Our 11th VR-versary is tomorrow (!), February 22nd, so social media manager, Ellery asked if I would publish a post about lessons I’ve learned in the past 11 years of building and leading VerticalResponse. Forget a blog post, I could probably write an entire book on everything I’ve learned! But when I thought about it, there were a few lessons that really rose to the top. So take what you want from my successes and failures and put them to work for your own business:

What’s Old is New Again 

Just because something didn’t work a year or two ago doesn’t mean it won’t work now. I learned a hard marketing lesson about this myself. If you advertised on a site or even Google perhaps a year ago and didn’t have the success you wanted, you might want to try it again. The site may have merged with another company or got a great source of brand new leads and it just might be the perfect thing to test again.

Dream the Impossible

Things that weren’t possible before, might be possible now. Organizations are run by different people at different times, so the way things are accomplished also changes. This was a lesson I learned when we wanted to offer promotional discount codes to our customers for many years. The people who were here before just didn’t have the background to engineer it, so to them it wasn’t possible, or it would take many, many months to create. Since then, new people have come on board with fresh and creative ideas, and we got our promotion code engine. Don’t be afraid to ask.

Embrace the NEW

Fifteen years ago, Email Marketing barely existed and now it’s a multi-billion dollar business. Now, social media is the new marketing and we didn’t really know it would be a force for businesses even 5 years ago. It’s abundantly clear that things are moving faster than ever so you need to keep up on as much of the “new” as possible for your business to compete. And, there’s never been a better time to use tools that are free and simple. Use a tool like Roost (a company we just acquired), and spend the extra 5 minutes a day or 10 minutes per week to communicate with your followers and allow them to communicate with you.   The rules of engagement have all changed so make sure you’re there.

Shut Up and Listen

Your customers want to talk to you, so listen to them. Check Facebook and Twitter daily, watch what people say about you, and “listen” to all the conversations happening on these networks about your brand and industry. Thanks to the social web, genuine customer insight has never been easier to access, so take advantage! Also, reach out to your customers directly and send them surveys from time to time to get a real read on how they’re feeling about you. One question to ask? On a scale of 1-10 (10 being high), would you recommend us to a colleague? Then act on what they’re telling you and don’t forget to thank them when you make the changes.

Open the Kimono

Transparency is tough, but if you embrace it all the way it can be pretty rewarding. In the 90’s, companies wouldn’t dream of talking about the things they do today. It’s a tell-all world. Screw up with your customers? Own it. Say you’re sorry, talk about how you’ll try to avoid it and move on. Doing some really great things with your employees? Talk about it. Giving people a window into your business makes them feel closer to you and connect with your values. When we’ve screwed up we use Jason Fried’s mantra “Just say you’re sorry,” because we actually are.

Get Your Customers Talking

When we found out most of our business comes from our happy customers we were shocked! It sure gave us more of a reason to give even more to our customers. We try to go above and beyond for our customers by making sure those who need help aren’t waiting too long for a phone or a live chat to be picked up or an email answered. But we also don’t cut anyone off to hurry and get to the next person. It’s a tough balance! We really try to get to the heart of our customer’s questions with answers they can do something with. We’ve even been awarded several customer service awards by our peers and for us that’s really saying something.

Spend Some Time Thinking

Every now and then do yourself a favor: stay home and think. Think of what you aren’t doing and what you want to do. Think about what your competition is doing that you should also be doing. Think about where your business fits into the landscape. Think about the important stuff like keeping customers around or getting them back in the door. Sometimes home is the best place to have some breakthrough ideas.

Show Your Face

There is nothing stronger in this world than face-to-face communications, but you can’t be everywhere all the time. When you can get face-to-face time with a customer, make the most of it. When you can’t, using live webinars, videotaping yourself or putting yourself out there in a blog like I’m doing now really lends credibility and adds personality to you and your company.

I’ve been running this great company for 11 years; (I was 19 when I started! Kidding.) and the best lesson from being a part of this every day, is that I learn something new every day. What have you learned?

© 2012 – 2018, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

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