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Need to build and motivate great teams? Book Robert David Duncan for keynotes, seminars, coaching and training

Doctoral research, Ideas you can use, Speaking Comments Off

Do you want better performing teams?  Do you want to perform better? Contact Robert David (Rob) Duncan, who can help you and your teams be more effective – in terms of cohesion, collaboration, competitiveness and social skills. Rob is also a Certified Management Consultant who can roll up his sleeves and get actively involved in improving your organization’s performance. A longtime college educator, Rob can work with your organization and continue to add value long after the keynote address.

Featured talks and seminars: 1. Team Intelligence; 2. Competitive Intelligence; 3. Collaborative Intelligence; 4. Social Intelligence.

1. Team Intelligence: Lessons from a Voyage around Cape Horn

South of Cape Horn

South of Cape Horn – a foreboding calm…

What were the secrets to building a great team on a gruelling 3-month sailing voyage around the dreaded Cape Horn? Join Rob for a first-hand account of a life-changing tall ship voyage through stormy seas and interpersonal strains that ultimately led to a rounding of the “Sailor’s Mount Everest.” Told through stories and pictures, with the keen insights of a skilled management consultant, Lessons from a Voyage around Cape Horn will leave your team inspired, engaged, and ready for their next challenge!

2. Competitive Intelligence: Fast, Cheap & Ethical Techniques to get the Edge

What can you do in the next 15 minutes to give your firm an unbeatable lead over the competition? Join competitive intelligence expert Rob Duncan for an entertaining, fast-paced and informative look at a war chest of tools that can be employed cheaply, quickly and ethically to gain a sustainable edge. Drawing on his book “Competitive Intelligence: Fast, Cheap & Ethical”, selected as a Best Business Book of 2008, Rob will leave your group raring to go on these simple and effective tactics.

Rob Duncan is building intelligent teams

3. Collaborative Intelligence: Enhancing Innovation through Social Media

What do you do when your customer is suddenly the head of your design team? “Harness it to your advantage,” says social networking expert Rob Duncan. Rob’s recent doctoral research confirmed that online social networking is breaking down traditional boundaries between companies, competitors and customers. Intelligent collaboration is the way of the future, and Rob Duncan can explain in straightforward terms why LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook and other collaborative technologies are going to drive business in the future, and why you need to be there.

4. Social Intelligence: Building Socially Smart Teams for Winning Performances

What do improvisation, active listening, the reading of micro-expressions, networking and acting technique have in common? They all relate to the growing field of social intelligence. Defined as ‘a person’s competence to comprehend his or her environment optimally and react appropriately for socially successful conduct,’ social intelligence is needed more than ever in business. Join Rob Duncan, New York trained actor and co-author of the book “Improv to Improve Your Business: Using the principles of improvisation to foster communication, creativity & innovation” on an engaging journey through some simple, easy to use and powerful techniques to build social intelligence in your teams.

Contact us for more information at greatcapes@gmail.com or via the Contact tab on this page.

The role of online social networks in inter-firm collaborative innovation and problem solving – doctoral thesis (2012)

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My mid-career doctorate: can it really be finished?

For those of you who have been kindly following my progress toward my doctorate – ups, downs, triumphs and challenges – here is the latest news.

Finally!

It is done!!!

Words that every grad student dreams of saying someday. Earlier this year, my thesis (below) went to external reviews, final edits and approval by the university. I was officially awarded the degree of Doctor of Business Leadership on October 1st. Once again I have to thank all of the hundreds of people who helped me along this journey.

Sharing the results

The best way I can think of to thank everybody who helped me along the way is to share the thesis and the results below. The study involved a comprehensive literature review, a quantitative survey of over 500 LinkedIn users as well as a dozen qualitative in-depth interviews with senior-level executives. In addition to the findings and analysis, contained in the thesis, there is also a starting framework toward a set of best practices for organizations wishing to harness the power of online social networks while mitigating some of the potential risks. So, here it is!

 

The role of online social networks in inter-firm collaborative innovation and problem solving

 

I am available for interviews, speaking and training on this topic…

Please feel free to get in touch with me to learn more about my research, findings and thoughts on this topic. I am pleased to see that the thesis and its findings are already getting some attention worldwide, and I am more than happy to be interviewed on the topic or to work with groups and organizations to develop keynote addresses, seminars and training related to this area.

Click here to visit the university library site that has the thesis abstract, other information and a link to view or download the actual thesis document. I hope you find the information useful!

Celebration time!

 

Suggested citation formats from Google Scholar

MLA:
Duncan, Robert David. The role of online social networks in inter-firm collaborative innovation and problem solving. Diss. 2012.

APA:
Duncan, R. D. (2012). The role of online social networks in inter-firm collaborative innovation and problem solving (Doctoral dissertation).

Chicago:
Duncan, Robert David. “The role of online social networks in inter-firm collaborative innovation and problem solving.” PhD diss., 2012.

Where is the intersection between theater and the workplace?

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Workplace drama

Workplace drama

It’s funny, there is always a lot of crossover imagery between the stage and the workplace. Objectives, heroes, drama kings and queens, getting the right people to play different roles, tragic leadership flaws, double-crosses and so forth. Now that I am taking a step away from the office environment for a bit and rekindling my acting training, I am fascinated by the parallel lessons that can be drawn between the two worlds. A few months ago, I wrote here about the useful skills that people can gain from acting training – things like hitting your marks, learning how to improvise (always say yes), and using your full body as an instrument of communication.

The insights I have been gaining over the last couple of weeks can add to and enhance these earlier lessons. Here are a few ideas that may help you bring more “drama” to your workplace:

  • The art of analysing the script: The playright provides a framework of words, characters and given circumstances. The challenge is to figure out what isn’t there – it is the job of the actors to fill in the missing pieces with meaning. Otherwise we’d just get up there and read, and the crowds would stay away! As leaders in organizations, we should also be looking at the scripts we have been handed, and really take the time to analyse them. Who wrote this script? Are there other versions or other scripts I am not seeing? What is missing from the story on the page? What do I and my team need to add in order to flesh out the full story and make it truly inspiring?
  • The art of soft focus: We are trained in movement class to start to use our peripheral vision to see who else is in the room, and to avoid banging into them. Even when the director tells us to go crazy and flail around to all four corners of the room, we remain aware of each other. So it should be with the competing interests in an organization. We should be creating cultures where the differences are expressed, respected and where soft focus is encouraged to avoid bruising.
  • The art of understanding a character’s objectives: At the most basic level, characters act out of need. The job of the actor is to consider what it is their character needs, what is in the way, and what they are going to do about it. This last piece is where the actor’s choices make the difference between a truly memorable performance and a more ordinary one. For example, your character may need more than anything to gain the love of another character, but there are lots of ways to get there (intimidation, charm, kindness, trickery, deception, collusion etc. etc.). In the workplace, look around at the characters in your midst. What is their overarching need? Are they getting it met? Are you helping or hindering? Why? The more you can understand the other actors in your midst, the better you can manage around their actions.
  • The art of going larger: The training at the Stella Adler Studio is always exhorting us to be LARGER! What this means is that instead of making acting choices that are safe and tame, make larger, more dramatic and more passionate choices. Is your character trying to “tell” (yawn…) somebody something? Or are they trying to “convince” (better…) somebody of something? Or are they trying to “scare the sh*t” (now we’re getting somewhere…) out of somebody? Similarly in organizational life, making larger choices makes for a more interesting performance!

 

When in doubt, go large

I want to hear what you think! Please feel free to weigh in here with your comments. To explore having me speak to your team or group on drama in the workplace and other related themes, please get in touch with me at rob@robduncan.com or via the contact tab on this page.

Are we in the middle of a visibility mania?

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Too obsessed with being seen?

Too obsessed with being seen?


The other day, I was parsing through my usual daily inflow of free webinar offers, machine-gun Tweets and other digital bombardments, and I found myself wondering whether we have drifted too far away from a fundamental focus on providing something of value to a customer, one customer at a time? Are we in fact in a visibility mania?

The dominant discussions out there seem to be about being located, ranking high in searches, and using social media for outbound ‘reach and flood’ marketing. But where do you take people once they have found you; what is the unique value you provide that makes them want to go for their wallets? There seems to be very little chatter out there about getting better at what we do, providing more service, having a true dialogue with customers, and learning from them how to provide more value.

Here are a few ideas on how we can return the focus to the customer:

  • Have a ‘Designated Listener’ on your team. The DL is there to pick up on what customers are saying, thinking and needing. This doesn’t have to be only using social media. Get out there, listen in person, use MeetUp to schedule a fun gathering for some dialogue, invest some time in a solid back-and-forth with a single customer on Facebook or in person.
  • Take your marketing local and in-person. Have some events where people can actually meet you and other customers live. I am picking up on some real fatigue out there with purely electronic relationships and social media. Let’s not forget the power of a handshake and a face-to-face chat. Bring in a speaker to stimulate some dialogue and let the discussion take off.
  • Make use of surveys and focus groups. Yeah, I know, major yawn. But these old standbys are still great ways to find out what is on customers’ minds, what is bugging them, how they like to be marketed to, and how they would in fact go about searching online for a business like yours. What keywords would they use – why guess?
  • Feature customer blogs on your site, both the complimentary ones and the grumpy ones. Invite a customer to be a guest blogger, or to be part of the design and customer service team by creating an online community that they can join. Hire a team of customers to meet with the company for a week, and tap into their insights and suggestions.
  • Competitive Intelligence by Rob Duncan

    None of these ideas are new and revolutionary, and many were in my second book, “Competitive Intelligence: Fast, Cheap & Ethical,” but they are still valid, and could help us return to doing more listening and less talking.

    I am interested in your thoughts! Please feel free to weigh in here, or by email. To explore having me meet with and speak to your team, please feel free to be in touch anytime via the contact tab on my website.

    Can we have a single, unified, authentic online persona?

    Book Review, Doctoral research, Ideas you can use, Speaking 5 Comments »
    One Person/Multiple Careers by Marci Alboher

    One Person/Multiple Careers by Marci Alboher

    In her inspiring book, One Person/Multiple Careers, Marci Alboher (a lawyer-turned-journalist/speaker/writing coach) argues that we should be unleashing, rather than hiding, the multiple career identities that many of us have. Marci’s book was the first place I heard the term “slash careers” as a description of the multiple career trajectories and multiple income streams that so many of us have. Almost everyone I know is a something/something else.

    So okay, I’m going to finally do it. I am a Speaker/actor/writer/trainer/manager/consultant/sailor. How hard was that? In the world of online social networking, it seems to be exceedingly difficult. Most people I have talked to are very ardent about keeping their various “sub-personas” very compartmentalized. Facebook is for friends/family/partying (ie. never friend the boss…), LinkedIn is for corporate life, Twitter is for… hmmm – don’t have an answer for that one yet.

    A friend/colleague and I kicked off this year by agreeing that this should be a year of authenticity – that we were going to move our various sub-personas into greater alignment, and care less about what our various “markets” think.

    This got me thinking about social networking, and how I have most of my actor/writer/sailor connections on Facebook, whereas most of my consultant/manager/trainer connections are all on LinkedIn. My speaker/author friends are one of the few crossover communities that are on both. Could I bring all of these communities together?

    Pink shirt guy

    Pink shirt guy

    As a first step, I unified all my profile images into one of my acting/speaking headshots – pink shirt guy. Before that, I was the Mr. scruffy actor/sailor on Facebook, buttoned-down Mr. Corporate on LinkedIn and pink shirt guy on Twitter. Though not all-encompassing, pink shirt guy probably does the best job of capturing the kinds of enthusiasm I feel for speaking to groups, acting on stage, a great day managing a team, teaching a course I am passionate about etc.

    I used to also have separate Web pages (Speaker, Actor, Sailor, blah blah blah). This was beyond tedious, both to maintain, and to be forever thinking about the “message” that was appropriate to go out to separate communities/markets. So I scrubbed all that and am unifying everything here under one umbrella. It’s a work in process, but a step in the right direction – toward an authentic, 360 degree view of a whole person.

    How about you? Do you have multiple personalities online, or have you been able to unify things? Are you still cautious about the self/selves you reveal to the various communities/markets you operate in, or have you decided to chuck it and present one face to the world?

    I would really be interested in your thoughts, so please weigh in here with a comment or contact me directly.

    To explore having me speak to your group or team about authenticity, social media, or other topics please contact Rob Duncan at greatcapes@gmail.com or via the Contact tab on this page.

    A mid-career doctorate… into the defense!

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    One of my favourite lines from a movie is from “The Pursuit of Happyness” when the Will Smith character asks the guy with the fancy sports car two questions:

    “What do you do, and how do you do it?”

    "What do you do, and how do you do it?"

    "What do you do, and how do you do it?"

    It’s something I say to myself all the time when I see someone who has a life I kind of envy. Interestingly, its also the most common question I get asked about my mid-career doctorate. Now that the insanity argument has worn thin, and people have seen me chug through the past 3 years, to the point where my dissertation has been drafted and I am heading into my thesis defense this month, the questions now are more along the lines of “How did you do that?” Well, wait – I’m not done yet! There will still be a lot to complete, but I am hopefully getting closer.

    I encourage anyone who wants to dust their brains off and have a good cerebral workout to consider tackling a doctorate in an area they are passionate about. The later in life the better, because the more life you bring to the table, the easier and more fun it will be. Here are a few tips that can make the journey easier:

    • Support of family and friends. You will be stealing attention and vacations from these folks for several years – try to make it as painless as possible, be in the moment when you can, and make it up to them when you are able! 
    • A supportive employer. Doing your doctorate in an area that can benefit your own development, as well as that of your organization, is huge. Combining these elements with an employer that supports people development gives you a terrific advantage. 
    • A topic you are really passionate about. Trust me on this – you will be bored silly by your topic area after you have lived with it for 3+ years. If you start out being half-hearted about your topic, you probably won’t make it. Don’t adapt your interests to a mythical job market – if you are passionate about pirate ship culture and adaptability to change – then that’s what you need to research!
    • Great thesis supervisors. I have been incredibly fortunate to have very helpful, extremely responsive supervisors. You can enhance your chances of getting good supervisors by researching previous theses they have supervised, and finding supervisors with a genuine interest in in your research area.
    • A university that is built for mid-career studies. My university, the University of South Africa has been doing distance-based education since 1946, making it a real pioneer. Nelson Mandela is among its many famous graduates. The School of Business Leadership is consistently ranked among the top 3 business schools in the country, and was the first school in the world to offer the Doctor of Business Leadership degree. This kind of experience means they have learned the hard way, so you don’t have to!

    Well, that’s all for now – please wish me luck on the defense!

    Gathering competitive intelligence at trade shows

    Doctoral research, Ideas you can use, Speaking 1 Comment »
     Here’s a fast, cheap & ethical competitive intelligence tip for you:
     

    Trade shows are awash in valuable CI

    Trade shows are awash in valuable CI

    Trade show intelligence gathering

    Trade shows are an excellent source of competitive intelligence (CI), both human and written. Attending a trade show with a calculated view to obtaining CI can be a very cost-effective exercise. The key to trade show intelligence is first to determine what our intelligence objectives are. Once we have decided what specific pieces of intelligence we desire, we can formulate a plan of attack, identifying likely sources of CI as well as who will be responsible for obtaining each piece of intelligence.

    Much of the work of planning a trade show CI mission can now be done in advance using the Internet. Most trade shows have websites which can be mined for useful information such as who will be speaking as well as a map layout of where each competitor’s presence will be located. We can often find photographs of specific human targets we may wish to approach for human intelligence efforts.

    The intelligence-gathering team

    In approaching a tradeshow for intelligence-gathering purposes, team organization is very important. There are several different roles to fulfill:

    • Team leader: responsible for planning, organization, setting intelligence goals, determining specific targets, assigning specific intelligence objectives to field operatives, communicating final results
    • Field operatives: responsible for obtaining specific pieces of intelligence, through physical collection, observation and human intelligence
    • Analysts: Responsible for obtaining pre-trade show intelligence gathering, collating and analyzing intelligence gathered from field operatives

    The reality for many of us is that we are a “CI department of one,” and will have to perform all of these functions alone. The alternative may be to hire students from a school that teaches market research and CI, who are often thankful for paid entrance to a useful trade show. In any event, careful consideration of each of these functions is necessary in order to carry out a successful trade show intelligence-gathering mission.

    Planning the mission

    The role of the team leader is first to plan the exercise, which involves determining what intelligence is desired and which trade show it makes sense to target for the intelligence. Once a trade show has been selected, online research and/or printed marketing material is helpful in terms of refining and selecting our targets for the intelligence we require. Often such specifics as lists of exhibitors, floor layouts, speaker biographies and the like are available. This is useful because it helps avoid unnecessary wandering around during the trade show itself.

    The next task is to assign specific pieces of intelligence to the person responsible for gathering it. Each piece of required intelligence needs to be defined in terms of how it will be obtained. In the case of human intelligence, we need to determine who will be targeted and what approach will be used. The conversational hourglass approach to elicitation covered in the next chapter will be useful here. For other intelligence, other approaches will make sense. Perhaps we want to get a look at the features of our competitor’s soon-to-be-released product, and there may be printed material or demonstrations available.

    One of the exploitable vulnerabilities companies face at trade shows is that it is usually the enthusiasts who are selected to staff the booths. These can be people who are too junior to know what should be kept secret, or sales people who are eager to promote the products to anyone who might be interested, or product development experts, who can be lured into detailed discussions of the features that they are proud of.

    Executing the mission

    At the trade show itself, particularly multi-day events, we should begin by doing a sweep of the facility, gathering everything that is available in terms of printed materials and giveaways, from all the relevant target companies. This “snag and bag” operation can often yield plenty of the intelligence that we wanted. Taking the gathered material away and analyzing it can help us to refine our approach and targets for the next wave of intelligence-gathering. At an out-of-town trade show, a hotel room can serve as a command post where gathered material can be sifted through, and plans can be adjusted based on what can be extracted from the material.

    In general, the less face-to-face interaction we rely on to obtain our intelligence, the better. Anything we can gather by indirect means like printed material, observation or overhearing is a bonus, since it makes it far less likely that our intentions and activities will be unmasked. This multi-wave approach to gathering intelligence allows us to use the riskier tactics, like human intelligence sparingly, thus minimizing the chances of being seen to be snooping.

    A three-wave approach to a trade show intelligence-gathering mission can be summarized as follows:

    Wave one

    • Plan the overall mission
    • Determine the required pieces of intelligence, and the targets or sources for the intelligence
    • Make a first pass of the trade show, gathering everything that is being given away at the target booths
    • Analyze the gathered material and see if some of the required intelligence is there
    • Refine your requirements

    Wave two

    • Conduct human and observational intelligence
    • Analyze this intelligence to isolate any remaining gaps

    Wave three

    • Conduct final intelligence to gathering any remaining intelligence required

     

    Rob Duncan's book on CI selected=

    Through careful objective-setting, planning and execution, trade shows can be an extremely cost-effective way to gain strategic competitive intelligence. More on this topic is available in my book “Competitive Intelligence: Fast, Cheap & Ethical”  which can be obtained through the Media and Books tab on this page.

    A mid-career doctorate… data in hand!

    Doctoral research, Ideas you can use 2 Comments »

    Getting closer...

    I recently wrote here about why I chose to start a mid-career doctorate on collaborative innovation through online social networks. Some of my motivations included: doing original research on a practical topic I was passionate about; gaining a true leading edge on some of the subject matter I work with, speak and write about; and giving my brain a great workout.

    I have recently reached the stage where I have gathered all of my primary research data, and I can now report that this is definitely one of the most satisfying stages of the effort! I have now successfully done a survey with over 450 LinkedIn users, in-depth interviews with a dozen senior executives, and received qualitative input from many other online social network users.

    Time to crunch some data

    Though much analysis remains to be done, it is incredible to reach the stage that I call “data freedom.” With a long, multi-year project like a doctorate, the entire effort comes down to whether or not you will be able to gather the primary data you need in order to test your hypotheses and contribute new knowledge to the field. What this typically means is you invest 2 or more years of slogging through exhaustive background research, problem definition and methodology design, all the while keeping your fingers crossed that your primary data gathering approach will work.

    LinkedIn, my major data source

    With a fast-moving research area like online social networks, the risks increase over time. Using LinkedIn as my major data-gathering platform has always been my plan, yet I had to wonder what would happen if LI got bought out, shut down, or otherwise changed so much that it wouldn’t be a viable source for my data.

    Hence the major sigh of relief! I now have all I need to finish my dissertation. I could head off to a cabin in the woods or a garret in the city (and perhaps will…) and bang out the last 2 chapters of my thesis without needing to rely on anyone or anything else externally (except for the advice from my great supervisors.) To be blunt, LinkedIn could vaporize tomorrow, and I could still finish my work (though I sure hope that doesn’t happen to my favorite site!!).

    Seclusion to write...

    Another exciting part of this phase is getting to see the data itself. I can already see lots of rich information and findings in what I have gathered, and this spurs me on to finish up and start getting the knowledge out there where it can help others!

    As always, I am interested in your thoughts! Please feel free to weigh in here with a comment about your own journey through mid-career education, or other ideas. I can also be reached at rob@robduncan.com or via the Contact tab on this page.

    Is it time to start curtailing our personal social network habits?

    Doctoral research, Ideas you can use, Speaking 1 Comment »

    When was the last time you looked a flesh and blood human being in the eyes and said “I hear you?” If it has been more than a day, that is too long.

    As part of the research for my doctorate, I asked people whether they were growing tired of online social networks, and were planning to reduce their levels of activity or number of networks in the future. In a sample of over 400 people I was intrigued to see that fully one-quarter agreed that they were feeling this way.

    Taking a break

    It’s ironic, because a few weeks later, I find that I am one of those people! This may sound strange coming from someone who chose to do a doctorate focused specifically on online social networks – and someone who spends a lot of time speaking to audiences on the topic. Let me explain.

    I recently started some acting training to add to and refresh my speaking and acting skills. The schedule has been fairly demanding, and has involved learning and rehearsing scenes from some of the great plays of all time, including Shakespeare, Ibsen and others.

    Not only do these plays deal with timeless themes of great human and social importance, they are also not that easy to memorize. Over the last week and a half, I set to learning my lines in the evenings.

    The first night, I had the TV on (24/7 Law and Order being one of the cooler perks of NYC), and started to read. During commercials, I would leap up, round into the other room and check Facebook, Twitter, Buzz, emails etc. The next morning, It wasn’t that easy to recite “Two households both alike in dignity…In fair Verona where we lay our scene…” from memory. Something had to give.

    All my Sons by Arthur Miller

    The second night, I left the TV off, and things improved quite a bit. I was able to really focus and get deeper into the lines, characters and themes of the plays. Still, I couldn’t shake the social networking habit.

    The third night, I left everything off, and an amazing thing happened. This incredible sense of quiet, absorption and peace came over me. I was deep in great stories about heroes, villains, quests, tragic flaws and all the other fabulous chemicals of drama. The next morning, I also had nearly nailed the prologue from Romeo and Juliet. 

    Stella Adler acting class

    This was all happening against the backdrop of spending intense face-to-face time working with my wonderfully talented classmates, trying to achieve something together that was stretching, shared and artistically large. 

    Needless to say, I eventually broke (speaking of tragic flaws) and checked my social networks. As always, there was fun and meaningful news on Facebook, and useful dialog on LinkedIn, but really, what was all this stuff on Twitter and Buzz? Sure, some fun news from classmates and friends, but mostly stuff about software I know nothing about, etc. etc. Why was I letting that stuff get in the way of spending quality time with Falstaff, Prince Hal, Torvald and the others?

    Falstaff and Prince Hal

    So as of today, I have decided to let my Twitter account go dormant for a bit, and will be turning off Buzz. In my online social network world, there are now only two big dogs for the time being - Facebook and LinkedIn. I want to free up some personal disk space for real human interactions. I wonder if many of us should have a similar conversation with ourselves?

    I want to hear what you think! Please feel free to weigh in here with your comments. To explore having me speak to your team or group on social networking, drama in the workplace and other related themes, please get in touch with me at rob@robduncan.com or via the contact tab on this page. Oh, and if you crave the sweet sounds of silence, please follow me on Twitter and Buzz….

    Do you know your customers anymore?

    Doctoral research, Ideas you can use, Speaking 1 Comment »
    Terminal City Club Vancouver

    Terminal City Club Vancouver

    I was part of a really enjoyable lunch and learn today in beautiful Vancouver, Canada hosted by SMEI at the Terminal City Club. I was asked to kick off the discussion by saying a few words on the theme of “Your customers have moved. Do you know where they live?”

    I decided to start things off by broadening the discussion into the larger question of whether we even know our customers at all anymore, given the sea change in consumer behaviours that has occurred since the widespread adoption of social media like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

    For example, do you know which online networks they like to hang out on? Do you know how they like to be communicated with? Do you understand what new levels of interaction they expect to have with your organization? Do you know when you are bugging them and driving them away?

     Part of the challenge is learning to listen again. Listening is possibly the most important sales skill out there, but how do we “listen” effectively with all the new media that is out there?

    It all starts with some key, foundational principles. So here follows a bit of a manifesto for success in the new virtual neighbourhoods where our customers live.

    • You need to genuinely enjoy meeting and helping people. If that’s just not you, find someone else to look after your digital communications post. It takes all kinds to make a business succeed, and if you are not happy networking offline, online tools won’t change that reality.   Hire an intern or new grad from a local college or university. These social media natives are very well-equipped to be your eyes, ears and voice on social media. Many will appreciate the chance to make some bucks on the side while still a student. 
    • You need to be in it to help others. Blasting out endless Tweets about how great you are is not working, and is actually driving people away. In a recent study I conducted, one-quarter of the respondents indicated they are getting tired of social media and are considering scaling down their participation. The mood out there is in flux, and if you are not helping, you are annoying. You need to think in terms of “giving” not “getting.”
    • You need to build communities. This is an old idea that still has legs. Start a LinkedIn Group for your customers. Let them help each other, and let them give you input on your products and services. My research is showing that people want to be able to rely on their online communities for assistance in solving problems and coming up with innovative ideas.
    • You need to learn about the new cultures. This means listening before talking. Ask a lot of questions. Use tools like LinkedIn Q+A, LinkedIn Groups, and online customer surveys. Identify and befriend the “alphas” out there and learn the rules and protocols of engagement. Have a casual focus group over pizza and beer (be sure to invite me…) Watch how your competitors are handling the same environments and situations.
    • It’s not just about the tools! Sure there are lots of great tools out there, many of them home-grown success stories. But at their best, tools are simply extenders and enablers of existing behaviours. If you are doing the wrong things to begin with, cool tools just magnify your mistakes, and the consequences of them. Make sure your fundamental behaviours are sound before throwing caution to the wind and potentially alienating your customer base.
    • Become a trusted advisor. Freely offer your expertise and advice. Be a regular contributor to LinkedIn Q+A, and invest a half hour every morning helping people without expectations of a favour in return. Blog your own ideas, don’t just coat somebody else’s thoughts in your own wrapper and blast it out – editorialize at least! Make sure you would be on your customer’s “Top ten most helpful people” list.” Thought leadership is brand leadership.

    How’s that for a set of starting principles? I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on this, and your additions to the list. Please feel free to weigh in here with your opinions!

    PS. Some cool “Canadian” tools to check out:

    StepRep (www.steprep.com) from Vendasta Technologies – helps you monitor and manage your online reputations

    MashedIn (www.mashedin.com) also from Vendasta Technologies – builds trust by showing people how they are connected to you

    HootSuite (www.hootsuite.com) -  manages, monitors and analyzes multiple social media presences

    Flowtown (www.flowtown.com) – builds social media profiles from a simple email address

    To explore having me speak to your group or team on this or other related topics, please feel free to be in touch with me at greatcapes@gmail.com or via the Contact tab on this page.

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