How the Mormon Church Turned the “Book of Mormon” Into Roses: A Lesson In Marketing

mormon_rose“…there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” – Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

In 1890, Oscar Wilde wrote this quote in his classic book “The Picture of Dorian Gray”. The character, Lord Henry, says this to a painter when the painter expresses his desire not to show a painting. While this certainly wasn’t the beginning, one could say that this quote perfectly expresses the desire of most businesses and is just as true today as it was 124 years ago.

The goal of any business is simple: to be talked about. This includes all areas of public interaction including advertising, promotion, publicity, public relations, social media and reputation management. A story that illustrates a few of these involves the circus and an elephant.

“If the circus is coming to town and you paint a sign saying “Circus Coming to the Fairground this Saturday,” that’s advertising. If you put a sign on the back of an elephant and walk it into town, that’s promotion. If the elephant walks through the mayor’s flower bed, that’s publicity… and if you get the mayor to laugh about it, that’s public relations.”

To bring that story current, you could add:

As people start talking about the elephant trampling the rose garden, that’s social media. And, by apologizing and repairing the flowerbed of the mayor, that’s reputation management.

No matter which area illustrated above you are discussing, the goal is to get people talking about you. Sometimes, what they are saying is unflattering. In these cases, you have two choices, to address the issue or to embrace it. Most experts in publicity, public relations, social media and reputation management would advise that you address the problem in one way or another. Sometimes that involves telling your side of the story publicly. Sometimes it involves making the issue right for your customer. And sometimes it involves embracing it and finding opportunities.

When the creators of South Park released their uber-popular musical, “The Book of Mormon”, the Mormon Church had several options. They could raise a big fuss about it that probably would have assisted the musical itself in achieving more buzz and publicity. Instead, initially, they chose to essentially ignore it. In a great article by an Episcopal priest, she described how the Mormon Church, when confronted with the popularity the show had achieved, made the decision to use the show as a means of proselytizing. Missionaries began handing out books and pamphlets in front of the theaters. The Church itself began advertising in the actual playbills. And what they found was that theatre-goers were interested in learning more. Certainly the musical itself mocks their religion but they believe that it doesn’t matter which path a person takes to embrace their beliefs.

The Mormon Church realized that this musical attracted people that were more than likely not Mormon and didn’t understand their religion. Rather than sitting by idly and being the butt of this musical “joke”, they saw this as an opportunity to educate theater-goers and spread their message. And it worked. According to the article “street contacting” is one of the “traditional ways for missionaries to reach potential converts.” This practice is challenging and they might only give out a few copies of their Scriptures each day. When a couple of missionaries chose to hand out Scriptures in front of a theatre showing the musical, however, they gave out an entire box of books in under an hour.

Just as in Oscar Wilde’s famous quote, the Church discovered that having people talking about you is better than not having them talk about you.

In their story, after the elephant tramples the mayor’s rose garden, rather than trying to explain to everyone why the elephant was bad, they shared the beauty of rose gardens.

And more people stopped to smell the roses.

Don’t Schedule Social Media Posts for Business Pages!

whatever-clockYes, scheduling tools like Hootsuite, Buffer etc. make it convenient for you to make sure your social media presence has regular content.

I know… you’re busy and sometimes forget or don’t have time to post.

I don’t care.

It’s way too easy for businesses – especially car dealers – who find little time to pay attention to their social media networks to pre-schedule a bunch of posts and forget about it until the next month approaches and they need to fill up that content bucket with another month’s worth of posts.

I manage quite a few social media accounts for both clients and myself and very rarely do I schedule posts. Typically the only time I will is if I know I’ll be travelling on a certain day or otherwise unable to post. This never exceeds more than a day, however.

Here are a few reasons why I don’t believe you should preschedule posts…

  1. Social media is a dynamic conversation between you and your consumers (who are hopefully not in India).  Scheduling content does something that harms your business and social media marketing worse than anything else possible…. It disconnects you. If you do not pay attention to your social media accounts on a daily basis, you WILL miss opportunities to connect. You don’t script out and preschedule text messages to your friends, do you? The most important idea here is that prescheduling posts allows you to feel as if you’ve done your “social media” for the month and actually provides you with justification that it’s OK not to check your accounts.
  2. Chances are that your content will be old by the time it’s posted. Duplicate content – no matter how good it is – is destined to become part of the “..and others” section of a Facebook news feed (as in “Arnold and 10 others shared a link”). Not scheduling posts allows you to find recent content which makes it more interesting to an audience. If your content is 2 weeks old by the time it is posted, the chances that other people will already have shared it makes it less likely to be engaged with. This follows the “first to market” mentality. Always strive to be the first page to share content when possible.
  3. Edgerank is no more. Now Facebook’s algorithm takes into account 100,000+ factors when deciding whether to show your content to your audience. It rewards high-quality content that is unique and engaging. If you feel the need to share content that has already been shared, share it as a picture with the link in the picture’s caption. This will avoid you getting clumped together with everyone else that shared that content. Better yet, find the same content but via a different source (ie. link to the same story hosted somewhere other than the source that everyone else is sharing).
  4. Make it your goal to interact with people even if that means you go fishing… Do a Twitter search for your brand and find a tweet from a recent buyer of your dealership’s franchise… welcome them as a new brand owner, congratulate them on their new vehicle, tell them to have fun car shopping, retweet their cool picture of a car, etc. You can limit your search to a radius of your dealership so you will be interacting with people that matter… potential customers. They’ll thank you, retweet you and favorite your tweet. Take the time to thank your new followers. This is only possible if you’re paying attention and you can’t pay attention if scheduling content lulls you into complacency.
  5. Not pre-scheduling content also allows you to make sure that the content is posted correctly and timely in a manner native to the platform on which it is being posted. What if Twitter is down when your scheduled post is supposed to be sent? If you aren’t paying attention, it may never get sent. It also forces you to read it again which assists in identifying spelling errors. You get to see it go live and have a chance to correct it before anyone sees it. Your online image is just as important as your off-line. Make sure your posts actually post, are tailored for the network they are being posted on and look professional.

Even though I’m hyperactive on social media, I’ve found that not scheduling posts allows me to stay more connected and responsive with my audience whether I’m posting to my profile or posting to a client’s accounts. I can be reactive when needed and interact when people make comments – even if it’s simply “liking” their comment. That shows the person commenting that you’re listening and present which makes them more likely to comment in the future.

Don’t fall into the trap of convenience. You will sacrifice quality, lessen engagement and reduce the chances you have of showing up in your audiences’ news feeds. There’s nothing “social” about simply pushing content.

If you can’t be engaged in your own social media presence, how can you expect other people to be engaged with you?

Note: I have a few less reservations about scheduling content for your personal profile. It does allow you to share more relevant content without spamming your friends. My advice in this article mainly applies to business social media accounts. I rarely schedule personal updates and shares for the same reasons contained in the article but that’s just my personal preference.

Humbled at NADA 2014

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 11.06.23 AMI’m not a social media guru, expert or anything resembling that. I would hate to have those adjectives attached to my name. Social media is all about engaging your audience and the reason that I believe I am successful at it is that, regardless of whether I am “doing” social media for myself or a client, I always… always… recognize and respond with any interaction. Whether it’s something as small as favoriting a tweet, or as big as writing an article… social media boiled down to it’s very basic is about interaction. If people are interacting with you, or your company, interact back. It’s that simple.

In my career, I’ve had the privilege of working with many prestigious companies with high visibility in our industry. I’ve just returned from New Orleans and the National Automobile Dealer’s Association Convention in which I handled pre-show and live social media for 12 companies. NADA marks the 15th automotive industry event I’ve conducted social media marketing for whether it was for the conference itself or for exhibiting or sponsoring companies.

Other than the fact that I get money for doing it (which is a great thing), the most rewarding aspect of any position is to get recognized by peers and industry influencers for a job well done. I don’t normally write self-promoting type stuff but I’ve simply been overwhelmed by the feedback I received from my work at the NADA Convention.

The funny part is that I don’t really consider myself a “vendor” per-say. I mean, I get paid for my services but when dealers (or vendors) ask me the inevitable “Who are you with?”, I simply reply “I’m with Arnold.” I love my job and get to meet and interact with tons of intelligent, smart and successful people in our industry from the entire spectrum – dealership personnel, dealers, vendors, members of the media, etc. – and because I’m not soliciting anyone, it’s always genuine face-to-face interaction.

My good friend, Kevin Frye, included me in his NADA video.

In their NADA recap article, AutoMotion featured some of my tweets intended to break up the monotonous “come to our booth” messages and introduce some entertainment into the Twitter feed. If we want dealers (or vendors for that matter) to recognize the value of Twitter, it’s got to be interesting when they look at it, wouldn’t you agree? (Check out hashtag #NADATips if you want to see some.)

DealerTrack‘s social media person (whoever you are) did a fantastic job interacting with people – including myself – at NADA with the @DealertrackDMS account.

Many local New Orleans companies also showed their social media savvy including what became one of my favorite spots – The Cat’s Meow – which I visited four nights including assisting in organizing an event for VinSolutions in 4 hours that saw over 200 guests attend. The Cat’s Meow was super accommodating on all of those nights as well as super interactive and responsive with their @catskaraoke Twitter account. It’s not often that you  get to meet the person who is actually interacting with you from a local establishment like this but I was able to on my final night out in New Orleans. Kudos to her!

I also got the opportunity to hang out with the AutoTrader.com and Haystak Digital Marketing team there one night and, of course, had to throw some shout-outs to them to the tune of “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” by Queen on stage. [Here's a LINK to the video if you really want to hear me sing.]

The fact that many of us got stranded in New Orleans due to inclement weather presented PCG Consulting and Brian Pasch with the opportunity to provide a bonus educational opportunity to stranded NADA attendees that was given the name the “PCG Freeze Out” which I was fortunate enough to participate in.

I know I’m forgetting some people as I was fortunate to interact with a ton of people. Over the course of NADA, I was astounded by the response and stats from only my personal Twitter account @arnoldtijerina -

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but the most humbling feedback, BY FAR, came from long-time industry expert and insider, Cliff Banks, owner of The Banks Report (which you should subscribe to), when he tweeted this:

Thanks to everyone for all of their support. I truly enjoyed all of the interactions I had at the show whether they were as myself or on behalf of a client and I look forward to seeing everyone again at the next event.

P.S. And many thanks to Helion Automotive Technologies for the rocking caricature and to the NADA Convention for the $150 gift card to Mr. B’s Restaurant. My wife and her friend LOVED the dinner. I was too busy.. well.. tweeting… but appreciate it just as much.

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

16-aroundtown-will-you-still-love-me-tomorrow-482x298Salespeople often get frustrated and discouraged by their inability to reach online customers that submit a lead. Many have processes in place that send auto-responders, templates, schedule tasks and impose time limits. Despite the time and effort spent creating quotes, emailing and attempting to reach customer, frequently there is no response. The customer does not answer the phone or return the call.

Why?

Let’s examine this from the customer’s perspective. They’re at some point in the buying process. Whether they’re just beginning their research or are ready to buy, they’ve either landed on your website, or any of the countless car shopping portals and microsites which have calls-to-action for price quotes and information. They submit their information with certain expectations. There is an expectation of reciprocity on the part of the customer. They’re giving you their information in return for you providing them a price quote or answering their questions. They don’t know that their information is being sent to 4 dealerships. Very quickly, auto-responders from these dealerships that contain generic messages explaining why they should buy a car from them bombard their e-mail inboxes. Sadly, most of the time these e-mails don’t contain the actual pricing or answers they were seeking.

Shortly thereafter, their phone starts ringing. These calls are continuous throughout the day, from dealerships calling all-hours of the day, regardless of appropriateness of the timing, such as right in the middle of dinner or at 8:00am.  The consumer receives a string of voicemails from salespeople asking for return calls. In the beginning, they may plan on returning some calls. However, as the voicemails continue along with an overwhelming flow of manual e-mails sent by the salespeople and automatic e-mails sent by the dealer’s CRM, they start to get annoyed. Occasionally, they get the answer or price quote they were seeking. However, it’s buried amongst a barrage of e-mails so is easy to miss. Frequently, the questions are not answered and pricing never sent. What they do get, however, is a ton of irrelevant e-mails, invitations to come to the dealership and voicemails from salespeople. Most templates (manual, automatic and automated) are written as if they were sent by the ISM so to the customer, it looks like this salesperson is continuously e-mailing them yet never providing the information they requested or answering their questions. They get frustrated in the process.

Imagine if you had submitted a lead to a company you wanted information from and suddenly started getting bombarded by e-mails and phone calls, but received no actual information or answers. Wouldn’t you get annoyed?

In no way am I implying that you shouldn’t attempt to call a customer. Of course you should. You just need to be aware of the time of day and what normal people may be doing at that time. Ensure your timing is appropriate. Yes, you should respond quickly to leads. I’ve found that responding to a customer in less than 2 hours can increase your closing ratio. However, turn off your auto-responder and make your first e-mail one that is personal and includes either the quote or information they requested. By doing this, you’ll immediately stand out from the pack. Customers will appreciate it and be more receptive to you. When you leave a message, tell them that you just sent them an e-mail with the pricing or answers they requested and would like to verify they received it. That you would like to know if they need additional information instead of a generic “Call me” type message.

When a customer is on your lot, is the first step in your sales process to tell them how wonderful your dealership is? No. It’s typically to meet and greet them. Why would it be any different online?

In today’s age of transparency and easily accessible instant information, car dealerships are the one retail business that doesn’t conform. Change the way you interact with your potential customers and be different then your competition.  You’ll see more responses, build rapport faster and see your closing ratios increase.

[Update 11/19]: This comment was made when someone shared my post. I thought it was relevant to hear an actual consumer chime in.

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Reputation Management Is Bullsh@t

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You control nothing. I don’t know the origin of the phrase “reputation management” but it’s erroneous. Just as social media networks should be built organically, so should your online reputation. Treat people right; you’ll reap the benefits of some of them sharing that fact online. If you treat them wrong, however, you’re screwed.

As consumers get more active online, they are starting to realize the power they have over businesses with their social media voice and through online review forums. Businesses recognized the importance of online reviews years ago. Thus, the birth of review building processes and businesses.

Many businesses have typically employed a reactionary stance towards reviews. They weren’t really soliciting reviews. If they got some, great. When a bad one came around…mayyybbbeee… they’d get involved and try to solve the problem. Many wouldn’t even notice. As everyone started to recognize its importance – businesses, consumers, vendors, search engines… everyone…- one of a few things happened:

1. They realized that they needed to treat their customers right and aspired to do so. They started paying attention to the review sites and, when an issue arose, they did their best to solve the problem for the consumer.

2. They continued along the path of “ignorance is bliss”. They neither paid attention or did anything.

3. They made the decision to hire a “janitor” (or act like one) to clean up after their mess.

In February 2011, I wrote an article about one of these “janitors”, Review Boost. In January 2012, I wrote another article about companies “buying reviews”. These aren’t new practices nor are any of the companies involved the only companies that offer these services. However, as you could read in those articles if you choose, it didn’t end well for those companies.

Do you really think you can “manage” your reputation? Seriously?

Despite the fact that there is no way for you to control what is being said about you online, there are only a few ways in which a business who doesn’t treat their customers right can continue to operate the way they are now without getting killed via social media and/or online reviews.

1. They can hire these companies to “bury” the bad reviews by adding a ton of good (and, in some cases, fake) reviews.

Sept 23, 2013 – “Fake Online Reviews Cost 19 Companies $350,000″ [LINK]

2. They can “do it themselves”.

Sept 17, 2013 – “Yelp Sues Firm Over Allegedly Posting Fake Reviews” [LINK]

3. They can try and bribe the consumer(s) to remove a review. 

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[Hat tip to Dave Erickson for the image.]

Yeah, how’s that “strategy” working for you?

Consumers are not only finding screaming and yelling via social media more effective, they have actually started to pay these networks to advertise those complaints!

Sept. 2, 2013 – “Man Buys Promoted Tweet to Complain About British Airways” [LINK]

Still think you’re controlling something?

I could show countless examples of these types of events. The fact is that these tactics don’t work. You aren’t controlling anything. You may be pouring cat litter over the oil you spilled in the driveway but unless you fix the leaky oil can, you’ll be doing it forever.

Consumers are waking up more and more everyday to the real power they wield… their voice. Consumers trust their friends and family, their social networks, then reviews left by other consumers. You notice I didn’t include “what you say about your business” in that list of who they trust, right? That’s because they don’t trust you. Of course you’re going to say that your business is the best thing since sliced bread, you have the best service in the industry, lowest prices… blah… blah… blah…

You are no more “managing” your reputation than you are managing the weather. It’s not yours to control. Consumers will dictate what your reputation is. They already are. You can’t stop them. Not only can you not stop them, they are going to start screaming louder, and louder, and louder. Theirs will be the ONLY voice that matters.

So, why don’t you stop trying to “manage” your reputation and start building one?

It may cost you money and you may not agree with the customer but do the right thing. Every time. No exceptions. No matter how badly you don’t want to. Just do it.

…or you can let the customer manage your reputation. That’s who’s doing it already.