged in social media?