How to recognize customers and not offend them when you find them

June 30, 2010 at 1:55 am 2 comments

The Red Trolley, photo by Shayne Sivley (@munpeg)

I get together with a networking group that shares my interest in social media, and we swap war stories and advice. In my most recent meeting with the Trolley Team (named for the coffee shop where we meet), we talked about how we often run into people that could use our services. The problem, however, is knowing how to tell them they need our services without sounding like we’re trying to sell them something.

For example, Shayne, an “IT guy” says he recognizes potential customers by their e-mail address. Huh? When he started to explain, I was reminded of a blog I read recently called What Your E-Mail Address Says About Your Computer Skills. When Shayne sees a bad e-mail address, he sees it as an indication that that person may be missing other opportunities for optimizing their systems to strengthen their brand.

Still not sure what Shayne does at his company, Atom Creek, I asked him to explain. He said something about networks, systems and infrastructures. Again, huh? He then described a project in which he’d trained his customers so they could benefit from the IT work he just completed for them. You see, he set up the organization’s computer-based tools so these people could work more efficiently in their own jobs as well as with each other.

He also ensured that their hardware and software were adequate and appropriately configured. But that wasn’t the point. What caught my attention was that he made sure his customers understood that their technology was designed with them in mind.

Shayne’s an IT guy who’s not just concerned about the computers! That’s great. But if Shayne describes himself as an IT guy who cares as much about people as he does about computers, it’s only going to sound like a pitch – and that can be offensive.

Then I asked Chris – the creative energy at The Denver Design Lab – how he recognizes a potential customer. He says he only needs to look at a logo. He knows a good one when he sees one. And when he sees a bad one . . . well, how do you tell someone that without offending them? Good question.

After our conversation I looked at Chris’s website, his Flickr account and pictures on his Facebook profile. I learned much about his style and design sense. I also learned that he DOES have a good eye for logos; and has created some pretty nice ones, too.

Where am I going with this? Remember that our topic is “How to recognize your customers and not offend them when you find them.” I believe it’s an age-old dilemma. But I believe that, ironically, the ones who master it don’t ever deal with it. They let their reputations speak for them. More precisely, they let their friends and happy customers (aka organic networks) speak for them. Yes, the almighty influence of word-of-mouth.

Word-of-mouth has always been powerful. It starts with conversations – much like the one I had with the Trolley Team. These days, though, with the use of social media those conversations can be heard well beyond the coffee shop. We can blog about them or comment on blogs written about them. We can tweet about them and we can “like” them.

So help your friends and happy customers spread the word for you. Use social media to stay connected with your network. Then, give your friends and customers interesting and informative content they’ll want to share with others. (It makes them seem interesting and informative, too.)

Personally, I’ll look at e-mail addresses and logos a little differently these days.

You don’t have to “sell” yourself. Just “be” yourself. But be connected to your network through social media. You won’t have to recognize your customers, because they’ll recognize you first. And this leaves no chance for anyone to be offended.

If you have any advice on how to ignite the power of word-of-mouth through social media, or any comment on this topic, please contribute your thoughts, below.


Entry filed under: Networking, Social Media.

When is it OK to send people AWAY from your website? Wondering About Weeds

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Chris Vanderhood  |  July 1, 2010 at 1:53 am

    Its hard to convince folks of this paradigm shift. Don’t sell, engage.

    • 2. debidavisdriven  |  July 1, 2010 at 2:02 am

      “Don’t sell. Engage.” I like it! I think I’ll use that as a header on one of my training slides. But you’re right — the hard part is making it happen. I’m thinking that if we can help people use social media tools to first LISTEN . . . for a couple months . . . and then participate, it might create the mind shift that’s needed.

      Thanks for your thoughts!


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