Have you done your homework?

There’s no question that first impressions count. What’s horrifying about it is the fact that you’re constantly meeting people, which means that you’ve got dozens (or possibly hundreds) of first impressions being made every day.

If you want to make a solid first impression you need to do your homework. It’s not unlike preparing for an interview or a (really hot) first date. You need to anticipate a few questions and polish your answers.

Specifically do some prep work for questions like “What do you do?”, “Who’re your customers?” & “Is ABC your competitor?”. They may seem trivial, but the slickness & interestingness of your responses to this sort of question is what will form first impressions.

I recently spoke to someone who described his customer as “Anyone that owns a laptop.”, instead of sounding like a product with an enormous potential market, it sounded more like he wasn’t really sure who his customer was. Though it is actually an awesome product that I’ve read alot about, his answer didn’t do wonders for my opinion of the business.

Think about all the people in your company, specifically non-sales people, and how they may be casually introducing your business to the world. You may even want to consider this as your offline social media effort?


Saying no gracefully

When you get a message that doesn’t make the grade (seriousness, dollar value, time frame), it’s very tempting to ignore it. After all you get so many messages, and you’re very busy. It’s only reasonable, right? You have to prioritize how you spend your time… right?

What we often forget is that someone, a potential customer or maybe just a window shopper, said “Hello!”. If you’re not careful, by ignoring them, you’re leaving them with a negative image. Think about their perspective! By not replying, you’re sending a message that they’re not worth your time, you can’t be bothered replying, or worse, that your pre-sales is so poor they shouldn’t bother buying (imagine the post sales experience!?).

You need to treat every inquiry, whether it’s a web form inquiry, email, direct message, forum post or tweet, critical or not, with as much importance as a walk in customer. These are your customers, and your response (or lack thereof) if going to determine what they think of you, and what they communicate onwards.

A well received negative response can be worth more in positive brand image than an actual low value customer.

Listening to Customer Feedback

Are you listening?

Businesses spend a lot of money on polls, customer surveys, satisfaction reports and other forms of market research. Which is why it’s surprising that so few invest (a comparatively small amount) to use social media tools to analyze customer feedback. Listening & understanding client opinions should be the first stage of any marketing campaign, and with social media, it’s possibly one of the easiest campaigns to implement. Unlike other mediums it’ll also get you real-time feedback.

I’m not going to go into the details of how to listen, Chris Brogan, and many others, do a good job of providing tips on which tools to use – whatever your budgets are. Be warned though, the old rule of garbage in – garbage out still applies! You still need to know where to look, whom to ask your proverbial questions to (prospective clients, dell evangelists vs the dell-hell group), what questions to ask and most importantly you’ll need to be able to interpret your findings into meaningful information, which can be harder than it looks.

The skills you’ve developed from traditional marketing still apply, and you’ll need to use them regularly. Social Media is just a medium, not a substitue for analysis, interpretation and applied intelligence.