Discovering the Person Behind the Profile

Posted by on May 21st, 2015

LinkedIn ConnectionsWe’ve all done it. You search LinkedIn® for connections and find someone who attended the same marketing conference you did in 1990. You quickly send an invitation that states, “We attended the same conference 25 years ago. Please link with me.” Or worse, you take your investigation a step further and find your potential connection’s Facebook® page, home address and children’s names. You then proceed to invite this person to connect with an email that reads, “I just love where you live. My family and I visited once and had the best ice cream! I’ll bet your two daughters ask you to go there every night. Incidentally, I also have a daughter named Melissa! Small world.” OK, a bit of an exaggeration, but the point is — one common historical moment does not a make relationship nor does giving your children the same name. While LinkedIn is a rich resource for gleaning more information about a person than one would learn on a first date, there are boundaries that must be respected.

Social selling is incredibly powerful, but you have to make sure you always, and I mean always, stay professional.

In this social digital age, it is way too easy to cross a line that quickly earns you the label of “stalker.” Think about why you are contacting this person in the first place. What is your objective? More importantly, why would this person want to connect with you? Remember you’re asking for someone’s time. The LinkedIn invitation is a sales call and should be treated as such. It’s about building relationships, so please stop writing a “Hallmark” card when inviting someone to connect.

Here are some best practices for ensuring you steer clear of being perceived as creepy:

  1. Avoid becoming too personal too fast.
    • Never give information to anyone that can be used against you. For example, don’t share negative opinions about ex-coworkers, how your former company was run or any trade secrets that could land you in court.
    • Avoid divulging details about any upcoming projects that have not been made public or allude to the fact that you can “do someone a favor.”
    • Don’t complain. About anything. Not your job, your boss, the weather, the last time you were stuck in traffic or that you never get credit for all of the hard work you do.
  2. If you have collected a fair amount of information on a contact, don’t use a “fun fact” about him or her every time you have a conversation.
    • It’s acceptable to look up someone and read where they worked, went to school and view their contacts. But, the creep factor rolls in when you begin every conversation with something you know about the person. “So, I see you went to college for five years. What’s up with that? Too much partying? I can relate.”
    • Stay away from the three professional conversation taboos: money, religion and politics. Many LinkedIn profiles contain information about a person’s religious or political affiliations, but LinkedIn is not a forum that should be used to debate these issues.
    • Do Not use LinkedIn as a dating site.
  3. Utilize content as a springboard for conversation.
    • If you receive an alert that your contact published an article or a piece of content on LinkedIn, it’s not only appropriate, but also flattering to start a conversation about it.
    • If your contact is a member of a group you are curious about, go ahead and ask them about it. Just make sure your inquiry is genuine and makes sense within the context of your professional relationship. Just because you worked at the same company 15 years ago doesn’t mean you have to bring it up every single time.
    • Congratulate your connection on a professional milestone or new position, but please keep out that you know there was a party for his/her Mom’s birthday over the weekend.

Always remember you are constantly building your personal brand and the information you use during any conversation contributes to how you are perceived, as does the information you divulge about yourself. Once you go too far, it’s hard to recover, and you can’t control the message once it’s out there.

So please, stay professional. Keep your communication focused on your business objective and remember that relationships take time and need to be nurtured. Knowing someone’s biography doesn’t make you best friends any more than having had similar experiences. Connect carefully.

LinkedIn is all about business — keep it smart.


You Gotta Fight… For Your Right…
To Complain

Posted by on May 14th, 2015

Bad ReviewsDid you know that posting negative reviews online could result in a fine for violating that site’s rules against disparaging comments?

Everyone relies heavily on the internet for answers and social media for referrals, which has influenced many businesses to take action to improve customer service, however some businesses are reacting to the reality of negative comments/reviews online by lashing out. Whether it’s a hotel or restaurant upset over a negative review on Yelp® or Foursquare® or online reviews of retailers like Amazon®, businesses are attacking those who post anything negative about them. How? Using buried “landmines” in terms & conditions (T&C) that prohibit disparaging comments.

In fact, in some cases, businesses have gone after the person even when the negative review is 100 percent accurate. One retailer even fined a couple $3,500! When they refused to pay, the business reported the fine as an unpaid debt to credit agencies harming their credit rating. In the end, a court ruled that the business violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and the $3,500 fine ended up being a judgment for over $300,000.1 This story appears to be a rare positive outcome, but the couple endured a lot of pain before that resolution.

As a result, some members of Congress have come together, in a rare bipartisan manner, to propose a law to protect consumers from such tactics. Introduced last fall in the House, H.R. 5499 aims to make it illegal for businesses to retaliate against legitimate negative reviews posted online. The bill’s name is the “Consumer Review Freedom Act of 2014″ and is working its way through the legislative process at present, currently referred to the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade.2

The official Congressional summary outlines the scope as follows:


“Consumer Review Freedom Act of 2014 – Declares a provision of a form contract to be void from the inception if it: (1) prohibits or restricts a person who is a party to the contract from engaging in written, verbal, or pictorial reviews, or other similar performance assessments or analyses of, the products, services, or conduct of a business that is a party to the contract; (2) imposes penalties or fees against such a person for engaging in such communications; or (3) assigns or provides an exclusive license, or requires such a person to assign or provide an exclusive license, to any of the person’s intellectual property rights in such communications. (Thus, bars certain contract provisions that prohibit consumers from commenting publicly about businesses.)”2


In other words, the goal is to make these so-called “non-disparagement clauses” unenforceable.3 While some states, such as California, have made this practice illegal, there is no federal ban on these tactics. In essence, these clauses are waving your First Amendment rights when you accept the T&C of a site forbidding you to post anything negative about a business. These clauses also include fines for violating the T&C, which most people never read when they join a review site.

The federal law in progress is heavily modeled off of the California bill. However, despite early bipartisan support, the pro-business, Republican-controlled Congress, as a whole is likely to be against it. So the future is uncertain and this should serve as a reminder that, onerous though it may be, reading and fully appreciating a business’s T&Cs before accepting them is critical.


1. “Congress Takes Action Against Online Review Retaliation.”

2. “H.R.5499 – Consumer Review Freedom Act of 2014.”

3. “Federal “Review Freedom Act” Wants To Make U.S. Yelp-Safe For Consumers.”


Smartwatches Add New Dimension to Mobile Strategy

Posted by on May 12th, 2015

ConferenceMobile strategies are no longer a trend, but a necessity. The days of merely discussing how to appeal to mobile users are behind us, and now, marketing executives are allocating a larger portion of their budgets to ensure they actually have a mobile strategy, not just the idea of one. Furthermore, as technology advances, so must mobile engagement strategies. This means strategists have another device to consider… smartwatches, more specifically the Apple Watch™.

Currently, the Apple Watch is designed as an accessory to the iPhone®. In order to make phone calls, answer text messages, receive notifications and use third-party apps, you must be connected to your iPhone and using a Bluetooth or a shared wireless signal. Although the main device continues to be a consumer’s iPhone, the addition of the Apple Watch will change the way he/she interacts with a brand’s updates and notifications.

According to an article written in Adweek’s Social Times, “Glanceable moments will become the new currency of mobile engagement as 40 percent of consumers are tired of pulling their phones out of their pockets or purses, which is something they do approximately 150-200 times per day.”1 Glanceable moments are characterized by two user experiences: actionable notifications and Glances. So, when an app sends an alert to your phone, it will appear on your watch allowing you to interact with the notification through voice command, keyboard input, gestures or buttons. Glances display on the watch face similarly to the widgets on the iPhone. Here, you can view all your updates in one place and scroll up and down to read them all at once, and interact with the ones you choose.2

In a recent Forrester Research Report, smartwatches have an engagement period of three seconds compared to the 30 seconds associated with smartphones. Therefore, brand notifications must be short, enticing and easily digestible.3 By having these notifications appear on a watch, smartphones don’t need to be retrieved on a regular basis. These actionable messages are opened or dismissed with a simple click of a button.

But we mustn’t forget that Apple Watches aren’t replacing iPhones. Instead, they are becoming part of the many devices a person has at any given time. So while it’s essential that marketers adjust their mobile strategy to consider how consumers interact with smartwatches, it is part of a much larger picture. The smartwatch is now the gateway in which consumers will decide if they want to engage further with your brand. Marketers must design notifications based on user preferences and past behaviors to encourage interaction and from there, a much larger web experience should be waiting.

As we navigate our way through the impact the Apple Watch will have on the mobile landscape, it’s important to realize that the main concepts of mobile marketing aren’t changing. Consumers still expect a personalized approach, but now marketers must find a way to create enough excitement with shorter attention spans and physical screen space. From there, the user experience must be seamless whether interaction happens directly on the watch or iPhone.






Finding the Right Conference for You, Today

Posted by on May 8th, 2015

ConferenceFor direct marketers who have been in the industry for at least one decade, there were just a handful of conferences that most direct marketers would attend: DMA, Catalog Show and NEDMA. Even if you could only attend one, these conferences gave you the opportunity to set up meetings, schedule classes, catch up with old friends and have a bit of fun.

But as marketing channels continue to expand from direct mail and call centers to email, social media, web and mobile, the focus has evolved into more specific categories, such as blogging, SEO, analytics, customer loyalty, etc. Therefore, many more conference options are available. I have been asked numerous times from my clients what conferences they should attend. This is no longer an easy answer, and what makes sense for one marketer does not make sense for another. Therefore, I created some questions that marketers should ask themselves when trying to narrow down their conference options:

    1. What is your main goal for the conference?
      • Classes
      • Meetings
      • Hands on demonstrations
      • Vendors
      • Networking
    2. If this is for educational purposes, what do you need to learn about?
      • A specific channel
      • Creative/Design
      • Copywriting
      • Best practices
      • Industry trends
      • Upcoming technology
    3. Is there a conference that fits these needs in your state or neighboring state (to keep travel costs down)?
    4. Do you belong to any groups who might also be attending this conference?
    5. Do you have enough money in the budget to cover all of your expenses?

With anything, once you choose a conference, do a little more research. Check out reviews and see what other people in your industry are saying about their experiences. When budgets are tight, you want to be sure that the conference you attend is everything that you need it to be. I recommend keeping a close eye on attendance lists. Oftentimes, conferences improve over time while others can decline in attendance and standards. A good indication of quality is maybe not necessarily the size the audience, but who is actually attending.

Conferences are a great tool to meet many objectives at one time in one location. Determine what you are looking to accomplish, do your homework and have fun!


The Force Is Strong With “These Two”

Posted by on May 7th, 2015

Marketing GalaxyA long time ago, in a marketing galaxy far, far away, “technology” wasn’t a common term synonymous with marketing. But in today’s digital world, that is quickly changing. Marketing efforts are frequently reliant on technology and, often times, the IT department within an organization. As marketers, we build, assess and plan our customer-centric digital marketing goals using technology to deploy, analyze and automate our efforts.

Marketers understand the importance of data-driven marketing. Over 77 percent said they are confident in the practice and its prospects for future growth.1 Utilizing internal, external and collected data can build a solid customer profile allowing marketers to provide relevant information to customers and prospects. This effective marketing is, in part, dependent on some kind of technical reporting. Strategizing with your IT department can help you gain informational tools that have a positive impact on your marketing campaigns.

As technology continues to advance, marketing spend on technology will also rise. It is said that by 2017, CMOs will spend more on IT than their counterpart CIOs.2 As marketers embrace the technical side of powerful marketing, bringing together marketing and IT teams can result in effective customer engagement and revenue increases.

Just as Princess Leia and Hans Solo joined forces to achieve their ultimate goal, marketing and IT departments can combine efforts to offer relevant, targeted communications to customers and prospects.