Stephen Saber on Personas

The Secret to Personas and ROI

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here.

You’ve taken the time to identify your personas—a representation of your ideal customer—for online marketing.  “Now what?” you ask.

Let’s first take a step back. You thought deeply about what keeps your customers up at night. Maybe it’s the anxiety stemming from competitors poaching their clients…or the lack of funds to meet month-end payroll…how about sales messages that fall on deaf ears.

The analysis also revealed:

  • general personality traits of your customers and prospects;
  • personal values;
  • whether they have an affinity for doing business with you;
  • their capacity for doing business with you.

The next step is to figure out how you can help each Persona. We’re not talking about generic answers, either. It’s more than increasing customer service or helping them to become more efficient. You’re looking for more specific ideas to help your Personas solve their specific challenges.

“People go online for 2 reasons, says Stephen Saber pictured above, CEO of TPNI Engage and Pulse Network. “To be entertained or to be educated.” The Pulse Network and TPNI Engage offers state-of-the-art marketing systems that help small business and enterprise clients to leverage social media, book publishing, special event management, video and mobile marketing to attract and engage customers. Full disclosure: I am a satisfied client who uses their systems for automated email marketing, podcasts, landing pages and newsletters. To name a few services.

“Your customers need to solve a problem,” says Stephen. “They need to grow their business and drive traffic, leads and sales,” so they’re looking for answers online. Yes, they want to self-educate.

The 4 types of Personas

It is tempting to throw everyone you know into the same database and send identical messages to the entire group.

Instead, try using a simple grid to place your customers and prospects somewhere in a 4-quadrant grid. Each quadrant shows conversations unique to their Persona profile. It’s the same as having a face-to-face conversations; each dialogue is different depending on who you’re talking to.

Here’s Stephen’s 4-quadrant grid along with my additional comments: Existing Customers; Lapsed Customers; Referred Friends; Desired Customers.

Quadrant 1: Existing Customers. These are your best clients. Individuals who land in Quadrant 1 have a high capacity and high affinity for doing business with you. Can you increase the amount of products and services you’re offering to them? How about the frequency for making a purchase.

Since you also know a lot about your customers, you probably don’t need to spend too much on additional study. That is not to say they should be ignored, but the research may be redundant.

Type of message: The communication—in 10 words or less—is simple and straight forward that solves their current challenge.

Quadrant 2: Lapsed Customers. These former customers are sitting in your database and, lately, you’ve not engaged them. Personas in Quadrant 2 have high capacity and the potential for the highest ROI.

Type of message: Remind them of what you do best. Their communication differs from Existing Customers because you haven’t talked to them lately. It’s just like an old friend you haven’t seen in years: You want to jog their memories about the good feelings you shared.

Quadrant 3. Referred Friends. Personas in Quadrant 3 may have great affinity, but undetermined capacity. They are great prospects because of their strong connection with friends of your business.

Type of message: Refer to common ground with your mutual friend and realize their circumstances might be vastly different. Ask questions about their current challenges.

Quadrant 4: Desired Customers. These are people you’d like to know but you’re not yet doing business with them. “It’s a fresh conversation,” says Stephen.

You don’t know about the affinity or capacity for Quadrant 4 people. It is important to qualify them, if only to ensure that scarce resources are not spent in attempting to build relationships or to pitch them. Low cost strategies are warranted and you do need to monitor the investment.

Type of message: It’s a brand new discovery conversation. Learn as much as you can about their business and paint points before offering solutions.Also learn – early – about their capacity and affinity for doing business with you.

Finally, determine the frequency of your messages and the best channels that reflect the Personas in each of your 4 quadrants.

Lifelong communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for over 21 years for business people. She is certified in Integrated Online Strategies from the University of San Francisco and the Instant Customer Mastery Certified Professional Program

Big business helped small business..

No, it’s not because of their shiny new tools.

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here.

Rinnnnnng! “We’re registered for the big IBM conference at Las Vegas in six weeks and we don’t have a social profile,” said Blaine McGillivray with some urgency.  “Can you help us, Sharon?”

Blaine is Business Development Manager for Technology Concepts Group ( headquartered at Illinois. The IT firm specializes in computerized maintenance, facilities management, and Maximo for industry. Their new solution, Predictive Insights, is all about the “cognitive era”. That means complex mathematical models for analyzing data that help plant operators detect and prevent faults and outages before they occur.

Blaine organized a conference call with President Mark Rogers and Managing Partner Robert Januzik to help me understand their business challenge. “I didn’t really know where to go with it (social media)”, said Mark in debrief.  “I also hadn’t realized the time involved.”

An audit of TCG’s social footprint revealed accounts for LinkedIn and Twitter and a static website—functioning much like a brochure.  No blog.  I’ve seen similar medium-sized companies that want to catch up with digital marketing; nobody wants to risk getting left behind today. TCG was a solid enterprise in business for 16 years and the principals were respected armed forces veterans.

The important detail was that TCG had finished integrating Predictive Insights with Maximo for computerized maintenance and case management systems. Think big industry—chemical plants, oil gas refineries, even car manufacturers. The new service was being launched at IBM’s conference expected to draw 21,000 delegates with 200 breakout sessions, 13 keynotes and 3 general sessions. Seven TCG personnel were making the trip to host their booth and Blaine planned to present a session on Predictive Insights.

The special event meant a serious investment for TCG.  They had six weeks to create a brand presence and promote the session.

It’s not a great idea to launch a marketing strategy in zero to 60 for any company, let alone one with little or no profile.  The better idea is to establish brand presence over time and take advantage of special event opportunities along the way.

By the way, just having a social media presence—such as a LinkedIn account—isn’t actually a social media strategy. It’s a good idea to define a plan, and more importantly, execute that plan daily with your customers in mind as well as prospects and other interested parties.

So, the plan for TCG looked like this:

  1. Determine best platforms for speed-to- market;
  2. Discover relevant influencers and build relationships;
  3. Fill the sales funnel with potential prospects and existing customers;
  4. Acquire and create content to post on platforms;
  5. Capture names of prospects at the event to follow up after the show.

Here’s how we did it.

1. Best platforms for TCG: This was easy enough. The LinkedIn/Twitter combo provides business with the best customer intelligence available today. We needed to quickly build up lists for Mark, Robert, and Blaine, though—especially on Twitter which had no brand image or followers. We corrected that by immediately taking professional photos and creating a slick banner with a relevant message for Twitter. The bigger challenge: where and how do you find prospects?

2. Relevant influencers: IBM global marketers were brilliant. They identified important technical bloggers and provided introductions to the people that TCG needed to meet. We still needed to make the case for support, though. Influential media reps also were researched and contacted. All were followed on Twitter and LinkedIn and interviews arranged where possible.

3. Filling the funnel: There was no time to manually build a database for prospects, so we chose to automate. Of course, there are untold platforms that promise the world in social media. More come out every day. The key is to know which tools to engage and how to apply them for which mission. We chose Socedo. (This is not a paid commercial.)

Socedo is an automated system that matched our custom criteria in a search for prospects inside Twitter. Once we approved a contact, Socedo also searched for them on Linkedin and engaged with them automatically on both social networks. We estimated finding 200 prospects per day and we had 20 days left to build up and engage with those followers.

4. Acquire and create content. TCG did not have a blog and they had not created content on a regular basis. The content bank was virtually empty. However, Blaine did have the power point he created for the IBM session which led to the publication of his first blog. Of course, the social media challenge is to find followers who believe you’re worth their time. Fresh content is key.

The good news was that IBM did have many relevant blogs, and IBM gave us permission to re-purpose for TCG. We did not need permission but it was the respectful way to go.

A lineup of blogs, articles, infographics and videos was queued up using SocialOomph and we published all day long. People noticed and followed. They’re still following three weeks after the event including Veteran Radio.

5. Capture names at the event for follow up. TCG was clever here. They created a fish bowl to capture names of interested persons in their service. Not the free iphone draw but a free Data Analysis valued at $2,000. The complementary proof-of-concept shows how a maintenance plant can avoid catastrophe by spotting the problem in advance; qualified prospects put in their business cards.

For another occasion, TCG could take advantage of a strategy I like that works this way:

  • Identify serious prospects at an event;
  • Create urgency for prospects to sign up for services;
  • Automate the client’s payment process;
  • Build a mobile site for prospects;
  • Create customizable pricing packages to offer prospects;
  • Automatically re-bill customers and makes payments to a PayPal account.

What happened for the seven TCG people who attended the event? “There was not enough time to handle the line-up of visitors to their booth,” said Mark.

And, yes, there was positive ROI with respect to the TCG social media campaign and the IBM show.  “Absolutely,” replied Mark Rogers. “Especially the combination of LinkedIn and Twitter.” He was surprised by the “amount of followers we got so quickly.” He also was impressed with the willingness of people to talk about their needs.

And Blaine–the guy on the telephone? He recently recommended me to another client. Good ‘ol word-of-mouth. So, these are a few reasons that I’m a fan of IBM. They were authentic in their dealings…respectful of their small business partners…and they saw the bigger picture.

The human element was not forgotten among all those shiny new tools that IBM offers.

Lifelong communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for over 21 years for business people. She is certified in Integrated Online Strategies from the University of San Francisco and the Instant Customer Mastery Certified Professional Program xxxxxx

There's confusion in the social office

The 5 levels of skill for the social office

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here. 

There’s confusion in the new social office.  And the boss thinks all SEO is spam.

Employers are assigning new responsibilities for online marketing to professionals not trained in social media…to sales representatives who hate writing content…and to younger administrators expected to know how to make friends in the networks because of their age.

There’s more to keeping up with pithy comments in the online world. The real quest is to determine beforehand which channels suit you best, set up relevant tracking sytems, and influence conversations that already are talking about your brand. Did anyone hear the word “strategy”?

Here’s 4 key questions to ask yourself:

  • Have you answered the “why” of your communications?
  • How much do you know about your audiences?
  • Are you being realistic about the ability to manage strategic initiatives?
  • What are realistic expectations for what you hope to accomplish?

Once you’ve answered the above questions, concentrate on these next 4 areas.

  1. Appraisal: Evaluate core communications for clarity and consistency across each channel you’ve researched. Of course, communicating by email is not the same as posting or networking on Twitter and LinkedIn. Be prepared to change styles for each platform.
  2. Capacity: Determine resources such as knowledge of leadership, staff and partners to to reach for success.
  3. Delivery cycle: Integrate online activities with offline happenings. I often discover that my clients have been hosting or attending offline events that are not coordinated with their online activities. These are missed opportunities.
  4. Leadership: Confirm that leadership is on board with strategies and the delivery cycle to ensure the plan has support.

Which level of skill applies to you?

There are 5 levels of performance  where each level represents higher categories of know-how.

Level One: Ad Hoc – Un-coordinated, unassigned, no resources

An ad hoc communications practice is not coordinated, assigned or organized; no resources are allocated for results. Success is based on the competence and efforts of the business owner and one or two staff. Yet, these informal and often seemingly chaotic practices can be quite successful. The questions become:

  • How much more successful might you be if you were intentional in planning, coordinating and managing strategic communications?
  • Could you be more cost effective, provide more quality and quantity with intentional practices over time among staff, partners, sectors and supporters?

Level Two: Planned – Deliberate/managed, resources allocated, assigned responsibilities

The practice is planned and deliberate as opposed to being spontaneous, reactive or on an “as needed” basis. Resources are allocated to the practice, responsibilities are assigned, and the process is managed. Activities do not occur regularly, however, and may still be performed by one or two individuals.

Level Three: Identified process – Regularly performed

Level three practices are a routine part of the “fabric.” The business has determined their ideal ways to approach formal communications; practices are well known and coordinated within the business and among partners, sectors and supporters.

Level Four: Evaluated – Progress tracked

Communications results are evaluated. Measures of performance and progress are collected and analyzed. Often a quantitative understanding of success is known and tracked, and the business has a better ability to predict or estimate outcomes.

Level Five: Optimized – Continuous improvement

Distinctions between levels one and two are based on the degree to which a company is reactive and disorganized (level one) versus purposeful and proactive (level two). At level three, the practice is performed regularly, consistently across channels, and has been performed enough that the organization has gained a certain level of proficiency at it.

At level four, the business has committed to tracking communications to better understand how to improve performance. The business is monitoring the quality of the practice. Level five demonstrates an even higher level of commitment to the practice as the company is committed to improving performance over time.

These 5 levels describe how prepared your company is to deliver on a communications marketing plan. It may be that you need to revisit the basics or take a refresher course.

SEO, by the way, means search engine optimization.The practice improves search engine rankings for content to help you find new customers faster.

Lifelong communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for over 21 years for business people. She is certified in Integrated Online Strategies from the University of San Francisco and the Instant Customer Mastery Certified Professional Program

Teresa Spinelli on Have you found your online champions

They have power, influence and business impact

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here. 

We know now that creating content, especially blogs, tops the list of every how-to strategy for marketing online.

You’ve got a few choices: You can publish your own blog, infographic, video or podcast, to name a few methods. Or you can distribute content acquired from other sources.

Another option is to find people with influence to help share your story through the clout they’ve built up across the different platforms.

We call this influence marketing. It’s the practice of working with prominent people online to spread the word about your products and services through social media.

Recently, I analyzed my Tweets over the previous 12 months. The evaluation revealed the names of 5 powerful influencers I want to thank. Here they are:

  1. Stewart Harding 683K followers
  2. Norman Buffong 450K followers
  3. Kim Garst 400K followers
  4. Pam Moore 250K followers
  5. Phil Glutting 128K followers

Just last week, Kim Garst kindly tweeted out a blog for me with a reach of 1885 impressions, 11 engagements, and 4 retweets. She said, “Yes!” to sharing the LinkedIn blog titled, Who’s on 1st in the social media c-suite?

Wow, thanks, Kim.

Over the year, my impressions increased by 29.5%, profile visits improved by 35%, and mentions amplified by 9.5%. This shows it’s possible for a business person to increase their profile by diligently posting on their preferred networks; Twitter and LinkedIn in this case. My most popular blog? An earlier version of this topic on influencers.

A really important metric, though, deals with engagement. I found the highest interactions came from my local community with amazing people I’ve known over the years. Isn’t that like real life? We generally connect more with folks we know better than those we’re getting to know. Here, I’m talking about Teresa Spinelli known around Canada as a much-loved business tycoon in the grocery store business.

I also want to give a shout out to a new friend, Michael Kawula, CEO at Social Quant. His platform was responsible for my top share for the post co-written with Olivier Taupin titled, What are you doing with all your contacts?

Here’s how Kraft foods recently handled a promotion for Christmas. Kraft cherry-picked 180 bloggers with verified fans and readers who fit the right customer profile. Each influencer wrote an original recipe that featured a Kraft ingredient and each recipe drove readers to a redeemable coupon at Target.

The national brand spent $43,000 to generate nearly 760,000 blog post views from around 180 recipes. Kraft engaged a snappy new platform called TapInfluence and the campaign was less expensive than traditional advertising.

Small and medium-sized business can do the same thing with sweat equity on a smaller scale by building their own lists of bloggers and developing relationships with them.

Influencers help with everything from increasing sales to public education campaigns, event promotions, fundraising, and new product introductions.

Where do you begin to find influencers?

Start within your own networks and move out from there. Build a database to keep track of these elements:

  • Name of influencer
  • Preferred network
  • Audience size
  • Age group
  • Engagement: Clicks, comments, shares, likes, retweets, pins, re-pins
  • Advertisers represented
  • Notes from conversations to remember what you heard them last say

Of course, there are hundreds of directories for over 250 million bloggers on the planet. When you run out of names from your personal circles of influence, try expanding your search of these directories:

Be prepared to give ideas about your audience to prospective influencers, as well:

  1. Topics important to your audience
  2. Background information for your clients who are considering making a purchase
  3. Answers to questions that your customers have not  thought to ask
  4. Online sources that customers research for information on similar products and services

What flummoxed me, though, was a way to rank bloggers with whom to develop relationships. Below is what Kyle Wong, founder and CEO of pictured above, figured out. I love it.

 Influence = Audience reach (#of followers) x Brand Affinity (expertise and credibility) x Strength of Relationship with Followers.

Here’s 8 more points to remember:

  1. Don’t confuse volume of contacts with influence.
  2. Set objectives: Know what you want to achieve and make sure that you reach your targets.
  3. Think long term. Invest your time, attention and interest in the other person. Be careful not to be seen as only making contact when you want something from an influencer.
  4. Spot opportunities. Are you able to introduce the blogger to people within your network? Do you see potential partnerships or sponsorships to involve the blogger?
  5. Don’t forget your “everyday” customers and brand advocates. More than celebrities in your niche, this type of influencer/follower can boost small no-name companies to higher profiles.
  6. Mention the blogger on your own website or blog.
  7. Link to them – both hyperlink and other social media channels. Follow them on Twitter and retweet their best tweets. Suggest involving them in other more interactive ways – e.g. interviews or video
  8. Remember that bloggers are legally required to disclose if they are being compensated much in the way that traditional media must identify advertorials as paid messages.

In addition, when a blogger writes about your story and receives compensation, it is deemed a “sponsored post”. This means any hyperlink must be classified as ‘no-follow’ links which means they are not counted by search engines when calculating page rank.

Establishing presence in the digital world can seem overwhelming. Publishing a blog and identifying 5 influential bloggers to form relationships is a good place to start.

Lifelong communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for over 21 years for business people. She is certified in Integrated Online Strategies from the University of San Francisco and the Instant Customer Mastery Certified Professional Program

Olivier Taupin on Who's on 1st in social media in the c-suite?

The CEO, the Executive Assistant or the Hired Help?

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here. 

It’s agreed: Social media is here to stay. Studies increasingly report that executives (76%) would rather work today for a social CEO. MBA Central also found that 3 in 4 customers say a company is more trustworthy if its high-level leadership participates in social media. The proviso is that clients don’t like brash business styles and that “controversial personal opinions can turn off consumers.”

How do you get started in social media? Find the “why” behind your professional brand and tell us what inspires you to do what you do. Digital pioneer Olivier Taupin of Next Dimension Media reminds us that Tom Peters introduced the concept of personal branding in 1997 – five years before LinkedIn was founded. Peters said, “Big companies understand the importance of brands. Today, in the age of the individual, you have to be your own brand.”

CEOs are being asked to write blogs that enhance their professional brand…frequent the company website…self-author posts on social networks. And, oh yes, please be authentic; no more company platitudes.

How do you manage these new demands on your time and resources? We’ve detailed a list of things-to-do but, first, here’s four general guidelines.

  1. Find your own way to express in words the company’s vision, mission, and culture. Nobody wants to hear slick and packaged slogans, anymore. “The ability to clarify your corporate culture,” emphasizes Oliver, “helps to synchronize external messages with internal communications.”
  2. Developing your online brand requires that you first build distribution networks while you create and publish content to engage with followers. It takes time to build trusted relationships in person – and online.
  3. Please don’t vent on social media…”You’re going to regret it later,” cautions Olivier.
  4. Avoid talking hard-core sales in the networks. You can talk positively about your product and services but don’t offer fans, followers, and contacts 20% off your products or get-rich-schemes in the networking platforms.


Start listening online to monitor your name and brand. You can gauge how often your company is discussed, the sentiment (positive and negative) and the reach. Terry Williamson of Boom! Social likes SocialMention, Hootsuite, and Topsy for these services.

  • Thoroughly complete your LinkedIn profile; reach for all-star status. By the way, your profile is not a resume emphasizes Olivier. You are not looking for employment. Also don’t forget: If you do get a new job, update your profile.
  • Ensure your headline serves your connections on LinkedIn, followers on Twitter and Google+. Think beyond the position title on your business card.
  • In your LinkedIn summary: Include the mission statement for your company in addition to describing the culture of the business. Remember that your website bio parallels your LinkedIn profile.
  • Read mentions about your company each week.
  • Set up your accounts on Twitter and Google+ or ask your EA for help here.
  • Grow your contacts on LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+. You will probably want assistance here, as well, after the social media strategy is defined and approved.
  • Olivier is a strong believer in connecting with people who have viewed your profile but who also suit your purpose. It’s worth your time to pay attention to this strategist who founded over 100 groups on LinkedIn with 1.4 million contacts. Be very careful that your connections reflect your strategic mission.
  • Write a blog in your voice. Sources of content for blogs are found in myriad places—either original or acquired to reflect your strategy. There are numerous tools to assist you with this task.
  • People helping with your social media will need to use your accounts and passwords. They should work under existing privacy policies or NDAs (non-disclosure agreements).


Your right-hand person understands your business, comprehends your mindset, is proficient in technology, and is able to write. It’s a good idea for EAs to be trained to post in the social networks, too, based on strategies designed to support your business goals.

  • Monitors your reputation using software such as Hootsuite or other social media management tool.
  • Helps grow distribution on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and FB, if applicable.
  • Manages your personal database and contributes to the company CRM for overall company database management.
  • Knows the optimum number of contacts for your network. Olivier suggests a relatively small organization could have 10,000 but a multi-national probably needs a million. Think quality over quantity.
  • Once a week, creates an event to report on Twitter or a Q&A with the CEO using the up-and-coming
  • Sets up an information funnel from the management team.


The above duties also could be assigned to an individual in these departments. We are seeing sales and marketing working more closely together these days as departments join forces when it comes to social media.

  • Understands branding and storytelling.
  • Manages the company CRM.
  • Finds images, creates infographics, and writes ebooks to accompany posts.
  • Attends events and takes photos or video shorts.
  • Joins in the company sharing of social media content.
  • Content creators may be found throughout the company – from the receptionist to the CEO.


The above duties also may be hired out to a specialist, mabye even a team. A good content creator will be able to write blogs, create copy for better automated email opening rates, and manage event campaigns; another individual may know more about SEO. In addition:

  • Creates a plan.
  • Helps design social  media policies.
  • Defines personas to inform all forms of content published across channels.
  • Trains and educates the c-suite and employee groups.
  • Establishes an editorial calendar.
  • Recommends social media tools to speed up tasks.
  • Asks for an audit of all relevant content previously authored.
  • Posts, trains employees to post, or sub-contacts to social media posters. By the way, Twitter is like a radio station – tweeting once a day is not enough. LinkedIn is a different culture that benefits a great deal from group participation and management.

Did we say that social media takes time? Yet, easier to manage with time-saving tools and worth the effort in this age of the personal brand.

Lifelong communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for over 21 years for business people. She is certified in Integrated Online Strategies from the University of San Francisco and the Instant Customer Mastery Certified Professional Program.

Olivier Taupin on This Just In...CEOs are Going Social

Social change underway in the C-Suite

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here. 

CEOs finally are deciding to engage online and in social media.

Much has transformed since last year when blogger/author and former high tech executive Steve Tobak decried C-level involvement in the digital world. He supported CEOs who avoided social media because they “had better things to do such as run their companies, make great products that beat the competition, make money, and negotiate with big customers.”

It’s old news. Olivier Taupin of Next Dimension Media who has coached C-suite executives on social media for the last 15 years, says, “Yes!” to the message that executives have better things to do with their time. Think competitor knowledge…product research…influencers who drive followers to your business… partnership deals…and expert status.

Tobak needn’t worry for CEOs concerned about the downside risk of saying something awkward in a public network. Astronaut Chris Hadfield defined risk management this way: “Knowing what the next thing is that might kill you” and taking action to mitigate that. Most CEOs have figured out social media.

CEOs engage in social media

Weber Shandwick, a leading global public relations firm, released 2015 survey results that asked 50 of the world’s largest companies about their attitudes to social media. The firm found that 80% of those chief executive officers today engage in digital media.

The PR firm is familiar to me and I trust their work. Suffice to say that Socializing Your CEO: From Marginal to Mainstream  reveals CEO sociability has more than doubled since 2010 when only 36% of CEOs were social. This is good news; we increasingly are looking for leaders to take responsibility for building respect online among customers, employees and investors. Weber Shandwick defined CEOs to be “social” if they did one of the following:

  • Opened a public and verifiable social network account on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Weibo, or Mixi;
  • Engaged on the company website through messages, pictures, or video;
  • Appeared in a video on the company YouTube or YouKu channel;
  • Authored an external blog.

It stands to reason that forward-looking CEOS don’t want to get left behind. They typically enjoy inspiring others…have a clear vision for their company…are good communicators…and are focused on their customers.

Weber Shandwick’s research shows that CEOs say their social media presence makes them feel inspired (52%), technologically advanced (46%), and proud (41%). Sociability indicates a “leader is listening, open to engaging in two-way dialogue with stakeholders, and comfortable with change.” Social CEOs also help to attract and retain employees.

Online MBA reports almost half of a company’s reputation is attributed to how people view the CEO since half of all consumers believe that a leader engaged on social media is more in touch with customers. Eight out of 10 consumers stated they’d be more likely to trust a company whose CEO and team engaged on social media and they would be more likely to buy from a company whose leaders were involved in social media.

Why did it take CEOs so long to join this shift in culture? Probably because most decision makers wanted first to see social media ROI. Don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon; the 2015 CMO Survey reveals 41.8 % of marketers have a good qualitative sense but not a quantitative sense of social media impact on business.

Might be better to think of Return on Influence.

Mark Schaefer’s phrase, Return on Influence, is a logical measure for me.  “When companies such as Disney, Nike, and Microsoft are creating successful marketing efforts centered on people’s social influence scores,” said Schaefer, “as a business professional, you’d better take that seriously.” The more followers you have, the more influential you are to those looking into your niche.

Social media benchmark results

Still, marketers want to satisfy the boss when it comes to expectations. Webmarketng123 reports that Return on Investment continues to concern marketers in their 2015 State of Digital Marketing Survey of over 600 U.S. marketing professionals. They learned that revenue maintains top billing but proving ROI continues to pose a major challenge.

LinkedIn came in first when it came to answering the question for B2B: “Which of the following social media channels below have generated revenue for you?”

  • Facebook – 20%
  • LinkedIn – 37%
  • Pinterest – 3%
  • Twitter – 19%
  • Other – 12%
  • Not sure – 46%

How about the power combo of the blog and email marketing? Yes, 60% of B2B brands now blog, at least once a week. And email marketing remains the clear favourite at 93% among B2B marketers followed by social media (87%), SEO (78%) and paid search (56%).

Back to Weber Shandwick and my top 4 take-a-ways for CEOs.

  1. The company website is the top destination for executive  A no brainer here. This is a simple entry point for executives where messages are easily controlled.
  2. Corporate video is fast becoming the new normal for CEOs. Executives trained on camera for media interviews will be more comfortable appearing on video. As Weber Shandwick recommends, think about repurposing video clips of CEOs giving quarterly earnings presentations at industry-related events. Different videos may be created for customers.
  3. LinkedIn is considered a safe network for business. The rate of CEOs using LinkedIn nearly quadrupled to 22% from 4% since 2010. They are beginning to understand that LinkedIn is useful for purposes of research, networking, and business development – in addition to job recruitment.
  4. CEOs can help position companies in their respective niches by establishing themselves as a trustworthy leader. They also are able to identify and nurture other influencers from within their industry to drive attention and demand for their products and services.

Finally. The CEOs have arrived at the helm of social media.

Lifelong communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for over 21 years for business people. She is certified in Integrated Online Strategies from the University of San Francisco and the Instant Customer Mastery Certified Professional Program.

CEO Alert the courts want your Social Media Policy 2

Social media policy: Stern or lenient?

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here. 

It’s relentless. You find stories every day on Google that announce how someone got fired for posting senseless comments on social media. We call that getting “dooced”.

Sometimes, the comments are intended; other times, not. Who can forget the Royal Bank of Scotland Chairman Rory Cullinan who did not mean to go public when he sent Snapchat messages to his daughter saying he was bored at work. Cullinan lost his job after his daughter posted them on Instagram. It’s almost unbelievable that people will broadcast their most risky thoughts in a public forum.

And yet, they do.

This blog is not for those idiots. It’s for the vast majority of human beings who are sensible, generally respectful, and who appreciate guidelines to avoid the “lack of common sense” that occasionally befalls all of us.

You’ve probably already been alerted to potential disputes such as these:

  • Are you legally exposed when it comes to the rights of employees who want to freely post on social networks?
  • Who is liable when a disgruntled employee tweets about getting passed over for a promotion?
  • What about a customer who complained on Facebook about their restaurant meal to a reporter. Do you respond?
  • Should you just ban all employees from accessing their social media sites at work completely?
  • What exactly is the proper way to go about sensitive issues?

Your company—big or small—needs a social media policy advises social media pioneer Olivier Taupin of Next Dimension Media. He’s the guy who originated group rules for LinkedIn managers. The degree of leniency is up to you and your management team to decide based on the structure of your company. By the way, if you don’t have a policy, your lawyer’s hands are tied when it comes to an employee suing for wrongful dismissal because they dissed your company online. You will have a difficult time winning in court because you never told employees they couldn’t do what they did.

Examples of social media policies

Social media policies that are too broad may lose the chance to help employees develop good habits. You might even miss finding great “brand ambassadors” for your brand message.

Zappos is an example of a company that’s created a brilliant social media culture. Their policy is seven words long: “Be Real and Use Your Best Judgment.” It’s too brief for my taste and the Zappos policy is not for everyone.

Policy wonks generally refer to three approaches when making rules of engagement. The first is evolutionary to see which slip-ups—and opportunities—present themselves more frequently before scripting instructions. A second way is to establish a clear policy from the outset which leads to a third hybrid option. This method starts with composing a strategy based on your culture before determining what needs to be adopted over time.

For example, you may prefer this stern approach to social media:

  • Employees who develop and update social media postings will only do so with the approval of the president or his/her designate;
  • Only employees that have been chosen as “official” social media representatives are allowed to contribute to the brand’s social media;
  • Social media is not allowed in the workplace at all.

Oracle’s social media policy has evolved over the years. This global enterprise with 130,000 employees that designs and manufactures IT networks previously regarded social  media as a “hindrance to productivity because it could lead to too much personal use.” The company now encourages “…all employees to share official company social posts and content on their own social channels.”

There’s evidence this change-of-heart recognizes that employees with a greater voice are a happier workforce, says Eric Siu in The Globe & Mail.  He’s referring to research from the University of Warwick on how happiness makes people 12 per cent more productive.

Personally, I don’t think harsh policies are relevant today. It’s a switch-up from “Old Style PR” designed to focus on things that employees cannot do rather than what they can do.

Olivier adds that stern policies will not work in the context of social media since employees do have a life outside their workplace.These narrow-minded policies will not prevent some of the most damageable posts: Those made in the privacy of their home on personal social media accounts where they’re speaking with their friends and followers.

Don’t forget sites like Glassdoor, either, cautions Olivier. They encourage anonymous and identified authors to post reviews of current and former employers and company executives.

I like the IBM method which allows employees to comment on behalf of the company while retaining some of their personality. Here’s an example: “Lead Development Representative for #cloud at @IBM#Bluemix #Softlayer – I like fashion and news. Tweets are my own opinion.” 

IBM’s last item in their policy cheekily reminds employees: “Don’t forget your day job. You should make sure that your online activities do not interfere with performing your job responsibilities or commitments to customers.”

I also love this one from GAP when it comes to confidentiality: “Don’t even think about it. Talking about financial information, sales trends, strategies, forecasts, legal issues, future promotional activities.”

6 More Ideas for Your Social Media Policy 

When crafting guidelines, make are the 7 essential Must-Dos:

  1. Start Day One. Include briefing notes for new employees on policies in their employee handbook or however you hire a new person. Make sure that employees understand the policy is contractual and there are consequences for violating it. This early start sends the message that you’re serious about social media management.
  2. Update your Social Policy Regularly. Social Media is a fluid environment that reflects the laws governing the Internet. Expect your policies to change accordingly.You will need strategies in place as you learn this new marketing tool.
  3. Please use common sense. Yes, it seems everyone should know to resist sending a racial slur, demeaning or inflammatory comment. Yet, it’s a good idea to err on the side of caution and tell employees to be polite. Advise them to agree to disagree with others, especially on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, where things can go viral wrong very quickly.
  4. Create safe places. Have a genuine open-door policy. Organizational trainer David Meade says it’s the leader’s job to figure out how to help your workforce feel safe. Why? Because employees want to feel respected…listened to…and trained. So, if an employee has a grievance, encourage them to visit their supervisor before taking to social.
  5. Ask employees to amplify key messages. Social media more likely will pay dividends if employees are behind it. Give them access to content that framesss company positions and directions on key subjects. Ask them to share those messages. Also think about using social as a way to build buzz for upcoming products or services.
  6. Encourage Self-Monitoring. More and more HR departments are checking employee profiles and activities. Controversial? Yes, for good reasons. Informing employees they do not have reasonable expectation of privacy in their social media communication is often a good enough deterrent. But there is even a better one: Encourage employees to follow each other and invite managers to connect with them. The purpose is to create a team spirit, not a police state.
  7. Most important of all: Don’t stop training your employees after day one. Use the training sessions to update your workforce on policies and as strategies change.

Everyone wns.

Lifelong communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for over 21 years for business people. She is certified in Integrated Online Strategies from the University of San Francisco and the Instant Customer Mastery Certified Professional Program.

How CEOs Win at Social Enterprise

Before you invest in social media, read this post.

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here.  

A strong mindset for company leadership always begins in the C-Suite.

Except conviction is lagging among executives when it comes to how business benefits from social media as a corporate strategy. “Only 52% of companies say that executives are informed, engaged, and aligned with their company’s social strategy,” reports the Altimeter Group on the state of social business. The path to 20% more revenue and 60% higher profit growth is being held up by the head honcho.

McKinsey and Company – named in the top 10 of Fortune magazine’s World’s Best Companies for Leaders- says decision makers must champion social change if it’s ever going to happen for an organization.

Social media visionary Olivier Taupin of Next Dimension Media is vexed by the gap in commitment in this Age of Knowledge. According to the New England Council for Educational Research, knowledge is defined, “Not for what it is, but for what it can do. It is produced, not by individual experts, but by ‘collectivising intelligence’ – that is, groups of people with complementary expertise who collaborate for specific purposes.”

Here are 4 vignettes we regularly come across when it comes to implementing social media for the benefit of most organizations. Recognize anyone?

The Pretender. This CEO saw a major sales initiative fail at his mid-sized manufacturing company. They needed a CRM installed to support lead generation and track sales engaged through social media. Management requested that he demonstrate strong support for the project and provide visible leadership. The CEO refused, saying: “I haven’t got the time. Who else is willing to take on this responsibility?” The CEO is a pretender. He reluctantly accepts the importance of social enterprise but would not make it a personal priority.

The Evangelist. This CEO believed the newly created infrastructure was not sufficiently integrated to handle business growth. She had a “gut feel” about personally selecting a third-party vendor to replace the infrastructure, and was dogmatic in her direction. She would not listen to her staff who had had done their due diligence. The project was over-ambitious and it failed.

The Pessimist. A CEO recognized that social media was increasingly central to his sales department. But he also was extremely cautious. “Don’t ask me to invest in training our employees; they can learn on their own time,” he would say. “I need to see ROI when it comes to social media.” Many CEOs appreciate this common-sense approach to such initiatives. Unfortunately, he concedes social media may be important but is not prepared to back his instincts.

The Champion. This CEO reviewed her competitors’ strategies. She found her rivals were all using social media in similar ways. For her, social media became a rallying point for employees. Over time, she espoused this belief in management meetings, seminars, and company conferences. This CEO had faith in social media as a source for competitive advantage and committed her time and attention to making it happen. She championed the move into social enterprise.

To reduce risk when it comes to rolling out your social media plan, consider these recommendations from Olivier:

1.Set priorities. Decide in favour of managing social media instead of controlling messages in the way of “Old School PR”. Traditional methods streamlined corporate messages through a single company spokesperson or the CEO.  All other comments by staff were forbidden for fear of dismissal.

There is an attitude adjustment about control that organizational psychologist Dr. Bill Crawford describes this way: “What if we decide that being clear, confident, creative, and caring are the qualities we want to be able to access, regardless of the situation, and that this is our highest purpose. The good news is that these qualities can be within our control, AND they will also help us become successful in achieving what we want.”

2. Review Like it or not, says Olivier, “Many of your employees are talking about your company on every platform.” Networks are changing fast and frequently which means that policies cannot be carved in stone and put on the shelf. “Why not collaborate with your employees?” encourages Olivier. “Connect with staff on the networks…teach them how to use the platforms…and give them good social media polices.”

3. Set aside quality time. Champion CEOs study rather than avoid change in the market place. They devote time to scanning new and emerging technologies while reflecting and talking extensively to others on how social enterprise might impact their own industry and business.

4. Train everyone. Educate employees on social media culture, language, and rules of engagement. “Would you rather have a trained or untrained employee?” when it comes to managing what’s being said about your company asks Sharon McIntosh in Empower Your Employees To Become Your Greatest Brand Ambassadors.

It is important for you to manage what employees are tweeting and posting, especially on issues that pertain to the workplace.

Will you be hampering their rights to freely post whatever content they see fit for their social networks? Should you just ban them from accessing their social media sites at work completely? What exactly is the proper way to go about this sensitive issue?

Next time, we’ll give you ideas for social media policies.

Lifelong communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for over 21 years for business people. She is certified in Integrated Online Strategies from the University of San Francisco and the Instant Customer Mastery Certified Professional Program.

Olivier Taupin on Vertical Markets

How to generate revenue from Vertical Markets

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here. 

Vertical markets are irresistible for their direct connections. In the world of print publishing, some of our most successful editions came from creating special publications tightly focused on a specific industry.

Investopedia defines vertical markets this way: A group of companies that serve each other’s specialized needs and that do not serve a broader market. For example, a company that manufactures furniture would belong to a vertical market while a company that sells furniture  would be described as a horizontal market for its various target audiences.

Niche groups have been around from the time of trade magazines. The 21st century version of trade magazines is the vertical network. Of course, networks are much less expensive to operate than printing and distributing paper to reach industry members. I can tell you it’s a tantalising business model for former print publishers.

How to generate revenue in social networks

Yes, there’s money to be made in these social networks. Think about LinkedIn where brands pay for these opportunities:

  • Sponsorship;
  • Advertising;
  • Profile-matching to help identify potential job candidates.

According to Jon Reed, writing on Diginomica. “Company pages are OK, but it’s the topical groups that spur the most engagement… thousands of members, but more importantly, active, on-topic discussions…”

Brands have always wanted to get their message in front of audiences that align with their mission. Think how pharmaceutical companies have disappeared from mass advertising over recent years. Their names do appear, though, amidst conversations hosted by subject experts and contracted by the pharmaceuticals on matters of great medical concern to their groups. Think diabetes and Pfizer.

There are more than 2 million groups on LinkedIn notes David Sumner Smith of The vast majority are very small, with less than 100 members. Just over 200 groups (i.e. 0.01%) have more than 100,000 members. Forty groups have more than 250,000 members, while each of the top 10 have more than 500,000 members.

Sumner Smith and his partner, Olivier Taupin, remain committed to LinkedIn. After all, it was Olivier who founded LinkedIn:HR, the largest professional group on LinkedIn and the largest HR community worldwide with 975,000 members.

Yet, both gentlemen are captivated by the prospects that come with emerging Vertical Networks.

Sumner Smith likes to quote Ben Boyer who says, “LinkedIn groups represent a slight verticalisation of the horizontal network itself by allowing people to populate themselves into these defined buckets.” The managing director of Tenaya Capital couches his comments, though: “They are very different from Vertical Networks.”

Branded Vertical Networks own their IT platforms. They also serve a specific profession by offering tools, resources and information that is practically useful to members of that profession. For example, Spiceworks delivered a network management tool that is now used to manage 170 million hardware devices and more than 10 billion traditional and cloud-based application installations.

Here’s a few more examples. is a U.S.-based network that connects lawyers to other lawyers, and also enables their customers – individuals or businesses – to obtain speedy online responses to legal questions.

Chef’s Roll is a global culinary community of professional chefs, food authors, and industry professionals. Their website recently posted an opportunity for brand ambassadors to represent their flavour smoke products.

The Alumni Advisory Council for my own alma mater, MacEwan University, is exploring the benefits of building a Vertical Network for graduates. The educational institute could align with potential sponsors who want to get their name in front of future job candidates and clients. Of course, such close alignment between vendor and audience is something that businesses handsomely support.

More ways to generate revenue in Vertical Markets

Sumner Smith describes two more ways for Vertical Networks to generate sales:

  • Revenue sharing of products sold through the network between vendor and network owner;
  • Tools provided by networks to help professionals do their job more easily. “Usually those tools (developed by the network owners) are provided for free,” says Sumner Smith. “But paid extensions can be made available, too.”

Olivier Taupin created a Business Directory of Vertical Professional Networks defining the more high profile Vertical Markets. He says that claims membership growth of 10% per month while Spiceworks states a high-growth revenue category of 20% year on year. Edmodo for educators says it’s averaging 5.5 million new users per year.

Here’s 4 more Vertical Networks

StratasysManufacturer of 3D printers and 3D production systems for office-based rapid prototyping and direct digital manufacturing solutions. It surprised the investment industry, since there were very well known suitors for the acquisition: Adobe and Autodesk.

GrabCAD (now Part of Stratasys)- A mechanical engineering community platform that connects mechanical engineers with manufacturers and product development companies. GrabCAD is leading the open engineering movement, helping engineers get products to market faster by connecting people, content and technology.

Edmodo operates a social network for education in the U.S. It enables teachers, students, and parents to connect, share content, and access homework, grades, and school notices. The company’s network enables teacher-to-teacher resource sharing, global professional development, and networking opportunities.

Doximity Doctors/Physicians Founded: 2010 Launched: March 2011 Headquarters: San Francisco, California Number of Employees: 105 (June 2015) Membership (Registered Users): Over 400,000 verified U.S. physicians (December 2014), which represents more than 50% of US Physicians.

It’s worth your time: Keep your eye on Vertical Networks.

Lifelong communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for over 21 years for business people. She is certified in Integrated Online Strategies from the University of San Francisco and the Instant Customer Mastery Certified Professional Program.

Olivier Taupin on crappy content

The truth about crappy content

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here. 

“You need articles for the website?” pressed the CEO. “Words are cheap; buy them from one of those content farms.” I instantly knew we would not be working together very long given such little regard for his corporate image or for the reputation of his employees, customers and partners. Including mine.

Irresistible content comes from knowing what you stand for and what makes you unique. The clarity that comes from truly understanding what you offer—and for whom—is the promise that informs everything you say, write, record, produce and post.

Content farms are websites that hire a large number of freelance writers, editors, and videographers to pump out dirt cheap content at $15 per article. You can spend as much time searching their enormous databases for possible writers than you will to research and write the piece yourself.

Don’t get me wrong. There are excellent services who hire experienced journalists such as and that vet their editorial teams and supervise the editorial process from start to finish. (Full disclosure: I contribute to Troy Media which distributes to news desks primarily in Canada and the U.S.) As a former magazine publisher, I can tell you it takes time to become familiar with the strength and style of any writer to determine if they’re a match for your story. We want you to rise above the clutter in your industry by getting to the vision behind your mission and telling us what nobody else has bothered  to say.  You don’t get that from bad prose.

Olivier Taupin knows a thing or two about building communities in social media. He’s established over 100 groups on LinkedIn with 1.4 million members. Olivier sees a gulf, though: The community builder too often receives regurgitated crap from companies who won’t pay for quality content to keep their prospects’ attention. After all, you want these people to become your customers.

The social media strategist urges you to, “Think about creating rich content that is useful and intriguing to your audience. For example, Oliver would not share a product brochure on Internet security from a Telco but he would be happy to share a well-written white paper on how to protect your business from hackers from that same Telco.

He encourages you to, “Demonstrate your expertise and forget about pushing self-promotional brochures.”

Today’s budgets are gradually moving towards providing good content—just not enough. The seduction is to avoid creating original content by professional writers in favour of buying cheap material that everyone’s seen before somewhere on the ‘net. People are smarter than that and expect more.

Marketers rely on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to improve search rankings, website traffic and lead generation. In June 2015 research by Ascend2, 72% of marketers cited relevant content creation as the most effective SEO tactic.

So, what are you going to write about?

First, you need to find the “why” and how it relates to your audience. That will be easier to do after you’ve identified your personas to satisfy the ABCs+ for your company.

A customer persona is more than a description of a target market. In addition to the traditional demographics, each profile describes:

  • A day-in-the-life
  • What keeps them up at night
  • Criteria they use to make a decision
  • Purchase cycle: impulse vs considered purchase and one-time vs recurring
  • Timeframe for making a purchase
  • Websites they frequent
  • Social footprint

The ABCs+ for your content 

Think about classifying your content into these categories: Acquaintances, Best friends, Champions, and Community. Your challenge is to create a digital hub that includes content to share, like, comment and refer on the social platforms. When content attracts and informs customers, it drives leads and sales.

Acquaintances. The first thing to appreciate in this group is that you barely know the person who has visited your website. Please don’t presume they immediately want to know you or like your message enough to purchase your products or services. They are researching other websites, too, and generally want to see value before returning for a follow-up visit. If they are intrigued enough to leave their email address, ask them a few discovery questions in your own lingo to know them better such as:

  • Have you identified a problem that needs a solution?
  • Is there a sense of urgency?
  • Have you had previous experience dealing with the same problem?
  • What will be the key factors driving your decision on this project?

Invest in this content:

  • Well-written blog
  • Infographics
  • E-books combined with video, audio, and written text
  • Landing page with CTA (Call-to-action)
  • Case studies
  • White papers
  • Curated content from quality sites such as

Best friends. Just like personal friends, your top customers are those you trust in the best–and the worst of times. These clients purchase your products and services while you help them to grow individually and professionally. You can feel comfortable asking your Best Friends in business for references and introductions to their networks.

Invest in this content:  

  • Live and on-demand video
  • Newsletters
  • Photo albums
  • Landing page with CTA (Call-to-action)
  • Webcasts
  • Podcasts
  • Short videos
  • Open sessions with thought leaders

Champions. Business champions are your board members, investors and ideal customers as well as leaders of commerce and the community in the media and in politics. They take exceptional interest in your success and evangelizes your ideas within their networks.

Invest in this content:

  • Digital publications featuring your champions and their missions
  • Annual reports with a video message from the president
  • References in your blogs etc. to their efforts
  • Annual thank-you slideshow

Community members: Fever Bee, the people who study website communities, reports that technology has not made us better at building communities. The key is authenticity in your relationships…respect for your fans and followers… and recognition there’s a human being on the other end of a Tweet or website query. Communities can increase customer loyalty, buying behaviour, brand advocacy, and the exchange of knowledge while reducing the tendency to engage in negative behaviours.”

Invest in this content:

  • Weekly video updates
  • Groups discussons on LinkedIn with trained leaders
  • Webinar sessions on Facebook with trained speakers
  • Hangouts with subject experts on Google+

The list of ideas grows daily.  I like what Guo Guangchang had to say in a blog recently posted on LinkedIn. “An opportunity sustains an enterprise for a year; good management sustains an enterprise for a decade; good corporate culture sustains an enterprise for a century.” Guo is the chairman of Chinese conglomerate Fosun International with assets of $160 billion under management.

Lifelong communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for over 21 years for business people. She is certified in Integrated Online Strategies from the University of San Francisco and the Instant Customer Mastery Certified Professional Program.


Speed to Market with Olivier Taupin

Social Media Stage 2: Distribution Networks

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here.

Business executives often want the secret to “going viral” for their brand when it comes to social media.

Yet, the concept of viral marketing is nothing more than “influencer marketing,” says Olivier Taupin who owns 100+ groups on LinkedIn with 1.4 million members. “There’s confusion about first steps, though,” says the social media expert. “People are doing tactics before setting up their distribution networks.”

A social media influencer can be defined in two ways: First, by the number of followers the person has on social media. Second, by the expertise demonstrated on their subject.

Last week in this blog, we talked about Stage One: Change the Mindset. We asked you to do these 3 things:

  1. Train your employees and trust them;
  2. Link everybody;
  3. Agree that responsibility for becoming the eyes and ears of a company belongs to everyone—not just the receptionist.

Stage 2: Establish your distribution networks 

The list of networks—each with its own personality, rules of engagement, and secrets to discover–now count over 800.  More are added weekly. The Big 5 are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Goooge+, and LinkedIn; Instagram and Pinterest are strong in certain categories and Periscope is picking up steam. LinkedIn and Twitter are the two networks we favour for C-Suite business in addition to requesting permission from employees to engage their personal networks on Facebook.

First: Find the influencers among your employees. These individuals could be authorities in a variety of subjects on Facebook and have major accounts on LinkedIn and Twitter. You will never know unless you carry out a social audit to discover how your employees participate in their networks. Also think about reaching out to customers, partners and sponsors who have the potential to become company champions.

Step 2:  Send a letter to all employees asking for help by explaining their contribution benefits everyone. Employees benefit by increasing their social influencer score for their own careers. Imagine the reach sparked by your company if 1,000 employees tweeted favourably on the arrival of a new vice president, launch of a new product or results of a community event hosted by your company. Think about the powerful reach when everyone retweets!

One way to find your influencers is to check for Klout scores. Klout is a number between 1 and 100 that represents social impact. The more influential you are, the higher your Klout where the ideal score is above 60.

On the company side, an organization benefits if employees agree to:

  • Use their personal Facebook accounts from time-to-time to like, share and comment about their place of work. Of course, this is delicate ground and all privacy settings must be respected;
  • Re-tweet, favourite, and comment on Twitter,
  • Like, share and comment their company’s LinkedIn updates.

Step 3: Educate your organization on influencer marketing and the use of social media. Here’s why:

  • Employees understand the culture and customers of their company;
  • Brands leverage word-of-mouth through personalities that consumers follow and admire;
  • Those with social authority have a wider reach. They often are researched by followers who value their opinion;
  • Content published by influencers is considered worth their followers’ time;
  • Influencers engage their followers on topics of mutual interest;
  • Experts keep themselves informed about their industry and form respected opinions on their industry.

Here’s an example of how influencer marketing worked beautifully for Technology Concepts Group (TCG) of Illinois which recently partnered with IBM. They collaborated in the development of Predictive Analytics and the new service was being launched at IBM’s conference that drew over 21,000 delegates with 200 breakout sessions, 13 keynotes and 3 general sessions.

We identified important technical bloggers inside and outside IBM as well as tech journalists. All were followed on the IBM Twitter conference hashtag with introductions carried over to LinkedIn. People watched the TCG story evolve and the owners found themselves with a growing list of contacts on both networks.

Step 4: Grow Distribution 

People expect brands to talk with them rather than at them. They no longer expect brands to sell to them, but to entertain and inform them. In every case, the CEO connects with key employees. Here’s 12 additional tips:

  1. On Twitter, all employees are encouraged to follow each other. Otherwise, people view you as a broadcaster who doesn’t really want to hear back from anyone. Networks are about engagement;
  2. Company champions are invited to like the company page on LinkedIn and FB;
  3. Encourage participation in industry conversation.This increases the chance that your Tweets will be seen – and that people who see it will follow you and become customers;
  4. Everyone is invited to use the #company and #division hashtags published on Twitter bios to make it easier to like, comment and share;
  5. LinkedIn does not fully support hashtags. Therefore, Olivier recommends creating a unique handle with a key word for participants in this professional network;
  6. Pay special attention to all those who retweeted and favourited comments on Twitter which helps to increase influence. Do the same for updates on LinkedIn and posts on FB. Remember it’s pay-to-play on FB;
  7. Annual general meetings give ample opportunity to recognize outstanding employees and important sponsors that lead to finding new customers;
  8. Establish a private group on LinkedIn and FB around interests of the company. Rather than using the name of your financial investment enterprise, create a group around retiring with wealth;
  9. On LinkedIn: Ensure your company is registered. Otherwise, employees cannot like the company page;
  10. All participants are encouraged to get 500 connections on LinkedIn. Unit heads help their employees to identify potential contacts;
  11. As ever, common sense prevails when involving the entire company and its wider community when sharing information, recognizing confidential documents, and posting personal images;
  12. Above all: Employees are reminded they are not being judged. However, they are asked to respect company social media policies by not posting personal comments on company time. 

The lines have blurred between offline and virtual life. This means there are many new opportunities to enhance your company by involving employees and champions as you grow together.

Lifelong communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for over 21 years for business people. She is certified in Integrated Online Strategies from the University of San Francisco and the Instant Customer Mastery Certified Professional Program.

Olivier Taupin and the Keystone Cops

Social Media Strategy Stage 1: Change Mindset

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here.

Keystone cops from the great silent-film comedies refer to, in this case, a lack of coordinated social media tactics performed with great zeal on behalf of your company. The term describes how nobody really understands what’s happening or gets where it’s all going.

“I see people doing tactics before setting up distribution networks,” says Olivier Taupin who owns 100+ groups on LinkedIn with 1.4 million members.  It’s better to first establish the proper mindset for social business as part of an overall strategy.

Here’s four more red lights the social media strategist encounters on a regular basis.

  • This increasingly common request: “We want you to manage our social media.” There’s great expectations for product launches and frantic calls to promote attendance at special events—yet, relationships haven’t been established to help share the messages on networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram and Pinterest. The CRM’s email database is incomplete, too.
  • We have an event in 2 weeks and need a Twitter campaign to fill the room.” Alarmingly, this is a familiar call. The challenge is the company has insufficient followers which often leads to reliance on the network belonging to their social media specialist. It never works because the vendor’s followers generally have nothing to do with your business. Don’t get us wrong: It is possible to generate much interest with little advance notice using certain tactics but those relationships are shaky and likely won’t last.
  • “We know our customers. We have a list.” You may know your clients well after years of long-time service but there will be trouble going forward finding new prospects. Customers retire…move on…change positions. You constantly need to develop the sales funnels and new prospects are living online.
  • My company doesn’t have a social media plan but I’m pretty good.” Yes, individuals may have connections here and there on various networks but the overall company is entirely disconnected. “The future belongs to the corporation that recognizes its strength is the sum of personal brands belonging to all who work there,” predicts Olivier.
  •  Hiring a social media manager to do it all does not work. If you assign all responsibility for social media to a single person, “You are setting up the social media manager for failure.” You might want to call the position a social media coordinator since it is not possible for one individual to do it all. “The good news is when 100 people send out 100 positive tweets about a product launch, the brand takes full advantage of the power of social media.”

Confusion also reigns when social media is not aligned with the corporate vision, mission, and strategic objectives. If all the departments are constantly tripping over each other, the promise of your brand becomes an empty pledge. Worse, a brand can derail.

Each department may be using social media but employees are using different networks for reasons known only to them. For example, branding gets confused when HR considers the company culture to be traditional in nature but IT staff regard themselves as forward thinking while PR delivers still another profile to investors and the media.

Sales Bench Index (SBI) echoes this message in How to make your number in 2016. This insightful report advised that, in 2001, “57% of the buyer journey was complete before a salesperson was actively involved in the process. By 2015, this number had reached 69%.” Content marketing did not work so well and neither did social selling or free trials—if these strategic plans masqueraded as strategy.

Departments were working in isolation and in conflict with one another. “…The wheels were all spinning, but not in the same direction,” noted SBI.

“It’s time to set up a collaborative group drawn from key departments,” says Olivier. “Social media is everybody’s business,” which means that representation comes from sales, marketing, operations, customer support, IT, and HR.

Before you start, here’s some guiding principles.

  1. Train your employees and then trust them. Host regular company webinars/seminars to update employees, deliver general information materials including the annual report and on-boarding guidelines, send event hashtags and photos for sharing to employees together with corporate identity logos.
  2. Link everybody. CEOs are linked to their direct report and one level lower. All employees are linked to their team lead who make up the umbrella group for social media. This helps the entire company know what each other is saying and doing in the networks, implement a rapid response strategy when required, and immediately handle customer service requests.
  3. We’re all receptionists emphasizes Olivier which means employees at all levels become the eyes and ears of the company. Where responsibilities previously were assigned to a single individual, “we’re all part of it.”

As to general social media policy, keep it simple, says Olivier:

  1. Confidential information is not shared;
  2. All shared information is positive;
  3. The corporate identity that includes logo, colours, and content previously approved by the company is available for publication;
  4. New material is passed by communications marketing or respective unit managers before publication;
  5. Comments align with the company culture outlined within the vision, mission, values, and current strategic objectives.

Now you’re ready for the 7-Point Setup Plan

  1. Conduct an audit. Learn which networks your employees have joined on behalf of the company, determine their activity level, and whether messages are aligned.
  2. Form a collaborative social media team with department heads to build an aligned and coordinated social media strategy.
  3. Set up personal profiles on selected networks for all executives who don’t have accounts including the CEO and members of the board.
  4. Set up the company page on LinkedIn.
  5. Position the Twitter account with an individual rather than the corporate logo.
  6. Set up profiles on LinkedIn for everyone in your business unit. If you have 100 people in a business unit, you have 100 LinkedIn profiles on LinkedIn and on Twitter.
  7. Ensure that everyone is linked together through the social media coordinator appointed by the collaboration team.

Next up: Build connections, followers and fans on each of the social channels. This helps with finding your existing customers online as well as attracting people with a potential interest in your business.

Lifelong communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for over 21 years for business people. She is certified in Integrated Online Strategies from the University of San Francisco and the Instant Customer Mastery Certified Professional Program.

What are you doing with all your contacts asks Olivier Taupin

You’ve got 5,000 social media contacts. Now what?

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here.

It’s a rare person in business who is content spending time making friends on social media without an endgame. You want to know there’s a reason for trading your precious hours for liking, sharing, and publishing endless blogs.

Yet, so many people are growing lists without seeing results. Who’s got the time to waste? Not you.

First, identify your motivations. Are you trying to boost your credibility among clients? Do you need to establish authority to attract investors? What about a higher public profile to book speaking engagements?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do you want to achieve with all those contacts on your lists?
  • Have you identified the characteristics of your ideal investor?
  • Do your contacts reflect the characteristics of your model customer?
  • What exactly do your customers want from you?
  • What have you prepared to offer them?
  • How will you deliver on your promise?

Next, determine the number of contacts you need to make and work back to see how you will meet those goals.

The 3-D Effect to growing your online business

“Make sure you’ve got the right 5,000 accounts,” says Olivier Taupin of Next Dimensions Media. Olivier owns 100+ groups on LinkedIn with 1.4 million members.

“What’s important to me is that the people make sense,” continues the social media thought leader. “If you were in the energy industry, and there was somebody in the hospitality sector who wanted to connect, it won’t work for you.” He recommends that you evaluate all your invitations by first studying their profiles.

What about those people who’ve viewed your profile. Should you invite them to connect? Yes, says Olivier.  If they align with your organization’s mission.

Olivier’s developed his own 3-D process to determine the value of a connection but cautions, “We live in an imperfect world, so each element is flexible.” His go-to tactics are published here for the first time.

  1. Industry. Start researching your preferred field of commerce. If you’re having challenges reaching into the auto industry, for example, discover who is speaking to your targeted dealer. It might be the tire people who will give you clues—including potential contacts.
  1. Function of the people you want to reach. Is the purchasing agent not available to you? Instead, try their colleagues for your second choice: people in marketing, production, or finance who might help get you a connection.
  1. Geography. Decide the range of of your business reach–from local to international. If it’s not possible to connect with HQ, try going through a local branch office to reach inside the company.

Now, you see the chief reason to have an overall strategy that involves your CEO and other key players in your organization. If you cannot connect with a preferred individual, perhaps your CEO can provide an introduction. Or someone else in the organization has a connection to help with the contact. This is where LinkedIn’s Navigator function serves larger organizations well to keep track of team interactions. It’s likely too expensive for small business who can do a lot at the freemium or premium level of service.

There’s also a great deal that can be done for free on Twitter. Or you can enhance your Twitter strategies by following Michael Kawula’s blog  and checking out his  software service at

Did your invitation get accepted? Good. Olivier relies heavily on the tag function in LinkedIn and the list function on Twitter to categorize contacts. Here’s the 3D Effect he personally uses to stay organized.

  1. Champions are your door openers and influencers at the level of CEO, VP, journalist, politician or industry influencer. Nurture these relationships by retweeting their comments and blogs and generally showing yourself to be a fan. Don’t ask them for favours or introductions to their world before you’ve first shown them a lot of respect.
  2. Prospects reflect the characteristics of your ideal customers in each of the niches you serve. Same idea here: Don’t ask for their business before you demonstrate your worth to them.
  3. VIPs are your customers or those you would love to have as customers. Say hello to these individuals on a regular basis and send them salutations. But not too often.
  4. Fans are people who want something from you. We are grateful for fans because they easily like your posts…share your content…and comment on your insights.

Share respect for people online 

“One of the biggest problems I see,” says Mr. Taupin: “People look at who I know and ask for an introduction to someone on my list. But I don’t even know the person asking for the connection.”

This also is the #1 complaint reported by HubSpot from successful people like venture capitalist Mark Shuster and entrepreneur Paul Brunson: “We need to give (many times) before asking for anything. We need to provide value up front.”

Take a look at their L.O.V. Graph showing how to “add value”.  HubSpot published their insightful graph that visualizes ways to strengthen relationships. The inbound marketing agency says that sharing value six times gives you a 50% chance of getting some form of response. Increase that shared value to nine times before asking for something gives you a 90% chance of getting what you want.

Here’s some ideas on how to show the love.

  • Introduce them to someone
  • Appreciate them
  • Offer your expertise for FREE
  • Make them laugh
  • Add value through social media
  • Comment on their blog
  • Feature them in an article you write
  • Buy them a book (Kindle is easiest)
  • Give them insightful feedback on their product, company, or work

Final counsel from Olivier Taupin: “Don’t try to sell me today or you’ll get kicked out.” That’s old style.

Instead, demonstrate your worth by showing you’ve thought about their challenge enough to have worked out a solution beforehand. Give to get.

Lifelong communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for over 21 years for business people. She is certified in Integrated Online Strategies from the University of San Francisco and the Instant Customer Mastery Certified Professional Program.

Olivier Taupin

Why more contacts in LinkedIn means better business

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here.

“Social media is perfect for small and medium-sized business,” says the man connected with more than 1.4 million people through groups he created on LinkedIn. “The key for them is to build local.”

Seattle resident Olivier Taupin is on the phone with me from Paris. It’s been five years since last we chatted, at length, and, today, we’re catching up on how business is conducted using modern sales and marketing. We met again on Twitter.

Olivier is the founder of 100+ LinkedIn groups and subgroups including Linked:HR, the largest professional group in the network with more than 975,000,000 members; Linked:Energy has 220K members and 121k people joined Next Dimension Careers. LinkedIn caps group membership at 1 million.

Is growing LinkedIn worth your time?

I’ll get to the question up front that business people regularly ask me about LinkedIn: Is it possible to be profitable? Yes, says Olivier. The key is to grow your groups, though. Yet, many thousands of group owners don’t have enough members to attract the interest of potential sponsors which is how business often is conducted on LinkedIn. He offers these ideas to monetize your efforts:

  • Weekly announcements sponsored by large companies;
  • Market research;
  • Sponsorship of sub groups;
  • Organization of free events including webinars;
  • Hosting of live events;
  • Promotion of social media content such as white papers podcasts and webcasts.

This doesn’t even touch the individual relationships you can build over time.

Small business typically doesn’t deal on a global scale says the partner in Next Dimension Media with offices in the U.S. and Europe. He also knows that smaller companies don’t have the budgets to hire marketers; sales people build relationships to grow the business. Except, now it’s understood that today’s new social sellers also need lots of content to publish online.

Social selling needs content

The challenge is that sales people often dislike taking the time to write copy; they want to spend their time selling. On the other hand notes Olivier, “The problem with writers is they’re not always good at building business relationships.” It’s the reason that sales and marketing departments need to work more closely together.

It’s also the reason he partnered with Dave Sumner Smith and Mike Briercliffe in Next Dimension Media. Sumner Smith ran The Sunday Times Enterprise Network in the UK & Ireland and The Daily Telegraph Business Club while Briercliffe won the B2B Prize in the 2011 International Golden Twitter Awards.

It’s a great partnership, says Olivier. “They didn’t know how to grow communities (on LinkedIn). I didn’t know about content…and content is key.”

Who should you reach with your message? “Target, target, target,” says the renowned expert in social media management. “Start with finding influencers in your region and your industry and then look for the job function that’s important for your business.” He recommends using the Boolean search method which allows you to combine keywords with AND, OR, NOT to find relevant results.

Social networking changed the game

Oil sands industry consultant Ken Chapman was most prescient in 2010 when he introduced Olivier and social media to my magazine’s readers. He said, “The Internet culture hates broadcasting and spam but it loves authentic virtual relationships and those generate word-of-mouth messaging from friends and influentials.”

Ken, no slouch in the online world, added this observation at the time: “The principles of engagement are just as they are in the traditional golf clubs, professional lunches, and industry conferences and conventions.”

Olivier started his group for human resources professionals in 2007 when he needed a job. He had a car accident and was out of work for two years, a lifetime in high-tech where he worked with disc drives and modems. He used the group to network with potential recruiters. “LinkedIn was already the best engine to find the job I was looking for and managing large groups helped demonstrate my social media expertise.”

Here’s 8 more tips on social selling from Olivier

  1. Expect to build relationships slowly. Getting people to know and trust you doesn’t happen over-night in personal dealings. The same is true for developing online business networks.
  2. Keep widening your circle of contacts. The more relevant connections, the better. Even though you don’t know them on an individual basis, the better chance you have reaching the people you’re targeting. It will take you a while to reach 30K contacts, the limit set by LinkedIn.
  3. Stop joining groups that reflect your own profession. LinkedIn allows you to join 50 groups, so it’s a good idea to sign up where your prospects are doing business.
  4. Be consistent with your content. Publish on a regular basis and approach your contacts with content that answers their questions. For example, Pulse is LinkedIn’s self-publishing platform generally related to ad tech marketing, finance, career development and professional growth. Expect longer blogs and a higher quality of writing on this platform.
  5. An hour a day. Invite people to your group every day and then look after them with information, advice, and ideas to help with their challenges.
  6. Think of social media managers as the “farmers of the Internet”. Their job is to find the best prospects for sales people who need to be regarded as the expert.
  7. The new VP Sales is somebody who can jump on the data. This person analyzes data to find influencers and helps sales people to connect with them.
  8. Your current customers are your champions. Look after your existing clients by finding them on such networks as Twitter and Facebook and support their efforts.

Final thoughts for business people who want to achieve more success using modern marketing?

“Train your top management in the world of social enterprise,” says Olivier. Next, develop your social media policies and “don’t be afraid to find people within your organization” to build a social media culture.

Finally, choose your best networks wisely, develop policies and, “Teach your employees how to use those networks properly” for the success of everyone involved with the company.

Next up for Oliver? Well, the social media evangelist tells me he’s aiming for 50K followers on Twitter by the end of the year.

Lifelong communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for over 21 years for business people. She is certified in Integrated Online Strategies from the University of San Francisco and the Instant Customer Mastery Certified Professional Program. 

HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan

Modern marketing says to blog…and you don’t have time!

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here.

“Don’t bring up the word ‘blog’ to me anymore,” said a rather ruffled wealth management CEO,” in a discussion about sales and marketing. “I don’t have time.”

I hear the complaint every day. This executive knows that writing is time consuming and he’s not clear about results for all the effort. He would rather pick up the phone and make arrangements for lunch or have his assistant set up a list of appointments for an upcoming sales trip.

It reminds me of a high-end retailer who once told me that he didn’t need to advertise in my print magazine for clients because his relationships were developed on the golf course. He was right, of course—until his funnel of golfing clients started drying up due to retirement or company “right sizing.”

Of course, younger executives are not in the habit of answering the telephone, at all. You want an appointment? Protocol says to ask for a meeting—either on mobile, by Skype, or in person—through email or a business platform such as LinkedIn. Except you don’t have their email address…and they’re not about to answer a query from someone they don’t know or trust. Your message falls into junk mail.

Yes, prospecting for new customers is more complicated.

Southwest Airlines VP of Communications and Strategic Outreach Linda Rutherford said,“The way the world used to be, when you tuned into television news, 90% of the population saw it. That’s simply not the world of today. There are so many different ways to reach people, to share with them, and to tell them about your brand.”

Jerome Hiquet, Vice-President of Marketing at Club Med North America agreed with her in the same discussion: “Customers are multi-channel, they use lots of channels to reach us…To engage, we must be everywhere…”

High quality blogs establish credibility 

Blogs are an integral channel today because every new piece of content helps to index your company website pages on Google. It’s how your website gets placed at the top of a Google search without paying for advertising. And if your blog, website and social media are set up properly, you’re able to capture email addresses and mobile numbers of those who may want to stay in touch with you over time. Blogs also help to convey professional credibility on LinkedIn and Twitter.

There’s  a catch, though: The content is not about you or your products and services.  It’s really the opposite of old-school selling.

Here’s an example of what that means. I recently noticed a business client who launched a new service. They decided to promote the initiative on their website.  Great, right?

But this particular business never blogs. The only time they promote something is when they have something to sell. Trouble here is they don’t attract visitors because the people they want to reach don’t really know you so well.

Here’s 3 steps to remember when you start a blog.

  1. It’s not about you, your products or your services: People won’t buy from you just because you think they should do so. Writing for your audience is harder than it sounds say many pros. Great content helps your audience and engages them in a human or emotional way. Most marketing content is self-promotional and boring, and that’s why it largely gets ignored.
  2. Strive for reliability: Writing with regularity suggests that your audience can depend on you and trust the source. It shows you’re trying. If it’s October and your most recent blog post is two years ago, that’s a problem. It makes readers feel like you don’t care about your business.
  3. Find your own voice: Writing with regularity helps develop a style. Again, individuals cannot begin to know and trust you, if you show up late or when the mood strikes. Relationships are strengthened when your friends know they can count on you.

Blogs mean business

Need more evidence?  HubSpot is a company that tracks relationships between marketing activities, the volume of traffic, and leads that correlate with those activities. CEO Brian Halligan (pictured above) saw his company’s 2014 revenue score of $115.9 million–up 49 percent compared to the year prior–show these sample results.

  • Companies that blog 15 or more times per month get 5x more traffic than companies that don’t blog
  • The average company with 100 or more total blog articles is more likely to experience continued growth in prospects.
  • B2C companies see a 59% increase in traffic after growing total blog articles from 100 to 200 total.

Think you don’t have time to blog? Try trading in the time you spend trying to connect using old-school methods with some new ways that work today.\\

Need help with modern marketing? Contact me through LinkedIn or by

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.

Need a vacation? Automate your markeiting.

Need a vacation? Automate your marketing.

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here.

As a business owner, you don’t want to abandon your business relationships while out exploring Banff for a week or travelling to Europe for a month. Neither do I.

It’s the reason I appreciate lead nurturing. This digital marketing technique is used to understand when and how clients prefer to make a purchasing decision. Automated lead nurturing helps make those vacations possible.  

Here’s how.

1. People like to work with those they trust. The first time someone visits your website, they probably don’t know you so well. Lead nurturing embedded with useful content is an opportunity to show that you are an expert in your field.

2. Learn more about your prospects. What challenges are they facing? What features or products are they interested in? A free Needs Assessment downloaded from your website, blog or social media saves time for you—as well as for your prospects—by providing you with the insights to start a more insightful discovevery.

Automated marketing helps make vacations possible

3. People don’t always answer their phone for a chat.  We hear this complaint all the time these days, especially from mature business people. A series of emails built around helpful hints or industry updates shows your comprehension of the world that appeals to your contacts.

4. Once you set up an automatic email system, the emails do the work for you by helping to move leads down the sales funnel faster. This means your contacts might move from total disinterest to curiosity to eventually closing a deal with you. There are many automated systems from which to choose and I happen to use Instant Customer created by Mike Koenigs.

How do you start automatic marketing?

  1. Try sending general educational emails that feature the value your company has to offer. These emails should not be sales-driven. For example, the messages could offer people links to more whitepapers, blog articles, and videos that you genuinely believe will be helpful to the recipients’ needs and goals.
  1. Next, send emails with more specific information. If you’re a sporting goods manufacturer, for instance, don’t just send emails that sell your equipment. Instead, try to teach people new techniques related to working out.
  1. Did a lead click on product information in an email or on your website? Then, perhaps, that person would be interested in checking out a demo or receiving a free trial offer to know your company better. Send them an email invitation to a demo. You might even ask if it’s an opportune time to schedule a phone call or an in-person meeting.

This is a good time to remind you that social networks such as LinkedIn for business are exactly that—a place for networking says Melonie Dodaro. She’s Top Dog at:

Test the frequency level your prospects will tolerate. Weekly is good, yet, a specific campaign might need daily updates–evenly hourly–leading up to a special  event. The take-a-way here is that lead nurturing needs patience. It’s important to remember not to rush into the sale. Instead, let it take its natural course. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different times.

Time to personalize your email 

If a prospect has gone down the sales funnel, it may be a good idea to schedule a more personal and targeted email, perhaps from a sales team member.

That way, the lead gets a more personal touch, has a chance to ask specific questions, and gets to talk to a real person rather than being a part of an email group. It gives you a chance to offer extra attention to a potential customer who becomes an actual customer.

  • If possible, include a photo of a real person rather than a generic mailing list. Also, make sure your “reply-to” address is a real person. This lets people know that you care about hearing from them by allowing them to reply to a real person.
  • Keep a list of additional resources, influential bloggers, and white papers handy to send to your prospects. They might appreciate the content and check out the suggested resources you have curated for them.

Social media supports your brand

You may or may not sell a great deal using social media but relevant platforms will support your direct messages using email. The two channels complement each other and help you stay top-of-mind within your market.

Social media is a great way to stay in touch with leads over time and keep them updated on your business.

Go ahead. Take your vacation.


Need help with modern marketing? Contact me through LinkedIn or by

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.

Anita Kozlowski

Losing deals? Neuropsychology + social selling = better results

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

“If I fail, I am dead,” thought Bill who sold insurance.

Bill’s mind was busy recalling the criticism he heard from the age of five. The reproaches carried into his adult life where he literally froze at times when making sales presentations to clients.

We hear it all the time. “I’m an (accountant…lawyer…business owner…artist…pick your profession). However, I am NOT a sales person.” Selling suffers from a bad rap as described by Jeoffrey James, contributing editor at 

“It’s a form of resistance,” says neuropsychologist and internationally licensed NLP trainer Anita Kozlowski pictured above.  “Resistance is fear based. People do what they do because of feelings they have.”

Neurolinguistic programming is a branch of life sciences that deals with behaviour and how we learn. Anita, who trains therapists around the world, founded Structural Psychology Systems for Change. It’s designed to maximize the potential of the human brain for learning. By the way, this is one smart gal with a Mensa score of 198 and, if you’re wondering, Mensa considers those with a score above 160 to be a genius.

Neuropsychology and social selling

Anita also loves coaching business people, especially those in sales. She explains why some people sell a lot and others don’t. Here are 3 reasons that account for lost sales combined with her recommended treatments–and a few best practices from social selling.

1. Fear of rejection. This fear often arises during a first connection because a sales person does not know how to begin the conversation. Any of these self-doubts sound familiar?

  • I will make a fool of myself
  • I will blow it
  • I don’t know what to say

In order for these narratives to take shape, sales people imagine themselves smaller and less significant than the buyer. The buyer has all the power and they are at the mercy of the buyer’s decision.

Anita’s help: To alleviate this problem, a lot of things need to change: first, the individual must find what the master trainer calls the “subconscious I am”. Stay with me because this is esoteric stuff.

Next, she wants to alter the internal dialogue, the accompanying imagery, and the feelings that emerge. Anita wants you to, “Get out of your own way,” and she’s got strategies to help.

Social selling tip: We see poor introductions in social networks all the time, especially LinkedIn for business. Contacts often rely on the LinkedIn default message that reads: “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” Instead, take time to read a prospect’s profile, find an intriguing descriptor, and refer to that detail in your introductory conversation.

2. Fear of Success. Any of these lines sound familiar?

  • I may not be able to stay on top, so I better avoid getting there;
  • Being alone on top of the mountain means I will be so much better than my friends or family. They may not want to be around me;
  • What’s left for me after achieving all my success?
  • I may have to work long hours and miss out on my family time or other things I love doing;
  • I may succeed but what if I make a wrong decision and choose the wrong success? I may miss out on other possibilities;
  • I am not sure where am I going.

Anita’s help: In this case, a sales person does not have clearly defined goals or a goal-setting strategy; a powerful “why” needs to be applied. There’s methodologies for this treatment, too. Unspecified goals cannot be successfully achieved. Goals that are unsupported by a strong “why” are not real goals.

This person must rewire their identity statement to: “I am capable and I have the skills to do it.”  Someone who perceives the “road to get there” as painful needs to be shown how small, manageable steps can be used to accomplish the most complex task.

“The reason for wanting to achieve the goal is the real goal,” says Anita.

Anita’s help: All goals are positioned on a timeline. We have a representation of where the future, the past, and now is. Sometimes a goal is positioned out of alignment with the future, and the person misses it. The shift has profound and lasting impact in all aspects of life which leads to a person becoming more effective, focused, confident and powerful.

Social selling: Dig deeper into finding the greater good around your product or service that is beneficial for all or most members of a given community. Discover the tie-in to your customer’s core values and explain the correlation. For example, selling a home equipped with eco-friendly designs contributes to a safer world…or updated SasS (software-as-a-service) leads to happier, less stressed employees better able to manage their workload.

3. Not closing the deal. People fail to close the sale for three reasons:

  • Fear of rejection
  • Afraid of taking advantage of the customer and feeling guilty
  • Not feeling worthy of success

Rejection becomes their reality and these people master the art of projecting the awful thing that is going to happen. They effectively created a movie in their mind—with a bad ending. The feeling of failure is fully present, the images vivid and the feeling of despair well accessed. Anita says, “Changing the script of your mind is as easy as changing a movie script.”

Anita’s help: Redirecting attention to the customer is a more effective strategy than replaying internal movies of the mind. Besides, it takes adequate planning to feel bad.

Social selling: Aim for authenticity in your dealings. This means being honest, inclusive, refreshingly to the point, insightful and occasionally, a little edgy. Steer clear of being artificial, judgmental, insecure, timid or gimmicky. Clarity is captivating—it makes us want to follow your parade.

In the case of Bill? Anita tells me they worked to change his self-perception by setting powerful goals supported by a strong WHY, and role playing interactions with various clients.

Bill became a top producer in his company.


Need help with modern marketing? Contact me through LinkedIn or by

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.

Quartz 2015

Survey says: Busy bosses like a newsletter

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here.

Newsletters are hot again.

We can tell because Forbes top social media influencer Kim Garst delivered a training session on newsletters for her Inner Circle (including me) last week. She joins a host of trustworthy experts who agree this digital device will help grow your business.

Seriously, newsletters? Isn’t that what your parents did back in the 80s?

Over the years, I’ve seen how newsletters helped nurture relationships with customers, motivate employees and, yes, make money for a company. Resuts are bigger than blowing your own horn over the latest new product on the shelf. Newsletters are the epicentre of what we’re all trying to do with social media—communicate and build a community.

Research carried out this year by The Quartz Global Executives Study of 940 decision makers revealed how the “world’s smartest, busiest people consume news every day, source and share industry intelligence, and respond to advertising.” Julia Hobsbawm pictured above is at the Quartz’s forum about the next billion people to come online for the first time, largely on mobile phones. It was held in London on May 19. The hashtag is #qznextbillion.

Here’s a few stats from the study:

  • 60% of executives read an email newsletter as one of their first three news sources checked daily. Next popular is to open a browser (43%) followed by a news app (28%) and, third, a news site on desktop (16%);
  • 44% of executives are most focused on news immediately upon on waking up. The majority spend about 30 minutes updating themselves;
  • Overall 91% of executives would share work-related content if they found it to be valuable. They almost equally share by desktop and mobile device;
  • On print news organizations: 61% of executives still pay for print news. Why? Because (46%) are keen on monitoring brand reputation;
  • Executives are keen on industry analysis (68%) that references new products, innovations, and leadership insights.

Here’s something else that will surprise “culture snackers” or those who view images and share them with friends and followers. Chartbeat found that longer articles are not to be feared. “Readers recognize quality immediately.”

Yes, it’s a good idea to get the newsletter back into the content mix. Only this time, think about adding email automation and social media to the equation.

Collaboration kills silos

Development of a newsletter can even help break down ugly silos–that mindset where certain key people prefer to control rather than share information with others in the company.

Silos can take shape in any department: sales, marketing, customer service, and IT. Instead of having each group develop their own strategic plans, challenge them to ask questions that serve customers, recognize employees, and share leadership thoughts. They can think about these 5 questions:

  • Are we convenient to deal with?
  • Do our customers have success stories to share?
  • Are our products, services, and marketing offers relevant to our customers?
  • Do we respond to their needs and questions in a timely and helpful way?
  • Do they believe what we promise?

This type of collaboration requires employees to find the harmony in a song. It’s also imperative that leadership agrees to a common and unified vision for the organization that informs the newsletter and all other content published by the company.

A common goal. Sometimes, it’s easy to trip over personal priorities. Participants can’t get overly precious about their own pet projects. It’s up to leadership to stay true to the unified vision that encourages collaboration and find the motivation that pursues a common goal. Organizations need someone to orchestrate the cross-channel experience, even if they don’t own it.

The Big “Mo”. I first heard this phrase from Success magazine publisher Darren Hardy. You know when you’ve got it because it’s a big WOW!  Everything sizzles. It’s like my fashion retail client Leila Gumpinger who dug deep to find what makes her heart beat faster: “It feels so great…to get recharged with excitement of possibilities.”

What really defines a great leader is one who knows how to communicate the single most important message effectively to various audiences. Once the common goal has been identified, each member of the management team must encourage their employees to join the party.

Back to some best practices for your newsletter

  1. Don’t trick your readers in the subject line. The subject line naturally leads into the story that follows. A subject line that misrepresents subsequent content could upset your readers who may not come back because they feel tricked to click.
  1. Maximum 45 to 55 characters in your subject line. The secret here is the right-size subject line results in being readable in full on most smartphones.
  1. Personalise the newsletter sign-up process by asking readers about their interests. Here’s a caveat, though: some say more personalization, the better. Others insist that adding steps to the sign-up process causes potential subscribers to abandon the process. Picking up on reader insights, by the way, can occur over time.
  1. Don’t play hide-and-seek with sign-up buttons. A mistake writers often make is they think readers consume every precious phrase they’ve ever composed. Position a sign-up button on every single page of your website, for example, with an offer to sign up for your newsletter.
  1. Design your newsletters in a mobile-friendly fashion. Make sure your subscribers can easily read articles and click links when viewing your e-newsletters on their mobile devices.

 Make it easy as possible for decision makers to do business with you. Give them a newsletter.


Need help with modern marketing? Contact me through LinkedIn or by email:

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.

How to sell your businss

How to sell your $million business & retire: A case study

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more Modern marketing strategies for business here.

“Did you have a plan in place when you decided to sell?” I asked newly retired business owner Sharon Romank.  We were musing over the recent sale of her multi-million dollar self-storage company.

The veteran entrepreneur winked at me across the dinner table and smiled. “Yes, I did.”

Full disclosure here: Sharon and I have been lifelong friends. We attended high school together and I watched the budding entrepreneur open her first start-up during university. It was a roller skating rental business during the days when the sport was hot. After picking up a degree in home economics, she travelled the world with a knap sack, articled at a management consulting firm, and worked as a show researcher for a local Martha-Stewart-type radio personality. Her MBA came later.

The idea for a new company sprang in 1988 when a property manager noticed the lack of storage in downtown Edmonton.  It wasn’t long before an old warehouse was spruced up and the Affordable Storage sign displayed prominently on the four-storey brick building. They provided space for files, equipment, commercial inventories, and household goods. The enterprise grew to include five facilities with a reputation for excellent service, trained staff, cleanliness, and top-notch security. Sharon wanted to change the way self-storage was offered to home owners and business clients by “delighting” them with a new type of experience that was spotless and felt safe.

She raised a family of three children through those years and nurtured a long history of giving back to her community, primarily through Rotary. But her marriage also ended. Sharon kept ownership of two sites after the divorce including the state-of-the art Sherwood Park property. Fifteen years after the facility was built on vacant land, Sherwood Park found itself in a premium location and ready for sale. Sharon wanted to retire from the demanding life of business ownership.

Successful women in business

Sharon belongs to that too rare assemblage of women in business who made the jump from small home-based initiative to a corporation with distinction.  I believe we need to celebrate and encourage this type of achievement. So, I celebrate Sharon and take delight in knowing that she realized her exit strategy. This new stage allows her to assist Rotary with their annual medical missions, and to spend more time with family and new husband.

How did she plan for the sale?

1. Budget. The entrepreneur first prepared with a major renovation of the 2.8 acre facility with 480 units and retail store. She developed a financial plan to refurbish the reception area, new office space, security system, mechanical systems, landscaping, and site elements such as driveways, parking, and walkways. Sharon got the place in shape.

2. Solid management: Sometimes a decision to sell must look beyond spreadsheets and databases to people. All the ideas in the world won’t make it off the ground with indifferent employees. The owner treated her general manager and staff with understanding and a sense of fair play, offered employee training and coaching, and she always said, “Thank you.” Leadership pays dividends.

3. Good management begets well-organized books. Sharon excelled where financials, policies and operations were tracked on many levels. Buyers will do their own due diligence to understand the potential for the purchase and this type of knowledge helps to facilitate negotiations with buyers.

4. A marketing SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats). This is where I came into the picture.

Sharon had defined her Vision and Mission statements 15 years earlier. Her vision had never really changed–yet, her current employees were not privy to her original thoughts. So, we peeled back her purpose to reveal short- and long-term sales and marketing objectives for the company. This process helped everyone to gain clarity of expectations, understand their personas (updated target markets for digital marketing) and drill down to the consistent messages for posting to the various mediums relevant to the company.

Here’s how it evolved:

Vivid Vision with owner and staff. Digging a bit deeper into surface-level questions went a long way towards creation of an effective and authentic communications marketing strategy. Since Affordable did not need to bolster its sales, the focus settled on deepening relationships with businesses in the ‘hood and the wider community.

Company values. As a contributor to the world, the values of Sharon and staff needed to be embedded into the foundation of the sales and marketing plan. Staff researched potential relationships with local nonprofits while Sharon maintained her efforts on behalf of global charities. Giving back contributes to overall wellness on the part of employees as well as to staff retention.

Defined personas.This was an early first step to define the characteristics of their clients. We wanted to know about customer attitudes towards the company; tangible and intangible rewards that customers believed they received from Affordable; knowledge of websites that customers preferred to visit before making a decision to join Affordable Storage.

Enhanced internal communications with existing customers/increased external communications with the community. A newsletter delivered by an automated email system kept customers conversant on seasonal improvements to the site; offered a chance to recognize customers and partners through story telling; promoted company events such as a new Community Garage Sale initiated by staff.

Editorial plan for postings across channels. In addition to the newsletter, content was repurposed for the company’s social media platforms which included Twitter and Facebook. Sharon understood that all of these efforts meant nothing if they were not made known to customers as well as to the wider community—and to potential buyers.

Close eye on measurements. There wasn’t any sales or marketing component that escaped scrutiny. A red alarm system was esablished for everyone to take immediate action if sales dropped below a pre-determined level…open rates for the newsletter were monitored and celebrated, especially when they hit 49%…and staff were rewarded when conditions exceeded expectations.

Here’s to a successful retirement, Sharon!



Need help with modern marketing? Contact me through LinkedIn or by email:

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.

Karen Unland with Shelly Barless of Dust Queen Maid

The Age of Collaborative Marketing

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

“It’s nonsense to believe that selling has fundamentally changed, just as it is nonsense to believe advertising is dead,” pushed back a reader from last week’s blog. You may recall I had reviewed Darren Hardy’s CD interview with Jeoffrey James and Todd Duncan on how the “Internet of Things” affected sales over recent years.

Darren’s empire now includes a print magazine titled Success that reaches 2 million readers, a social media following with 216K followers on Twitter, 289K on Facebook, and over 17K on LinkedIn. He also blogs, email markets, and publishes CDs, DVDs, digital downloads, and ebooks.

I believe the reader missed the point.

Fundamental elements of sales—as well as marketing—remain the same. Yet, there are tools combined with an emerging culture that are best embraced if business leaders don’t want to get left behind. After all, the Internet made its appearance over an entire generation ago.

The same is true for advertising as my agitated reader pointed out. Yet, I am not one of those who believes that print is dead—or that social media should stand alone to achieve results.

Integrate mature media with modern sales and marketing

Even Melonie Dodaro, author of The LinkedIn Code, with more than 24K connections, recommends taking it offline to advance a deal. Melonie joins fellow LinkedIn superstars Jill Rawley, Darren Hardy and Brendon Burchard in the network’s most viewed category with a pooled list of more than 72K contacts.

On the traditional side of media, the combined print circulation numbers for the Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald newspaperssomewhere north of 200K every day—are not to be ignored.

It’s the reason I was delighted to know that Postmedia Team Lead Karen Unland included a quote from a recent blog of mine with those from 5 other entrepreneurs in her Capital Ideas blog. Karen’s photo is pictured above with Shelly Barless of Dust Queen Maid. The digital journalist’s post invites readers to like, share or comment according to the customs of social media. She also plans to run her blog with our contributions in the newspaper in coming weeks.

Capital Ideas started in 2012 to foster the, “Exchange of practical know-how…to create a marketplace of ideas for seekers and sharers of business expertise.” Video of the staged events are posted on The Edmonton Journal’s YouTube channel and also are converted to an audio file.

It’s a generous offer—if carefully constructed.

For example, we engaged slightly different collaborative efforts with my first digital business five years ago. Experts in the wellness space were invited to share content with their respective customers. Sometimes, it worked to everyone’s benefit, if the messages were relevant.

I do the same thing today inside Kim Garst’s Inner Circle. Kim is a power influencer on Facebook and counts over 300K Twitter followers. She has over 400 digital members in her Circle and we share each other’s posts on the various networks every week to grow our respective businesses.

Lessons learned about collaboration

Here’s 6 good tips to consider before emabarking on a collaboration of efforts.

1. Alignment. It works best if participants have similar ideas of what success means to each other. For example, our wellness experts would not share a message about surgical facelifts with their clients if their audience was passionate about holistic health.The same is true for traditional media. We would not seek coverage in a magazine about holistic health care if we were representing a surgical dermatologist.

2. Goal setting. It’s useful to write down exactly what you expect from a collaboration: does it mean straight forward sharing of posts or building a joint customer list using automated email marketing with personalized messages. Kim Garst calls it a “pinky promise” and her goal is simple: if group members tweet our posts, we promise to return the favour.

3. Expect value. Ask yourself how your clients will benefit from knowing about ideas and services from others using either marketing method. Not clear? Walk away. Trust and integrity are big here: how well do your proposed partners take care of their membership? A good idea is join their list to see how they care for their own customers before you make a decision to collaborate.

What about that radio show or Direct TV campaign—either on traditional airways or the web? What type of listeners and viewers call in to those shows? Is your message relevant?

4. Be the first to help. Evaluate what you have to offer a potential partner before making the first move out of the blue. Take an inventory of your assets and brainstorm some ideas before you make the connection. Once an opportunity is revealed, be sure to treat that company’s customers like gold — just as you would want them to treat yours.

Revisions to your Big Plan will be a living process. It takes time to succeed—maybe stumble a few times—before a rhythm is found. This could take weeks, possibly years, to cultivate into its maximum potential.

5. Follow up. Reputation is integral. This is your chance to fulfill a promise and be the catalyst for change, rather than settling in and waiting for the world to roll your way.

Sales and marketing have not fundamentally changed. Nor has advertising. Each discipline has evolved in powerful ways for those who refuse to be left behind.


Need help with modern marketing? Contact me through LinkedIn or by email:

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.

Always be closing

Sign of a 21st century sales jerk: Always be closing

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

We’ve heard this warning from every corner of the social selling world: drop the ABC or Always be Closing style of sales; it’s over. Instead, develop this new method of ABC: Always be Connecting, as coined by Jill Rowley.

The old mantra was based on a satirical speech delivered by Alec Baldwin in the movie, Glengarry Glen Ross, pictured above.  It contributed to the reason we have such a jaundiced view of selling said contributing editor Jeoffrey James.  He and sales trainer Todd Duncan were interviewed last month by Darren Hardy, that wildly successful publisher of Success magazine.

I’ve followed Hardy since 2010 when he appeared with Brendon Burchard in San Francisco. He inspired me with The Compound Effect, a book describing the principle of reaping huge rewards from a series of small, smart choices; a copy remains in clear view on my desk. I also identified with him because of the shared experience in magazine publishing.

His empire now includes a magazine that reaches 2 million readers, a social media following with 216K followers on Twitter, 289K on Facebook, and over 17K on LinkedIn. Plus he’s extracted the best strategies around for creating new media that include blogs, email marketing, CDs and DVDs, digital downloads, and ebooks.

Yes, I’m a fan. So many traditional print publishers have not transitioned so fast—or so well –when it comes to modern marketing.

Sales and The Internet of Things 

Hardy’s interview with Duncan and James dealt with how the “Internet of Things” affected sales over recent years. There was no surprise when Duncan said these fundamentals had not altered:

  • acquire new customers;
  • optimize the experience;
  • retain and cultivate existing clients;
  • increase the value of each customer.

What sales people need to change, says Duncan:

  • see customers as real people;
  • strive to find a noble purpose as it relates to your product or service;
  • accept how social media gives your customers a megaphone when it comes to relaying good or bad experiences;
  • avoid non-performing activities. Take advantage of automation tools for email marketing and social media;
  • focus on taking care of those clients who love you the most;
  • follow up.

The new sales model

What will sales look like in five years? Here’s Darren Hardy’s take and, I believe, we’ve already started to see the shift.

  1. There will be fewer traditional sales people for these three reasons:
  • outdated prospecting methods will have lower yields—since direct sales will become cost prohibitive;
  • fewer client meetings take place because clients have less time for face-to-face relationships;
  • a preference to eliminate the middle person. Buyers will look for ways to go direct to manufacturers leading to fewer sales people on the road.

2. More ways to connect means the days of the big whale sales hunter are over. The sales farmer gains momentum with in-house support from account managers or client relations people. Teams edge out the lone game hunter.

3. Compensation models change. Given the collaborative way of sales management, commissions will be shared among all team members.

Things that won’t change.

 1. Urgency trumps process: Customers want to solve their problems now, so companies positioned for rapid response will be able to capitalize on opportunities while others get left behind. Think about fast-tracking signatures using automated sales proposals and e-signatures which the Aberdeen Group advocates.

2. Qualification of high-value prospects drives faster growth. Effective target filters will be required to sort through a dearth of leads. This means targeting prospects using tools such as Socedo to scan for leads that fill the pipeline.

3. Communications skills increase in importance.  The need to improve writing, speaking, and publishing skills increases in importance at all levels. Companies, please take note: If your sales people don’t have strong writing skills, it’s your job to provide editing assistance or to supply content for distribution by your teams.

4. Trust trumps facts. Much of the need for speed-to-results will be based on good listening skills and trust over the delivery of factual information. Read soft skills: social graces, interpersonal relationships, attitudes that make someone a good employee to work with, managing people, and leadership.

5. Proven speed-to-results will earn higher prices than those that take longer periods of time. This requires focus, skills with automation tools, and flat-line management.

Glengarry Glenn Ross is long gone.


Need help with modern marketing? Contact me through LinkedIn or by email:

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.

Kim Garst

Get real–or risk killing your brand

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

We hear the phrase “authentic behaviour” repeated everywhere today. It’s a contemporary expression heard in the media…at the office…and, this week, in a branding meeting for a university. Yet, I’m wondering who understands what being “authentic” really means.

Mature business people grew up knowing that advertising, promotions and public relations were not always authentic. Business leaders spent their entire lives positioning their company in the best possible light by omitting details that could harm a carefully constructed image. To move these agendas along, an entire generation of public relations people took on the–often unfair—handle of “spin doctor.” My own early career started here, as well.

Thankfully, change is afoot which Digiday regularly flags as a shift in attitude. It’s been serious enough for the Pulitzer-winning Guardian newspaper to run a headline that said, “The fastest way to kill your brand: inauthenticity.”

Hype vs help 

It’s a challenging hurdle for those who live on hype, over promise and under deliver, or hide behind walls of privacy.

I remember dealing with a very secretive tycoon at my business magazine a few years ago. Our columnist attended a heavily promoted opening-day reception where the writer asked the mogul a few pertinent questions about financing. The tycoon instructed the writer (read course language here) to back off and his PR gal later demanded to know how the reporter had the nerve to ask such a delicate question.

We’re clearly in an age of unprecedented consumer empowerment, where the reality of products and services is just a Google search and tweet away. That’s led to an influx of citizenry demanding business leaders to be “authentic.” Here’s how 3 executives define authentic.

Kyle Sherwin, vp of media, Sony Music: “The original “idea” of authenticity was essentially a way for corporations to attempt to not sound corporate in their marketing efforts — or at the very least to stay true to their essence.”

Rick Maynard, senior manager of public relations, KFC: “To us, being real means being honest, inclusive, boldly unapologetic, refreshingly to the point, insightful and occasionally, a little edgy. We steer clear of being artificial, judgmental, insecure, full of hot air, timid or gimmicky.”

Joe Barbagallo, social media manager, Volvo Cars US: “Authentic means being transparent. We know our audience knows us well, and so we have to be honest. You’ve got to be forthright, especially if consumers are asking you a question.”

The best insights I’ve come across on the topic of authenticity are from Kim Garst Her most recent title explains the movement: Will the Real You Please Stand Up, Be Authentic and Prosper in Social Media. Kim currently is ranked by Forbes as the #8 female social media power influencer in the world.

There is nothing disingenuous about Kim. What you see is what you get. Here’s how she defines business embedded in passion: “It’s not rooted in selfish gains or desires, but instead constantly looks for ways to make life easier for others. Unlike hype, it cannot be hyped.”

She adds: “CEOs and marketers who believe they are in control of the message of a brand in today’s social world will kill the authenticity of that brand…Today, consumers own the message. What they say about a brand carries more weight than what the brand says about itself.”

People today want to know what drives your passion. Because if you can drill down to the very essence of why you deliver your products and services, that clarity makes us care, too. It’s captivating—and makes us want to follow your parade.

Those who can’t express their vision in a short elevator pitch—the time it takes to go from one floor to the next—will have difficulty leading their sales teams and explaining what they can do for their customers.

Terry O’Reilly, in his popular radio program, Under the Influence, says, “A clear and compelling elevator pitch says so much about the founder of the company…or the director of marketing and her campaign or the salesman and his product line or the politician and his vision.”

By the way, brand is more than a listing of your product features. The miscue happens when business leaders haven’t nailed their core values and vision for the company that attracts the emotions of customers. The snowball effect is that all marketing materials miss the boat, too.

Back to Kim Garst. These are my favourite 7 ways that she recommends to be authentic in this digital age.

  1. Choose sincerity over overblown hype. This ranges from product design to the follow-up customer experience.
  2. Recognize and respect your heritage. History is not to be ignored because of new CEOs who hope to make their mark or new competitors entering the market, or customers drifting away to new offerings. A solid foundation exists for good reason.
  3. Become useful to your customer. Can your customers live without you? Think about adding value and expert advice—and don’t be afraid of giving away too much information.
  4. Understand what your customers value. Those values will be all over the map but you will spot a trend to focus on.
  5. Express your passion. People can detect a fake most times. A dearth of passion leads to lack of aim, dull messages, and mistakes in direction.
  6. Hype leads to professional burnout. The lines between professional and personal life are blurred today. Can you show interest in what gets your customers excited outside the office, as well? Otherwise, you risk burnout.
  7. Connect with a community. By providing consumers with the ability to interact with one another in addition to the company, businesses can build new and deeper relationships with customers.

There’s much more delivered inside 170 pages of Will the Real You Please Stand Up, Be Authentic and Prosper in Social Media.

It’s worth your time.


Need help with modern marketing? Contact me through LinkedIn or by email:

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.

Peter Ostrow Aberdeen Group on social selling

Heads up: the new social seller is bagging your business

By Shaon A.M. MacLean

Please don’t be mistaken. Posting a profile on LinkedIn and sharing on Twitter or Facebook is not how the social sales rep is winning over your customers. In fact, LinkedIn tells us only 50.55% of LinkedIn profiles are correctly done.

I believe it. The last four sales teams I reviewed only had two or three reps out of 15 with complete profiles; very few were cultivating their personal gold mines–their networks. Porter Gale describes this updated version of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People in his manifesto titled Your Network is Your Net Worth.

It’s one of the reasons that testimonials are vital for your website as well as your Linkedin profile. The best reps in your field are positioning themselves in the digital world and they’re taking advantage of your absence in the networks.

“The best sales people are not on your payroll,” says Jill Rowley, who always tops the Linkedin list with the most connections. “They’re your customer advocates.”  I don’t need to remind you that LinkedIn counts more than 300 million registered users today. You can find her profile here:

Teach online selling

Sales professionals need help agrees Peoplelinx founded by early LinkedIn employees. Peoplelinx recently surveyed a cross-section of 277 business-to-business (B2B) sales professionals in the U.S. on their use and perceptions of social networks for selling.

The trainers learned that only one in four sales professionals feel they know how to use social for selling. Company leadership isn’t helping much, either: Only 22% of respondents say their companies encourage social selling.

Too bad. Here’s some stats from Rowley comparing those who use social selling over those who don’t:

  • 64% vs 49% attain team sales quotes
  • 55% vs 48% benefit from customer renewal rates
  • 54% vs 42% forecast accurate sales
  • 46% vs 38% achieve sales rep quotas

Sales leadership 

This also makes sense given research from the Aberdeen Group who report a whopping 68% of Fortune 500 CEOs have no social media presence, at all. How do we expect the sales rep to improve performance in the digital world if leadership lives in a vacuum of top-line comprehension? Only 22% of sales professionals say their company encourages the use of social for selling, and only 11% say their company offers formal training.  A tiny 6% say their company measures the use of social for selling.

When companies offer formal training programs, social selling adoption jumps to 74% from 28%. The percentage of sales professionals who find social valuable increases to 96% from 67% while the percentage of sales professionals who actually use social as part of their process rises to 78% from 28%. The percentage of sales professionals who have closed business (within the past three months) which was influenced by social jumps to 74% from 38%.

Here’s another useful nugget from the Peoplelinx study: The number drops to 25% usage for the 30-44 age group, then rebounds to 34-35% for both the 45-60 and 60+ age groups. Wisdom at work? Not surprisingly, Millenials are the most likely age group to use social for selling at 42%.

Lead generation opportunities appealed to respondents more than the post-sale phase of the customer lifecycle. “This may simply reflect a tendency of sales professionals to focus on pre-sale activities more than post-sale relationship-building,” says Peoplelinx.

Here’s more brutal stats from the Aberdeen Group: Best in class performers saw a 17.9% year-over-year growth in total while worst performers met targets 18% of the time.

They also asked what keeps sales managers up at night:

  • 50% don’t convert enough sales
  • 45% worry about excessive deal slippage
  • 35% lose efficiency in recreating proposals
  • 35% takes too long to close a deal

Tips on building your social networks-and net worth

Here’s 4 things to help get you in front of the crowd:

1. Stay current: When a potential client clicks on your LinkedIn profile, make sure they see an up-to-date headline for the company you now head up or where you now work.  LinkedIn is open 24/7 and you can believe that others are checking your profile at 3 am when sleep alludes them, especially close to month-end.

2. Your network: See Porter Gale, above. Please remember that the 50 groups you’re allowed to join in LinkedIn  should include those of your current clients, prospects, and other employees at your company. Join groups that reflect your customers and prospects more than your own professional associations. LinkedIn has evolved to be way more than a place to house your resume. That’s so yesterday.

3.Fresh and clean: Please take a professional photo. That image of you in university doesn’t convey the integrity of your position as company president responsible for other people’s heard-earned budgets. Ensure that your employees reflect the integrity and solid core values of the organization you lead.

4. Create and curate content for your team. People in sales often don’t enjoy the process of writing, editing, graphic design, taking pictures, shooting video. Don’t get me wrong, some do. For those who don’t, though, it’s the responsibility of the owner or management to create necessary content and to educate sales staff on how to distribute material that is relevant, aligns with your company’s value proposition; evergreen content is most useful. Editorial calendars help here.

Finally, keep an ever-present eye on your networks. They need to be maintained and not abandoned. It’s vital to check in regularly, so contacts who send you a message asking for a proposal don’t go unattended for weeks or months.


Need help with modern marketing? Contact me through LinkedIn or by email:

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.


Kim Garst

12 Hard-earned lessons for 2015 from social media stars–and Me!

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

By now, you’ve laboured over new business goals for 2015 and crunched budgets to exceed last year’s results.

Maybe you’re opening a grocery store in SE Calgary like my friend, Teresa Spinelli , CEO of the Italian Centre Shop. Maybe you’ve decided it’s time that your 17-person sales team get serious about social selling on LinkedIn. Perhaps, you’re an executive director catching up on modern marketing methods for your association.

You’ve also opened some predictions for 2015 that started flooding your in-boxes this month. Below are a few more from people I’ve come to know and trust over the years–plus three hard-earned lessons of my own.

 1. The sky won’t fall if you don’t sign up for every shiny new object

Yet, the longer you take to establish a social foundation for your business, the longer it will take for you to catch up. It’s been 13 years since LinkedIn appeared on the scene, 11 years for Facebook. Meanwhile, those clients who’ve been living online all these years are checking out your competitors.

2. The website still is the heartbeat of your business

It is possible to create a website for $500 if you’ve taught yourself something like WordPress. However, good websites designed with marketing in mind range between $7500 and $20,000 and go up from there. You still must work out your branded message based on a thorough analysis of who you want to attract to your business.

Better copy is written if you can articulate your vision, mission, and strategic objectives. You don’t have those? Please just drop that $500+ in the next trash you walk by.

3. Social media is top-of-funnel. Email is your ticket to sales.

Yes, I love social media, too. Currently, we have 750 platforms from which to choose but they’re not all for you. More will come and go. It all circles back to understanding your prospective customers and creating content that best connects with them.

The purpose for getting active on social media is to fill the top of your funnel, so you can build your data base.

4. From Ann Handley, MarketingProfs: Brands are publishers 

Focus on enormous empathy and customer experience (and not just more blog posts). That doesn’t mean blog posts aren’t important, for the right company and the right customer. But it means we consider if that’s the best approach, rather than making a post the default.

 5. And another from Handley: Marketers become ridiculously proud of their writing!

In our online social world, we recognize that all marketers are writers.  Our words are our currency. They can make us look smart or they can make us look stupid – and so being able to communicate well in writing isn’t just nice; it’s necessity.

6. Jesse Noyes from Kapost calls it “Fat” content

He expects to see more white papers, videos, eBooks, and infographics. It’s content that can be broken up and used as the fuel for multi-channel campaigns.

7. From Kim Garst -Best selling author of Will the Real You Please Stand Up-Show Up, Be Authentic and Prosper in Social Media  (Pictured above)

Successful marketers are going to have to embrace a system to give their prospects information and content that educates and gives value around their products and services. Today’s consumer is savvy and time is extremely valuable to them. Those that can effectively give value in a way that is quick and easy to connect with and buy from are going to win.

8. Kim’s prediction supports Frank Strong, Lexis: Content marketing slides down from heightened expectations to disillusionment as brands begin to realize “content marketing” isn’t the same thing as merely producing content.

This means that strategy moves to the top of the pile again this year. It is painful to see how many people spend hours of time without doing  these things:

  • Determining your business scope: Local, regional, national, international
  • Knowing your Strategic Who
  • Researching your competitors
  • Summarizing your historical and current marketing efforts
  • Establishing a process. Think automated marketing

Here’s a handy checklist to help you summarize these activities:  World Gate Quick Audit

9. An extra moment on marketing automation because it’s big: 2015 will see most B2B organizations—large and small—shifting to marketing automation software for email marketing, newsletters, lead capturing, social media updates, and keyword analysis. A single window helps us in analytics and trend analysis.

I use Mike Koenig’s Instant Customer/Traffic Geyser but others to consider are MailChimp for entry level and AWeber for more bells and whistles.

10. Mike Koenigs and many others also point to mobile marketing

Mobile campaigns include smart phone apps, pod-casts of product videos, responsive websites, and chat integration inside websites. Not only will the search engines continue to favour mobile, the carry-me-everywhere experience will be critical and expected.

11. From Mike Stelzner, CEO, Social Media Examine

Those that pitch are becoming ignored. A little bit of selling here and there is great, but those marketers who do nothing but sell, sell, sell, are gonna get ignored, dismissed and overlooked by consumers and prospects. That means dedicating more resources to things that are harder to track, like answering customer questions and providing more value online.

12. DJ Waldow– Digital Marketing Evangelist, Marketo

2015 will be the year of HUMAN for digital marketers. Gone are the days of corporate-speak messaging and dull, boring campaigns. Instead, we’ll begin to see more marketers incorporate human-speak into their messaging – videos, pictures, humor, and human!

Here’s to a WonderFilled Year for all of us!


Need help with modern marketing? Contact me through LinkedIn or by email: You can also pick up more ideas from my website:

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.


Email and blogs win the day: 2014 Social Media Industry Report

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

Email isn’t going away anytime soon and blogs tops the list of social selling tactics.

These are findings released by Michael Stelzner’s Social Media Examiner when they surveyed 2800 marketers on how social media grows and promotes business. The prominent online business has published results in the The Social Media Industry Report each year since 2009.

The largest group that took the survey work for small businesses of 2-10 employees (34%), followed by the self-employed (19%). Twenty-one percent of people taking the survey work for businesses with 100 or more employees.

This high regard for email and blogging makes sense. Stories previously controlled by key publishers now reach millions of people with internet connections and search engines. As a magazine publisher for business people, it became evident to me as early as 2006 that David Meerman Scott’s New Rules of PR applied to all of us in media. We could leverage the reach of our journalists by converting their copy for online distribution; yet, every other wannabe scribe could do the same thing. Turns out there were hundreds of millions of them.

Here’s more changes Social Media Examiner noted since the 2013 study:

  • An ability to develop loyal fans increased to 72% from 65%
  • Increased sales attributed to social media rose to 50% from 43%
  • 94% of marketers prefer creating original content
  • 73% of marketers curate other people’s content
  • B2B marketers were more likely to use curated content (78% B2B) compared to B2C (69%).

The written word also rules says Social Media Examiner. “A whopping 81% of marketers plan on increasing their use of original written content.”

Social Boom! CEO Terry Williamson also weighed in for Inner Circle members of the company that he and partner Kim Garst established. Garst’s been named by Forbes among the top 20 bloggers in the world and Social Boom! attracts the world’s leading authorities on social media marketing. Here’s Williamson’s take-a-ways on what marketers are focused on this year.

  1. The correct target audience. This is huge in a noisy online world of 2.5 billion individuals striving to be heard combined with the ever-changing ways to connect.
  2. Engagement with followers. Garst says, “It’s Ok to get in front of people but can I get them to talk back to me?” As more businesses become social, those that best engage will stand out.
  3.  Improved search results. This means learning the tools to simplify the task. A whopping 85% of marketers feel they don’t know what tools are best.
  4. Metrics. Garst also recommends paying closer attention to metrics because that’s what executives need to see when it comes to approving budgets: ROI. Social Media Examiner notes this issue has been top of mind for marketers for the last four years. ‘Nuff said.

The Report states a significant 64% of marketers are using social media for 6 hours or more and 37% for 11 or more hours weekly. This is a slight increase over 2013, when 62% reported 6 or more hours a week. It’s interesting to note that nearly 19% of marketers spend more than 20 hours each week on social media

For people just beginning with social media (less than 12 months of experience), 51% spend 5 or fewer hours per week. However, of folks who have been doing this for 2 years or longer, at least 65% spend 6 hours or more per week on social media activities.

The Industry Report says more than half of marketers who’ve been using social media for at least 3 years report it has helped them improve sales. More than half who spend 6 or more hours per week find the same results and 74% of those who spend 40+ hours earn new business through their efforts.

That number leaves 50% of marketers who report social media has not helped them improve sales. The authors surmise it’s because marketers lack the needed tools to track sales.

This certainly must be true of more than half the people using LinkedIn. The network tells us that professionals are joining LinkedIn at a rate of 2 people per second. Except 55% of these individuals have posted incomplete profiles. I see it all the time when evaluating profiles for sales teams. The profiles are not finished and members are not developing sales funnels.

Following are 5 tools to make your life easier thanks to Kim Garst.

Tagboard for monitoring. This service allows you to track hashtags on major social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and Vine. Tagboard saves you time by allowing you to create custom boards with content from each platform.

Social Oomph for frequent posters. This tactic allows you to save and re-use drafts, schedule posts in bulk, and submit social updates via email. It also offers advanced searches that allow you to easily find influential or relevant people to follow, and that will alert you when certain keywords are used on Twitter.

Social mention monitors keywords and hashtags across multiple platforms. Some of the best features of the platform are its simplicity, ease-of-use, and the analytics it gives for specific keywords. Measuring influence in terms of strength, sentiment, passion and reach, it gives you a quick snapshot of the current status of a particular topic or phrase.

Google Alerts is free and allows you to select as many keywords as you like. Each time the word or phrase is used online, you’ll receive a notification. You can track mentions for your brand as well as for your competition.

Swayy gives you a steady stream of content to share across cross platforms with your audience. Keeps your name top of mind.

What about email, you ask? Some might think this platform is obsolete when it comes to growing their business. “Wrong,” says Williamson, “Social media pales in comparison to a list.”

I couldn’t agree more. Yet, business executives regularly tell me they don’t have an up-to-date database… or they don’t have a strategy other than to publish the odd newsletter… or they don’t have email addresses for people on their list. Most business owners fear upsetting their customs with too many emails.

Makes me cringe.

More on email in my next blog post.


Need help with modern marketing? Contact me through LinkedIn or by email: You can also pick up more ideas from my website:

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.

Newsletters work

Keep your customers: Love ’em with a newsletter

By Sharon A. M. MacLean 

I’ve published well over 50 blogs this year and those about e-newsletters still hold a favoured position among followers.


Your e-newsletter continues to anchor the trifecta of the blog and landing page that drives traffic to your site. It’s true that e-newsletter open rates are dropping an average of 1 percent per year, but for now, emailed newsletters rein.  The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project has yet to declare another tactic used more by all generations—from millennials (18 to 33) to elders (74+).

This week alone, I spoke with three clients who asked for a communications strategy that started with a newsletter, mostly because they wanted to stay in touch with their customers. They’re right to be concerned. The Chartered Institute of Marketing advises, “There is no definitive answer to this question, but most sources say the answer is that it costs between 4 and 10 more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep an existing one.”

The key here is to beware of attrition rates and the need to keep the sales funnel full.

The newsletter remains a beloved practice—business and organizations have been staying in touch with their clients and patrons for decades with this method.

Yet, we need to remember how reading habits have changed. At one time, I composed newsletters with an average of eight pages for customers and employees. Editorial meetings with department heads were held on a regular basis…reporter teams at branch offices were set up to feed copy into a central editorial location…editorial calendars were arranged to keep all of us on track…and still we scrambled to track down copy with photos from contributors who invariably missed their deadlines. The time and resources it took to write, edit and design, print, stuff envelopes and mail those newsletters was formidable.

Video shorts and podcasts add interest 

Most people don’t want to read your e-newsletter that deeply anymore. They want to scan your e-newsletter and even watch a very short video or listen to a podcast; that’s it. So, the ability to restrain yourself from long explanations about your products or company policies is a waste of time. They also want stories to explain how your products improved their lives. Subscribers want to scan your content for calls-to-action or a news story; think e-bulletin.

Here are 9 best practices for your e-bulletin

  1. Keep your design simple. Make it a single column, and use black text on a white background for the body content.  Resist patterns and graphics.
  2.  Write about 500 to 600 words per item. If you need more than 500 words, link to an article on your website or a blog where subscribers can read more.
  3. Think about adding a  30-second video or podcast to capture attention since today we’ve got the technology to link media.
  4. Share.  Design your social networking icons into the newsletter.
  5. Write as if to a friend. Your e-newsletter should use language that makes your subscribers think they are part of your company. It’s a good idea to have your e-newsletter arrive in customers’ in-boxes from a person rather than from a corporate entity. The days of “push” communications rather than “pull’ are over.
  6. Create a “Thank you for subscribing” email that pitches your website, blog, and social networks. Find an automated email system that allows you to create follow-up e-mails that are automatically sent to new subscribers. I’m excited to know that my own automated email  system, Instant Customer, added a newsletter program to their myriad choices : for publishing content.
  7.  Keep subject lines short and sweet. Years of research points to 60-characters or fewer for subject copy.
  8.  Send one to three e-newsletters per month. If unsubscribers go above 0.5 percent, then lower your frequency.
  9.  Mix up your release dates. Don’t always send your e-newsletter on Mondays at 10 am. Reading habits ebb and flow and your fans will create a library to read on their preferred schedule. Avoid becoming predictable. 

Go ahead. Create a newsletter. It’s fun, too.