I met Jean-Pascal Lemire through a DM on Instagram. He was interested in talking to me about getting more exposure in the Los Angeles market. When we met later that week for lunch I learned he had just moved to Los Angles from Montreal for personal reasons. He had a thriving floral business in Canada and was now building his business again from scratch. Instagram was his first path to learning more about his new home.
He was active on it, finding people he wanted to work with, liking their posts and chiming in with positive comments. Then he did something crazeee … he went old school by hand-writing notes to those who were most like his clientele in Montreal such as Tiffany’s and The Ritz-Carlton. At times, he’s even dropped by with flowers. Who can turn down flowers from a man with an adorable accent?
Talk about truly organic market growth. It’s done well for him because no one expects the personal touch anymore.
Breaking through the noise can with be going big and splashy, or it can be going slow and making a connection that matters.
Remember that day when Facebook and Instagram were down? I’m sure I’m not the only one who wondered what would happen if we had to grow our businesses without that “new normal” of connecting to possible clients – social media?
If there was no social media, it would all be personal, as marketing was 50 years ago. We’d start with people — talking to our customers, looking them in the eye, dropping in on them to see what they might need from us.
We’d stop relying on numbers, analytics, ads and conversions. Instead, we’d listen more. We’d get closer to our customers, and possibly step from behind what are “best practices” and show up for our customers with what they need, and yes, possibly even with flowers.
Three Brand Therapy Tips from Zappos
1. Give a tour. I know not everyone has a tour-worthy company. For those who don’t, take this as an exercise in mindset. For those who do consider this … the Zappos tour in Las Vegas doesn’t tell us how they work. It shows us how it became great by designing a company culture around happiness. If you were to look at your company the same way and ask – what are we doing that others could take away and use? What are we proud to share? I believe looking at our businesses from this standpoint would strengthen our assets and enable us to get rid of what isn’t tour worthy.
2. Create a hashtag for your company. Not that you would ever use it, but a hashtag is a great way to hone in on what makes you stand apart. You could even have a contest among your tea for the best hashtag. At the Zappos hashtag #zapposculture is painted in a wall mural and everyone takes a photo under it, further spreading the word.
3. Build community through listening. At Zappos, the customer service team has no set quotas or time limits on calls. The longest call was something like 10 hours. Because they aren’t thinking of what Zappos needs. They are thinking of what their customer needs and they are empowered to listen. At many networking events, how often do we really connect? Is there space in our marketing, sales and networking efforts for real conversation? Perhaps we can bring our office tour to our clients with a simple “coffee and conversation” morning. Held at a cool venue with a hand-picked invite list and pre-determined subject and then you listen to what your audience says could be a good start. The bugs would have to be worked out, but this is where everything begins – an idea of how to better serve those who are right in front of you.
I’ve been talking to people about what “free” means and why it doesn’t seem to bring business in except for online free trials. I loved what brand photographer Courtney Paige Ray said.
Know your worth. I stopped doing favors or free work about three years ago, and once I set that boundary, I started making more money, and my friends and family no longer asked for free work. (I don’t even offer my family a discount because I know they’ll take advantage of it.) My advice: Explain to people who ask that you’re no longer doing portfolio-building work (a nice way of saying you don’t work for free), and your current rates are XYZ. I’ve found that people rarely come back to pay for work they’ve always gotten for free.