Testimonials Are Music to a Brand’s Ears

5-star-rating for Aleweb Social MarketingWe hear it all the time. Word-of-mouth referrals are a brand’s bread-and-butter.

No amount of traditional or social marketing can equal the power of a friend who recommends a product, service, book or experience.

Today is the start of the new week. You may own your own business and look for these longed-for referrals, but how do you get them?

Have you ever heard the adage “It is better to give than receive?” When it comes to referrals and endorsements, this rule holds true.

You can ask friends and close acquaintances to endorse your product or service, but after a while you’ll run out of people to ask.

As JFK was quoted as saying “…ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Or in this case “ask not who can recommend your business, but whose business you can recommend.”

Think over the past week.

Who have you interacted with? Where did you go to lunch? When you took your teenager to the mall, which stores did you go to? What book couldn’t you put down? Whose advice and support has been crucial to your own success?

I challenge you to come up with one thing each week for the next two months that you want to recommend to your friends. It can be a business that provided excellent customer service, an enjoyable experience, or that went out of their way to make your buying experience exceptional. Or it can be a book, play, concert, or any other experience that you loved.

Why two months?

I want you to establish the habit of looking for people and experiences you can appreciate. Enjoy that feeling. Appreciate the sense of gratitude. Pass it forward. Catch people “in the act of getting it right,” and let them know you’ve noticed.

It will change you too.

Being more focused on showing your appreciation for others will take the pressure off trying to get people to appreciate your brand too. You’ll internalize what you’re learning from brands that “do it right” and potentially improve what you’re doing as well.

Regardless, in giving, you will receive. And don’t be surprised if you start to see your own client testimonials increase as well.

So… Have you thought of someone for this past week?

Go ahead and think of one. We’ll wait for you…

Have it now?

Alright… Here’s the easy part. Go find that brand online. It doesn’t matter if it’s on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Angie’s List, Instagram, Google, their website or wherever else you feel comfortable. Just find their listing and post a review.

What should your review look like?

Write it as if you’re talking to your best friend. Tell them about your experience and what made it so special.

Businesses hear often when they’ve done something wrong. Give them a boost. Let them know when they’ve done something right so they can do it more often!

Wherever you posted that endorsement, share it with your friends.

People like to buy from brands they know, like and trust. Your recommendation tells your friends who you know, like and trust, and exactly why. And perhaps that experience is exactly what they were looking for too!

Share a link in the comments below to a brand that made you feel special recently and let us know how they did it.

What Are You Thankful For?

Happy Thanksgiving from Aleweb Social MarketingIt’s Thanksgiving Eve, and my social newsfeeds are filled with people sharing what they are most thankful for. As I look back at where I was a year ago and contemplate all that has happened since, I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude.

This time last year, I was functioning under the crushing weight of grief that comes from losing a loved one. My fiance, Frank, had died just a few weeks earlier, and I was still trying to figure out how to get out of bed in the morning and having to remind myself to breathe whenever fresh waves of grief came crashing in.

They say that, in order to appreciate light, there must be dark; and to know good, evil must exist. I’ve learned that the same is true for joy. To know true happiness, not just contentment, but unmitigated joy, one must also be familiar with sorrow and grief.

Last year at this time, my life had shut down. I went through the motions, making Thanksgiving dinner, but soundlessly crying throughout the meal as I sat with my family; feeling fake as I tried to live a life I had no interest in participating in.

Reflecting on where I was then to where I am now is like seeing the difference between night and day. There are no similarities.

Toward the end of December, I realized that I couldn’t keep going on that way. I’d gotten through Thanksgiving, Frank’s birthday, my daughter’s birthday and Christmas, but just barely. I knew something needed to shift, and that the way I was living my life was not the way he would want me to be.

I gave myself until the end of the year, deciding that on January 1st, I would pick myself back up and begin again. It wasn’t a New Year’s resolution. It was simply a new start.

I had no idea what that would look like, but I knew it was essential. Frank had died. I had not. The one thing I would not do was waste my life. I would make however many days I had left count for something. I had no idea what that might be, but I knew it was within me. With Jeremiah 29:11 ringing in my ears, I began looking for God’s plan and purpose for me, asking Him to reveal it to me.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

One thing was clear to me going into my relationship with Frank. If I wanted a healthy and genuine relationship, I would have to keep the walls down. I’d spent most of my life erecting walls to keep the hurt, pain, disappointment and anger out. But those same walls blocked joy, peace, excitement and connection from coming in.

When Frank died, I didn’t have the strength to erect walls again. While their lack made me vulnerable to the grief I felt, it also presented me with the experiences I wanted most in life.

As I ventured into 2012 without him, I had no idea that this would be my Year Without Walls. But allowing those walls to remain down has allowed me to tap into genuine authenticity, not just in myself, but in allowing myself to remain open to others.

It has also enabled me to listen for other people’s stories more. My life became so much more real to me as I experienced such extremes of emotion that it reminded me of a passion I’ve always had. I love other people’s stories. Whether they are presented in a movie, a book, at a networking meeting, or over coffee, I love to learn what others are passionate about, what makes them unique, and to watch as their story continues to unfold.

So, what am I thankful for this year? I’m thankful for loving deeply, for my friends, family, and friends who are like family, for all the new people I met this year, and for the accomplishments of this past year as well as the new opportunities that lie ahead. And I’m thankful for having someone to share it all with.

The connections, relationships and even partnerships that I have been blessed with this year have been a direct result of living with myself authentically, accepting and acknowledging my grief, but granting myself permission to live again. The result has been a more beautiful, rich and connected life than I ever had before, and for that, I’m extremely thankful.

What are you thankful for? I’d love to hear your story.

How to Really Listen

Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don't. ~ Bill NyeI have a client, a winery, who is short-handed for the next month. Since I really enjoying going to this place, when they asked if there was anyway I could help them out by working there a couple of days a week for the next month, I said “sure.” It’s an exciting time of growth for this business, and I enjoy being a part of it.

Today, I was “manning the shop” all alone when an older couple came in for a wine tasting. Being an early Friday afternoon, the place was quiet, and I was able to simply enjoy engaging in conversation with them. Over the course of the next hour, we shared stories about our lives back and forth with each other.

As the husband went out to the car to load their purchases, the wife stayed a talked awhile longer. She confided how much she valued the time I had spent with them. Her daughter had just remarried, her grandson had gone to college and her granddaughter was starting a new job at a local hospital. They have been a close-knit family, living on the same property for years, in and out of each other’s homes on a daily basis, and now this grandmother was feeling “an empty nest, times three!” The sorrow and grief in her eyes was heart-wrenching, and I was grateful that we’d had that time alone to just enjoy one another’s company.

As I was thinking back on that experience this evening, it occurred to me that so few of us really know how to listen. There was a moment when this woman was leaving the winery where our eyes connected, no more words were spoken, but she knew that she had been heard, and her thoughts and feelings mattered to someone else.

In social media, where we don’t have the opportunity to make eye contact, and listening can echo back like an empty chasm if you don’t make your presence known, how do we let someone know we’re listening?

I had another instance earlier this week where I’d seen someone’s name flit through my Twitter feed whom I hadn’t spoken with in a long time. So, I reached out and sent her a tweet, asking her how she was doing. This led to a private (DM) conversation where she shared that Life had been rough of late.

The best way that I could show I was listening was to actively participate in the conversation, but always keeping the focus on her. It’s so easy to want to relate our own experiences with a topic. But sometimes a person just needs to be heard. When using social media, oftentimes it’s feedback (or the much-bantered word “engagement”) that let’s us know anyone is even listening.

Here are some tips on how to demonstrate active listening in social media:

  • When someone needs to talk, let the conversation be about whatever it is they need to talk about.
  • In real life, eye contact and touch show that we’re engaged. Online, substitute a private message or directed contact to let the person know you are there, you are listening and you care.
  • Don’t steer the conversation to yourself. Instead, be genuinely interested in what the other person is saying.  If you can’t be genuinely interested, perhaps it’s not the right person to be deepening a relationship with.

These tips aren’t for every conversation you have online. But it’s important people know you care about more than the product or service you are selling, and that you’re a real human being capable of engaging, feeling and being authentic.

Online friendships can remain at a superficial level for a long time. But when we take the opportunity to deepen those connections, perhaps even bringing them offline, it’s amazing what can happen. What tips do you have for connecting with individuals in real and authentic ways?

Forging Into the Future — 2012

2012

When I outlined at the beginning of last year how I was going to meet my goals for the year, this is what I wrote:

…accomplished by focusing for the next few months on the specific areas of sales (pricing, fulfillment, etc.), product development (for residuals), and website upgrades (for greater visibility, lead capture and establishment of my expertise). These will then serve as part of the launch of my (paid) speaking career.

To put it a bit more concisely, my aim was to shift my focus to speaking more. The necessary ingredients I saw for this were a product to sell, a platform for visibility (namely, my website), and a mailing list to work with.

This required migrating my website from one platform to another in order to make the changes I felt were necessary. Check! That’s done.

It also required creating a product that could be sold. Although a bit late, since it was finished January 5th this year, check! That’s done too. The first of many to come…

I felt (and still feel) that “selling” is a skill that I just don’t have. But I did engage with some great sales mentors to learn what I could, and I’m happy to report that you can teach an old dog new tricks. It’s just going to take some time and patience.

So far as building a mailing list goes? Well, I’m working on that right now, participating in the Self Improvement Gift Giveaway! But I don’t want just any old mailing list. After some introspection, I realized that I am, and always have been, a wordsmith. I love writing and speaking, working with writers and speakers, and many of my clients are one or the other, even though I wasn’t targeting that specific demographic. So, moving forward, the list I am building is for writers and speakers, and the solutions I am offering are intentionally meant for them.

To be able to complete this transition into a niche market, my focus is necessarily becoming more myopic. My goals for 2012 take me deeper into this niche of dealing with authors and speakers, with a micro-niche of working in the Christian community. Product development and building my mailing list are both huge components of that. But I’m also spending time on developing a coaching program, as well as expanding my speaking platform.

So, here are my priorities for 2012:

  • Increase my client base, moving more and more into the niche I want to establish myself in. Speaking engagements and product development will shift more and more into this market to establish my expertise. Increasing my client base in those areas will also require me to increase my connections with others serving that same market. So, I anticipate expanding my network by 5 new contacts a week to increase my client base by 2-3 new clients a month.
  • Work smarter, not harder! I’m still living in a world where I’m the Chief Cook and Bottle Washer at the same time as being the CEO and Janitor. It’s hard to flourish in any of those roles when I’m trying to do them all at once. So, the plan here is to recognize the responsibilities of each role, and set aside a minimum or 2 hours dedicated time every week to function in each of the necessary capacities, while getting rid of those things that I, specifically, do not need to do through elimination or outsourcing. It also means offering more group services (coaching, masterminds, speeches, etc.) and on-demand products.
  • Develop more products! Ensure that I have a residual income that supplements what I receive from speaking and client work. This means developing a library of recorded webinars, eBooks, books, recorded teleseminars, etc. that clients can browse and order from. Ideally, I want to offer at least one new product every other month this year. It may also entail doing more affiliate marketing than I have done in the past, and it certainly means more actively promoting the materials I already have.
  • Speak more and get paid for it! This is the ultimate goal. While I use the other steps above to create a wider platform that establishes my expertise, this is that I ultimately love doing the most. Through speaking, webinars and teleseminars, I plan to reach an audience of at least 1,500 new people this year.

As you’ve been planning the year ahead, what are your priorities for 2012? What do you need to do to make them reality? Share your thoughts below, but make sure they’re measurable and in line with your goals!

Learning From the Past — 2011

2011A recent blog post by David Risley caught my attention. He shared “5 Failures and Take-Aways From 2011 [A Retrospective].” It got me thinking about what lessons I had learned from 2011.

It’s always nice to think “Oh, there were no failures. Everything went perfectly according to plan!” But that’s only for some dream world, not the everyday, real world of business.

Thankfully, at this time last year, I was part of a mastermind group, so had the accountability of stating my goals for the year in clear, concise and measurable terms. After all, isn’t that what goal-setting is all about? If we don’t know whether we met them or not, what’s the point of setting them in the first place?

My main “radical goal” — that goal that was a stretch, but not impossible — was a monetary goal that I fell short of by 32%. Ouch!

But that monetary goal was to be the direct result of “doing the things I am passionate about; teaching, strategizing, training, speaking and connecting.”

So, how did I do with those things? Well, I participated in two failed collaborations, each of which would have created a broader teaching platform; but one collaboration lacked vision, and the other didn’t receive enough time and attention. At the same time, a third collaboration among 21 writers resulted in a book that’s being published in March 2012. So, that was a huge success in my mind.

I spent much more time this year watching trends, and being at the forefront of bloggers writing about them, which was great for building my readership. So, I count that as a success. However, when I analyze what content my readers consumed most, it was my book reviews and not trending topics that interested them the most. So, that’s something I’ll need to take into account in setting my editorial calendar for 2012.

I did take on more clients, which created a broader training platform. But I didn’t leverage my time well, since it was primarily one-on-one training classes that I ended up doing. The lesson there? I’ll always be limited in how many people I can help until I offer group-training opportunities. So, to take Aleweb to the next level, I’ll be offering group coaching starting in 2012!

While I spoke fewer times in 2011 than I had in 2010, the size of my audience was the same since I spoke at larger conferences than I had the year before; more people, less work, greater exposure. Seems like a step in the right direction!

One significant lack that I noted early in 2011 though was that I was missing out on a huge opportunity by not having a product for sale at the conferences. That’s an issue I have already addressed in the first week of 2012, so that I won’t repeat that same mistake this year.

The connections I made in the course of 2011 were deeper and more significant than the year before. The unanticipated side effect of that was that when I experienced a personal tragedy in the latter half of the year, my online community provided support and assistance that I had no right to expect or even anticipate! That was a huge blessing to me personally.

While my main “radical goal” for 2011 wasn’t met at all, the foundation needed to accomplish it has been well-laid. So, the successes desired for last year may have fallen short, but I’m well on my way to meeting them this year! And I still have some neat feathers for my cap from 2011 too, despite the failures, which I choose to view as “learning experiences…”

As you look back on 2011 yourself, did you reach your business goals? If not, do you know what’s yet needed to make them reality? Share your thoughts below, but be sure to note your successes as well as your failures!