When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Lemonade

The past year has been pretty crazy for social media followers. What was once a distant concept has been adapted by businesses to reach beyond the traditional marketing campaign. Companies that have a handful of employees are now using social media to reach out to prospects and multi-national and multi-million dollar companies are using social media to build customer loyalty. Some companies are even using it to develop product roadmaps.

Social media has also hit the mainstream. Take a look at these examples;

The Vatican announced last week that they are now using Facebook. You can join their 1,400 fans here.

San Francisco’s mayor, Gavin Newsom, announced his running for California Governor on YouTube and the city now has its 311 Operation Center using Twitter tweeting to its 1,500 followers of what’s going on in the city by the bay.

President Obama’s team brought social media to the masses during the 2008 President campaign with LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and many other social media mediums.

I think we all remember the CNN vs. Ashton Kutcher race to have 1,000,000 followers on Twitter. (personally, I think this was all just a publicity stunt because it’s not about the number of followers you have, but the quality)

Most recently, Lance Armstrong today announced the birth of his son, Max, on Twitter.

My point with this post isn’t to say that everyone is using social media so you should too. My point is that your customers are using social media so you should be there to see what they’re saying, see what interests them and to connect with them. Your customers follow politics, watch CNN and enjoy watching professional athletes. Find the voice of your customers.

I’m signed up for sites, now what?
Although it doesn’t take long to set up a Twitter or Facebook account, it takes time to manage them and to use them strategically. Social media isn’t about putting a check next to things that have to be done this year. If you start a blog, write! If you have a YouTube channel, post things to it. Although it’s a simple concept, make sure that you have the resources to do it properly.

Social media is a chance for you to connect with your customers and prospects in a non-traditional way. When appropriate, make sure that you are letting your constituents/customers/prospects know that you’re listening to what they are posting. You don’t need to respond to every comment, but you need to be aware of every comment.

Social media is also a two way street. It’s not a tool for your customers and prospects to ask you questions and you to do nothing about. Likewise, it’s not for you to just push out information. Ask questions, get folks engaged, have a call to action. Why not post on LinkedIn your new corporate blog and have people respond to it. Ask them if they agree or if they have better solutions. Ask them if they have blog suggestions. Get folks involved. It’s not called “social” media for nothing!

I was on a Webinar yesterday hosted by Social Media Magic and they help companies create social media strategies. They are one of many companies that can help you. If you’re lost and don’t know where to start, ask. There are many companies, books and Websites that can help you get started. Also feel free to check out what other companies are doing and take note of where they are strong and what aspects of their social media campaign are weak.

Simply put, use the tools when given them. When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.

Types of customer references

Doing a quick search on the Internet for blogs regarding customer references, I noticed that a majority of them ask how to find a reference for a particular software application or some other product. Most of these are from the perspective of the person (generally sales or a consultant) looking for answers for their customer/prospect. Very few of the blogs talk about how to run a Customer Reference Program and how to pull one together from scratch. I’m hoping to help answer some of these issues with this blog.

Types of customer references
When starting your reference program it’s important to realize the many different types of references. Start with basic 101…is this is sales or marketing reference? Although they might seem like they are the same and ultimately will affect one another, they are generally two very different types.

Sales references include:
Customer speaking with a prospect over the phone/email
Prospect wanting to visit a customer to see how the product works
Name dropping in a prospect call/meeting

Marketing references include:
Press release
Case study
Speaking with analysts
Speaking with the media
Website listing
Use of name and/or logo in Marketing material

In general, it’s usually easier to find a Sales reference than a Marketing reference for one basic reason…Sales references are generally not going to be made public. It’s that simple. Marketing references are used for..well, marketing reasons which means letting pretty much the world know that customer XYZ is a customer of vendor XYZ.

Because it’s a public reference, most customers will have to get approval by their Legal and/or Public Relations team if not more people. This extends the approval process and scares some people away as more time and effort is needed.

Rule #1: When using a customer for a public reference such as logo use on a Website or in a press release always get the customers approval at least once before doing so. If a customer has approved a quote and you want to re-use it, that’s generally okay. But for the first time usage, make sure to get approval!