23 December, 2009

Why Kanawha County's Dog Tethering Ordinance is So Important

In This Issue of Higginbotham At Large:

- Update on Kanawha County Dog Tethering Ordinance

- Next Meeting of Drinking LIberally

Kanawha County Dog Tethering Ordinance Update:

Because I was at yesterday’s public hearing on the bear hunters’ request to exempt hunting dogs from the Kanawha County anti-tethering ordinance, several people have asked me for an update on the hearing.

There’s good news and bad news. The good news is that, in Kanawha County, dogs that are not classified as “hunting dogs” are protected by an ordinance that says their owners cannot tether them for periods exceeding 15 minutes, 4 times daily. Dog owners who violate this ordinance may receive stiff fines.

The bad news is that the hunters lawyered up, threatened to sue, and got their dogs exempted from the protections of the ordinance.

It was obvious from Kanawha County Commission President, Kent Carper’s, introductory remarks at the public hearing that the fix was in and that the commission was going to grant the hunters’ demand to exempt their dogs from the protections afforded other dogs and that the Kanawha Humane Society’s board, many of whom were in the room, had already agreed to the exemption.

Had the commission not allowed public comment, one would have gotten the impression that there were only two “sides” to the argument. On one side were the hunters who lawyered up and threatened legal challenges to the law. On the other “side” was the Humane Society board that caved in to the hunters’ demands and agreed to exclude “hunting dogs” from the protections of the anti-tethering law.

I would like to remind commissioners Carper, Hardy and Shores that Kanawha County taxpayers have never granted the Kanawha Humane Society board plenary and plenipotentiary powers to speak and decide for the rest of us yet Carper conducted the public hearing as if all that mattered was that the lawyer-rich hunters and the Humane Society board had reached an agreement and that the hunters promised not to be cruel to their dogs.

I believe Kent Carper when he says that if hunters are caught being cruel to their dogs they will be prosecuted – with or without the anti-tethering ordinance - but animal cruelty is hard to “prove” in a court of law so those of us who wish to report cruelty need as much legal specificity and inclusion as we can get. Laws that don’t define cruelty don’t really protect animals. An animal can be starved, beaten or deprived of water and shelter for days before humane officers can “prove” that cruelty took place. Laws that clearly spell out how long you can tether an animal, how often you have to provide water for your animal and what, exactly, constitutes shelter for an animal make the cruelty easier to observe and document. Those of us who have reported animal abuse know that vague, “I’ll know it when I see it” animal cruelty laws favor the abuser. That, Mr. Carper, is why observers and enforcers need specific, black and white, binary laws. You either provided your dog with legally-defined shelter or you didn’t. You either provided your dog with sufficient food and water as defined by law, or you didn’t.

And, Mr. Carper, the reason tethering and confinement laws, in particular, are so fundamental to prevention of cruelty to animals is because, unlike wild animals, tethered animals and confined animals can’t go somewhere in search of food, water, shelter or warmth. A “stray” cat can crawl up inside a car’s engine compartment to get warm. A tethered dog can’t. A wild squirrel or raccoon can seek shelter from the rain, water for its thirst or food for its hunger. A tethered dog can’t. A starving, dehydrated, shivering dog tethered to a stake in the ground is worse off than a stray dog because at least a stray dog might get lucky and be taken in by a loving human. When I was a teenager, a neglected neighborhood dog adopted my family. We had already taken him in as a stray before we learned from the mail man that our new pet was, in fact, a refugee from down the street who escaped from his abusers and found a better deal, an option the tethered dog doesn’t have.

I believe Mr. Carper is a fine public servant and, as I told some Huntington animal rights activists yesterday, I wish Kanawha County, West Virginia and the nation had thousands more progressive, fair and decent public servants just like him, but the next time Mr. Carper is tempted to broker a backroom deal concerning Kanawha County's animal protection laws, I hope he will remember that hunters and Humane Society board members aren't the only Kanawha County taxpayers with an interest in protecting animals.

My biggest take aways from yesterday's public hearing:

1. If you lawyer up and threaten to sue, the Kanawha Humane Society will back down. Kanawha County's dogs are lucky the hunter didn't demand that all dogs be exempted from the tethering ordinance.

2. People who want stronger, more meaningful and enforceable animal protection laws need to be prepared to hire lawyers because the "other side" will.

3. People who want stronger, more meaningful and enforceable animal protection laws need to be better organized, need to communicate with each other more and need to get a lot better at recruitment, at PR and at using social media.

There’s a great deal more I’d like to say about that public hearing and about animal protection laws but I’ll save some of my comments for another day. Huntington’s city council recently passed an anti-tethering ordinance and soon, I’m told, the same animal activists who demanded the city ordinance will ask the Cabell County Commission to pass a county-wide ordinance so I’m sure I’ll have more to say then.

Next Meeting of The Charleston, WV, Chapter of Drinking Liberally

If you are a liberal and you’d like to meet and network with other liberals, come join us at 5:30 PM, Thursday, 7 January at Bruno’s, 222 Leon Sullivan Way.

06 December, 2009

Referrals and Relationships - Part Two


“Marketing is not a department.” – Harry Beckwith


I said in my last blog entry that readers who are in "R & R" (relationships and referrals) businesses need to turn their staff and their existing clients into a sales force because leveraging the existing relationships of your customers and employees can bring you that most powerful and most efficient form of new client acquisition: word-of-mouth.

Hire People Who Integrate Their Professional Lives With Their Social Lives

At a recent luncheon I invited a most unpleasant director-level executive to a meeting where she would have the opportunity to network with people who could support her organization. Some of her co-workers actually asked me to add them to my mailing list and inform them of meetings so imagine my surprise when this sourpuss told me she didn’t appreciate my using a professional relationship to invite her to a social function. This unsociable executive is an example of the kind of employee NOT to hire. Not only was she just downright unneighborly, she is trying to totally segregate her professional and social lives, robbing her employer of whatever benefit might be derived from her social network – if she has any social network.

Hire people who join things, people who meet and make friends easily, people who integrate their professional and social networks.

You might be able to get a feel for a job candidate’s ability and willingness to integrate his/her social and professional lives by looking at his/her LinkedIn profile and connections. Not only does the candidate’s LinkedIn profile show me how that person is connected to me, giving me a chain of “back door references” I can ask about his/her character and competence, a candidate’s LinkedIn profile gives me some idea if the candidate knows how to network. I’m not impressed with a job candidate who has 15 connections and belongs to no LinkedIn groups. On the other hand, if a job candidate has a network of 200 LinkedIn connections and belongs to all the LinkedIn groups that are appropriate to his/her industry and profession, I might be dealing with somebody who brings some word-of-mouth and referral potential to the table.

Frankly, in this day and age I have serious reservations about a job applicant who isn’t using LinkedIn to build both a positive professional brand and a sizeable, searchable professional network. Once onboard, staff members should be encouraged to invite each other to their LinkedIn networks so they can easily see how the company is connected to potential clients and who it is on the staff who has the relational bridge to a prospect.

For further reading on the subject of integrating your professional life with your private or social life, see Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone. I suggest you make it required reading for your staff.

Frequently Mine Your Employees and Clients To For New Leads

Get in the habit of asking questions like these: What networking opportunities did you attend this week? Who did you meet? Did you collect any business cards? Did you make any interesting new LinkedIn connections? Did you meet anybody who might be able to benefit from our product or service?

Asking these questions yields immediate leads and teaches how to network. When your employees know they’ll be asked which meetings they’ve attended and whom they’ve met, they’ll understand that, at your company, marketing is not a department and that they need to be prepared for the questions. Most of your current employees probably weren’t born with the networking gene but it’s a behavior they can learn if you ask them the right questions.

Spend The Money In Your Ad Budget On Association Memberships and Other Forms Of Direct Contaact With Potential Referrers


"Advertising is what you do when you can't talk to someone." - Fairfax Cone


Some of my readers are in the kind of “R & R” (referrals and relationships) businesses where almost their entire universe of prospective clients and referrers is knowable and finite. I have to be careful here because I don’t want to identify any specific businesses, but I know businesses whose target markets are so specific and so public that they can literally make a list of their prospects by name and by title and organization.

It doesn’t make any sense at all for these R & R companies to spend much money on advertising. Advertising is what you do when you don’t know how to reach your customer – or you don’t know who your prospective customer is. But when you know who your prospects are – I mean you know their names, their job titles, and where they work – it makes no sense to spend thousands of dollars on radio ads, newspaper ads or slick magazine ads as if you don’t know who you’re trying to reach.

For instance, let’s say you’re in the durable medical equipment industry. Oxygen. Hospital beds. Wheelchairs. Maybe diabetic or ostomy supplies. While the end users of these products are not knowable, the gatekeepers who refer these end users to you are absolutely knowable and finite. Case managers. Discharge planners. Pulmonologists. Nurses with a specific certification in ostomy and skin care. You get the idea. In most markets there are only a handful of these professionals associate with each area hospital and you can absolutely make a list and then figure out how to create a bridge or leverage an existing relationship to these professionals.

Here’s where hiring employees who use LinkedIn comes in handy. After you’ve made a list of the professionals who can refer end users to your DME business, look up each of them in LinkedIn and see how they’re linked to someone on your staff or someone you know who would be willing to introduce that referral source to you. Put that link’s name next to the name of the referral source. Ask that connecting link to introduce you to the referral source. Set up a lunch or a coffee.

Also, when you find a target referral source in LinkedIn, consider joining some of the LinkedIn groups they belong to. Join some of the same groups then send a LinkedIn message introducing yourself. Who knows, maybe a real conversation will ensue.

Can’t find a connecting link or can’t find the referral source in LinkedIn? Then ask yourself what meetings that professional is likely to attend or what professional associations that person is likely to belong to. Join and attend as necessary. If you’re in the staffing business you need to belong to Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). If you’re in the DME business you need to attend sleep disorder support groups, ostomate support groups, Better Breathers support groups and you need to belong to sponsor events and meetings for National Association of Social Workers and Case Management Society of America. Someone from your staff needs to be at every meeting, gripping and grinning, exchanging business cards and inviting referral sources to lunch. Send the member of your staff who has the most in common, the greatest rapport with that professional group. Send your respiratory therapist to the Better Breathers and sleep disorders meetings. Send a nurse to the ostomy club.

Your sales rep probably can’t get an appointment with many of the people who make up the Known Universe of Referral Sources and Gatekeepers but if you show up at a meeting you just might find yourself having dinner, elbow to elbow, with someone you need to meet. Also, being seen at meetings gives your current referral sources a chance to be seen behaving friendly with you, an implicit professional endorsement or recommendation and a strong “visual” that makes you seem more trustworthy to observers who have not yet referred business to your company.

Consider Firing Or Repurposing/Redeploying Your Sales Rep

What many R & R (relationships and referrals) businesses need is not a sales rep but someone who can teach the entire staff how to get relationships and referrals that lead to sales.

I recently had the opportunity to talk to a VP at The Carlyle Group who told me about a recent group of acquisitions whose greatest need is for the licensed and certified professionals who run them to learn how to network.

Ideally, this kind of networking leadership would come from the owner or CEO but for reasons that mystify and elude me, some owners of R & R businesses would rather run expensive "ego advertising" than engage in activities that will actually lead to new business. I've seen small business owners spend tens of thousands of ad dollars making sure their high school pals and fraternity brothers or sorority sisters know they own a company or trying to look like the most successful member of the local Chamber of Commerce or Rotary Club while doing nothing at all to teach their staff how to network.

Maybe your sales rep can be repurposed and redeployed as the guy who teaches your staff how to network.

In summary: Hire people who know how to network, how to integrate their social and professional lives. Consider firing your sales rep and becoming or hiring someone to teach your staff how to network. Spend your ad budget on association memberships, on lunches, on opportunities to get face-to-face with somebody. Frequently ask your clients and employees whom they've met recently who can use your product or service.

02 December, 2009

What Are You Pretending Not To Know About Referrals and Relationships?

Many of my regular readers are in what I call “R & R” businesses - “Referrals and Relationships”. Many of my readers are HR consultants, financial services consultants, business consultants, advertising and marketing consultants, accountants, lawyers, IT consultants and others who develop an ongoing relationship with their clients and depend on word-of-mouth referrals for new client acquisition.

Because I know who reads me, I know most of my readers don’t have big advertising and marketing budgets. I also know most of my readers would benefit more from some good ol’ word-of-mouth referral than they would from an expensive mass media campaign. Experience has taught my readers that people don’t choose an accountant, marketing consultant or other professional services provider because they saw a newspaper ad or heard a radio ad but if a trusted friend or colleague recommends a particular professional services provider, that provider is likely to get the business.

So today’s question is “If you know the power of word-of-mouth referrals, why aren’t you running your business like you believe in word-of-mouth referrals?”

Let me ask it the way Susan Scott (Fierce Conversations) would ask it: “What are you pretending not to know about the power of word-of-mouth referrals?”

If you believe that word-of-mouth referrals are the lifeblood of your business and you know from experience that you are more likely to choose the lawyer or the accountant or the headhunter or the financial advisor who was referred to you by someone you respect and trust, why aren’t you running your business as if you believe these things?

As I said in yesterday’s Higginbotham At Large and as my “R & R” readers already know from experience, if you provide a professional service and you’re competing with another provider of that service for the same client, it’s the guy with the relationship, not the guy with a radio ad, who’s most likely to get the business. No, I’m not knocking radio. I believe in radio properly used. Back in the 80s I used to buy a lot of radio and a little newspaper and TV when I could get co-op money. In some businesses, sales would drop like a rock if the advertiser slashed the ad budget.

But my readers aren’t in businesses whose stock prices and sales would plummet if they don’t buy TV and radio and slick magazine ads. My readers are in businesses where one casual recommendation in passing is worth more than $10,000 worth of advertising. My readers are in businesses where a service provider with an ad budget is no match for a service provider with a referral.

But they don’t run their businesses as if they know and believe this.

Consider the case of “Rob” (not his real name) who recently asked for my advice. “Rob” is one of the many IT providers out there whose target clients are the businesses with, say, 10 to 20 computers but no full-time “IT department” to take care of their IT needs. “Rob” told me that his business would go from “just getting by” to “crazy profitable” if he could just acquire 10 more clients.

Further, Rob told me, his clients are very cost-sensitive. He told me that if he can’t get new clients and is forced to raise prices, some of his current clients will leave him and go to another IT provider when their contracts are up.

“I’m on the verge of making some real money if I can just figure out how to go from 80 clients to 90” Rob told me. He also told me he had recently spent thousands on an ad campaign that didn’t bring him even one new client. So I said to Rob what I’m saying to my readers today.

“Of your 80 clients, how many are really, really happy with your service and would be willing to tell somebody?” I asked.

“More than half of them” said Rob.

“So when was the last time you put one of your clients in a position to recommend you to a prospect?” I asked. “And, when was the last time you came right out and said to one of your happy clients that he could help you keep prices low if he helped you get a new client?”

Rob admitted that he had never asked a current, happy client to refer business to him and that he had never arranged a meeting of happy clients and prospective clients.

“How much would it cost you in coffee and lunches or coffee and dinners to put your 40 happiest clients in the same room with prospective clients where they can say those magic words that we both know will lead to new contracts?” I asked.

“Way less then I spent on my failed ad campaign” admitted Rob.

While we’re talking about the power of relationships and referrals, let’s talk about that other untapped source of new referrals: your employees. Where did your receptionist or administrative assistant work before he/she came to work for you? Did he/she know businesses that can use your service? Have you asked?

Do you see where I’m going with this? Why would you spend another dollar on advertising when you haven’t walked down the hallway and asked your new architect whom he or she knew from his/her last employer who might be willing to throw some business to your firm? Why would you spend money on advertising when you haven’t yet asked your own happy clients who they know who might want to have lunch or coffee?

By the way, at that same lunch of coffee, make it a foursome. Introduce one of your clients to another so he, too, can meet a prospective new client.

Why not hire people who know how to network? Sales is not just for sales reps. Professionals of all kinds - architects, engineers, lawyers, accountants, etc. - need to learn that nobody gets to just sit at a computer and leave client acquisition to somebody with the words "sales" or "marketing" on their business cards. Turn your entire team into a sales force. Instead of spending precious capital on advertising, why not buy your employees memberships in some professional organizations and require them to attend meetings, exchange business cards with people and swap a few germs grinning and gripping at lunch meetings and "business after hours" meetings. Buy one employee a $370 membership in Society for Marketing Professional Services, buy another a $300 membership in SHRM. For less than it costs to buy a few radio spots or a small newspaper ad you can put your team members in the same room with real live prospects where they can actually start forming relationships that lead to new business.

Again, there’s no need for my advertising readers to send me nasty notes about why I’m knocking advertising. I’m not. I believe in advertising. Perhaps in a future post I’ll even share what I learned about advertising when, back in the 80s and 90s, it was part of my job to create ad campaigns and buy ads for my employers, but for small “R & R” businesses who can’t really afford to advertise and absolutely know for sure that word-of-mouth referrals are the lifeblood of their business, it simply doesn’t make sense to buy ads until you’ve exploited the untapped power of your existing relationships.

So to my “R &R” readers I say two things in closing:

1. What are you pretending not to know about the power of word-of-mouth referrals? Why aren’t you putting the mouths and the ears in the same room with each other? It’s easy and it’s fun. If you’re in an “R & R” business, networking needs to become a way of life.

2. A competitor with an ad campaign is no match for a business that gets word-of-mouth referrals.

01 December, 2009

The Rules That Govern Human Buying Decisions Are Not Suspended Or Negated By Social Media

Important notice to so-called “marketing mavens”, “marketing experts”, “social media experts” and others who think the rules of human emotions and human decision-making have been suspended just because we have websites, blogs, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and YouTube: They haven’t. You so-called marketing geniuses out there may have more gee-whiz new tools with which to over stimulate us, annoy us and dazzle us but humans still make buying decisions the same way we always have: We may buy a Bible from a door-to-door traveling salesman or a ice cream cone from a street vendor, but humans don’t usually buy marketing services or other professional services from strangers if there is a non-stranger available to provide that service. When it comes to professional services, we prefer to buy from people with whom we have a relationship and with whom we share some mutual friends. No number of annoying Tweets or clever YouTube videos will change that.

Don’t get the marketing cart in front of the relationship horse. Yes, I may buy a pair of boots from Zappos.com even though I don’t know anybody at Zappos.com, but I won’t buy a professional service from you just because you have a nice website or because you Tweet me 20 times a day. In fact, if you annoy me and disrespect me and waste my time and become a nuisance to me I am likely to “unfollow” you, “unfriend” you and remove my LinkedIn connection to you.

Humans make decisions emotionally then justify those decisions intellectually. We buy from people we know, trust and like when possible. I don’t have to have a relationship with you to buy a cup of coffee or a car or a house from you but if I’m buying something that will entail having meetings with you, exchanging a lot of emails with you, talking to you a lot on the phone and, really, entering into an ongoing relationship with you, I’m going to have to like you.

These rules of human decision-making are not suspended because you pester me with your gee whiz new social media platforms. In fact, these gee-whiz social media platforms, if misused, cause the rules of human decision-making to actually work against you. In the age of Twitter, email and YouTube I can decide I think you’re a jerk in New York minute whereas, back in the old days, it may have taken you weeks or months to show me you’re an inconsiderate jerk.

Frankly, if a marketer doesn't have the social intelligence and the understanding of human emotions to know these things without being told, I would never trust such a person with my brand. Chances are, if you annoy me and try to sell me stuff before you have a relationship with me, you'll do that with my clients and customers making your insensitive jerk brand my brand, too.

Let’s review: Humans still make buying decisions emotionally and then justify those decisions intellectually. Humans seldom buy a “relationship” or professional service from a stranger if a non-stranger is available to provide the same service. People seldom buy professional services or relationships from people they don’t like. These rules have not been suspended by the advent of the social media age.

And I'm still more likely to buy a professional service from you if you are referred to me by someone I trust no matter how much you try to dazzle me or pester me via social media.

Use social media to start a relationship with me, not to sell me something.