How Your Leadership Bio Influences Your Buyers

How Your Leadership Bio Influences Your Buyers

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Being overly formal makes people feel more negative about your company than you realize… at least in most cases. 

I won’t name the offending company because I feel embarrassed for them. I recently read a company’s leadership bio page on its website. They listed their leaders’ names exactly like this:

  • Phillip “Phil” Smith*
  • William H. “Bill” Davis, Jr.
  • James R. “Jim” Miller

Cringe. What, Phil, Bill and Jim aren’t worthy, or businesslike enough? Who are these people, descendants of Thurston Howell III?

Good marketing removes barriers between your company and your buyers. Yet, all the marketing in the world can’t change a stubborn or backward company culture.

It’s one thing to state the leader’s name as Phillip if that’s what people call him. However, if all interactions will be with Phil, then calling him Phillip “Phil” Smith is just ridiculous. I call this digital self-aggrandizement. The definition of self-aggrandizement is “the action or process of promoting oneself as being powerful or important.” In contrast, world-famous leaders go by their first names. You know many of them: 

So a billionaire named Jeff goes by his first name, but the VP of Operations in a small tech company is William H. “Bill” Davis, Jr.? Why do some leaders feel the need to be so formal?

Today, it shows a degree of insecurity and invokes negative feelings about you and your company. How off-putting can you be? One step worse than this is the overuse of Mr., Ms. or Miss. There’s nothing wrong with being formal, but in the right setting. Like so:

  • Receiving an award: “We’d like to congratulate Mrs. Christine Smith…”
  • … there aren’t many other situations in 2020 that warrant the use of these titles.

That old way of business, achieving status even if your work doesn’t measure up, has been replaced by creating and producing great work—at least in successful companies.

There has been a shift in business, for many years, from formality and hierarchy to flat organizations and informality. Note, I did not say unprofessional or uncivil. That would be equally bad.

I was fortunate to have an amazing boss for nearly 10 years. He mentored me and helped me become who I am in business today. Once, in a social setting, I introduced him to some friends and said, “I’d like you to meet my boss…” He interrupted me and said, “Nice to meet you. John and I work on the same team.”

The next day, he instructed me to never again introduce him as my boss. He owned the company. He was my boss, but he didn’t want to promote hierarchy. He wanted to promote collaboration and leadership development. I watched him listen intently to people who, on an employment level, were at the bottom. He implemented many of their ideas and the company benefited from it. 

There’s a much deeper issue than using formal names. It has everything to do with culture. I once worked in the home office of a sizable retail chain. For practical purposes, someone had a good idea to save money. That was to only print business cards for those employees who actually needed them. The majority of us rarely left the office. Some of us had outside visitors, but not often. Based on business card design, it was easy to see people who were given 500 business cards five years earlier still had hundreds left.

What was usually a positive culture turned a little ugly. Why, an employee of 8 years asked, would he not get new business cards since he’s had them from day one? It felt like a fight to prove one’s value and importance to the company, as if having business cards were validation of that. It was hierarchy at work.

That old way of business, achieving status even if your work doesn’t measure up, has been replaced by creating and producing great work—at least in successful companies.

Feel free to call yourself Thurston Howell III. Better yet, feel free to produce great work that makes a difference. Then you will have a name people remember. 

I could sign off here as Mr. John M. Centofanti, but people just call me John. 😉

* Last names changed to protect the formally uninformed.

How Social Media Works in B2B Environments

How Social Media Works in B2B Environments

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Is social media a waste of time for a B2B company?

I’ve been asked this question many times. The question stems from a lack of understanding of social media in general, or at least unrealistic expectations. Further, B2B marketing is different than B2C marketing. The marketing principles are very much the same in both cases, but the approach to gaining sales is different.

Real World Networking

In the B2B tech world, sales happen more slowly than anyone would like. I’ve worked with top sale teams, and its common for someone in sales to attend an industry event where they hope to make good connections and leave with a stack of business cards from prospects, or to scan badges at a large trade show. Some sales cycles for tech companies can take a year, even longer. The stack of business cards a salesperson collects at an industry event may literally be step two in a hundred step process.

No one, ever, is going to get a prospect to buy a $500k to $5M tech solution during a networking event based on the wonderful conversation he or she had with a salesperson. Ever. Most people in sales understand that scenario. Yet, that same salesman will look at months of social media posts and wonder why his phone isn’t ringing because of those posts. The answer appears to be that social media in a B2B setting is a waste of time. This couldn’t be more wrong.

Social Media Networking

Social media marketing and networking are very similar. Our impatience and wrong perceptions cause us to look at social media in B2B environments as ineffective. Social media is wonderful, amazing, nearly free, and can help us reach prospects from around the world. That said, it’s not a magic bullet. Like real world networking, it takes time.

Many salespeople in the B2B tech space say most sales come from referrals. That’s only part of the picture. Referrals from someone you know can be powerful. In reality, how is the person referred going to validate that referral? They will check out your website, see what you post on social media, read your case studies, and judge whether or not you’re the expert solution provider. Social media is, in many ways, the digital equivalent of a networking event.

Conversation on Their Terms

Unlike real-world networking events where your prospects may be tired and want to leave the event, social media let’s prospects learn about you on their terms. Of course, no one person will see the majority of what you post in a continual stream unless they intentionally look for it. That’s why you need a social media content plan and calendar. Over time, will a prospect who sees 6 of your social posts get an idea of how you approach an industry challenge? Maybe a little bit. If you post on a regular basis, prospects can learn how you think, start to see your values and feel the passion you feel for improving an industry problem.

The way you think, your values, and your passion can’t be communicated as well in a 4-minute conversation at a networking event. Social media lets your B2B prospects learn these things about you before they ever accept a phone call.

5 Guidelines for B2B Social Media Content

  1. Educate your audience. Don’t try to sell. I follow a B2B tech company on a particular social platform. Every single post sounds like this: “Have a problem with X? Try our new solution that eliminates this problem.” Every single post. Provide valuable content that shows your audience how you solved a problem for a client. Share some challenges and practical steps readers can take—without you—to solve a problem.
  2. Be consistent. It’s better to post one time per week, every week, than to have four posts per week for two weeks, followed by three months of silence. It’s nearly impossible to have consistency without a content plan.
  3. Be realistic. Social media marketing is part of a larger sales picture. It is valuable in itself, most effective when integrated into a well-planned marketing strategy.
Do You Have a Product, a Solution, or a Service?

Do You Have a Product, a Solution, or a Service?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Many tech companies refer to their offering as a product, others call it a solution, and still others refer to their service. What’s the best way to market your offering?

If you are routinely charging different rates or prices for your offering, chances are, you don’t have a product.

This may not sound like an important point to discuss, but it can influence a prospect’s perception of your company and affect whether he or she buys from you or not. I’ve worked with SaaS companies, software companies, and others who have some type of tech solution. Here are some common scenarios:

  • The sales team refers to the company’s products
  • Its website refers to its solutions, or even products and solutions
  • The operations team refers to the offering as its services

Often, these terms are used interchangeably, with no sense of consistency or clarity.