Friday, January 21, 2011

What's Your Cultural Change Character?

It's recently come to my attention that I might be a curmudgeon.

It's alarming. When I think of that word, I think of an old man (in my case) railing against the status quo and generally longing for simpler times, which generally occurred when he was young. And, if you did not agree with him, you're an idiot.

This realization dawned on me as I read Alan Atkisson's Believing Cassandra. It was given to me a few years ago and promptly lost in the best intentions of my sustainable reading pile. I wish I'd read it sooner; it does a good job of addressing the reasons I play the curmudgeon (bordering on iconoclast) far too often and offers tools to help me take on other roles that I might like.

Take a look at the figure above, the Anatomy of Culture Change. Does the curmudgeon really help move something forward? Is that where one would like to be when it comes to creating a sustainable future (moving a new idea forward)? No. There are times when I act the change agent, and maybe the transformer (depending upon mood) but the curmudgeon takes over all too often.

Take a look at Mr. Atkisson's terms for culture change types [emphasis mine and you may note similarities to types from Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point and Geoffrey Moore's Crossing the Chasm]:
  • Innovators: person or group who invents, discovers, or otherwise initiates a new idea
  • Change Agents: people who actively and effectively promote new ideas
  • Transformers: early adopters - gatekeepers for an idea making it to the mainstream
  • Mainstreamers: the majority of the culture
  • Laggards: late adopters - satisfied with the status quo; change when they have to
  • Reactionaries: actively resist change - may have a vested interest in the status quo
  • Iconoclasts: angry critics of the status quo; nay-sayers not idea-generators
  • Spiritual Recluse: contemplatives that withdraw to seek, and preach, eternal truths
  • Curmudgeons: change efforts are useless; they project disillusionment & disappointment and can derail change efforts
So where do you fit now? Have you taken the initiative with something, attempting to bring it into a new place? Maybe you're ambivalent to it all, and will await whatever happens, riding the waves of change that make it to the middle of the road.

The real question is...

Who are you and what role do you want to play?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Personality Types; Are You Primed for Social Media?

I've been talking to small, mission-driven business owners/founders I know about how they utilize social networking tools like blogs, twitter, Facebook, etc. to build relationships with their customers and prospects and to tell their stories. I've come to the conclusion that personality types have something to do with their willingness to explore and use these powerful engagement outlets; (image from

those on the introverted side of the spectrum tend to be less likely to spontaneously start using these tools than those with an extroverted tendency.

OK, my sample size is small, and I did not administer the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (or any other such test)...and cross-reference it with their marketing activities. If I include friends and acquaintances that I know on and offline and there engagement in these networks there seems to be something to this.

It's distinctly possible that it's not just the use of social media that small-business/ entrepreneurial personalities all along the intro-extroverted spectrum struggle with. Depending upon the nature of their businesses and their skills, its distinctly possible that their overall use of any kind of communications to tell their story and reach customers suffers. One might posit that someone with an operational background might be less likely to spend the 16th hour of their day attending to twitter (which they need to do during working hours by the way) instead of working on their latest packaging machine challenge. It's also possible that they're so passionately engaged in their work & mission, something they've committed to with heart and soul, that they're lost in their own story and believe that everyone else already "gets it".

Regardless of the small-business owners' proclivities and personality types, the people that might buy their products/services or are talking about things relevant to their businesses use these social networking tools. And, the beauty of these services is that they're pretty darn easy to set up. Of course, content is king so a blank Facebook page may not be very engaging, and could end up hurting the business if left that way.

Has anyone else experienced this in their conversations with mission-driven/small business/ entrepreneurial types?

Thursday, January 06, 2011

People WANT to Buy From Your Small Business

Why do people tweet and or post (wherever it may be) their dismay after getting a “talk-to-the-hand” response from the regular customer service channels? BECAUSE THEY WANT TO BE HEARD! They want to connect with someone that might treat them like a person instead of a transaction and solve their problem. Social media tools offer cost-effective ways for small locally-focused companies to listen to what customers are asking for and respond, building their community of brand advocates - and their business.

Give them a better option...listen to what they're asking for...set up a twitter account with your company's basic information and create a Google or socialmention alert (search kurrently and collecta if you're so inclined) for competitors in your community, looking for people posting comments that ask for help. See what you get. You may need to tweak the searches to get what's relevant to the solutions you provide. Imagine if you heard someone seeking a resolution to a problem that you could solve, when they complained about someone else (maybe that anonymous big-box store down the street, or even in the next town). Once you offer a solution that meets their immediate need (and you serve them well) you have the opportunity to invite them back and go about developing a long term relationship, telling the story of your business and why it matters to them and the city or town they live in.

Something I read late last year made me think about this “Delta said it sees social media channels like Twitter and Facebook as a chance to offer better customer service. So it created a channel called @DeltaAssist and told workers in the social-media lab to offer customers quick fixes, such as rebookings and reimbursements. Sometimes that means even waiving rules that consumers typically find unbendable at airlines.”

If there are enough customers using this channel to communicate with the companies they do business with, and they see it as a way around the traditionally unsatisfying customer service channels, it seems that you better be listening. If the term "twitter" and "Facebook" are new to you, maybe it's time to take a look and enter the fray, with listening the first priority.