Saturday, June 20, 2009

The People Factor - What you Must Know to Succeed

In my last post I talked about two stories making the tech news rounds that both suggested that human interaction is hugely important to business. This may seem obvious. Businesses are, after all just collections of people when you come right down to it.

However, what I really think we're seeing is a massive consciousness shift. This is happening at the same moment that social networking is taking hold worldwide, connecting people in ways we never could have imagined. It may be that social networking brought all of this on -- or it could be that it is a by product of a societal change. Either way, it is here, and it's going to make or break your business.

I've started calling this the people factor. I'm somewhat borrowing from marketing guru Robert Middleton on this phrasing--he talks about the "contribution factor," which is an important personal barometer for business success. So, how does the people factor play out?

Here are some examples.

James Andrews, an executive at Ketchum flew to Memphis to meet with a big big client, FedEx. When he arrived, he tweeted the following on Twitter: "True confession but I’m in one of those towns where I scratch my head and say, ‘I would die if I had to live here.’” An executive at FedEx happened to be following his Twitter feed. He was about to pay someone to come up with a brand strategy for FedEx who was insulting its headquarters. And Memphis isn't just any city as far as FedEx is concerned. It's the place that has nurtured and supported FedEx from its humble beginnings in 1973, when it supported a fleet of 14 small aircrafts, to its position today as a market leader in shipping.

Had some newbie to Twitter made this mistake, we could call it ignorance, but this was a man whose job is to usher people into the digital age. His moniker on Twitter is "key influencer" and his new venture (he has left Ketchum) is as a social media strategist. Let's hope he learned his lesson well -- and it's not a bad idea to heed it ourselves.

Another example -- this one on the positive end of the spectrum -- is my client Ocarina Networks. A Silicon Valley startup, they are a brand new entrant in an industry that is, by high tech standards, fairly entrenched and traditional. They were going to have to make a splash, or they'd be in trouble. Their product is truly innovative and useful -- they shrink down files to a fraction of their former size, thus saving on storage costs -- but that's not enough anymore.

Our approach was to make social media a significant portion of the overall marketing and PR strategy--and the client was completely on board with this idea from the start. A little over a year later, there is immense buzz around the company. When people talk about data deduplication -- a major news item recently in light of the battle between EMC and NetApp to acquire deduplication pioneer Data Domain -- they almost always mention Ocarina as well. It is on the map, as they say. How did we do this? We didn't just broadcast or blare out the story. We talked to others about it. We made Ocarina part of the conversation by conversing -- and this includes that key activity known as listening. The results speak for themselves.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself. Am I listening? Am I part of the conversation, or just sitting on the sidelines? Am I patient enough to use social media as a way to connect with others, or am I rushing ahead to try to get the "pay off" by treating it as a way to trumpet my company's offerings?

No comments: