Humans are Hardwired to Connect

An email came through my inbox today from a colleague whose company is hiring. It said <Company> is looking for a passionate online marketer who has experience in web content creation, website development and social media. This person will help create and deliver a total marketing solution – combining web, social media, and SEO strategies – in a personalized client experience. (The bold is my addition.)

See, now this is the issue. An online-only marketing plan is NOT a total marketing solution and the companies and business people who believe it is may make some money in the short run, but they’re not going to build the relationships necessary to be around for the long term. You must connect with your target market and customers on a more human level. There’s no way around this requirement. It’s why companies such as Zappos, with missions of “providing the best customer service possible” have human customer service reps you can call instead of only allowing you to order online. It’s why they have such rabid fans.

Humans are wired to connect kinesthetically and interpersonally. That hasn’t changed in the past 20, 300 or 5,000 years. Yes, you can and should have online and electronic components to your marketing and sales plans. And for maximum success, you must incorporate traditional offline strategies as well. Pick up the phone. Send a note through snail mail. Have a package delivered.
Why do offline strategies seem so challenging? Is it because actually speaking to someone on the phone creates the opportunity to say something stupid or awkward or wrong? Is it because you are vulnerable to rejection? Sure, having someone say no to you directly might be harder to hear than not getting an email response back, but the upside is so much greater. You could engage in a dialogue – you know, where you ask questions, listen to the answers and offer relevant information based on those responses in real time!

Some offer the excuse that offline strategies are more expensive, given that sending something in physical form means you have to pay postage or shipping fees. Perhaps. What’s the value of the relationship to you? Is it a cost or an investment? Would you rather enjoy a delicious meal prepared by an incredible chef or just see a picture online? When you are tired of using electronic marketing as a shield, when you are ready (and hungry), you realize the importance of making a tangible connection to your clients.

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Invitation to Connect & Building Strong Relationships

Yet again I have received a LinkedIn invitation to connect from someone who did not bother to include a personal note. Does this oversight drive you crazy or is it just my own personal issue? If the purpose of connecting on a social networking site is to build relationships (which it IS), then why on EARTH would you not do the most important thing for building relationships and TALK to the other person?!

Start a conversation. No matter if you think the person knows who you are, you need to include a short note with your connection request. “It was nice meeting you at the breakfast yesterday…” Everyone is busy and meets lots of people every day. Maybe you are so extraordinarily memorable or maybe you just think you are. Even if I’m sending a request to someone I’ve known for a while, I’ll send a note such as, “how are we not connected here after all these months of phone calls and collaboration…”

Don’t even get me started on the requests that come from random people you don’t recall ever meeting and who aren’t even in a common group with you. Why? Why do you want to connect with me? Tell me. Where are your manners, like shaking hands with someone you meet in person? You would never just walk up to someone, say nothing, hand him your business card and walk away. You don’t “win” by having the most connections if those relationships are meaningless or non-existent. No one needs a giant database full of names of people they don’t know and don’t have anything in common with unless they are up to no good, also known as spamming.

Being successful is about building strong relationships. Relationships require communication. Therefore it only makes sense to start or continue a conversation here. Do I really need to remind you what happens when you assume?

Yes, this note serves the purpose of jogging someone’s memory of how you know each other. It also acknowledges her as an individual. It shows you are reaching out to connect with someone personally, as opposed to giving her reason to think you’re simply sending mass emails to reach a goal of having 7,500 connections. The personal touch here is just as important as the concept of customer thank you notes or thank you gifts; it makes someone feel good about their relationship with you.

When someone feels good about his relationship with you, he’s far more likely to think of ways to help you, work with you or send you referrals. In my social media world, it’s about developing advocate relationships. If that’s not what you’re doing, please, don’t send me a request to connect.

Living in a Gratitude Bubble

Kathy Korman Frey teaches a Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Class at George Washington University that includes a mentoring experience for students with female business leaders in the DC community. I was honored to participate recently and work with Lindsay Jernigan. What an impressive young lady! (See her bio info at the end.)

Thinking back, I could have only hoped to have been as poised and prepared to start a career as she is. I asked her to write a blog post about how gratitude has been a part of her life and she agreed. Here is her contribution:

My friends always joke that I live in a bubble. An impenetrable protection that seems to follow me wherever I go. In fear of jinxing myself, I rarely speak of said bubble and only quietly acknowledge its existence each time I seem to have a turn of luck. A place where the bubble particularly comes in handy is when I travel. I have been lucky enough to many exciting places bound to present some precarious situations completely out of my control. I have recently done some thinking about this bubble of mine and tried to make some sense of it. What I have started to realize is that the bubble comes from a perspective of gratitude mixed in with a smile.

3 huge suitcases

Even without words, we connected through his act of kindness and my smiling face. He understood I was grateful.

I remember when I first arrived in Shanghai for my semester abroad. I was dropped in the middle of the financial district with three huge suitcases looking for my friend’s brother, who was supposed to meet me. With no familiar face in sight I was left on a curb unable to carry my bulging luggage. Out of nowhere a man appeared and quickly shuffled all of my things to the lobby of a hotel where I could wait comfortably. Not knowing one word of Chinese, I looked at the man and smiled thanking him repeatedly in English. I am not sure if the man truly understood the level of gratitude I was trying to express, but he understood that I was happy and grateful. Not being able to say one word to each other he and I connected through his act of kindness and my smiling face.

“Thank you” quickly became the first word I ever learned in Chinese. It is now a trend that in every new country I visit, I immediately learn how to say thank you. It’s a word you feel almost naked without knowing. It’s a word that can make those precarious situations a little less precarious. It’s the word that connects you with the culture and the people around you, because gratitude, even a simple thank you, transcends borders, languages, and any cultural norms.

As I start to embark on my own journey, I know that I will strive to keep gratitude a common theme along the way. Throughout all of my twists and turns I know I can always rely on a simple thank you and a smile to invite positivity into my life. It serves as the common ground between me and everyone else regardless of his or her background. It is how I connect with people all around me regardless of the circumstance. All of the sudden, I start to feel at home in the most foreign places, all thanks to my bubble of gratitude.

Lindsay is a Junior in the Elliot School of International Affairs at GW – majoring in international affairs. This summer she is interning at Barclay’s Capital in Hong Kong and has already traveled to more than 30 countries.  Of those countries, she has lived in Memphis, TN; London, England (for 10 years); and Shanghai, China (for a year). She also spent a year before college in Ecuador and Costa Rica.

Listen Real Close

Hey you. Your clients are talking to you, telling you exactly what they want. Are you listening? Are you hearing them? Take those earphones out for a minute. Sometimes you get so caught up in creating and delivering what you want to give them that you miss hearing what they really need. And then you miss out on the opportunity to deliver it, better serve your customers, become the hero and increase your profits.

Zen Rabbit was built to help business professionals multiply their profits through sweet appreciation. The main tool has always been The Gratitude Cookie. Now, while I doubt that will change and everyone still loves the cookies, I’m also hearing my clients say they want more. They want to work with me to develop a whole repertoire of products they can send in appreciation. They want a monthly program through which they can send something different every month.

Considering Zen Rabbit is really a thank you concierge, I’m excited about coming up with new ideas and finding cool options to offer. That’s how the Money Tree got added to the product line-up and there are more very exciting items coming soon.

In nature, it’s called evolution. What is the next logical step in serving your customers? Are you teaching clients the “how to” without offering the “done-for-you” program as well? Given that so many people are time stretched (or are they just lazy?), there could be an opportunity for you to expand.

I’m not suggesting you give in to the Achilles’ heel of entrepreneurs – Shiny Object Syndrome – and go off in all different directions. I’m merely advising you to pay close attention to what your clients may really need, either in addition to or instead of what you’re currently providing. After all, they already trust you to deliver “A,” so it’s likely they will trust you to give them “B,” as well. Now all you need to do is listen, learn and create the tool or the program or the service that allows you to serve them even better.

Do you “get” what your clients want?

When you understand what your clients really want, you’re certainly in a better position to deliver it. That of course, always leads to more satisfaction for them and for you. And more money.

You cannot be this guy & have a thriving biz

The thing is, I find a lot of business people only want to give clients what’s easy, what’s already on the menu. Don’t go and ask for special orders.

The businesses unwilling to customize may have to learn a hard lesson in the form of decreasing sales. Not many can operate in the way of the Soup Nazi.

Here’s a testimonial I received last week from fab client David Wolfe, President of Lupine Partners. I share it with you not from an egotistical place, but because I’m excited he’s validating one of Zen Rabbit’s prime tenets for serving clients.

Lori Saitz, and her gratitude program, has been a strategic partner of mine since February, 2011. I first heard of Lori while listening to a GKIC CD that she appeared on. I sent her an email while I was listening to the program and requested a meeting. The response from her came very soon after my initial email. I was interested in a custom program that would allow me to tailor my ‘gratitude’ on an as-needed basis with no restrictions. In other words, I wanted the gifts to my customers to go out immediately as soon as I thought of it. I fully expected Lori to tell me what her rules were and how my request did not fit any of her programs.
Instead, she gave me exactly what I asked for. Sent the contract that day and I signed it. Call it the cookie bizarro world…
Despite my sometime curmudgeonly leanings, I feel like she gets me and does a very good job of trying to provide solutions to the scenarios I bring her. I like the way she thinks.

Listen. Let your clients tell you what they want and then deliver it. Seems pretty simple. Makes me wonder why more businesses aren’t doing it.

Going the Extra Degree

Sunday, July 31st is the 212th day of the year. This may only be relevant to people who know about the 212 concept, about pushing things the extra degree. As Sam Parker (originator of the message) says, “212 is a simple message that reminds us of how a small amount of extra effort and attention can have a big impact on results.”

It starts with the basis of water being hot at 211 degrees. Once it gets to 212 degrees, it boils. When water boils, it produces steam. And with steam, you can power a train. That one extra degree makes all the difference.

Challenge yourself. To what can you apply ONE extra degree of effort and make a huge difference? Just when you think you can’t do anymore. Is it one more phone call, one more push up, one more minute of listening to a friend? C’mon, you can always eat just one more (yeah, now we’re talking, right?).

Have you seen the three minute 212 movie preview? Take a look here, (never mind the commercial) and watch it the whole way through.

Then share. What are you pushing one degree further?

Oh, and if you want to know more about 212, the extra degree, see Sam’s website: http://bit.ly/pjVajT

It’s so incredibly complicated

Yesterday my friend Maria Gamb posted on Facebook “I’m wondering why people make things so incredibly complicated?” Good question! I’d also like to know the answer to that one. A bunch of people offered up their ideas: “So they can say it’s too hard or too difficult … so they don’t have to even try” or “For a sense of solid measurement – the harder it is, the better I am for getting it done.”

A while later, Maria offered an answer to her own query with “My insight into this is when others make something *that* difficult it’s their need to be perceived as important. Entertain it and one becomes an enabler. Stop it and one can maintain their peace. Keep it simple. Straight line to the end.”

Based on my experience, I have to agree with Maria’s analysis. A majority of project proposals and requests for information, even job descriptions I’ve read leave me thinking, “WHAT are they saying?” I consider myself pretty bright and I do not understand what they’re looking for. Can we get this in plain English, please?

Trying to sound as if you’re way more grandiose than the average bear usually makes you sound like a pompous, egotistical blowhard. And if you’re trying to get people to listen to you, that’s not good. Don’t buy into the belief that things needs to be convoluted or difficult. Have you seen some of the summaries and descriptions of experience people have posted on LinkedIn lately? Perfect examples of what we’re talking about. There is truth in Maria’s comment,  “complicated is a smoke screen for insecurity.”

Get over yourself. The lesson here for you is, always keep it simple. Have a little fun! People have short attention spans (and they’re getting shorter all the time). Help your clients or other audiences understand the great information you have to convey by speaking (even if you’re writing) as if you are talking to a friend. Make it easy! That’s how you get the best results!