What Has Social Media Meant To Me, Or, How You Can Do This Too!

I still run across people who do not see value in investing time into social media. They say things like:

“I just don’t see any value in it.”

“It is not worth my time.”

“I started a blog yesterday. But I haven’t gotten any business yet. It clearly doesn’t work.”

“I need to focus on REAL marketing.”

“I don’t have time for fads.”

“My market doesn’t spend time in that space, so I don’t need to…”

In fact, the percentage of sales and small business folks NOT using social media is still pretty staggering. And I will continue to do my part to help educate these good folks on the possibilities. Before I continue that mission, here are a few things that have happened to me, ONLY because of my participation in blogging and the social web:

1. I’ve been approached about writing a book.

2. I’ve been asked to contribute bits to other’s books.

3. I’ve had my blog posts picked up by other blogs, exposing me and my writing to thousands of new readers.

4. I’ve met some amazing people, people I would not have met otherwise.

5. I’ve learned so much. Each day, I get exposed to new blogs, opening up a whole new world and opportunity for learning.

6. I have reconnected with old friends, people that I had thought were lost forever.

7. It enabled me to co-host a TweetUp that had 200 people in attendance, including people from five states and Canada! I’ve always been a connector – social media scaled it big time.

8. It has allowed me to connect with someone like Tom Peters.

9. I have been asked to guest blog. Often.

10. I have been able to strengthen my personal brand. Because in addition to my business writing, it has also given me an outlet to write about things I am passionate about, such at this and this.

11. And most importantly, from a business perspective, I have found and engaged new clients.

Key takeaway from this post: If I can do this, ANYONE can do this.

Seriously. Here is how it happened for me:

> I am not a particularly good writer, but I have been a pretty steady blogger since 2008. As a result, I do think my writing has improved.

> I make a real effort to share the work of others. And I plan to get better at this.

> I make an effort, by monitoring blogs I care about on my RSS reader, to comment on the published posts of others. I can do better at this too. And not a day passes where someone doesn’t express sincere gratitude for this, which, I don’t have to tell you, deepens the relationship…

> I am not worried about the raw numbers of followers. I used to worry about this, but I have forced myself to focus on the actual relationships. The impact of this change in thinking has been powerful.

> I am NO guru. Or expert. Or Jedi Master. I am still learning. Every day. And realize, every day, that I have MUCH more to learn.

> I have become a much better listener.

> I have been able to help A LOT more people.

> My sphere of influence is small compared to many others. But, the point is, I have a sphere of influence.

> This whole world of the social web is evolving. Constantly. The sooner you recognize this, the faster you will evolve with it. What works today, probably won’t work tomorrow.

> But that said, the importance of building relationships will NEVER change. Just the means of doing so. As soon as you understand this? I mean, really understand this? Social media will make sense to you.

I am just a guy, working from home, with a manageable book of clients, running a small little business. If someone like me can see real results from this investment, anyone can!

Agree? Disagree? Let me know…

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[cartoon by @gapingvoid]

31st Check-In | The Publix Foursquare Watch

So, I am going to play a little game…

I wrote the other day about my 30th Foursquare check-in at my local Publix supermarket. Comments I’ve received ranged from “I can’t believe a man has actually checked-in to a grocery store 30 times” to “you sure go to the store a lot.”

So, anyway… I am the Foursquare Mayor there. Which means, well, I can do and say anything I want [not really].

But I will be honest. I cannot believe there is a public, transparent online record that someone has been to a store 31 times – and this person has never been contacted. Even to say a simple “Thanks!”

So here is what I am going to do. I will write a short post for every Publix check-in of mine, until I finally get acknowledged. This isn’t meant to be mean-spirited. Rather, it is meant to educate and teach people about the possibilities with geolocation apps like Foursquare. As a demonstration of my goodwill, I will offer a free tip about how an enterprise like Publix can use Foursquare. I welcome input from the community about other ideas they may have.

This might be fun. We should learn a lot. And, well, I may be writing a lot of blog posts on this project… ;-)

Todd’s Publix Tip of the Day: One thing a store like Publix can do, is drive traffic to purchase a certain type of inventory. Let’s say you want to help people eat more healthy. For instance, you could offer people who check-in to Publix for the FIRST time on Foursquare, a free piece of fruit….

The Store: Publix Supermarket
[Store # 00033]
3605 Sandy Plains Road
Suite 200
Marietta GA 30066
770.578.6000

The Crickets Are Chirping At The Local Publix…

What prompted this post? I am the Mayor of my local Publix on Foursquare. Last night was my 30th check-in. 30th. Yes, 30 of them. But have I heard from them? No. In fact, it is so silent, you can hear the crickets chirping.

If you had a customer walk in the doors of your joint 30 times, wouldn’t you want to at least acknowledge them? [Answer: you better.] Hell, at this point, I’d love a message from the Publix manager saying, well, how about “thanks for your business – we appreciate you!”

I am spending time exploring Foursquare. I see value in it for my clients. And that’s largely why I spend time on the app, so that I can learn how to execute a geolocation strategy on their behalf.

For those still unsure about the personal value of this technology? Here is Todd’s preliminary list:

1. You can see what others have said about a place you are about to check-in to. Is the restaurant good? Is the service good? What should you buy? What should you avoid? What staffer should you ask for?

2. And obviously, more and more places are offering discounts and specials for their foursquared fans…

3. If you are lost in the middle of nowhere, or a visitor to a new town, you can initiate the check-in process on your smart phone, and see what’s nearby (then use #1 above and see what the locals are saying about it).

4. For me, the most important use of Foursquare is that it serves as an easy conversation starter. For instance, I also checked-in last night at the non-profit where I serve on the Board of Directors. Now, if someone wants to do business with me, they would go a long way towards establishing trust with me if they inquired and asked about my non-profit.

5. And lastly? I will admit, I like knowing what the people in my network are doing. It helps me keep a pulse on what’s happening in my community. And I like knowing what my friends are doing, and what they are interested in.

I say this is my preliminary list. Because I am sure I will uncover others.

But let’s get back to my local Publix. It boggles my mind that they wouldn’t acknowledge someone who has checked-in 30 times. And, honestly, I am not looking for some special or discount [hint: wine specials please!]

What I do think is important is some outreach –> “Thanks for your business! How can we serve you better? What are other ways to make this store more valuable to you? How can we win people over who are currently shopping at the Kroger across the street?”

That said, I do think rewarding loyal customers is important. Stripped down, Foursquare is a game. You compete for points, for badges, and for the title of Mayor. This spirit of competition could and should be fun. And memorable. And something to talk about…

And also, an important driver of business.

But you may ask, “well, since you have been there 30 times recently, do they really need to work to keep you coming back? You have already proven to be a good customer.” If I have to really answer that question…

“But there are only a million people on Foursquare…” Yes, and it is growing much faster than Twitter was at this stage of their development…so like Twitter, this geolocation concept is going to change the game.

“But not everyone has a smartphone…” Yeah, and nobody thought cars would sell, or motion pictures, or planes (who would want to fly across the country?), or televisions (and who on earth would ever have more than one television), or websites would be for everyone, or that email would be used as THE communication tool, and thank God I have all those long-playing records, cassettes, and compact discs in a box in my basement…

The point is, technology like geolocation is changing the game. Slowly perhaps, but surely. It is time to get in the game and figure out how to use it…

…or those crickets will be chirping permanently at your place of business.

What do you think? Agree? Disagree?

[cartoon by @gapingvoid]

Look Both Ways

I was out running this morning, and was approaching a driveway. From the other direction, I saw a fellow pedestrian approaching the same driveway. A car was pulling out, and nearly hit the lady as she was walking – the driver COMPLETELY oblivious to the fact she almost ran this person over.

In fact, I doubt the driver even realized this pedestrian was there. I wondered to myself if the driver probably rarely sees walkers and/or runners cross her driveway. Thus, doesn’t even think to look for them.

To be honest, our society doesn’t really cater to walkers and runners, at least in my northwest suburban Atlanta neighborhood. The roads are a lonely place for people like us. In fact, I am surprised there are still buttons we can push to get the crosswalk signal to let us through. The world is for vehicles now. We are in too much of a hurry.

We are just not conditioned to look for, to notice, and to hear, the things that aren’t out in the open and obvious…

And this concept got me thinking. What else are we missing? What else is there that we don’t even think to look for? How much life is happening, right before our eyes, and we are too focused on what we see right before us, that we miss out on the little things…important, little things that are on the periphery?

We teach our kids to “look both ways” when they are growing up. But I think it is a concept that us adults should remember too. And I am not just talking about crossing the street. I am talking about with how we live our life, how we market our business, and how we interact with other people.

How many people are asking for help, and because we aren’t looking, or listening, we miss great opportunities – to sell them business, to help them through a bad day, and to help them fight an important cause that would benefit the world?

We need to look both ways too. We need to open our eyes. Grow bigger ears. And most importantly, and probably most out of our comfort zone, look down the dark alleys we don’t normally want to look.

But that’s where the little gems are that can make a difference to you, your business, and to the people in your sphere of influence. [btw, "looking both ways" can increase your sphere of influence]

Here are some things to think about, and to look for, from the people you care about in your networked community. Just think about this when you are interacting with them down the road:

1. Every person has someone in their family who needs medical help. Offer them help and support.
2. Every person has a non-profit, a charity, or some cause they care about, and would love your help with.
3. Every business has a major problem they need help with, but is probably too proud to tell anyone about it. Ask.
4. Every local high school team needs a fan club, a means to support some innovative and creative young people capable of making a difference in the world. Mentor them.
5. Every little community has talent – innovators, artists, musicians, big thinkers – that have NOT been discovered. Discover them. You have to open your eyes to find them.
6. There are networking groups in EVERY community that need vibrant leadership, fresh blood, fresh ideas, to revitalize the group. Get in there and make a difference.
7. Get involved in local politics. Trust me, MOST citizens are NOT involved. It only takes a little organization and you can create a movement that will impact local politics. You can make a difference.
8. Your local community weekly newspaper needs fresh contributors. Get involved. You can add a whole new image to the paper.
9. You probably have a passion most don’t know about. Talk about it. Write about it. Blog about it. There are others who share your passion. Build a local movement.
10. Mentor children. They need it. Trust me.

These are just a few examples of the opportunities that exists. I am sure you can come up with dozens more. What am I missing?

We are all busy, leading crazy lives, and get focused on surviving day to day. Take a second, look around you, and you will soon be amazed and all the cool things around that you didn’t notice before.

Take notice. Make a difference. Find inner peace. Live an intrepid life. And you can start doing that by looking both ways…

[photo from andryone on flickr]

Minimalist Marketing: Make It Simple To Buy From You

cash registerWe’ve all experienced it.

You went to a website, but didn’t take action. You read a sales brochure, but tossed it aside when you finished reading. Or you said “Let me get back to you!” after a sales person pitched you.

Why didn’t you take any action? Why didn’t you buy?

Well, there could be dozens of reasons. But one common reason might be the message – and message delivery – was too complicated. And you didn’t know how to proceed.

This happens all the time…

1. The potential buyer can’t find the “Buy Now” button on the website. There was too much crap on the website.
2. There isn’t an easily identifiable “call to action” on the brochure. All the “Pulitzer” prize-winning copy and photos, and design elements look great. But it is all clutter.
3. The seller didn’t make the simple ask. Oh sure, the seller said a lot of cool stuff, used a lot of big words, but never actually asked for the sale…

My co-host Stone Payton and I had Theo Jamison on our High Velocity Radio Show recently. She was speaking about some simple, yet profound and meaningful, actions a business could take that would have a dramatic and positive impact on their customer experience. I mean, seriously, these were simple and inexpensive ideas…

Stone said something like “and I bet the business said it was too simple to work, right? Only complicated solutions could possibly work.”

He’s right. Why do we make things so complicated in business? Process can be simple. Design can be simple. Systems can be simple. Sales can be simple.

We have a tendency to think that fancy design, bells + whistles, and flowing flowery language are impressive and make potential customers say “ohhhhhhh.”

But most of the time it clutters and confuses.

You have something to sell. It is something that people need. It can make their life better, their business better. So why do we insist on making it harder – and more complicated – for people to buy?

Minimalists strip away the clutter to focus on what matters, on what is most important. So, strip away all the clutter so that your customer can buy from you. Without having to crawl through a complicated maze of words, pics, buttons, ads, graphics and platitudes to do what they really want to do – become your customer.

What do you think?

[my original Minimalist Marketing post]
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[pic from borderfilms on flickr]

Solid As A…Static Rock?

Usually, something that is solid, that doesn’t move, that is unchanging, immobile, etc…is something we rely on, something that can be counted on, something that seems like a steady foundation. Almost comforting, if you will.

But not in the modern world of marketing. When it comes to your web presence, you don’t want to be described as unchanging or immobile. Your web presence needs to be…ENGAGING.

That’s what intrepid marketers do. [More text below video]

[In the video below, I discuss the value of an engaging web presence:]
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ek9hJljaWQ0]

Here are a few tactical ideas you can use to provide an engaging web presence:

1. Incorporate a blog into your site.
2. Allow comments on your blog.
3. Respond and engage people when they comment.
4. Provide forums to facilitate conversation.
5. Invite guest contributors.
6. Connect people to your social web tools, like Twitter.
7. Utilize surveys tools.
8. Solicit questions from your audience…
9. …and be sure to answer them!
10. Make it easy to share your content.
11. Invite people to join your e-newsletter.
12. Use an Instant Messenger plug in to invite conversation. Hold regular hours.
13. Provide content with various mediums, such as video and audio.

The items listed above are not new. They are not rocket science. In fact, I suppose when you reviewed the list, you probably said something along the lines of “no kidding.”

Yet I continue to be amazed how many entrepreneurs have chosen not to incorporate these simple tactical options into their web presence.

But that said, it is what you do with these ideas that matter. Here are a few reasons why having an engaging presence matters:

1. Strengthens your brand.
2. Allows relationships to develop. This is where the sales come from.
3. Simplifies process of testing – and getting feedback on – new ideas.
4. Does a better job educating people about you and your business.
5. Makes it easier to teach and help and serve others.
6. Allows for better story telling.
7. Not to mention provides fresh and unique content – updated regularly – that keeps people coming back for more.
8. Oh, and added Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strength.

At the end of the day, it is the safe and easy path to build a static website – one that is solid, reliable, and unchanging. But dare I say it is lazy? And boring? Static sites just don’t cut it any more in this fast-paced, conversational, and engaging world we now live in.

What do you think?

[Learn the 99 ways to be an INTREPID marketer]
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Minimalist Marketing: A Good Lead For Me Is The Planet Earth…

cartoon by @gapingvoid

cartoon by @gapingvoid

Have you ever attended a networking session, and encountered this scenario? Say a mechanic gets up to speak, and he says “A good lead for me today is anyone you know who owns a car or truck.”

What the?

Hearing this is like nails on a chalkboard for me. I have a feeling this guy is thinking this is good for him, in that he is casting a wide net to catch ALL fish.

But sadly, this is a sign of a completely LAZY marketer. Someone taking the easy way out. And my guess is his business is struggling. I mean, seriously. What does he think I am going to do, give him my entire rolodex?

In fact, this mechanic is doing the exact opposite of what he should do to grow his business, and find MORE customers. He needs to do what will feel quite counter-intuitive to him – laser focus on one specific niche.

What happens when you cast too wide a net? You find very few clients.  And what happens then? You take on TOO MANY of the wrong clients. And then you are overwhelmed with too much “bad” work, and probably for too small a fee.

Either way, applying some minimalist principles to your targeting process will pay big dividends to your marketing program.

Focus on ONE type of prospect. Just one. In the case of the mechanic? Don’t narrow your focus to Fords. Narrow your focus to Ford pick-ups.

[This doesn't mean the mechanic can't help fix a Chevy should it pull into the garage - it just means his marketing focus should be on Ford pick-ups...ONLY.]

But this only works under two conditions:

One, that you become the best in the market at fixing Ford pick-ups. You should become known as the go-to guy in the event anyone’s Ford pick-up needs servicing. I mean it…the best in your market.

And two, you are going to have to adjust your marketing program to target owners of Ford pick-ups. This is easier than casting a large net, I promise. But it does require some creative thinking, some strategy, and a sustained effort over time to reach out and build real relationships with owners of Ford pick-ups.

The other minimalist impact on your marketing as a result of narrowing your focus? You then also simplify your marketing message. What you say to Ford pick-up owners is different than if you had to speak to ALL car and truck owners. [And if you don't understand this concept...call me. We need to talk.] But if you are targeting too many people, you probably have too many marketing messages. As a result, your message is muddled, and your marketing suffers…

Narrowing your focus to a specific niche simplifies your marketing, and makes it less complicated. Selling is hard enough. Don’t make it more complicated than it has to be.

What do you think?

[See the original post that inspired the Minimalist Marketing series]
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Spinning Yarns The E Way

cartoon by @gapingvoid

cartoon by @gapingvoid

In my examination of what makes for intrepid marketers, it is clear to me that they are simply master storytellers. They can take complex issues, and make them simple. They can take ordinary people, and make them legends. They can take boring things, and make them scintillating.

In other words, they are master storytellers. They talk about things that matter. They keep you riveted. They make you believe. They are master marketers. They are intrepid marketers.

There are many tools at their disposal. But what most intrepid marketers utilize in their quest to do something remarkable, is a blog. It is amazing to me how many individuals and small business people still do not blog. But the list of people who are achieving big things and living big dreams because of their blog is a steadily growing list.

But just why is that happening to that select and intrepid group? Here are a few reasons…

The free form of a blog is liberating, and conducive to storytelling. There are relatively few constraints on a blog, and spirited, creative thinkers thrive in this medium.

But ordinary people can make something happen too. I mean, look at me for chrissakes…

Blogs facilitate conversation. And as any intrepid marketer knows, this is what the new marketing is all about.

Blogs don’t care if some new idea you are trying out tanks, big time. You can always write new content the next day.

Blogs demand that you be different, edgy, living on the edge, pushing the envelope. That nice tri-fold brochure you have? That is so yesterday…

Blogs just seem to work better when you are being yourself. Be yourself, yes, but speak your damn mind. Be honest. Be transparent.

So, if you currently aren’t blogging, get out there and do it. Try it. Experiment. It can be free. And the lessons you learn, and the experiences you achieve, will be worth the effort. Two key thoughts:

Blogs require a sustained effort over time. Blogging takes a while. Don’t retire after ten posts. It works, but slowly…

Blogs work best when you use them to spin electronic yarns. About whatever the heck you are passionate about. I mean, I really can’t think of a better medium to facilitate good story telling. Use them!

What do you think?

[Read my list of 99 ways to be an Intrepid marketer.]
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Minimalist Marketing: Keeping Your Path on the Social Web Clear

cartoon by @gapingvoid

cartoon by @gapingvoid

I am as big an advocate of fully engaging on the social web as anyone…

By this, I mean that you should blog. You should read other blogs via your RSS reader, and be a part of conversations on those blogs. And you should be active on all those other social web tools such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube, Foursquare, etc. etc…

But you know as well as I do that if you are not careful, you can lose control. And your activity on the social web will be ALL CONSUMING. And you can spend HOURS playing in the sandbox and not advance your business goals.

It has happened to me. And I am working hard to figure out ways to simplify my presence and activity there. Without sacrificing the benefits.

Here is my best advice to you in terms of how you should view the social web as a marketing strategy for your business:

FOCUS ONLY ON ENGAGING AND SERVING PEOPLE.

If you only do this, you will be on the right path to getting the results you want on the social web. Here are some tips to apply minimalist principles to your social web strategy:

Keep Connections Relevant. It really is quality over quantity. Who cares if you have 100,000 followers if none of them care what you say? Don’t focus time and energy on just racking up hollow follower counts (and do the things listed below, and your list will grow naturally).

Look out for a few key words. If you help authors, you should be searching for messages that contain the word “authors.” You will find someone who needs your help – if you are looking and listening.

Strike up sincere conversation. Don’t just send out one-way sales messages. Find people you can help or want to know, and talk to them. It is these conversations that will lead to business opportunities.

Share with your community. If you are not trying to generate a meaningful conversation, then you should be focused on sharing meaningful content. This helps your network, and can lead to conversations too…

That’s it. Your time on the social web really should be kept that simple. Make it a goal to connect in a meaningful way with ONE person a day. Before long, you have quite a powerful network.

Too often, we get distracted and just lose our way. We get caught up artificially growing our followers, or playing with shiny new tools, or focused on self-promotion.

So keep it minimal. Keep it simple. It is easy to lose sight of your real business purpose on the social web. Keep your goals, and the activity you do on the social web, simple. Follow only the right people. Read only the blogs that help you advance your cause. Do this, and you’re on the right path!

What do you think?

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You Might Be Intrepid, Vol. 4 – Push The Envelope

I recorded this video following a recent run. It was one of my first longer distance runs (for me anyways) and I had to push myself to get through it. And it made me think that intrepid marketers often have to push themselves to achieve. And they aren’t afraid of pushing the envelope either… Enjoy!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QkpNzHUCgY]

Need help pushing the envelope? Click HERE to Be Intrepid!