Today's wakeup call was provided by Brian Solis with his new blog post “The 5 Pillars of New Media Strategy.” Brian argues convincingly that we all should stop looking for a magic formula or success recipe to guide us in our social media travails by simply arguing that it all depends on who we are serving or building a meaningful relationship with. While I myself occasionally fall prey to the temptation to offer list type “secrets” such as in “3 Keys To Social Success,” I do agree that too much of the focus is placed on the social media delivery side. As a consequence, the tendency is to be less concerned about how our social media efforts will be received by customers. [Read more…]
Last week, Daniel H. Pink gave a talk to Linked Orange County at the Irvine Barclay Theatre where he shared some insights from his new book “To Sell is Human.” In the following, I comment upon some of these ideas or findings:
1 in 9 Work in Sales
Pink started out by stating that the number of salespeople haven't changed with the emergence of technology. 1 in 9 professionally active Americans work in sales and that ratio has stayed the same over several decades. Perhaps that is true but I also think that a key question is how the nature of the sales profession has changed and how technology is playing an increasingly crucial role to facilitate the sales cycle for salespeople. That being said, it is indeed noteworthy that his studies confirm that so many people still today have their primary professional focus on sales.
Aren't We All in Sales?
Then Dan Pink addressed the other part of the pie, the 8 of 9 professionals who are not having variations of the word sales on their business cards. He argued that those people, too, are in sales as his research shows that professionals today spend about 40% of their time convincing and persuading others, whether they be bosses, partners, suppliers, etc, to get them to do or to support various activities, goals, etc. That we are all engaged in sales to various degrees may be worth emphasizing lest we forget. This should serve more as a reminder than as a news alert to many, I presume, at least to my students (I hope!).
In line with what many others have pointed out in the recent years, Pink noted the increasing power of buyers armed with more realtime access to ever-more information to aid their shopping comparison processes. Dan Pink raised the bar further in this information arms race, though, when he argued that buyers now not only have achieved information parity with sellers but that they actually in many cases now know more about the market than the seller, even if the latter lives and breathes the market every day! Thus, the call for a “Seller Beware” alert as some naïve and unsuspecting sellers may otherwise be taken advantage of. Talk about a role reversal! I do believe that this is an interesting point as some sellers may have become so complacent thinking they know their industry inside and out so that they are no longer closely attuned to trends and competitive moves, at least not as much as some very motivated buyers may be.
If this were the concern of just a few buyers it may not be so harmful to a seller. However, we could expect many of these well-informed buyers using new technologies to disseminate such information in increasingly effective ways to guide also other, more mainstream, buyers to the best deals in town. Clearly, some such über-informed buyers may turn, or are turning, their market expertise into bona fide businesses themselves and could perhaps no longer be accurately classified as mere buyers.
Persuasive Selling by Ambiverts
Another issue raised by Dan Pink that stood out to me was the research into the relationship between the degree to which a salesperson is extrovert and salesperson performance. Citing some fascinating recent research by Adam M. Grant* at the Wharton School, it was found that the best performers were neither extroverts nor introverts, but rather those salespeople displaying a little bit of both (or neither?). Hence, such salespeople could be labeled as being ambidextrous in this regard, or “ambivert” as Grant calls it in his research. If this finding holds up in more studies, it finally may signal the end of hiring and promoting salespeople based on their extrovert nature in favor of those who keep a somewhat lower profile. Even if there are many other books on sales (e.g., Consultative Selling) which call for a significant listening dimension among salespeople, Pink does a good job in illustrating how an “ambivert” salesperson can operate successfully. At least for large parts of their interaction with clients, salespeople need to allow for sincere listening and learning about the true customer needs at the same time as good salespeople also ought to know when to make their moves, an important aspect where the complete introverts may miss the boat.
* Grant, A. M. 2013. Rethinking the extraverted sales ideal: The ambivert advantage. Forthcoming in Psychological Science.
Michael Stelzner is the CEO & Founder of Social Media Examiner, currently Technorati's #1 Small Business Blog and #4 blog in the general Business category. In the following video interview, I ask Michael Stelzner to share the “secrets” behind the extremely successful launch of his blog. He also shares these experiences in more detail in his book “Launch: How to Quickly Propel Your Business Beyond the Competition,” and please also refer to an interview transcript below.
The Elevation Principle
Stelzner structures his ideas around the so-called Elevation Principle which he describes as follows:
“If you think of your business as a rocket ship and the fuel for your rocket is content. In the elevation principle, I talk about a formula which is great content + other people – marketing messages = growth.”
Stelzner: “The content is made up of two different kinds of fuel. You've got primary fuel and nucleur fuel. Primary fuel has got about a 72 hour shelf life so you need to produce new content regularly of things like how-to articles, case studies, and interviews. Nucleur fuel, harder to create, you do it when you're starting your business or when you have key moments in your business, when you need to really attract a lot of attention. These are things like reports based on surveys or contests.”
Stelzner: “The other people component has to do with looking outside of your company and tapping the knowledge of experts, people that have written books, people that are experts inside of corporations, and bringing the knowledge that's in their minds to your audience doing a couple of things. First of all, providing great knowledge to your audience but at the same time building potential relationships that can help bring more people to you.”
No Marketing Messages
Stelzner: “The last thing is: no marketing messages. Nobody likes to be sold. So the idea is put those in storage and stop selling, stop putting advertising all around your content. Then your content can be received as a true gift instead of as some sort of a lure that's designed to draw people in. Most businesses haven't quite figured this out, it's a new model but it makes sense because people are tuning out, they don't trust businesses anymore because they are just being marketed to constantly.
So if you can figure out how to use other channels to market, just don't taint your content with marketing messages, save it for a back channel like email. Then you can draw people to you and bring them back, they'll receive it for what it truly should be, which is a gift. If businesses start experimenting with it, they'll begin to see that it is something that really works. They'll get over this ‘why isn't anyone reading my content?' and they'll actually begin having raving fans that want to share that content.”
You Can Join a Crowded Marketplace
I asked Michael to elaborate on “the Internet Paralysis,” the notion that many entrepreneurial initiatives get thwarted when a quick Internet search reveals that someone else already is doing the same thing. This is his response:
“Look, I launched Social Media Examiner in 2009, well into the craze of social media, with no social media experience, and Social Media Examiner is the number 1 Small Business Blog in the world. So, if I can do it, anybody can really do it. There is this ‘oh, it's already been done, I'm not going to do it mentality' but the fact is, there are so many people right now that are involved in social media, yet I was able to do it. I'm the perfect proof that a nobody from nowhere can actually do something quite dramatic.”
A Second Season for Journalists
Stelzner continues: “I believe that content is going to become the magic way to attract people and I know there's a lot of journalists that are out of work. It's great news for writers. Businesses who don't know how to write can reach out for these writers and also they can train up people in their organization that know how to write, how to create that kind of content that is commercial-free.”
Ignore Metcalfe's Law
Metcalfe's Law holds that the value of a network increases exponentially with the number of members in a network and this speaks to the benefits of being a first mover quickly gaining a large market share. Michael Stelzner ignored this law as there were already strong, entrenched players in the social media sector such as Mashable. This is how he describes his situation:
Stelzner: “I don't think that's such a big deal because if you think about it, people are always going to be interested in solving specific problems and even though I'm a big blog, it doesn't mean that everybody gets all their social media knowledge from my blog. It's a big world. What you need to do is figure out what it is that your audience is interested in, whether you're a real estate agent, or someone who makes cooking products. The fact is, any business could do well with this but the idea of being the biggest in the world maybe is a little bit of a stretch. But you could get people to rethink the way that they look at you and really become very loyal to your brand, which is what everybody really wants.”
Coopetition is the name of the game
Michael Stelzner had not yet mentioned the word competitor so I asked him about whether he ever thought of other companies as such. Here he goes:
“I don't think of anyone as competition, I think of coopetition. Cooperate even if you are a competitor, I have always had that model. When I was ‘The King of White Papers', I went to every single person that was high profile in that industry and I gave them my platform. I gave them exposure, I helped them. What happens is when the tide rises, all the ships rise. I believe that if you give gifts to people, whether they be competitors or not, it's gonna help you and it's gonna help really in a major way bring people to you.”
How Students Can Be Prepared
Michael Stelzner continued with the following recommendations for how students can be better prepared for the workplace:
“I think students need to figure out how to build the relationships and they need to figure out how to design content. If they can figure out how to create great, great content, and they can advise businesses on how to actually establish relationships with the experts, they'll become invaluable. They could be just one or the other. They could just create content or they can work on relationships. It's just business development in a new form if you think about it.”
A Pure Play Publisher
I concluded the interview by asking Michael Stelzner to share how he manages his time as interest in him has grown with the success of Social Media Examiner:
“Actually, what is great about me is that I tell everybody I'm not a consultant, I'm a publisher. I have friends who do that stuff so I just point those opportunities to those friends and I'm a pure play publisher. Social Media Examiner is my magazine and it's great when they come in, I'm able to send those leads out to my friends, and they love me even more so it's a total win-win!”
Can't see the video, please click here
Amber Naslund, or @AmberCadabra as she is known on Twitter, coauthored “The NOW Revolution” (with Jay Baer) which details how businesses can get faster, smarter, and more social. In this video interview, she offers her take on the role of social media in B2B (business-to-business) marketing. She also gets very excited to the extent that we almost kiss after my question at 1:28, check it out!
After Wednesday’s Back-to-School Night at our kids’ Elementary school, I made it slightly late to a very educational and entertaining Linked Orange County event with Social media superstar Mari Smith at the Hilton Hotel in Costa Mesa. In what should have been a stop on a book tour (new release date October 25), Mari eloquently laid out the key elements of her upcoming book “The New Relationship Marketing: How to Build a Large, Loyal, Profitable Network Using the Social Web” (not an affiliate link).