February 3, 2014

The Real Value of Social Media Hinges On These 3 Words

By Patrick Mahan

I just received this question on Google+
"Would you say the value of social media is more in improving general brand awareness rather than directly generating sales?"
I would say the real value of social media is none of the above (improving brand awareness or directly generating sales).

The real value of Social Media hinges on three words:

  • Familiarity
  • Affinity
  • Trust

We'll dig into those more in a minute. But first, I'd like to address the question and give my opinion on the real value of Social Media.

Increasing Brand Awareness?

As you know, people are bombarded with commercial messages all day, every day. The last thing they want is more noise in their Social Media streams from brands trying to sell them something.

I would not recommend using Social Media as a bullhorn, or another broadcast platform to yell at people in a moment they don't want to be yelled at ... about things they don't want to hear about ... in hopes of increasing awareness of your brand.

If you believe lack of awareness is the problem, then Social Media is not the solution.

Social Media is about connecting with people and building relationships. It's about making friends, not sales. It's about educating and entertaining. It's about knowing your audience and delivering valuable content that is personal, timely and relevant to that audience.

It's an opportunity to turn strangers into friends. And then - once you earn their attention (Note: There is a BIG difference between attention and awareness) - you have the opportunity to turn those friends into customers... and eventually into advocates.

And that is the ultimate goal. Advocates. Fans. Loyal customers. Why? Because loyal customers are the world's greatest salespeople. And your company's greatest asset. When you have a devoted group of followers, they do the selling for you. They sing your praises. They spread the word. And "awareness" is no longer an issue.

In fact, I would say that Awareness is never the problem. Awareness is a symptom. A symptom that your product or service isn't worth talking about.

So try this ... make something remarkable. A product or service that people can't wait to experience again. And they can't wait to share that experience with their friends and family. If you focus on that, then I believe you will find the 'awareness issue' will take care of itself.

Directly Generating Sales?

I'm a big believer in the idea that you must sow before you reap. You should always give people something of value first before you ask for anything in return. And Social Media gives you the ability to do that at a scale that was never before possible.

But first, you have to get comfortable with the idea of giving your knowledge away for free. That is what people want and expect from brands on Social Media. They don't want to be pitched. They want to be educated and entertained. They want coupons, discounts, exclusive opportunities, and incentives. In short, they want to get to know you first, before they buy from you.

So use Social Media to build rapport and establish your authority and expertise. Then, when the people consuming your content are ready to make a purchase, you will have positioned yourself as the go-to source.

But even then, I wouldn't recommend using Social Media to directly generate sales. Use it as a tool to gently guide prospects further down the sales funnel. Then, when the time is right, direct them to your website (preferably a landing page) where you will give them an opportunity to place an order.

Familiarity, Affinity and Trust

Social Media is all about building relationships. And all relationships are built upon these three words ... Familiarity, Affinity and Trust.

Since the beginning of time, people have made it clear that they prefer to do business with people they know (Familiarity), like (Affinity) and trust.

All three are elements of Rapport. And that should be your ultimate goal in Social Media ... building Rapport, not collecting "Likes".

Social Media gives you an opportunity, like never before, to get to know your customers - and potential customers - on a personal level. An opportunity to become more than a faceless corporation.

"If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend. Therein is a drop of honey that catches his heart, which, say what you will, is the great high-road to his reason, and which, when once gained, you will find but little trouble in convincing his judgment of the justice of your cause." - Abraham Lincoln

Social Media is a place to make friends, not sales. A place to create relationships, not transactions. But if done right - and with sincerity - those friendships can certainly lead to sales. Lots of sales. Because at the end of the day, Social Media is just a new spin on an old concept ... Word-of-Mouth Marketing. Treat customers right. Give them something worth talking about. And they will spread the word. Social Media just gives them a much louder voice.

So step out from behind the corporate logo and speak to people in a friendly, conversational tone. This is what builds familiarity, affinity and trust ... the three things that should be top priority in your social media marketing strategy.

January 27, 2014

A Prescription For Closing More Sales

By Patrick Mahan

Salesmanship isn't what it used to be. Consumers today are more distrustful of sales people than every before. Fast-talking, slick sales people using outdated manipulation techniques are being replaced by "service professionals" who listen more than they talk.

Consumers have made their preference clear: They want to be served, not sold.

In the old days, the Sales Cycle began with the first interaction between buyer and seller. But today, with the abundance of information available to consumers online, buyers are now nearly 60% along the path to a purchase decision before they ever meet a salesperson.

Times have changed. And as consumers become more informed and more educated, the balance of power will continue to shift in favor of the buyer. 

The question is, as a salesperson and a marketer, are you adapting to these changes in consumer behavior?

I believe it all begins with re-framing the way you approach sales. 
"You know you are running a modern sales team when selling feels more like the relationship between a doctor and a patient and less like a relationship between a salesperson and a prospect.
When you go in to see your doctor and she asks you about your symptoms, you tell her the truth. You trust that she can diagnose your problem and prescribe the right medication.
When she says, "This is what you have. Take these pills," you don’t say, “Let me think about it” or “Can I get 20 percent off?” You take the medication.
It's no longer about interrupting, pitching and closing. It is about listening, diagnosing and prescribing." - Mark Roberge, SVP Sales and Services at HubSpot

I would add this...

In order for this approach to work, you must position yourself (and/or your company) as an Authority Figure. Authority is one of Cialdini's 6 Principles of Persuasion.

People follow a doctor's advice because he has established himself as an authority on the subject. An expert. A trusted advisor.

How do you establish yourself as an Authority?

  •  Write: The root of the word Authority is Author. We view authors as authorities on the subjects they write about. Blogging, YouTube videos, white papers, writing articles for magazines, etc. are all great ways to demonstrate your knowledge of a subject. And position yourself as a thought leader. The go-to expert in your industry. And Social Media gives you a platform - and an amplified voice - to spread your message like never before.

  • Testimonials: In terms of marketing, nothing in the world is more powerful than a third-party endorsement. The more endorsements you earn, the more your Authority grows.

Furthermore, endorsements provide Social Proof (another one of Cialdini's 6 Principles of Persuasion). People like safety in numbers. If everyone is doing it, then it must be okay. Now more than ever, consumers are turning to the Internet to read reviews posted by others before making a decision [*]. The more Social Proof you have backing your brand, the more your Authority grows.

[*] 90% Of Customers Say Buying Decisions Are Influenced By Online Reviews

November 29, 2013

What Is "Corporate Patriotism" And Why You Need It

Corporate Patriotism

By Patrick Mahan

What Can "Corporate Patriotism" Do For Your Company?

There is a lot of talk about Company Culture these days. A strong company culture seems to be the glue that holds a company together and also the fuel that drives it forward.

What is Company Culture? I believe it is a collective emotion similar to patriotism (the love and devotion one feels toward their country).

CEO's strive to create a similar emotion within their company, where employees feel a love and devotion to each other, their customers and the mission of the company.

Those who get it right reap huge benefits. The stronger a company's culture, the more magnetic it becomes... attracting and keeping the most talented employees, attracting and keeping the best customers, attracting and keeping bigger profits.

Companies with strong cultures are inspired. Their employees are inspired to do better work, and their customers are inspired to keep coming back for more.

And another benefit ... the stronger a company's culture, the less need there is to implement strict policies, rules, organizational charts, endless meetings, and procedures.

Now, a few questions for you...

July 23, 2013

Rethinking the Elevator Pitch

Elevator Pitch

By Patrick Mahan

You never know who you might bump into. A chance encounter on an airplane could lead to your next big sale. Or the person in line behind you at the grocery store just might be the strategic business partner that helps take your brand global.

As they say, "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." The question is, how prepared are you when opportunities like these arise?

July 5, 2013

Dare to Say "Yes!"

By Patrick Mahan

If you want to be right 90% of the time, then say "No" to every new idea.

But don't expect to grow or move forward or reach new heights.

Think back to all the times in your life when you felt most fulfilled. Think about your greatest achievements and happiest moments...

Chances are, those moments were only realized because you said "Yes!" to something.

Is there a decision you've been putting off?

Are you stuck in a rut, saying: "Someday I'll do this... Or someday I'll do that"?

Every day you choose NOT to take action, you are essentially saying "no."  You have a calling or an urge or a desire, but what are you doing to advance it and set it in motion?

Nothing. Or at least not today. Maybe tomorrow? Maybe someday I'll take that first step.

But at some point, don't we have to say to ourselves: "Someday is either NOW ... or never."

Do you have something weighing on your mind? Something pulling you in the direction of your dreams? What if today you stopped saying "no" and instead dared to say "Yes!"?

March 10, 2013

When Different is Better

By Patrick Mahan

Taking on the well-established, industry leader? Don't try to be BETTER than them. Aim to be DIFFERENT.

History shows this tactic works better than trying to beat the leader at their own game. Southwest Airlines is a good example. They entered a competitive space dominated by Delta and American Airlines. Now they have become the envy of the airline industry.

Rather than asking: "How can we do the exact same thing as Delta and American Airlines, but better?" they asked the better question: "How can we be different?" And what a difference that has made.

By focusing more on being DIFFERENT and less on being BETTER, ironically, Southwest has made being different, better!

Now take a look at your own business... are you focused on beating the competition at their own game, or differentiating yourself?

Sometimes, running in the OPPOSITE direction is better than trying to catch up and overtake your competitors.

Do you have any examples of this from your own experiences?

February 5, 2013

Golden Rule of Email Marketing

Golden Rule of Email Marketing

How to increase your email open rates and minimize unsubscribers.

By Patrick Mahan

Email marketing is one of the most effective and personal forms of marketing.


Because not everyone reads your industry's publications looking for your ads. Not everyone watches television at the time you run your commercials. Not everyone listens to the radio or drives past your billboard. Not everyone subscribes to your blog's RSS feed or checks your Facebook Page or visits your website each morning. But ... everyone checks their email inbox.

And that's why email marketing is so powerful. However, as they say, "With power comes responsibility." And your responsibility is to NOT wear out your welcome.

February 4, 2013

Which would you rather have: Employees or Followers?

By Patrick Mahan

In his bestselling book, Tribes, author Seth Godin says: 
"Managers have employees. Leaders have followers."
Are you a Manager ... or a Leader?

Do you have employees ... or followers?

These are important distinctions. And your answer may be the single greatest predictor of the success - or failure - of your business.

Why? Because people don't want to follow orders. They want to follow a passionate leader. They want to be led, not pushed. They want to be inspired, not directed.

Do you want to get the most out of your team? Then stop giving orders and start becoming someone worth following. 

When you inspire people to rally around a common goal and encourage them to become part of something meaningful and bigger than themselves, then together you will create a synergy that is capable of producing extraordinary results!

I think this quote says it best ...
"If you want to build a ship, don't herd people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
What are your thoughts?

December 26, 2012

Check Below the Surface

By Patrick Mahan

Last summer, I wanted to make the grass in my front yard look like a baseball field (or golf course). I tried all kinds of strategies. Aerate, overseed, water, fertilize... but the grass wasn't growing like I wanted it to.

I asked an expert and he told me the pH balance in the soil was off. It was too acidic. He said you can try all sorts of strategies and tactics, but if the underlying chemistry isn't right, then nothing will grow.

I think this is a good business analogy. If the chemistry isn't right, nothing can grow.

So dig below the surface and look at the chemistry of your team or company. Is it acidic?

You can try all sorts of "topical treatments"... bonuses, incentives, corporate restructuring, mergers, acquisitions, new marketing campaigns, strategic planning, etc. But the real roadblock to growth and sustainability often lies below the surface.

And the solution may be changing your chemistry rather than your strategy.
"Synergy comes before strategy." - John Calipari, head coach of the University of Kentucky Wildcats, 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball National Champions

December 25, 2012

Powerful Marketing Lesson from Miracle on 34th Street

By Patrick Mahan

Miracle on 34th Street is not only a classic Christmas movie, it's also one of the most powerful marketing lessons of all-time.

In the movie, Macy's department store discovers their Santa Claus is sending customers to competitors. If Macy's doesn't have the item, or if a competitor sells it for less money, Santa Claus tells the parents where they can go to get it.

This outrages the manager of the toy department. But when Mr. Macy receives hundreds of telegrams from thankful parents expressing their gratitude for placing customers ahead of profits, Mr. Macy quickly embraces the radical new policy. The store becomes the talk of the town and sales shoot out the roof.

This is a powerful lesson in customer service, the power of word-of-mouth marketing, and the impact front-line employees can have on the success (or failure) of your brand.

Below is the dialogue from the movie...

Mr. Macy speaking to his executive team:

"On the face of it, I admit this plan sounds idiotic and impossible. Imagine, Macy's Santa Claus sending customers to Gimbels. But, gentlemen, you cannot argue with success. Look at this. Telegrams, messages, telephone calls. The governor's wife, the mayor's wife... over 500 thankful parents expressing undying gratitude to Macy's. Never in my entire career have I seen such a tremendous and immediate response to a merchandising policy. And I'm positive, if we expand our policy, we'll expand our results as well. Therefore, from now on, not only will our Santa Claus continue in this manner, but I want every salesperson in this store to do precisely the same thing. If we haven't got exactly what the customer wants, we'll send him where he can get it. No high pressuring and forcing a customer to take something he doesn't really want. We'll be known as the helpful store, the friendly store, the store with a heart, the store that places public service ahead of profits. And, consequently, we'll make more profits than ever before."

Are you brave enough to implement this "customers first" strategy? Or do you believe this stuff only works in the movies?

December 24, 2012

Marketing Lesson from The Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock

By Patrick Mahan

In the new movie, Hitchcock, Anthony Hopkins plays the role of Alfred Hitchcock, the Master of Suspense, in a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Psycho.

I saw the movie today at the old Kentucky Theater downtown. (If you're gonna watch a movie about Hitchcock you might as well watch it in a theater built in 1922. Something about it adds to the experience).

Hopkins was brilliant as usual. And the movie was pretty fascinating. Several things I didn't realize...

December 19, 2012

The Perfect Subject Line for Emails

By Patrick Mahan

Every marketer is looking for the perfect email subject line to increase open rates.

Lots of How To articles have been written on the topic. Most recommend writing subject lines that invoke curiosity. Or ask a question. Or speak directly to the reader. Or announce breaking news.

One research study concluded that the most successful subject line of all-time was the phrase: "You are not alone."

But what if we take an entirely different approach?

We spend our time and energy trying to craft creative (and sometimes deceptive) subject lines in an effort to get more people to open our emails.

But here's the thing ... you should be more concerned about the NAME that appears in the "From" line and less concerned about the CONTENT that appears in the "subject" line. 

I receive newsletters from several authors that I have come to know, like and trust. When I see their name in the From Line, the Subject Line has little influence on my decision to open their email. 

So... as usual, it all comes down to building a reputation for yourself (and/or your company) as someone people know, like and trust. Develop a reputation for delivering content that is personal, timely, relevant and valuable.

When you focus your efforts on becoming someone of value, offering something of value, then you'll discover the "subject line" is the least important part of your email marketing strategy.

December 17, 2012

Pick Any Two

By Patrick Mahan 

Instant coffee. Instant downloads. High-speed internet. One-hour cleaners. Microwave ovens. Overnight shipping... We live in the Age of Instant Gratification.

Customers want it NOW! They want it better, they want it faster - and unfortunately - they want it cheaper. 

And that puts you in a tough spot. How can you deliver higher quality, faster, friendlier service AND slash your price?

You're already bending over backwards for your customers. You're working 60 plus hours a week. And what do you get in return? Insatiable customers who want a lot more for a lot less.

So what's the answer? How do you keep up with increasing customer demands without losing your mind... and your business in the process?

Unfortunately, there's no magic bullet.  You can't be all things to all people. You can't make everyone happy, no matter how hard you try. So stop trying. How's that for an answer?!

Now you're probably thinking... "That's great. I'll be out of business in less than a week!"

But stick with me. There's a way to work through this dilemma. And it's all about MANAGING EXPECTATIONS.

You can offer the highest quality, but if you do, then you can't offer the lowest price. Or, you can offer the lowest price, but then you can't offer the highest quality... or the fastest delivery... or provide Ritz-Carlton type service.

The challenge is communicating this to the people who want it all... your customers.  

So the solution is managing expectations. What does that mean? It means NOT over-promising. It's means communicating upfront exactly what you can and cannot deliver. It means letting your customers know exactly what to expect from the very beginning. It means positioning yourself clearly in your market.

When you buy jewelry from Wal-Mart, you're not expecting Tiffany-quality. And you're certainly not expecting Tiffany prices. Why? Because Wal-mart manages expectations. They brand themselves as the low price discount seller. You know what to expect when you walk into Wal-mart.

In the same way, when you walk into Tiffany's, you're expecting high prices. But you're also expecting high quality and world-class service (and that fancy, iconic little blue box!). As a result of setting these expectations, customers understand that "haggling" over price isn't an option when buying a diamond ring from Tiffany's.


In today's competitive marketplace, you have to be an outlier. You have to position yourself clearly in the minds of consumers. Are you the cheapest or the most expensive? Are you focused on selling quality or quantity? Are you relationship-oriented or transaction-oriented?

You really have to move toward one end of the spectrum or the other. If you stand in the middle of the road - trying to be all things to all people - you're going to get run over.

Rather than positioning yourself (or your company) as a jack-of-all trades, it's time to become a master of one. Don't make the mistake of diluting your product or service by adding more and more bells and whistles trying to please a wider range of people. Focus on what you do best. Trim the fat. Price yourself accordingly.

The world wants specialists, not generalists. Think about this... cheap restaurants have tons of items on their menus, but five-star restaurants offer a limited menu. Why? Because they know every item added to the menu dilutes the quality of every other item. So they eliminate the fluff and pour their heart and soul into preparing the dishes they make best. Could you apply this same philosophy to your business?

Bottom line... 

You can't be all things to all people. So stop trying. Pick the things you are really good at. Communicate clearly what you can do, can't do and won't do. And manage customers' expectations accordingly from the very beginning.

December 14, 2012

Put Customers Second?

By Patrick Mahan

Employees first, customers second. You can build the world's best wagon, but if the horses aren't motivated to pull it, it's useless.

December 13, 2012

Is it the Mousetrap or the Cheese?

By Patrick Mahan

Every business wants to build a better mousetrap, but what they really need may simply be a different kind of cheese.