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Archive for the ‘Authentic Communications’ Category

When you hear the term “entitlements”, what do you feel? Something to dislike? Desire? Privileged? Frustration? Anger? Resentment?

When you hear the term “benefits,” what do you feel? Something that is attractive? Something good? Something you wouldn’t want to lose?

Let’s take a look at the definitions of the words from Merriam-Webster.com:

Entitlement: 1) a : the state or condition of being entitled : right b : a right to benefits specified especially by law or contract; 2) a government program providing benefits to members of a specified group; also : funds supporting or distributed by such a program; 3) belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges

Benefits: …2) something that promotes well-being : advantage b : useful aid : help; 3) a : financial help in time of sickness, old age, or unemployment b : a payment or service provided for under an annuity, pension plan, or insurance policy c : a service (as health insurance) or right (as to take vacation time) provided by an employer in addition to wages or salary

While these definitions describe similar purposes, the words also have emotional definitions based cultural associations. “Entitle” may be equated with privilege whereas “benefit” means something good or a reward. But aren’t we “entitled” to earn money for our labor? Or do we consider our pay a “benefit”?

The words we choose to use to argue, persuade, debate and communicate overall can either work for us or against us depending upon the emotional connection other people have to those words. For business purposes, it’s important to remember that emotion drives purchase decisions. How often do we use something called “rational thinking” to justify a decision? Like 99.8% of the time – if we’re honest with ourselves.

So what can we business communicators and business owners learn from how these two words are being used in the current American political discourse about ways to reduce federal, state and local budget deficits?

Choose our words carefully…understand their definitions as well as their cultural meaning…so that we can better connect with our audiences or customers.

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Corporations and other businesses spend billions of marketing dollars each year to entice consumers to buy their products or services. Bottom line to all the messaging: “we want your business.”

But what happens when the reality doesn’t match the marketing promise? Could you be doing the same thing in your business?

Community Bank of Nevada and Wells Fargo Bank are two excellent examples of how reality is vastly stronger than a marketing message.

I mourn the passing of Community Bank of Nevada because, as one of its many non-business customers, I appreciated being appreciated. The staff at the Sunset branch always greeted me by name, something that always surprised me since I wasn’t a daily or even weekly customer. I enjoyed being able to talk with a teller in a normal voice level without the nearly sound-proof security Plexiglas in the way. Best thing of all – again for me as a customer – was the lack of long lines even on Fridays. I could walk right in the front door, get my business done, and be on my way – in and out – perfect for the busy professional like myself.

So you can imagine my confusion and disillusionment when I stopped at the Wells Fargo branch on Eastern, north of Tropicana, to handle some business for a vacationing client.

The door I tried entering through was “Exit Only” and it took me a few moments to comprehend the signage. In effect it said that access to the bank was limited to the other side of the building.

With no sidewalk or safe walkway around to the other side of the building, I got back in my car and drove to the back. Good thing I did. Another customer nearly got flatten by a speeding motorist wanting to use the ATM.

At the entrance, I was then faced with figuring out how get inside. A disembodied voice told me to wait for the green light. That’s when I realized this was a double-entry security entry with a metal detector. The voice told only one person could enter at a time. Okay, but what about the elderly woman leaning heavily on her cane? Could she make it through on her own?

After a process of green light-red light, I made it inside, feeling as I had entered the inner sanctum of a most holy temple. The exit process looked a little easier but I could help but wonder if its security setup would encourage hostage situations.

The Wells Fargo staffer at the door greeted me warmly, though I could tell she was bracing herself for another irate tirade from a customer. The tellers behind their Plexiglass shields looked just as uneasy. No one would comment on the new security measures or answer any questions about them. I could only speculate and wonder if this is the wave of the future for banking.

Despite its excellence in customer service, Community Bank of Nevada failed because of being under capitalized and having an increasing amount of bad commercial loans on its books.

But, if these new security measures that shout “I DON’T TRUST YOU” are widely implemented, how will Wells Fargo continue to attract customers based on marketing messages of “Welcome, we want your business”?

Only time will tell.

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A few weeks ago, I attended a business seminar for women looking to ramp up their businesses during uncertain economic times. The attendees I met were quite experienced in the business world. The majority went out on their own after years in the corporate world. They all had a good handle on who their intended customers were, had ideas on how to attract more potential customers, and understood the value of existing customers.

One of the topics at the seminar was how to use email to push your marketing message. The importance of “opt in” (letting your prospect sign-up for your e-efforts) was fully covered including how annoyed recipients can mark your unwanted email as spam, thus potentially labeling you as a spammer (even if you use a reputable email service provider who, in turn, will warn you about such tactics). I saw lots of note taking on paper, laptops and electronic gadgets.

So it’s surprised me to see the amount of e-stuff coming from some of these attendees – stuff I didn’t sign up for (and stuff that really doesn’t pertain to my own business). The cynical part of me wonders if all that note taking was actually writing some report, doing a grocery list or working on the next great American novel.

Sending an invitation to sign up for the e-marketing tool accomplishes at least 4 things:

  1. Makes a personal connection with a prospective customer. In addition to the usual marketing copy encouraging sign ups, include copy about the event you and the prospect attended and mention something you learned that can be applied to what your e-marketing tool is about. This method tells you prospect that you look at them as a person, not just another “target.”
  2. Increasing conversion. By allowing prospects to opt-in, you know know who is interested in what you have to offer. You’ve narrowed your list of prospects to those with the biggest potential of doing business with you. Your conversion and sales rates will go up.
  3. Reducing expenses in both time and money. By allowing prospects to opt-out, you no longer have to manage unwieldy databases, deal with bounce-backs from bad email addresses, waste time trying to develop messages that ultimately won’t be heard, and decrease the cost of your email campaigns (as most email service providers base their fees on the amount of outgoing email).
  4. Showing respect for your prospect. We’ve all got more inbound email every day than we really truly keep up with. By using an e-invitation, you’re saying “Hey, I know what I have is very valuable but I’m not here to waste your time or force it down your throat.” Not every prospect will realize this but you will and it will overflow into other areas of your business.

What else can be achieved by using opt-in invitations? Share your ideas here.

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Okay, perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration but I did experience a lot of exasperation.

Every four years, I’m practically glued to the TV to watch as many competitions as possible during the Summer Olympics – from the obscure like archery, equestrian and rowing to the “biggies” of swimming, gymnastics and volleyball.

I am always moved by the passion, dedication and ability of every competitor – no matter how perfect or imperfect their performance is. They’ve trained for years for their one chance at glory – at that very moment, their dreams teeter on success and failure. No matter the outcome, I know they’ve done their very, very best.

For the first time (in my memory anyway) the presidential candidates ran campaign ads. And not occasionally. It seemed every commercial break contained an ad by candidates Senators John McCain and Barack Obama.

But instead of running different commercials highlighting what they would do if elected, both campaigns replayed their same ad over and over and over and over again to the point that even changing from NBC to MSNBC (or vice versa) didn’t help me escape the onslaught. These ads ran more than the replays of that amazing swimmer Michael Phelps winning his eight Olympic gold medals or the Olympic theme song.

It’s the tactician in me who wants to know what the candidates’ plans are, how they will work to make those plans reality, where they stand on issues, and – perhaps most importantly – how truthful they really are about their records.

It’s the “authentic communications” marketer in me who wants to know these important messages. Instead, I saw “politics as usual” in these two candidates’ ads – only the tones were different. McCain was on the attack and Obama kept to his campaign slogan.

It frustrates me – as a communicator and citizen – to feel that I know more about an Olympic athlete from a 3-minute interview than I do about a presidential candidate after 19+ months of marathon campaigning.

So next time, I want my Summer Olympics free from presidential politics.

I can dream, can’t I?

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