The Giant Social Media Sucking Sound

Some of you probably don’t remember Ross Perot. Long ago, when Presidential debates were still fairly dignified, Perot ran as an independent candidate against Democrat Bill Clinton and Republican George H.W. Bush. Perot had been a corporate executive prior to running for President in 1992, the founder of Electronic Data Systems (EDS), which later sold to GM for $2.4 billion. As a political candidate, Perot was refreshingly direct. He was also a colorfully distinctive speaker, with a high nasal Texas twang that provided comedic substance for SNL’s Dana Carvey long before Tina Fey ever ran for Vice President. Expressing his opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the debate with Bush and Clinton, Perot warned that reducing the trade barriers with Mexico would produce “a giant sucking sound going South.”     You may or may not agree that Perot’s prophecy came true, but his Texas phraseology certainly caught the public’s attention. This week’s idea isn’t about politics, though. It’s about another “giant sucking sound” – the imaginary noise made as all of the time wasted on social media goes down the drain.   True Confession: Wasting Time with Social Media I have blown an enormous amount of time with social media. Like most small business marketers, I’ve capitulated to the latest and greatest wisdom from the sages, and I’ve added a bunch of detritus to the floor of the social media forest. There’s a DP Marketing Google+ page that’s been abandoned property since 2014 and a LinkedIn page that to my knowledge has never been visited by anyone . . . including me. I should have been more skeptical, but I ignored the giant sucking sound. Because I was convinced that a social media presence was an important part of my marketing mix, I contributed steadily to the blighted landscape of boarded up social media properties. I’m not the only one though. Chances are good that you own a few decaying social media relics of your own. Forget social media presence. Think social media strategy. Social media presence is the vortex that makes the noise. It’s not necessary, practical, or even possible to have an active presence on every social media channel. You’ll get nowhere fast if you try to be everywhere at once. A passive presence certainly isn’t any better – people who do stumble into your blighted properties think your business is also...
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Looking for a Marketing Panacea?

Marketing Psychoanalysis All small business owners are at least a little bit bipolar. It’s a categorical generalization, but it’s mostly true. Business cycles go through natural, mostly inexplicable, peaks and valleys. We get excited when our businesses are trending upward and occasionally desperate when we hit a trough. When revenue is coming in and everyone’s busy, we’re convinced that we’re brilliant. The formula is working and we’ll continue to succeed forevermore. At least until the next downturn, when we try to figure out just what it was that we did wrong. Looking for a Panacea The phone call came in early August. The very nice lady on the other end of the call was eager to talk. She introduced herself as Connie, and said that she was depressed. “All of my customers have disappeared and I don’t know where they’ve gone,” she sighed. The clients weren’t returning calls and her year-to-year revenue was way down. “What are you doing to let them know you’re there?” I asked. “Not much. We’ve never really had to market our business.” Connie was hoping that marketing might be a panacea, a simple cure for all of her business woes. I was encouraging, but realistic. “There’s no magic pixie dust that can turn your business around overnight. For marketing to work, it requires a long term commitment.” It was an honest statement, but perhaps a strategic mistake on my part. We discussed the value of a continual communications effort, how a consistent marketing program could help her company stay top of mind, and how she could use a combination of tactics to stay in touch with her existing clients and generate leads for new business. She was interested, even a little excited, but she needed to discuss the ideas with her partner. We would talk again. We scheduled a time for another conversation a week later. When I called, Connie wasn’t ready to talk. “Call me back in two weeks,” she said. “That’s a bad sign,” I thought. Predictably, she wasn’t available for the next scheduled call. I sent a friendly, short email, but received no response. On a whim, I decided to try again this morning. This time Connie took the call. It was a very short conversation that went like this: Connie: “Our business has picked up and our customers seem to be coming back. I think everything’s going to be great,...
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When Selling Should Stop

“That project fizzled over 2 years ago,” I patiently explained. Actually, I patiently explained again for about the 6th time to probably the fourth salesperson who had contacted me. Here’s the story: A couple of years ago, I was researching a direct mail project for a client in the healthcare industry. They were interested in targeting a segmented audience: women under 40 with Type 1 diabetes. I had received a mailer from a data company that offered specialty address lists, including several medical lists. It impressed me enough to keep the mailer, and I called them when the possible project came up. In hindsight, that was a mistake. The company was responsive enough. They sent a count that matched the specs I gave them. The client decided to go a different direction, so the campaign never came about. The sales rep I talked with followed up appropriately, and I explained that we wouldn’t be doing the project. That exchange occurred in September of 2014. I didn’t expect another call. Since then, I have received a phone call every three months from various representatives of the company. None of them seemed at all aware of the previous conversations. Every call has started something like this, “Richard, I’m calling to follow up on your list inquiry. Are you ready to purchase the healthcare list you inquired about?” Last week’s call added a new annoying feature. The sales rep first tried to add me as a contact via LinkedIn. I declined. His call started with “Richard, I tried to reach out via LinkedIn, but maybe you missed the contact request. Are you ready to purchase the healthcare list you inquired about?” The call was short, and my impatience was probably evident. It ended with a direct request, “Please take me off your call list and remove my name from your CRM.” Missed Opportunity The irony of this tale is obvious. The list vendor is misusing their own house list. An appropriate response to the first (or even second) call to me would have been a note in their CRM. It could have been something like this: Project dead. Small marketing company. Keep on mailing list. That would have been great. I do occasionally purchase targeted lists for my clients and I would have welcomed an occasional email or direct mail piece that informed me about availability of new lists or services. It’s...
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