Social Circles

Isn’t the idea behind social media to be social? I recently followed a group that represents a neighborhood and was asked to validate my profile. How social is that? It brings to mind the concept of guilty until proven innocent.

Those who protect their tweets and this case of request validation for my profile seems to negate what is at the very heart of social media.  I do know that people have experienced stalking, etc. I am all for safety but an organization that requires me to validate myself? I expressed an interest in your mission allow me to share it with my network without jumping through many hoops.  Isn’t that why you have a presence on social networks?  To tap into the power of people’s influence?

Recently, I attended a Social Media Club STL meeting where @jeff pulver of #140conf spoke. He talked about the changes in communication and how for the first time in many years we are actually more human than we ever have been. Building relationships in some instances with complete strangers. He said it is likely that you know more about these strangers than your own family.

So why do you need to validate my profile?

Customer Service Has Died

Warning upfront, this post is a bit of a rant, but also a realization. It seems that customer service is dead or at the very least dying a slow death.

For the past few weeks, for me at least, customer service and the lack of it has been a constant theme. Utilities, doctors, retail stores, and others. No one cares about it and seemingly no one focuses on it.

Without customers/patients, there is no business. So why do so many businesses miss that step?

When you think about it, every one of us is in the service business. We service family, friends, employers/employees, and all other human beings. Call it common courtesy. Call it being polite. Call it be human. Where has it gone?

I have been amazed in the last few weeks some of the responses I’ve received to questions.  I was told recently by a vendor that the reason a recent proof was not complete when delivered, was because the schedule allowed for multiple rounds of revisions.  ”We can catch it the next time.” he said.  Really?  Couldn’t we maybe eliminate some rounds of revisions and get it right the first time?

In another instance, I was recently told by my doctor’s office when I asked about alternate solutions, that I could go directly to the manufacturer and then maybe find some else to perform the procedure.  My response, “When did medical care become like car care, go to the auto parts store and then find your own mechanic? WTH?

It seems like we can come up with excuse after excuse for why this can’t happen or that won’t happen.  So if customer service is dead, where does that leave customer satisfaction? With all the excuses, doing things correctly the first time, isn’t even in the realm of possibilities.  Customer satisfaction is defined as doing things right the first time.

In the current environment of social media and its increasing popularity, it seems that customer service should be improving and it doesn’t seem to be the case.  There are so many examples of bad customer service that have gone viral in an instant (Kevin Smith and Southwest Airlines come to mind).  When everyone is talking about building relationships, who are we talking to? Many companies and businesses are not listening.  In an ever shrinking world, we all as human beings better wake up.  We are all in the service business.  We need to start acting like it.

Crochet Addiction

Crafting has always been a part of my life. Since I was a kid I was making things or trying to figure how things were made by reverse engineering. Now I am not mechanically inclined, but when it comes to household things, clothing and such, I find I am always thinking about how to make it, how to make it better and how to make it my own.

I have always been fascinated with string. Or string like stuff. I remember in Brownies and Girl Scouts, we learned to make lanyards from a plastic material that I don’t remember the name, “God’s Eye”s, pot holders and other random items.

Then I became fascinated with cross-stitch. I taught myself and am sure there are simpler ways to create the pieces, but I do what works for me and have made many gifts.

I then tried to teach myself to knit. That didn’t go as well as I would have liked. I think my problem was the tension and maybe it stems from doing cross stitch for so many years, but I pulled everything so tight that I could not get the knitting needles through the yarn. I gave up on that at least for a while.

Then I decided to try my hand at crochet. Crochet was last on my list maybe because every time I thought about it, I thought of this afghan we had when I was a kid. It was red and white and what I considered very dated and not very cool. Then I started googling crochet and looking around at stitches and patterns and all the wonderful things you could make so I thought I’d give it a try. Pardon the pun, but I AM HOOKED!

If I could spend my day doing nothing but crochet, I think I would be in heaven. I m a beginner and spend most of my time practicing stitches by making dish clothes and pot holders but I am good with that because I am collecting patterns and learning about yarns and hooks and… and… and…

Now I have discovered Tunisian crochet. How great is this. It is kinda of a knitting crochet combo and there are so many great things to make. I can even marry my two loves – crochet and cross-stitch.

Now I am on fire. Lists of things I want to make. I plan to start an Etsy store. Too bad I have to sleep, eat and work. I am going to come up with a plan to make crochet the way I make my living. Some how, some way.

Seriously, I wish I had discovered crochet years ago. I am glad I have discovered it now.

Lead Generation

As a small business owner, the part I dislike the most about my business is the sales component – constantly searching for new clients.  As a marketing consultant, I know all the tips and tricks and avenues for targeting clients, what I struggle with is the cash flow.  I know I am not alone in this, as a matter of fact , most of the businesses I talk to and work with have the exact same issue and look to me for answers.

One trick I have used for some time now are the job boards and classifieds.  Depending on the opportunity, I identify those companies that might be interested in hearing about how they don’t have to hire an employee but can benefit from hiring a consultant or freelance marketing director.

The fact is, an employee costs an employer approximately 2.5 times their salary with benefits and overhead.  By hiring a contractor/consultant/freelancer, they are gaining expertise at a much lower price.  There is no overhead, no benefits and the rate is negotiable.  It can be project based, a retainer fee or any number of creative ways to exchange money for service.

While scouring the want ads in not everyone’s target, I would encourage you to think about your objective and maybe broaden or diversify your targets.  For instance, a tee shirt shop, might consider using their vendors and buyer power to help a local non-profit or another business secure pricing for merchandise for an upcoming event.

I am not encouraging you to completely re-design your business model but think how you might compliment it or supplement it.  Putting all your eggs in one basket is a risky business.  Think creatively.  Develop multiple streams of income.  This can help develop some security in tough times.

Companies that are looking to hire marketing positions can often be turned into a client prospect with a short and direct conversation.

Craft In America

Craft In America - a journey to the artists origins and techniques of American craft

As someone who has crafted most of my life, I am excited about this program and disappointed I didn’t know about it sooner.  I hope I haven’t missed too much.  If I could figure out a way to make crafting pay my bills, I would do it all day, everyday (I am working on it).

As a marketer, someone who studies consumer behaviors, buying patterns, etc and tries to help companies capitalize on it, I am fascinated with the return to our roots.  Frankly, as a marketer, I have become cynical toward the consumer. We are a society of “consume”rs, a disposable society with what seems like a toss-it-away mentality.  “Don’t worry, we can always replace it with something new.”  Quality, craftsmanship, time and effort don’t seem to mean anything anymore or hold any value.

But this series proves me wrong, thankfully.  There are many artisans who are bringing back dying arts, focusing on how things used to be made, appreciating the value of something that lasts, re-creating it or interpreting it in their own way.  I LOVE IT.  As a marketer, I would say to them, if there is something I can do to help you, please shoot me a line.

Is Social Media A Fad?

The Value of Connections

I am originally from St. Louis, MO.  Lived there until I was 30.  When I left, I had no idea of the adventure I was Country Lanesetting out on.  I spent a few years living in the South and experiencing all of its culture and even some of it quirks.  From there, I had a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to live abroad, where I had an assignment to travel the world executing a sponsorship.  I lived out of a suitcase and on the road in a different country each month for almost 2 years.  When I finished that assignment, I decided to come back to the US and settled high in the mountains, something I always wanted to experience.  I was fortunate enough to live for 7 years at 10,000 ft on the Continental Divide.

When I moved to Colorado, I thought it would be the last move.  Oh sure, I knew I would move to new houses, but thought I was in Colorado to stay.  But like many people, the economy caught up with me and times got pretty tough.  When my fiance and I discussed it, we talked about trying to stay in Colorado and move to the city.  We joked about moving to St. Louis (he is from the East and was unsure what it would be like to live in the Midwest).  But as we talked more about what to do, the arguments against St. Louis were fewer and fewer.  We decided to move to St. Louis.  We had a few reasons for choosing it but the one that was the hardest to ignore was connections.

We both lived a few places.  We both moved places where we knew no one.  And we both agreed that it was difficult, but not impossible.  But having grown up in St. Louis and the nature of the town, meant we had an instant network of family, friends, colleagues and all the people they knew. We would be instantly connected in a matter of weeks as compared to years if we went any where else.

People joke about “It is not what you know, but who you know.”  Some say it sarcastically and even bitterly, thinking it should be merits that propel you forward, not connections.  I am not saying merits are not important they definitely are.

Moving back to my hometown, drove the point home for me.  It made me realize the value of connections.  There are so many tools available now that allow you to be “connected” TO people, THROUGH people on a global level.  I have been using Face Book and Twitter for a while now.  When I decided to move back to St. Louis, I had offers of help and answers from people I haven’t seen in 25 years.  I was invited to a Tweet up within the first month of being back. I made a conscious effort to get back in touch with people and this was possible through social media tools.

When I moved back to the city, I made the decision to get connected with others who shared my hobbies.  I have been inundated with connections, suggestions, well-wishes, invitations, etc.  So much so that I can take the next step to cash in on my hobbies.

So the next time someone asks you why you are on Facebook or what the value of Twitter is, think about how you would feel if you moved to a strange city and did not know anyone.  What part of town would you live in?  Which grocery store would you frequent?  Which plumber should you hire?  and the list of questions goes on and on.  THIS IS THE VALUE OF CONNECTIONS