As an entrepreneur, I am constantly working, always running from one meeting to the next and barely have time to eat lunch. I lead speaking engagements such as the Columbia Business Social Media Workshop I led last week in Greenwich, CT and will be speaking at an upcoming 201 social media conference for Microsoft in Seattle. After overbooking myself and scheduling out every minute of my day, I suddenly got very sick with the flu and strep and could not leave the house or engage in business activities for nearly 3 days. I found it impossible to step away from my blackberry, to respond to emails and to keep tweeting and posting. However, after I answered the phone and scared a partner away with my raspy voice from strep, I realized it might be time to shut off the phone and get better.
As a social media enthusiast and blogger, it is virtually impossible for me to step away from the social world for long stretches of time. After stepping away from tweeting and posting for 3 days (I sneaked some in), I realized the importance of balance. Sometimes it is important to take a “digital cleanse” and shut off your blackberry and unplug. It is also important for entrepreneurs to take care of themselves- mentally, physically and emotionally. I find that I operate at optimal performance when I do take care of myself.
Here are my top health tips for entrepreneurs & social media enthusiasts:
- Take some time to unplug from your device– Even if it is 1 hour a day from your phone it is worth it. At night I turn my phone face down and try to lose myself in a great book or movie
- Don’t overbook yourself– Part of the reason I got so sick was because I ran myself into the ground, ultimately weakening my immune system from overworking myself. Schedule “personal” time into your calendar and carefully choose what events and speaking appearances you sign up for.
- Take time to eat lunch– As an entrepreneur I schedule meetings throughout the typical lunch period and frequently forget to eat- this is a huge mistake! I now make it a habit to carry protein bars with me wherever I go. My favorite bars are the “BeKind” ones they sell at Starbucks, as well as the Luna Bars for women
- Get physical! Working out on a daily basis is vital to my mental and physical health. It is a time for me to put my phone down (I leave it in my gym locker) and try to decompress after a long day. I also make it a point to not bring business into the gym- even if that means seeing a client at the gym; I actively try to not interrupt their workout with business talk as we are all going there to help melt the day away.
- Engage in a new activity or hobby– Taking up a new hobby such as painting, golfing or yoga can be a great way to take care of your mental state. I am very involved in yoga and work with my dear friend Jai Sugrim, who is a licensed yoga instructor. I love doing yoga in Central Park and really connecting to humanity through quieting my mind.
Overwhelmed by all the social media marketing meetups, tweetups, seminars & conferences?
As the owner of a social media marketing agency, I find it extremely important to balance my time between managing my clients social media accounts, my company’s social media accounts and attending relevant industry related events. If you spend as little as 30 minutes a day on Twitter or Facebook, you will probably notice that there are an overwhelming amount of conferences related to social media marketing. This is an amazing facet of our industry – as the communications industry is undergoing a fundamental shift in the way we communicate, marketers and public relations professionals are coming together at record numbers to feel their way through this new “social media revolution.”
As a business owner, it is important to manage your time when choosing which events are relevant to attend. It is also important to check your motives for attending conferences. For example, in the past few months I have attended the Web 2.0 Conference at the Javitz Center, The MIT Forum on Social Media, The BDI Social Integration Conference, The Trust Summit Breakfast with Chris Brogan & Charles Green, The Mashable Holiday Party, The BDI Social Consumer Conference as well as Westchester Social Media Tweetups. I have also led social media seminars to CEO groups in Westchester, NY, led a roundtable discussion on using social media for personal & corporate branding at the BDI Social Integration Conference and will be leading an upcoming Columbia University Business School Alumni workshop on social media marketing in Greenwich, CT.
My primary purpose for attending these events & leading these seminars was not to acquire new business – it was quite the contrary. As a result of attending these conferences, I have made some invaluable business relationships that are equally as important to me as any new client relationships would be.
Here is a brief recap of my most meaningful relationships as a result of attending social media conferences this past year:
While waiting outside of the Harvard Club for the Trust Summit breakfast with Chris Brogan, I met Jeffrey Fass, the President of Linear Design. It turns out Jeffrey’s cousin was my neighbor in Waccabuc and that he was also starting a company called Successful Pursuits, a community for independent creative professsionals to come together. Jeffrey is responsible for the creation of my company’s web site, while I am responsible for the social media marketing strategy for Successful Pursuits. At the Trust Summit breakfast, I met Chris Brogan, who was instrumental in forming my company name and wrote in my book “Hi Kristen, My pleasure meeting you in person and I hope you find a gem of a name.” Chris inspired me to keep my @sparklingruby twitter handle and also gave me hope that there really were good people out there (Chris is one of the most genuine guys I know). At the Trust Summit breakfast I also met Charles Green, who immediately sent me a copy of one of his latest books on building trust in client relationships, and was one of the first people to comment on my blog posts. At the BDI Conference, I was hysterical while watching Tim Washers performance and followed up with him through facebook. We have since met to discuss his recent comical ventures and most recently he invited me to hear him speak with David Meerman Scott at HBS. At the Web 2.0 Expo, I met John Adams in person- and after following my live tweets at the BDI conference he assumed I was a fellow reporter as well. He has since joined my company as Director of Editorial.
The people I have met at these conferences have become an integral part of my company – not because they are clients but because they are friends. They are essentially my group of “trusted advisors” and I value and respect their opinions. I am so greatful to have met these people at different conferences, and looking back I can see how each of them has shaped a part of my business.
My advice is to approach networking and conferences not from a place of “What can I get out of this” but from “What can I contribute and what knowledge can I share” Jeffrey Fass, John Adams, Tim Washer, Chris Brogan and Charles Green have all inspired me and for that I am truly grateful. In many respects they serve as my own trusted board of advisors in a virtual sense.
How do you measure the ROI on gratitude? You don’t!
Here are my best tips for making the most out of conferences:
- Go to the conference with an open mind
- Do not evaluate the success of the conference based on how many prospects came out of it
- Instead, evaluate it on how many new business relationships you have formed (which can be more valuable in the long run)
- Pick and choose which conferences you attend – do not spread yourself too thin
- Always follow up with people within 48 hours of meeting them – through email, LinkedIN, Facebook or Twitter
- If you are at an event where people are handing you their cards left and right, take notes on the back of them to remember standout conversations
- Share the knowledge you have acquired from the event with the rest of us – whether you are blogging or live tweeting – who were not able to attend (people really appreciate this)
- If people give you their email as an act of trust, don’t abuse this privilege by adding them to your company newsletter the second you get back to the office (people hate this)
- Be genuine, honest & open in all communications (both online and off)
- Finally, conferences are supposed to be fun! Sometimes the best conversations I have with people are about topics unrelated to social media. Take an interest in someone else’s life rather then pushing a product – people can smell this from a mile away.
Here are my friend Vicky’s Tips – from PR Newswire:
“You can’t go to one of these events and sit there and say the ROI of this event was blank. It is something that takes time. The ROI comes after time put into the continued networking that happens after you meet the people at the events. Last year, I attended 6 major industry conferences. You can spend all your time being at conferences. What is most important is maximizing the time you do spend at the conference. Make sure you are at conferences that will be beneficial – by your presence, or that it can benefit you and you will take away something valuable. It is about connecting with people – you have to be selective in terms of the conferences you attend. If you go to everything, you are shooting in the dark.”
“Networking is great – but you have to balance it with production of whatever it is you do.
“Use networking to build positive association with your brand- people that do this are more successful then those who solely use it for marketing.”
Kristen Ruby, President and Founder of Ruby Media Group will be presenting a case study “Using Social Media for Personal & Corporate Branding” at Social Integration: Case Studies & Roundtables at the The Graduate Center of The City University of NY, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York, 212.817.7000. I would love to see you there!
Kristen will also be speaking at the 1/13 NY SociaI Integration Event with @hpnews @nhl @intuit @pepsi @harvard @sprint
Tips for client retention
Client retention is extremely important in building sustainable business relationships, yet it is often one of the most overlooked processes in larger structured companies. Many companies today are now using social media as an interface for customer satisfaction, to engage with customers in social communities. While this is one of the many pros of social media marketing, social media marketing will be most effective when the employees of these corporations support the online persona that they create. Honesty, fairness and a willingness to go the extra mile to cement the relationship are all critical in this process.
Recently, I received a invoice from a vendor on some emergency service work that needed to be completed. When I was presented with the bill, however, it was a solid $200 over the original estimate. This incident in isolation would be one thing. It happened once before with the vendor, and I gave them the benefit of the doubt. The second time though, the vendor broke my trust and violated our relationship. I was less then thrilled. After going back and forth with the vendor, I begrudgingly paid the bill. Then came the icing on the cake. I picked up a pack of gum and placed it on the counter. As I handed over my credit card for what was now a $1,000 bill, the vendor scanned the gum and added it to my charge. What the vendor did was break the last fragment of our relationship. I think any of us would have just handed the pack over with a friendly “no charge” smile. I stood there in shock, trying to hold my composure in front of a store full of people. Interestingly, even a bystander in the store (who was probably not a social media expert) exclaimed, “Dude, just give her the gum,” to which the vendor responded, “Sorry, I can’t do that, I just work here. You must pay for the gum. What card do you want it on?”
While the vendor received my $1000 and 50 cents for the gum, they did everything possible to lose me as lifetime customer. Rather than attempting to explain their billing process and take the opportunity to make a tiny yet significant gesture, they tacked on another charge which threw me over the top.
As the principal of a social media marketing agency, I understand when the scope of work can go beyond the agreed upon limit, but I also understand the importance of being transparent with clients and engaging in an honest and open communication with them. Business today has changed- it is about building lasting, meaningful relationships with your clients. Charles H. Green, the author of Trusted Advisor, is one of the leading experts on this very issue, and he often talks about the pitfalls in communication between the client and the advisor.
Social media marketing can go a long way in creating the interface between the client and organization online- but real life “marketing” and interaction with your customers must be the backbone of this communication, or else it is meaningless. Here are some tips for client retention:
- Be Transparent with your client about billing
- If the scope of work exceeds the agreed upon price, consult your client before doing the work and billing them later
- Give Her The Gum! Sometimes it is worth it to “bite the bullet” and take a small hit hit in order to keep a client relationship
- Go the extra mile- If you have made a mistake, make an effort to engage in communication with the client and see how you can fix the problem.
- Create a cohesive identity between your corporate online persona and your real life persona and maintain that identity in all aspects of the relationship.
- It is not simply enough to say- “I just work here” To clients, every employee of an organization represents that organization- take responsibility for your actions
- Make your clients feel good about their investments- It is perfectly reasonable that work will sometimes exceed the agreed upon budget, but when this is the case explain to your clients why. Make them feel good about their extra investment, and show them the added value they are receiving with the increased dollar amount spent.