One of the great results from connections is finding that someone else has arrived at the same destination from a different direction. Nurture Marketing is the brainchild of Judy Schramm, CEO at ProResource. I work with a group of entrepreneurs that have developed a similar philosophy which we call Nurture Marketing 2.0. The main focus of both our concepts is how to personally connect in a digital world. The goal is to develop mutually satisfying relationships based on trust. Here is how our approach works…
First, you have to work at it everyday. Yes I know, the digital world wants instant accomplishment. With social media as the new source for connections we think that all we have to do is set up a profile and invite people to visit our websites and somehow, magically the products and services are sold. Nice try! Valuable relationships are still produced by consistent effort over time.
Imagine your approach as a set of stairs with enough room for two people on the same step. Building a trusting relationship looks like climbing the staircase together. Before you start to climb . . .
· Prepare and Research. Prepare an honest, professional representation of who you are and what you do, because your profile makes the very important first impression. Then, research. Get to know the person that you are contacting. Read their profile and get a sense of who they are and their interests. Decide whether both of you may benefit from the connection.
· Step One: Permission. Send a professional introduction and invitation to connect. Accompany the invite with a message commenting on their profile, something that caught your interest. Keep it short and positive. You are asking for permission to continue a conversation. If they accept the invite, picture the two of you occupying the first step on the staircase.
· Step Two: Beginning the Conversation. Your response is based on their response. Talk with the people that are interested in talking with you. Thank them for accepting your invitation and ask a question about what they do or an interest that they have listed on their profile. Make it open-ended and friendly, not personal.
· Step Three: Genuine Discussion. Continue the thread of the conversation and give them a concise piece of information about what you do or share a particular challenge that you have encountered. Look for a need, want, or desire, basically some part of their life that is a challenge. Are they looking for options? Begin to analyze whether you have a solution or does their expertise offer a solution for you. Remember, a genuine connection can work both ways.
· Step Four: Building Trust. Now you can ask questions based on the information that they have given you and you can begin to develop mutual solutions. Usually, this is the step where an appointment is made to chat. An invitation to connect on Skype or over coffee is appropriate. Be prepared to answer questions and allow the conversation to be about their needs and how you can help them. Be a good listener and provide honest solutions. Remember, effective marketing for the long term is still based on relationships of mutual trust.
The rest of the staircase involves time, patience, listening and providing the parts of the solution one at a time – in other words, Nurture Marketing. Regardless of the technology we use, we are still on this planet to make friends and to serve them. That marketing strategy never changes.
Laura Like is the owner of likemychoices.biz. Since 1999, she has been developing online communities for some large companies, and helping entrepreneur-minded individuals to transition from employment to ownership.
Yes, LinkedIn has changed things again. Before shaking your head, learn about these valuable updates that will do a better job telling your business and professional stories. With a cleaner look and enhanced image features, LinkedIn profiles adopt a more visual design with bold headers and icons highlighting sections for an instant snapshot of the person or company. Refer to Fig. 1 for an example.
You can add larger photos on your company’s pages and attach images to your updates, a long overdue feature. New sections such as Projects, Volunteer Experience & Causes, Organizations and Languages reveal a richer, deeper story.
The more visual approach allows people to do more than read. They can see you and your company in action when you share presentations, videos and photos in the Summary, Experience and Education sections. Those recommendations you’ve worked hard to collect stand out. If someone recommended you in your current job, the recommendation will appear in the current job’s description as Fig. 2 shows.
These changes make it worth updating your profile and company page. The following features will be powerful allies in your connecting with others.
Everyone’s recent activity appears at the top of the profile. This includes status updates and LinkedIn activity, such as receiving endorsements. This is why it’s important to update your profile and company page on a regular basis. It’ll be the first thing people see when viewing your profile or page.
Editing also becomes an easier task with every section including the editing toolbar. The toolbar varies based on section capabilities. In the Summary, for example, you can edit it, add a link or drag it to move the section as shown in Fig. 3. Review this checklist for your LinkedIn profile to make sure you have a more complete profile.
Along with easier editing of your profile, you can now add information for your contacts. No one except you will see these additions. Go to Contact Info to access this feature to add information.
Skills and Expertise
Many people have complained about the endorsement feature where your connections endorse your skills. Now the Skills and Expertise section has value because it’s easier to spot a person’s most endorsed skills. LinkedIn lists the skills in order from most endorsements to least.
To take advantage of this, add your most important skills that don’t show up so others will endorse you for those skills. Another valuable feature in skills is that you can add and remove skills and manage endorsements. You can hide all endorsements or select people whose endorsements you don’t want to display. Just go into Edit Profile mode to make the changes.
Commonality and Connections
A neat feature is the graphic under “In common with [name]” that shows what skills and LinkedIn Groups you have in common with the person whose profile you’re viewing. Move the mouse pointer over the circle for more details.
Visit any company page and LinkedIn shows you how many connections you have by degree. If you want to connect with someone, visit the profile to find out what you have in common with each other including connections and companies.
You can get more specific in searching your network. Rather than searching everyone, you can go to a connection’s profile and search within that person’s network. If you want to find someone you know in the airline industry, jump to the Connections section in my profile and click the magnifier icon to search. This is just one way to narrow your in-network search.
Now go explore these powerful new features that might just lead you to your next client or employee.
What LinkedIn features do you recommend?
- Show your full name – use the name people are likely to search on. For example, if people know you as Rich, it is better to use Rich than Richard.
- Upload a photo – let people see who they are connecting to. It’s good to be smiling; let your eyes show (no sunglasses). Crop the photo so your head takes up most of the space. If you show clothing, it should be business clothing.
- Use a descriptive title in your professional headline – think keywords, but keep it relatively short and easy to read.
- Use your summary to let people get a sense of who you are. Write it as if you were talking to them, telling them who you are and what matters to you.
- Show at least 2 jobs, and preferably all jobs for the past 10 years. You can copy and paste out of your resume or a bio. Include job responsibilities, promotions, awards and achievements. Quantify accomplishments whenever you can. (If your company has a profile, the company will auto-complete. Click on that to select the company name.)
- Show your education. If you graduated recently, include information about your favorite courses.
- Add any volunteer organizations where you participate actively.
- Add any honors or awards.
- Add skills & expertise, training, interests. Keep in mind that LinkedIn is now asking your connections to endorse you for the skills you claim, so don’t stretch the truth.
- Create a personalized LinkedIn URL to make it easier to share your profile.
- Add your website and blog. Instead of leaving the default “website” and “blog” change the link text to the name of your company and blog.
- Connect your Twitter account to your profile, but if you tweet often don’t set it up to import every tweet.
- If you have a WordPress blog, use the WordPress add-on to bring your most recent blog posts into your profile.
- Join 40-45 groups (the maximum is currently 50). Ideally, join 30 where your prospects and clients are likely to be found, 10 related to your industry or the type of work you do, and split the rest across your alumni groups and nonprofits you support.
- If you have presentations on Slideshare, use the Slideshare add-on. You can also add a video to your profile using Slideshare.
- Use the Reading List add-on to show that you keep up-to-date on trends in business and your industry. You can also use this to promote books written by friends or people you respect.
- Look over the list of add-ons and see if there are any you can use to add dimension to your profile. For example, if you travel a lot, you might want to use the trip add-on.
- Go back over the profile and see where you can work in keywords that are relevant to your prospects, your clients, and people who could refer business to you. The right keywords will help you be more findable in Google as well as LinkedIn.
- Try to get at least one recommendation for each of your jobs. The best way to get a recommendation is to give one – so pick a couple people you worked with, find them on LinkedIn and submit recommendations for them.
- Set your privacy settings so people can see your full name, your complete profile, and your activity feed. Look at the other options and decide what you are comfortable sharing, keeping in mind that the more open you are, the more people will be exposed to your profile and your ideas.
- If you want to make it easy for people to contact you, include your email and phone somewhere in your profile.
Retailers use Twitter to connect with customers, listen to feedback and share ideas. When you start using Twitter, the first two things you want to do is listen and respond. Find out what people are saying about your retail store and its competitors.
If someone mentions your store, respond as soon as you can – even if you don’t have an answer. The customer will appreciate the acknowledgement and will know that you’re looking into the suggestion, problem or comment.
The other important thing to pay attention to is how much you promote your retail store. Doing it too much can hurt your social media efforts. Effective Twitter users focus on building relationships and helping others. They share valuable information that isn’t self-serving. Refer to Social Networking Done Wrong for a few rules of thumb about how often to tweet self-serving updates.
- Thank customers.
- Answer customer questions.
- Reply to customer complaints as soon as possible — even if you don’t have an answer. Tweet “We’re looking into it and will get back with you.” If your store made a mistake, apologize.
- Ask for suggestions for store inventory.
- Ask for feedback on customer service.
- Thank people for reviews.
- Ask for music and decor recommendations if you play music in the store or decorate it for special occasions.
- Share tips for using the products you sell.
- Share general, non-product tips. For example, a clothing retailer can give advice on pant and top parings by color or design.)
- Link to posted photos of people using your store’s products.
- Ask for suggestions related to your store’s types of products. For example, if your store sells cookware and kitchen gadgets, ask how people have used a food mill or a coffee grinder.
- Use one or two hashtags in some tweets, such as #dallas (retail store city) #homedepot #fashion #plants (product type) #chicagomacys (city and retailer’s name) #deal #holidayname.
Humanize your retail store
- Talk about causes you support.
- Tell the story behind the decor in your store.
- Tell people about an employee’s upcoming birthday and to wish the employee “Happy birthday!”
- Share stories and quotes heard in the store.
- Share customer experiences with photos. (Note: Ask the customer for permission first.)
- Post photos of employees.
Social network integration
- Mention that customers can get specials for checking in on Facebook or Foursquare.
- Ask for Facebook page “Likes” to get early notice of future sales and events.
- Announce a contest that encourages customers to share photos of experience or products they bought in your store. Use Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or another similar source for photos.
- Set up a business card bowl by the cash register with a sign requesting Twitter IDs.
- Link to a video tour of your retail store.
- Let people know where to subscribe for email updates with coupons, announcements and events.
- Add your store’s Twitter ID in emails, website, newsletters, pamphlets and ads.
Retail store updates
- Post newsworthy items related to your industry or business.
- Follow up to customer feedback with an invitation to email or call you for more details.
- Reveal new product items. Build up anticipation before making the official announcement. For example, a candle shop gives hints about its new candle scent for people to guess.
- Share where people can find coupons.
- Post a secret word that gets a discount or free item for the day.
- Post upcoming special events taking place in your store.
- Announce events or locations outside of your store that an employee will attend.
- Share photos of products and product displays, especially seasonal merchandise.
- Hold a trivia contest where the winner gets something free. Questions can be about your store or the products you sell.
- Announce free events in your city.
- Mention special days, such as “October 23rd is Canned Food Day. We’re donating canned food to XYZ Pantry. Drop ‘em off at the store this week for a freebie.”
- Post about the current season and holidays along with a tip. “#fall allergy season is here. What tips do you have for keeping allergies in check?”
- Promote others. For example, your store is in a shopping strip. Promote another store in the strip. Maybe they have an event coming up that is worth sharing.
- Ask general questions.
Most importantly, make sure your employees are aware of any deals you offer on Twitter. If a customer approaches an employee with the special word of the day and the employee is clueless, it will reflect poorly on your store’s image.
What other ways can a retail store use Twitter to connect with customers?
is a powerful concept that is important to understand when you are setting goals for social networking programs. In my last two blog posts, I talked about what social capital is and how you can measure social capital.
Amplifying an individual, business, or any resource within your network results in the increase and spread of knowledge, ideas, and connections, and thereby increases the quality and quantity of the connections in your social graph.
Amplification is a direct result of relationship brokering. This can be accomplished in a number of ways:
Connecting people and resources to one another
When you connect two individuals with similar or complementary needs and goals, you immediately amplify your network. Closing this gap between these two individuals increases the connectivity and value of your network. The more influential the people are, the greater the value you – and they – derive from being connected.
Sharing resources is another way to spread value on a qualitative and quantitative level. You could share ideas, business knowledge, storefront space, project advice, and many other assets. Through sharing we add reciprocity of trust and value, which is very important to amplifying your network’s influence.
Inviting people with varied and opposing points of view into conversations
In your network, it’s important to create a diverse array of groups, ideals, goals, and backgrounds. Connecting with people who are different from yourself and from each other promotes the exchange of ideas, adds energy, and sparks more interesting discussions. It also gives you a stronger and more useful network.
The fascinating part of measuring your social capital and mapping your networks is that you can see which individuals, which businesses, and which resources have the positions of power in your social graph. Being in the core group brings one type of value; being on the periphery of the network delivers a different degree of influence. To amplify your network and your network’s influence, you want to target individuals who are both important and influential.
The people, organizations, and resources within your networks work together to create a common understanding of the personal and professional opportunities that lay ahead. You can identify people with needs you can fill, people with new and innovative ideas, people with talent and expertise, people with resources and various forms of capital – and target those people for your relationship-building efforts. When you deliberately and strategically amplify your network, you will produce the kind of strong connections you need to maximize your social capital.
This series of guest blog posts about social capital is courtesy of Bennett Resnik, a consultant on social capital and networks, and the creator of “The Hands We Shake” lecture series on how to build, grow, and sustain social capital. He is an expert in networking strategy and social capital retention. Bennett has helped start-ups, small businesses, non-profits and individuals develop a comprehensive strategy to build and cultivate their social capital.