Want to make sure your online business isn’t sending bad vibes? Read this article to learn how to encourage customer cheers and avoid major jeers.
This week I had the awesome opportunity to attend this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive festival in our hometown of Austin, Texas. Better known as “South by,” SXSW Interactive celebrates the latest in digital technology, marketing and branding (not to mention free drinks and parties).
As a local, I’m a little immune to it all, so I was fully content to just learn more about social media. And while I learned amazing things from the sessions I attended, the biggest takeaway came from an unexpected moment at the end of a panel discussion.
For some background, this discussion was packed with people – so many that I was sitting on the floor. For the first 45 minutes, the panel was business as usual. But when Q&A began, disaster struck as a petite woman stepped to the microphone. (Name of woman and company have been altered to prevent further embarrassment.)
Woman: “Hi my name is Jill Jones and I work for ABC Digital Consulting. If you’re looking for help with your social media marketing…”
Panelist Moderator: “Just questions, please. What can we answer for you?”
Woman: “Please come talk to me. We offer strategic planning, monitoring services…”
Panelist #1: “No pitching allowed. Give us your question or step away from the mike.”
Woman: “All at a very affordable rate!”
Annoyed Crowd: “BOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!”
Panelist #2: “Congratulations, Jill. No one in this room will ever use your services.”
(Exit Jill Jones to the full applause of the audience.)
So why does this woman’s humiliation matter to you? It’s quite simple: she highlighted three major lessons of any marketing campaign.
Here’s what I mean:
Lesson #1: Don’t Open Your Mouth without Knowing Your Audience
To be honest, several SXSW attendees are tech geeks with big egos. But for the most part, everyone is focused on learning new tactics to drive value back to their business. Had Jill known this, she would’ve never blatantly plugged her services in front of 1) such an influential panel of experts and 2) 450+ people not wanting to hear a sales pitch.
So before you open your mouth (i.e. launch a new social media campaign, send an email to your customers, etc.), take a step back and think about who you’re talking to. What information do they want to receive? How do they want that information delivered? In what way does your audience want to interact with said information?
In other words, before you publish any communications, think about the most basic elements of your message – the who, what, when, where and why.
Lesson #2: Earn Your Plug
Have you ever watched celebrity interviews on late night talk shows? If so, you’ll notice that the host asks their guest questions for about 80% of the segment and, in return, the celebrity gets a short plug for their upcoming movie.
The same concept holds true for Jill. If she had earned her plug, her speech may have gone something like this:
“Hi, my name is Jill Jones and I run a social media management firm called ABC Digital Consulting. I was curious to know how you see the new interest graph, primarily based from Pinterest, affecting the type of data that clients using social media agencies would like to receive?”
See how in this case Jill offered value to her audience? Since the crowd would have received timely, relevant information from her question, we would have been much more open to hearing about her business.
Thus, when communicating with customers, be sure to earn your plug by providing value, whether it’s through education, entertainment or enticing offers. If you’re offering value 80% of the time, customers will be open to a sales pitch the other 20%.
Lesson #3: First Impressions Count
I have to admit that I felt bad for Jill, especially when the panelist said that no one in the room would ever use her services. It’s true, though – despite the fact that the audience was full of people looking for help, not a soul talked to her after the catastrophe. In other words, instead of being seen as a seasoned professional, Jill Jones will always be the woman who got booed out of SXSW.
The takeaway here is to always think about first impressions when it comes to your business, even beyond your website. Yes, site design is critical, but what if someone is introduced to your brand through a networking event? Better make sure that you have a polished elevator pitch and a nice business card. Same applies to your emails, social media channels, print pieces, etc. Each marketing material reflects your brand, so always aim for a positive reaction.
As a recap, before you embark on any marketing activity, be sure to: consider your audience, earn your plug and consider first impressions.
If not, you might find yourself sitting on a curb next to Jill in downtown Austin.
-Matt Winn, Social Media Manager, Volusion