Keep Calm and Social On: When a Mistake Doesn’t Mean the End

No one wants to make a mistake, much less a highly visual mistake on social media. But it happens, and it happened to Ad Age last week. Guess what? No one was fired, angry readers and Twitter followers didn’t surround Ad Age’s office with pitchforks, and surely no one died (well, Michael Delligatti, the inventor of McDonald’s Big Mac did die last week and has gone on to the Golden Arches in the sky … but that’s only slightly related.)

No one wants to make a mistake, much less a highly visual mistake on social media. Those are the kind of snafus that land you on “Worst Tweets of the Year” listicles from subpar media sites who burn through negative coverage just to keep the lights on. But it happens.

Huge tiny mistake Arrested DevelopmentIt happened to Ad Age last week, and guess what? No one was fired, angry readers and Twitter followers didn’t surround Ad Age’s office with pitchforks, and surely no one died (well, Michael Delligatti, the inventor of McDonald’s Big Mac did die last week and has gone on to the Golden Arches in the sky … but that’s only slightly related.)

What am I talking about? Managing Editor Ken Wheaton’s Dec. 5 article, “What You Can Learn From the Social Media Crisis That Wasn’t” and the tweet in question:

Fun fact: The image of the Big Mac went with Ad Age’s story about Delligatti’s passing … the Vagisil story actually had a video attached to it, but clearly did not play well with the system.

So, 11 minutes following the first post, the folks at Ad Age tweeted what I think is a measured, smart response.

The Vagisil story with a Big Mac image tweet was a MISTAKE. Like many media companies, Ad Age’s content management system (CMS) is integrated with a platform to automate social media. Usually it’s all rosy and saves editors time, but there can be snafus, but here the wrong image got pulled and used with the wrong content.

Was it offensive? No.

A little confusing? Maybe.

Do I think this is a fireable offense? Absolutely not.

As Wheaton explained:

I decided not to take it down. Why? One, this is social media. It was already out there and I knew with 100 percent certainty that someone had already grabbed a shot of it. It’s what I would have done. Hiding it would have just fed the beast. “What is Ad Age trying to hide?” … Two, it wasn’t really hurtful or offensive. If anyone looked bad, it was us. Three, again, this is social media. Despite the intensity of tweet storms, despite it feeling like the world is ending, these things pass relatively fast. Four, 2016 has sucked for a lot of people, and it seemed like our faux pas was actually bringing some sort of joy into the world.

Did the folks at Ad Age learn a lesson regarding how their content gets automated for social? Absolutely. But the bigger lesson, and what I REALLY appreciate Wheaton for sharing, was that Ad Age let the mole hill be the mole hill. There weren’t even flames to fan, and I think if they had made a bigger deal out of the mistake, it would have been like replacing a fan with a blowtorch set on high.

Bravo Ad Age for realizing that making a harmless, slightly embarrassing (and kinda funny) mistake is not the end of the world. We all screw up sometimes, but if we learn something from the situation, then it’s worth it. And kudos to Ken Wheaton for writing about it so candidly. It’s one thing to leave the tweet up and acknowledge the “oopsie!” and it’s another thing to let us in, and let us learn from a mistake so perhaps we can avoid making a similar one.

And with that, let me leave you with Wheaton’s apt, closing words:

Words do matter, sure. But getting outraged over every little thing is not only exhausting, it’s childish and lessens the impact of actual outrage. If we’re all outraged all the time, when something is truly outrageous, no one cares. It’s the equivalent of crying wolf.

And a last word of advice for marketers. Don’t do anything offensive or hurtful. Don’t say anything offensive or hurtful on social media. And if you do do something stupid, especially if it’s an accident, sit tight and give it a chance to blow over.

Why You Aren’t Getting Appointments on LinkedIn

Ninety-five percent of sales reps using LinkedIn are getting few—if any—appointments. They’re using premium services, Sales Navigator, sending InMail, joining groups, spiffing up their profiles. And yet they’re chronically underperforming. All because they’re making three easily correctable mistakes when firing up their Web browsers each day.

Ninety-five percent of sales reps using LinkedIn are getting few—if any—appointments. They’re using premium services, Sales Navigator, sending InMail, joining groups, spiffing up their profiles. And yet they’re chronically underperforming. All because they’re making three easily correctable mistakes when firing up their Web browsers each day.

Mistake No. 1: Asking for Connections First
The most deadly—and common—mistake most reps make comes right at the beginning: asking prospects for connection requests. Being connected is useful for nurturing leads—not effective for earning near-term meetings or starting discussions.

Stop asking for connections as a first step.

Outside of InMail or Group messages, don’t try to make initial contact with prospects on LinkedIn. You may get connections accepted sometimes, but you’ll rarely spark conversations after the connection is accepted.

Connecting first is not an effective practice. It’s also against LinkedIn’s terms of use and is punishable. You can be banned. Wait until the prospect knows you, and they will be more likely to accept your connection request.

Initiate contact first—then connect on LinkedIn to nurture the conversation forward. This takes full advantage of what connections give you (and avoids the risk of being restricted).

Mistake No. 2: Forgetting to Slow Prospects Down
Customers are busy and getting busier. So our first job is to help them take a breath for a second. Literally. That’s where your first couple of email or InMail messages come into play.

These very brief, blunt and basic messages should disarm the customer—not ask them for an appointment. Don’t ask them to direct you to the right decision makers. Don’t ask them to have a demo with you. These are all extremely common mistakes. Don’t ask them for anything other than a reply!

Get out of the ninety-five percent of underperformers and into the top 5 percent of LinkedIn users.

Yes, you must grab a prospect’s attention and hold it. But your first message must shock the prospect by putting them in control of the contact with you. Because once prospects feel control the good ones will in a better position to discover something:

They want to talk to you. Or, they want to take action on making a change.

Mistake No. 3: Not Letting Them Ask You for the Meeting
Most likely, you are asking for the meeting too often and too early. Instead, let them ask you.

“When do we succeed? When we don’t need the sale,” says sales trainer Mia Doucet of CrackTheSalesCode.com. She would know. She’s helped her clients generate hundreds of millions in new customer sales.

Doucet says our instinctual need for validation (as humans) often causes confusion. We often let our weak, selfish need to get the deal sabotage our own effort.

For example, we sometimes ask for a meeting too soon. Instead, we should be more confident: “attracting” the meeting to us.

Let’s assume you can grab a prospect’s attention and hold it with your first email or InMail message. Reality is, you have a chance to earn their request for a meeting. Sure, you can ask them for the meeting. But what you really want is for them to ask you for it.

Don’t act like you need the sale so badly. You want the prospect to be attracted to you. They already know you are attracted to them. You just sent them an email, after all!

It’s Like a Date
At one time, you were probably on a hot date. Maybe you had one last night. Either way, when you’ve decided “I want to attract this person to me” you can go about getting what you want (the next step, the next date or phone call) in one of two ways: Asking for it or being asked.

Which do you like better? We all like being asked for the next step; it signals attraction on the other side.

Do you have prospects who are not yet aware that your solution exists? If so, they are probably happy with what they have in place. Or maybe your prospects are too scared to abandon or switch from what they have in place.

Or they may just plain not care about making any change whatsoever. It’s not worth the risk. In these cases you’re forced to attract customers in a “pull” manner.

Plan for What You Want: Curiosity
Attracting clients to you is mostly about deciding in advance what details to hold back (that the other side wants the most). Then, alluding to it in a seductive or provocative (yet credible) way. It’s this structuring of how you “say what you say” that sparks customers’ curiosity.

Often times clients want “the how.” So by letting out just a little of your very best stuff each time it’s your turn to speak you create more questions about yourself … or your thing (what you sell).

This keeps the other side asking you rather than the other way around. This ultimately creates a moment in time where the potential buyer realizes, hey, you are worth a larger time investment.

Just like that first date: You’ll get asked for your phone number or to meet again. But none of this happens without having a plan.

What do you think? What’s your plan?

When Mistakes Happen

Mistakes are a part of the learning process. Every company will experience them at one time or another. Ideally, with good planning, they will be minor and won’t happen often. With better planning, there is an action plan in place to quickly right the wrong. Knowing what to do before it needs to be done simplifies fixing the problem.

My Coke Rewards Apology Email
This My Coke Rewards apology email was delivered quickly and followed the four best practices of making amends for a marketing mistake.

Mistakes are a part of the learning process. Every company will experience them at one time or another. Ideally, with good planning, they will be minor and won’t happen often. With better planning, there is an action plan in place to quickly right the wrong. Knowing what to do before it needs to be done simplifies fixing the problem.

Handling mistakes well is a great loyalty builder. You can measure the effect by conducting a comparative analysis. Pull two segments to compare from customers who made their first purchase five years ago. Choose customers who are very similar in order source, size and selection. Select people who had seemingly perfect orders for the first segment. “Perfect orders” describe orders that are processed quickly and delivered without issues. Place people who had problems quickly resolved for the second segment.

Detail sales history, average order and returns for each segment. Use the information to compare the value of the customers who had problems with the ones who didn’t. This analysis almost always finds that the people who had problems quickly resolved are much more valuable than those who had a perfect order. I believe there is a simple explanation for this: People who have problems resolved to their satisfaction trust the company more. Trust and loyalty go hand in hand.

Planning for failure seems counterintuitive, but it is the best way to be prepared. The first part of the action plan is determining the extent of the problem. Will an apology suffice, or does something need correcting? Apologies are sufficient when the mistake is simple and doesn’t overly inconvenience the person or create an expense.

My Coke Rewards provides us with a good example of a mistake where an apology is enough. Last month, the automated points’ expiration notice malfunctioned. Members received a notification that they needed to add or use points or they would expire. The deadline for keeping the account active was two weeks before the email was sent. The apology came quickly and followed best practices (refer to the image in the media player):

  • Be direct with the apology and explanation.
  • Tell people what they need to do (if anything).
  • Thank them for their business.
  • If necessary, offer a reward for the inconvenience. (If you offer a reward in the form of a discount, make it dollars off with no minimum. This is a payment for a mistake, not a marketing promotion.)

The email from My Coke Rewards was simple, to the point and didn’t offer compensation. The mistake was minor, so an apology after the correction was enough. Bigger mistakes require more. There isn’t a magic formula that determines the ideal response for every problem. Customers are individuals with unique expectations.

The second part of the action plan is determining the specific resolution for each problem. Creating a general list of potential problems and resolutions provides a guide for the customer service team. Anything that satisfies the customer and falls within the guidelines should be resolved immediately.

The best way to determine what needs to be done is to ask the customer with the problem. Lead with an apology and follow with the inquiry. For example: “I’m sorry this happened. What can we do to make it right?” There will occasionally be an outlandish demand, but usually the requested solution is less than you were prepared to do. Asking customers how to right a wrong simultaneously gives them respect and shows that you care. Here are some other best practices when a mistake happens:

  • Minimize customers’ investment in resolving issues. Strive to resolve issues on the first contact without involving other people whenever possible.
  • If you discover the mistake before the customer, reach out immediately. This shows your customers that you are watching their backs.
  • Use the appropriate communication tool. Email works well for most correspondence as long as the messages are not from “do not reply” boxes.
  • When the resolution process is complete, ask customers if they are satisfied with the solution. Every customer cannot be saved, but letting them go without trying is unacceptable.
  • Avoid fake apologies. Apologizing works so well in relationship building that people are making up reasons to do it. Don’t.

7 Email Marketing Mistakes Even Seasoned Marketers Make

Email marketing is so easy that it is tempting to use it as a set-and-forget marketing tool. Failure to optimize email marketing strategy and execution affects customer loyalty, sales and costs. Email provides a personal, one-to-one connection between customer and company. It’s a shame to lose opportunities to build relationships, increase revenue and reduce expenses by not committing the time and effort required to maximize email effectiveness.

Email marketing is so easy that it is tempting to use it as a set-and-forget marketing tool. After all, if the subscriber list is large enough, almost every send will generate revenue. Marketers dealing with constantly changing technology, platforms and channels have little time to commit to a channel that works with minimal effort.

Failure to optimize email marketing strategy and execution affects customer loyalty, sales and costs. Email provides a personal, one-to-one connection between customer and company. It’s a shame to lose opportunities to build relationships, increase revenue and reduce expenses by not committing the time and effort required to maximize email effectiveness.

Most of the mistakes made in email marketing have simple fixes with minimal costs. Here are seven common mistakes made by even the most experienced marketers:

1. Treating All Subscribers Alike
People choose to receive your emails for personal reasons. Some are trendsetters who want to see the latest and greatest items. Others are discount shoppers seeking the best deal. Nestled between the two are a variety of personalities looking for specific solutions to their problems. Failing to recognize the different types and create customized marketing messages for them speeds the email fatigue process and reduces sales opportunities.

2. Failing to Capitalize on Contact Opportunities
The email subscription process provides several opportunities to connect with people interested in knowing more about your business and products. Each step should be used to educate, entertain, and enlighten new subscribers. Poorly designed confirmation pages and welcome emails are lost opportunities.

3. Ignoring Deliverability Rules
The problem with this mistake is simple and obvious: Emails that don’t reach recipients won’t generate responses. Spam is a huge problem. According to a report by Symantec, 75 percent of global emails are spam (pdf). The tools designed to eliminate spam aren’t perfect. Encouraging subscribers to whitelist your emails increases deliverability but it doesn’t guarantee it. Ensuring that all emails follow deliverability rules improves chances that people will actually receive them.

4. Repeatedly Sending the Same Visual Email
Creating branded templates so that your emails are easily recognized is a good practice. Using the same one repeatedly isn’t. You have less than three seconds to capture the recipient’s attention before the delete button is pushed. People respond to visual information first. If all of your emails look alike, they trigger an “I’ve seen that already” response.

5. Presuming Recipients Recognize Icons and Know What You Want Them to Do
Icons are great visual add-ons, but they need a text call to action to encourage people to take the next step. People are trained from an early age to follow instructions. If you want them to connect with you on social platforms, visit your website, call your business, or get directions to your store, tell them. Icons without a call to action are tools for people who already know what they want. Icons with a call to action encourage people to do what you want.

6. Neglecting to Make Emails Mobile Friendly
According to a study by YesMail, over 41 percent of mobile device owners said that they have made either an online or in-store purchase as a direct result of an email promotion they viewed on their device. Are your emails easy to read on the small screen? Do all sections render properly for mobile devices? Some emails show a blank body when viewed on cell phones. Be sure to test your emails on Apple, Android and Blackberry devices to ensure recipients can read them.

7. Expecting HTML Emails to Automatically Convert to Readable Plain Text
The automated conversion tool provided by most email marketing services simply converts HTML to text. It does not make it readable. If your email is filled with links, the text version will look like a page of computer code instead of a message from a company that cares about customers and prospects. Always create HTML and text versions of every email to insure the message is appealing and readable for all recipients.