No More “Social Media Experts” Please. I Need Someone Who Understands What Keeps Me Up At Night.
A few minutes ago I got yet another email from a Linked In consultant named Izzy. Young kid. Big into social media. He wants me to read this cool new article on how to set a budget for my gym.
Um, I don’t have a gym. Never did. Never will. I’ve spent 45 years of my life so far busting iron in one. Know a lot about the fitness industry. But I‘m not a gym owner.
It wouldn’t be that big a deal if Mr. Izzy had bothered to read the email I sent him after the last time he email-blasted me with data about how Instagram could help me build membership at my gym.
I took the time to explain, succinctly and clearly, that no, I don’t own a gym, nor do I use Instagram. He responded to that by asking me for my articles on Instagram.
Apparently he didn’t bother to read the rest.
Izzy has no clue, no interest in finding out, and he is one of thousands.
Useless Social Media as Your Medium
And here’s my point. If someone is such a social media dweeb that he can’t be bothered to read what his contacts send him and all he cares about is blasting them with more fecal matter, then guess what?
My response was terse, direct, and to the point. As someone who has taught networking (as in, human to human, face to face, gee-whiz actual relationship building networking) for many of the F500 and for at least three and a half decades, I don’t have the time or the dime to invest in folks who don’t care. I told Izzy that he’d squandered his social capital with me and then I blocked him.
Different Generations..I Get It
Look, this kid is about a third my age. However that’s no excuse for being stupid. Each of us will give an email about five to six seconds of bandwidth- if the title doesn’t put us off first, like DEAR CEO-and then what follows needs to clear, crisp and relevant to a business problem I’m trying to solve. Without that all you’re doing is papering the Universe- in this case emailing the Universe- with crap people care nothing about.
We care about what keeps us up at night in our businesses.
There was a time early last year when I needed a web designer. I called a close friend, an early adopter type in my line of work. Asked her who she used. Guy lives in India, highly recommended. Done deal. That is how I get my leads. Not by being harangued to death by scads of India-based operators who don’t know or care who I am. A great deal of business is still done this way. How’d you find your last vet? Doctor? Plumber? Unless you’re brand new in town, we ask our trusted friends. We still shop around but we ask people we know for their best recommendations. That’s trust that people don’t wish to squander.
Do the Work
Research still shows that a face-to-face sales request is 34 times more successful than an email one (Harvard Business Review, 4/2017). I’ve been training small suppliers how to sell to huge corporations for more than 16 years, and the idea of approaching someone is terrifying to many. People can hide their social fears behind blast emails yet still claim that they’re running an effective marketing campaign.
Sorry, that’s crap, particularly if you hope to score big contracts with sophisticated corporations.
With the kind of number I just noted, “34 times more effective,” using the same script, there is no excuse whatsoever to resort to just email. It’s lazy. It’s insulting (see Izzy, above, and any IT professional staffing firm you care to name). And it is hugely wasteful of time as well as annoying to the very people you think you’re reaching. Most likely they or their assistants either catch you in SPAM filter, or if you sneak through that, delete.
Pick a Lane and Swim in It
During all the years I’ve been an entrepreneur — and it’s a lot as well as working for a few F100s as well- the one thing that I’ve found annoys a potential client the most is the lack of research.
“We do it all!!” Um, no you don’t.
“We’re different!” Um, how exactly, given that there are more than 100,000 providers just like you?
“Just give us a chance!” Um, why, since I’m comfortable with my current providers and it’s expensive to switch ships in midstream?
Izzy claims, for example, that he specializes in working with gym owners. If that’s so, then pray tell, how in heaven’s name did my company get on his list?
Whatever social media marketing mavens may claim about how they can offer you a great leads list, let me offer this experience: for years I’ve been hounded by people wanting jobs. Someone has put my company on a leads list. I’m a one-woman business. Except for the few times I’ve been an employee I’ve always been a solo outfit. Yet I get hounded, harassed and harangued with resumes from people wanting a very highly-paying job.
Do these people do the slightest bit of research before they send this crap out?
Does anyone go to my website or Google me online to see what I do?
NO. Of course not. That constitutes real work. And here’s the real piece: they all claim to be excellent researchers. If that were the case, you nimwits, I’d never have gotten your email. You’d have known in seconds I wasn’t a lead. Just who do you think you’re kidding?
It might currently be a good market out there for jobs but it is an even tighter market for people who know how to research, pinpoint the right client base, do the work to identify the particular problem they can best solve, then properly construct a powerful email that in seven seconds flat makes me say, “I need to talk to this guy. He understands what I’m dealing with.”
How many of those have I gotten in the last nearly twenty years?
Who We Buy From
People in love with the sheer ease of using social media to do their slog work, which effectively is no work at all, lose out to those who pick a lane, dig deeply, and learn to earn the trust of a potential client. That takes some sleuthing. Real salespeople — the best ones -have done it for years. When they come in to do a preso for a client, they can tell the client where there is serious profit loss or a problem that even the client doesn’t know about. Their facts are solid and researchable. They present potential solutions that result in real gains, value to the shareholder, increased customer base- some measurable that matters. This is hard damned work and very few take the time. Because people are lazy, just like Izzy is too damned lazy to cull his list, read the responses and make himself useful. But this works makes you valuable, useful, and worth hiring as a supplier/provider/consultant- whatever you’re selling. You’ve already demonstrated empathy for what makes my hair go grey. I want you on my team. That’s a strategic partner- someone who is personally committed to my success. As I rise, you do too.
There may well be products and services for which a primary social media campaign is well-suited. However in all my time in corporate consulting I’ve not found a single buyer or a decision maker who nibbles on a Dear Manager or Dear Executive email blast. They’re used to dealing with pros, who are interested in becoming long-term strategic partners. Pros do the work. I recently took a very competent online Linked In course. While a good bit of it was about how to use the system, it circled right back around to scoring face to face interactions gained through Linked In. You cannot avoid it. And when you get there you had better have your research done. People just don’t have time to waste with ill-prepared potential suppliers.
Why Many Entrepreneurs Fail
“In a study done by Statistic Brain, the failure rate for startups in America after five years is 50%, leaping to 70% after ten years.” www.Entrepreneur.com, February 18,2017
Many of the best businesses begin by identifying a real problem and finding a way to solve it. Major corporations start each day with a myriad of issues. Splatting them with generalized, highly insulting, impersonal emails make you part of yet another problem- email overload. Nobody cares about suppliers who don’t care about their world, their workload, their issues- only about the contract. Contracts are earned, hard won, and closely-protected. Somebody did the yeoman’s work to get in the door, earn the trust and get the business. Networking is still a fundamental part of this process. If you can’t talk to people you cannot do business with people. Social media is nothing more than a single arrow in a large quiver. The basics of business- we work with those we trust- is an iron-clad given. You want into the big conference room? Earn your way. Other people did before you.
Top Reasons Why Entrepreneurs Fail
“Lack of focus” was given as the top reason why most businesses fail in the Entrepreneur issue. As in, “we do it all!!!!!” I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard that claim from a startup aiming to do business with a multi-billion dollar corporation. An inability to narrow your focus to the one thing you do best will kill you off quickly. I knew one firm that offered janitorial services, and by the way, we also sell salmon. What?
Then, at number two, were “lack of motivation, commitment and passion- however I might note here that what you’re passionate about can sink your ship. If some Izzy-wizard has convinced you to dump all your marketing dollars in Instagram because it’s new and cool rather than a much better business model which involves a lot of flesh pressing( that you frankly don’t care to do) you can also kiss your investment goodbye. Again social media is not a perfect fix, nor does it work for all products and services. For some of these social media consultants, they are hammers- everything looks like a nail. Does social media have a role? Perhaps, probably, it depends, all the above.
Another, separate study noted that “no market need” was the top reason businesses fail. This is such a breathtakingly awful reason to go belly up that it’s embarrassing to even consider.
The Right Address= Success
Not necessarily. Corporations are savvy enough to know that damned good ideas can come from anywhere. While post office box sellers want you to believe that having the right address and the right website will bring folks flocking, there is nothing but nothing more powerful than rolling up your sleeves and doing the research. Even when you do all the right things to get the right key words in place, you still have to wear down some shoe leather at some point to be in front of folks. You need to be clear and crisp and all about value-add. You need to understand the business, speak the language and be able to differentiate yourself. You need to know your numbers and know the competition inside and out and why you and not them.
My phrase for that is “walk the halls, make the calls and scale the walls.” That’s why I’ve done business — as a one woman shop- with 21 of the Fortune 100 and many many more F500 corporations.
Even if you’re a micro business operating out of your basement, the same rules apply. Massive numbers of venture capital funded companies fail for similarly foolish reasons. I hate to be harsh, but if there’s no need for your product or service, and you don’t have the skills to work well with folks, then I’d put together a resume for a mail-room position.
I don’t need a social media weenie. I need problem-solvers, who understand my world, my issues, and the biggie: what keeps me up at night. Until you know that, there’s no need for what you offer. And if social media cannot solve that problem and you can’t provide proof in my industry, take me off your list. Every corporate executive I know who is in a position to buy feels much the same way.
If you’re not willing to do the work to earn people’s trust, show how you can solve a problem they genuinely have, then save yourself and your family the trouble and get a job. It’s a lot easier to pay the mortgage that way.