Today I’m giving a presentation at Associates Graphic Services, AGS, in Wilmington, DE.  They have a great program called AGS University, where they provide classes for local businesses to help them learn about how to get the most from their marketing dollars.  They’ve been kind enough to have me speak on several occasions this past year, including presentation on  Social Media 101, Using Google for Listening and Marketing, and now, Blogging for Business.

Karen Keenan, Director of Marketing for AGS, and April Biddle have been terrific to work with,  Together, we try to design presentations that will meet the needs of their customer base, help attract new customers, and provide a community resource going forward.  It’s been a great working relationship, and I hope we can continue to work together in the future.

When people first consider using social media for their businesses, it can seem like something that is far too social and fun, and not enough business. However, the web has become one of the first ways many people find your business, try to find out more about you, or engage long before a face to face transaction occurs.  This means you have to put your best foot forward online, just like dressing approapriately for a business meeting.  You want to make sure you have the basic “business card” type information available, and a way for people to get a sense of who you are before you shake hands.

This can make many individuals and businesses nervous. They may feel like they do better in person than they do in writing, and they are sure they can close a sale if they just see the person, face to face.  But people are also shy, and want to sort their options long before they “shop around”, largely because they can online.

For example, we recently purchased a new vehicle, and the majority of the purchasing issues occured via email.  While we had been to a local dealership to test drive the car, we compared prices online and had local dealerships compete to give us the best price.  We settled on a dealership I had never been to before the day I picked up the vehicle, because of the emal and phone conversations I had with the dealership.  We got a great price in writing other dealers wouldn’t match, and they not only ordered the car to our specifications, but kept us in the loop as to when it was expected to be delivered, what we needed to bring with us and made everything easy.  A purchase of over $40,000 was completed because of an online relationship and attention to detail.    This virtual relationship was probably less time consuming, more pleasant, and hence more profitable in terms of customer satisfaction and dealer overhead, despite the good deal.

The website for the dealership itself was not nearly as important as the response to email communication and phone.  While and matched us to the dealership, the use of basic “non-sexy” marketing tools sealed the deal.  The human connection made it a sale, but the preliminary courting was 100% virtual.

The important part when considering blogging or adding any social media tools into your marketing mix is not whether it’s cool or new or shiny.  It’s whether this channel provides a human voice and face for your business and makes connections that resonate for people.  I can buy______ anywhere- why should I buy it from you?  By using tools to place a human face on your business- by caring about your customers and valuing their time, you put coins into your trust bank, which pays amazing interest over time.  I know I always recommend businesses that treat me well to friends, don’t you?